Angel 5×15: A Hole in the World

[Review by S. van Houten – “Iguana-on-a-stick”]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 02/25/2004]

It is very hard to pin down “A Hole in the World.” I have struggled with this review for months and I still suspect my experiences will diverge widely from what others have seen. So much depends on the angle you’re watching from. So much changes if you buy in to the episode’s premise, and if you do not.

It certainly is a big episode. It aims to change the game on us and start the final arc of Angel‘s final season. It aims to be a classic Whedon gut-blow, the kind that will rip the viewer’s heart out like “The Body”, “Seeing Red” or “The Gift.”

It’s the last episode written and directed by Joss Whedon himself.

On many levels it succeeds. It does change the game on us. The scenes where Fred slowly dies and wastes away are immensely painful to watch. The acting is superb. The writing abounds with Whedon’s trademark wit and sparkle. Stylistically it is a triumph. In short: this is an episode you pay attention to. Few people will forget or skim through it. Many love it even though it tries to break their hearts.

I, however, find large parts of “A Hole in the World” very hard to stomach. Why?

***

The sick woman looks up blearily at the six men standing by her bedside. She is weak, croaking in a little-girl voice but smiles to keep a brave face. The men struggle to keep their expressions and their words uniformly warm and reassuring. She almost certainly notices the patronising tone they strike, but accepts their words for she knows they love her. She knows they will do their utmost best to cure her. “Handsome man saves me,” she croaks. “That’s how it works,” confirms the leader.

One by one the men file out of the room, many pausing to exchange a last few gestures or heartfelt words. The woman gives them her blessing and remains behind. The camera likewise leaves her and shows the men decisively striding down the hall in one of the show’s iconic power-walks. They pause at the bottom of the stairs to discuss the true severity of the situation; the facts they kept concealed from the victim. She’s dying. The group’s jester and maverick speaks, for once without a trace of levity or irreverence: “No. Not this girl. Not this day.” They each decide on an avenue of investigation to pursue. The music swells, the camera spins dramatically around the group in an agonisingly long shot. The worried lover: “You don’t need to say it.” “I’ll say it anyway,” intones the leader. “Winnifred Burkle. Go.”

***

This, as best I can describe it, is how the episode’s pivotal scene came across to me. The word to describe it is ‘melodrama.’ This is not a failing as much it is a design choice. “A Hole in the World” aims to be the biggest melodrama of the Whedonverse, and to this end it shamelessly plucks at the heartstrings, manipulates emotions and laces overblown dialogue and over-dramatic character-reactions all the way through the story. It does this quite effectively and no doubt has caused many a tissue box to run empty in households across the world, yet it is not a format I like or a style I appreciate. I found myself longing for the stark realism of “The Body”, which moved me so much more precisely by leaving out the bag of tricks so commonly deployed by television to make its viewers weep. This episode deliberately aims for the other extreme.

That’s not to say there aren’t light-hearted or funny elements in “A Hole in the World.” There are. It’s more a matter of how seriously this episode takes itself. The scene I described above shows not a hint of irony or self-awareness. We are meant to take everything at face-value and cheer these guys on as Angel makes his ridiculously pompous statements. I find it hard to accept lines like “Let’s save the day.” I find it even harder not to roll my eyes.

To an extent this is a matter of taste. Many will have no problems with this approach and some no doubt enjoy it. A more objective problem is that sometimes “A Hole in the World” makes some of its characters behave extremely oddly in the name of furthering the melodrama.

The episode tries to justify this with the love these characters bear Fred. That in itself is something I take issue with; throughout Season 5 Fred has seemed less and less like a living, breathing human being, with strengths and weaknesses, and more like a universally adored icon. Wesley and Gunn obviously always cared for her, but now even characters like Lorne, who never used to interact with her much, or Angel, who never was that close to her, and even newcomers Spike and Knox seem to regard her as the most important thing in their world.

I expected them to care. I expected them to leap into action, if there was action to be leapt into. Gunn obviously is guild-ridden and desperate. He knows on some level that he caused this. Wesley understandably is teetering on the brink of a breakdown as he sees his shot at happiness suddenly slipping through his fingers just when he finally thought it was within his grasp. Angel always did have a hero-complex a mile wide and an ocean deep. (However, it is strange to see him reacting so much more extremely to Fred’s death than to Cordelia’s coma and subsequent death. He certainly did not move heaven and earth to save the woman he supposedly loved.)

But here we have Lorne — peace-loving, apolitical, really-just-wants-to-be-an-entertainer Lorne — punch a defenceless and somewhat innocent woman in the face without any provocation because, apparently, he just loves Fred that much. Or so he informs us retroactively by means of an anecdote about how Fred once babbled about liking his green skin. That’s bad writing. If you want to set up a character for extreme, otherwise out-of-character behaviour you have to establish the motivation beforehand. You can’t justify Lorne’s extremely uncharacteristic actions after the fact by referring to a supposedly crucial relationship with Fred that we never saw on-screen. The characters hardly ever even interacted. And now Lorne is making death-threats? Wasn’t it just three episodes ago in “You’re Welcome” [5×12] that the far more ruthless Angel was too scrupulous to hit Eve when she actually was concealing vital information?

On a similar note I didn’t exactly appreciate Spike suddenly spouting lines like “No. Not this girl. Not this day.” Since when does Spike say things like that? His whole modus operandi is to be irreverent. He is by no means stoic, and when he’s in pain he can break down and cry, but he never engages in pompous speeches. The character was conceived precisely to subvert other vampires’ tendency to do that. (And indeed he continues to subvert this in parts of this episode and the rest of the series, thankfully.) Yes, Spike liked Fred and unlike with Lorne this was established in previous episodes, but not even Buffy’s death or resurrection made him say things like this. Again, characters are reacting in too extreme a fashion because the episode wants to be more dramatic than anything that came before.

I’d even file Wesley shooting his employee for wanting to do his day-job under this heading. Yes, Wesley is obsessed and was somewhat unhinged last season, but this seemed too extreme even by his standards. I might have bought it near the end of the episode when he was truly desperate, but not just after she fell ill.

Even though the episode is about her, Fred herself isn’t served well by this story. She has always been an underused and underdeveloped character, used mostly to provide a convenient point of conflict for Wesley and to serve as the object to be fought over in two separate love-triangles. She has had her moments, to be sure. In episodes like “Billy” [3×06], “Supersymmetry” [4×05] and “The Magic Bullet” [4×19] we saw glimpses of a far more fascinating character who was actually showing the scars of her five-year ordeal of slavery and fugitive life in Pylea. Regrettably, “A Hole in the World” shows no such glimpse.

Instead we get more of the Fred of Season 5: universally beloved and largely inactive. Not even Amy Acker’s amazing performance can conceal it: this is thirty minutes of her suffering and dying. Fred vomiting blood all over Wesley. Fred suffering horrible pains. All the guys comforting Fred in her hospital bed and trying to outdo one another in their determination to save her. Fred being hollowed out from the inside. Fred used as a vessel for the birth of an ancient god. Fred crying on her death-bed with a devastated Wesley comforting her. Fred insisting “I am not a damsel in distress” during an hour that is nothing less than the pure distillation of the damsel-in-distress storyline at its most tragic.

Note how none of this says much about Fred. Note how none of this is the result of anything Fred did or any choice she made beyond curiously touching a magic box. There is nothing she could have done to avoid it. It is heart-breaking to watch, but I find it very unsatisfying. As a matter of personal taste I also dislike the extent to which the camera dwells on Fred’s suffering. It makes me feel almost voyeuristic.

Another thing I find peculiar about this, though it does not necessarily affect the quality of the episode as such, is that all this occurs on a Joss Whedon show. As a writer and showrunner he has prided himself on his feminist credentials and well-written, capable female characters ever since Buffy turned the stereotype of the helpless blonde horror-movie victim on its head. Now on his second television series, he has managed to kill off both his female leads over the course of four episodes. Fred’s death giving “birth” to Illyria is quite similar to the way Cordelia died from the after-effects of giving birth to Jasmine, and can be counted as the fifth dangerous mystical pregnancy, and the third fatal one on this show. All in all, Fred is used as a plot-device, a way to let the other cast members (incidentally all men) show how much they care, how determined they are and how much grief they suffer over her death. It is, like I said, peculiar.

By now it should be clear that there are a great many things I dislike about this episode. Yet for all that, I cannot deny just how good an episode this is the rest of the time. It has easily as many aspects that I love. This perhaps explains why “A Hole in the World” is quite controversial among fans. I could even say that I am so harsh on this episode’s flaws because it comes so close to achieving greatness.

There’s the beautiful opening segment with Fred’s family back in Texas. Unlike certain other scenes I could name it doesn’t just serve to make her subsequent death more heart-rending, but also does a beautiful job of showing what kind of people these are. I include Fred, since this is a Fred we haven’t seen before: one who has not been a slave in Pylea for five years.

There is the scene at the start with a happy Wesley and Fred bonding over killing and dissecting horrible aliens. There’s classic Angel and Spike banter over not-so-accidental stab-wounds and airplane alcohol. There’s Spike’s battle of wits with Drogyn and his “don’t ask me any questions!” rule ending with Spike’s hilarious breakdown: “And what’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite song? Who’s the goalkeeper for Manchester United? And how many fingers am I holdin’ up? (Spike flips him off the English way) You wanna kill me? Try. But I don’t have time for your quirks.”

There’s the entire cavemen-versus-astronauts debate. It is a bit over-the-top at first but is still immensely funny. Then, much to my surprise, it turns out to be actually thematically relevant, with Fred starring in the role of astronaut and Illyria as the caveman. (And there are plenty of other ways to interpret it, no doubt.) Mostly though, I just like Wes’ incredulous reaction when Spike and Angel tell him -this- is why they’ve been yelling at one another for an hour, only for him to get drawn in as well.

On the more serious side, the scenes with Wesley and Fred at her sick-bed are genuinely touching at times and both actors do an impressive job of selling it to us. When, near the end, she asks Wesley if he could have loved her, even I forget to be annoyed with this episode. It’s an interesting note to end this relationship on and yet another blow for Wesley: it drives home the fact that though he’s been pining after her for years, they only started seeing each other a mere few days ago and hardly had the chance to build an actual relationship. He’s losing her before he even got the chance to see if it could have worked between them long-term.

Wesley’s response is telling: he claims he’s loved her since he met her. “Maybe even before.” I wonder if Fred appreciates this sentiment. If he ‘loved’ her before he met her it seems he loved the idea of her rather than who she is, and indeed fits the behaviour we have seen Wesley exhibit over the years quite well. Would he have been able to handle her death better if he’d gotten the time to truly know her as a person instead of as an ideal, worshipped from afar? Her death just makes him idolise the idea of her more, and Illyria’s physical resemblance leaves him unable to forget and move on.

Gunn also has a few good moments when he starts to realise he is in part to blame for this whole sequence of events. This will feature more prominently next episode.

The plot itself is rather thin: Fred touches a magic box and dies. Angel and Spike fly around a bit to look for another random magic thing only to discover it can’t save her. Everybody is very upset. Still, the sequences at the Deeper Well are entertaining, and Drogyn is a fun minor character. (Mostly because the show does not expect us to take his posturing seriously. And neither does Spike.) The trapped Old Ones are an interesting addition to the mythology of the show that fits with what we’ve been told before about demons ruling the earth in ancient times.

Meanwhile, on the character side, this is a very important episode for Spike. When he’s not suffering sudden attacks of pomposity he’s finally making a choice and getting a motivation to stick around Angel Investigations, rather than just being there to annoy Angel and because the network wanted him to be on the show. Some might say it’s a little too late in the season and that Spike’s motivation should have been dealt with earlier, but better late than never.

This episode also starts Wesley on his final spiral downwards to self-destruction and forces Gunn to face the lies he had been telling himself. I may quibble with the way Fred is killed off to further the development of other characters, but I can’t deny that it results in some very good stories in the rest of the season.

Finally, this episode results in the advent of Illyria. This is a very good thing indeed.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ There is a literal hole in the world: the Deeper Well. However, the title also refers to the hole Fred’s death leaves in the group and their world.
+ It’s great to see Fred’s parents again.
+ Only Spike would run Angel through with a sword to “save” him from the bug on his back.
+ Gunn sings a tune from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta only to pretend he was rapping when Wesley walks in.
+ The song Eve sings to prove her innocence to Lorne actually is the same song Lindsey sang in Caritas back in “Dead End” [2×18]. He must have played it for her at some point. Nice continuity.
+ Spike’s questions to Drogyn hint that he’s still a Manchester United fan. Man U was one of his stated reasons for wanting to save the world even though he was a soulless monster all the way back in “Becoming.” Again, nice continuity.

– Fred and Wesley got together just one episode ago, in “Smile Time” [5×14]. It felt forced then, and this episode coming immediately after makes it far too obvious that their relationship only happened to make Fred’s death here even more tragic and painful.
– It’s nice that Wes and Fred get a (very) few brief moments of happiness before things go pear-shaped, but if it had gone on much longer I would have found them annoying. Some may find them cute. I live in fear of more pancake-kisses.
– If everyone is so devastated by Fred’s fate, why has hardly anyone remarked on Cordy’s coma/death all season?


Foreshadowing

* This is the turning point for Gunn. He can no longer lie to himself about what he’s done, and to whom he’s done it to. Right now he’s taking his anger out on Knox, but his devastated expression hints at the lengths he’ll go to do penance for his deeds.
* Fred’s last request to Wesley is for him to talk to her parents and tell them it was quick and she wasn’t scared. In “The Girl in Question” [5×20], Wesley will betray her in this because he cannot bear the pain, instead letting Illyria pretend to be Fred, thereby deceiving her parents.
* There is speculation that if Angel had gotten a sixth season, Fred’s memories and personality would somehow have started to bleed together with Illyria’s, resulting in something of an identity crisis for the Old One. We got a hint about this possibility in the scenes where Illyria pretends to be Fred, which I referred to above. If this had happened, the events of this episode could have ended up being an actual evolution of Fred’s character rather than just tossing it out with the trash. It was not to be, however.


[Score]

88/100

Advertisements

46 thoughts on “Angel 5×15: A Hole in the World”

  1. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 9, 2012.]

    Iguana, let me be the first to say that this is a fabulous review! When I started reading, I just couldn’t stop. I really agree with your issues in characterization, and the melodrama overload. But I also really agree with you in what works. I’m torn on this one too!As a side note, I just wanted to point out that I continue to love how dangerous the Whedonverse is. “A Hole in the World” is, aside from Whedon’s directorial flair, actually a really generic monster-of-the-week plot. Lovable lead girl gets ‘infected’ by something mysterious, and the gang has to race against the clock to find a cure! But wait… what is this? They FAIL? WHAT!? That’s not the conclusion to this story we’ve been primed for by other TV!I can’t wait to read your take on “Shells” now.

    Like

  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Iguana, awesome review! Before reading your review and even some reviews in the forum, I actually thought this episode was universally loved and I may have noticed the melodrama overload but I might have embraced it.But now I will definitively watch it with a more broader mind on my next rewatch.

    Like

  3. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Wonderful review, Iguana! You have perfectly articulated all the vague thoughts and niggles that I’ve had in my head about this episode. I agree with absolutely everything that you say, with the exception of two of your ‘Minor Cons’, which I’d consider really big, major ones.Firstly, I know we all joke about Joss not wanting his characters to be happy and so on, but I think that in this episode and the preceding one he takes it so far that it almost feels like Joss parodying Joss. When Willow and Tara reunited and had all those cosy loved-up scenes right before Tara died it was bad enough, but at least they had enough history and build-up for that to make sense. Here, it’s painfully obvious that Joss only threw Fred and Wesley together – and didn’t even bother to keep them together for the length of one whole episode – because he’d decided to kill off Fred. It’s as if he thought that the contrasting happiness, however brief, would make the death so much more sad and meaningful, but it’s almost insulting that he thought we needed that. Fred’s death would have been just as awful and Wesley’s grief would have been just as terrible even if they’d never got together. The whole thing just feels like a really cheap shot.Secondly, the lack of grief for Cordelia is something that really, really bugs me. But I suppose it belongs in the Minor Cons because it’s not really a fault of this episode, but rather that this episode highlights something that was missing in other ones. I can understand that they wouldn’t have wanted to have a whole funeral episode for Cordelia after ‘You’re Welcome’ or anything like that, because she’s not a regular in Season Five and they can’t devote all their time to her, but still, even just a couple of throwaway lines in ‘Why We Fight’ would have gone a long way. Or an opening scene with the gang raising a glass to Cordy in a bar, or something like that. Instead, she’s just never mentioned.Lastly, while I agree that the intense focus on Fred’s physical suffering feels uncomfortable and unnecessary, I kind of wish that if they were going to do it, they’d do it properly. By which I mean they should have made Fred look properly crappy, not just TV crappy. Joss says something in the commentary like ‘this is Amy looking really sick, which is how you know it’s television, because of course she still looks amazing’. And he can joke all he wants, but it really is a horrible TV cliche. She’s at death’s door and suffering horribly, but you can’t let her change out of her uncomfortable office clothes into some comfy pyjamas, or take off her makeup? Because she still needs to look beautiful and perfect while her insides slowly cook? It just reinforces that whole ‘damsel in distress’ thing that you’ve talked about, which is so disappointing.

    Like

  4. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Thanks for the feedback, people!Mike, you and Alex both make good points and the reason I didn’t mention yours is probably because of the first one Alex makes: by the time I watched “A Hole in the World” for the first time I had seen Whedon kill off characters just when they were happiest so often that I was suspicious from the start. You’re right that on any other show it would have been shocking and innovative to have the heroes fail to deal with what seems to be, at first, just another thread. But as Alex points out this doesn’t work once you recognise the pattern Whedon falls into. So weirdly enough I never fully realised how unusual this aspect would be on another TV show… Alex: The Wesley/Fred thing bugs me too, but since I harped on it a lot in my “Smile Time” review already I thought it would be redundant to cover that ground again here. So it’s relegated to a minor con. You’re also right about Fred’s looks. Still, it’s typical of the melodrama to have people suffer prettily. Nothing else in this episode is realistic and toned down, so why would this be? That’s not to say I like it any more than you do, though.

    Like

  5. [Note: SueB posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Great review. You’re spot on regarding the over-the-top melodrama. Of course I still cried, but the scene you picked out is precisely what bugged me. And I totally expected Fred to die right from the start the first time I saw it. The clues were evident with Fred & Wesley being happy and Joss writing and directing. I’ll have to disagree with you on Wesley shooting the guy in the leg. I NEEDED that. The episode was such a downer, I needed something funny. Also the Hoyay of Spike and Angel holding hands in the dark forest (in order to pull a wire between them) was funny.A rant: Honestly, I’m mad at Joss for giving Fred the love and no post “You’re Welcome” grieving for Cordelia. Although Cordelia gave him a single vision clue on what had to be done, it’s Fred’s death that motivates the takedown of the Circle of the Blackthorn.

    Like

  6. [Note: Brachen Man posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Well, I didn’t exactly think this was the best episode of the series, or even this season, but I was hoping for a perfect score anyway. It’s not that Iguana’s complaints aren’t accurate, but I felt like the more melodramatic parts worked better than he thinks. When watching “A Hole in the World”, especially on a rewatch, I’ve come to believe the more cliche moments were intentional, meant to make us think it wasn’t hopeless. Though Alex said above that Joss was ‘parodying himself’ here, I thought this was totally unique in Whedonverse deaths. Usually death comes quickly and without a chance to help (Tara, Joyce, Anya), or there’s some sort of nobleness about it, with the character in question dying in the service of a greater good (Doyle, Spike, Darla). Here though, we have to see our main character let another main character die on purpose. Sure it was because it would’ve killed millions of others, but it still stings.

    I can’t really argue against Iguana’s point that this episode doesn’t particularly do Fred justice, and that might be good reason not to give it a perfect score, but this episode featured such good development for Angel, Spike, Wesley, and Gunn that I can’t fathom not giving it a 90 at least.

    One last note. Please give “Shells” a perfect score. This isn’t my recommendation, this is my desperate plea. (No pressure though.)

    Like

  7. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Nice review. I tend to agree with you about that “not this girl. not this day” scene. It makes me want to roll my eyes, and I really shouldn’t be wanting to roll my eyes. I think it might have been meant, at least in part, to lampshade the way the show has written Fred and other characters’ responses to her, but mostly it just frustrates me.Oh, and I *hate* the scene where Wesley shoots the guy in the leg. It’s just way too much, and doesn’t make me laugh at all.Still, there’s plenty they do right. I appreciate that you noted the aspects of this episode that are genuinely well-done. Honestly, I expected more scathing criticism and less praise. This felt right on the mark. (The review, not the score, which I don’t really care about.)On another note, the difference between the characters’ reaction to Fred’s death and to Cordy’s death is a prime example of writing to the audience’s emotion rather than the characters. Between the character’s horrible treatment in S4 and Carpenter not being in the credits all season, the audience had plenty of time to deal with her “death” (she’s in a coma and she’s not coming back) and move on. I know that by the time “You’re Welcome” rolled around, Cordy felt long gone to me. So the writers didn’t dwell on it. At all. It’s like with Jesse’s death in “The Harvest”, but worse because there’s no way you can fanwank the characters having so little reaction to Cordelia dying.

    Like

  8. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    Oops, meant to also respond about Lorne and Fred’s relationship. It’s true that they get very little on-screen friendship time, but the show actually had been showing small interactions between them all season. Small passing comments that implied that they did hang out, spend time together, and have something more than a working relationship. I think this was entirely done to motivate Lorne’s expanding angst. It would have been a lot better if they were shown spending time together on screen (it could have substituted for any number of scenes telling us that Angel is alienated and lost his sense of purpose), but it was there.It would have been very cool to see them bond as refugees from Pylea.

    Like

  9. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on October 10, 2012.]

    What to say that hasn’t already been said…Strange how you see an episode in different light when you read such a good and intellectual review. I agree on most things except the one about Wesley. I find all his actions beleivable, he has loved Fred for a long time, and now when he is about to lose her just as he got to be with her is what just speeds up his decline. As for Cordelia, all Angel gang dealt with her death at the end of season 4, so it makes sense for me that there is not much fuss about her final death (plus there was all that my soul is going to light thing in ep12). As for the rest, i agree with you. I would have given this episode an A but hey :DI can’t w8 for your review of Shells. Thx for everything

    Like

  10. [Note: Alex posted this comment on October 11, 2012.]

    Brachen Man, it’s not Fred’s death itself that I find parody-like. You make some excellent points about how that death is pretty unique. It’s the throwing together of two characters for some brief blissful happiness beforehand.If I had the time and the inclination, I’d go and time how much screen-time Fred and Wes actually get as a couple, from their first kiss to her coughing up blood on the stairs. What do we reckon it would be? Five minutes? Ten? And I just don’t think it adds anything, either to the plot or to the emotion.I get that it’s supposed to be all the more tragic that Wes loses her just when he’s finally got her, but because it’s so brief – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it relationship – it doesn’t have that effect on me at all. Instead, it just feels rushed through for no good reason.On a completely different note, Iguana and Fray, your comments about not seeing Lorne and Fred interact much highlight something that’s really missing from this season. We hardly ever get to see the characters interacting socially. There are a few scenes where they all eat together, but it’s usually all business. Harmony and Fred going for a drink together in ‘Harm’s Way’ is about the only time I can think of where any of the characters just go and have some fun together, and Harmony’s not even one of the core gang. It makes me sad when they talk about all going for a drink together at the end of ‘You’re Welcome’, because I would have loved to see that.

    Like

  11. [Note: MrPrez posted this comment on October 17, 2012.]

    I have to say, I hated this episode on first watch. It was so over dramatic, tried so hard to be epic and compelling… it just fell flat on it’s face for me. And it only got worse upon second viewing. Your description of the scene where everyone was by Fred’s bedside summed it all up for me. I still cringe when I think of “Winnifred Burkle. Go.” Gag me please!And don’t even get me started on the horrible handling of Cordelia’s death. It had been pointed out before how Cordelia was the heart of the group. Umm… Wouldn’t you think the gang would care a little more about their “heart” being taken from them? Yet I have to sit and watch EVERYONE whine and and pout and try oh so hard to save poor wittle pencil skirt Fred? Again with the gag me! Not to mention they keep whining and pouting about her death even after she (finally!)dies. Granted, it’s a little understandable now that they have smurfette Illyria walking around with no real purpose, but still.This episode highlights just how truly awful season 5 has become for me. It doesn’t even feel like the same show I fell in love with. That’s not to say this season doesn’t have some truly awesome episodes (You’re Welcome, Not Fade Away, Damage) but it also contains some of the worst (Conviction, Harm’s Way, Life of the Party, The Girl in Question). I’m ashamed to admit that a part of me was relieved when this show got cancelled. Actually, I’m not ashamed to admit that. The damage season 4 and 5 did was just too much. I would have stayed loyal to it til the end, so I’m just happy the end came sooner rather than later.

    Like

  12. [Note: Dave posted this comment on November 10, 2012.]

    I dislike the tone of the “men” being greater than the “women” just because the Buffyverse had a feminist tone. This isn’t Buffy, this isn’t sexism. Regardless of how it’s written all of these guys have emotional attachments to Fred, all in different ways. Caring is not crushing feminism.

    Like

  13. [Note: Seele posted this comment on June 24, 2013.]

    Maybe the difference is that they’ve been mourning Cordy for months because they didn’t know if she would wake up, whereas Fred being infected was completely out of the blue with no reason to expect that something like that could conceivably happen? Maybe the timing was just the evil icing on the hell-cake of finally losing Cordy? Maybe their strong reaction was based on guilt over not doing enough to help Cordy when she was in the coma and/or desperation not to be that passive again?

    Like

  14. [Note: Waverley posted this comment on August 6, 2013.]

    Hmm, I’d have to disagree with a few points here, particularly regarding characterisation. I’d say, for example, Wesley shooting the lawyer in the leg was entirely in keeping with Wesley’s character. In S1 we saw him shoot an arrow through a bookie’s hand, then twist that arrow around for maximum pain, to find out where Angel was. In S4 we see he’s been keeping Justine in a cage to try to locate Angel even though, submerged as he is, Angel’s life is in no immediate danger (although the latter event has been temporarily wiped from his memory, we as the audience still know he has the capacity to perform such acts). So for me it’s been firmly established by this point that a Wesley in a dark place or with his back to the wall is a Wesley willing to inflict pain and suffering to get results (not unlike Giles at times). So any disobedience of orders to save the woman he’s loved for years is in my book cause for Wes to turn badass again.

    Although the same precedents cannot be claimed for Lorne, I do bear in mind that he’s only just recently read, and presumably felt some of, what Fred is about to go through. Remembering how freaked out he was by reading a Jasmine-possessed Cordelia, I can buy that reading an Illyria-infected Fred and feeling some of her pain to come would push him over the edge.

    I’d disagree on the melodrama front, too, because I read this as a subversion of melodramatic hero-rescuing in general. For me, all the strutting and speechifying is clearly Whedon setting us up for a fall when they don’t save the girl. Maybe it’s because internet spoilers unfortunately alerted me to Fred’s death before I’d watched the episode for the first time but there are certain points which always seemed to me clear cues for the subversion/failure of the hero-posse riding out routine. When Fred in her bed says ‘Handsome man saves me’, paraphrasing the very first thing she said to Angel, this for me is clearly a bookend and tells me she’s a goner. When Angel says ‘Let’s save the day,’ Whedon may as well be running across the screen nekkid but for a sandwich board that reads ‘They are SO not gonna save the day!’ If they had indeed saved the girl then I’d agree that the power walks and the swelling music would be horrendous, but as it is I think that was all just to underline that sometimes no amount of swagger can get the job done.

    Like

  15. [Note: Simon posted this comment on August 13, 2013.]

    Love your reviews of both angel and buffy I found them a few weeks ago and have really had a hoot reading them.

    I just wanted to point out something that struck me as a stellar touch in the episode – Freds fall before Lorne catches Fred. Talk about commitment to a scene!. On a sidenote that may give me a few months in hellfire – God that woman has some long legs…

    Like

  16. [Note: Biogirl posted this comment on August 22, 2013.]

    I think the scene where Lorne reads her and then she falls is incredibly powerful. Every time I watch the scene go from sweetness to “oh shit!” in a heartbeat I am blown away. To me, it’s one of the few where the melodrama works.

    Like

  17. [Note: rebeldeway posted this comment on October 4, 2013.]

    i was really surprised how many american people don’t like Fred. It’s seems like matter of mentality – america is a feminist country, and childish fred annoys you, you don’t like the fact that she doesn’t have her own line, only connected with mens.

    Like

  18. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 4, 2013.]

    I’m not actually American though. Nor are many others here. I very much doubt it’s about our country’s different cultures.

    It’s about the gap between what the writers -told- us Fred was like (scientific genius, always curious, pragmatic survivor of five years’ slavery and fugitive life in Pylea, struggling with PTSD because of it) and what they -showed- us in the actual series. (Crazy girl with crush on Angel, prospective love-interest for Wes, Gunn’s girlfriend, object of contention between Wes and Gunn, object of contention between Wes and Knox, Wes’ girlfriend, Wes’ dead girlfriend driving him towards despair and self-destruction.)

    If you take a character like Harmony, who -is- all about finding a boyfriend or finding groups of people she can belong to, you’ll find people don’t resent her for this at all. That’s because the depiction of Harmony matches her character’s personality and history.

    The depiction of Fred does not. The writers came up with this potentially very interesting character, gave her a good background, got a great actress to play her… and then they chickened out on actually giving her a driving role in the stories they were telling, instead using her as a convenient cute love-interest all the time.

    Like

  19. [Note: Monica posted this comment on October 4, 2013.]

    I actually always thought the same thing, but was never able to put it into words as eloquently as you.

    The character of Fred was under utilized and constantly seemed like a plot device, and it seemed most evident in the fifth season. Although I actually liked Fred, I was disappointed by her characterization and her death, since I found it underwhelming that it wasn’t really the consequence of anything (at least I don’t remember it being a consequence). I believe this to be why I appreciate Cordelia much more than Fred, she’s, in her own right, an independent, layered character not defined by anything other than herself.

    Like

  20. [Note: Faith posted this comment on December 7, 2013.]

    I’m torn when it comes to this episode. I don’t want Fred to die because she’s sweet and it’s so sad, but I DO want her to die because that means we get Illyria, who is far and away the most awesome Angel character.

    Like

  21. [Note: ItAintAeschylus posted this comment on June 12, 2014.]

    I recently watched this episode for the first time (have never seen much of the Angel series before), and agree with your review, especially your assessment of its melodrama, bad writing, and unfortunate use of Fred as a character.

    I’m not convinced the episode was meant to be melodramatic rather than genuinely dramatic, though. Nor would that make a difference in my assessment of it as badly written, unless the bad writing was meant to be a satire of bad writing, which it (sadly) wasn’t.

    However, I like Illyria. One reason she’s a gripping character for me is her direct, potent characterization is an effective foil to the childlike, cutesy, or catty mannerisms directed into some (too many, imo) Whedonverse female characters.

    And I can see why Angel’s Wesley has many fans. AD’s layered portrayal of the character is something I appreciated in BtVS. It’s nice to see him given more challenges here.

    Like

  22. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on October 17, 2014.]

    Iguana:

    I have an entirely different reaction to this episode. This the first episode in the buffyverse where we are forced to watch the slow death of a major character. Joyce dies offscreen. Kendra, Darla, and Jenny die quickly. Fred suffers. The stakes are higher and there are no happy endings for Angel. That’s why Cordelia had to go. Everyone in the alley at the end had major atoning to do. Cordelia had nothing to atone for.

    And the melodrama is ironic in the extreme. The speeches don’t work. Heroism is turned on its head – Angel has to let Fred die to save others.

    Like

  23. [Note: Zach posted this comment on December 23, 2014.]

    Wow, I can’t even express how much I disagree with this review, “A Hole in the World” is easily a 100/100 for me, and perhaps in my top 3 of Angel.

    I’ll try not too go too much into the feminist side of things, as I expressed on the forums how much I disagree with criticizing using that criteria of thinking, but I will try to explain what I think of your other points regarding the episode.

    The only thing I actually agree with his Lorne’s punch, but honestly, it’s such a minor action it doesn’t really bother me…Also…Glad somebody did that…I hate eve…..

    ‘melodrama’

    I would actually disagree, I don’t find the emotions/characters in this episode to be exaggerated, as melodrama only occurs when the emotions don’t fit the situation, I don’t think this is the case in the episode. Obviously the music is meant to appeal to emotion, but that’s pretty much every dramatic/tragic episode not called “The Body”.

    Spike: “On a similar note I didn’t exactly appreciate Spike suddenly spouting lines like “No. Not this girl. Not this day.” Since when does Spike say things like that? His whole modus operandi is to be irreverent. He is by no means stoic, and when he’s in pain he can break down and cry, but he never engages in pompous speeches.”

    Uhhh…Yes….Yes he does (although I’m not sure I’d classify it as ‘pompous’. Spike had a strong like for Fred which is perfectly developed before hand, so his affection and caring towards her health is expected and in-character…Spike isn’t ‘always’ irreverent, nor is he supposed to be.

    Here’s some examples of Spike speechifying: Touched speech to buffy, After Life speech to Buffy, Lover’s Walk speech to buffy and angel.

    It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that him simply making a commitment to helping someone who he has shown to appreciate.

    “Instead we get more of the Fred of Season 5: universally beloved and largely inactive. Not even Amy Acker’s amazing performance can conceal it: this is thirty minutes of her suffering and dying.”

    Well…ya….That is the plot…How is this an issue? Was she supposed to make allusions to her time as a slave on her death bed?

    “Yes, Wesley is obsessed and was somewhat unhinged last season, but this seemed too extreme even by his standards. I might have bought it near the end of the episode when he was truly desperate, but not just after she fell ill.”

    Hmm, again I can’t really understand that viewpoint. He was just told that his major love interest was going to die in a days time, and some guy walked in and told him probably the one thing he didn’t want to hear, plus the fact that Wesley has, as you put it, become unhinged, I fail to see how that is a stretch.

    Essentially, this episode may be high-dramatic, but I feel as though most of it is well-earned, with the exception of the Lorne bit, which admittingly was sort of a lame way to justify his punch…Although a past anecdote is better than no context I suppose.

    I understand your distaste for the directing intended to show the suffering, but I think it was important for the mood of the episode, and was obviously intended to be uncomfortable and tragic.

    Anyways, that’s it for now.

    Like

  24. [Note: naoss posted this comment on December 23, 2014.]

    I pretty much agree with most of the review(s), but i don’t agree much about the Lorne stuff. You may need to reward the show. There MANY scenes between Lorne & Fred in whole series, in which they care for each other. I would even say that Lorne interract far more with Fred than he does with Gunn, Wesley or Cordelia.
    Sure, it doesn’t mean that Fred is the most important person in Lorne’s life, but she is his closest friend in the Angel’s team, considering has much less interactions with the other side members, and an often conflicted relationship with Angel. On the other hand, he is always positive with Fred, and very forgiving the rare times she unpurposly treat him bad. (like when she lost memory)
    It isn’t unbelievable that he cares a lot about her, although punching Eve might seem out of character.

    I am much less forgiving for the showrunners to make Fred & Wes together, right before her death, and without much foreshadowing or evulution of their relationship in previous episode. It seems coming at random just to make Wesley cry much more atferward.

    Like

  25. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on December 23, 2014.]

    I recall several scenes in which they interact, but few with any great depth. Lorne treats Fred much like he does any other character, as far as I can see. He seems to like her, sure, but I can’t recall any scene where they bond or share anything personal like that story about Fred’s drunken comments on green skin he relates in this episode after the fact. Just casual or functional interactions where they talk about the case of the week or stuff like that.

    Of course, that may well be because Lorne is very much sidelined in seasons 4 and 5. Even if he interacts more with Fred than with Gunn or Wes… that doesn’t mean much, since he hardly interacts with anyone at all.

    So, I stand by my point that there was not enough to sell their relationship in such a way to justify Lorne’s otherwise extremely out of character behaviour here. If I compare it to the friendships between Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley in the early seasons… there’s just nothing there.

    Unless I missed something, of course. Season 4 in particular does tend to blur together in my mind somewhat. What scenes in particular are you talking about?

    The Fred & Wes thing does feel forced, yeah. I don’t go into great detail here because I do that in my previous review, of Smile Time. But it’s definitely a cheap way of increasing the drama of this episode even further.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Like

  26. [Note: naoss posted this comment on January 7, 2015.]

    I cannot tell if the interractions had depth, but there were definitely more than just about the current investigations. The positive attitude of Fred is something Lorne praised many time in S3-S5. He hidden her from the group in Fredless, bonded with her about Pylea culture highlight and the only one who understand her on the downsides of her time there, as they both despise their time there. He also count on Fred to release him in the beginning of S4, and she is upfront when the group does it. It is not just about talking to each other, but liking each other. Fred migh like all the members of the team equally, but from Lorne perspective, i don’t have hard time to believe Fred is the one he likes the most. (non romantic way, of course)

    Considering all the other members of the team sink to a darker path at some point in the show, Fred double in being the reliable member, the lighter one, the one that bring him hope when all the other sink to their darker path. When she is gone, it only leaves the very different Gunn (H&W version) who had issues with him in the past, the very troubles Angel/Wesley, the soulless Harmony.

    He lost his dearest friend in the crew, and the symbolic heart of that crew. There an emotional loss and a symbolic loss.

    I don’t intend to convince you that all those things will be enough for you to justify his behavior. I just say that there are reasons, and they didn’t appeared out of the blue. The fact of these reasons being enough or not is another issue.

    Like

  27. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 7, 2015.]

    Nitpick: Fred had plenty of a dark side to her. “Supersymmetry,” anyone? Torturing Connor in “Deep Down,” anyone? She was not all sweetness and light. She was a traumatised survivor, capable of extreme ruthlessness when push came to shove. (And Lorne would have been aware of this, being an empath and all.)

    It’s just the writers who seemed to forget this after season 4, particularly.

    Like

  28. [Note: naoss posted this comment on January 7, 2015.]

    Lorne wasn’t there when she tortured Connor in Deep Down, he wasn’t there for most of her time in Pylea. He missed most of her time alone during Magic Bullet and she ended up saving him.

    I have yet to rewatch Supersymmetry (rewatching the two shows. I am at “Forgiving/Normal Again currently) to see how much involvement/knowledge he have of Fred behavior at that point, but i recall she was mostly outside the Hyperion, with Wesley, then Gunn. Not mentionning that Fred’s Pylea trip is something can relate as a traumatic event.

    Still, at mid-season 5 point, she is the lighter character of the show, considering how everyone else got their hands dirty. (maybe not Spike on that season, but he barely interact with Lorne)

    The point is to emphasis Lorne perspective when Fred died, not to say that Fred never live some dark events.

    Like

  29. [Note: naoss posted this comment on January 7, 2015.]

    You could also mention the Billy episode, but not only Fred is the victim, but Lorne wasn’t there as well.

    I am not sure the context is enough to make him beat Eve (not sure of the contrary either) but i think they are well enough to break his morale in the second half of season 5. There is so many other event that him question the purpose of their mission, the moral clarity of his team members, the sacrifice involved, and, on top of this, the person he likes the most in the team, doubled with the nicest member of that team dies to achieve nothing at all.

    Anyway, i don’t think there is enough material to make an essay about Lorne, but i strongly disagree about his change of behavior not being justified. Enough or not enough justified, maybe, but justified in both case.

    Like

  30. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 7, 2015.]

    The issue isn’t just his relationship with Fred. I’m perfectly willing to believe he liked her, though I maintain there is not enough evidence to support a truly deep friendship. But the change in behaviour is -extreme-. Death threats? Punching a defenceless cowering woman they only have vague suspicions about, and who moreover turns out to be completely innocent in this matter? Especially when he is an empath who can find out the truth in two seconds flat?

    Remember how he reacted to Lilah in season 4, who had actually tied him to a chair and drilled his brain open? “Wesley, would you please warn this walking infection that I haven’t forgotten how she poked my head open like a Capri-Sun. And while my love for humanity allows me to tolerate her presence, if need be I will smack her down! Be a doll. Thanks.”

    That’s what Lorne sounds like when he’s angry. That’s how he reacts to his proven worst enemies. The -huge- break in character he shows in Hole in the World would have required an extremely close relationship with Fred to justify.

    I -might- have bought the action if he’d had forced Eve to sing first and she’d proven to actually be guilty. I could see him losing it enough to punch Knox, after they found out he was involved. But I continue to call bullshit on the scene we actually got.

    Like

  31. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on July 8, 2015.]

    [I did laugh at #23 post, where Zach says:

    “Instead we get more of the Fred of Season 5: universally beloved and largely inactive. Not even Amy Acker’s amazing performance can conceal it: this is thirty minutes of her suffering and dying.”

    Well…ya….That is the plot…How is this an issue? Was she supposed to make allusions to her time as a slave on her death bed?]

    Exactly the point – this is the plot of the episode.

    I enjoyed the review, but I do have big problems with ‘issues’ within it. I think as viewers we have a good eye/ear for the dramatic, but in recent years the move has been towards the dark and gritty in terms of TV. So when a show like Angel – a darker, edgier version of Buffy in all the ways it could be – moves slightly towards the dramatic (I will not call it melodrama when it isn’t – characters are not drawn this way in melodramas), we cry foul and claim we’re being manipulated. Well, tough – Whedon IS being manipulative, but in the name of good TV that subverts our expectations. I would’ve cried foul had Fred actually not died in this episode, for their to be some mystical MacGuffin that allowed her to survive in some form. But there wasn’t – Whedon wanted the gut punch of the death of a main character plus the sucker punch of what is essentially a Big Bad walking around in her body afterward. This episode is fantastic and ranks up there amongst the top Angel episodes. If anything it challenges most of the good Buffy episodes. It may not feel like it from a critic’s point of view, but it is fine to like this kind of story if it works – and this episode does. To see people say it isn’t realistic just doesn’t hold water. Also, I am getting very tired of reading internet soldiers claim ‘bad writing’. I don’t think many people on the internet know what that actually means – it’s a label slapped on anything an internet fan doesn’t like. Things can be well written and still not work for a particular person, the strength is in the admission of that fact.

    I completely believe in the Fang Gang’s reactions to Fred’s imminent demise. The heart is about to be ripped out of their little group – perhaps the only one of them aside from Lorne (maybe) who hasn’t succumbed to what is the inherent darkness of working from within Bad Guy HQ. Some like Wesley were already well down their dark paths, but Fred had only shown little flashes of darkness in an otherwise very sweet personality. Her actions in ‘Supersymmetry’ were born out of hate for finding out someone was actually responsible for her hellish time in Pylea. I take particular issue with the idea that Fred isn’t like a real character/person in S5 – I’ve watched this season of TV many times and the transition from S3 to 4 and then 5 is seamless. Fred in this season is exactly what you’d expect if given the resources (big science labs, people who work for her, loads of tech). She fits in at W&H, which was exactly the Senior Partners’ intention – to sit them right in their midst so they would become accustomed to it and not notice when W&H began their real plans further down the road.

    Wesley and Gunn have history with Fred and we know both loved her at various points, with Wesley probably feeling this harder. It is classic Whedon to get Wes and Fred together finally only to throw another curve ball to really get us thinking. Tragic love at its most tragic – would Fred and Wesley have been happy? Only Wesley can wonder at that in-universe and has the great honking reminder that is Illyria walking around looking and sounding like Fred. This is how Whedon set us up for angst with Buffy/Angel – things look like they’re going well for them and suddenly everything is ripped away. Angel in this episode is still raw from Cordelia and his failure to help her at any point, so he is determined to help another innocent in his life here.

    Fred’s condition brings out the hero again in Angel, after finally being set on the right path again by Cordelia’s goodbye gift. It may have been lost a little amongst the chaos of S3/4, but Angel used to be all about statements like ‘help the helpless’ and ‘save the day’. He’s finding who he is again, going full circle back to where he began in ‘City Of’. You’re right, he does have a hero complex and in this episode it’s back.

    I understand there was no tribute to Cordy – she’s a character that goes a long way back to the beginning of Buffy, like Angel. She grew into a much-loved character on Angel. However the whole episode ‘You’re Welcome’ is a big tribute to her. I get the feeling Angel did a lot of brooding after that episode and most likely the gang did have some sort of wake or celebration for her offscreen. However not everything can be put onscreen, and I’d rather have the episode than a five-minute sequence where they all mope over Cordy. She herself is free and most likely a higher being now, Angel wouldn’t want them to mope (he does enough for everyone). You also allege that he didn’t try to save her – how do you save someone from a coma? Like Buffy trying to save her mother from what she assumed was a mystical threat, Angel can’t fight a coma. You either recover, or you don’t. Cordelia didn’t.

    As for Lorne – the same goes for Lorne as goes for Angel. Someone he knew and loved has just died and someone else is about to. Why is it so out of character to hit Eve? Are you basing this entirely on him never doing it before? By this point they know that Eve is pretty much a tool of the Senior Partners and has been working against them. Why should they cut her slack? Lorne has been a fixture on Angel since before they even met Fred – I simply assume these characters know a lot about each other from working and co-existing in the same space for years. That’s no bad assumption – they didn’t show it hugely onscreen, but not everything can be shown onscreen. We don’t see a lot of any characters on Buffy/Angel interact unless it has relevance to the plot, i.e. the episode we are watching. It’s also to demonstrate the darkness of working at W&H is affecting Lorne too – as we find out with great shock in the finale. When first watching that episode, I wondered why Lorne felt so set on disappearing after their Black Thorn attack, only to find out it was because by asking him to kill Lindsey, he had finally destroyed Lorne’s innocence.

    As for Wesley shooting his employee – this is the same guy who a season and a half ago kept a woman bound and gagged in his closet, because he knew something had happened to Angel. In this episode, we see his dark side again, because he knows something horrific is about to happen to someone he’s loved for a long time and has only just reciprocated his affection. Wesley is a fascinating character and I particularly liked his darker shift coinciding with his use of guns (that BtVS has always moralised about in a heavy-handed way) – we haven’t seen dark Wes for a while, but he’s still there. This is perhaps the only situation where he’d shoot someone purely because they interrupted him.

    There isn’t much to say on Spike – he had a strong like for her. With Spike, that is often enough. He was heroic enough to want to fight to save someone he hadn’t known all that long, but had worked hard to save him from Pavayne near the start of the season. This is still in character for Spike – remember him bringing flowers for Joyce, simply because ‘I liked her’. I remember being very irked at the scoobies threw that back in his face, but Spike is an open man. He got on well with Joyce, Anya, Andrew (oddly enough) and Fred, because they in turn weren’t judgmental of him.

    Fred is not a damsel in distress in this story and is certainly not a simple plot device. That’s a disservice to a well-acted character that up until this season was an often sidelined supporting role. She was most certainly NOT only defined by her relationships to male characters, she was a strong character in her own right. Fred herself fights vainly against the inevitable in this episode like the rest of them do. The episode is a real lesson on the realities of life – the metaphor is heavy handed when looked at from this angle but it’s saying that sometimes things happen to people who don’t deserve them, particularly with cancer which can suddenly afflict otherwise completely healthy people, with no treatment helping. This is why Fred fights even with her last breath, asking ‘why can’t I stay?’ I found this scene in particular very shocking (which is the intent) – the death of major characters like Joyce, Jenny, Tara, Cordelia, Fred, Doyle, Wesley were all very well done with some of them being drawn out and others being shocking. Fred’s death here is both, clearly to some people’s distaste. I really think this episode deserves a higher score (at least an A), because I found the plot and character work here both very good.

    I’m not sure why it needs to be called out that Whedon has great feminist credentials and that two female characters have died. I think calling attention to the gender of the characters involved is exactly the kind of thing Whedon himself would question. He would ask, why does it matter – I’ve killed off male and female characters. I’ve even killed and resurrected my female lead on Buffy, twice! The deaths of characters are always paths to other plotlines and characterisation. Just as the only thing that would create Dark Willow is the death of Tara, the only thing that provokes these characters is the impending death of Fred. They couldn’t help Cordelia, but they can (they hope) help Fred.

    As an aside, I’ve always loved Fred’s line when Angel says ‘let’s get cracking’:

    ‘Hehe, get cracking. He’s such an old fogey.’

    Always reminds me of Fred and how she really became an interesting character in S5, only to be tragically taken away. If it weren’t for the introduction of the awesome Illyria (an actual Old One!) I’d have really been unhappy.

    Like

  32. [Note: Random posted this comment on July 23, 2015.]

    It is melodrama, to be sure, but I think it would have been perfectly appropriate but for a single problem — there’s a sort of literary/story-telling version of the affirming the consequent fallacy going on here. Every single act and speech in this episode makes perfect sense and feels perfectly appropriate…if we assume that the characters, like the writers, know the inevitable outcome. Where the writers fell into error was forgetting that these people face death and desperate situations and numbered apocalypses on a regular basis. They see the dead come back to life, the Powers intervene, and deus ex machinae all the time. But now we have one of the few truly irreversible and hopeless situations in the entire Whedonverse. A major character is about to die, and die ugly, and won’t even have the bare dignity of dying in a normal “moved on” manner. At least as far as the show is concerned, she was utterly annihilated (I’m informed that the comics change that, but we’re reviewing the show here, and doing so well before any information can be derived from later works.) In that context, everything makes sense. Spike, for instance, isn’t merely grateful for all the help Fred gave him, he’s an ensouled man (monster-man, anyway) who is faced with something horrifically unfamiliar to him…absolute negation of the individual. Angel is now faced with the fact that sometimes, there’s absolutely nothing he can do to save someone. Here he and the gang have always fought under the assumption that they can change their destinies, fight even when all the odds are against them, and now Fred is not only completely beyond their power to save, nothing of who she is will survive. This is a world of vampires maintaining significant aspects of their prior personalities, and sometimes getting their very souls back. This is a world where people can be resurrected, or can come back as ghosts to reassure the living. It’s not a world where something so utterly permanent complete abnegation is really part of the deal. In a world of magic (broadly speaking), the only true horror is something even magic can’t fix. I would argue that this is perhaps the most truly existential episode in all the Whedonverse, where any greated meaning is intimately tied up in the individual, and when the individual is gone, so, too, is everything the person represented.

    Unfortunately, none of them know this…yet. Their actions and words make sense to the writers because the writers know how it all turns out. And that, I think, is the actual flaw in the episode. Not the melodrama, but getting ahead of themselves in terms of the entirely justified character reactions.

    Like

  33. [Note: Zach posted this comment on July 23, 2015.]

    Hmm, interesting, you make good points. Playing devil’s advocate though, I think it’s fair to say that pretty much every apocalypse or death, regardless of permanent or not in the long run, is pretty much treated the same way with some exceptions. Angel comes back sure, but in Becoming it’s quite clear that there’s no doubt in the characters minds what’s going to happen. If she kills Angel, he’s dead, that’s her thought process in the moment of the episode. Even after Angel comes back, the scoobie gang still treats every disaster with doomy dialogue, despite it sometimes working out anyways.

    I think this is consistent here as well, they treat it the same way, but it just turns out to be actually permanent this time, so for once, their initial thoughts are correct.

    Also The Body is similar in this regard except there is actually an episode addressing resurrection of the mom dealing with this issue of “Hey, nothing’s permanent!” when Dawn tries to resurrect her.

    Spike and Angel’s resurrection was not an act of the characters. The only person brought back by their own volition was Buffy for their own selfish reasons. The idea is, even if they could bring someone back from the dead, the general moral is that it would be wrong too because it goes against nature.

    Like

  34. [Note: Random posted this comment on July 25, 2015.]

    Well, I did reply. Not sure where my reply went — it showed as being posted last night — but it was a bit long to try to reconstruct. Just assume it was urbane and witty and possibly filled with esoteric household hints and that should cover everything.

    Like

  35. [Note: Zach posted this comment on July 25, 2015.]

    Ah, I completely understand. I can see the very post in my head.

    Well stated. I can’t refute those final points you made, so sophisticated, I’m not even sure I quite understand the depth and profundity of what you have just stated…Amazing.

    Like

  36. [Note: Random posted this comment on July 25, 2015.]

    Heh. The gist of it was that, while I agree that the ultimate outcome of various disasters was subject to the fickle whims of fate, i.e. the writers, I would suggest that there’s actually an incremental character development over the course of AtS and BtVS to the extent that the Buffy that didn’t want to die in “Prophecy Girl” was making flippant remarks about having died twice by the end of the series, and I’d argue that the collective experiences of the characters by this point in the series was such that they always felt like there would be some closure. Just in the last three years, Cordelia came back as a ghost, Darla came back as a human (and as a vampire again) and Spike came back as a ghost (and as a vampire again). I may be projecting a little as an audience member, but it seems to me that the gang doesn’t feel the same urgency that, say, S1 BtVS lent to death and the apocalypse.

    The other primary examples of major characters being gone forever at this point were Joyce (who may or may not have come back, I’m not getting into that particular quagmire of a debate), Anya, who didn’t get a proper coda since it was the series finale, and Tara. That last is of particular interest to me in terms of this discussion because of the fallout — once it became apparent to Willow that she couldn’t resurrect Tara, she went insane and tried to destroy the world. And why not? Death and apocalypses have come to seem amenable to some sort of resolution, whether by resurrection, ghostly reassurances, or just plain knowledge that the people at least went to a better place. Willow’s reaction was an overreaction by any standard, granted, but if one buys the element of unexpected helplessness as part of her motive, it makes a bit more sense. She could resurrect Buffy, put Angel’s soul back into him, change Amy from being a rat, but now she has finally hit something that apparently can’t be fixed.

    So I can buy the idea that knowing Fred was literally obliterated in toto would be particularly horrifying, especially since so much of the mythology and motivations in the Whedonverse revolve around the soul as the mark of an individual consciousness. That idea lies at the very core of AtS, especially with the addition of ensouled Spike. It’s Angel’s obsession, and in some greater or lesser degree, it informs everything that has happened since “City of…”, from the struggle with W&H to control Angel’s destiny to the return of Darla (and her self-sacrifice) to the fact that Connor wasn’t merely a demon offspring of two vampires to the struggle to understand the nature of Evil Cordy. So I honestly buy that this particular death would bring out the melodrama. She didn’t die. She had her unique individuality, i.e. her soul in Whedonverse philosophy, completely annihilated. In a show that makes such a big deal about saving souls, this would be an extremely huge deal. I just think the writers erred by jumping the gun and introducing it before the true nature of what had happened was apparent to the AtS crew.

    (My previous comment was much better, every bit as good as you imagined, and I’m barely able to hold back my tears at how this one fails to measure up.)

    Like

  37. [Note: Unkinhead posted this comment on July 26, 2015.]

    Ha! This one was good too though! I do get what your saying now and I can actually agree. That being said, and this is more a perception thing, when I see it, I see it as an experiment in melodrama stylings as OMWF is an experiment in the musical genre, Hush in horror, etc. Perhaps the other s were more grounded to meet with character and plot elements seamlessly. But as I see it at a deliberate attempt at a different style, it doesn’t bother me as much because I thought it was done marvelously here and well..less good in I Will Remember You. So while I can agree with where your coming from, its not far fetched enough to bother me on a character consistency level and is in line with other experimental episodes to where I don’t really criticize it for its change in style.

    Like

  38. [Note: Random posted this comment on July 26, 2015.]

    Huh. You know, I honestly haven’t watched it as a complete stylistic entity unto itself along the lines of OMWF or Hush. That’s an interesting idea. Let me rewatch it sometime in the next couple days (if I feel strong, because I do so like Fred and hated losing her) and get back to you with more informed commentary on that particular angle.

    Like

  39. [Note: Unkinhead posted this comment on July 26, 2015.]

    Yeah lmk. I think Whedon has established himself as a dabbler of sorts. Claiming he wants to be “pretty good at a lot of things” and as a downside great at nothing (although I disagree there). Its clear he is capable of portraying tragedy with stark realism as shown in The Body, so this is why I see his melodramatic foray here as an attempt at style rather than a compulsion.

    Like

  40. [Note: OffHandComment posted this comment on January 27, 2016.]

    A solid review, but I would like to throw some ideas out there.

    Wesley started his arc as a preppy watcher in BTvS, scared of his own shadow.
    He was monstrously manipulated into stealing Angel’s baby, and then betrayed by the sociopathic, abused twin, Justine. Angel tries to kill him. They all abandon him. (Whedon likes to make us suffer!).

    After recovering he finds Angel, by torturing? Justine, he sets her free with the “the only prison is your mind. At this point he lets Angel feed from him and deposits him back at the hotel. “He needs blood, I’m fresh out”.

    So we have the whole Jasmine Arc, and he becomes rehabilitated. But then we hit Billy where he tried to kill Fred.

    With that in mind, his character was aghast at the abuse (and being British) self-loathing was his touchstone. (Spike makes allusions to this being a defining trait of being ensouled… ) Pink Floyd lyric from Time “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”. And then some…!

    So when it comes to Fred, while he was undoubtedly in love with her, his own sense of worth was deeply damaged so he was hesitant, ecstatic, then betrayed -by Knox (he shoots him dead!), but partially by Gunn (he stabs him “missing vital organs”).

    I think that JW deliberately kept Fred a light and airy character because Ilyria is initially *such* a shock. Amy in spandex, acts completely unlike Fred…

    And yet, Wesley is her (Illyria’s) only companion. For him is it ultimate hell of unrequited love – to be with the “shape” of the women he loves, but not her mind?

    As a general point about expected behaviour of the characters, there are some sterotypes of British class. Spike, Wesley and Angel are all supposed to be from the British Isles. Angel acts “most American” as the oldest but also is more *conservative* than normal, but also his origins were working class. Spike came from an “upper/middle” class background, and his journey as vampire has him end up as a punk rebel (anti-establishment, which he was surrounded with). Wesley is portrayed as being upper-class, hence educated but useless at practical matters.

    Taken all together they transition between opposites….
    Liam (Working Class) -> Angelus (ambitious evil guy) -> CEO of W&H.
    William(Middle Class) -> Working class wannabe -> Spike (punk, anti-establishment, quite thoughtful).
    Wesley (Upper Class) -> Demon Hunter -> Working (with his hands) class.

    The end of this episode we go from Wesley kissing Fred, to taking an Axe to Illyria!

    Some contrasts, no?

    Like

  41. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 28, 2016.]

    Indeed.

    Great to see people still finding their way here, and leaving comments. I’ve seen you leave a bunch of very good ones these last few days.

    Class issues are indeed an interesting angle to examine these characters from. I have to say, though, that Angel’s background doesn’t strike me as particularly “working class.” The first thing we see of his background is his father berating him for harassing the servants instead of working. The contrast with the glamorous Darla isn’t so much the rich/poor divide as it is the bucolic rural/sophisticated urban and repressed religious/licentious profane divides.

    Angels’ background itself strikes me as well-to-do farmers, likely quite wealthy by the standards of their community, but small-fry in the larger scheme of things.

    The parallel with Lindsey holds, in a way, in that both characters really have this need to prove themselves. But it comes from a different place. For Lindsey, it’s his lower-class southern background. For Angel, it’s his father’s judgement and his sense of personal inadequacy.

    For Wesley I think the shift has to deal more with the difference between theory/school and practice/real life. With him we see the way experience can take the potential that is there and mould it. Or break it.

    For both Angel and Wesley we see that father-issues are at the heart of everything, but they react to it in very different ways. Angel rebels, tries to be the opposite of his father in everything, but finds he cannot quite leave him behind. Wesley conforms, tries to be everything his father wants him to be, but finds he can never be good enough.

    But yeah, there are lots of contrasts like that to be found between the characters in this series. That’s what makes writing these reviews so rewarding!

    Like

  42. [Note: OffHandComment posted this comment on January 28, 2016.]

    Ah yes, farmer, my mistake. I was educated in England and I think anything involving manual labour is categorized as working-class. I watched them last year on Netflix, but I just got Prime and so they are on the desktop…so commenting is a low threshold!

    Like

  43. [Note: Flamepillar112 posted this comment on September 14, 2016.]

    Great review Iguana! But if it were me, I would have put every Angel/Spike line in the episode. Them bickering like an old married couple never gets old for me haha.

    Like

  44. [Note: flootzavut posted this comment on October 12, 2016.]

    I always feel like the shoe-horned nature of the Fresley relationship actually made it harder for me to be sad that Fred was dead, which frustrates me enormously when I love Fred, and despite her relative lack of development, she remains one of my favourite characters on AtS. The episode was so wound up in “Oh poor Wesley” that it got in the way of being able to feel sorry for and grieve for Fred, who was the actual one dying, which annoyed me hugely. I wanted a better goodbye for her than Wesley fawning over her.

    The Fresley relationship feels so forced to me anyway, but couple it with the way it overshadows the death of one of my favourites, and I just… ugh.

    Honestly. I find Spike’s attachment to Fred (she was the only one who really gave a crap about saving him at the start of the season) and Lorne’s attachment (as an empath demon and a fellow refugee from Pylea, and also I find the “being green” conversation something I can completely believe from Fred, bless her) way more believable and satisfying than Fresley :-/

    Like

  45. [Note: Call Me Wesle posted this comment on October 13, 2016.]

    I agree, IMO, I would’ve felt something (more) if the Fresley relationship hadn’t been forced. As for what you said about Spike, I agree, him caring about Fred, despite his melodramatic way of saying it, made a lot of sense to me.

    Like

  46. [Note: Sweetrain_spuffyshipper posted this comment on November 4, 2016.]

    I have been reading these reviews since welcome to the hellmouth and didn’t want to comment because of how late I am to the “party” but the fact that “call me Wesley” commented on oct.13 2016 made me feel a little better and less like an outsider so … One thing I would like to comment on is how people keep saying that the Fred Wesley thing came out of no where. As a woman who is very much like fred and has few ( if any in Fred’s case) peer female relationships and is more devoted to more academic if not (im not sure how to put this but all things geeky/fangirl related) more than I’d say sexual relationships (or all things men/boys ) the insite that a confident, beautiful, somewhat superficial and impartial “advice” harmony gives in “Harm’s Way” [5×13] to Fred about Wesley and knox competing for affections as opposed to a Gunn Knox triangle IMO is enough for Fred to start to look at Wesley in another light then add to that the way she now sees him in “your welcome” [5×12] (I believe she looks at him lovingly during his anti-invisible hex for Lindsey in this episode though I’m not positive its this one) that she now is finally willing to see if there’s more to Wesley than a plutonic relationship has to offer. Though yes I agree that Fred needed much longer than other women might of to see him that way. (I mean its like she kinda needed smack on the head to boot lol) I see hints as to her changing feelings towards him (as subtle as they might be) as early as Harm’s Way [05×09] where right after harmony says the the look of utter astonishment in Fred’s face that expresses the realization of these facts that Wesley has feelings for her and that she might feel the same if not then than some where in between there and “Your Welcome”[05×13] where she looks at Wesley with utter lust/love in that perfect moment of consciousness its clear what she feels so to me the fact that she kisses Wesley in the previous episode is not out of no where and in fact very much in character with freds geeky/science driven, non sexualized personality in fact this is exactly how I met my husband,(we were in the friend zone and it took a mutual friend to set both me and TBH him straight. So we would see each other in a new light so it does happen in real life ) and it might seem out of no where when in fact a lot of behind the scenes thinking and daydreaming goes into making a desion like kissing someone that might reject you but that’s just my take on what I seen from Fred this season

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s