I know the title of this post is a bit overdramatic, but hear me out though. We all have that one movie, show, game or book that gave us the hope for a better future in our lives. For me it was Angel, a show about vampire with a soul trying to atone for all the horrific shit he did in the past. As today is the 12th anniversary of the finale, entitled appropriately Not Fade Away, I want to express how the ending of the show became the beginning of my life.
I have always been a shy, lonely, insecure person. That’s putting it very mildly. When it came to my love life, I didn’t have one. I tried, but it just always ended in embarrassment and shame. I had this unyielding need to be validated through the love of a woman.
In 2003-2004, I thought I finally found her.
This girl was perfect for me in every conceivable way. I know this because my best friend at the time told me so.
So to get on with the whole point, this girl said she liked my best friend, but that at one point liked me as well. Maybe it was out of pity, maybe it was sincere, maybe she owes me for my therapy bills, I’ll never know. So, my best friend told me he liked her and, of course, I gave my blessing because they both deserved to be happy; even if that meant that I would get tossed like a parking ticket.
How can doing something noble, the right thing as it were, and have it feel like I lost the only shot at happiness?
This is where Not Fade Away comes in.
The show was already cancelled at this point, so I waited with anticipated dread that this was the last I would see of my favorite show. Never did I think that it would stay with me for this long.
So how could a show teach me the true value of “The Good Fight”? From the beginning that’s what the show has always been about. But right out of the gate, the writers did something that shook me to my core: The prophecy that would have given Angel his redemption, was voided by Angel himself. He had to, in order to gain the trust of Hell’s representation on Earth. He will never become human; he will never be able to atone for his sins. He gave it up.
The Circle of the Black Thorn, Hell’s representation to be clear, have their hands in everything from politics to… well that’s bad enough. They are so powerful, that you could maybe fuck up their day, but you cannot beat them. But to quote Angel himself:
They’re not there to be beaten. They’re there to be fought.
The remaining members of his crew, Wesley, Spike, Lorne, Gunn, and Illyria know that this could be the end of their lives. They know they’re not going to win. But they have to try.
Imagine emotional pain, and turmoil in the guise of a single episode of your stories, and you’re nowhere near the devastation that Not Fade Away inflicts upon you. When you see one of the biggest pain in the ass characters to ever exist in any medium, archenemy Lindsay, get gunned down by the comic relief of the show… it changes you. Especially when Lindsay gasps that Angel is supposed to kill him…
Wesley. Fuck. I’ll try to get through this. Wesley got shit on a lot, and that’s an understatement. He recently lost the love of his life because some asshole had to bring back an old god. Winifred, or Fred, was hollowed out from the inside and her soul was destroyed. She doesn’t exist anymore. The god, Illyria, is trying to become human, but Wesley begrudgingly helps her, even if she resembles Fred. Illyria was trying to be nice in taking Fred’s form so Wesley can have one last perfect day, but he said that would be a lie.
So as the entire gang is all tasked with taking out the head members of The Black Thorn, Wesley is knifed, and lays dying when Illyria appears, because she was worried about him. She then says the saddest fucking line in the history of lines:
Would you like for me to lie to you now?
What follows is just the most tear jerking scene you can ever fucking endure. I can’t describe it because I’m in a public place and I don’t want people to see me cry.
I’m back. And composed.
To get further along to the point, and move pass some overwhelming details, the last scene takes place in an alley with no way out. As the remaining characters meet up, this being Spike and Angel, Gunn appears exhausted. Then he realizes that he’s bleeding out. Illyria appears mourning Wesley; wishing to do more violence. As these four characters look on they see the armies of Hell coming towards them (complete with dragon). Its at this moment that the line that sums up the show is uttered after Illyria says to Gunn that he’s fading and will last only ten minutes at best:
Then let’s make them memorable.
The screen cuts to black as they begin to fight.
Comic Book continuations be damned, we never did find out what happened to them. On some days I like to think that they made it out no problem. On others, I think they perished in the battle. And I like that ending in my mind. They never gave up. They all knew that what they were fighting was going to get them killed, and they didn’t care. They fucked up Hell’s day. Or hour. Doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they did the right thing, and goddam it they went out in a blaze of glory.
So how did this save my life? Remember I mentioned that Angel gave up his redemption to gain the trust of the Black Thorn? That’s what did it. Angel realized, like I did, that you don’t do the right thing to get a reward; you do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. My best friend at that time deserved to be happy, and so did the object of my affections. When I stood as Best Man at their wedding, I knew that I did the right thing, even though I had nothing to show for it.
If Joss Whedon, Jeffrey Bell or anyone from the show were to read this, fucking thank you so much. The show made me strive to be a better man, a more hopeful man especially in times of despair. I owe them a Coke.