In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Angel, Fred is invited to speak at a physics symposium, but the experience helps her learn what happened to her years ago that got her sent to Pylea. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
Wow, this season is so painfully awkward. Everyone is being torn apart from one another, and people are dying, and nothing is happiness anywhere, and my god. I just went through this experience with season six of Buffy. Can’t I catch a break somewhere? Can’t there just be one silly episode that will let me laugh and go, “Oh, you,” and feel like everything can be okay for one day?
Things started out that way! Fred was just so excited about getting to speak at the 31st Annual California Physics Institute Symposium, and she was truly happy writing about physics. I could tell that everyone – especially Gunn – felt like they were being left in the dark. No one could understand what Fred was saying. (Neither could I, admittedly.) I also wondered if these characters were possibly worried about losing Fred to the world of physics entirely. Would she be more satisfied there than with everyone at Angel Investigations?
“Supersymmetry” really is about shifting dynamics, though, and all the characters on this show have to face the fact that things aren’t going to stay the same anymore. Cordelia only lasts a couple days with Connor, and while things seemed fine at first, she came to recognize that Connor liked her a lot. Well, a whole lot, that is. She trusted him, and she appreciated his dependability in that context. It’s why she agrees to fight a vampire with him. She trusts him enough to accept that he may be right about who she is.
But the problem with this is that you ultimately can’t figure out what one’s own identity is through other people. That’s something Cordelia has to discover on her own. Sure, people can help her, and I’m certain that she appreciates Connor’s assistance! But her journey isn’t as simple as dusting a vamp. She’s got a lot to work through in order to find her place in life, assuming she doesn’t get her memory back. (As an aside, I generally don’t like amnesia stories. They aren’t varied that much, but I’m actually okay with this particular use of the trope so far. I reserve the right to reject that in the future!)
After the events of “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” Wesley must also recognize that his relationship with Lilah can never be what it once was. While I do believe that Wesley has kept track of Fred this whole time, I don’t think it was until Lilah betrayed him that he considered coming back into Fred’s life again. Perhaps he’s entertaining the notion of a normal relationship with her. Why else would he make remarks about Gunn’s viability as a boyfriend? I sensed a hint of jealousy, or at least an attempt to breach the subject with Fred. So I understand why Wesley helps Fred so willingly. He wants to get on her good side again, now that his relationship is probably going to disintegrate sooner rather than later. But he also knows that any attempt at normalcy is right in front of him. He’s adored Fred for a long time, and the thought of a future with her is too much to ignore.
And then we’ve got Fred and Gunn. Look, as soon as that portal opened up above Fred’s head during the symposium, I just placed my head down on the table for a while. SHE ALMOST HAD A GOOD THING. There was no way that this was a coincidence! It couldn’t be! But it’s the first moment that creates tension between Gunn and Fred. Gunn does his best to comfort Fred that night when she’s unable to sleep, but what can he do? He can offer his support, he can do his best to protect her and keep her safe, and he can work with Angel to find the source of the portal. But at the end of the day, he truly doesn’t understand what Fred went through. He never can. He can’t truly empathize with her fear and paranoia and her rage.
So when it’s revealed that Professor Seidel sent Fred to Pylea on purpose to prevent her from taking his job, Gunn is up against an immovable force. It’s not lost on me that this episode and the fifth episode of Buffy both deal with the concept of vengeance and the price one must pay if they take a human life. Like “Selfless,” Fred has to decide whether or not she wants Seidel’s blood on her hands and if it’s worth it to kill him. Actually, I don’t know that she gives much thought to it, considering she’s gung-ho about killing him the entire time. Honestly, who can blame her? He sent her to a hell dimension for five years, and he’s been doing it to other students who outshine him. I’m glad Fred spells this out for Wesley: he’s a serial killer.
It’s interesting, then, that I also couldn’t imagine a world where Fred would kill someone. I understand her rage! I’m sure I’d feel the same way if I went through a similar experience. But Gunn finally vocalizes his fear after Fred opens up a portal: he’s afraid of “losing” Fred. And I didn’t take this as him meaning that he was worried she would break up with him. He was afraid that killing Seidal would make Fred a different person.
SO HE FUCKING DOES IT FOR HER.
You know how I do that giggling thing when I can’t cope with something? That’s all I did as Seidel’s body slipped into the portal to a hell dimension. I laughed because I couldn’t deal with this. It’s clear that something changed between Fred and Gunn. Will Gunn change now? Fred didn’t seem happy at all that Gunn had killed Seidel, and now I’m freaking out about the fact that this might be the start of yet another relationship downfall. But I’m probably rushing ahead here. Aside from a few glances, I’m left to guess what’s going on between these two.
Oh, then Cordelia asks Angel if she and Angel were in love with one another. DONE. I’M DONE. THIS EPISODE HAS KILLED ME WITH FEELINGS.
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