Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lorne - Not Easy Being Green

Angel was always a pretty dark series.  From the very first episode, it established an entirely different tone than Buffy, sometimes to the point where it felt like they didn't even exist in the same universe anymore.  (Something I'm sure I will talk more about later.)  Buffy, in it's darkest moments, never reached the level of Angel's status quo of dark.  The tragic final episodes of season three particularly come to mind.

In a world that seemed so gloomy so much of the time, there needed to be something to lighten the mood every once in a while.  Lorne, of course.  Almost always bright and cheerful, Lorne gave a perfect amount of lightness to a show that, for the most part, was pretty dreary.

Of course, Lorne's story wasn't always handled well, and I feel like his character took quite a few misteps.  It really seems as though the writers honestly didn't know what to do with him.  He was too popular to get rid of, and yet too odd to really fit into the story they were making.  But I'll get to that in a moment.  First, let's start with his introduction.

Lorne is first introduced as the host of a demon-karaoke bar, Caritas (latin for charity) in the first episode of Season Two.  He plays a very interesting role in this season, and I honestly feel like Season Two is his strongest season.  He is essentially a plot device, there to keep Angel on his path.  By reading his aura, Lorne can tell whether Angel is doing what he should be doing, according to the Powers that Be.  This is extremely important in this season, as the main plot arc is about Angel abandoning the ideals and principles he's always stood for, and very much going off his path.  In his single minded obsession with destroying Wolfram & Hart and evil in general, Angel forgets what really matters: helping the helpless.  He spirals out of control in a self destructive vendetta, that ultimately leads nowhere, because, as Holland Manners points out, evil endures and can never be truly destroyed.

Lorne, then, has a very clear purpose in Season Two.  His job is point out that Angel is going about things the wrong way and is definitely not on the right path.  Many times throughout the beginning of the season, Lorne warns Angel that if he keeps doing things the way he's doing them, some bad stuff is going to go down.  Of course, Angel ignores his advice and ultimately ends up regretting his actions.  Lorne essentially gives us a way to examine Angel's actions and is someone who is very able to point out what he is doing wrong.  This is, in my opinion, a brilliant way to highlight exactly why Angel's vendetta is a bad thing.

The other simple fact is the Lorne is such a fun character to watch.  He and Angel have fantastic chemistry together, and their interaction is definitely the high point of Happy Anniversary (2x13), an otherwise forgettable episode.  His charming antics are very disarming of Angel, and are a perfect way to lighten up an otherwise dark storyline.

Because Lorne's character was so charming, he was bound to become more than a bit player in the show.  By giving him such an important role and such a great personality, the writers basically made him a recurring character.  Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of depth.  For most of the season, Lorne is little more than a device for conveying the idea that Angel has lost his way.  This is a fine place for a bit character to be.  But as Lorne gets more and more screen time, the less justification there can be for his two-dimensionality.  So the writers were faced with a choice: get rid of Lorne or develop him into a character that is more than a simple device.  Because of his popularity, they went with the second option.  Thus we have his very close ties to the Pylea arc.

The Pylea arc isn't just about Lorne.  It is one of my favorite parts of the series for the reason that it is very reflective of the ideas of the season it closes.  Through the world of Pylea, we can examine Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn all in a new light, and give new perspective on the rest of Season Two.  However, it also serves the function of really developing Lorne into a full fledged character, by giving him an interesting back story and a family life.

As a result of the Pylea story, we learn quite a lot about Lorne.  Unlike the rest of his family and species, Lorne is peace-loving.  He loves music and hates violence, the exact opposite of everyone he ever grew up with.  However, he isn't a coward, and believes in doing the right thing, but would much rather live and let live than fight.  Unlike his Pylean brethren, he's a lover, not a fighter.  He doesn't belong in Pylea. He belongs in our world, where he can be who he wants to be: a peaceful person.  As Lorne says at the conclusion of the Pylea story:
My psychic friend told me I had to come back here.  I didn't believe her.  Then I realized I did have to come back here, because - I really always thought I had to come back here, deep down inside, you know?  I had to come back here to find out I didn't have to come back here.  I don't belong here.  I hate it here.  You know where I belong?  LA.  You know why?  Nobody belongs there.  It's the perfect place for guys like us.
So now Lorne has some character.  He keeps a fairly predominant role in Season Three, although not a whole lot is done with him.  Unfortunately, Caritas is destroyed at the end of Season Two, and his efforts at reconstruction are constantly ruined by Angel and co.  This actually saddens me quite a bit.  I think that Caritas was probably the best place for Lorne to be.  He got to do all of the things that he loved: helping people find their path in life, sing, and drink.  He was happy there.  Part of me wishes he'd remained at Caritas, but alas, the fates (writers) stepped in and dragged him into the epic battle between good and evil that is constantly waged by the Fang Gang.  In the process, he loses a lot of the nuance and great qualities of Season Two Lorne.  As fun as his character is to watch, he feels aimless and purposeless without Caritas.  The grand battles and epic showdowns of Seasons Three and Four really don't suit him, and it's very obvious he is out of place.  However, as I said in the beginning, his presence is still very welcome, simply for the fact that he brings such an upbeat quality to the dark happenings, and also because he is so much fun to watch.

One of the things that saddens me most about this is the missed opportunities.  They could have done so much with Lorne.  It's clear that Caritas is where he belonged.  Without it, he is clearly aimless.  The thing is, though, they could have made a story out of that.  A man who sets people on his path yet has lost his path himself.  I feel like there is loads of potential in that.  Yet they ignored it.  Instead, they have Lorne stick around for little to no reason at all, and essentially use him as a cheap plot device whenever they need to know something.  He goes from being a person who helps people find their purpose in life to little more than a human (well, demon) lie detector.  It's disappointing, really.

Then we come to Season Five.  I have to admit, the writers tried.  They really tried to make Lorne fit in.  Essentially, Season Five of AtS was a brand new show.  So they had a perfect opportunity to finally find an interesting place for Lorne.  Unfortunately, I would say that, for the most part, they failed.  For most of the Season, Lorne just seems to be useless.  They set him up as head of Wolfram & Hart's entertainment division, and I struggle to care about anything he does for much of the season.  It is very clear that the writers are far more interested in Spike, Gunn, and Wesley than they are in Lorne.  While I love those characters, I can't help but feel like Lorne kind of gets a little shafted.  Especially considering that Season Two Lorne would NOT be doing any of this.  It is very clear that Wolfram & Hart is the wrong place for them all, and it is no doubt not what The Powers want.  So why doesn't Lorne speak up during all of this.  Angel is having a crisis of faith that rivals his Season Two crisis, and this time Lorne isn't there to tell him he's not on his path anymore.  Cordelia eventually puts him on his path, not Lorne.  This all would be fine if they justified it: if they explained WHY Lorne isn't on his path anymore, or at least called attention to it.  But for most of Season Five, these issues are mostly ignored.

However, they finally started to address these problems at the end of the season.  When Fred is killed, Lorne is very shaken, perhaps moreso than anyone besides Wesley.  He starts drinking quite a lot and is just generally not his happy-go-lucky self much after that, even going so far as to threaten Eve.  By the final episode, he has realized that he isn't where he needs to be.  This has been true for several seasons at this point, but I'm glad that they finally acknowledge it here.  The way he chooses to spend his last day on earth breaks my heart.  He sings about how beautiful the world would be if he ruled it, and you can just see how lost he is in that scene.  As late as this revelation is, I'm so glad it happened, and it really is quite moving.  Here is a man who has only ever wanted peace: to live in the world and let others live and be happy.  Yet, he has seen far more violence and felt far more pain than he deserved.  As Lorne says in the final episode:
Hey, Angel, uh, I'll do this last thing for you--for us--but then I'm out, and you won't find me in the alley afterwards.  Hell, you won't find me at all.  Do me a favor.  Don't try.
Angel asks Lorne to kill Lindsey, and I honestly hate Angel for asking.  What a horrible thing to ask of him.  Lorne doesn't deserve that, and he shouldn't have to be a murderer.  Out of all the characters on Angel, I think Lorne got the most tragic ending.  I realize that people will cry out about Wesley and how tragic his death his.  I agree, Wesley's death is tragic.  But Lorne ends the series a hollow shell of the man he once was.  Everything he believes in is gone and he has been forced to do things he should never have had to do.  He was a peaceful man, and didn't deserve to be placed in such a horrible position.  Wesley lost his life, but Lorne lost his spirit.

LINDSEY: You really done with them?
LORNE: It isn't my kind of work anymore. It's unsavory.
LINDSEY: Gee, I think it's just getting interesting.
LORNE: Yeah, I bet you do.
LINDSEY: You don't trust me. You don't think a man can change?
LORNE: It's not about what I think. This was Angel's plan. 
LINDSEY: Come on. I could sing for you.
LORNE: I've heard you sing. (takes out a gun with a silencer and shoots Lindsey twice in the chest)
LINDSEY: (stumbling back, looking at his wounds, then at Lorne) Why—why did you...
LORNE: One last job. You're not part of the solution, Lindsey. You never will be.
LINDSEY: You kill me? A flunky?! I'm not just... Angel...kills me. You don't... Angel... (his rapid breathing comes to an end as his body goes limp)
LORNE: Good night, folks. (drops gun on floor as he walks out)
Thankfully, for us and for Lorne, the story doesn't end there.  The official continuation of AtS, Angel: After the Fall, brings Lorne back.  Beautifully written by Brian Lynch, I gladly accept it as canon (I can speak less for the Post-AtF stories.)

In Angel: After the Fall, Lorne plays a small but important part.  When Los Angeles is sent to hell, Lorne walks the streets, miserable and lost after killing Lindsey.  But when he comes across a group of humans fighting back against the demons, he is inspired and decides to help them.  He then become Lord of Silverlake, the only happy place in Hell-A.  With his influence, Silverlake is peaceful and free of the horrible things that are happening in the rest of the city.  He is happy again.  He has essentially created another Caritas and is finally where he belongs: a happy place, free from violence and pain, where he can help people.

Of course, Lorne doesn't stay uninvolved for long.  Angel is working hard to free Los Angeles from the grip of Wolfram & Hart, and he's going to need help from everyone.  For his part, Angel doesn't come to Lorne.  He respects that Lorne doesn't deserve to be mixed up in all of that.  Instead, Lorne sends for Angel, and manages to help him out in a critical time.

So Lorne's story ends happily.  He has found his path.

Final Thought:

  • Andy Hallet.  What can be said?  His heartfelt and beautiful performance as Lorne is what drew me to the character and I always enjoyed him.  He brought so much fantastic energy to the show, and it was clear from his first episode that he would become a fan favorite.  His subtle performance in the final episode was very affecting for me, and, as much as I feel the writers didn't know what to do with his character, I can't imagine the show without him.  From all accounts, he was a very kind and generous person.  He will be missed.  RIP

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting about Lorne. It has always bothered me that Angel got canceled after five seasons; this due to the fault mostly of network silliness and miscommunication between Joss Wheadon and execs. I can't believe they let the show get canceled.

    It still seems a crime to watch that final episode of Season 5 and not know what would have happened next. The fans deserved to have a complete series with a real ending. It is such a shame they will never get it.

    Back to Lorne and Andy Hallet's portrayal: he added so much to the show for me. I agreed with everything that you had to say. I still don't like that Angel had him kill Lindsey.

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    Replies
    1. Lorne and Andy both brough light to the show and some unforgottable moments like the Pylea arc.

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  2. Angel could of been soo much better if they had involved Lorne more, It's sort of sad that it's too late

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  3. I, LOVE THIS POST!! <3 <3
    Thank you very much..

    I found your post here, randomly by searching " Buffy demons" on googles pic seach..

    I love Joss Whedon aswell and your insisht into the universe is quite beatiful to take part of.

    (I have all Buffy seasons on DVD & recently I got the 1st season of Angel..)

    I'll start following your blog from now on!

    E-mail adress : TheEmille@live.com

    YoTube.. : http://www.youtube.com/user/LevLykligt

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  4. As a huge Lorne I can only agree with what you shared here some time ago...
    Buffy and ANngel stills making new fans, so awesome!!

    I have just built up my own Tribute Site to Andy, so maybe you wanna check it out.

    www.myandyhallettsplace.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete