Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Old Soldiers Never Die

As promised, my take on the ending of one of my favorite shows on television, Angel. After 5 seasons Angel Investigations/Wolfram & Hart's L.A. office heads (in season 5)said good-bye to fans everywhere with a very powerful series finale. The ex-watcher, Wesley, dead. Lorne, the demon night club owner killing a problem in a double cross. Harmony betraying Angel. Spike, the other re-souled vampire, Angel, Illyria (the demon possed shell of Winifred Burkle aka. Fred), and the mortally wounded Charles Gunn end the show cornered in an alley on a rainy night. The armies of evil charging them, and Angel saying "Personally, I want to slay the dragon." and "Let's get to work.". Our heroes shown rushing headlong into danger to save the world against the army of evil...fade to black.

Angel was a show of a different ilk than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, darker and edgier. In my opinion the superior show of the two. The show centered around Angel and his never ending quest to atone for the evil of his past, the most famous, most blood thirsty vampire ever seen, Angelus, before being cursed by a gypsy with his soul. An immortal with the blood of hundreds, perhaps thousands on his hands forced to carry the guilt and burden for eternity. Such a heaviness of spirit is unthinkable.

Without giving too much back story, Angel was chosen by the "Powers that Be", the closest either series in the Buffy-verse came to acknowledging the existence of God (yet somehow the presence of demons, evils and crosses and holy water never bothered anyone). Angel is destined to help the helpless as her attempts to make right the evil past he has with him. Joining Angel in season 5, was the other vampire with a soul, Spike..who regained his soul the old fashioned way by fighting for it to gain the favor of his love (and Angel's) Buffy. Both characters representing a macrocosm of the human condition.

Angel when stripped down to it's basics was a story about atonement, trying to make amends for past evils in a world dominated by evil trying to stop you at every turn. It was about the bondage of friendships and building trust. It was about the relationships of family and how even in the worst of times, the ties of family, though strained will not break. It reminded viewers that the chance for turning from evil and doing right never past and that even in death change could occur. It worked in basic levels, it worked on deeper levels that are still being revealed with repeated viewings. The series dealt with love and the sacrifices people will make to protect the ones they love.

The show was simply about life. It was set in a super-natural sci-fi universe, but that only amplified the emotions that it drew out in its story lines. Take away the super-natural, the writing alone would have carried a show, it was smart, witty, and poingant. At it's end, Angel sacrificed his chance to become human (ancient prophecy..he signed it away..he works for a supernatural, interdimensional law firm, he could do that) in order to save the world. Spike (who could still fulfill said prophecy because it only said the vampire with a soul will become human) had also come full circle. In their last moments, it was the two vampires trying atone for their pasts who were the most human of characters. Standing against the forces of evil to save the world, willing to lay down their immortal lives so the world would not be overrun with the evil and coming tide of darkness.

There was not last great fight, no comrades in arms celebrating the victory. All we were left with was the charge, the odds against the good guys and death seeming certain. The end came, not knowing if the evil won, the heroes conquered, if Angel slayed his dragon. Did Spike and or Angel become "real boys" and did Gunn make it? It doesn't matter because it summed up the show in that last moment...fighting evil to the bitter end against all odds. Win, lose, or draw it's better to fight it than to stand idly by and be consumed by it as it passes. The old soldiers who would not die, fighting to not fade away. As we were told anyway, "We don't live in a fairy-tale." In life, there is no happily ever after.

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