Angel: Not Fade Away

Angel: "This may come out a little pretentious, but one of you will betray me."
Spike: "Can I deny you three times?"

I know Joss Whedon loves to break our hearts, but this is ridiculous.

The title refers to the old quotation, "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away." This should have been my first clue that Everybody Was Going to Freaking Die. I expected death; last week's preview said someone would die, and I even suspected that it would be tormented, exhausted Wesley. But come on! Joss Whedon has reason to hate The WB. Does he hate the fans, too?

Don't get me wrong. Most of the episode was absolutely terrific. The "what would you do if it were your last day" thing was poignant and beautifully in character: Angel spending time with Connor; Lorne singing on stage; Lindsey making love with Eve; Spike getting drunk in a bar and performing his poetry; and Gunn going back to see his old friends in the neighborhood. Wesley made the most touching choice, spending his last day mending Fred's soulless ghost of flesh.

But I hated all of the deaths. I saw Lindsey's assassination coming, and it really pissed me off – especially because (1) he could have been on the path to redemption, and (2) he was killed in cold blood by our own sweet green Lorne, who didn't need that death on his conscience. I adored Lindsey, dammit. The only thing that upset me more was Wesley's death in "Fred's" arms. Five years ago, when he debuted as Buffy's new, prissy Watcher, I couldn't stand Wesley, but for the past two years, he's been my favorite character. Too much, dammit. Too much.

Illyria grew as a character, i.e., her willingness to join the battle, her concern for Gunn, her tenderness and grief for Wesley ("Would you like me to lie to you now?") But I'm still sad that there was no resurrection for Fred. Illyria told Wesley that he was going to be with Fred. I would like to believe that Illyria knew something we didn't, that something of Fred's soul survived after all. I would like to believe that Fred went to the same heavenly dimension Buffy once occupied, and that Wesley joined her there.

The fight with Hamilton was too long and crashy, although I loved Connor saving the day, and Angel drinking Hamilton's power. I'm glad there was such terrific closure with Connor. I found the following exchange particularly touching: Connor: "They'll destroy you." Angel: "As long as you're okay, they can't." I'm a mom, I can relate. I'm also pleased that Lorne lived, because he's a big favorite of mine as well.

But I hated the end. Hated it, hated it, hated it. We've been hearing about the Shanshu prophecy since the end of season one, and Angel just signed it away. Yes, technically Spike could still fulfill the Shanshu prophecy, and Angel and Spike (as well as Gunn and Illyria) could have survived the onslaught somehow, but clearly, we're not meant to believe that they did. We were left thinking that they're all going to die, fighting the good fight. And yes, in a karmic sense, that may be just what should happen.

But we may never have another series set in the Buffyverse. Many have guessed that The WB lied about possible TV movies to placate the angry fans. As much as I wish it weren't so, this is most likely The End. We'll never know what happened to these characters we've loved for so many years. Angel did not fulfill the Shanshu prophecy, the five-year promise made to his character, and now he never will. I feel cheated, angry, and hurt.

Would it have been so hard for them to leave our heroes alive and fighting evil, to have one of our ensouled vampires receive the big Reward, and to leave Lindsey in charge of Wolfram & Hart?

Tying up the loose strings, bits and pieces:

— There was one final appearance of Anne, a.k.a. Lily, a.k.a. Chanterelle, our lady of the homeless shelter, still using Buffy's middle name. We never did find out what her real name was.

— Angel did kill Drogyn, after all.

— Harmony's last good scene was reminiscing about high school and her death on graduation night, which was appropriate for the character. I wasn't surprised that she betrayed Angel.

— Spike's poem for Cecily first appeared in "Fool for Love," my favorite Buffy episode.

— Gunn got to slay vamps with the double stakes in the alley, just like Angel in the pilot. And the place where they made their last stand was north of the Hyperion, the same alley where the show began. Full circle.

— Lindsey's last word was "Angel." I find that touching. I think Lindsey really did love Angel, in his own twisted way.

— We got one last tune from Lorne, "If I Ruled the World." I wish we'd gotten one from Lindsey. A duet would have been fun.

— "Your friends at the WB," my ass. Their little goodbye tribute actually gave Angel's age as 277, which shows how little they know or care about their own shows. They obviously have contempt for the "intelligent people who like depth in their shows" demographic, so I'm sure they won't miss me.


Spike: "Yeah, we're all one big happy Manson family."

Archduke: "The Circle does not abide secrets."
Angel: "Which is interesting for a secret society."

Lindsey: "Everybody goes on about your soul. A vampire with a soul. Nobody ever mentions the fact that you're a vampire with really big brass testes."

Angel: "I want you, Lindsey." (pause) "I'm thinking about rephrasing that."

Spike: "First off, I'm not wearing any amulets, no bracelets, broaches, beads, pendants, pins or rings."

Connor: "Come on. You drop by for a cup of coffee and the world's not ending? Please."

Gunn: "You take the thirty thousand on the left."

Angel: "Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon."

Let me close with Spike's poem, since he has improved so much over the past one hundred and twenty years. Too bad we didn't get to hear "The Wanton Folly of Me Mum."

My soul is wrapped in harsh repose
Midnight descends in raven-colored clothes
But soft, behold – a sunlight beam
Cutting a swath of glimmering gleam
My heart expands. It's grown a bulge 'n it
Inspired by your beauty effulgent.

The writing, the emotion, the fidelity to the characters – all four stakes out of four. But the rushed, painful, black ending broke my heart. It didn't have to end this way.

Over and out,

Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.


Ben S. Dobson said...

Just read through all these old Angel reviews, and while I usually am on board, I have to say, I interpreted this one entirely differently. And I absolutely love it.

You absolutely aren't supposed to assume they all died, I think. You -can-, but that's the point--they don't show us the ending, just that the fight goes on. If you think it's more poignant for them to die, great. If you think they pulled a victory out of it, that's good too (and Angel and the crew have been in situations just as bad and somehow survived).

It's like the ending of Inception--the internet can argue all it wants about whether he was or wasn't in a dream, but in the end, the movie doesn't show us. We don't know. We can only choose what we feel is the proper ending, and that ambiguity is exactly the point. Same thing here--we have to decide for ourselves if there's any hope in the endless battle between good and evil and all that.

For me, I choose to believe they make it, and that there is a purpose to it all. That's always been the theme of Angel: the battle never ends, but the good guys keep fighting, even when it seems hopeless. And in the end, they find a way to keep the fight alive.

Jess Lynde said...

One of the earliest pieces of direct correspondence I remember sending Billie was about how I had a much more positive reaction to the Angel finale then she did. As you say, Ben, the team going out fighting the good fight was (for me) a perfect, fitting finale for the show and this episode remains one of my favorite series finales. Although I wish the television series could have continued, I love the note they rested on, and have no desire to know how the story continued in the comics. That moment in the alley perfectly encapsulated everything the series had always been about --- as you say, "the battle never ends, but the good guys keep fighting, even when it seems hopeless."

To counter Billie on this one once more: I loved the end. Loved it, loved it, loved it. :)

Billie Doux said...

A lot of people have disagreed with my final Angel review, and I totally get it. But it was absolutely how I felt at the time, and I had to be honest about my reaction. I haven't watched Angel in awhile. Maybe I'll feel differently when I see it again, with a little distance. And knowing that there was a comic book canon season six.

Thanks so much for your comment, Ben. And Jess, I honestly didn't remember that this was one of our earliest interactions. I'm so glad you reminded me.

Gus Brunetti said...

Funny story: a long, long time ago, I was watching tv late at night and Angel was on. I had never seen it and, let's admit it, Buffy and Angel seem to be silly shows if you have never seen it, just heard about it. Since I had nothing better to do, I watched it. I couldn't follow the story because I knew none of the characters, only Spike, somehow, though I thought *he* was Angel. When I finally got to watch Buffy and Angel from beginning to end, I payed attention to see which episode I had watched, of which I remembered only flashes. Turns out it was this one. The very first episode of the Buffyverse I watched was the last one of them all.

And I'm with Jess on this one. I love the Finale and think it was one of the best series finales I've seen. (#1 is Six Feet Under's, and probably will be for a long time.) But I decided to read the comics because I'm really curious about The Wolf, The Ram and The Hart's intentions.

Wasley's death was one of the saddest things on tv. Only to think about it brings a lump to my trhoat. And the was he accepts Illyria's lying to him reminds me of that great Buffy line:

“Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after.”


PS: word verification code for this post: dying (!!!)

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

It's funny. When I originally watched this episode, I felt more like Ben, Jess, and Gus about it. Rewatching it a few days ago, I felt more like Billie. Now that I've digested it, I feel like Ben, Jess, and Gus again.

One thing: while I agree with Ben that we can decide for ourselves whether or not the LA Scoobies survive, I don't think it matters. The message of this finale, for me, is that heroes fight for good until the end and they never win the war. That's why Angel had to sign away the prophecy. As a result, it doesn't matter if they survive this particular battle because they'll just die in the next or the one after that. It's very grim but equally romantic.

Speaking of romantic, my favourite bit isn't Wesley asking Illyria to lie for him, but Illyria continuing to cry for him as Fred long after he'd already passed. Is the lie the illusion of Fred caring for him or Illyria taking a false shape to express sentiments that she would never allow herself as a goddess?

Another thing I hadn't caught the first time around is Illyria's intense jealousy. I love how she reacted to the mere mention of Wes having a "Mistress Spanksalot". They make a cute couple, cuter than Wes with Fred, whom he'd idealized for too long for me to get behind the relationship anymore.

Lindsey's death really pissed me off. I don't think Angel had any right to rob him of his chance at redemption, and it did leave a sour note, seeing Angel's second to last act in the series to be so unequivocally wrong.

Overall, I didn't like S5 now as much as I had remembered. A lot of dud episodes mixed in with the very good, and too much Buffy without Buffy. Also, two capital sins: no Lilah or electro girl? Come on!

Still, I wish they'd gone on one more season or so to see all the new dynamics get proper treatment: Wes + Illyria, Gunn as a newly uncorruptible lawyer, etc. We didn't get enough Gunn. Why does the man always get the shaft?

Ben said...

Well then.
First off Billie, I want to say a massive thankyou! Since a brilliant amazon deal back in January enabled me to buy the Buffy boxset, I've spent the past 8 months rewatching all of Buffy and Angel, reading your reviews as I went. Thankyou for you informative and enjoyable views on the episodes! They added to the re-watch experience and I enjoyed reading what you thought as I went.
As for this episode, I agree with you Billie. I've watched this season a lot, and the ending always pisses me off. My favourite show of all time... and it doesn't even have a proper end. I mean the Shanshu Prophecy not getting resolved is probably the biggest problem. Pretty much everything Angel does is about that prophecy! In season one, we see how much he misses his humanity, and at the start of 2 he's really working for his reward. Then, the ressurection of Darla makes him question if he'll ever be able to eradicate evil, and he gives up on the prophecy altogether by sleeping with Darla. Everything that happens with Connor obviously doesn't help. In season 3, we at first see Angel doing good at this point because he can, and not for a reward, and then we see him wanting to do good for Connor. Then season 4 happens... where Angel looses his son and his lover in one fell swoop. By the time season 5 rolls around, he's lost all faith in his reward, yet still feels threatened by Spike.
See what I mean? It needed resolving. The fact that it wasn't just feels like a cheat to me.
I do love this episode, don't get me wrong. It does great justice to all the characters... well except for one thing. I agree completely about Lindsey. He could well have been on the path to redemption. In fact I never really saw him as a bad guy. There were always shades of grey with him, more so than Lilah anyway. It seemed very out of character for Angel to kill him, especially using Lorne to do it. Poor Lorne! I suppose you could argue that Angel does at this point believe he's going to his death, and does not want Lindsey to be around to hurt anyone else.
But yeah. The Buffyverse. A classic that will never be forgotten, and so much fun to re-watch even 10 years on!

Billie Doux said...

What a terrific comment, Ben. Thanks so much. Coincidentally, I'm in the middle of a Buffy/Angel rewatch, myself -- I'm in the middle of season six Buffy, season three Angel. I agree -- they're classics.

Anonymous said...

Angel and spike by the end of the series go through massive changes that culminate in them being heroes/champions. A large part of which is to keep fighting and selflessness.. Accepting the shanshu would Mean they fought for selfish reasons and negate their whole purpose. The whoie point is that they were no longer fighting for redemption. Or for buffy, or for a cup, or for the shanshu. They where fighting because it was the right thing to do. To keep on fighting evil. That's as selfless and heroic as one can get Also the ending reminds me of the buffy season 5 ending. The same journey that buffy went on to find out what it truly meant to be a slayer, is evident here in angel and spikes journey this season to
Finding out what it meant to be a champion. For example if the plot line from 'destiny was used here' do u think they would have done to each other what they did in that episode?
Watch the episodes reprise and epiphany again and tell me this wasn't the perfect ending.
Screw the wb angel season 6 had the potential to go down as the greatest season in tv history. The fall out from this year,possibly bringing back faith,gwen,nina,drusilla, scoobies. Arghhh the potential was limitless .

I do like the angel comics a lot more than the buffy ones. Angel after the dark is actually pretty epic considering. Imagine that translated to screen.

sunbunny said...

So I know we're ages and ages and ages away from getting here in our rewatch, but on the way home from Much Ado about Nothing, I was trying to explain the Fred/Wesley relationship to my mom. How they were never into each other and available at the same time, how they finally got together only to have Fred die IN THE NEXT FREAKING EPISODE. (Honestly, Joss wonders where he got this reputation for killing characters and breaking hearts? Really?) How Fred was killed by a demon thing that could take on her appearance. And I was talking about this episode and I said that Wesley asked Illyria to "lie to him" so he could die in Fred's arms and I seriously lost it. I honestly can't remember the last time I cried that hard. My poor mother (who doesn't like Buffy or Angel, because I think she's missing part of her brain or something) was just staring at me like I was insane.

Anonymous said...

I always took "Not Fade Away" as the song title. Song originally by Buddy Holly, covered by the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, and many others. For the Dead, it was a frequent concert staple, with the repeating line "You know our love will not fade away" or "Love is love and not fade away". David Boreanaz is a Deadhead, and Joss Whedon at least somewhat a fan. Joss even used a line from the Dead's iconic "Dark Star": Lorne's use of the phrase "transitive nightfall of diamonds" in Season 4 (Spin the Bottle?)
Being a deadhead myself, Not Fade Away could only mean one thing.

Anonymous said...

Watching this when it aired, when the screen went black, I was all "WHAT?!?! That's IT? How can it end that way?" But with time, I have come to appreciate it as the perfect ending for this show, the embodiment of the show's theme, that even though you can never really win, you keep fighting. Period. Angel could not have had a more perfect ending, and that's one reason I choose to ignore the existence of the comics. Whether they survive isn't the point, the point is that they never stop fighting. (Then again, on some days, I think Angel was a real idiot, and basically brought on apocalypse himself just to make some kind of point and look all doomed heroic, etc. Good move, Angelcakes!)

This is such a perfect finale, from the character beats of all the final days to the fast cut to black at the end. Love this finale.

Anonymous said...

a p.s. on Boreanaz as a Deadhead:
In one of the DVD extras, David is wearing a shirt with the Mountain Dew logo, but it says Morning Dew. No doubt picked up from a parking lot vendor at a Dead show. Morning Dew was another Dead cover (by Bonnie Dobson), in the rotation until the end, as was NFA, though not performed as many times. Thematically, that song title would also work for the finale, as the song takes place after a (nuclear) apocalypse. But I think Not Fade Away works better as the finale title, as the title alone conveys something without any knowledge of the song.
Okay, that's enough deadhead pedantry.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Anonymous Deadhead expert. I didn't know any of this. :)

magritte said...

While I enjoyed the last episode, I too hated Lindsey's death.

In fact, Lindsey's story arc in season 5 was a tremendous disappointment to me. As far as I can tell, the whole elaborate scheme with Spike was just a ploy to kill Angel, and Eve was only in it because of her love for Lindsey...and we never saw enough of them together for that to really feel like enough motivation to cross the senior partners. Then after the lengths they went to retrieve Lindsey, he didn't end up providing much information. It would have been so much more interesting to have Lindsey and Eve playing a deeper, high-stakes game for some faction of uncertain motivation, or even being unwitting tools of the Powers that Be.

And it was a rotten way for Lorn to go out, too. In fact, he wasn't much in evidence in Season 5, other than the delicious Life of the Party.

Illyria was the highlight of the episode; her growing attachment to Wesley and understanding of humanity was perfectly paced through the final episodes. It reminded me pleasantly of Anya's reaction to Joyce's death in The Body.

Georgia said...

This rewatch following these reviews has been my favorite yet, thank you so much for having these available, truly.
When Buffy/Angel aired, I was too young to be watching it. I discovered the shows on netflix the summer before college. For someone in my age group, getting to read someone's reviews as the show was actually aring, is really special!

I loved this episode the first time I saw it, and I have always thought it was an amazing series finale. But I've also always viewed it as what it was, them doing the best they could with the situation. Unfortunately the show was canceled, they didn't get a whole 'final season' thing. I think that even though this was a rather grim cliff hanger, if they had tried to force resolutions for everyone in an inorganic time frame it would have been a much weaker episode. They knew not to try and pull a fast one on us!

Anonymous said...

I believe the shanshu was fulfilled, in that Connor living was angel's redemption.