Friday, December 24, 2010

"ANGEL" RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) "A Hole in the World”



Below is a look into (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, a Season Five episode from “ANGEL”:


"ANGEL" RETROSPECTIVE: (5.15) "A Hole in the World”

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the Season Five episode, (5.15) “A Hole in the World”, centered on the death of one of the series’ regulars, Winifred “Fred” Burkle. The slow road to her death began when a Wolfram and Hart employee named Knox accepts the delivery of a sarcophagus. When Fred touches one of the crystals that cover the lid, a puff of dusty air is released, making her cough. Later, she eventually starts coughing up blood before collapsing.

It turns out that by touching one of the sarcophagus’ crystals, Fred becomes infected by the spirit of an ancient demon named Illyria. The entire crew searches for a cure, but give up hope when Spike and Angel discover that the only way to save Fred's life would kill thousands of people. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce tries to comfort Fred as she dies and eventually witnesses the emergence of Illyria.

”A Hole in the World” was a very interesting episode that replayed the same issue from various ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episodes like (3.19)”Choices” and 5.22)”The Gift” and ”ANGEL” episodes like (3.16)”Sleep Tight” - namely the task of making a choice for the need of the few or the many. And the choice that Angel had to make was whether to save Fred from death and the growing influences of a demon that had infected her body, or to ensure that the world would remain safe. Angel chose the world over his friend. And judging from the reactions on the forums when the episode first aired, not many agreed with his choice. I did not condemn Angel's choice. I believe that he had made the right one . . . just as Buffy had made the right choice for her in ”The Gift”. It did not really matter if the needs of the many were more important than the needs of the few, or vice versa. What mattered was that each person had to make the choice that was more important to his or her heart. For Buffy, Dawn was more important to her; and for Angel, sparing the world from destruction. Or perhaps being a champion was more important to Angel. However, if the choice had been between . . . say . . . Connor and the world; I suspect that Angel would have chosen Connor.

Angel’s decision proved to be some of an irony for Wesley. His reaction to Fred’s death in the following episode, (5.16) “Shells” certainly proved this. After all, I am talking about the ”King of Tough Choices”. This was the same man who felt it was more important to prevent Mayor Wilkins from getting his hands on the Book of Ascension than saving Willow's life in the ”BUFFY” episode, ”Choices”. He was also willing to risk the lives of rebellious Pyleans for a successful revolution in the ”ANGEL” episode (2.22) “There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”. And in ”Sleep Tight”, he risked his friendship with Angel and the others in order to prevent said vampire from killing his infant son, because of a prophecy. Considering his past history, one can only ponder over his reactions to the circumstances that led to Fred’s death.

And speaking of Fred, what about her choices? One has to admit that many of her choices have led her to this point - a slow death and demonic possession. Fred chose to leave her home in San Antonio in order to attend college in Southern California. This decision put her in the path of Professor Siedel. And her curiosity caused her to open a book that led to five years of bondage in Pylea. After being rescued by Angel Investigations, she made the decision not to follow her parents back to Texas. Instead, she bound her fate with the souled vampire and his companions. This, in turn, led to her employment with Wolfram and Hart . . . and her death by the end of this episode. I have one question - why did Fred open the sarcophagus without first doing any research on it? I must have missed the scene. If so, this only proves to me that Fred never really had a healthy respect for the spiritual and the supernatural, despite her five years in Pylea and three years with Angel Investigations. She has always had a tendency to treat anything supernatural as a science experiment. And in doing so, she may have paid the price for her attitude. It is not surprising that Wesley angrily cursed her curiosity.

I also wanted to touch upon a few other points about this episode:

*While Eve was trying to hide from the Senior Partners, I bet she must have been wondering what kind of situation her love for Lindsey had brought her.

*I could not help but wonder if Fred upchucking blood over Wes was a metaphor or sign of the tragic death that overtook Wesley in the series finale.

*Angel and Spike were quickly becoming quite the screen team by this episode. I enjoyed watching our favorite vamps' relationship progress from polite antagonism to mutual grief over Angel's decision. I also enjoyed Spike’s “hole-in-the-world” speech. Very poignant.

*There is an old saying that if you do not have anything nice to say about something or someone, say nothing at all. Considering my opinionated nature, I could not hold back my opinion on the Wesley/Fred romance of Season Five. Watching them share a kiss following their victory over a demon around the beginning of this episode, reminded me of the early stages of Buffy and Riley's romance in the middle of Season 4 for ”BUFFY”. Wesley and Fred led me to conclude that watching a 30-something man and a 20-something woman act like teenagers in love seemed a little sad . . . and very saccharine.

Does anyone remember the Season Four episode, (4.16) "Players" and the conversation between Wesley and Fred in that episode? I do. In it, Fred had expressed her disgust over the Connor/Cordelia affair. When Wesley tried to make her to understand what would lead those two to have an affair, the conversation eventually drifted toward Wesley’s affair with Wolfram and Hart attorney, Lilah Morgan. Not only did Fred failed to understand Wesley’s lack of disgust over Connor and Cordelia, she could not understand how he could have become involved with Lilah in the first place. And that is how the conversation (and scene) ended . . . with Fred at a loss over Wesley’s attitude. I cannot say what was going through Wes' head at the time. But judging from the look on his face and his eventual silence, I got the impression that he realized Fred would never really understand "the real him". Considering that this conversation began with the topic of Cordelia and Connor, I could not help but wonder if Wesley and Fred had lost their memories of this discussion, due to the erasure of their memories of Connor, at the end of Season Four. Also, Wesley's kidnapping of Connor proved to be one of the catalysts for his relationship with Lilah in Season Four.

I also cannot help but wonder if they would have ever gotten involved in the first place, due to the mindwipe. I realize that many Jossverse fans tend to view Wesley and Fred’s romance as idealized, I never could accept that prevailing view. I simply found their relationship boring and somewhat infantile. It had an uneasy mixture of a high school romance and incest, due to Wesley’s habit of treating Fred as part-lover and part-daughter. It was not surprising to me that a dying Fred had expressed confusion at the reasons behind Wesley’s feelings for her.

*Fred’s Death Scene was one of the most unbearable I have ever experienced on television. In fact, I found it so excruciating . . . and slow that I was unable to experience any compassion or sadness over her death. I simply felt relieved when she finally died.

I must admit that A Hole in the World” was never a favorite episode of mine. In fact, I have never been that fond of the second half of Season Five. But I must admit that Whedon had written a first-rate episode. Yes, I found the Wesley/Fred romance a bit nauseating to endure. And Fred’s death seemed to go on forever. But Whedon’s handling of theme regarding hard choices and the introduction of the Illryia character made this one of the more memorable episodes of the series.

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