In the thirteenth episode of the third season of Angel, OH MY GOD MY HEART SIMULTANEOUSLY GREW AND THEN EXPLODED. HELP ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
You know, there are things that don’t really make all that much sense in “Waiting in the Wings” if you give them any sort of thought, like:
- Is it ever explained why Kurskov kept the entire company around, not just the Prima Ballerina? Because he was already pretty fucked up and evil, but keeping like sixty people around so he could watch one girl dance the same performance over and over again? That’s just cruel.
- So… what were those things with masks? Why did they laugh? Am I supposed to just accept that he made them with his magical sorcery power?
- Okay, so there were also ghosts/spirits left behind of the ballerina and Stefan, and they controlled the human bodies of anyone who came near them. But did the ballerina and Stefan actually die at some point? Or was Kurskov just using images of them for the ballet?
- If Lorne was able to read Angel and know how he was feeling, how come he didn’t (or couldn’t) read both Wesley and Gunn and just tell one of them (or Fred) what was going on?
- HOLY SHIT, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE AUDIENCE? Like, at one point, Angel bounds across the stage and LEAPS UP TO THE BALCONY TO HATE PUNCH KURSKOV and no one notices this!!!!! My god, could you imagine if you were watching this performance and everyone vanished and then there is punching and WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
- How did the Groosalugg find the Hyperion Hotel? I mean, the sheer impossibility of him being able to navigate our own world makes this totally unbelievable, but I guess it doesn’t matter.
So do I care about any of these things? Fuck no. The writing for this episode is so damn clever and emotional in terms of character development that I’m willing to look past all these moments. “Waiting in the Wings” is such a fantastic episode of Angel, and I’m not into this show because I want realism. This isn’t The Wire or Breaking Bad or Rubicon. Half the charm of the show is how ridiculous the writers can be every week, so I’m not criticizing Joss here. This episode is SO FUCKING GOOD, and I consider all these weird elements to be a part of the reason I enjoyed “Waiting in the Wings.”
This story is about new love, and I appreciate the fact that Whedon shows us that the birth of love isn’t always a beautiful thing. It’s a messy, complicated affair, and things rarely end up how we want them. It’s a theme that’s dear to my own heart, especially since I have such a fucked up past with it. I can simultaneously empathize with Wesley, Angel, and Gunn in this episode, and I think that is an incredible feat of writing. It’s especially impressive given how uncomfortable and tense this story is. The show has been hinting towards the growing feelings that Angel has for Cordelia for a while now. AND I CORRECTLY GUESSED SOMETHING FOR ONCE. OH MY GOD, I TOTALLY READ GUNN’S REACTION TO FRED RIGHT. Someone give me a goddamn medal. THIS MOMENT MUST BE CHERISHED FOREVER.
But I made a mistake in approaching this episode: I thought the courting by Gunn and Wesley was kind of funny. I mean, it’s situational comedy! And I know it was written to inspire smiles, but the reality is that one of these men were going to be heartbroken by the end of this story. I didn’t prepare myself for that at all, and when Fred chose Gunn (IN THAT EXTREMELY HOT AND ROMANTIC SCENE BACKSTAGE MY GOD), I felt a rush of memories come back to me. I can’t even count how many times I haven’t been the one chosen by the guy I’ve had a crush on.
Wait, can I tell this story? I’M GOING TO ANYWAY. When I moved to Los Angeles proper in 2005, I lived in a tiny house in Silver Lake. It was a two bedroom, but the second bedroom, where I stayed in, was more like a storage space than an actual bedroom. Because of this, I didn’t stay indoors much. There really wasn’t much room to do anything but change my clothes and sleep. And so, having left behind my friends in my hometown and those I made at college, I set out on my own to explore the city I was born in.
I was much more comfortable with my sexuality than I had been in college, and I found myself trying to date for the first time in my life. It had never been a constant thing in my life, and the guys I’d been with before that were never people I sought out. They just sort of stumbled into my life. Frankly, I had too many self-esteem issues to deal with, so I wasn’t confident enough to approach anyone. So it was surprising to me that I found a bar in my neighborhood that didn’t make me feel like a loser. It helped, though, that I had a disgusting crush on this guy who worked there.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t have developed feelings for someone in this context. I kept visiting the bar because I liked him, and I don’t think I was very smooth in my execution. But when he started asking me to stick around longer, sometimes requesting that I walk him home or accompany him in his truck if he drove, I thought something was growing between us. And you know, I don’t think it was wrong of me to think so. He was quite affectionate with me, he would tell me what a great guy I was, and he kept inviting me to spend more and more time with him.
This entire affair lasted about six months, and near the end of it, he kissed me one night after he got off work and we were walking back to his place. It was short, but it felt intentional. It felt like he wanted me and desired me. I later found out that he did like me a whole lot, but he was drunk that night. At the time, I didn’t know that. He made an off-hand comment about wishing he could go to Coachella that year, as Madonna was performing a set in the dance tent. I’d just gotten a job at Buzznet and was going for free, so I told him to get the weekend off. I’d take him for free. He was overjoyed by the offer, and he kissed me again, this time much longer, and thanked me.
What he didn’t know is that I had no free tickets for him. I was getting a pass for myself to work the Buzznet booth that year, but that was it. So I spent nearly $300 and bought him a ticket. I told him to meet me out front on the first day of the festival, and I know there was a part of me that believed that this would get him to fall in love with me. In hindsight, that’s kind of incredibly irrational, but I was infatuated with this man. In my heart, he was the one I wanted. We were meant to be! IT WAS LIKE A FAIRY TALE AND SHIT.
So you can imagine my heartbreak when the guy showed up to get his totally free ticket from me and brought his boyfriend along with him. Go watch “Waiting in the Wings” again, and watch Wesley when he walks in on Gunn and Fred kissing. I know what he is going through intimately, though I admit the context of my situation is a lot more fucked up. Still, when someone chooses another person over you, it hurts. I know that Wesley’s story from here on out is going to be hard to watch, and I know that from experience. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to take things out on either Fred or Gunn, despite that he was playfully teasing Gunn earlier in the episode. But Wesley is utterly heartbroken, and I seriously feel so bad for him.
And it’s totally fascinating that Whedon parallels this story with that of Kurskov, though he doesn’t make Wesley do anything horrific like TRAP FRED IN AN ALTERNATE REALITY WHERE SHE MUST DANCE FOR HIM EVERY NIGHT FOR ETERNITY. Holy shit, I still can’t get over how messed up that is. But it’s a clever way to get us to think about how love works, especially in terms of the cast of characters on the show. All of Angel and Cordelia’s interactions teeter on the edge of sexual tension. It’s downright unbearable to watch them act out because I want these two to be happy together, but this isn’t the way in which I want to see it. Plus, Cordelia keeps thinking that Angel’s aversion to her is because he doesn’t find her attractive. Oh god, no, NO, he just wants you to like him without being possessed by emotional ghosts. (PS: I think “emotional ghosts” is my new favorite phrase. Please use accordingly.)
But now I’m wondering what ramifications this is going to have. I say that I want these two to be happy, but… well, Angel can’t be happy. He’ll turn back into Angelus if Cordelia gives him a moment of bliss. Ah, this is TOO COMPLICATED AS IT IS. Now I have to worry about that, too? Oh god, can Connor make Angel happy? LOOK THAT SOUNDS REALLY GROSS, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEAN. Is Angel’s happiness only a sexual thing or happiness in general?
I suppose that’s something we’ll have to find out. For an episode that doesn’t really move the general story arc forward at all, I do feel like Angel has made progress in terms of the character development. There are so many things here that we’ll have to see dealt with in the coming episodes. Gunn and Fred have a blossoming love for one another. Welsey is heartbroken. And in one of the most brutally unfair twists of the whole series, THE GROOSALUGG RETURNS AND CORDELIA RUNS INTO HIS ARMS AND OH MY GOD ANGEL IS HEARTBROKEN, TOO. No, you can’t do this! IT’S NOT FAIR! They were so close to being THE BEST COUPLE EVER.
Oh god, my heart.
I’d like to end this on a more positive note, though. I am always going to love Lorne’s lullaby to Connor because he is a perfect being, and I am always going to love that Gunn ADORED ballet, and I love that the traditional gender expectations for Angel and Cordelia were swapped when Cordelia was bored to sleep at the ballet, and I love that SUMMER GLAU WAS IN THIS. Bless this show. Bless it.
And now, enjoy a video of me watching this in real-time for the first time EVER. Thank you, Natalie, for purchasing this!
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