In the seventh episode of the fifth season of Angel, a surprise visitor for Wesley disrupts his work at Wolfram & Hart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
I’m not really familiar with Whedon’s personal background, and I realize that Drew Goddard (WHO I LOVE SO SO SO SO SO MUCH) wrote this particular episode, but I’ve noticed a common thread throughout the Whedonverse when it comes to family. Obviously, in episodes like “Family” on Buffy or any number of stories on Angel, or even the very nature of Firefly, the writers address the idea of forming whatever families we desire. But I also like that all three shows were willing to examine what it is like to have parents or a family who aren’t supportive, who have odd ways of showing affection and love, or who are downright terrible. That’s important for me because despite that I have since grown very close to my mother, I did not have a positive experience growing up with my parents. I don’t need to go into detail now, especially since I’ve written about it so openly on my sites.
That made a lot of “Lineage” hard to watch for me. Oh god, I cannot deal with parents who are condescending and rude to their children. I CAN’T. And watching Wesley’s father do nothing but make his son feel terrible is too much for me. Over the course of this episode, we see how Roger’s entire presence upsets Wesley’s balance. He walks into doors and passing employees. He embarrasses himself. He deciphers the symbols on the internal bomb of the cyborg completely wrong. In a sense, Wesley reverts to who he once was as soon as his father is around. Of course, this exacerbates the scenario that played out in the cold open, and Goddard is clever to intertwine Wesley’s own self-doubt with Angel’s lingering trust issues towards Wesley.
Actually, let’s talk about Angel. So are the only folks who had their memories altered those who worked directly with Connor? That would mean Fred, Gunn, Lorne, Wesley, and, ostensibly, Cordelia. Where the fuck is she? Why isn’t anyone concerned about her? Or visit her? Or try to find a way to wake her up? Okay, done being bitter. Anyway, if I’ve got this right, that means Angel is holding Wesley accountable for something Wesley will never remember doing. That’s weird, right? I’m glad that Eve points this out because it’s strange. He’s so harsh on Wesley for taking Fred out on the field, saying that she is one of his people. And, thankfully, even Fred tears apart this attitude. It makes no sense! Fred can handle herself, and she’s more than proven this over the past couple years.
So this episode ends up being book-ended with Angel’s reflection on what happens. He starts off irritated at Wesley, but then comes to realize that time and time again, Wes has demonstrated that he’s always been willing to make terribly difficult choices that often leave him feeling alone. Obviously, that relates to Wesley’s actions in season three concerning Connor, but even beyond that, Wes has often done what he needed to do to protect those he cares about.
How does that manifest in “Lineage”? It wasn’t clear to me at first, but that’s because I was so distracted by Wesley’s dad being a total bigot. Which is okay! That misdirect is important because it distracted me from ever thinking that Angel and his team would have to fight the good guys. Y’all, the writers are handling this Wolfram & Hart storyline so well! I can’t believe I never considered this. The group is working for an evil law firm, and despite that they’re doing their best to be a force for good, it stands to reason that people on the good side would object to what they’re doing. While I think “Lineage” only gives us the tip of the iceberg of what the Watchers Council might be doing, it’s enough to show the audience that this environment is more complicated than ever. I suppose it’s possible that the whole Watchers Council bit was just a story, and perhaps the robo ninjas were actually agents of evil, but that’s not clear. I hope this is addressed in full, but even if it’s not, I don’t think it’s a detriment to the story. Oh god, I love moral ambiguity so much, and season five is riddled with it. THIS WAS MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR ME.
But let’s just talk about the two HUGE moments in “Lineage.” First of all, Wesley gradually begins to shake his father’s affect on him, and upon learning that he was betrayed, it’s like a switch was flipped. That scene on the roof of Wolfram & Hart is the culmination of years of disapproval and condescension, and it’s absolutely incredible to watch Wesley confront his father. And right when I thought that the scene was veering too quickly towards being melodramatic (which is more of Angel and Spike’s thing, right???), I had the rug pulled out from under me. I learn just how dedicated Wesley is to those who he loves and how far he’s willing to go to protect. Within seconds of Roger pointing a gun at Fred’s head, Wesley steps forward and empties his clip into his father. The fact that there is no hesitation on his part is what’s so frightening. In that second, Wesley knew that Fred was more important to him than his father. In the moments after, he throws up, repulsed by what he’s done, but he doesn’t seem to regret it. AND THEN WE FIND OUT ROGER WAS A CYBORG????
But that provides little comfort to Wesley. As far as he is concerned, he killed his father on that rooftop. Is that what sort of man he is? Is that truly how angry he is at his father? Usually, in a situation like this, other writers might have used this development to start a relationship between a character like Wesley and one like Fred. In fact, I started to think that this was the impetus for Fred and Wesley getting together. But Wesley is not rewarded for what he does. At the end of this, he is alone again. He saved those he cared about. Angel and Fred are still here because of him. And he’ll remain in his office, by himself, and when he does speak to his father, the man still treats him the same: like a child.
It is a heartbreaking ending to this episode because Wesley gets no rewards for his actions.
There were plenty of funny moments in “Lineage,” and Spike provided most of them. But I think this is actually one of the more serious stories in the series, and it’s executed extremely well. Thankfully, season five is back on track! After the bizarre experience that was “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco,” it’s nice to know that we’re getting back to more episodes like the first five of this season.
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