Note from Dub: beast916's excellent reviews of Angel episodes appear on the Angel's Soul Spoiler Board and the Yahoo group conversebuffyverse. We're very pleased to have him share his thoughts with us here at YesWes!
"'The hour is at hand!' Horace Derwent proclaimed.
'Midnight! Unmask! Unmask!'"
--Stephen King, The Shining
"Some people wear their smile/like a disguise/those people who smile a lot/watch their eyes/I know it 'cuz I'm like that a lot/you think everything's o.k./and it is/'til it's not"
--Ani DiFranco, "Outta Me, Onto You"
Let us get this straight, you and I, so there are no misunderstandings. I do not care for heroes. Never have. I believe heroes have their place, don't get me wrong, but I don't much want to know about them. Let them do their heroic things, which I think we can agree need to be done, and move on. There is to me an undertone of cruelty in heroes I have little tolerance for. Look at Angel in his dealings with Lindsey, Buffy with her sometimes harsh dealings with her best friends, Hercules looking down on his friend Iolaus, and Ferris Beuller expressing his feelings about his friend, Cameron Frye. Okay, maybe that last one didn't really qualify as a hero, but it does lead me to the subject of sidekicks.
"My first thought was, he lied in every word"
--Robert Browning, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"
side- kick (sid`kik`), n. 1. a close friend. 2. a confederate or assistant. [1900-05, Amer; SIDE + KICK]
--Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language
Never judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep. Cliches like these hold a simple truth we seldom pay attention to. What you see is not always what you get. First impressions are not always the best ones. These sayings, although beaten like a dead horse of a different color, are true, but I still find first impressions hard to overcome. So, when Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (and that name didn't help there... the blue-collar guy deep inside me just knew we weren't going to get any good help out of a guy with that name) first comes into view, we immediately jump to a decision about him--one we probably made to a lesser extent when we first met Giles. He portrays a snobbish, bookish, condescending character. I say portray, because on further review, and with hindsight being 20/20, it seems Wes is actually playing a role here. We have never seen or heard the man (just the other side of a phone conversation with Wes), but I think Wes is trying to portray his father, an authority figure with little forgiveness or warmth. It is not a role Wesley wears well, because it is not really him. The characterization cuts little ice with either Buffy or Giles, who, in another look through the wonderful microscopic vision of the future known, seem unnecessarily harsh towards the new Watcher (the cruelty of heroes, friends and neighbors).
Giles: (closes the book, hands it back) You seem to know a lot about them.
Wesley: I didn't get this job because of my looks.
Buffy: I really, really believe that.
-- Bad Girls
It is also in Bad Girls we first see Wesley's, um, fighting ability, which we first perceive to be quite laughable in the Xander-Harmony-slap-fight sort of way. The fighting ability would be displayed in even worse light in Graduation 2. When I saw Wesley in The Ring on AtS, I thought, well, that's wrong. The writers are just rewriting character history now. But I am not quite sure now. Because, after all, isn't the same Wesley who begged for mercy from Balthazar the one who stepped in front of Vamp Willow with nary a second thought?
Vamp Willow: No more hiding.
Cordelia backs away as she advances. Suddenly Wesley jumps out and brandishes his cross in her face.
Wesley: (commandingly) Back! Creature of the night!
Vamp Willow growls angrily.
Wesley: (warningly) Leave this place!
Vamp Willow: Don't wanna.
Wesley quickly but nervously reaches into his jacket and pulls out a vial of holy water. Vamp Willow sighs. He holds it up, threatening to throw it on her.
Vamp Willow: (sighs heavily) Whatever.
Wesley spent nine episodes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, most of which he seemed to act only as a comic foil to Giles and Buffy. But they did set him up as the man he would eventually show us he really is on Angel. I do want to highlight a few things about Wesley while he was in Sunnydale. Looking through the microscope again I see Wesley is a person who continually tries to do the right thing, although it doesn't always turn out that way. When he finds about Faith killing the deputy mayor he immediately contacts the Watcher's Council, which, of course, turns out to be a mistake, but Wesley cannot be blamed for having faith, to be entirely punful, in the Council. The only thing that amazes me more than Wesley blaming himself for Faith's behavior is how much everybody else blamed him for it. And, in Choices, Wesley pushed for an action that, while it may have led to Willow's death, may have saved many lives lost when Graduation Day finally came around.
Wesley: Damn it, you listen to me! This box is the key to the Mayor's Ascension. Thousands of lives depend on our getting rid of it. Now I want to help Willow as much as the rest of you, but we will find another way.
Buffy: There is no other way.
Wesley: You're the one who said take the fight to the Mayor. You were right. This is the town's best hope of survival. It's your chance to get out.
Buffy: You think I care about that? Are you made of human parts?
Giles: Alright! Let's deal with this rationally.
Buffy: Why are you taking his side?
The outbursts of Buffy, Giles, and Wesley clash for a moment, then Wesley's voice breaks out of the babble.
Wesley: You'd sacrifice thousands of lives? Your families, your friends?
Wesley's argument may not have been a very popular one among Willow's friends, but it does correlate to his actions in There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb, in which he makes a similar decision.
Graduation is as much a progression for Wesley as it is for Buffy, although we would not see that until a bit later. Wesley makes a plea with the Council to help Angel when he is poisoned by Faith. When the Council refuses to help a vampire, Buffy quits the Council. Wesley, instead of running back to the Council, volunteers to help the Scooby Gang, despite the lack of enthusiasm shown him.
Buffy, without turning around: The council is not welcome here. I have no time for orders. If I need someone to scream like a woman I'll give you a call.
Wesley: I'm not here for the council. Just tell me how I can help.
Buffy looks up at him.
Cordelia: That is so classy! (looks around at the others) Isn't he just so classy?
Buffy: It's a start.
Wesley: So there is something I can do besides scream like a woman.
Buffy: There is plenty. There are chores for everyone.
So, Wesley stays and fights, and stands side-by-side in battle with Angel for the first time, and the last we see him of him in Sunnydale is as he is loaded into an ambulance and trying to get anybody to pay attention to him. Little did we know we would see him again about eight months later in Los Angeles.
Wesley has left Sunnydale, but I am still here, because there is something that makes me wonder. There is something a little familiar about Wesley... so familiar I am surprised I never noticed. Wesley reminds me of Xander. Both of them present faces to others so as not to be hurt by them. Both of them do not have good relationships with their fathers. Both had romantic encounters with Cordelia (although Wesley's was not very successful). And, as usual when you meet somebody so like you you do not even notice in a conscious way, they do not get along with each other. Xander and Wesley are people who believe too much in others and not enough in themselves, which is why sometimes when they have to defend themselves they sometimes become clumsy, but when somebody they care about is in danger they are able to step to the plate.
"Perfect valor is to do unwitnessed what we should
be capable of doing before all the world"
--Duc de La Rochefoucauld
"I can't get what I want/I'm a failure/Nothing seems
to work out right/The way I planned/I can't express the way I feel/The way I
feel/Without f***ing up/Something else"
Wesley shows up in L.A. as a rogue demon hunter, having been fired from his job as a Watcher. To be truthful, there was little job for him there, since one Slayer quit and the other went a little around the bend. Wesley, however, believes it to be another display of his incompetence, although he changes the story for others. When he first meets Angel he tries to tell him he left of his own accord. Also, while they are talking Wesley trips over something, but when they are attacked and the demon starts to get the better of Angel, Wesley reacts quickly with the crossbow. Once they find out what the demon is, Angel wants to go track it himself. Wesley wants to go with him, because as a rogue demon hunter that is what he should do, but Angel, who just lost one friend in Doyle, pushes him away. Wesley, in one of his first acts of not backing down, tracks down where the demon is and is able to translate his dying words, in which they learn the empath demon Angel thought he was helping was after Cordelia. When they go back and find Cordelia missing Wes can't help but blame himself (and blaming himself is something he seems to do quite easily--we shall learn later how he picked up that little habit). But Angel finally seems to realize Wesley has actual worth.
Wesley: I'm a fool. The Council was right to sack me. - Yes, I was fired. I had two, two! Slayers in my care. One turns evil and now vegetates in a coma, the other is a renegade. Fire me? I'm surprised they didn't cut my head off. (Angel finds Cordy's crumpled drawing) I'm useless. - A fool. A sniveling great, big...
Angel: Ugly, gray blobby thing.
Wesley: Ugly, gray, blobby thing. What?
Angel: I know this. Its a sculpture by Van Gieson, Maiden with Urn. (Shows it to Wesley) Cordelia saw this in a vision. It could be telling us where Barney took her.
Wesley: So, we ascertain the sculptures whereabouts, Cordelia's whereabouts then you can go rescue her.
Angel: *We* can go rescue her. I need your help, Wesley. The Kungai said Barney wanted the horn for something.
Angel: You're the only one in this room who could translate that. Are you with me? (Wesley gets up and nods) Good.
At the end of Parting Gifts Wesley is slowly allowed to be part of the small family Angel and Cordelia have formed. In Somnambulist he discovers Angel may be committing crimes in a manner he previously used. Wesley is willing to face Angel(us) if he has changed, but there is a very palpable relief when he finds out Angel is not responsible for the crimes. It might be in this episode where Wesley begins to feel the family connection with Angel, willing to confront him if he is on the wrong path and pleased to learn he is not. In the next episode, Expecting, the family circle fully closes around Angel Investigations, as the family bond which involves Angel (father) - Cordelia (daughter) and Angel (father) - Wesley (son) also begins to include Wesley and Cordelia as brother and sister. Of course, Angel could be looked upon as much big brother as father, but I think the position of authority makes the father role more likely. Wesley and Cordelia have gotten down the teasing of siblings, but in Expecting the concern finally begins to show itself. Wesley begins questioning Cordelia's commitment to her job, but quickly goes to her side once he realizes what has happened to her.
Cordy whispers: "They're not human."
Wesley: "I imagine that's true."
Cordy: But, I mean... that could be okay, right? I mean, look at Angel. He's not human. And Doyle, he wasn't either...
Wesley: Shh. Shh.
Cordy: I mean, not totally. (Whispers) He was good.
Wesley, blotting her forehead with a handkerchief: Shh. Shh.
Cordy sinks back into the cushions and closes her eyes with a sigh. Wesley pulls the blanket up to her chin, looks at her for a moment. He turns away to find Angel standing in the door to the bedroom. They look at each other for a moment then Wesley follows Angel into the main apartment.
Cordy: Okay. I learned that I have two people I trust absolutely with my life. - And that part's new.
Wesley, taking a deep breath, looks away, dabs his handkerchief at his eye: Uh, some, uh, allergies.
Cordy smiles at Angel, who looks back at her trying not to laugh.
Wesley's behavior comes to light in I've Got You Under My Skin, after the demon residing inside Ryan reveals the way Wesley's father treated him.
Ryan (in deep demon voice): Your Latin sucks.
Wesley splashes some Holy Water on Ryan then goes to pick up the book.
Wesley: I know your tricks. : You'll not deter *me* from what must be done.
Ryan (in demon voice): *You* do something? What makes you think you can do anything?
Wesley: In odorem suavitatis. Tu autem effugare, diabole. Appropinquabit enim judicium dei."
Ryan (demon voice): You couldn't even 'watch!' (Wesley stares at Ryan) Everyone knows you got fired because you couldn't do anything right. Nothing is going to make him proud of you.
Wesley: Skimming the surface of my mind : *very* good. But a mere parlor trick. Here's one for you (Puts down the bottle of Holy Water and thrusts a cross into Ryan's face) How many crosses am I holding up? Omnis spiritus immunde. In nomine dei.
Ryan (in Wesley's voice): All those hours locked up under the stairs and you still weren't good enough. Not good enough for Daddy, not good enough for the Council.
Wesley blinks then looks back at the book: Omnis spiritus : (Starts to flip the pages) Uh, that is to say.
Ryan (in demon voice): Lose your place? What makes you think these people want you around any more than the others did?
Angel, coming through the door: Because I invited him here.
Ryan (in demon voice to Angel): Then you're stupider than he is.
Angel and Wesley look at each other then Wesley takes a deep breath, holds up the cross and starts again.
Wesley: Tu autem..
Ryan (in demon voice): Go ahead, Wesley, tell him why he's a fool to trust you.
Wesley: Effugare, diabole.
Ryan (in Angel's voice): Tell him how you plan to kill him.
Wesley (to Angel): That's not true.
Ryan (in demon voice): Oh, no? He's more afraid of you than he is of me.
--I've Got You Under My Skin
Two things of importance happen after the demon rebuffs Wesley. One, although the demon temporarily stopped Wesley, he is able to back up Angel when he restarts the exorcism. Two, Angel gives Wesley the acceptance he has always been looking for. Wesley, like so many other members of the Buffy universe, is looking for the family to accept him like his own will not.
Wesley: Angel, before we go any further, I just wanted to reassure you, in as much as we will be fighting side by side, what that demons said before..
Angel: I know you're not planning to kill me, Wesley. - But you're willing to, and that's good. Now come on.
--I've Got You Under My Skin
It isn't until The Ring I think we can really see what Wesley is made of. When Angel is captured and Wesley goes to the bookie to find out what happened, he doesn't have anybody around to watch and judge him, except for the bookie and his cronies, whom Wesley cares little about. It is only when he is around those whose opinions he cares about Wesley becomes clumsy.
Wesley: I'm Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. And I'm looking for my employer. He came here to question you about Jack MacNamara.
Ernie: Maybe you didn't notice. I'm kind of busy here.
Wesley: Where is he?
Ernie: Your boss gave me 200 Dollars to answer his questions. I'm a businessman. Make an offer.
Wesley: You should understand, the man I work for means a great deal to me. And I will not give you a single red cent. What I will do, Sir, is beat it out of you if I have to.
The guys in the room break out into laughter.
Ernie: You're from another country, right? (Wesley pulls a crossbow from behind his back) What are you, Robin Hood?
Ernie pulls out a gun, but Wesley shoots the gun out of his hand, the metal dart pinning Ernie's hand to the wall. The gun slides across the floor and Wesley picks it up and aims it at the rest of the men as they are going for their guns.
Wesley: Please drop those.
The guys drop their guns, and Wesley puts down the crossbow, keeping the gun trained on the three goons.
Wesley (to the guy that was getting beat up): You can go now.
The man runs out and Wesley, keeping the three goons covered, goes and starts to twiddle the dart stuck in Ernie's hand. Ernie moans in pain.
Wesley: And where is my employer?
Surely that cannot be the same Wesley who slipped and fell because of coffee grounds on the floor. But it is. I have to go back to Xander, who in a fight with the Sisterhood of Jhe is pretty much knocked around while there are two slayers around, but when he must face Jack O'Toole over a bomb in the school basement and there is nobody else around to take care of things, or to see and judge him, Xander is able to outmaneuver Jack.
Eternity shows how well Wesley has gotten to know Angel. When Angel doesn't want to be a bodyguard for Rebecca Lowell, Wesley realizes it is because Angel is afraid of getting too close to her. And, when Rebecca slips a drug into Angel's drink, temporarily turning him into Angelus, Angelus attacks Wesley where he is most vulnerable. However, Wesley is able to recover from this, something he might not have been able to do before.
Wesley: I don't wish to resort to drastic measures, but unless you listen, I warn you..
Angel: You warning me? What happened, Wes? - Did you suddenly grow a pair? Well, that's it, isn't it? I mean, that's the whole root of your inferiority complex. Well, good news, Wes, old boy! You don't really have an inferiority complex. You're just simply - inferior.
Angel picks Wesley up and tosses him into a corner, knocking him out.
Wesley charges Angel with a scream and pushes him into the open elevator shaft. Cordy and Wesley look down to see that Angel is out cold.
Wesley, leaving: You walk a fine line Angel. - I don't envy you.
Angel: Wesley (Wes looks back at him) nice moves up there. (Wes smiles a little, then leaves)
In Five by Five and Sanctuary, Wesley faces what he considers his biggest failure, the job of Watcher. He blames himself for Faith, although in truth there was very little that could have been done even if Giles were her Watcher. It doesn't help matters much that both Angel and Faith push the blame onto him.
Wesley: That's not good enough! She's not a demon, Angel. She is a sick, sick girl. If there is even a chance she can be reasoned with...
Angel: There was. Last year I had a shot at saving her. I was pulling her back from the brink when some British guy kidnapped her and made damn sure she'd never trust a living soul.
Cordy: Angel, it's not Wesley's fault that *some* British guy ruined your... - oh. Wait (to Wesley) that was you. (To Angel) Go on.
Faith: Did you ever wonder if things would have been different - if we'd never met. What if you'd had Buffy - and Giles would have been my Watcher? You think you'd still be here right now? Or would Giles be sitting in that chair? - Or is it just like fate. You know, there is no choice. You were gonna be here no matter what. - (Picks up a spray can) You think about that stuff? - Fate - and destiny. (Walks over to Wesley) I don't. (Depresses the top of the spray can and holds the lighter flame into the spray igniting it where Wesley can get a good look at the resulting flame shooting forth) Not that any of this is your own fault. (Flames again) Since this may be - the last chance we will have to unload on each other, I feel that it is kind of my duty to tell you that if you'd been a better Watcher, I might have been a more positive role model! (Flames again) - Face it, Wesley, you really were a jerk. Always walking around as if you had some great big stake rammed up your - English Channel. (Frowns and takes the gag out) - I think I want to hear you scream.
Wesley: You never will.
--Five by Five
It is even more telling about Wesley the first thing he does after showing up for work the day after being tortured by Faith is show concern for Cordy, who was elbowed in the face by Faith. After getting into an argument with Angel about Faith--and after apparently deciding maybe Faith wasn't entirely his fault as he assumed--Wesley is confronted by Council goons who want him to help them capture Faith. Despite his own feelings about Faith, Wesley has belief in Angel and attempts to lead the Council astray, and when that doesn't work he counterattacks members of the Council in order to help Angel.
Wesley: Angel, it wasn't for her.
Angel: I know.
Wesley: It's because I trust you. (Angel drops down into the sewers, Wesley follows) Well, more than three gun-toting maniacs at any rate.
After Angel takes the prophecies of Aberjian from Wolfram & Hart, Wesley interprets them to say Angel will die. When Angel hardly reacts at all to this, Wesley knows it is not so much the prophecy but Angel's reaction that is the big problem.
Wesley: The fact that his death is prophesied - which isn't good news - doesn't concern me nearly as much as the way he took that news.
Cordy: What? He didn't scream like a girl as some of us would have? (Sits back down) Angel's cool.
Wesley: Angel's cut off. Death doesn't bother him because - there is nothing in life he wants! It's our desires that make us human.
Cordy, eating her doughnut: Angel is kind of human. - He's got a soul.
Wesley: He's got a soul - but he's not a part of the world. (Gets up) He-he can never be part of the world.
Cordy: Because he doesn't want stuff? - That's ridiculous. (Wesley takes her doughnut away from her) Hey! I want that!
Wesley: What connects us to life?
Cordy: Right now? I'm going with doughnuts.
Wesley: What connects us to life is the simple truth that we are part of it. - We live, we grow, we change. - But Angel...
Cordy: Can't do any of those things. - Well, what are you saying, Wesley? - That Angel has nothing to look forward to? That he's going to go on forever, the same, in the world, but always cut off from it?
--To Shanshu in L.A.
"Tonight there's fallen angels and/they're waiting for us down on the
street/Tonight there's calling strangers/hear them crying in defeat/Let them go,
let them go, let them go/do their dances of the dead"
--Bruce Springsteen, "Drive All Night"
Dressing the wound hurt. Everything that has happened since has hurt. But
sometimes when I find the key and climb deep into myself where the images of
fate lie aslumber in the dark mirror, I need only bend over the dark mirror to
behold my own image, now completely resembling him, my brother, my master.
--Herman Hesse, Damien
If Wesley's first appearance in the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer displays him wearing the mask to protect his real self, and his appearance on Angel shows him beginning to take off the mask, then the first half of season 2 of Angel is about having him put the mask aside. There is very little reason for him to wear masks now (except in situations such as Guise Will Be Guise, in which he wore a mask not for his sake, but to protect others). In the second half of the season he will again don the mask when he is thrust into a situation he does not believe he is capable of handling.
Judgment begins with Wesley comfortable in his job; he has found his niche, and believes he is doing good by helping Angel achieve his shanshu. He is not afraid of fighting in front of others now--he no longer feels disapproving judgment.
As Angel Investigations move offices into an abandoned hotel, Wesley is able to move from wary subordinate to confident sidekick.
Angel: You know, I-I don't need a helmet for protection.
Wesley: Angel. It's the law in California. You want us to get pulled over?
Wesley: Then what's the problem?
Angel: Well, it-it's just, you know - the whole - visibility issue, not to mention the whole hat-head thing and if you really think about it, how come I have to wear the ladies helmet?
Wesley: Stop being such a wanker and put it on!
Angel looks like he wants to protest some more but Wesley just looks at him. Angel puts the helmet on and looks at Wesley. Wesley suppresses a smile while he puts his own (black) helmet on.
Wesley: Good. Hop on board, gorgeous.
Angel: You'll pay for this.
Wesley is able to use his intelligence and perhaps his own unpleasant experience with his own father to discern what caused Bethany's power in Untouched.
Bethany: You don't even know what I'm going through! I shouldn't even be here!
Wesley: I agree. (Bethany spins around as Wesley walks down the steps into the garden court) It's clear this girl doesn't want our help. I don't think we should be wasting our time with her.
Wesley: I'm sorry, but there are people out there who need us. People with much more serious problems than impulse-control issues.
Angel: Look, that's enough.
Wesley: Why doesn't she go back to her friend's, toss the furniture about. (Steps closer to Bethany) Or maybe we should send you home to your father.
Bethany gasps and Wesley flies back against the wall. Angel steps towards her, she sees it and he goes flying back out into the sun of the courtyard. He quickly scrambles back under the protection of the veranda, smoking ever so slightly and watches Bethany as she looks around at what she just did.
Beginning with Dear Boy, Wesley acts as the voice of caution in Angel's ear (a voice, unfortunately, not listened to) by first suggesting Angel may be imagining he is seeing Darla, and, when it is discovered Darla has actually been brought back, by suggesting he be careful, although Angel seems intent to follow the path Wolfram & Hart sets before him.
Guise Will Be Guise shows Wesley putting the mask back on, but this time it is not to protect who he really is, but to protect his friends. When Benny pulls a gun on Cordelia, threatening her if Angel doesn't show up, Wesley quickly steps into the role. Despite a few missteps (and, hey, who wouldn't have some? After all, Cordelia is the actor in the family, and she probably couldn't have pulled off playing a vampire any better than Wes could), he is able to convince Magnus Bryce he is actually Angel. Also, despite the fact his deception gets him more respect, not to mention some quality time with Virginia Bryce, he doesn't seem very comfortable with the role. He continues to play Angel after removing Cordelia from danger because he knows Virginia is still in trouble, and he is better able to protect her as Angel than as Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.
Wesley is the first one to point out the truth of the situation, which is that Wolfram & Hart brought Darla back specifically for the purpose of turning Angel. Wesley tries to be a good friend and reason with Angel about this, but as with most heroes, Angel tends to have a one-track mind when it comes to certain matters. Wesley's main purpose after Guise Will Be Guise is to serve as the little angel (so-to-speak) on Angel's shoulder, there to lend assistance which is all too often ignored or too late. When he learns about the Shroud of Rahmon, he goes after Angel, a little too late to save him, but soon enough to get knocked around for his trouble and nearly arrested.
It is in Reunion we start to slowly see the passing of leadership from Angel to Wesley. It is not at all explicit, but it is there. Angel is an excellent soldier, but is not really made to be a leader. He is too single-minded and goes towards his one goal without thought to other situations. Wesley is nowhere the soldier Angel is, and never will be, but he is able to see more than one side to every situation.
Wesley: Angel, we're not done here.
Angel: I am.
Wesley: The Powers That Be must have had a good reason for sending us here.
Angel: I don't have time to figure that out.
Gunn: Maybe that's the plan. Maybe they're trying to keep you from going on this mission.
Wesley: In any case *that* young man still clearly needs our help!
Angel: Go help him. I got more important things to do, okay?
Wesley looks at Gunn as Angel walks out.
Of course, Wesley is right. If Angel had not continued on, he might not have been involved with the massacre at Holland's wine-tasting, which led Angel to the dark side with nary a chance to return. It is also another case of Wesley being able to see the big picture, such as he did when he rebelled against trading the box for Willow's life and as he will again in Pylea, when he must sacrifice other men for the greater good. It is not something he likes to do, but it is something he realizes needs to be done. Saving one life is seen as often heroic, but saving many lives at the expense of one or few is often seen in darker light. Angel is a hero, and will save the one. Wesley is a realist, and will save as many as he can.
Cordy: You have to change the way you've been doing things. - Don't you see where this is taking you?
Wesley: Listen to her! Right now the three of us are all that's standing between you and real darkness.
Gunn: Best believe that, man.
Angel, quietly after a beat: I do. - You're all fired.
Angel gets up and walks away while the other three sit there like frozen statues.
It is in this moment Wesley loses his second father figure. Like the first one, Angel has turned away from him, and the rejection will send Wesley off his path momentarily, but it will also come to strengthen him.
"'What am I to do then?' he cried again, and now he seemed plainly to know the hard answer: see it through. Another lonely journey, and the worst.
'What? Me, alone, go to the Crack of Doom and all?' He quailed still, but the resolve grew. 'What? Me take the Ring from him? The Council gave it to him.'
But the answer came at once: 'And the Council gave him companions, so that the errand should not fail. And you are the last of all the Company. The errand must not fail.'
'I wish I wasn't the last,' he groaned. 'I wish old Gandalf was here, or somebody. Why am I left all alone to make up my mind? I'm sure to go wrong. And it's not for me to go taking the Ring, putting myself forward.'
'But you haven't put yourself forward; you've been put forward. And as for not being the right and proper person, why, Mr. Frodo wasn't, as you might say, nor Mr. Bilbo. They didn't choose themselves.'
'Ah, well, I must make up my own mind. I will make it up. But I'll be sure to go wrong; that'd be Sam Gamgee all over.
'Let me see now; if we're found here, or Mr. Frodo's found, that's the end of us all, of Lorien, and Rivendell, and the Shire and all. And there's no time to lose, or it'll be the end anyway. The war's begun, and more than likely things are all going the Enemy's way already. No chance to go back with It and get advice or permission. No, it's sit here till they come and kill me over master's body, and gets It; or take It and go.' He drew a deep breath. "Then take It, it is!'"
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
As Redefinition begins Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn are standing outside the hotel with their possessions, without jobs. The job is all they really had, besides each other, so Angel took not only a paycheck away, but their very purpose. They would all be slightly bowed before deciding to continuing to keep up the fight, with or without Angel.
Wesley: It has to do with - Darla being made a vampire again and hooking up with Drusilla and... The three of them have a very tangled past. - My guess is, he'll be hunting them down and he doesn't want anyone in his way.
Virginia: Well, his loss it the world's gain. You'll get another job just like that! (Snaps her fingers) What else can you do?
Wesley: Not much.
Which is of course not quite the truth. As Giles can be a librarian or the owner of a magic shop, so could Wesley apply his intelligence towards something else. The truth it, there is nothing else he wants to do. So, after a night of too much drinking and way too much singing at Caritas (where we also start to see the bond between Gunn and Wesley grow--Wesley may have lost his father figure, but he has gained a brother), and a vision from Cordelia, they fight a demon themselves, and begin to see they can exist with or without Angel.
Gunn: If we had Angel, we could track her.
Cordy: He'd also kill the big, spiny demon that took her. Did I mention that its teeth are about three inches long?
Gunn: And us with no weapons? Man, I wish Angel was here.
Wesley: Well, he's not! (They turn to stare at Wes) Angel's walked away from his duty. We're not going to.
Wesley: I thought you might like to know we're keeping the agency open - with or without you.
Angel stands with his back to Wesley, facing the target, silent.
Wesley: You may have turned your back on your mission, but we haven't.
There is still no reaction from Angel, so Wesley turns to walk back up the stairs.
Wesley: Someone has to fight the good fight.
Wesley leaves Angel, echoing the words first voiced by Doyle, and turning his back on his friend, whom he may very well have wanted to save (or attempt to save), in order to protect the many. Wesley has gone from comic foil to faithful sidekick to a tough-decision-making general. It is not a role he wants, and it is a role he will find hard to fill for a while, as he relies on his only other experience as a leader, being a Watcher, to guide his behavior.
In Blood Money Gunn and Wesley continue the good teamwork they showed in Redefinition, defeating a dragon. Gunn gives Wesley the nickname "English", which I like for reasons I just can't explain. And they and Cordy start to talk about opening their own agency. In Happy Anniversary they actually do move into their new office (if you want to use that terminology) and get their first non-Angel case thanks to Virginia Bryce, which Wesley solves in a very Hercule Poirot-esque manner.
Gunn: No, no. You need help, you're in the right place. We can talk in back. Come on in.
Man: Which one of you is Angel?
The three of them exchange a glance.
Wesley: It's just a name.
Wesley throws himself in front of danger in The Thin Dead Line, when he tries to stop Gunn's "dumb plan" of videotaping zombie cops attacking him. One of the zombie cops shoots Wesley. It is after this shooting Virginia realizes the danger in his job.
Virginia: I don't know. - But sometimes I feel like I should be wrapped in bandages - to keep *my* insides from falling out.
Wesley (swallowing): This is difficult for you, isn't it?
Virginia: I just don't like to see you hurt.
Wesley: No. - I mean - I mean breaking up with me.
Virginia looks up at Wesley, but doesn't say anything.
After Angel has his Epiphany and rescues Wesley from the Skilosh demons Wesley is not quite sure how he should react. Equal parts happiness and disappointment show. As Angel tries to make small talk with him, Wesley attempts to keep it on a business basis. It is only when Angel mentions Cordelia that Wesley lets his feelings vent.
Angel: Well, maybe she's just out on a date or with her friends or something.
Wesley: That's unlikely.
Angel: It's Friday night, Wesley.
Angel: So, we are talking about the same Cordelia Chase, right?
Wesley: That's correct.
Angel: Knowing her...
Wesley: But you don't. You don't know her at all. For months now you haven't cared to. Otherwise you might have realized that our Cordelia has become a very solitary girl. She's not the vain, carefree creature she once was... Well, certainly not carefree. - It's the visions, you see. The visions that were meant to guide you. You could turn away from them. She doesn't have that luxury. She knows and experiences the pain in this city, and because of who she is, she feels compelled to do something about it. - It's left her little time for anything else. - You'd have known that - if you hadn't had you head firmly up your... place that isn't on top of your neck.
Perhaps Angel realizes Wesley is right, because he then offers to work for them rather than the other way around.
Wesley: Before you say any more I think I should tell you, we've all discussed this, and none of us are ready just yet...
Angel: It's okay, Wesley. I don't want you to come back and work for me.
Wesley: Oh. I see.
Angel: I wanna work for you.
Gunn: You wanna work for us?
Angel: Yeah. I do.
So the role reversal is complete. And somehow, maybe without a word, Wesley is put in charge of the agency. He is the natural choice, but he reacts pretty much the same way he did when made a Watcher--with a slightly pompous attitude used to disguise his fear of others relying on him. It was a bit easier when he, Gunn, and Cordelia were working as a team, but now the pressure of the leadership role takes its toll.
Wesley: Be sensitive to their feelings, their opinions, especially before you take some action one might construe as - oh, let's just call it insane. It goes a long way to show you - appreciate and respect them. (Wesley drops out of his lecturing tone for a moment) This is torture for you, isn't it.
Angel (quietly): Yeah, well, we'll just have to, you know, talk to Cordelia. Get her to...
Gunn: Dig a little deeper?
Wesley (clapping Angel on the shoulder): Go ahead. Probably best not to crowd her.
Angel: Me? You're the one in charge now.
Wesley (sighing): You're right. (he starts to walk past Angel) That's why I'm assigning this one to you.
Soon after Wesley makes a phone call which returns him to the path of doubting himself again.
Wesley: Yes, mum. Yes, well, put him on. - Right. You too. - Hello father. Happy Birthday. - How are you? - Good. - No! It's going quite well actually. - Yes. I have news. - I've been put in charge of our group. - Yes, as their leader. No, it's a permanent position. Well as permanent as these things... - (the smile on Wesley's face fades away into nothing) - No, I certainly won't be fired. - Ah. Well, yes, I was that one time, yes. - Again... No, you're right. I see how... - Yes, I'd forgotten, thank you. - Yes. - Ah, just recently. Uhm, it's going quite well so far. - No, I think this time... - I hope it will be different. - No. No, you're right. I see how... - I just thought you'd be... I thought you'd want to know, that's all. - Right. Well - again, happy birthday. - Okay.
The phone call really puts Wesley off his game. When Gunn asks him for a description of the Haklar demon they are supposed to kill, Wesley goes off on a long monologue about mating rituals, weight, and speech patterns, relapsing to his over-winded Watcher mode. It doesn't help matters much when the Host comes for their assistance and Angel automatically starts to make decisions, and then attacks the Drokken demon without a plan from Wesley. When Cordelia is accidentally sucked into the portal into Pylea, Wesley understands how little leadership he has when Angel usurps it from him.
Wesley: Okay, let's approach this logically.
Angel: Screw logic. We're getting Cordy back. We're gonna open up another portal and we're going in after her.
Wesley: Angel, I don't think that's a good idea.
Angel: Wesley, I don't think I care.
Wesley: But we're completely unprepared. We should go back to the hotel, do some research.
Angel: I don't wanna research, alright? I wanna jump through the big swirly hole thingy and save Cordelia! (Angel starts to read from the book, but Wesley grabs him by the arm and pulls him around to face him).
Wesley: We might never be able to get back!
--Over the Rainbow
When they finally get to Pylea, they are captured and discover Cordelia has been made a princess. When they realize Wolfram & Hart may have connections with Pylea (and Cordy may have to Com-shuk with a groosalug) they attempt to escape. But Cordy is left behind, and Wes and Gunn are left by themselves. After being attacked by the Pylea-version of Angel's demon side, they are taken captive by rebels. They are about to be executed by the rebels when the rebels are attacked by Imperial guards. Wesley and Gunn fight the Imperial guards even though they are in stocks at the time. Although the rebels release them, Wesley and Gunn decide to stay and fight alongside the rebels.
Wesley: If you do they'll cut you down. You can not wage a frontal attack against a stronger opponent. - This kind of battle can only be won through guerilla warfare. (They all just look at him) By being sneaky! You create a diversion then you strike at several different points at once. While they are looking ahead, you come from behind.
Sasha: And kill their leader.
Bartok: Silas, their head priest.
Sasha: It's a good plan.
Bartok: I agree.
Sasha: You shall lead us!
Wesley: Wha... Me? No, no, no, I was just suggesting that...
Bartok: No, no, you fought well. The Covenant hates you. And you know the princess.
Sasha: And you have a *plan*.
Bartok: Besides, our leader is dead. Hail to our new leader!
Rebels yell: Hail!
Wesley (aside to Gunn): Why do people keep putting me in charge of things?
Gunn: I have no idea.
Wesley: We'll worry about defeating him later. Our first step is to get him out of there. Once he's out we'll create diversions here, here and here. (Sets some rocks on a map on the table in front of him.) Then a few of us will scale their back wall here where their defenses are weakest.
Gunn: I wouldn't split my crew up this much if I was leading this charge.
Wesley: I'm leading this charge
Wesley: These, ah (sees that all the rebels are gone) those were the rebels. We've joined forces.
Gunn: They made Wes their general.
Wesley: But you're here now. Ah (Indicates the battle plan) if you want to... I mean - you're much better at...
Angel: No, Wes, I-I can't... - You know what happens to me. (Looks down) I-I'm sorry... (Looks at Gunn) ...ashamed of what I did to you.
--There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
Although Wesley offers to give over the leadership of the rebels, saying Angel is better at it, it is really not true. Angel is definitely better at hand-to-hand, but planning--well, he did teach at the university of dumb-planning. It is perhaps Angel's rejection of the leadership that gives Wesley the confidence to finally put his fear and self-doubt behind.
Gunn: I'm only gonna say this once. The guys you send to create those diversions are gonna die.
Wesley (after a beat): Yes, they are. (Gets up and looks at Gunn) You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everybody killed. (To the camp) Get ready to move out.
Angel: What do you want me to do?
Wesley: Go to the village. Call out the groosalug - and kill him.
Angel: Kill their undefeated champion. - I can't do that without turning into the beast.
Wesley: I know.
Angel: Look, when I fired you guys the reason I... Darkness was coming out in me. I didn't want you near it. - The thing that comes out here is ten times worse. - Wes. - I do this - you know I won't come back from it.
Wesley: Yes, you will. I know you. (Glances over at Gunn) We know you. We know you're a man with a demon inside - not the other way around. *We* know you have the strength to do what needs to be done, and you will come back to us.
Angel and Wes look at each other for a long moment.
Fred: I could go with you. I know how to prepare the challenge torch.
Wesley: You'll come back.
Angel looks over at Gunn, whose face remains expressionless, then he and Fred leave.
Gunn: You really think he'll come back?
Wesley (turning to leave): I need *him* to think it.
Gunn stares after Wesley.
--There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb
I started so many pages ago with the statement there is a bit of cruelty in heroes, and perhaps some might think what Wesley ends up becoming is also an example of the same cruelty. There might be a point there, but I like to think, while heroes have a disdain for even those they save, people like Wesley, who step up when it is called upon, then fade in the background when they are no longer needed, are not cruel--they realize you can't save everybody, so you must do what you can to save as many as you can.
As for the future, who knows where it will lead Wesley? I like to think he will still be the leader of Angel Investigations, willing to let Angel fight the battle and contribute what he must and when he must. Because, even though he is the leader, he is really still a sidekick. Heroes may fight and conquer, and lose and die, but they will always have the sidekick by their side, standing tall when things look their grimmest, and fighting the good fight.
"At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippen rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said."
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I wrote this in August of 2001. Much has changed with Mr. Wyndham-Pryce since then. He is no longer the sidekick, but he is also not a servant of the enemy. Just what is he? I believe the answer to that question will form the next season.
Season 3 began with Wesley in pretty much the same form he was left in Season 2. He was the leader of AI, although he wisely let Angel make decisions on small matters. We discover he has a fascination with Fred, perhaps owing to her own dabbling in books and shy nature. But then came "Billy," which allowed us to see a form of the darker side of Wesley yet to come. This is the episode which began to separate Wesley from the rest of AI, not because he doesn't trust them, but because he doesn't truly trust himself. The rest of the first half of the season shows Wesley performing his sidekick role again, acting mostly as Angel's support.
After discovering Fred and Gunn in "Waiting in the Wings", Wesley throws himself into his work. This further removes him from his inner sanctum of friends. He discovers a prophecy which claims Angel will kill Connor, his child. Gunn and Fred he feel he can't trust because of their relationship and his own feeling of jealousy. Angel he does not want to tell until he can verify the prophecy. And Cordelia is conveniently on vacation. Based on deception by Sahjahn and Holtz, Wesley attempts to take Connor away. His plan backfires, and he ends up allowing Connor to be taken, has his own throat cut, and his friends turn against him.
Season 3 ends with Wesley caught in the middle. Disowned by his friends and wooed by Wolfram & Hart through Lilah, he chooses neither side. Based on the first two episodes of Season 4, in which he has begun a relationship with Lilah, yet is the person to rescue Angel, Wesley's role seems, as Lorne once indicated, to be playing a big part in the big battle to come. But which side will he be on? Will he be on either side? I can't say for sure, but I know one thing: Mr. Wyndham-Pryce is no longer anybody's sidekick.
Transcript notes are thanks to Psyche Transcripts.
Many thanks also go to Rufus and JodithGrace for providing insights, questions, and many puns and rhyming riffs.