"Not Fade Away," May 19, 2004
Picking up where the previous episode ended, the gang agrees to join Angel in taking out the Black Thorns, knowing that such a move will likely seal their fates. When Angel hears that Illyria was watching Drogyn, he sends the guys to check on her, saying that Drogyn is dead. The guys resume the act of fighting among themselves as Hamilton enters; he tells Angel that the members of the Circle want to see him immediately. Meeting with the Circle, Sebassis tells Angel that they're concerned that he's secretly trying to defeat them to earn the reward stated in the Shanshu prophecy. To prove that he isn't, they demand he sign a document giving up his chance to ever become human. He signs. Back at Wolfram & Hart, Angel asks Lindsey to join the fight, saying that this is Lindsey's chance to gain control of the firm. Lindsey agrees to help, even though he insists that there's no way Angel can win. At Spike's apartment, Wesley tends to Illyria, who was badly injured by Hamilton. Angel arrives, declaring that they will kill all of the Black Thorns tonight. However, he tells them to take the day off and live it like it's their last. Gunn goes to the old neighborhood in search of his crew. Lorne sings at a club. Spike visits a bar and downs several shots of courage before stepping into the spotlight to recite some poetry. Angel meets Connor for a cup of coffee. Wesley stays to tend to Illyria; she doesn't understand why he doesn't take off like Angel said, but Wesley explains that there is nothing he wants. Illyria knows that he wants to be with Fred. As night falls the gang returns and Angel gives the assignments, saying that those who survive will meet in the alley near the Hyperion. Lorne says that he'll complete his task but then he's out. Gunn goes to the office of the crooked Senator, and he fights off her vampire guards before planting a hatchet in her head. Spike battles the Fell brethren to retrieve the baby. Illyria attacks some Circle members as they get into their car. Lindsey defeats another group of members, but he realizes that Lorne still doesn't trust him. Lindsey offers to sing, but Lorne pulls out a gun and fires three shots into Lindsey's chest, saying that he's heard him sing. Lindsey dies, and Lorne drops the gun and walks away. At W&H, Hamilton arrives, having been clued in by Harmony to Angel's plan to kill Sebassis. As Hamilton and Angel fight, Angel reveals that he's already killed the Archduke by poisoning his slave. The fight continues, and Connor suddenly appears, knowing from Angel's sudden visit that something major was happening. Hamilton fights them both back with little effort, boasting that he has the power of the wolf, ram and hart. "Their blood flows through my veins," he says, inadvertently giving Angel an idea. Angel vamps out and bites Hamilton, gaining the strength he needs to win. The building starts to shake, and Angel sends Connor home, saying that this isn't his fight. Elsewhere, Wesley faces off with Cyvus Vail. Using magic, Wesley blasts the wizard across the room, but Vail quickly recovers, using his power to immobilize Wesley. When Wes tries to stab Vail, Vail stops him. He grabs a large knife of his own and plunges it into Wesley, who gasps in pain and creates another fireball again knocking Vail across the room. Illyria arrives, but she recognizes that his wound is mortal. Kneeling beside him, she asks if he wants her to lie to him. He weakly says yes; she morphs into Fred and tearfully tells him that soon he'll be where she is. Seconds later, he dies. She stands and Vail is there, taunting that Wesley's death was meaningless. Seeing her anger, he tells her to take her best shot; changing back to her blue self, she punches her fist into his head, killing him. Rain is falling as Angel enters the alley, looking for the others. Spike is there, and soon Gunn arrives, in good spirits but badly wounded. Illyria appears telling the others that Wesley is dead; admitting that she is unable to control her grief for him, she says that she wishes to do more violence. Her wish is granted as the team turns to find a very large group of demons advancing toward them. Against the odds, the gang prepares to fight and Angel says, "Let's go to work."
Hamilton wondered why Angel kept fighting even though there was "nothing in it" for him anymore. Obviously, that was the reasoning shared by the members of the Circle; they thought that if Angel had nothing to gain - and everything to lose - by fighting them, he would be loyal. Angel being forced to sign away the Shanshu was unfair, but it didn't stop him. He fought for good before he even knew about the prophecy, and the point wasn't the consequences or the reward, but the fight.
Angel decided not too long ago that overall nothing we do matters. Gunn must have been wrestling with that realization as he asked what Anne would do if she knew that nothing we can do makes a difference. Being no stranger to overwhelming odds, her answer revealed that she wouldn't change a thing. Like Angel she knew that even if there is no grand scheme, we've still got to do what we can.
Maybe Angel gave the others the day off to help them remember who they are and why they were fighting. It worked for Gunn, who had already been showing signs of returning to his former self since they lost Fred. On the other hand, for Lorne the glimpse back at his old life must have confirmed for him what he has said for weeks, which is that he isn't a fighter. Spike used his time to conquer a battle he had previously lost: gaining approval for his poetry.
Wesley's revelation that there is no perfect day for him reminded me of the season one scene where he and Cordelia discussed how Angel has nothing to look forward to because he doesn't want anything. Perhaps even without the prophecy, Angel found a reason to fight in Connor, but Wesley wasn't so lucky. Wesley had his perfect day when he found out that Fred loved him, and the pain of her loss left him empty. Surely it's no coincidence that the one member of the team with literally nothing to live for was the one who died.
Of course, the less optimistic viewers may believe that they all died. The odds were certainly against them, but then again, the odds were against Angel defeating Hamilton, too. With that in mind, I like to think that they did win, that Angel did slay the dragon and Gunn overcame his wounds by a major rush of adrenaline. But even if they didn't survive and that turned out to be their last stand, at least they went down swinging. They didn't go hide like Lorne, or give up like Eve. They fought. What more could they have done?
* I thought that it was clever writing to have being a vampire the thing that allowed Angel to beat Hamilton.
* Did Lorne really not trust Angel? After all the times that he insisted Angel is a champion?
* Maybe W&H did get to Angel a little, because what he did to Lindsey bordered on wrong.
* Wesley dying in "Fred's" arms is one example of the weird-but-good twists that can only happen in the Buffy-verse.
* I'm really going to miss this show. Many thanks to everyone involved with it who gave us five great years.