I'll start by saying that I'm very glad that I didn't get up yesterday morning once the download was done and watch this before work like I had originally been planning. I'm still a bit zombied emotionally (also watching "Freefall," the helicopter crash episode of ER didn't help at all), so I can only imagine how much of a wreck I would have been with a before-work viewing.
Of course, losing an hour and a half's worth of work on the review tends to jumpstart one's emotions pretty damn quickly...GAH.
Or as Min so helpfully put it, "*insert Yosemite Sam '...god nabbit @#%#%# FRIKEN #@#$#@ HORNEYTOAD!!!!'*"
Anyway, onto the episode...
First of all, it was wonderful seeing Roger and Trish Burkle again even if it was only for one scene at the beginning and a flashback at that. These two remind me of my own parents in a lot of ways - supportive and loving while worried and protective. Wanting to let their daughter spread her wings, but at the same time, wanting to make sure that she'll always be safe. I remember having very similar conversations with my own parents before I went to college and before I moved over here to England. Fred has been one of my favorite character partly because I've always identified with her in many ways, and her relationship with her parents is yet another similarity.
The segue from Fred promising her mother that she'll be studious and boring to the sight of her using a flamethrower on the nest of demon bugs was pure Joss Whedon. This scene showed how well Wes and Fred work as a team, something that's been hightlighted again and again over the seasons. Her using the flamethrower to take the bugs out, Wes using his gun for clean up. I loved the whole bit, especially the banter and then the kiss in front of the "roaring fire" - "Are you trying to turn me on?" The whole thing was really cute, but not the kind of sickly sweet enforced cute that I hated about Fred and Gunn. That was one of my big problems about that couple - everything about them seemed forced to me. With Fred and Wes, it all seems more natural.
Which leads to Wesley and Gunn's discussion the following morning. I'm glad to see there was some closure to that. Although, thinking about it, it seemed a bit strange because after no discussion of any kind of past between Fred and Gunn over the entire season, it seemed to come out of nowhere. I'm wondering if possibly the mindwipe is starting to break down and things are being remembered. This could play into why Connor, who is rumored to be coming back in a later episode, shows up again.
Of that whole scene, my favorite exchange between Wes and Gunn was this one:
Gunn: "You hurt her and I'll kill you like a chicken."
Wes: "Acceptable terms."
Taken in the context of the scene by itself, it comes across as quite funny and a great friendship moment. However, given what is revealed later in the episode about Gunn's involvement in the whole thing, I'm sure that those lines are going to come back to bite Gunn in the ass. Hard.
And yeah, I know I wasn't the only one yelling at Fred to get away from the sarcophagus. I'm surprised that the collective screaming couldn't be heard all around the world.
I've also seen others talk about the effectiveness of the scene where Fred first falls ill, and I totally agree. It was played perfectly with Fred and Wes talking about going out, and then Fred singing and Lorne whirling around just as she coughed up blood and pitched down the steps. In the space of seconds, the entire tone of the scene changed from light and happy to tense and dramatic, and it was so well done. You could practically feel Wesley's fear when he yelled for medical.
Which leads to the scene in medical with Fred woke up to see her "boys". Everyone there had some kind of special connection with her (except for Knox...grr!), and this scene highlighted why everyone rallied the way they did to help her. I so loved the way Fred called Wesley "Book Man" when they were left alone, and the understated way in which Angel found out that the two of them are together now.
Of all the reactions displayed by the guys while they were trying to help Fred, Wesley's and Lorne's seemed to the most extreme. However, looking at them again, they're really not. Wesley had shown time and again that he will do anything and everything for Fred, even killing his own father if he threatens her. Now, after years of loving her and wanting to be with her, he's finally gotten that chance, only to see it slipping away unless something is done. And some snot-nosed defender of evil comes to question using all the firm's resources to help one of the few things that he sees as good in his life. Evil versus Good. For Wesley, while there's a lot of grey areas in other things, there's certainly no grey area here. Fred is in danger. She takes precedent.
Lorne, though, has never really shown the violent inclinations that he showed here when he went after Eve. I was cheering for him the whole way - not because I hate Eve (she's certainly no Lilah) but because he was doing what he had to for a friend. Everyone has a point that they can pushed to before they snap, and usually the breaking point comes when a friend or loved one is involved. Eve has been a threat to everyone Lorne cares about for the entire season, and now, very possibly a fatal threat. Lorne's reached his breaking point, especially since it's Fred who's involved. And despite the extremeness of his reaction, it was all totally in character, down to the cracks about Diane Warren's music (except for "Rhythm of the Night").
He also got the most important piece of information they had so far in Eve revealing the true nature of Wesley's template books - information that certainly the Senior Partners had a reason for not telling them. Once they found out about the Well, Angel and Spike should have really taken Wes and Fred with them, considering that it was the only real concrete lead they had on a cure.
However, had they, we certainly wouldn't have gotten the wonderful (even if they were painful as hell) Wes and Fred scenes we did for the rest of the episode. Starting with the lab where we're given a huge insight into Fred. She doesn't like to feel useless, especially when it comes to something involving her; she certainly doesn't want to be seen as the damsel in distress since, like she said, she had to survive for five years in a hostile dimension. And most importantly of all, she doesn't want to be seen as such by Wesley. The thing is that Wesley has never seen her as such - he has always known when to let Fred fight her own battles, as shown in "Supersymmetry". But now was not one of those times. The best way for her to fight this battle was to rest and not wear herself down.
When she broke down and asked him to take her home, I was seriously into the sniffly zone heading for total sob breakdown.
From here now, I'm going to get a little out of order because I want to deal with the last group of Wes/Fred scenes together.
First off, the revelation that Knox was involved. I was spoiled on this although even if I wasn't, I wouldn't have been surprised that he was involved at all given everything, including the fact that he was another very conveniently placed stumbling block in Wes and Fred's path. That said, the way Knox "outed" himself was still a bit strange. Forced, in a way. Possibly because it jarred with the way Jonathan Woodward was playing Knox up to that point with no hints as to his involvement. Even if he had shown a sort of interest in the sarcophagus despite supposedly not knowing what it was, it would have helped, I think. Minor quibble in the scheme of the entire episode, I suppose.
And Gunn better not have permanently damaged him because I want him to be standing on two feet when Wesley takes him out for what he's done.
Moving on to Angel and Spike's Most Excellent Adventure, that trip to England was certainly an eye opener. I've loved the interaction between these two in the last few episodes because it hasn't been the "who loves/loved Buffy more" pissing contest that started out the season. This has been the honest interaction of two men who have shared a whole hell of a lot, whether they've wanted to or not. I loved that they held hands outside the well...even if it was so Angel could palm him the wire that they used to behead their attackers. That was the reason, right? Hmmm...
When I heard about the Well, I never expected it to be what it was. When they had spoken about the Old Ones before, I had always thought that they had simply faded away, gone to another plane of existence or a different dimension. Something along the lines of Babylon 5's ancient races who had "gone beyond the rim" (of the galaxy). But to see that there were thousands upon thousands of them, basically imprisoned in sarcophagi in a mass grave running down through the center of the Earth...that was a stunning sight, to see how precarious, in a way, the balance of power is being maintained.
Now, finally, back to Wesley and Fred. Their scenes together in Fred's bedroom were, I thought, the most powerful and well-acted of the entire episode (in an episode filled with great performances all around) if not the entire series. Alexis made Wesley's grief and love so palpable, and Amy made Fred's illness so painfully real. When my Grandma Nicosia was in hospital right before she died, she was much like Fred was here - moments of raving madness, talking about things that seemed unintelligible, even ridiculous, taken out of context, mixed with moments of clarity. This was probably why I ended up dreaming about my Grandma coming back with Illyria's eyes last night. Amy's performance struck a very deep chord with me.
What was most notable in these scenes was real sense of connection between this couple. Some people have said that Fred's feelings for Wesley set on too fast, but as someone who has watched this couple over the course of three seasons, this has been something that has built up for a long time. Fred has always been drawn to Wesley, even when she was looking at others. This was shown through her work with Wesley throughout Season 3, the way she went to him in "Supersymmetry" when she needed help, the way he always seems to be the first one she goes to when she needs something. Even Angel(us) saw it when he observed in Soulless, "Othello and Desdemona, my favorite couple, no...wait...she wasn't in love with the other guy. So much for stand by your man."
Her feelings were always there, she finally just realized it. And nothing was more heartbreaking that to hear her cry, "I'm sorry," after Wes told her, "I've loved you since I’ve known you. No, that’s not--since maybe even before." Sorry for lost time, sorry for being blind. It was moment that has a lot of meaning for Wes and Fred fans who waited for so long to have them get together only to have this happen. And damn did it hurt.
By the time they kissed just before she died, I had truly lost it. Fred truly was a hero, something she had never expected to be when she had left Texas years before for UCLA. She walked with heroes and became one herself, maintaining the courage that saw her through five long and lonely years until the very end.
"Why can't I stay?"
In a way, I think she has. She's certainly left her imprint on Wesley and the others. But beyond that, Joss usually doesn't throw in lines like that without reason. The whole caveman versus astronaut argument certainly wasn't without meaning, and I don't think this line was either. I truly think that somehow, someway, Fred is still there inside. She was supposed to become a literal shell, a vessel, but I don't think that happened - whether because of something she did in the lab before Wes walked in or because she was fighting so hard to stay there with him. She's still there, and I think this is going to be very important in what happens in Illyria and what happens between her and Wesley.
This could be an amazing story arc for both characters. And in a way, I'm excited about it.
But at the same time, I'm also very, very distraught. This was Fred. I want her back. And so, of course, do Wesley and the others.
What a dilemma.
cross-posted to my journal.