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Picking apart the Powers That Be

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  • Picking apart the Powers That Be

    I just want to generally discuss the Powers and their impact on Angel. When watching van's reaction to Faith, Hope & Trick for the BtVS S3 Reacting to Reactors thread, I was interested when she commented on Angel falling from above when he was dumped back in the mansion from hell at the end. I thought it was a very interesting observation because it does symbolically align more with falling from heaven than being returned from hell and I wondered if, knowing hell is where he was, if the visual was a light nod to him having been released by the PtB. Of course we have another intervention later in the season when the magical snow appears at the end of Amends to stop Angel burning in the sun.

    This all just got me thinking about the impact of these greater Powers in Angel's overall story. The early interventions we hear about in BtVS start when discovering he's drawn into helping Buffy by Whistler and as I say, he's saved from Hell and from burning in the sun. Then Doyle joins him in AtS, armed with visions to help him find his own mission, later taken on by Cordy. Angel visits The Oracles too. Darla is sent to try to influence Connor. There are multiple times they are referenced.

    But there is always a note of uncertainty. They had thought he was supposed to stop Acathla, his role in the apocalypse is uncertain. They are wanting to engage him but can't really foresee if he's going to end up an asset or a liability. They can intervene and help, send agents to convey messages and visions, but also allow some terrible things to happen. The idea of choice and free will plays its part and is an important factor. But they will also stop things on occasions and change things if they choose. The eventual role that Whistler plays in the comics feels very like the corruption of control we saw in AtS 4 with Jasmine. Even those who are supposed to be guiding and helping can make their own choices which play out to be corrupt and wrong.

    So what role do the Powers That Be actually play in Angel's overall path and story? Is it good or unfair? How do people see them and their impact and influence on him? They've definitely saved him and helped him at times, but does the sense of destiny unfairly affect him too? Do you think it has hindered him as well?

  • #2
    Both Doyle and Cordy were seriously damaged by the PtB and there was no sign of mercy or regret on the side of the Powers. Cordelia mentioned the Powers owing her one in YW, but we found out later she was on one last secret mission for them. That's enough for me to assume that the PtB interfering in your life is usually not a good thing for you as an individual.


    Angel's case is slightly different since the Powers are less careless with him, he has to stay alive and sane until the day they need him to do whatever he needs to do. Still, their test in IWRY is cruel and he saw how his best friends suffered. So I would certainly not consider them a positive force in his life either. I guess you can argue that Angel wants purpose and that they are helping him with that. But helping the helpless is not their goal, they just keep him busy and focused with all those small missions until it's time for whatever they really need him for. And he has no idea in which direction they are pushing him.

    In the end Angel is reduced to a pawn by the PtB (and W&H). He has some wiggle room thanks to his free will, but they will restrict him at all times. Often they manipulate or nudge, but we've seen them defy the laws of nature as well. You can't fight or escape that. We've only seen him try once, but I suspect that Angel won't be allowed to kill himself by example. And I doubt it's possible for him to leave it all behind and go back to Ireland without them stopping him or luring him back.

    He won't be free until they are done with him.

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    • #3
      I must admit their willingness to step in and really manipulate things and then stand back the next moment makes me feel more like Angel is a toy to them than a being they have regard for. It feels like a game often. Your point about the damage to Cordy and Doyle is a great one and really plays into that sense of disregard.

      What really gets me the most is the idea that they don't know what side Angel will be a major player for in the end. It really adds to that sense of his life not mattering. But then he has also done a lot of good because they have shown an interest in him. I'm not completely convinced he wouldn't have got himself on a better path eventually though. Sure he struggled a lot after being souled and definitely made quite a few morally iffy choices. But what he was dealing with and his isolation were really significant. But we see in AYNOHYEB that there is a desire to change his solitude under the surface. I do think there's an indication that he may have found a way in time. So did he really need their help at all because all the situations where he benefited from their influence came along the path that they set him on.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Stoney View Post
        I must admit their willingness to step in and really manipulate things and then stand back the next moment makes me feel more like Angel is a toy to them than a being they have regard for. It feels like a game often. Your point about the damage to Cordy and Doyle is a great one and really plays into that sense of disregard.
        Them not doing anything for periods of time is odd, especially during the whole Jasmine arc and the period when Angel was working for W&H. They've only acted once (or twice, if Darla was send by the PtB) while the situation was dire. They can stop the sun from rising in one specific town and I suspect they had a hand in Connor's existence as well. So they must be capable of doing more than what they did during those seasons. Perhaps Jasmine and her departure have weakened them? Otherwise I must agree that it feels a bit like a game to them.

        I'm pretty certain they have little to no regard for Angel or his team though. Even if they take the whole big picture serious, Angel is just a means to an end.


        I'm not completely convinced he wouldn't have got himself on a better path eventually though. Sure he struggled a lot after being souled and definitely made quite a few morally iffy choices. But what he was dealing with and his isolation were really significant. But we see in AYNOHYEB that there is a desire to change his solitude under the surface. I do think there's an indication that he may have found a way in time. So did he really need their help at all because all the situations where he benefited from their influence came along the path that they set him on.
        Angel was still around after 100 years in isolation while being terribly disappointed in himself and in others. He didn't take his own life. And a few years later we see the same strength again when he survives 100 years in hell. There is a pretty strong fire burning inside him. And like you said, the will to help people was there already. The whole 'helping the helpless' stuff is perhaps made up by the Powers/Doyle, but it's based on Angel's character, experiences and intrinsic motivation.


        That said I do think he did need that push they gave him, otherwise he would still smell terrible and eat rats. And he needs people around him, the PtB are right about that as well. Not just because of the bloodthirst (which I'm not a fan of, but that's not important for this topic) but people need other people around them to function properly. You don't have to be an immortal bloodsucker for that. But not for a second I think they did it out of compassion. They send Angel to Buffy so he would become a warrior and later the people they send to him for company were used by the Powers to influence him.

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        • #5
          TPTB (and the Senior Partners too) were basically a Mystery Box for the show. With Mixed results imo.
          We never see them and we never know there motivations or why they are doing what they're doing amd there omnipotence changes when the plot needs it too.
          They were basically just a plot device for the Visions for the Victim of the week format and kept around whenever the writers wanted to do something mysterious or edgy with Angel.

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          • #6
            Oh the idea of the Powers was definitely as a mysterious and deliberately ill-defined element. It is that element of affecting things sometimes and not others that really makes it feel like random entertainment a lot of the time. What can they foresee and what they aren't certain about perhaps makes a difference to when they will and won't interfere with what is happening.

            The lines of influence and free will tangle and that can be a very intriguing element. But it does all lean heavily on Angel's innate character and in some ways clouds it unfairly. I'm not convinced that he would still be in the gutter if they hadn't come and pushed him, although I do think he definitely needed a push. I just think that something else could have given him that prompt to make something of himself. Once he was following their path he was caught up into handing over some element of who he was to the suggestions being made, often greatly weighted by this sense of destiny and inevitability alongside that just because the Powers were seen to be above it all.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Stoney View Post
              I'm not convinced that he would still be in the gutter if they hadn't come and pushed him, although I do think he definitely needed a push. I just think that something else could have given him that prompt to make something of himself.

              I agree, although I'm not sure there are a lot of people who would give him that push.

              But it's interesting to wonder if he would always end up roughly in the same business or if the Powers really influenced what he became. In the beginning Angel didn't fight all that much (even looking rather iffy compared to the newbie Buffy), he did much more research and in Ats s1 he helped more random people. Also those without supernatural issues. Sure, it's obvious Angel(us) could fight. But I've the feeling he rarely did it when it wasn't needed. Could he have become a social worker instead? Or maybe somebody who would gather intel/do research for the government or CoW?







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              • #8
                Originally posted by Nina View Post
                I agree, although I'm not sure there are a lot of people who would give him that push.
                True.

                I think a lot of his reticence in BtVS S1 came from his insecurities about genuinely not feeling sure how he could help and feeling so separate to the humans, possibly even fearing failing in a way that would be unrecoverable if he lost control. It just took him a good deal of time to feel at least somewhat accepted and useful. But yes, his initial inclination was to be a background thinker, finding resources to help and discussing tactics.

                Angel greatly took the example he'd had with the Scoobies to LA and created his own team. If he'd teamed up with someone else who fought as well again, like Buffy, I could see him taking more of a watcheresque background role. Not avoiding fighting, but being the brains a great deal of the time. He'd still need to be in control though I think.

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                • #9
                  But when he went back to LA after Sunnydale, he wanted to fight alone. It was Doyle (and thus the Powers) who started the team. Angel might have had a different path in mind. I've no idea if the Powers did this so they could increase their control over him or if Angel's own path would lead to a dead end. Maybe both.


                  That Angel has issues with authority and control is obvious. But I do suspect that there is a link between him losing grip on his own situation and his urge to be in control. He doesn't like to listen to your typical boss/master/father figure ever. But Angelus never aimed for power like the Master or Darla and was perfectly content with Darla having the dominant role in their relation. And in BtVS Angel settled in Buffy's shadow without much discomfort.

                  So I'm not sure if Angel would want to be the leader/the dominant on default. As long the other doesn't try to control him and he feels like he has a grip on his own life, he is okay with not being charge I think. Which is another reason why I don't think the PtB entering his life is a good thing.

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                  • #10
                    I'm not sure I'd say Angel let Darla have the dominant role. I think with both Buffy and Darla he did as he wanted if his opinion didn't align well with what they were suggesting. Aside from when he was feeling somewhat lost, like early BtVS S1 or when newly souled, then he stepped back a little more. But it was more a lack of certainty of himself then than being happy with someone else being in charge. I don't think he does aim for power as you say, but he does want to make his own choices. It's less confrontational in many ways, simply if he wants to go off on a tangent he will.

                    I think that works with your suggestion, which I agree with, that as long as someone else isn't trying to control him and he is feeling fairly comfortable with his life he's okay following. But within that he is his own person still. He won't be controlled and has to be happy going along with what they suggest. So he's not truly following, if you see what I mean.

                    I do think he liked seeing ideas of how to positively contribute, about possible paths he could walk that he benefited from in being around Buffy and the people and purpose the PtB placed in front of him. I can definitely see that he gained a sense of purpose he might have never reached without those examples. Not that he wouldn't have found something positive to do, but perhaps not along the same lines. It's a strange mix of looking like a playing piece to others with a wider picture but also still having free will. I suppose the times when the PtB more directly affected his life were times when he was pushed from the path he could walk in BtVS. Those moments gave him another opportunity when he'd lost the option (being sent to hell, losing hope and waiting to greet the sun). What he then did with it was largely his own free will still. The significance of personal choice and not ever being fully predictable still remained.

                    I think Jasmine is proof that the Powers didn't want to just have a puppet. Her breaking away and trying to force her perception of happiness on everyone wasn't what she came from but her wanting to overthrow it. That she manipulated aspects of Angel's story I don't think undermines that there was always elements of personal choice along the way.

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                    • #11
                      Do we have confirmation that Angel was released from hell by TPTB? After all The First claimed responsibility for that and although we can't trust The First it doesn't mean TPTB have to be the ones who did it.

                      I am not really sure if this has ever been mentioned in canon but I always thought TPTB are neither good nor evil. They are indifferent and their only purpose is to watch out neither side gets too powerful. That could explain why they set up Angel to help Buffy - an untrained, inexperienced, and very young Slayer.

                      As you all know I am not really familiar with the five seasons of Angel. Would TPTB even have to interfere with Jasmine? I mean, did she tip the scale to either side, good or evil? Maybe they could just let her be because she didn't interfere with the balance.

                      So, yes, I think TPTB are extremely indifferent when it comes to Angel's - or any other person's - wellbeing. They did save him with timely snowfall but it sure feels they did it for very specific reasons, not because they wanted to do a good deed. As a matter of fact I also strongly dislike that particular plot twist because it is an anomaly within BtVS. If TPTB had really cared for Angel, they could have had him return from hell earlier for example. Why let him suffer for 100 years? You would think 10 years would be more than enough.

                      It also seems as if TPTB's powers are very limited because they somehow foresaw that Angel would be important to close Acathla but they did not see he was the one responsible for opening Acathla in the first place? Had they not taken a lot of effort to point Buffy out to Angel the whole Acathla drama would never have happened. It seemed to have been a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. I am actually wondering if they are using the world as an entertainment show and are even placing bets on how things will turn out ("Hey fellow powers, one hundred bucks on Angel closing Acathla!").

                      As far as they provide something like destiny for the Buffyverse - something that is meant to happen and can't be changed - I believe they are an anomaly and an anachronism and the show would have been better without them.

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                      • BtVS fan
                        BtVS fan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Why not watch the show first then comment

                      • Stoney
                        Stoney commented
                        Editing a comment
                        There's nothing wrong with posting thoughts gained from within BtVS and questioning aspects of AtS, I'm very happy to hear any opinions.

                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Stoney View Post

                      I do think he liked seeing ideas of how to positively contribute, about possible paths he could walk that he benefited from in being around Buffy and the people and purpose the PtB placed in front of him. I can definitely see that he gained a sense of purpose he might have never reached without those examples. Not that he wouldn't have found something positive to do, but perhaps not along the same lines. It's a strange mix of looking like a playing piece to others with a wider picture but also still having free will. I suppose the times when the PtB more directly affected his life were times when he was pushed from the path he could walk in BtVS. Those moments gave him another opportunity when he'd lost the option (being sent to hell, losing hope and waiting to greet the sun). What he then did with it was largely his own free will still. The significance of personal choice and not ever being fully predictable still remained.

                      I think Jasmine is proof that the Powers didn't want to just have a puppet. Her breaking away and trying to force her perception of happiness on everyone wasn't what she came from but her wanting to overthrow it. That she manipulated aspects of Angel's story I don't think undermines that there was always elements of personal choice along the way.


                      I suspect that the PtB are not omnipotent. Like you mentioned, they can't predict everything he does. They have some knowledge of the future and they can defy some laws of nature. But W&H (who are described as insignificant Old Ones by Illyria) often mess up their (read: PtB) plans for Angel. Still they are powerful enough to dictate Angel's main path IMO.

                      The human free will is already quite limited without any interference by powerful beings. It's rather easy to influence, manipulate or nudge a human. The Powers are good in this. Something as simple as sending Cordelia one more time with a message leaves all the options open in theory. He can look into it, he can ignore it, he can think about it for a few months. But of course Angel is going to try to do what Cordy asked of him with her last breath. If the PtB send a new liason with the same message, it would most likely not have the same power for Angel. He would still have been interested in the information and might've acted upon it, but it's unlikely he would've jumped on it as quickly as he did now.

                      Thus they don't have to control his mind literally, most of the time they archieve what they want. When he is not swayed or ends up at the wrong place, they can always do something more active like denying him the sun or bring him back from hell.

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                      • #13
                        Originally posted by flow View Post
                        Do we have confirmation that Angel was released from hell by TPTB? After all The First claimed responsibility for that and although we can't trust The First it doesn't mean TPTB have to be the ones who did it.
                        I don't think we do, but it's likely since it's obvious they have a big plans with him. Same with the snow in Amends. It makes more sense if it's them.

                        I am not really sure if this has ever been mentioned in canon but I always thought TPTB are neither good nor evil. They are indifferent and their only purpose is to watch out neither side gets too powerful. That could explain why they set up Angel to help Buffy - an untrained, inexperienced, and very young Slayer.
                        Yeah, they are certainly there to protect "the balance". Which makes them extra dangerous. You can suddenly end up doing the wrong thing when you follow their cues and visions.

                        As you all know I am not really familiar with the five seasons of Angel. Would TPTB even have to interfere with Jasmine? I mean, did she tip the scale to either side, good or evil? Maybe they could just let her be because she didn't interfere with the balance.

                        flow

                        Jasmine was a PtB, I think it's most likely that she managed to fool them/slow them down so she had time to execute her plan without them stopping her. Because after all their work, I seriously doubt they would be okay with Angel being a Jasmine!zombie. Also somebody tried to stop Jasmine getting her own body. Somebody send Darla (or somebody did mimic her) in the hope it would stop Connor. That might have been the PtB. But it could've been The First as well.

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                        • #14
                          Nina
                          Yeah, they are certainly there to protect "the balance". Which makes them extra dangerous. You can suddenly end up doing the wrong thing when you follow their cues and visions.
                          That's what I was thinking. If the scales happen to tip to the side of good the PTB would not hesitate to try and use Angel or anyone else to help evil score a point or two. That might actually be an explanation for the Twilight debacle. The good side was getting too powerful with all the Slayers having been called and it was necessary to make some changes happen.

                          It might also be an explanation, why the PTB did zilch to help Buffy when The First Evil rose in season 7. The good side had gotten a strong power boost when Buffy was magically resurrected and things had to be put right again. Although the Turok Hans would have been overkill but then again the PTB might not have foreseen them coming.

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by flow View Post
                            Nina


                            It might also be an explanation, why the PTB did zilch to help Buffy when The First Evil rose in season 7. The good side had gotten a strong power boost when Buffy was magically resurrected and things had to be put right again. Although the Turok Hans would have been overkill but then again the PTB might not have foreseen them coming.

                            flow
                            I don't think Buffy being alive or dead is tipping the scale to be honest. I suspect that it's all about the apocalypse by W&H. That such an event would destroy the balance in the universe because the Old Ones would rule over humanity and humanoid demons again. Angel somehow ended up in this mess thanks to a prophecy/vision, otherwise he would be as insignificant as any other human/vampire.

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                            • #16
                              Originally posted by Nina View Post

                              I don't think Buffy being alive or dead is tipping the scale to be honest. I suspect that it's all about the apocalypse by W&H. That such an event would destroy the balance in the universe because the Old Ones would rule over humanity and humanoid demons again. Angel somehow ended up in this mess thanks to a prophecy/vision, otherwise he would be as insignificant as any other human/vampire.
                              Which is another Mystery box. On BtVS an apocalypse is a tounge in cheek joke, they make fun of how many they seem to have on the show, yet suddenly the are supposed to care about this one and take it seriously

                              In S5 Lindsey its thee apocalypse, well what does that even mean ? the writers never bother to tell us.
                              Why do W&H, especially the human workers want one, who knows ? What is the Senior Partners motivation behind this again who knows ?

                              Its just all one giant mystery box that's never answered

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                              • #17
                                Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post

                                Which is another Mystery box. On BtVS an apocalypse is a tounge in cheek joke, they make fun of how many they seem to have on the show, yet suddenly the are supposed to care about this one and take it seriously

                                In S5 Lindsey its thee apocalypse, well what does that even mean ? the writers never bother to tell us.
                                Why do W&H, especially the human workers want one, who knows ? What is the Senior Partners motivation behind this again who knows ?

                                Its just all one giant mystery box that's never answered
                                I don't think this is a project the human and minor demon employees of W&H know about. And my guess is that the SP (who are Old Ones) simply want to return home and restore their old world. But this time they want to rule/be in charge.


                                Agreed that it's not very well explored, probably because it's too big. You have to work out the mythology, what the SP really are (how powerful, where are they now, how do they look like etc.) and if you show a lot it will probably cost too much money. That, and you will never live up to the hype. There will be plotholes, it won't be much scarier than the other apocalypses or demons, it might look cheap etc. By keeping it vague (like with the PtB), viewers can imagine it and it will probably be more effective.

                                Personally I think they should have given us a bit more, simply to make the actions by the team in NFA feel more necessary. I know they lacked time due to the very late cancelation, still they could've done something. TGIQ is mostly filler/utter nonsense, they could've used that time to show us Angel finding some extra information. But otherwise I'm glad they kept it vague.

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                                • #18
                                  I agree it's too big. If they had given more about the Senior Partners or the Powers it would have just taken a lot of time out of developing the characters we're actually following. Plus, them being pretty unseen vast powers/influences behind the scenes and distanced from the people on the ground they are affecting is more akin to the structures people often feel a part of in the real world. Even getting Angel to step closer in AtS 5 and yet the idea of even getting to have any meaningful impact being something they know will only have a temporary effect. More will fill the gap they create and that again works with that sense of greater powers that work at a distance. The effect those powers have on the people we're following, generally and sometimes with more direct impact, works with that and the disregard matches their lack of physical presence almost.

                                  Personally the best way I can connect to NFA is in how bleak and pointless it was. They knew it was only a 'moment' that they'd achieve and that fitted Angel's outlook and despondency in the season I think. It would have taken a lot to switch it to being needed, but I'd agree there was space to present it differently and TGIQ a good target for gaining extra space/time.

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                                  • BtVS fan
                                    BtVS fan commented
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                                    Metaphor wise NFA was basically just the writers F U to the Network for cancelling them.
                                    Though it was really well done and I prefer it to Chosen as a Finale, I do think its for the best if Angel died in that Alley Imo

                                • #19
                                  Originally posted by Nina View Post

                                  I don't think this is a project the human and minor demon employees of W&H know about. And my guess is that the SP (who are Old Ones) simply want to return home and restore their old world. But this time they want to rule/be in charge.


                                  Agreed that it's not very well explored, probably because it's too big. You have to work out the mythology, what the SP really are (how powerful, where are they now, how do they look like etc.) and if you show a lot it will probably cost too much money. That, and you will never live up to the hype. There will be plotholes, it won't be much scarier than the other apocalypses or demons, it might look cheap etc. By keeping it vague (like with the PtB), viewers can imagine it and it will probably be more effective.

                                  Personally I think they should have given us a bit more, simply to make the actions by the team in NFA feel more necessary. I know they lacked time due to the very late cancelation, still they could've done something. TGIQ is mostly filler/utter nonsense, they could've used that time to show us Angel finding some extra information. But otherwise I'm glad they kept it vague.

                                  When it comes to the Black Thorn, it would've been better for the show if they'd just been humans rather than Demons or put simply guys in makeup. They had been pretty much shown as a joke previously. Look at the Arch Duke in Life of a Party or the Devil guy who was a gag line in Your Welcome or the Fel "ill have a Cola". So Angels line "I'm talking about killing everyone of the Black Thorn" line feels flat because its the same old same old.

                                  TGIQ I like as an episode and laugh at though admittedly it felt like Joss taking shots at Buffy because SMG didn't come back. The comic book retcon doesn't help either and makes it worse in fact.

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                                  • #20
                                    Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post


                                    When it comes to the Black Thorn, it would've been better for the show if they'd just been humans rather than Demons or put simply guys in makeup. They had been pretty much shown as a joke previously. Look at the Arch Duke in Life of a Party or the Devil guy who was a gag line in Your Welcome or the Fel "ill have a Cola". So Angels line "I'm talking about killing everyone of the Black Thorn" line feels flat because its the same old same old.
                                    I don't really agree about the CotBT being human. Not only would it be odd to add Angelus to a club with only humans, but humans are not really a match for Angel in battle. He wouldn't even need his team, he could just kill them all at the meeting.

                                    That said, I do agree that watching one of them play squash and the whole stuff with the Arch Duke do cheapen the Circle. I understand that the writers made the call to bring back some familiar faces from previous episodes in order to make it all look more like a coherent story, but in this case I think I would've selected Cyvus Vail and Marcus Hamilton and made up some new members to complete the Circle.

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