By: Princess_ bunny
Spoilers: Yes, for Buffy through ALL of Angel, especially the last episode.
Personal Website: just the LJ
[Note to Spren: sorry, I know this is slightly late. I forget I no longer have that West Coast window. Eep.]
My first introduction to Wesley was on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Season Three. He was sent as a replacement for Faith's second watcher. [The Master killed the first one; the second one was a power hungry psycho who attempted to steal an all-powerful glove. NO really.] So Wesley was her third watcher, and about as prepared for the job as I would be. Possibly less.
My first impression of Wesley was ooh, British accent. I'm shallow you see and a Brit-whore. Other than that, he was so stereotypically gay, I figured if you looked up pansy in the dictionary, Wesley would there as a working example. [See Wilde, Oscar for the beginnings of these phenomena. I love him as well.] He had the proper suit, the proper accent, and a fantastic education--everything Giles got over. Mainly, he was in the way.
He was a gorgeous useless British prat who dressed well. I have a weakness for this type of thing. [See the essay on Malfoy, Draco for further information on this topic.] He did have the enthusiasm at first; he has always wanted to help. He was just very overwhelmed by the reality of the situation. Faith was moving towards losing all grasp on what her role in the larger situation of the 'Fight for Good' was and Buffy already had Giles broken in to her liking.
Strengths: Much like in most role-playing games, he started with almost none, just a will to present and try to move forward. Mostly, he tripped a lot. [I love that Alexis wanted him to screaming like a girl and get knocked down in the first wave of the attack in Graduation, Part Two. Competence isn't really necessary to fight evil, is it?]
On Angel, his real strengths became clear: loyalty, bravery, intelligence, a gift for languages, and a knowledge of magic that most Watchers seem to have, a willingness to sacrifice for what he believes in, and lovely leadership qualities. He had the ability to step in and take over when Angel made his jump off into the dark side. [I'll deal with Wesley-Angel parallels later]
Weaknesses: Most of the above. Bravery gets you hurt, Magic can backfire, and loyalty can get you killed. Many of his actions screwed him at the same time as helping him. Taking a bullet for Gunn? Earned him respect and a friend for life, but he still had a bullet in him. His love for Fred? Mostly hurt him. Taking Connor? Well, that turned out brilliantly, except for the whole Angel trying to smother him, Justine slitting his throat, ending up in the hospital, and everyone hating him. Also, Connor still wasn't saved. **hugs Wesley**
Character Evolution: He changed from a stock minion of the Watcher's Council into someone who could kill his own father. Wesley tackled death, killing, magic, love, sex, and betraying everyone you love. Pretty heady stuff for someone who could barely manage a stake when we first saw him. Out of most the characters I've seen, I think Wesley underwent the best evolution from a one-dimensional character to an almost flesh and blood ideal. He had flaws and a dark side, but it was all for one purpose. For the side of Good to win, no matter what he had to become, give up, do, he would, in order to defeat the Darkness that reached for the World.
On Buffy, Wesley was a typical Watcher. Stuffy, out of touch with what was really going on with the Slayers, expecting obedience from someone far stronger and powerful as a right. He didn't seem to move forward much during most of Buffy. He didn't gain any fighting skills, his relationship with Cordy amounted to nothing, and frankly, Faith was not going to be saved then by anyone. Wesley only began to change when he left Buffy and went to LA.
In the first parts of his time in LA, he was still rather stiff. I don't think he really made a connection until he was shot. Saving Gunn gave him a real connection to another person, gave him a friend, which he didn't seem to have before. I think it killed a lot of his arrogance. From then on, I believe he wanted to be a hero and a protector. He gradually became a better fighter, a stronger wielder of magic, and on level, or perhaps surpassed, Giles at research.
His second big character arc was a movement towards a more immoral flexibility. In order to fight evil, sometimes you must embrace it, and Wesley did just that. He lost the influence of his friends and became focused on the mission. He moved from someone who criticized Angel for his misbehavior to having sex with Lilah, stealing Connor, and locking Justine in his closet. I don't think he realized exactly what he had become until he was willing to shoot his father. He may have hated the man; but that that is a line it takes a lot to cross.
History: Wesley started as a member of the Watcher's Council; unlike Giles, I don't believe he ever wanted to be anything else. He was trained from adolescence on to serve as a Watcher. He is British obviously since I've mentioned it 50 times. We're not given a substantial amount of information about his formative years, other than the impression that his father is a relentless bastard, and he was trained from a young age in mystical lure.
Motives: At first, to be a good Watcher in a manner prescribed by the Council. After he was fired, he moved to demon hunter, and finally, protector of the side of Good. His main motivator as a whole was his friends, and his cause. Without his friends, he embraced his cause to such a point that he became enmeshed in the "bad" side. Mostly, to save the World.
Growth: Mostly covered already. He went from a shallow and light character to a dark and twisted character.
Angel: His main loyalty was to Angel. Angel being the cause of most of his actions, whether they are a misguided attempt to save Connor, or stepping up to take over when Angel went on his sojourn to the dark place. They betray each other, they fight, they flirt [if I swung that way..] Angel is definitely Wesley's defining relationship. He gave him a home and a family. Without Angel as a mentor, I'm not sure Wesley would have found his purpose in life. Or at least, it would have been very diminished. He needed Angel as both a protector and a protectee.
Like Angel, he has a father that feels he is inadequate, he moves into a much darker place during his fight for good, he dates a woman from the other side, and they both betray their makeshift family. He is Angel's right hand, sidekick, whatever you want to call it. Angel allowed him to become fully involved in the cause and gave him purpose.
Cordelia: What started out as a mutual appreciation society [Have at it, she's eighteen, and you have the emotionally maturity of a blueberry scone] turned into a deep friendship. Cordy was another person who linked Wesley to the real world and gave him someone to take care of and watch over.
Gunn: His first real friend. His brother in arms. Gunn gave Wesley another connection to the world and another reason to fight, and stay together. They seemed to wan and grow around each other. Wesley proved to be a good man when he stepped back to let Gunn have Fred.
Fred: [Note: I dislike Fred as well as Wesley's feelings for Fred, so this might be biased.]
Fred was the love of Wesley's life. He stood aside when she went with Gunn, he killed what he thought was his father to save her, he was obviously jealous of Knox whenever he got too close to Fred. I don't know that Fred really helped Wesley grow as a character? She had more effect on Gunn, but she was, in the end, what he wanted beside him. He also loved her so much that even when she was dead and it was merely a shell of her left, he did whatever he could to help her. Loyal and true.
Lorne: I don't know that Lorne had much effect on Wesley. They were just kind of in the same team.
Giles: Wesley's non-mentor. I really don't know if Wesley ever really respected Giles, even later. Wesley had a much tougher job with Faith, then Giles had with Buffy. Buffy was flaky, not homicidal. He became similar to Giles in many ways, I guess that is a Watcher's reaction to seeing how things have to go when you are actually in the fight and not judging it from the outside.
Buffy: Eh, Buffy doesn't care much for Wesley that I've ever noticed and I think the feeling is mutual. She got him fired from the council, which was the best gift anyone could have given him.
Connor: Connor changed Wesley's life. His betrayal of Angel in an attempt to save Connor and stop Angel from killing Connor, thus destroying himself, put Wesley on a different life path. Same end goal, but the scenery has teeth this time. A baby born of the impossible made Wesley a stronger man. It wasn't really for Connor that Wesley did so much [Talking Hamburger sign? Best sight *gag* EVER] It was for Angel, but Connor is the key that drove it.
His failure to save Connor made him an outcast, which focused him solely on the mission. Save Angel at any price. Become the best demon hunter you can be at any price. Paranoid? Constantly armed? You betcha. He grew as a person before Connor, but after he grew as a weapon.
Father: His father gave him his mission and his education. That's about it. The rest of their relationship is useless except as anger motivation. His father is an unrelenting judgmental bastard who is never happy [one of the reasons I sympathize with Wesley. Never good enough? Well fuck you too dad.]
Faith: The first challenge Wesley failed and ultimately the one he passed as well. Wesley with no real experience was given a slayer who was losing it as well as another Watcher who was on the verge of quitting with a slayer who hated everything Wesley stood for, there is really no way he could have handled this even if he had been up to the task.
I think the best way Faith had an effect on him was during the second to last season of Angel. Wesley was the one to go to the prison to get her of course. She was his responsibility to start with, so he has to go fetch her now. I think he liked the validation she gave to his vast new improvements as a person and to see that maybe he did have some effect on her even when it seemed like she was lost to them forever.
Justine: She slit his throat and stole Connor. He returned the favor by locking her in a closet for six months with a bucket and made her find Angel with him. Point to Wesley.
Virginia: A fling. Something to give him some sexuality and make him focus on something other than must fight for whatever. Witty jokes. [You were in Virginia? So?] Nothing particularly life changing.
Lilah: My favorite of all Wesley relationships. I ship him with Angel as well, but Lilah was sooo much funner. Everyone should have a relationship as twisted as this. Stalking? Role Playing? Dirty hate filled sex? Where do I sign up? Every emotion it is possible to have for another person entered this relationship. Wesley's turn to immoral behavior was primarily [like Angel's turn with Darla] shown to be sex with the Enemy, ie, Lilah.
They fought, used each other, Lilah played Fred on the couch while riding Wesley, they brought out the best and most screwed parts of each other. Lilah did love Wesley as much as she could. She was jealous of Fred, and tried to keep Wesley's attention. Wesley, in turn, tried to help her as much as he could after she was dead. He made sure she was dead by beheading her corpse [in Jossverse, this is true romance] and tore through W&H to try to find her contract to destroy it and give her peace.
Ultimately all these people were secondary to the cause. Fighting evil was worth the sacrifice of himself, his relationships, basically his soul. I think only Angel and Fred even got close to over-coming that.
Why I stayed interested in Wesley: I have a type. I like brilliant guys who tend to self-sacrifice, be morally relative in order to help others, who are cute, wear glasses, and speak multiple languages. So Wesley, Logan from Dark Angel, Daniel Jackson, Blair Sandburg, that kind of thing. [So Lex Luthor doesn't wear glasses. Whatever.]
After five seasons of Angel, I think Wesley is the only character I still loved. Cordy was gone, I loathe Fred, I like Loren, but not obsessively, I don't like Spike, and Angel, it's hard to like someone when you find him much funnier in his evil form.
So Wesley and sheer insanity of the show kept me going. Wesley reached that level for me of the do no wrong variety. Screwing Lilah? Sweet. Locking chick in your closet? Not a problem. Betraying Angel? You thought it was for the best. I like that he went dark, it gave him more depth and most importantly: the Wesley type of characters tend to be abused, so I cheer when they fight back.
Mostly it was the accent though. Seriously, I ban Alexis' real accent. And sex with Lilah.