Friday, 18 March 2011

You Monster! Why Joss Whedon Kills.... Kill #11

He Killed Lindsay…!

Who Was He?

Lindsay Surname was a bizarrely long-running character on the show Angel, appearing in the first episode and sporadically returning every few months or so. Whilst a major character for seasons one and two, he vanished for large chunks of time afterwards and only reappeared a few times. Come the final season, however, Lindsay once again became a recurring character, appearing as one of the midway villains before being banished to Hell. Which, that happens quite often in Joss Whedon shows, so there was nothing to suggest that this wouldn’t be the end of the Cowboy Lawyer. Then, as a last-minute surprise, Lindsay returned and was recruited to help the heroes defeat the final villains. His morality switched one last time, and he became a hero for a while.

How Did He Die?

Well, then he got shot. After dispatching his allocated group of villains, he turned round to the one last happy character on the show – Lorne – and decided he was finally going to choose a side, and that side was going to be ‘good’. So then Lorne shot him, mortally wounding the guy and leaving him there to die in the room with all the other villains. Before dying, Lindsay expressed severe surprise that he was being killed by a “flunky” instead of Angel himself, and couldn’t believe that his existence didn’t factor into Angel’s plans whatsoever. Instead of being an important character in Angel’s life-story, Lindsay realised that he would get nothing more than a short footnote in the back of one of the indexes, and would soon be forgotten about entirely.

Lindsay is the first character we’re featuring in this list who was for the most part a villain, and he’s getting this honour for a very specific reason. Read on, fine fellows!

Why Did He Die?

Lindsay’s death occurred in the same episode as Wesley’s death – he was the last major character to die in the series proper. Although, we hear that some strange things have been happening in the comic series, but that’s not important because the comics haven’t been great and we don’t approve of 'canon' jumping across creative mediums. So it wasn’t to make the series finale more dramatic, because we’ve already got the death of a character who the audiences had been familiar with for about five-six years.

Instead, Lindsay’s death came about because Joss Whedon’s vision had become increasingly bleak by this point in time. Sarah Michelle Gellar, his muse for Buffy, had decided to stop doing the show in order to star in a series of unexceptional horror films; while his other show Firefly had just been cancelled after a season full of behind-the-scenes editorialising by idiot executives. Angel was cancelled despite a rise in viewing figures, and Joss was left with no television shows where once he had three simultaneously. In short, Joss’ creativity had been snuffed out for the time being, and he was blocked from doing anything. As a result the final season of Angel became darker and darker as it went along, which made for great television but also meant that the show had no more room for the ideas of lightness, or darkness.

There’s a line in season 4 of Buffy which says something along the lines of “there is no black or white. Only shades of grey.” That became true for much of Joss’ work, and many characters – even Buffy – stopped being a force for good but instead became part of a morally ambiguous universe where anyone can be snuffed out at any moment. Do you start to see the comparison we’re making? The characters represent Joss’ creativity. So as Joss can be stopped by the executives, so the characters can be stopped by Joss. Lindsay’s death did not affect Lindsay – he got a good final line, but it was an afterthought more than anything. The importance of his death was how it affected Lorne. Lorne, the sole remaining positive character after Fred was killed off, had the burden of handling most of the show’s humour for the final few episodes, but instead of being funny for the sake of making people happy, he started to make jokes to mask his own despair.

The act of killing someone – something Lorne had never done before – was shocking, because it marked the final breakdown of one of the most popular characters. In turn, it allowed Joss to showcase his world-view to the audience one last time. There was no black in his show. But then, by the end, there was no white. Even the most wholesome character could be corrupted, and Lorne’s defeat was the most painful moment of the episode. Lindsay’s death did more to help the villains than anything he did while he was alive.

Joss, You Monster! Rating: 9. We’re sorry you lost your shows, Joss! But you could always try to make a film?

1 comment:

  1. I've been informed that Lindsay's reign on the show was NOT bizarrely long-running. The reason he appeared so often is because he is, and I quote "hot". Which is good enough for me.