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4x16: "Players"
Review by Fray-Adjacent
Posted on September 11, 2012
Writer: Jeffrey Bell and Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft | Director: Michael Grossman | Air Date: 03/26/2003

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Spoiler Warning!
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
Review

"Players" is a decent if imperfect exploration of Gunn's character. It both explains and motivates his Season 5 arc more than any other single episode prior to Season 5 itself. In this way, it encompasses both the strengths and weaknesses of Gunn's characterization throughout the series: while the show usually does a good job when it focuses explicitly on Gunn, lack of attention to his character over large segments of the series causes some problems in motivating his arc.

This episode explores two related but distinct aspects of Gunn's character that directly relate to his choice to join Wolfram and Hart at the end of the season. The first is his insecurity in being the "muscle." Some fans complain that this is introduced out of nowhere in early Season 4, but Fred referred to him that way as early as "Fredless" [3x05]. I always thought that was weird, actually. Yeah, Gunn's a good fighter, but obviously Angel is better. It's interesting to look back on Fred's statement: she identified Angel as the leader, Wesley as the brains, Cordy as the heart, and Gunn as the muscle. In that moment, she decided she didn't belong because she didn't have a unique role to play in the group.

Over the long haul though, this actually applies more to Gunn than to Fred. Her scientific training proves to be of great value many times -- Wes may be smart, but he doesn't think like Fred or have her knowledge base. Gunn, on the other hand, doesn't really have any knowledge, abilities, or skills that none of the other characters has. He's good with clients, but so is Cordy. He's a good fighter, but Angel is better. He's an experienced leader and strategist, but so is Wesley. The point isn't that Gunn doesn't have many valuable skills that he brings to Angel Investigations, but that none of those skills is unique.

(One unique thing Gunn could bring to the group is a more thorough knowledge of the city, since he is the only character who's actually from there and the only one who has any real connections to a community there. However, I do not recall the show ever depicting Gunn helping though social or geographic knowledge, and his community connections are rarely used.)

I think this ends up getting Gunn relegated to muscle because the group generally needs more fighters than it does leaders or strategists. Usually their strategies are pretty simple (find out who/where the bad guy is, try to kill it), and the group is so small that Angel and Wesley are already semi-competing for leadership. But of course relegating Gunn to "the muscle" is racialized -- both real life and television are full of black men who are called upon for manual, not mental, labor, under the intellectual leadership of white people. Gunn knows this well. Angelus underscores this in "Calvary" [4x12] when he tells Gunn, "you know your place."

But it's also personal. Gunn views his breakup with Fred and his related jealousy of Wesley through this lens. He casts himself as "the muscle" in opposition to Wesley's role as intellectual, strategist, and leader, fearing that the latter is what Fred really wants. What's complicated -- and compelling -- about this issue is its many facets. Obviously Gunn has overblown the "muscle" thing in his head. For god's sake, in "Supersymmetry" [4x05] he's even insecure that he doesn't understand cutting edge theoretical physics! But there is evidence that, to some extent, other characters do see him as "the muscle." Angel refers to him as such in this episode, and note how dumb Gunn behaves in Angel's imagination in "Awakening" [4x10]. And, finally, there is the issue I mentioned before: Gunn's lack of unique skills. Though he's an important, valuable member of the group, he might actually not be as important or valuable as anyone else. That's a tough prospect to face.

So when Gwen shows up requesting him for a different skill set – not to mention giving him a much-wanted escape from apocalyptic, quasi-incestuous melodrama – it's no surprise he heads out with her. Of course, Gwen is (probably unknowingly) playing on Gunn's insecurities by calling him a "suave guy;" she just needed a non-vamp to get through security. But to Gwen's delight, Gunn turns out to have just the kind of ability to walk in many worlds that she needed for her "mission."

This relates to the second reason why Gunn ultimately goes with Wolfram and Hart. Some part of him is genuinely attracted to their lifestyle. His ability to fit in with a number of different social circles – something he's always been better at than anyone else in the cast – plays an important role here. Once he's able to show that he can fit into this environment – in this case by smoothly impressing Morimoto, in Season 5's case with the knowledge upgrade – they don't just embrace him, he embraces them. For someone who complained loudly about "middle class white folks" in "Spin The Bottle" [4x06], and who seems to live a fairly ascetic lifestyle, this is a surprising and somewhat confusing development.

It's this side of Gunn that we see for the first time in this episode: the side who will abandon his principles to feel cool in a nice suit. This is followed up on pretty thoroughly in Season 5, so I can't exactly say it's out of character, but it's certainly a side we've never seen before. It frustrates me that this comes out of nowhere. The moment when he stays with Gwen despite her treachery – at which point he actually believes she is stealing a covert ops invention on behalf of some unspecified government or corporation – is played lightly, but prior to this I would never buy that Gunn would be so unconcerned about what she did and the role he played in it. Even when he learns she's stealing LISA for herself, he goes along with her even after she's likely killed Morimoto and several guards. When, before this, have we ever seen Gunn use others and disregard innocent people's safety just for personal gain? Perhaps this is meant to illustrate just how unhappy he's become at Angel Investigations, but it feels unearned.

What's especially frustrating about this is that I like Gwen, I really like Gunn, and they make a pretty good pair. I like their chemistry, and the way the two relate to each other as outsiders would have been interesting to explore. I just don't love how this was introduced. And I'm also disappointed that this is the last we ever see of Gwen. Still, I gotta admit: it was fun to see them dress up and go on a heist together.

A final note about Gunn: the episode simultaneously raises the theme of "helping the hopeless" throughout his scenes. When he believes he's helping rescue a kidnapped child, he tells Gwen, "feels good to be doing some good." Later, when Gwen asks him why he stays with Angel Investigations if they just see him as the muscle, he responds, "I'm a fighter. Born and raised." This is why Gunn sticks around, as he articulated in "That Old Gang of Mine" [3x03]: it's about the mission.

Now, of course, there has been very little helping the hopeless for some time. This was set up as Gunn's initial motivation for joining Gwen, in addition to his growing resentment of being the muscle. By emphasizing Gunn's ongoing desire to "do some good," "Players" sets up and foreshadows not just his fall in Season 5, but his redemption as well, where he, more so than any other former Angel Investigations member, reconnections with the mission.

In addition to setting up Gunn's Season 5 arc, the episode also plays a pivotal role in the ongoing Season 4 plot, and as such it delivers reasonably well. Coming between Cordelia revealing her pregnancy in "Orpheus" [4x15] and the birth of Jasmine in "Inside Out" [4x17], this aspect of the episode notably furthers Connor's growing uncertainty about Cordelia's scheming – an uncertainty that comes to a head in the following episode. As Miscellaneopolan pointed out in his "Orpheus" [4x15] review, Connor questions Cordelia in large part because of Faith's positive influence, which helped bring him back into the group somewhat and temporarily loosened Cordelia's hold on him. Connor accurately recalls that, in "Orpheus" [4x15], Cordelia told him to kill Angelus and stop Willow from re-ensouling him. As he points out in a moment of refreshing insight, Willow's magic was helpful, not harmful, and re-ensouling Angel was much better for the group than killing him would have been. Manipulating Connor is what possessed-Cordelia does best, but even so she is only partially able to rope him back.

Speaking of soulless Angel, "Players" also begins to handle the fallout from his "Angelus" stint, notably when he addresses Lilah's death. He tells everyone the startling news that he did not kill Lilah but found her dead. From a plot perspective, this is more evidence that one of their own may be acting against them. Combined with Cordelia's new mystical pregnancy and overall weird behavior, it's not surprising that Angel suspects her.

From a character perspective, the scene where Angel reveals that he didn't kill Lilah is interesting. Angel doesn't tell Wesley, "I didn't kill Lilah." He says, "Angelus didn't kill Lilah." Usually Angel refers to his past self in the first person, not the third. What does his word choice suggest here? That he recognizes that his friends view Angel and Angelus as two different people, and it's less awkward in the moment to play along? Or is he himself beginning to think this too? I suspect the former. Angel of all people understands just how much he and Angelus are one, but he also sees that his friends cope by compartmentalizing the two, as evidenced in numerous comments since "Long Day's Journey" [4x09]. Furthermore, throughout the series we've seen that the only way Angel can move forward with his life and his mission is if he refuses to be held responsible for the acts of his soulless alter ego.

Angel's current mission is figuring out who the Beast's master is, and by the end it appears that he has suspected Cordelia for some time – at least since she revealed her pregnancy donning "the most garishly evil maternity garb this side of Rosemary's Baby" in "Awakening" [4x10], if not earlier. When, later in the episode, Cordelia comes to his room to ascertain what Angel has figured out about the Beast's master, he tells her, "anybody as daredevily as this guy will slip up sooner or later. When he does, he's dead." This indicates that he's already working out a trap – or at least a test – for Cordelia, who does indeed slip up pretty stupidly.

To go on a brief tangent, there's some amusing meta in this scene between Angel and Cordelia. Angel tells Cordelia, "[the Beast's master] spoke to me in this cheesy, self-important voice. I bet he doesn't even have a master plan—he's just making it up as he goes along." The writers are definitely hanging a lampshade both on those cringe-inducing bar scenes from "Release" [4x14] and on the overall incoherence of this season's plot arc. Funny though it is, it's certainly not enough to make me overlook those flaws, especially the latter. However, since the season plot takes a back seat in this episode, I won't discuss my issues with it – plenty of other reviews from this season cover that territory well.

Angel's investigation and setup of Cordelia takes up most of the time not spent on Gunn this episode, and it's marginally interesting to watch. The best part is definitely the final scene, which is my favorite of the episode. Lorne's singing is some of his loveliest on the series, and along with the lighting, set, and lack of other sound creates a tense yet sad and even lonely atmosphere. Lorne is looking really troubled. I think it's because he doesn't want to be setting up Cordelia, he doesn't want her to be evil. And the reveal is really well done. There's still no music, just the slightly satisfying shock of seeing the team finally confront Cordelia in a very atmospheric moment. This final scene alone probably adds about 5 points to the score.

There are a few other nice moments in "Players" too. Wesley and Fred share an interesting moment when their discussion of Connor and Cordelia's disturbing relationship turns into an awkward conversation about Wesley and Lilah. This is where Wesley tells Fred that "it's not always about holding hands." Wes's line here is actually kind of condescending – once again he, like everyone else, seems to view Fred as an innocent school girl with no notion of the real world. Recognizing that "it's not always about holding hands" is not the same as accepting that someone you care about and work with was in a relationship with someone who regularly arranged for people – including other people you care about! – to be murdered and tortured. Still, it's an interesting scene, and Wesley doesn't act condescending when he says it – he mostly just looks really uncomfortable.

I like "Players," but I definitely don't love it. I like that we get a character-focused episode in the midst of the "turgid supernatural soap opera." I like that it's focused on Gunn, who has been sorely neglected since "That Old Gang of Mine" [3x03]. I like the ways it sets up his arc in Season 5, though that set-up suffers from lack of previous development. Similarly, the ongoing season arc is fairly well-executed here; better than in some other mid-S4 episodes, though Charisma Carpenter's uninspired acting is an ongoing problem. All in all, the episode accomplishes what it sets out to do well, but it's by no means a high point in the series. Having a couple of beautifully directed scenes definitely elevates my enjoyment, but not enough to overcome the problems of discontinuity in some aspects of Gunn's characterization or the ongoing problems with the Season 4 plot.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+Lorne's magic 8-ball. In any other character's hands it would be corny, but it works well with him.
+Gunn in a suit; always a pro.
+The fight scene over Aiko Morimoto is a lot of fun, even if it's ridiculous that the guards fight with poles.
  
-Gwen's comic book outfits. I don't care if it's L.A.; she is making herself visible and memorable – both bad in her line of work.
-Mr. Morimoto's bodyguards: stuck in the Edo period.
-Cordy standing over Lorne with the knife is a little cliché looking, though overall I love the scene.
Foreshadowing
  • Morimoto says, "I can't help but feel something wonderful's coming," foreshadowing the birth of Jasmine in "Inside Out" [4x17].
78/100B-
Medium

DEPTH
Low

EMOTION
Medium

CHARACTER
Medium

PLOT
Quotes
GWEN:They're keeping her at his compound. It's gated. Armed guards, infrared surveillance, dogs, the works. If we're gonna have half a chance— (looks up at Gunn, who's chuckling) You're gonna have to stop grinning like that and share the joke with the entire class. You think this is impossible?
GUNN:No, I think it's fantastic. Listen, I spent most of this year trapped in what I can only describe as a turgid supernatural soap-opera. The fact that I have a chance to go out and really help somebody...Well, you know, it feels good to be doing good.

ANGEL:(hearing a knock) Come on in, Cordelia.
CORDELIA:You know, that never stops creeping me out.
ANGEL:Yeah? I'm kind of creeped out myself.

WESLEY:I recognize the text. It's early Fallorian code system. Let's see... (translating) The green cart-like vehicle eats... I am not a bucket head.


Comments (32)
All Comments | Link1 | StakeAndCheeseSep 11, 2012 @ 7:16pm
I always think it's weird that Gunn is referred to as the muscle when, throughout the second season, he's the only actual detective of the group. He's the one who figured out where Drusilla was hiding and he's the one who managed to track Darla down. It's weird that the writers seem to forget that and pigeonhole him as "the muscle" in the next 2 seasons.
All Comments | Link2 | StakeAndCheeseSep 11, 2012 @ 7:17pm
Also, the new commenting system is excellent. Great job, Mike.
All Comments | Link3 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERSep 11, 2012 @ 9:01pm
Although I'll gladly take the praise, I have to tell you that the core commenting "system" hasn't changed at all. The only changes involve the new "Reply To" feature, locking down the "allowed tags," and an updated visual design that is familiar yet a bit cleaner.

Regardless, thanks! :D

Oh, and Fray, I don't have a lot of divergent thoughts at the moment, so clearly this was a great review. ;) (no, but really: good review!)
All Comments | Link4 | Fray-adjacentSep 12, 2012 @ 8:11pm
Replying to MikeJer (#3)
Thanks Mike! It was a long time coming, and a little tricky to review cause I have a bit of a soft spot for Gunn. I think I might like this episode more than many do for that reason, but I think I was able to approach it fairly nonetheless.

Oh, and the "reply to" feature is pretty cool.
All Comments | Link5 | Fray-adjacentSep 12, 2012 @ 8:17pm
You know, I haven't watched/rewatched s2 closely enough to know if I agree with you on that specifically, but generally s2 shows Gunn having plenty of skills and abilities that fell by the wayside later on. Whether the writers unthinkingly pigeonholed him or consciously wrote the other characters to pigeonhole him, in the end they make pretty good use of that pigeonholing by making it part of his central dilemma. This episode reminds us that Gunn always was more than the muscle, even if the writers and/or characters forgot for a while.
All Comments | Link6 | wytchcroftSep 13, 2012 @ 6:46pm
Ok, so i went into this thinking, "Well, damn, another episode i'm fond of bites the low"... but i have to say; this is a fair and fine review.
You make me realise how much this episode has grown on me over time, grown so that i overlook or see past the flaws you correctly point out, unearned pay-offs and (out of) character developments etc.

The writers never did seem to get a clear bead on Gunn or Gwen. And i like both characters very much, or at least the potential in them. Gwen (who was always a little too comic book, too X-Men maybe) never really did fit into the series probably because the season 4 arc. In some ways she is maybe a proto-Illyria but... this episode often feels like a spin-off from, not a part of, Angel-proper.

Still i enjoy Players a lot. Nicely paced and something of a breather.
It's well played by the cast and even the surprisingly 'She'-like hotel scenes don't jar me too much. The Cordelia segments are spooky and all the better for being in a minor key. Whilst the quips, twists and action of the A-plot are very entertaining. You can really feel Gunn relaxing and enjoying the workout.

As for his famous "Turgid supernatural soap-opera" quote it's not getting old, rocks my socks every time. still.
All Comments | Link7 | buffyholicSep 14, 2012 @ 2:47am
Great review, Fray. This is definitively one of my favorite episodes becasue it sheds some light into Gunn´s issue about being just the muscle.
Also, when Gunn is talking about he´s the muscle, Gwen states: "wow, they really did a number on you", that always gets me, I don´t know why. Maybe because it´s true that when someone refers to you in a certain way alot of times, you start to believe it and that happens with Gunn.
And I´m so glad you mentioned the scene between Fred/Wes. The whole "it´s not just about holding hands" is one of the reasons I feel they would have never worked out.
All Comments | Link8 | AlexSep 14, 2012 @ 5:05am
I had actually forgotten all about the 'holding hands' comment before I read your review, but now that you've reminded me of it I feel very annoyed on Fred's behalf! Not just because of that comment, but because I think it's symbolic of the way Fred's sexuality is generally portrayed throughout the series. She's a perfectly normal, sexually active young woman, but even when she's with Gunn the only references to their sex life are a cheeky throwaway line from Gunn and some creepy comments from Angelus. Sometimes I feel like the writers themselves put Fred on a weird kind of pedestal, and can't bear to think of her actually having a sex life.

Anyway, brilliant review Fray! This isn't an episode that particularly sticks out in my mind, but your review made me really appreciate it and want to go watch it all over again. I agree that this does a good job of laying the foundations for Gunn's Season 5 arc, even though it's not quite enough by itself.

Also agree that the final scene is brilliant. When I first saw it I was absolutely convinced that Lorne was about to get killed - I hadn't guessed that it was a trap at all. It's beautifully done.

I think my biggest problem with this episode is the meta-stuff that you've pointed out. Between Gunn's 'turgid supernatural soap opera' comment and the stuff about 'making it up as he goes along', it feels like the writers are basically saying 'yeah, we know this season sucks' but shrugging their shoulders and carrying on anyway. If they knew at the time that they were doing a crappy job then why didn't they stop and do something about it?
All Comments | Link9 | fray-adjacentSep 14, 2012 @ 10:30am
Thanks all for the comments!

wytchcroft: I agree with basically everything you said, and probably my review spent proportionally more time on my criticisms than on what I liked. In particular, I might not have emphasized enough that I too am quite fond of this episode, despite its problems.

Buffyholic: Thanks for the comment! That "they really did a number on you" line is so sad -- I definitely share your reaction.


Alex: That's a great point about the Wes/Fred scene. You know, there's a lot of characters on Angel where it's unclear what is (mis)characterization on the part of the writers and what is the writers showing the characters' misunderstandings of each other. In other words, do the writers put Fred on a pedastal, or are they trying to show us that the male characters do? Do the writers think Gunn is the muscle, or are they showing that the other AI members think so? Do the writers think Lorne is superficial, or do his friends think that? In all cases, I think it's a bit of both, and which is emphasized changes over time.

With regard to Fred's sexuality, I've wondered if, at least in the case of her relationship with Gunn, the network execs were restrictive in showing sex scenes between a black man and a white woman. It seems in the realm of possibility, anyway, and their relationship in particular reminds me a lot of Willow and Tara before the move to UPN, which was more permissive than WB (which aired Angel).

Finally, I can see your point about the meta comments. They generally make me laugh, but you raise a fair point. If they knew how ridiculous their plot had become, why didn't they try to make it better? I guess some might think that the Jasmine arc, which comes next, is better, but I personally dislike it the most of anything in the season.
All Comments | Link10 | wytchcroftSep 15, 2012 @ 9:35am
And thank you for tolerating my lousy typing - for which i apologise.
All Comments | Link11 | SueBSep 16, 2012 @ 10:18am
Excellent review Fray. I'm glad you focused on Gunn's role in this episode with it's series-long implications. And I never noticed the incongruity of his decision making regarding helping Gwen. I will offer that I accepted the incongruity because Gunn strikes me as someone who operates on instinct. He knew he'd been played by Gwen but I think he also knew she was not the bad guy. She had put her life on the line during the Beast dramarama (although she bolted later). So, IMO, Gunn is the kind of guy that roles with the punches. He's dealt with so much supernatural stuff that he's become quite agile in dealing with surprise. I think his choice in that moment was to trust Gwen. When she explained later, I think he was okay with her actions. It turned out "she" was the one needing help. But again, I think Gunn could relate to someone who wanted to change their lot in life.

So, I don't think Gunn sold out for the suit. I think he judged Gwen to be in the "good guy-ish" column and accepted her choice later on. If she had some nefarious scheme going, I think he would have turned on her.
All Comments | Link12 | AlexSep 17, 2012 @ 3:42am
Fray, on the mischaracterization vs. misunderstanding thing, that's exactly what I mean. Thank you for articuating it so well! I couldn't have put it better myself. You're right that it affects other characters as well as Fred, and it applies just as much to Gunn's 'just the muscle' complex as it does to Fred's characterization.

Good point about the racial aspect of Fred and Gunn's relationship. I hadn't thought of that, and it's a real shame if that was the case, but I guess it could explain a lot.

It's not that I necessarily think we needed to see a sex scene between Fred and Gunn, although they do stand out as probably the only major couple in the show who don't get one. But they don't even kiss very much, or have any post-coital pillow-talk scenes, or anything that indicates any kind of passionate side to their relationship. Giles and Olivia didn't get any sex scenes, but their relationship was still clearly shown to be very sexual.

Now, maybe that was intentional, to show that they weren't going to work out. Gunn does say in 'Apolcalypse, Nowish' that they stopped touching each other after they killed the Professor, after all. But even in that episode, I find it quite jarring to hear them talking about sharing bubble-baths and so on, when their on-screen relationship mostly just seems to consist of them having breakfast together.
All Comments | Link13 | fray-adjacentSep 18, 2012 @ 9:07am
Yes, I definitely agree. Now you mention it, Fred and Wes never were shown to be sexual either, but of course their relationship only lasted one episode. In fact, "A Hole in The World" pretty strongly implies that they never had sex. I guess their relationship really was about "holding hands".
All Comments | Link14 | AlexSep 18, 2012 @ 9:34am
I, too, always assumed that Fred's 'I finally get you up to my bedroom...' line meant that she and Wesley had never consummated their relationship. Although of course that's never confirmed outright.

Actually, in my review of 'Apocalypse, Nowish' I was going to put one of Lilah's lines as foreshadowing, but ended up not including it. It was the line where Wesley says 'you think you know me?' and Lilah replies 'better than [Fred] ever will'. I was going to say that Lilah was right, in a way, because Fred would never 'know' Wesley sexually, whereas Lilah's relationship with him was very physical (and of course 'know' can have an old-fashioned meaning along those lines).

I didn't include it in the end, because we don't know for sure one way or the other about Fred and Wesley. But I personally feel pretty certain that they didn't ever have sex, so I found that line very interesting.

Sorry, I've taken us off on a bit of a tangent here! Let's get back to talking about your review...
All Comments | Link15 | fray-adjacentSep 18, 2012 @ 10:13am
Ha ha, no worries about the tangent. That's a good point. Even beyond sex, I think Lilah did know some aspects of Wesley better than Fred ever did. As much time as the two spent working together, they don't even seem to talk that much. It seems like Wesley was always too nervous or, in this phase of the series, uncomfortable around Fred to open up to her. And I don't just mean telling her his deep dark secrets, but even engaging in basic conversation.
All Comments | Link16 | fray-adjacentSep 18, 2012 @ 10:22am
Replying to SueB (#11)
Sorry Sue, I missed your comment! I think you're right. But the way the scene is written, Gunn is walking away while Gwen is telling him he's "still a good guy" etc. It's only when she says, "you can keep the suit" that he turns around and comes back to her.

I think *your* interpretation is more true to his character than the way the moment is written. I know it's supposed to be one of those funny moments we wave away because it makes us laugh, but it just annoys me. Even beyond the characterization stuff, was there really any question as to whether he could keep the suit? What's Gwen going to do, go steal it back from him? Not like he's bringing it back to her.

As for Season 5, I think Gunn tells himself that he's doing good, and some part of him definitely believes it. But it's also pretty clear that he didn't just choose the path that he thought would make him able to do the most good in the world. He chose a path where he could feel smart, powerful, and respected, where he could enjoy the luxuries of the upper class, and told himself he was doing good to justify it.
All Comments | Link17 | alfridito017Sep 18, 2012 @ 9:03pm
Good Review. I love it. Mikejer, I hope to see your polished reviews soon.
All Comments | Link18 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERSep 19, 2012 @ 10:45am
Just in case there is any confusion, I didn't write this review; Fray-Adjacent did.
All Comments | Link19 | alfridito017Sep 19, 2012 @ 5:24pm
Replying to MikeJer (#18)
I know. I just forgot to say Fray-Adjacent. Sorry. But I do hope to see your polished review on the buffy-site, just to be clear.
All Comments | Link20 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERSep 19, 2012 @ 5:58pm
The Season 2 polish will be getting started pretty soon. :)
All Comments | Link21 | AnneSep 22, 2012 @ 6:34pm
I remember thinking that Wesley's "holding hands" line was really out of character and stuck out like a sore thumb; why *would* he talk to Fred so carefully and euphemistically, like she's his daughter or something, when in theory he's romantically interested in her? I thought there was some reason the writers shoehorned that line into his mouth, though, trying to be all SYMBOLIC and THEMATIC and stuff -- I have to go check. It definitely stopped me in my tracks; I even had to re-listen to make sure I'd caught the line right.

OH wait. It was the whole "Gwen" theme. She *can't* hold hands/touch. I think the writers were trying really hard to be Meaningful and Deep, but it just came off as a really vague and nonsensical line. I mean, what would Wesley even mean by it? In reply to Fred's "But you hate her! ...don't you?" it's almost like he's saying "well, sometimes people have sex with people they hate," which is a cop-out. It doesn't answer her question, just echoes it back at her. And if he's saying it wasn't about a desire to be genuinely close to someone, that completely contradicts what he *just* said about he and Lilah being on opposite sides of the same war, and how when you're cut off from the ones you love, you find yourself looking other places; it's the same as him saying, "I was lost and alone and cut off from all affection and looking for someone who still understood where I was at and seemed to take an interest in me -- but it wasn't about being close to someone, I was just horny."

TL;DR. Short version: that line was written to try and sound cool, and makes no sense at all in context.
All Comments | Link22 | fray-adjacentSep 25, 2012 @ 9:19am
Replying to Anne (#21)
Wow, I didn't make that connection! (No pun intended.) You're right, that "holding hands" line is likely meant to connect Wesley's arc with the Gwen story. But yeah, it does come off awkward and vague. Still, I don't think Wes was necessarily saying, "I was just horny." I think he's also saying that he connected to Lilah *through* their antagonism -- and what he doesn't want to say to Fred is that it did in fact become something more than a sexual/antagonistic relationship.
All Comments | Link23 | fray-adjacentSep 28, 2012 @ 1:41pm
Replying to Anne (#21)
Shortly after posting the last comment I realized something that I keep meaning to post here, but forgetting.

The "holding hands" comment is also meant to link Gwen and Gunn's story of getting together. Gunn is now "alienated from the people [he cares] about", and so turns to someone who, while not actively supporting evil like Lilah does, is decidedly not on the same side as he is. The writers make this connection explicit in the final scene with Gwen. She says that the LISA device will help her "hold hands, maybe". But when they decide to test it, they don't hold hands. Because, the writers are telling us, that's not what their connection is about.

OK, so it's still a weird comment for Wesley to make, but I kind of can't believe I didn't make that connection earlier.

*headdesk*
All Comments | Link24 | AnneSep 28, 2012 @ 4:25pm
Well, it's kind of hard to make the connection when it's lacking meaning in its primary context and only works as a reference to the other one... :-p And while Gunn is *feeling* himself to be on the outside, he hasn't actually been alienated from his loved ones; yes, he's still on awkward ground with Fred and Wesley, and maybe feels like his group has strayed from their purpose, but that's really nowhere near comparable to Wesley being flat-out rejected by everyone he cared about. It seems like sloppy writing to even try and draw a comparison between Wesley's and Gunn's positions -- or, as they're the ones sharing the phrase, between Wesley and Gwen.

The way "holding hands" is used with Gwen and Gunn just makes it an even stranger comment for Wesley. I mean, what are all the possible interpretations for it? Does the vague euphemism of "holding hands" mean real intimacy, as opposed to either a purely physical desire or a mental desire to manipulate? Or does it mean a sort of innocent, first-steps kind of love, the way Gwen seemed to employ it? Does it even mean the opposite, a symbol of physical desire as opposed to emotional? Does it signify being allies? Being connected as opposed to detached? Emotion versus calculated reaction? If it could mean any of those things, then Wesley could be saying it was "about" the opposite of any of those things, and there's just no way to conclude what he was actually getting at!

It does kind of amaze me that I can be this bothered over one line of dialogue; I think I hold this show to a ridiculously high standard. I blame Buffy.
All Comments | Link25 | fray-adjacentOct 1, 2012 @ 11:37am
Replying to Anne (#24)
Well, Buffy seems to have ruined me for pretty much all television, so I can empathize. Actually, that's not really true: I can watch and enjoy and even be quite moved by plenty of television, but then reflect on it later and it always comes up short. :)
All Comments | Link26 | DaveNov 20, 2012 @ 12:25pm
Thank god the fake Cordelia is dealt with. Her character this season turned me off of the series for quite a while. I simply couldn't stand her.
All Comments | Link27 | AaronJan 16, 2014 @ 12:51am
Just watched it. My favorite line, delivered perfectly, was: "Well, congratulations. You're going to have a grandspawn."
All Comments | Link28 | FaithFanaticJan 26, 2014 @ 4:48am
I think the conversation between Fred and Wesley is proof that they would never have worked out as a couple. Does Wesley even love Fred? At first it would appear that is obvious, but I'm not so sure. Wesley loves what Fred represents - loves the idealized image of her he has created in his head. Whether this would have continued in an actual relationship between them I have no idea, as Wesley would have to confront the fact that Fred is not entirely the fair maiden he perceives her to be. This is why I think that Wesley and Lilah would have worked out better - even though she's evil and they don't LOVE each other, they have a better understanding of one another.
All Comments | Link29 | NickProvostDec 20, 2015 @ 9:08pm
About the "holding hands", I think it's the best line of the episode.

"It's not always about holding hands" mean they did it, is a bit infantilizing for Fred AND mean also "I gained a lot of info by being near this woman. It help in the end." She came handy, in the end.

And it's the perfect transition for the side story of Gunn and Gwen!

Fits like a glove!
All Comments | Link30 | NickProvostDec 20, 2015 @ 9:08pm
About the "holding hands", I think it's the best line of the episode.

"It's not always about holding hands" mean they did it, is a bit infantilizing for Fred AND mean also "I gained a lot of info by being near this woman. It help in the end." She came handy, in the end.

And it's the perfect transition for the side story of Gunn and Gwen!

Fits like a glove!
All Comments | Link31 | TheDoThatGirlJun 28, 2016 @ 1:10pm
Ehh, I don't know. Whenever I see Gwen's comic book outfits, I think there's a bit of logic here. If you're dressing like a call girl/stripper/porn star when you're really a thief, you're likely to be dismissed as such. Plus, people are more likely to pay attention to what she's wearing versus what she's doing, because most would already assume they know what she's doing.
All Comments | Link32 | RandomJan 14, 2017 @ 9:48pm
Replying to Anne (#24)
- QUOTE -
The way "holding hands" is used with Gwen and Gunn just makes it an even stranger comment for Wesley. I mean, what are all the possible interpretations for it? Does the vague euphemism of "holding hands" mean real intimacy, as opposed to either a purely physical desire or a mental desire to manipulate? Or does it mean a sort of innocent, first-steps kind of love, the way Gwen seemed to employ it? Does it even mean the opposite, a symbol of physical desire as opposed to emotional? Does it signify being allies? Being connected as opposed to detached? Emotion versus calculated reaction? If it could mean any of those things, then Wesley could be saying it was "about" the opposite of any of those things, and there's just no way to conclude what he was actually getting at!

From the context, I just assume he means it's not all about love and flowers and those intimate moments in a healthy relationship. Fred suggest Wes hated Lilah, and, instead of disagreeing, Wes replies with an image that is almost universally associate with romantic companionship rather than all the vicissitudes and ups and downs that characterize relationships as a whole. Wes is saying what mattered wasn't so much his love or hate toward Lilah, but the other things she provided. If I had to guess, his explanation, had he bothered to offer one, would have been something along the lines of Lilah providing a source of release, and a lack of judgement (her sardonic barbs at Wesley notwithstanding) regarding the mistakes tainting Wesley's recent life. The Angel gang, as far as he knew, hated him and considered him a terrible person. Lilah, on the other hand, was evil and very straightforward about the fact that she had no problem with the choices Wesley had made. It's not always about holding hands or giggling together in a darkened corner or feeling youe heart beat a little faster at the sound of your partner's voice. Holding hands is for a simpler world than the one Wesley had built for himself. Sometime, it's about messy, complicate things, about needs and losses and regrets, about finding something that allows your world to be just a little less painful, if only for a time.
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