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Character progression - Wesley

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  • Character progression - Wesley

    I have a friend who has watched all of BtVS and only about 3 or 4 episodes of Angel. She caught an AtS S4 episode the other day (I think it was "Release") and then phoned me up and asked "How did Wesely turn into a badass?"

    A difficult question because there is no short answer to that. I mumbled something about Faith torturing him in S1 and how working with Angel had given him direction, but that she really needed to watch the whole series to understand.

    So it got me thinking about what does happen to the characters that make them change throughout the seasons. If someone were to casually pick up Issue 1 of AtF, and wanted backstory on any of the characters what episodes would you direct them to to really show how much a character has changed from where they were when we first met them?

    This could apply to any character throughout Jossverse, but for the moment I want to concentrate on Wesley (as that's what prompted me to think about it, and because he does have such an amazing journey). So what are the episodes that mark out transitions from bumbling watcher in S3 of Buffy to W&H ghost lackey in AtF?

    This thread is basically to discuss Wesley's journey and to start the ball rolling here's my list of the milestone episodes for Wesley:-

    Season 3 BtVS
    Bad Girls - Wesley is introduced as Buffy's new watcher
    Graduation Part 2 - Buffy "fires" him as her watcher
    Season 1 AtS
    Parting Gifts - Now a Rogue Demon Hunter he meets Angel again
    Five by Five/Sanctuary - His ideals on how to save people are seriously challenged
    To Shanshu in LA - Seriously injured by an explosion
    Season 2 AtS
    Guise Will Be Guise - Takes on Angel's persona to solve a case
    Reunion - Angel fires the gang
    Redefinition - Gets Cordy and Gunn together to carry on the mission and becomes their leader. Bonds with Gunn.
    The Pylea mini-arc - Becomes stronger as a leader
    Season 3 AtS
    Loyalty/Sleep Tight - Gets bogged down in the bigger picture and steals Angel's son which ends up him having his throat cut and left for dead
    Forgiven - Angel tries to kill him and he's outcast from the team
    Tomorrow - Starts sleeping with Lilah
    Season 4 AtS
    Deep Down - Rescues Angel from the bottom of the sea
    Spin The Bottle - Makes a move on Fred and fights with Gunn
    Apocolypse Nowish - Is accepted back into the group
    Soulless - Decapitates Lilah and gets Faith out of retirement (another fight with Gunn)
    Home - Tries to burn Lilah's contract
    Season 5 AtS
    Lineage - Confronts his demons in the form of his father
    A Hole In The World/Shells - Loses Fred and starts to bond with Illyria
    Not Fade Away - Takes on Vail and is killed in the process

    That takes us up to After The Fall, on which I'm reserving my judgement at the moment as to what events have/will affect Wesley's growth.

    So is that it? Is that everything? Are there any other episodes that I haven't mentioned that factor in Wesley's character progression?
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  • #2
    Where Virginia ditches him, but I don't think that's a factor that matters, compared to all the other events.
    Or do you think the "loss" of Virginia causes him lasting disappointment? To me it seemed that he just swallowed it and went on with life, certainly disappointed but ot overly affected... but what was your impression?
    Sin is what I feast upon
    I'm forging my crematorium
    Your tomb is waiting here for you
    Welcome to my ritual

    -Judas Priest, Death

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    • #3
      I'm not sure, It's a while ago that I saw the episode. But when he got shot in season 2? It made him stronger and more sure of himself ... at least it was one of the many reasons.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
        Where Virginia ditches him, but I don't think that's a factor that matters, compared to all the other events.
        Or do you think the "loss" of Virginia causes him lasting disappointment? To me it seemed that he just swallowed it and went on with life, certainly disappointed but ot overly affected... but what was your impression?
        I don't think the relationship with Virginia has any real effect on him in the long run. It was important for him to move into a more independant capacity and she helped that along the way, but I think the events of Angel's "beige" period pushed that much further along than Virginia did.

        Originally posted by Nina View Post
        But when he got shot in season 2? It made him stronger and more sure of himself ... at least it was one of the many reasons.
        I considered this event, and I do think it did have a bearing on the person he was becoming from the Pylea arc onwards - the leader who can look at the big picture, but really I see that event as having more effect on Cordelia and Angel's character progressions than Wesley's.

        I do think that when Wesley stood up to Angel and popped his sitches, it was important. However, whether or not he was shot he was still becoming the leader of the group. The standing up to Angel would've happened at some point anyway, so I feel it has less bearing on events than Angel firing him and him stepping in as the "boss".

        One thing I didn't cover in my first post was the mindwipe and what happens when he gets his original memories back. I think that might be because it was never fully fleshed out in the show. We didn't see a lot of changes between early S5 Wesley with altered memories and late S5 Wesley with his original memories. The mindwipe should have had a huge impact, because those memories - kidnapping Connor and being excluded from the group because of it - were instrumental in shaping the man he was in S4. With the mindwipe intact early S5 Wesley should've been a very different person from the person he was in S4, and the return of those memories should've jolted him back to the "real" Wesley.

        The same could be said of all of them though - how did they understand the events of S4 if Connor wasn't in their memories? But I digress, where that way leads, madness must surely follow!
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        • #5
          I personally find Wesley one of the most complex characters in the Buffyvsere. I see part of the route of Wesley's problems being a mixture of things.

          He seemed a person who always looked up to authority figures (his father, the Watcher council, Angel) and seemed to seek approval from them in some way. Maybe in part to an underlying insecurity that always seemed at the core of his personality, strangely combined with a desire to show he was a good leader, which sadly turned out not always to be the case.

          I also believe Wesley started the long slide into darkness when after his relationship with Fred came to a dead end, and when he decided to take the matters into his own hands and steal Connor. I don't think that even he was prepared for the aftermath of that one. The fact that Angel flew at him with such an incredible outburst of hatred really did immense damage to both his psyche and his relationship with not just Angel, but with others around him.

          From that moment on his closed himself off from the others around him, only seeking some kind of 'solace' in a sexual relationship Lilah.

          Right to the very of his Life I think Wesley was a man who was always holding onto his sanity by the fingernails.

          His character went through enough trauma to send anyone over the edge a thousand times over. So Is it any wonder when Fred died he took to shooting folks through the kneecaps just for walking into his office.

          'Mad, bad, and dangerous to know'. That was our Wes.

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          • #6
            I think that Wesley had no self-esteem. His father was clearly a man who always complained about Wesley and punished Wesley for every mistake but never rewarded him for the good things.

            Angelus, who knew that Wesley had no self-esteem, used that against him in 'Eternity' when he said;

            "Well, good news, Wes, old boy! You don’t really have an inferiority complex. You’re just simply – inferior."

            We saw Wesley become stronger in season 2; he became the leader, people did trust him and he found his place in a team. Nobody told him that he wasn't good enough and he was far enough to believe that Fred could like him instead of Gunn. I think that this was where healthy!Wesley found his waterloo. He couldn't get the girl and at the same time Angel and Cordelia became closer. He fell outside the group and stood alone.

            But he had enough faith in himself to plan Connor's kidnap. When he lost everything after that mistake, Wesley decided to become a new person. He must have believed that he wasn't good enough and changed his persona.

            I think that this was the moment where he really lost it, a person who changes himself this much because he hates himself, is ready for some good therapy.
            Last edited by Nina; 04-10-08, 04:01 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Nina View Post
              He couldn't get the girl and at the same time Angel and Cordelia became closer. He fell outside the group and stood alone.
              That's an interesting angle I had never considered - that the group were "coupling up" and he was left as the fifth wheel.

              This explains his inclination to not go to the others for advice when he translated The Father Will Kill The Son prophecy - he literally thought he didn't have anyone to turn to. He was wrong, of course.

              It also feeds into his inferiority complex, as Sue so rightly mentions. As a boy he was always undermined by his father and therefore had this hugely pressing need to prove himself. Without the others there to talk to (in his mind at least) he allowed himself to forget that there were other ways to read the prophecy.

              Wesley also has a inflated sense of esteem at times as well though, he thought that he was the only person that could change things, see the bigger picture. He shows traces of this back in S3 BtVS when he turns Faith in to the Watcher's Council and becoming leader of the group in S2 must have again falsely elevated his status in his head so that he thought he could do no wrong. He realises his mistakes, after the failed kidnap but then thinks he is so worthless that he makes no effort to repair the damage, allowing himself to slide further into despair. He shares the inferiority/superiority complexes that Buffy does

              By the time of S4's re-admittance to the group he has re-discovered his own self-worth through his relationship with Lilah - because it is she that forces him to choose a side. When he sees again how far Angel and the rest of the team are willing to go to fight evil (in the form of fighting the beast in Apocolypse Nowish) and how Lilah would just stand back and watch it happen, he finally finds his place again:-

              Wesley: It’s over, Lilah.
              Lilah: You’re serious.
              Wesley: After what I saw last night, I believe a day of reckoning has arrived.
              Lilah: And you just reckon you’ll toss in with the good guys?
              Wesley: I’m choosing a side.
              Lilah: And the girl of your dreams just happens to be on it. What are the odds?
              Wesley: This isn’t about Fred. Or anyone else, for that matter. It’s about right and wrong.
              Lilah: And you have such a clear grip on those concepts.
              Wesley: I’ve made mistakes.

              Wesley has come a long way from his self-doubting ways in the early seasons no doubt, but his complexes are still there. Eve mentions this very thing to Angel in Lineage:-

              Eve: Is it? Or are you worried about the next time Wesley betrays you trying to do "the right thing"?

              Angel doesn't trust Wes completely then and so in AtF I strongly believe that these problems of Wes's will be very important now that no-one's sure whether to trust him
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              • #8
                I think that this was the moment where he really lost it, a person who changes himself this much because he hates himself, is ready for some good therapy.
                He hated himself and he resented the world in a way, because he realised in some senses he wasn't a part of it anymore. After the Connor incident he was pretty much a man in exile.

                God I miss his character.

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                • #9
                  Wes was getting progressively tougher from the time he showed up in LA.

                  The first step in his progression took place on Buffy, though, and it's not on your list. It's "Graduation, Part II" --

                  Wesley coming up behind her: "You haven't an enormous amount of time."
                  Xander: "Hey it's Mr. States-the-Obvious."
                  Buffy without turning around: "The council is not welcome here. I have no time for orders. If I need someone to scream like a woman I'll give you a call."
                  Wesley comes to stand next to her: "I'm not here for the council. Just tell me how I can help."
                  See, what shaped Wes into the "badass" aren't just a list of things that embarrassed him or went wrong for him. It's the experiences that toughened him, times he stood up instead of sitting down. This is the beginning for him.

                  He progresses steadily through "Angel", as well. His "nice moves" in "Eternity", him stepping in for Angel to protect Cordy in "Guise Will Be Guise", standing up to Angel in "Reprise".
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                  • #10
                    I'd say the above example was a but a tiny drop in the ocean compared to what really helped shape him into what he turned into by the end of his life. I feel what came later made the most impact and set him on his path to destruction.

                    Wesley was a dark/morose character who almost reveled in these feelings in some ways. Already by the end of season 3 he understood the power within him and used it in a very ruthless manner sometimes. Not many characters in the verse kept a 'slave girl' chained up in his bedroom....
                    Last edited by sueworld; 04-10-08, 06:16 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                      See, what shaped Wes into the "badass" aren't just a list of things that embarrassed him or went wrong for him. It's the experiences that toughened him, times he stood up instead of sitting down. This is the beginning for him.
                      That's the whole point. Our character is created by our experiences both good and bad, the choices we make. We start off with a blank piece of paper and gradually fill that page with everything we learn on the journey of life. This thread is to discuss those experiences and how they shaped him. I just started off with a list to get the ball rolling - to give some examples of how I saw the "milestones" along the road

                      Originally posted by sueworld View Post
                      I'd say the above example was a but a tiny drop in the ocean compared to what really helped shape him into what he turned into by the end of his life.
                      Totally, that might have been the beginning of a change for him, but it's by no means the greatest choice/decision he made...
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                      • #12
                        Totally, that might have been the beginning of a change for him, but it's by no means the greatest choice/decision he made...
                        Oh lord yes. I still think that him deciding to take Connor was the biggest of his life effecting decisions. Once he did that his whole world turned upside down.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by sueworld View Post
                          Oh lord yes. I still think that him deciding to take Connor was the biggest of his life effecting decisions. Once he did that his whole world turned upside down.
                          But wouldn't staying in LA to help Angel after Parting Gifts, instead of going off on his own have had more of an effect? If he hadn't stayed with Angel then the Connor thing would never have happened anyway. Chances are, what with everything he learned whilst with Angel, he may have been killed a lot earlier as a Rogue Demon Hunter.

                          Whatever, though, you're right that it was at least one of the most important decisions he ever made.

                          I'm interested in how you see the move to W&H affecting him? In my mind it affected him much less than it did any of the others. Angel, Gunn, Lorne and Fred were irrevocably changed just by working for W&H, whereas Wes (the death of Fred aside) didn't. In fact he seemed to fit in quicker and easier than any of the others and seemed to struggle less with the greyer aspects of it. Do you think that it was because he was already the most corrupted?

                          I never really saw Wes as being corrupted - just disillusioned and confused about how to fight evil. Even when he had Justine chained up, he did it to find and retrieve Angel. A plainly wrong way of going about things, but still for the greater good. As soon as he had Angel, he let her go (well left her chained to some railings but free nonetheless) and talked to her about always being a slave - a kind of pep talk if you like. The same thing applies to kidnapping Connor - he thought it was for the greater good.

                          Angel talks about going to W&H to change it from the inside, but never really believed it. Did Wes though? Did he really think they would achieve great things by going there, that it was for the greater good and consequentially made his peace with being there much more easily?
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ciderdrinker View Post

                            I'm interested in how you see the move to W&H affecting him? In my mind it affected him much less than it did any of the others. Angel, Gunn, Lorne and Fred were irrevocably changed just by working for W&H, whereas Wes (the death of Fred aside) didn't. In fact he seemed to fit in quicker and easier than any of the others and seemed to struggle less with the greyer aspects of it. Do you think that it was because he was already the most corrupted?
                            Wesley is raised that way, it doesn't matter how ... as long as you get there. I doubt that Wesley saw it as a quest to make W&H a better place, but he was interested in the power and knowledge they had and to use those for good. And I'm not sure, but there is chance that they saved much more people when they worked for W&H. I can see the other being more emotional about it while Wesley sees the facts and decides that his own morals don't matter if it saves more people.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nina View Post
                              Wesley is raised that way, it doesn't matter how ... as long as you get there. I doubt that Wesley saw it as a quest to make W&H a better place, but he was interested in the power and knowledge they had and to use those for good. And I'm not sure, but there is chance that they saved much more people when they worked for W&H. I can see the other being more emotional about it while Wesley sees the facts and decides that his own morals don't matter if it saves more people.
                              I think this is the crux of Wesley's problems. He thinks it doesn't matter how you get there as long as the end result is that more people are saved. And yes, I do think the AI team saved lots more people whilst at W&H than when they were running AI from the Hyperion, but at what price?

                              Both Angel and Wesley can make the hard decisions when needed to, which is why they were both leaders in their own right. But Angel is tormented everyday by the death of ordinary, little people by his own hands, and therefore he realises that sometimes the price is too high. The risk outweighs the reward, if you like. Wesley doesn't have that guilt and that makes him far more ruthless - like a president of a country sending men to war, rather than a general who can see the effects on his soldiers. Wesley is more detached from it than Angel.

                              Like Sue said a few posts up, Wes does seem to have a loose grip on sanity. At first, as a watcher, he is overcompensating and trying to be so good -covering his insecurity of being in charge by bossing his slayers around and acting as if he knows everything. Working with Angel gives him confidence to trust his decisions, and so he relaxes. When his confidence is totally broken down in S3 with the loss of Fred, the kidnap of Connor, his near-death and exclusion from the people who gave him confidence he slides to the other end of the scale and ends up sleeping with Lilah, chaining girls up in a closet and stabbing druggies in the shoulder to get information - he can't find a balance.

                              It must be hard for him to keep up the appearance of being "right" all the time when you're plagued with self doubt and loathing, and a natural extension of that would be to take a step back and view things from afar.

                              I believe Wes' weaknesses are because he has no internal "plane autopilot". A plane autopilot doesn't make the plane fly in a straight line to it's destination, it just constantly corrects the plane when it goes off course, forces it back to the right direction. The autopilot in Wes' life are the people who force him back to the path of good - Angel in S1, Cordelia and Gunn in S2, Fred in early S3, Lilah in S4 and then the death of Fred/dealing with Illyria in S5. In my mind the only time that Wes is actually in "control" of his own destiny is between finishing with Lilah in S4 and Fred dying in S5 - he seems at his most confident and sane at this time
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