In the final episode of Angel, the team makes a last, desperate stand against evil. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Angel.
Ouch, my heart. Strap in, folks, because I have a lot feelings about this series finale, and I am going to tell you all of them.
- I’m sure most of you are curious about whether I even liked “Not Fade Away” at all. I can already tell that this must have polarized the fandom in an instant. So, while I’ll spend the new few thousand words explaining my thoughts in detail, let me start with this: I loved this finale just as much as I hated it. My thoughts on it are complicated (it’s not an easy finale to analyze), but ultimately, I did like it, and I’m happy with how this has ended. Sort of. Oh gods, let me just explain.
- So much of season five has been about the blurring of the lines of loyalty, courage, and morality, so I’m very pleased that even in this last episode, the characters who have survived the journey are still struggling with these very concepts. Is Angel worth trusting? Is Illyria worth trusting? Is this fight worth fighting? And at the end of the day, they each decide to finally risk everything to believe in loyalty and goodness.
- I think the scene where Angel signs away the reward in the Shanshu Prophecy is a remarkably subtle way to drive home the point of this finale: this never ends, and there is no reward at the end of this fight. At first, I was shocked that Angel was so nonchalant about the act. He was giving up the chance at humanity. Forever. Why? Why do that? Why not find a way out? Because there was no way out. Coming off of what Angel said at the end of “Power Play,” Angel truly believed that he and his friends were on a suicide mission. Even if they killed every member of the Circle of the Black Thorn, the Senior Partners would surely kill them after that. So what’s the point of trying to keep the hope of your humanity alive if you won’t be alive yourself?
- My poor heart can’t handle all this, I swear.
- And you can see how Angel’s decision is important when he talks to Harmony in the next scene. He can barely remember what it was like to be human in the first place. Additionally, the scene quietly foreshadows Harmony’s eventual betrayal. I do wish the show had more explicitly acknowledged what I thought was one of the common themes of Harmony’s characterization: she was lonely. Sure, she was without a soul, so Angel didn’t expect her to stay loyal to them. At the same time, we’ve seen how Harmony’s life over the last five years has been solitary at best. These people ignore her, relying on her only when it suits them. Should any of them be surprised that she betrayed them so that someone could pay attention to her? No, not at all.
- HOW HEARTBREAKING ARE THE “LAST DAYS” EACH CHARACTER SPENDS IN LOS ANGELES??? Angel goes to visit his son, where we learn that Connor really did get his memories back, and that he’s thankful Angel gave him a relatively normal life. (And thank you for acknowledging all the inappropriate eroticism, my god.) That last day, Angel chooses to be with his son. Out of all the things he could do and people he could see, Connor still matters to him.
- Gunn, on the other hand, returns to where he came from. The surprise appearance of Anne is honestly one of the best things about “Not Fade Away.” It is a purposeful reminder of how far the character of Gunn has traveled, and it’s a way to demonstrate what an incredible person he is. Gunn gave up his last day to help someone else. And isn’t that what we’ve always seen from him? Sure, he has fucked up royally along the way. But Gunn was such an intriguing character back when he was introduced in season one. We saw how much he cared about the family around him, and though he’s changed drastically since then, he still is one of the most caring individuals on the show.
- Lorne… my poor Lorne. The demon’s mental decline has been largely pushed into the background this season, but after Fred died, Lorne appeared to have lost all his drive and spark. We see that journey here as he sings “If I Ruled The World,” a song that has a gut-wrenching relevance to what’s happening in his life.
- Spike’s day is spent smashing my heart to pieces. The audience is misdirected into thinking he’s going to fight someone, but instead, we learn that he finally has the courage to read the complete poem he wrote to Cecily, the one we only got a bit of in “Fool For Love,” and the audience loves it. Y’all, the continuity on this character is UNREAL. He finally got validation. William the Bloody was liked. UGH.
- Wesley, however, spends his time tending to Illyria’s wounds, a somber way of communicating that the one thing he wants is the one thing he can’t have. We’ve seen the growing affection that Illyria is developing for Wesley. (And “affection” is used loosely here, since Illyria’s definition of “affection” is far different than ours.) She finally understands what Fred meant to Illyria, so she offers to assume her form in order to give Wesley what he needs. But Wes sticks to what he’s told Illyria before: it is not the same. He refuses to accept the lie, since he doesn’t plan on dying.
- H E L P.
- So much of “Not Fade Away” really felt huge. And while thematically it was totally different from “Chosen,” I was so pleased that Whedon was able to give this series finale the same enormity as the Buffy finale. Again, though, this was for totally different reasons. As the group split off to take care of each member of the Circle of the Black Thorn, I was cautiously excited, overcome by a nervous energy at what I was watching. If these characters truly believed they weren’t going to survive this, then why should I? As each person approached their target, I worried about who wouldn’t make. Where would one of them slip up? Gunn kills the senator, but is immediately surrounded by vampires. Spike manages to rescue the baby from the Fell Brethren, but then must fight his way out one-handed. Illyria appears just in time to surprise Izzy and his associates. And Wesley severely misjudged his own magical power against Vail.
- But it was Lorne’s mission that hit me the hardest. Stuck with Lindsey, who was waxing poetically about life on the “team,” he’s the most detached out of the group. And then it’s revealed what his mission was the whole time. He pulls out a gun and executes Lindsey. “You’re not part of the solution, Lindsey. You never will be.” It is such an uncharacteristically brutal thing for Lorne to do, and it explains why Lorne says he refuses to join Angel in that alley after their jobs are done. Angel’s life has changed Lorne’s in ways he is not comfortable with, and now he’s done. He’s washing his hands clean of all of this.
- my heart i swear
- I guess that since Fred died, I sort of felt that Wesley was off-limits. He’s one of the most important characters in the Buffyverse, but I should have seen the unfortunately, ironic foreshadowing earlier in the episode. Wes wasn’t prepared to die, so he refused to experience a lie. It is entirely fitting to me (and painfully heartbreaking) that in Wes’s final moments, he is in Fred’s arms. It is the polar opposite of Fred’s death, and it’s the only time I have ever seen a couple die in each other’s arms at different points in time.
- It’s been about twelve hours since I finished “Not Fade Away,” and I’m still in shock. I normally get teary-eyed when characters die, but it still hasn’t hit me.
- Just to give this its own bullet point: Illyria punched Vail’s face out of existence.
- And then we’ve got Angel, who used Harmony to trick Hamilton into a confrontation. Connor returns to help his father, and it’s a lovely thing to see them side by side, fighting evil. I missed that, but I’m also glad that they finally got the chance to do it on their own terms.
- Just to give this its own bullet point: Angel punched Hamilton’s head into a broken neck.
- It’s also fitting that the surviving members of the team, unable to grieve the loss of Wesley, meet behind the Hyperion Hotel to face their next battle. And that’s important: it’s not their final battle. There never will be one. This is a fight that goes on endlessly, and this just happens to be the next one. They all knew this was a suicide mission, and we get the briefest glimpse of just how suicidal this is going to be. The Senior Partners have made Los Angeles HELL ON EARTH. (In fact, based on what Angel says, I think it’s possible to assume they just dropped the whole city into Hell itself.) Demons, dragons, a giant – they’re all heading straight for Gunn, Spike, Angel, and Illyria. The final words of this seriously are totally infuriating on the surface, but the more I think about them, the more I love them. “Let’s go to work.” For Angel, redemption comes from what you do, so he’s going to keep on doing.
- It’s weird; “Not Fade Away” is both a frustrating cliffhanger, and it’s not one at all. It’s thematically fitting and logistically nightmarish. But I think that my knowledge that I have the comics to read after this is helping this sit a little better than me. Honestly, as I’ve demonstrated before, thematic symmetry and continuity goes a long way towards making me happy, so: I think I’m very happy with “Not Fade Away.”
About the future of Angel! I will hold a big Angel Q&A like I did with Buffy on Friday morning at 10am PDT. There will be a re-watch of “City Of” attached to the post, and I’ll have plenty of re-watches spread out over the next couple of weeks that were commissioned from me. (And you can commission a re-watches video/post from me here!) On top of that, as soon as I finish the manuscript for Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I will be working on the Angel and Buffy comics as a full-time double feature on Mark Reads! I will make sure to announce when this is starting (ostensibly the first or second week of January) and will also update the Master Schedule to let you know how I’m splitting up the reviews.
Wow, I can’t believe this is over. Thank you, Angel fans, for this incredible journey. Let’s go to work!
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