This is a potential topic for my website, and I’m thinking about it because ljash said something interesting under one of my posts (I’m not going to link to it because it’s in the spoiler post from last Friday):
they keep raising questions and they’re not yet giving us the answers. On purpose, I’m sure. What’s a hero, what’s a champion, is W&H a total mistake no matter what they manage to do there? Is the big picture or the little picture more important? How much wrong can they do in the name of doing right?
We’ll get those answers even if they don’t give them to us, just by what happens. But since they’ve been deliberately asking the question over and over, I think they’ll have to answer it.
It seems to me that ME has already answered this question, in Deep Down, and again in Underneath:
“Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. But that’s why there’s us. Champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.” –Angel
“You’re playing for the bad guys. Every day you sit behind your desk and you learn a little more how to accept the world the way it is. But here’s the rub. Heroes don’t do that. Heroes don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it. …The world keeps sliding towards entropy and degradation. And what do you do? You sit in your big chair, and you sign your checks, just like the Senior Partners planned. The war’s here, Angel.” –Lindsey
In short, a hero is someone who doesn’t accept the world the way it is. Easy to dismiss the second quote because it comes from Lindsey and how did he get so wise all of a sudden?, but I think this genuinely is ME’s philosophy.
Does that mean the Angel gang can’t be heroes at W&H? Well, not if they spend their time accepting the world as it is, turning a blind eye to their client’s evil deeds and compromising, winning a good by purchasing it with a compromise with evil. That’s breaking even at best. That’s accepting that they must make compromises to get what they want (which is the pragmatic thing, but maybe true heroism isn’t pragmatic). That’s accepting the world as it is.
It’s interesting, then, that Illyria makes a big long speech about not adapting and not making compromises** last week, and it’s that speech that gets Angel jumping on some new plan. Of course, she’s lecturing him about How to Rule the World, but maybe that’s the point.
This is definitely an idealistic model of the Hero/Champion, rather than a pragmatic one. Angel says as much in Deep Down:
“It doesn’t matter… if we make a difference.”
“We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.”
So in short, ME has answered the question, and Angel has had another epiphany (remembering what he seemed to know back in early season 4 and forgot in season 5 like so many things were forgotten) and now it’s time to act on that knowledge.
PS. I’m thinking about posting this on ATPo, but I’m thinking it’s already the topic of several threads that I haven’t read all the way through. Would it be redundant?
**dlgood, it occurs to me that this might be the reason Buffy displays such a puzzling stubborness in “The Gift” we were talking about, e.g., not even being willing to say she would kill Dawn even if she was ultimately not asked to do so in the episode. In ME’s “no compromise” model of the hero, the true hero would never even say they’d be anything less than heroic, much less do it. Or, in another example, it takes the slightly-less-heroic/more pragmatic hero (Giles) to kill Ben in that ep because Buffy refuses to compromise on her values.