Monday Man: Wesley Wyndham-Pryce

After some thought and a facepalm, I reckon I should say that THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILERY, SPOILERY SPOILERS!

Consider yourself warned.

Another little PSA: Today I defy the laws of physics by being two places at once! That’s right, gentle viewers, you can have a second dose of Emmie over at the lovely Kourtney Heintz’s blog!

My husband and I are watching season three of Angel right now. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, and one thing that is coming across like someone’s blaring it in an earhorn is how impressive Wesley‘s development really is.

When he first appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as her replacement Watcher when Giles got sacked, he was — in a word — a doofus.

Do I mean doofus? Hm.

Yep. I mean doofus.

From slavering over Cordelia to his horrifically botched handling of Faith when she went rogue, it’s safe to say that he became the utter Emperor of Doofonia. This quote from Giles just about sums it up:

“For god’s sake, man! She’s 18, and you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone, so would you just ask her to dance and stop all this fluttering about?”

At the end of that season, Wesley and Cordelia shared what was, in my humble opinion, the single most awkward and embarrassing kiss in television history.

Bleeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuurgh.

With the squishing, and the awkward — ack. No more. No more.

Wesley shows up in season one of Angel ready to prove himself as a rogue demon hunter. He is a man on a quest to redeem himself after being sacked, he is a man chafed by leather, he is…a rogue demon hunter. To which Cordelia responds, “What’s a rogue demon?”

At first, it seems that he will retain his position of comic relief with all his bumbling about. He shares another awkward kiss with Cordy, who unbeknownst to him is just trying to rid herself of the visions passed to her by Doyle, fumbles around, and falls down a lot. He also shows a tendency for slime.

As the show progresses, however, Wesley begins to take initiative. When a couple mobsters show up and demand to see an absent Angel, he plays the role of the vampire with a soul and manages to save a young debutante from being sacrificed to the goddess Yeska by her father (and I thought I had daddy issues). Wesley sustains a couple serious injuries — more than a couple when Faith gets her implements on him — which begins to alter his persona in many ways. He smiles less. He bumbles less. He takes a turn for the serious.

In fact, he begins to become downright dour until the group lands in the demon dimension of Pylea at the end of season two. When they bring back the lovely, zany, wonderful Fred (who is a woman, by the way), it sparks a change in Wesley. His attraction to her is immediately evident. His smile returns when he looks at her, and with the help of the beneficent Cordy, he starts to woo her.

Until, in typical Joss fashion, a misogynistic young man named Billy shows up on the scene who has the power to turn any man into a woman-killer simply by the touch of his hand or blood. When Wes comes into contact with Billy’s blood, he turns on Fred and tries to murder her. Not the best start for a budding relationship.

Following this episode, Wesley’s remorse and grief cripple him. He doesn’t leave his dark apartment for days and almost doesn’t answer when Fred comes to see him. It takes him a very long time to begin to trust himself again. I should mention here that Wesley has a very abusive father who constantly puts him down and denies him any sort of approval or fatherly pride — which clearly plays into his behavior after the Billy episode.

To make matters worse for poor Wes, when he finally does get up the nerve to go for Fred again, she’s already fallen for Gunn. For me, that scene is a little devastating, as much as I adore Gunn and love the dynamics of him with Fred. Wes continues a downward spiral (like every other character on the show, Fred being the possible only exception — Angel went to a much, much darker place than did Buffy). The capstone events are set off when he abducts Angel’s infant son, destroying Angel’s trust — all for a false prophecy that was fed to him.

If there is any time whatsoever that I’ve wanted to screech at my television, this season does it. But ah, the plight of the helpless viewer. Back to Wes.

Wes is betrayed the moment he tries to give the child to Holtz, and he gets his throat slit. Left to bleed out in a park, he realizes his error. Far too late. With Angel’s son whisked away to an unassailable dimension, Angel takes out his fury on Wesley and tries to kill him.

I think I can safely say that this is the lowest point of Wes’s arc.

Wes has a keen conscience and a tremendous sense of moral obligation — it’s exactly that morality that drove him to take Connor from Angel when he feared for Connor’s safety, however sorely he was misled. When faced with the consequences of his actions and the estrangement from his friends and colleagues, Wesley still tries to do right in his way.

Alienated from everyone he loves, he still tries to fight evil and ends up beginning a sexual relationship with one of the lawyers from the Big Bad Law Firm Wolfram & Hart — someone he comes to care for and eventually mourn.

Wesley eventually returns to the team at Angel Investigations after rescuing Angel from his sea-grave where his son imprisoned him (reading this makes me realize just how convoluted that whole plot arc really was), but everything about Wesley’s makeup has changed.

I can’t think of another character on this show whose development is so deeply moving, arresting, and ultimately painful. Through the seasons, Wes was the character I came to care most about. I remember the first time I watched the show, I had to stop partway through season three or four because it hurt too much to watch Wes’s life get decimated.

His actions in the face of such extreme diversity are truly heroic — and for that, Wesley Wyndham-Price is today’s Monday Man. To the underappreciated and beloved bumbler-turned-hero, I salute you.

What do you think about dark characters, gentle viewers? What characters’ transformations have become pivotal to you? Who have you felt for? I wanna know! 🙂

Mrow.

Monday Man: Wesley Wyndham-Pryce

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on January 30, 2012, in Monday Man, urban fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. That was a great, in-depth post. I’ve always had a soft spot for Wesley. He was such a fool in the beginning in Buffy but went through a huge transformation in Angel.
    I guess for me I’ll have to stick with Buff/Angel tv re characters who undergo big transformations, specifically the character Angel himself. Back when I started watching Buffy, I was a young teenagern & didn’t have the internet so there was no such thing as spoilers. Unlike now I never knew what was going to happen from week to week and so Angel losing his soul was a big shock. I remember watching it with my sister and staring in disbelief at the tv screen. It was the first time I had been shocked by a television show so kudos to Joss Whedon for turning everthing in Sunnydale on its head.

  2. As I’m sure you are aware, I love character development and anti-heroes. And Wes. He was my favorite on Angel. You’ve outlined him quite well. I also think he’s highly attractive.

  3. Emmie, thanks for reminding me about the under appreciated Wesley. I loved Buffy and Angel. Now I’m jonesing for those old episodes.

  4. Thanks for this. I’m a HUGE Buffy fan, but have never made it through Angel. Your post makes me think I need to give it another try, as I really do love Wes, and always have, even in his doofus stage 🙂

  5. With my sister as inspiration, my daughter and I watched all seven seasons of Buffy together. Then we started on Angel. When Wesley showed up, I remember texting my sister, asking why they replaced Doyle (who was totally cool) with such a goof-up. “He gets cool,” she said every time I complained. And it took a little while, but she was right. Now I think that he turned into the kind of guy a grown-up Buffy (when her cookies are baked, or whatever) would settle down with. Someone who knows the dark like she does, but is still human.
    Thanks for a great post.
    Liv

  6. I love Wes’s transformation in Angel. I find it interesting that the actor (Alexis Denisof) and Alyssan Hannigan get together and marry later. Why? I feel the Buffy equivalent of Wes is Willow.

    (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)

    She starts out as a bumbly, nerdy girl who doesn’t have any confidence. Then, she goes from computer nerd to Wiccan nerd and realizes she’s a lesbian. Next, after a two year relationship with Tara, she becomes dark and evil when Tara dies. This darkness allows her to see that does have magnificent power, but she has to be weary of using it “willy nilly.” The loss of Tara helps develop Willow and make her more angst-y. She’s definitely a different girl at the end of the show compared to anyone else, in my opinion.

  7. Great post Emmie! I read it yesterday, but I’m always such a slacker on leaving my comments. Slacker! Smack me. I LOVE the transformation of Wes. He drove me crazy in the beginning. It was nice to see him finally grow into his skin – so to speak.

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