A Buffy/Wesley Resource

Wesley: An Analysis

by Victor D. Infante
Victor D. Infante is a poet, screenwriter, and journalist. More information and other works by the author can be found at his Web site.

Giles on Wesley: "For God's sake man. She's eighteen and you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Have at it, would you, and stop fluttering about."

Whatever else Wesley is or has been, he's always been portrayed as a man who's utterly unable to deal with his emotions. He pretends they don't exist, and when they manifest, they overwhelm him. None of which is surprising. His father almost definitely emotionally abused him, and demanded great obedience and expressed great disappointment in him. Moreover, the majority of his adult life has been spent in service to the Watcher's Council—which tends to be a demanding master. For all of his life, Wesley told himself that feeling led to the clouding of intellect. Which, when he found himself on Buffy's emotionally charged terrain ("my emotions are total assets") where the rulebook needs to be completely thrown out in order to deal with the unprecedented battlefield that is Sunnydale, he was completely ill-equipped to deal. Which led to the NEXT series of rejections in his life: being spurned by Buffy and the Scoobs, followed by being fired from the Council.

That had to have hit hard. The Council was his life. SERVICE was his life, and now he was bereft of both. He attempted to carry on—pathetically—as a rogue demon hunter, but it wasn't until he found acceptance from Angel and the MOG that he was able to progress any more.

But I'd bet good kittens as to what the underlying lessons he learned from the experience were: he exchanged loyalty from the CoW to Angel, he learned that the rulebook he was working from is obsolete, and he developed (or probably acknowledged) a deep, abiding desire to never be lonely again. A lot of this came to a head when the CoW came after Faith, and Wesley chose Angel over the CoW. Moreover, in choosing to help protect his torturer, Wesley came to a degree of peace with what he saw as his mistakes of the past: whatever else, Faith was HIS responsibility. HE was the one who interrupted Angel pulling her back from the abyss. HE blew it, and everyone knew. Even back then, he wanted to do right by Buffy—and even tried to help Angel—and eventually stood side by side with Angel against the Mayor's forces. Going down Angel's road vis a vis Faith, and not the Council's, must have been agonizingly hard. And it was the right decision for both himself and her.

The end result, of course, is the beginning of Wesley coming to grips with his own mistakes, and, moreover, further identifying his own redemption with Angel's cause.

Brief hiccup as we discuss Virginia. As Wes is hardly the type to display his feelings, but AD is the type of actor who can say a lot silently (like ASH) let me make a supposition: Wesley liked Virginia, but he was never in love with her. She gave him some self-confidence, and some much needed TLC, but their relationship ended when it came down to a choice between his mission—which is Angel's mission—and their relationship. It was never an option. Therefore, I'd say it's not unreasonable that Wesley's subsequent sadness was less about Virginia and more about his own deep sense of loneliness—compounded by his then rejection by and separation from Angel. Not in a gay way. (For the purposes of this discussion, at least.)

And then he got it all back. His friend, his mission, even a modicum of respect and responsibility, as AI's sort-of-leader. And while he did a good job, I imagine there was never any REAL rancor over the times Angel took charge: Wesley's mission was Angel's, after all.

Of course, none of this undercuts the deep loneliness he must have still felt, and he used responsibility to preclude his further emotional development. And then he fell for Fred.

With Fred, I imagine it would have all worked out okay eventually, even if she still had ended up with Gunn, except for a few things: the complete humiliation he felt after chasing her with an Axe (not his fault, but still...) and later, the mess he got immersed to over Connor.

Connor was a bind for Wesley, and one he was emotionally ill-equipped to deal with: Intellectually, he knew he had to protect Connor from Angel (although that was a lie, he didn't know that at the time, and he put SERIOUS effort into trying to debunk it, and still got fooled. Such is life.) Not only was protecting Connor a MORAL imperative, it's the natural extension of Angel's mission: protect the innocent. Help the helpless. To fulfill Angel's mission, which is own identity is wrapped up in, he had to betray Angel. There were probably other options, but they all involved endangering a child's life, further tightening the mental binds around him. His emotions—which he can't deal with—ran wild, and clouded his intellect. A stable emotional foundation (such as a relationship with Virginia or Fred, or a at-the-moment stable friendship with Gunn, or a present Cordelia) might have mitigated his actions, opened up new doors, but his situation at the moment must have seemed damning and limited. He chose to take the baby and run.

At this point, one has to wonder a couple things about Wesley. Does he suffer from major depression? I think so. A lot of this resembles the self-destructive course that depressives follow when they're unwittingly trying to undermine their own lives, to give themselves an excuse to commit suicide. Also, metaphorically, it resembles the depressive's madcap journey from relative stability, to overreacting to emotional stimulus, to complete attempted self-destruction. Which leads to another question. Why is Wesley still alive?

Wesley has been abandoned by the structure he's built his life around. Again. The internal loneliness he felt has become actual, and his reason for living (still not gay) has tried to kill him. He blew it, and everybody knows it. Why HASN'T he killed himself yet? Is that what his indiscretions with Lilah are? Another suicide attempt? Is he trying to punish himself further, before topping himself?

Maybe, but I believe there's a streak in Wesley, a desire to survive, and, more importantly, to make amends, that will eventually overcome the Hell he's made of his life. Those amends will probably come through Connor somehow, who of course has his own issues. But I suspect he'll triumph in the end.

And then, hopefully, his psychopharmacist will start him on small doses of Prozac.