Bet you weren’t expecting me to start with Mr. McDonald, huh? While Lindsey was, at best, under-utilized this season and, at worst, superfluous, his role in the finale is still critical to how I understand this series. Angel had many foils over the show’s run but Lindsey worked best because he wasn’t “evil.” Selfish, callous, and power-hungry? Sure, but Lindsey never enjoyed the work he did for Wolfram & Hart, even turned on the firm when it went “too far.” Lindsey was a basically good person trying to get ahead in a bad world. It’s why the firm wanted him so badly. It’s why he had to die.
Angel’s decision to kill Lindsey shouldn’t sit easy with viewers. The means aside (I’ll deal with that next week), Lindsey isn’t a threat to anyone right now; his scheme failed, he’s Angel’s prisoner & his advisor on the Senior Partners, he helps take out the Circle, even offers to sing for Lorne. And this isn’t the first time he’s been on the side of the Angels. He saved the seer children in season one and shut down the organ farm in season two. Even his most recent evil scheme was more about taking down the head of W&H than causing any harm to the world. Lindsey would seem to be a fine example of the sort of soul Angel should be saving, a man with great capacity for both good and evil. So why kill him?
The answer is buried in Lindsey agreeing to join Angel’s cause. These two have always had great chemistry together and this scene is a nice callback to their interplay over the years:
Angel: You haven’t heard a word I’ve said. From, like, years back.
Lindsey: Well, you get a little speechy, alight? And I breeze out. I got the Cliff Notes – honour and humanity. Absolute good. I heard it. So here’s the plot twist: I’m in.
Lindsey: Everybody goes on about your soul. Vampire with a soul. Nobody ever mentions the fact that you’re really a vampire with big brass testes. This is gonna be a circus. I mean, win or lose, you’re about to pick the nastiest fight since mankind drop-kicked the last demon out of this dimension. And that you don’t do without me. If you want me, I’m on your team.
Boreanaz is at his best when he listens to Lindsey’s response. Watch closely and you’ll see him make his decision. Lindsey needs to die because he’s still not fighting for the right reasons. Angel’s pitch is less about recruiting another warrior to his cause than it is about saving another of those oh-so-important souls. He gives Lindsey the big speech about “honour and humanity and absolute good” and it falls on deaf ears. Lindsey’s not fighting for what’s right, he’s fighting for himself. Whether he’s enticed by Angel’s promise that he’ll get to take over the firm or he’s just sincere in his desire to kick some demonic ass, there’s nothing redemptive in Lindsey’s motives.
Angel needs to kill Lindsey for the same reason that Holland let him live; Lindsey McDonald is a trueborn son of Wolfram & Hart. It was true when he struggled to climb the corporate ladder. It was true all those times he defied them. And it’s true even as he agrees to take out the “Senior Partners’ instrument on Earth.” Lindsey hates the firm but that doesn’t stop him from embracing its ideology. He defies them to save some children, “very admirable,” but that doesn’t stop him from accepting a promotion from them; I’ll work for you, but assign the child-murdering projects to someone else. He destroys their organ harvesting operation, but only upon learning that he knew one of the victims; I’ll keep the evil hand, but you can’t have any more of his parts. Consistently, Lindsey fights the firm only to the extent that it impacts him. He is, essentially, the type of Wolfram & Hart employee that Angel became.
But… Angel’s a hero! 1) Not according to Angel he’s not & 2) Look at Angel’s time at Wolfram & Hart. He spends exhaustingly long days working for clients he hates in a place he hates more. He’s forever compromising his values for the big picture and, whenever he does take a stand against the firm, it’s only just enough to satisfy his conscience without compromising its objectives. He goes home feeling depressed and dirty and is never quite able to wash his hands of the place. Sound familiar?
The parallels between these two not only explain why Angel needed to kill Lindsey, they provide an explanation for why Lindsey tried to kill Angel. The last thing he says to Angel before his exit in season two is not to be play Wolfram & Hart’s game, suggesting that, at that point, he recognizes that there are alternatives. Angel’s altruism isn’t for him, so Lindsey removes himself from the field. Imagine his surprise/dismay/outrage when he learned that his nemesis not only started playing the game but, apparently, won. Angel has the position Lindsey always coveted and, worse, he’s handling it in much the same way Mr. MacDonald would; minimizing bloodshed, helping who he can, making evil play as nice as possible. Now that Angel’s demonstrated that such a role is possible at the firm, of course Lindsey wants back in.
The key difference between them is that Angel’s not in it for himself; where Angel wants to help the helpless, Lindsay is merely committed to not being one of them. Individualist have as much cause to fight the power as altruists do and Angel’s correct when he says that he and Lindsey have been fighting the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart “forever,” but fighting them isn’t enough when your only motive is self-interest; as often as Lindsey finds himself at odds with the firm, his motives are really just another expression of its ethos. The specific acts he’s committed against W&H aren’t relevant so long as he allows himself to be a part of the harsh, cruel world they’re perpetuating. He’s given this one last chance to prove he’s capable of fighting for something other than himself and he fails miserably. Whether he just wants to be part of the “circus” or if he genuinely hopes to weasel his way to the top of the firm doesn’t matter. He’s not part of the solution.
I’m not going to restrict myself to the individual characters in these final-final thoughts. Instead I’ll just offer the usual stray observations that came while writing but didn’t make it into the main post.
“Not Fade Away” is the perfect finale. As I’ve said before on this blog, the job of a season finale is to put an exclamation point on what’s come before. That task’s far tougher for a series finale and doubly so when trying to cap off a show as complex as Angel. And so when I say that “Not Fade Away” is perfect, I don’t mean that there’s nothing to quibble over in the episode (although, there’s barely anything worth noting), I mean that it perfectly encapsulates everything this series was about. They nailed it, plain and simple.
I want you Lindsey… I’m thinking about rephrasing that.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Angel/Eve sexual tension had actually worked, leading to a welcome callback to Angel/Darla/Lindsey. Oh well, let’s all close our eyes and think of Lilah.
You kill me… a flunky?!?
Speaking of Eve, her relationship with Lindsey was almost enough to make me sympathize with the character. Almost… Okay, not really, but it was a refreshing glimpse of humanity for the character and I really like the fact that she recognizes the dangers of working with Angel (and Lorne) when Lindsey doesn’t.
The schedule for the long goodbye to Angel will be a bit sporadic, though I’ll try to keep it to at least one per week. Up next, Lindsey’s executioner.