Last week, when I was doing my ep analysis, I was trying to figure out where to put the blurb on Illyria. A demon, yes, and an Old One, but morally–was Illyria evil or morally ambiguous?
I decided to talk about “the evil of…”, mainly based on Its Old One status. A piece of Buffyverse mythology going back to WttH/The Harvest, repeated in many episodes since, describes how demons once ruled the Earth and were driven into the demon dimensions by the arrival of humans.
In Happy Anniversary, Lorne describes how it is part of demon religion that someday the demons would take back what was once theirs. Hence, we get the repeated Armageddons of Prophecy Girl, the Zeppo, Doomed, etc.
And why is this “evil”? Well, it isn’t, from the demon’s perspective. But it is the end of the world from the human’s perspective–their cultures, certainly, and most probably their lives. So I dubbed Illyria “evil-as-destruction”, armageddon.
And the first half of “Shells” supported that. But we should have learned even as early as Season 4 of BtVS that the “black and white” people-good/demons-and-their-agendas-bad was no longer to be taken at face value in Joss’s story-telling.
Even before Illyria finds Its temple in ruins, you got the sense of a demon conflicted. Why waste any time at all on pittances like Wesley or Angel? The vulnerability in Illyria might just have been Amy Acker showing through the tough demon warrior she was playing, but I think we were supposed to see that. And of course, it comes out in spades after Illyria discovers Its temple in ruins.
Illyria isn’t just Illyria. Fred’s memories are seeping into It, and perhaps Fred’s moral sensitivities (her soul) as well.
Last week, in some unspoiled spec-talk with redredshoes, I expressed the belief, now more a hope, that the Illyria story line isn’t about killing Fred (the last regular female character on the show). It’s about ME creating a situation to showcase just how corrupted the others have become. How Machiavellian they are now–the noble ends (saving Fred) justify any means.
Because slowly, that’s how they have become. Wolfram and Hart has changed them into men who torture people for information, who compromise with evil demons and humans, who contemplate the assassination of human enemies with particle beams, who let some no-doubt morally ambiguous bauble enter the country in exchange for knowledge and power. What won’t they do when it’s Fred who’s in danger (and its partly their own fault)?
Joss, I suppose, picked on Fred as the crucible because she has been written as the least corrupt of all of them. And because, despite his lip-service to feminism, he still finds he can tweak audience emotions with the damsel-in-distress, no matter how much she protests that she’s not one as she lays dying.
So I’m still hoping the gang will find some (hugely morally sticky) way to save Fred, perhaps drawing her out of Illyria somehow. That Fred’s “soul” (her spirit? essence? Agh!) wasn’t so much destroyed or consumed as assimilated into Illyria. And it’s effecting Illyria even now, making It connect to the laboratory where Fred worked, and to Wesley, and to a decision to cope with the world as it is now rather than destroy it (and maybe, eventually, to Fred’s lost memories of Connor? Unless they’re in a jar in the Psychic Component Storage Facility).
Or not. Maybe in the next episode, Illyria will decide, “Screw that, I’m taking over this berg!” Perhaps Wesley in unthinking sentimentalism, will help It. Become Connor post-blood letting in “Magic Bullet’ to Jasmine, a willing co-conspirator.
But been there, done that.
Still, it’s possible that this is the end for Fred. If it is, indeed, the last season of AtS, Joss might just decide to let her die despite all the extremes her friends go to to save her. Just as long as episode 22 doesn’t give us the “Forever Knight” ending to the series. Everybody dies! I hated that. Took away every wish and hope I had for the characters in every episode before that. Made it hard to rewatch any episodes subsequently, because what was the point.
Well, those are my thoughts on 5.16. Oh, except for one other thing. I didn’t like the song at the end of the episode. Oh, there was nothing wrong with the song in itself, it just wasn’t Angel the Series. While it went along with the Fred-leaves-home moment at the tail end of the episode, it was inappropriate for the shots of the other characters prior to that. It would have worked great for a reflective montage of the characters on BtVS, but not on Angel. AtS isn’t a “folky-ballad” kind of show. An instrumental would have worked better. Something a bit mournful. A Cello.