Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Whedonverse Classic #5: ANGEL's "Guise Will Be Guise"

Credit: Buffyworld

Originally, I planned to conclude Whedonverse Classic with the Pylean episodes. The Pylean adventure is much maligned in the Buffyverse because Joss, Greenwalt and company chose to 'drop' the Darla storyline and focus instead on a romp in another dimension. The Pylea episodes aren't ignored or overlooked. My goal's been to spotlight the episodes fans don't think about when they think about ANGEL and/or Buffy or when they tell their friends about these awesome shows. I scrapped plans for the Pylean post at Classic's end and thought about the other episodes in season two. My mind immediately thought of "The Trial," "Happy Anniversary," "Blood Money," "The Thin Dead Line," but I kept returning to the sixth episode of the season, "Guise Will Be Guise." 

Season 2 is a series-defining season for the show. Anyone I recommend ANGEL to always receives something along the lines of me telling them they need to watch season one first and make it through the very up-and-down season full of misses and few hits but once they reach the end of season one, season two awaits them, and it is a tremendous season of television. "Guise Will Be Guise" is a terrific stand-alone in a season full of terrific episodes, both stand-alones and non-stand-alones. Jane Espenson's scripts touch on the most important themes of the season while carefully developing the characters and their personal arcs. The episode is a microcosm of the story so far as five episodes into the season, but on re-watch, it's a microcosm of the season and begins what's finished in the Pylean arc.

Wesley Wyndham-Price is still the screw-up of ANGEL Investigations in #206. He hasn't shed the nerdy watcher reputation from his Sunnydale High days. Wesley stumbled around and broke stuff throughout season one. Slowly and surely Wesley became more competent and more of an actual rogue demon hunter than a pretend rogue demon hunter. Wesley trips alot in "Guise Will Be Guise." Not only does he trip, he accidentally removes an entire filing cabinet, scattering the contents around the lobby of the hotel. A miserable looking tough guy comes into the Hyperion looking for Angel and scoffs when Wesley offers to help him. Wesley needs to be the hero, the leader, for just one episode.

Meanwhile, Angel's still obsessed with Darla They're loaded conversation in "Dear Boy" stuck with the brooding vampire with a soul. Angel and Gunn infiltrate Wolfram & Hart with a plan to run away really fast when caught by security. Cordelia and Wesley intervene, send Angel to The Host, and hope the green demon with a heart the size of Russia will help his one track Darla mind. The Host sends Angel to a Swami in rural California for spiritual guidance. Angel's retreat leaves a hole to be filled in Angel Investigations, which Wesley fills when henchman forces him at gunpoint to a new client who needs to protect his daughter from abductors.

The T'ish Magev, who's actually an imposter tasked with keeping Angel away from Los Angeles for the weekend, probes Angel's very soul to cut to the core of him and figure out what makes the man tick. The T'ish harps on Angel's car and wardrobe. For an undead creature of the night, Angel seems preoccupied with appearance. The car is a convertible, which isn't the ideal vehicle for a creature of the night, and he wears black at all times. Angel explains he got a deal on the car, and he has no body temperature and has no reflection so he simply wears black for simplicity. Imposter T'ish Magev offers a pearl of wisdom to Angel by telling him he's reflected all the time by the people around him who care about him and their perceptions and feelings about him.

Wesley adopts the Angel persona and reflects his boss in his playacting. The subtext rapidly becomes text in "Guise Will Be Guise." Wesley wonders how it'd feel to be the hero. Angel wonders how he's reflected in his friends. Wesley's role as Angel is fun and illuminating. We learn how Wesley perceives his boss. Wesley's Angel is brave, respectful, honest, and authoritative, commands respect from the room, and most importantly, cares about his clients. TV's employed the trope of the mistake identity for many years. The trope allows a character to learn something about his or herself that would've eluded him or her had he or she remained himself or herself. Wesley's presence as Angel is commanding and authoritative because of the meaning attached to Angel. In other words, it's about the name. Wesley's still Wesley, though. During a tour of a museum exhibit, Wesley enthuses over the items displayed and teaches Virginia, the daughter he's paid to protect, about them. Wes beats up two guards who try to abduct Virginia. Two other men attempt to steal her away but a strongly worded message to the thugs scares them off. The bad guys don't want to contend with the vampire with a soul, but bad guys shouldn't want to mess with Wesley either once he's accepted himself as a formidable leader and hero in his own way.

Wesley breaks out of his shell, gets the girl, loses the girl and then saves the girl. Wesley loses the girl when he's found out as an imposter of Angel, but he wins the girl back as Wesley Wyndham-Price. The moment is triumphant for the beaten down Wes. Wes takes the lead when Angel returns from the countryside. Angel follows along. Role-reversal indeed. Wesley figured out that the father meant to sacrifice his daughter for more power, because the family made their fortune in wizardry, and other people wanted to abduct Virginia to stop Magnus from becoming too-powerful. Wes is the coolest dude in "Guise Will Be Guise." Wes evolves even more as a hero/leader as the season progresses, culminating in a shining arc in the Pylea journey. "Guise Will Be Guise' establishes Wesley's personal arc.

Angel's duality is a major 'thing' in season two. The demon and the man conflict, blend, bleed into the other, etc, to the point his friends can't tell Angel from Angelus. The fake Swami helps Angel confront the demon in him. Of course, the fake Swami attempts to convince the demon is part of Angel, not separate. Angel's trying to figure out his obsession with Darla. Why does he feel this way about her? Is it because she sired him? Is it the demon? The fake Swami advises Angel to find a cute, little blond, hook up with her, treat her like garbage, and leave town. Angel sits and lets out an 'Uh.." because of, you know, Buffy Summers. The immediate question concerns Angel's true nature: is his current self only a guise to disguise the demon? The question isn't answered until the end of the season, but it's brought up because of how the story would unfold in the next run of episodes; after all, "Darla" follows "Guise Will Be Guise" followed by a little filler and then the insane run from "The Trial" to "Redefinition."

This episode's an example of the quality of ANGEL during its second season. Beyond the character and story business with Wes and Angel, it's simply a really funny and entertaining episode. The sight gags with Wesley are inspired. Alexis Denisof has a gift for physical comedy. The dialogue is amazing. Espenson's excels with language and broad-yet-specific comedy, like the scene when Angel's called a eunuch and Cordelia's amazed Wes got some after one day as Angel. But it's not only Jane. A similar scene pops in late in the season after Angel fights a Pylean warrior. All of ANGEL's best qualities are evident in "Guise Will Be Guise"--the terrific characterization, the action, the heart, the dialogue, etc. When every aspect of the show worked, ANGEL is the best show I've ever watched.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.