“Not Fade Away”
Written by Joss Whedon and Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Jeffrey Bell
Dude this is the last Buffyverse review (because no, I’m not doing the comics, which are incredibly aggravating)! The vote is concluded. Angel Investigations is taking down the Circle of the Black Thorn. They’ll be attacking the members separately. Gunn and Lorne both think Illyria could be useful on their side, and they mention that she was watching over Drogyn. Angel, having just killed a Drogyn who was very much not in Illyria’s protection anymore, knows she must be in big trouble. The team reacts poorly to this news, especially Spike, who Angel punches and grabs by the throat, but that’s so Hamilton thinks they’re still having that violent confrontation he saw outside the glamour. Everyone but Angel leaves, and Hamilton informs Angel that there’s a problem. The Black Thorn wants to see him immediately.
The guys get to Spike’s apartment, where Illyria is still in a crumpled heap on the floor. Wes pulls her into a semi-sitting position in his arms. She wakes up and tells them Hamilton did this to her. Lorne still kind of feels like Angel has lost it, and he doesn’t really trust him. Gunn says the point is for the Black Thorn to trust him.
The Black Thorn is in session! They chant their creepy slogan, and then Sebassis tells him they won’t abide secrets. They aren’t happy about Angel’s team trying to kill him. Cyvus Vail chokes and gasps because Sebassis’s blood slave is tangled up in his medical tubing. Angel shoves him away and he lets out an “Eep!” The Circle is interested in turning some of Angel’s people, particularly Wes. But not Gunn, who has done a full backslide to his old anti-W&H position. Such a shame. The Circle feels Angel could be a problem for them because maybe he’s only doing all of this to bring the Shanshu prophecy about, and a human Angel would be much less useful to them. Angel says that’s ridiculous, so Sebassis says that’s great! All he has to do is sign the prophecy in blood, and he’ll never be human. Angel, doing a mostly convincing job of hiding his emotional agony over this, signs.
Okay pause. Yeah, I don’t buy for a second that it is possible to sign away a prophecy. I believe that Angel believes that’s possible, which is why he’s all somber now, because he thinks his one shot at redemption is gone forever, but Angel turning human falls under the category of divine intervention in my book. That shouldn’t be the kind of thing you can forfeit when all you’re doing is being a really awesome double agent for the good guys. If Angel had gone evil for real and was signing that thing because he genuinely had no interest in becoming human, it would be different, but he’s taking out the Circle because the Powers told him to, which is a completely different situation. I can’t imagine they would be like “whoops, no, he signed the thing, so now we won’t make him human.” I think they’d be much more likely to be impressed, like, “Wow, we wanted him to take out the Circle, but look at how dedicated he is. This is just like when he gave up his humanity four and a half years ago so the Slayer wouldn’t die early! It’ll be a shame to lose him as a warrior, but at least there are a couple thousand Slayers now.” Also, why on earth would signing the original prophecy scroll constitute forfeiting one’s claim to its contents? That thing isn’t a contract. So not only do I think it isn’t possible to sign away a happy ending prophecy when you’re being a double agent for the good guys, but I also think the Circle knew that, and they were simply trying to call Angel’s bluff.
Back in his office, Angel is standing in the light coming through the necro-tempered windows. The only sunlight he thinks he'll ever get. Harmony comes in. Wow, I really like her outfit.
Angel asks her if she misses being human. Not really; she pretty much couldn’t imagine life after high school anyway. Angel’s been a vampire so long that it’s all he remembers. She reminds him of the unpleasant aspects of it. Zits, dandruff, dying. She does miss the feeling of her heart thumping hard when she kissed cute boys. And she can tell something’s up. She wants in on it. Angel thinks she can distract Hamilton for him while he goes to see Sebassis.
First, though, Angel brings Lindsey there for a meeting. He wants Lindsey in the fight too. Lindsey thinks it’s pointless to fight against the Senior Partners, because you can’t win. Angel doesn’t want to win, he just wants to fight. He’s offering Lindsey control of the L.A. branch if they manage to survive this fight. Lindsey’s in, because this is going to be a freaking awesome fight.
Illyria is now unconscious on Spike’s bed. Wes is going to go get supplies to treat her injuries. The others might not be able to stop Hamilton if he comes back to finish her off. Angel comes in. He didn’t know Hamilton was the one who brought Drogyn in. The team understands, grudgingly, that Angel’s choices were either to kill Drogyn and be accepted into the Circle or refuse to kill Drogyn and be killed by the Circle and lose any chance of destroying them. As long as they don’t want him to kill anyone else to prove himself. Angel won’t give them the chance. They’re going to wipe out the entire Circle that night. In the meantime, though, they should go spend their quite possibly last day ever however they want.
Lorne goes to a bar to sing. Angel meets up with Connor at a café somewhere. Oh hey, Connor has much better baings now. Spike goes to a rougher bar than Lorne’s, and he’s downing shots like…well, like there’s no tomorrow. Gunn visits Anne at her shelter. Hi Anne! He helps her move boxes and they catch up a bit. (Just so you guys know, I totally ship Gunn/Anne.) Gunn asks Anne what she’d do if nothing she does at the homeless shelter actually matters, because everything’s controlled by powerful evil forces. For a moment, it looks like he might have just shattered her reality, but then she shrugs it off and says they need to keep moving. So he smiles and helps her put a big couch on the truck.
Wes is spending his last day helping Illyria. She’s quite determined to repay the Circle for everything Hamilton did to her, but she doesn’t understand why he’s helping her. She knows he’s not what she wants. Well, the one thing wanted is dead, so there’s not really a final experience that seems appealing to him. Illyria offers to pretend she’s Fred for him. She knows he wouldn’t ask her to do that, and she seems sulky about it. Wes talks about his Watcher training. You first learn to separate reality from illusion. He won’t accept a lie in place of reality, especially because he doesn’t mean to die.
So Spike wasn’t slamming back shots to prepare for a bar fight. It was to prepare for reciting his poetry to the bar. It’s that poem he wrote for Cecily. He flinches when he gets to the lines people made fun of, but the bar of tough dudes loves it! They give a rousing cheer. He then begins one called “The Wanton Folly of Me Mum.” Dang, I’m actually interested.
Angel is telling Connor about Nina. Connor teases him about how he must have a thing for her wolf side, and Angel misses the fact that he’s joking. Probably because the Connor he remembers had no sense of humor at all, he just used insults as a thin cover for his mountain of angry angst. Connor admits he knows Angel is his father. The two sets of memories are mixed together. The real memories feel like a crazy dream. Connor appreciates what Angel did for him. Angel offers to help him with the résumé he’s preparing for an internship.
Lindsey is making out with Eve. She’s very anxious about this fight. Also, Eve clearly hasn’t told him about the mystical Halloween party sex she had with Angel. Lindsey’s confident that Angel won’t turn on him, at least not before the fight is over. Eve is still worried about what Lorne said about her, but Lindsey thinks he was just being petty. Lindsey is still in awe that Eve gave up her immortality for him.
Angel and the team are back at Spike’s apartment. Angel feels that for the plan to work, one of them has to pretend to betray him. And that would be Wes (sorry, Spike). He’s to go to Cyvus Vail’s place and kill him while pretending he’s trying to steal Angel’s place in the Circle. Illyria is to kill the devil-looking dude and his buddies. Gunn gets to take out the evil senator and her vampire retinue. Spike informs Angel that he won’t be wearing any magical jewelry this time. That’s fine; he’s going to be killing the Fel Brotherhood and taking the baby back to his parents. Angel will handle Sebassis. Curiously, when he says that, there’s a shot of Sebassis having a bubble bath and a closeup of his blood slave pouring him a glass of his blood. Lorne doesn’t think he’ll be much use in this fight, but Angel wants him to back Lindsey up.
Harmony is lying in bed with blood on her lips, but not because she’s been attacked. No, she’s been sleeping with Hamilton, and I guess enjoying a glass of blood. She’s telling Hamilton all about Angel’s plans. (Which, wait, does she even know about them? Hmm. I guess she knows Angel’s going to kill Sebassis.)
Angel wants the team to meet in the alley north of the Hyperion after they complete their assignments. They start moving out, but Lorne tells Angel he’s done after this one last thing, and he’ll be leaving as soon as it’s done. Angel shouldn’t look for him. Illyria tells Gunn to try not to die. Aww. He tells her the same. He and Wes clasp hands, then he leaves. Angel and Wes share a meaningful glass, then Wes leaves. Spike asks Angel if he thinks the Shanshu’ll be waiting for one of them at the end o fthis tunnel. Angel doubts they’ll survive to find out.
Wes is having dinner with Cyvus Vail, and he’s telling him about how Angel can’t be trusted. Then he summons some kind of fireball in his hand. Spike is wearing a rather unflattering hooded robe as he approaches where the Fel Brethren have the baby. Gunn smashes his way into the Senator’s offices. Lindsey pins a demon doorman to a door like a bug, then smashes that door down, eager to kill every demon inside. The devil dude and his buddies get into a car, and when the headlights turn on, they illuminate Illyria, who cocks her head.
Angel steps out of the elevator in the lobby at W&H. He asks Harmony about Hamilton. He’s going to go up to his penthouse to get something for Sebassis; she should continue to keep Hamilton busy. Hamilton joins him. He doesn’t intend to let Angel kill Sebassis. He punches Angel, then throws him through a window. Angel falls through the skylight of the lobby, in front of Harmony’s desk. Harmony very ineffectively tries to deny her involvement. Angel was actually counting on her betrayal, so no big deal. She’s very offended. She insists she only betrayed him because he has no confidence in her. He fires her and tells her to get out, and he even has a recommendation for her on her desk. *snort* She picks it up and leaves as Hamilton strides up to Angel.
Time for round two. Angel punches Hamilton, which seems to do more damage to his fist than Hamilton’s solar plexus. Hamilton throws him through a pillar. Next, he throws him through the W&H sign on the wall. Hamilton yammers about Angel’s history and how unremarkable he is. He’s lost three of his people in under five years. And did he really think he could kill Sebassis? Angel smirks. No, he already killed him. When he shoved the blood slave at the meeting, he was wearing a spiked ring. That poisoned the slave’s blood, which then poisoned Sebassis. Angel’s real plan was to stay at W&H and kill Hamilton.
Spike picks up the baby out of his crib, but the Fell Brethren are there. He shrugs off the silly robe and attacks them, still holding the baby. Lindsey is slashing his way through all the demons at his place, and one of them does the Wilhelm scream! Hee! Cyvus Vail goes flying across his dining hall. Wes walks closer to him, preparing another fireball. But Vail stands up and makes the fireball vanish. He uses his own power to throw Wes across the room.
Angel and Hamilton are still fighting. Angel is still losing. Hamilton doesn’t even get why Angel’s doing this, since he “signed away” the Shanshu. *eye roll* Hamilton picks up a chunk of wood to finish Angel off, but then he gets punched through the glass windows of Angel’s office by…Connor! Who correctly realized that Angel wouldn’t show up for coffee if the world wasn’t about to end. Bahaha.
Gunn throws an axe into the evil senator’s head while she’s in the middle of chatting on the phone with someone about her “pedophile” opponent. But he’s still going to have to fight her many vampire employees. Luckily, he has the wrist-mounted stake launchers.
Illyria walks away from the smoking remains of the devil dude’s car. Eve waits nervously for Lindsey to come back. Lindsey wasn’t very impressed with the demons he just killed, and now he’s washing their blood off his hands. Lorne compliments his swordsmanship. Lindsey appreciated Lorne’s assist with the killer high note. Lindsey still can’t believe he’s fighting on Angel’s side. He might even like it a little. Lorne, however, is very done with all of this. Also, he doesn’t think Lindsey is really on their side. Lindsey offers to sing for him, and Lorne says he’s heard Lindsey sing. Then he pulls out a pistol and shoots him two times in the chest. Lindsey then has the most indignant death scene ever. He fully expected Angel to kill him, but Angel, personally. He’s pissed that Angel would pawn him off on freaking Lorne. Lorne watches him die silently, then turns and leaves, dropping the gun.
Cyvus Vail has Lindsey hovering above the ground, seemingly in great pain. Wes tries to stab him with a flip knife in his pocket, but Vail stops him. Then he makes one of the curvy swords on his wall fly into his hand and stabs Wes in the gut with it. Noooo! Wes summons another fireball and makes it explode in Vail’s face. Then he drops to the ground. Illyria arrives in time to catch Wesley when he falls. She can tell this wound will kill him. So can he. He’s glad to see her. She isn’t sure why she came to help him, but Wes suggests it might be because she was concerned. She agrees. She’s sorry she can’t help him, and she asks if he’ll let her lie to him in his final moments. He says yes, so she becomes Fred. *ugly crying* “Fred” holds Wesley, kisses him on the lips and the forehead, and tells him it won’t hurt for long, and then he’ll be with her. She even starts crying. He says he loves her. She says it back. Then she seems to get a bit less Fred-like with the line “My love. Oh, my love.” Wesley dies. She sets him down.
Vail is back on his feet. He mocks Wesley for entering this fight even though he was a mortal. “Fred” turns to face him, fury in her face. He’s amused. He invites her to take her best shot. So she winds up a punch, then morphs back into her Illyria form halfway. Her fist turns his whole skull to dust.
Angel and Connor are fighting Hamilton. Hamilton is still winning. He headbutts Connor and throws him into the elevator door, crumpling it. Then he yammers about how as a part of the Wolf, Ram, and Heart, he’s unbeatable. His blood is filled with their power. Angel stands up, quietly amused by this posturing. He vamps out and pounces on Hamilton, biting him on the neck. Bahaha, I love it when an overconfident villain monologues himself into revealing crucial information like that. Hamilton throws Angel off, but it’s too late. Angel does a double backflip and lands on his feet. They’re evenly matched now, but Angel has better moves. He kicks Hamilton’s legs out from under him, then punches him in the face until it snaps his neck. That’s just in time for Connor to get to his feet, and then the ground shakes. Here comes the vengeful wrath of the Senior Partners. The whole building is collapsing. Angel tells Connor to get home, but he wants to stay and help Angel. Angel insists. Connor doesn’t seem like he could handle much more fighting anyway. He likely has broken ribs, at the very least. He leaves.
Angel finds Eve in his office. She demands an explanation for what’s happening. He tells her enough to indicate that Lindsey’s already dead, and she doesn’t leave with him. She has nothing left, so she might as well let the building collapse on her.
Angel makes it to the alley first. Spike arrives a couple seconds after. Then Gunn. He’s not doing so well. He’s bleeding from pretty much everywhere. Illyria hops down next to them and tells them Wes is dead. She’d like to work out her grief in the form of more violence. Here comes a massive army of demons. And a dragon. Dang. They all stand ready to fight. Angel calls dibs on the dragon and says “Let’s go to work.” The series ends on the first clang of his sword.
I love “Not Fade Away.” It might be my favorite series finale, actually, but I know the ending is a divisive one. A lot of people find it extremely frustrating, because we don’t know if Angel, Gunn, Illyria, and Spike made it out, and we didn’t get to see the battle. But I’m a fanfiction writer, so I don’t care as much that we didn’t get a definite answer from the show. As far as I’m concerned, all the characters who were alive when the credits rolled made it. I’m a bit upset that Wes wasn’t one of them, but his death scene was perfect, so I’m weirdly glad it happened? I don’t know. In a way, he and Fred both got to die in each other’s arms, which is beautiful even though it’s incredibly tragic. Like “Power Play,” this one has tons of great callbacks. There’s Anne! Best minor side character in the show. There’s Spike’s poem (which, even though I don’t like it, is a good “full circle” type thing to use for his character). There’s mention of Doyle and Cordy. There’s Connor being awesome. There’s Angel using his vampirism to his advantage! It just seems like all the things that needed closure got it. This was the fantastic conclusion to an excellent season in a wonderful show. Angel definitely ended strong.
Angel is amazing in this episode. He doesn’t even drop his act with the Circle of the Black Thorn when he thinks he’s giving up his only chance at being able to retire from this fight, be free of his past, and live out his life in peace. After that, even though he has no hope left for his own future, he still gives everything he has. He’s a great dad in his scenes with Connor, he’s a great strategist and leader, and he’s a fearless fighter. Angel, you are and always will be one of my all-time favorite characters. Now survive the battle, get the Shanshu, marry Buffy, and have beautiful babies. Don’t pay attention to what the horrible Buffy season eight comics expect you to do.
Spike remains awesome to the end! The petty part of me is annoyed at S5 for giving him such excellent character development, but mostly I’m just impressed. He went from being an obnoxious entitled jackass to being a very effective team player who doesn’t fight for a reward and knows when to cut the snark. I doubt the Spike at the end of S5 would be a jerk to Robin Wood about his mother. Survive the battle, Spike. I surprisingly don’t hate you, so it would be an inconvenient moment in your character arc to get dusted.
If Gunn hadn’t apparently severed all ties to his old crew, and we’d actually seen them every once in a while since early S3, then he probably could have used them as backup in his fight against the Senator and her vampire goons, instead of taking them all on by himself like a crazy person. Points for bravery, demerits for lack of strategy. If he’s still on good terms with Anne, then why not his old crew? Bah. Also, I really wish we could’ve seen more of his and Anne’s friendship over the seasons, since that’s clearly been a thing for longer than she’s been appearing on this show. He could’ve gone and helped her whenever he was feeling crappy about Angel Investigations, and maybe even about the widening gulf between him and his old crew. Anyway. Survive the battle, Gunn, so you can spend more time with Anne until you eventually get married and have beautiful babies.
Illyria is becoming more and more human. I think she’s genuinely in love with Wesley by the time he dies in her arms. I also think she’ll remain loyal to the people Wes was loyal to, perhaps without even examining why. Survive the battle and stay weird, Illyria.
I’ve participated in some pretty heated forum debates over Lorne’s final assignment. A lot of fans who dislike Angel seem to think that he twisted Lorne’s arm and forced him to agree to shoot Lindsey, which was a reprehensible objective. But if you watch the scene where Angel’s telling everyone their assignments and then the scene where Lorne tells Angel he’s leaving after this is over, it’s pretty clear that Angel didn’t just drag Lorne into a corner out of earshot of everyone else and tell him this job in secret. He told him in the open in front of the whole team, just like with all the other assignments. Which means the whole team ultimately agreed it was necessary, because they weren’t grumbling about it as they walked out. And if Lorne didn’t believe it was necessary, he could’ve just been like “screw Angel” and not done it, and skipped town anyway. So yeah, I think Lorne did that completely of his own free will, fully accepting that it was essential to the success of the plan, but it was a really rough assignment for him because he’s always been the guy who just read people’s futures and gave them advice, even if they were evil.
I suppose Harmony being shallow and evil came in handy in the end. I’m still not happy she didn’t get staked way back in Buffy S4, but that final exchange with Angel was pretty funny.
If the show hadn’t been cancelled—first of all, I have no idea if they even would have had this arc with destroying the Circle of the Black Thorn, so this might be moot—I wonder if Wesley would’ve been the opposite of how he is in this episode. Would he have gone into the fight at least partially hoping he wouldn’t survive it, only to survive and have to continue living with his grief for Fred? Canon Wesley intends to survive, but doesn’t. I don’t know where he keeps finding that strength, but through all he’s had to face in the last five years, he’s never given up or switched sides. Rest in peace, Wes. You had the best character arc of either show.
In addition to well-adjusted Connor’s sense of humor and how good he is at college and life and stuff, I particularly love how he says he doesn’t want to get involved in Angel’s world, then shows up out of nowhere to bail him out in his fight against Hamilton. See, Connor understands the Spiderman principle. With great power comes great responsibility. Now that he knows about the supernatural and his own powers, he can’t just do nothing when a threat arises. *pats him on the back* Stay awesome, Connor.
“You want me, you got me. I’m on your team.”
“I want you, Lindsey.” [pause] “I’m thinking about rephrasing that.”
“Yeah, I think I’d be more comfortable if you did.”
“This may come off as pretentious, but one of you will betray me.”
[Spike immediately raises his hand]
“Aww. Can I deny you three times?”
“I’ll make trophies of their spines.”
“Good to have you on the team.”
“People who don’t care about anything will never understand the people who do.”
“Yeah, but we won’t care.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.