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October 29 2008

(SPOILER) Discuss Spike: After the Fall #4. The conclusion to the four issue mini-series is here.

I just re-watched Innocence last night and it was pointed out to me that the Judge existed for one all-important reason. As he reaches to burn Angel in front of Spike and Drusilla, he pulls back and says, "This one cannot be burnt...he is clean. There's no humanity left in him." That was how we, the audience, *knew* that Angel was truly gone. Angel was soulless. Angel was evil. That's why the Judge existed - to prove that Angel had gone evil.

So what's the point?

The sadecki demon in Spike: After the Fall exists for an all-important reason and it's groundbreaking. To me, it's heartbreaking. Yes, she exists to control Non's "Girl Power Yay" army, but that's just plot mechanics. That's not important and it's not why she really matters. The real reason we need the sadecki demon is to tell us, the audience, one all-important revelation: Fred is truly gone.

Non says what we the audience believed, "[Illyria's] time-sharing with a human." We thought maybe there was still a piece of Fred inside and that the Hell-A environment was allowing Fred to break free a bit. But no, that's wrong. The sadecki demon shatters that belief the way the Judge broke our hope that Angelus was still Angel - "She wants it! She's trying to force it...But there's nothing left but Illyria." It's all Illyria, all the time. She wants "it", she wants humanity, she wants the Fred-facade to be genuine. But she can't force it. That's not Fred we're seeing, but a confused and fractured Illyria struggling to establish her identity yet shackled by the remnants of the shell she embodies.

"It's scary. I know - " Illyria wearing Fred's face tells us. And I had to stop reading because I felt this tightening in my chest when I realized that was it. That was the end of Fred. Except the true end was from A Hole in the World. And this hope which sprung from the confusion that maybe that *was* Fred inside Illyria, this hope that I wish I didn't have, this hope was shattered. It hurt.

It good. That was painful to read and painful to realize and come to grips with. But damn it was good. And dammit Brian Lynch for making me believe maybe that was Fred. I should have known you were playing with us, but my heart wanted her back.

And the hits just keep on coming as Spike's journey ends on a tragic note. In the beginning of this four-issue adventure, he's trying to find his way as a hero. He thinks about Angel and Buffy as examples, he tries to save the humans of this city and protect Illyria. But in the end, he rejects being the hero of Hell-A. His innocents were sucked into unliving husks of their former selves and he couldn't protect them. He killed the villain and freed all the women who were mind-coerced into fighting for Non, but he still wasn't the hero because he slipped. A slip of the tongue and he lost his lieutenant, Jerry. Spike thought he could save the innocents of Hell-A and protect Illyria while aiming her dangerous self against the denizons of hell. That plan didn't go so well. Spike's plans never work out the way he wants them to.

So now we have Spike, the bitter anti-hero. Who can no longer shout out 'I saved the world' because he lost his flock. He burned their remnants to ashes in Non's prison and he buried his hope of being a hero with Jerry. Enter the hedonistic Lord of Beverly Hills with "no sodding attachments". He's here to pick a fight and kill some demons, but don't ask him to care. It hurts too much.
I have my copy too and this does seem to give the final answer on the whole Fred/Illyria thing.Pretty sad.

Also sad is Jerry's fate.I was expecting Jeremy to be killed by the end of this since he's not around in Angel:ATF but it was still powerful the way it was done and the manner was unexpected.And it was very in character I think for Illyria to do it too.
I'm glad to see this thread posted, I was worried that the lack of it meant people weren't following this Spike series, which would be a shame because it is amazing! I love the way Brian Lynch writes Spike, and the way Urru draws him! This has been an awesome series giving us Spike's POV of hell (and Spike's POV is always very unique and worth getting to see). I love 'Angel: After the Fall', but I really adore 'Spike: After the Fall'! I hope that Brian Lynch will be enticed into writing some future Spike comics, because I never get tired of them.
A great end to a great series. I agree that the final confirmation on the Illyria/Fred situation hurt, even though I knew that was the case all along.

Also, Jerry's death was handled spectacularly. Simply wonderful.
Won't have mine til Friiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiday. On the one hand, I knew the Fred thing "had to be" a fraud or a fugue. On the other, it's definitely Turkish-prison-style "You're wife's here to visit; no she's not!" mental torture. (Egotistical sidenote; it allows me to still do what I was planning in my ficverse, involving doing a spin-off....)

As to Spike himself, I think the pants of an anti-hero fit him better than standard heroics. As to the heartbreaking aspects involved in getting him there, well, hasn't that been the standard in this over-all series all along?
He's here to pick a fight and kill some demons, but don't ask him to care. It hurts too much.

That sounds an awful lot like Angel in Season 2, doesn't it? When he went dark and killed all those lawyers?
That sounds an awful lot like Angel in Season 2, doesn't it? When he went dark and killed all those lawyers?

Oh absolutely, Giles_314. Spike's rejecting any human contact because he's afraid if he gets close, they'll die. Or maybe they'll die anyway, but at least if he keeps his distance it won't make him vulnerable.

Just wanted to add, the end of this issue was very Batman-esque. It felt like Spike!Batman and Connor!Robin were jumping off that building getting ready to hunt down the villains of Hell-A!Gotham. All Spike needed was a grappling hook to go along with his billowing black leather jacket!cape.
Yeah, I got Batman vibes also. He isn't (and never was) the traditional hero in the standard Angel style, but that doesn't mean he isn't fighting for the good guys.

I really enjoyed Spike: After the Fall. It made me want another spin off featuring the adventures of Spike and Connor kicking butt together!
First, great post above Emmie.

Second, I quite enjoyed the run of Spike. Some points that haven't been addressed yet...

...Connor needs help learning how to fight? Where did his upbringing in a hell dimension go? Sure, he temporarily forgot that part of his life, but the last season showed that once he got those memories back, he remembered all his fighting badness. I was kind of thrown for a loop on that one.

...was there something to the absence of his "electric lady and Missus Werewolf" ? He acted like they were supposed to show up at any moment, but they never appeared.

...Non's last words summarized, "We don't make it to the final chapters." Yerm. So is Non full of it or is Spike left with a forewarning that he will eventually die?

...and other stuffs.

The killing of Jeremy was a brilliant piece of Illyria writing. It really pleases me to no end how well Lynch, in my opinion, is capturing the voices and getting into the heads of the characters from the show. Connor also continued to pick up the mantle of his father, in this issue stating the line, "Helping the hopeless."

As per the Batman comments, I suppose it's not that surprising, as there have been Batman overtones in Angel since the beginning (quite blatant in the first season or so).
Posted my review here. Well -- I'll just copy and paste it.

Amazing. This actually beats Issue 3 as my favourite Spike: After the Fall issue.

What's been remarkable about this series from the start is that it's not just pointless fanservice (which could have been an option for a lesser writer than Brian, since people would have bought the series even if it was just "88 pages of Spike sitting around shirtless, chained up, snarking about Angel and thinking passionate and inspiring thoughts about his one true Slayer love", as King of Cretins put it) -- but in fact, Spike: After the Fall informs the main Angel: After the Fall series in many, many ways, and this issue more than any other. Brian called it a "game-changer", in that "it will make you look at all the other ATF issues that have come out in a different light", so I will assume this is the final word on a much-debated subject...

Fred is dead, has been dead all along. What we've been watching all this time... is Illyria.

The Sadecki demon functions much in the same way as the Judge in Innocence, like very accurately pointed out, or -- I will add -- Drogyn in A Hole in the World. A character who drains humanity to tell us that there's no humanity in Angelus. A character who can tell no lies to tell us that there's no way to save Fred. And now a character who can influence any lifeform, to tell us the nature of Frillyria's lifeform. "There's nothing human about her. She wants it! She's trying to force it... but there's nothing left but -- Illyria."

Needless to say, this is huge for Illyria's character, and immeasurably more interesting than the alternative (Fred body-sharing with Illyria) would have been. She wants it. She's trying to force it. This from the character who disparaged humanity and all its associated weaknesses every chance she got, when she first appeared in the series.

Now that the cat's come out of the bag, her transformations to Fred break your heart and creep you out by turns; you've got moments to remind you how far she's come, like her wobbly, vulnerable "It's scary, I know --" (nailed, I mean nailed by Franco), and moments to remind you that she may wear Fred's face, but she's still Illyria, like her straight-faced "You told me, Spike. No-one... matters... but... me."

So -- and again, this is only applicable if this is the final say on the mystery, as most people believe (and as Brian has led us to believe) -- Wesley had it right. ("She's confused by Gunn's sudden re-appearance, so she's doing what Fred would have done when she didn't understand something. She has no idea what to look for but it's making her feel better.") He knows them both so well. Spike, on the other hand, seems to be in denial about the whole thing, which, very in-character for him. He feels like he's protecting Fred like he couldn't protect her in A Hole in the World, or Dawn and consequently Buffy in The Gift (as James Marsters said: "In my own mind, I killed her. ... I failed up there completely. I was supposed to protect her and Dawn, and I absolutely failed." ... "Big time guilt about that. Huge").

Not surprisingly, all the best scenes in this issue are Illyria-centric, and they're all -- and this is a compliment I don't give out lightly, so savour it while it lasts -- as good as anything that's been done with her in the televised series. Until this issue, I honestly didn't think that could be done. At any rate: topping the list are the two aforementioned moments, along with the scene of Illyria "strengthening their flock" by ensuring Jeremy's "absence". Ouch. We all expected Jeremy to die, at least in the back of our minds, but no-one could have imagined he would die in this manner. Further proof that death doesn't have to be "gratuitous" in this 'verse, as some readers seem to be complaining these days -- not when it gives the remaining characters (like Illyria and Spike here) such huge moments. Bring on the delicious pain, Brian. (Illyria's "Tell me I was right to do it" plea, followed by that haunting panel of Jeremy's dead body, makes for one of the most shocking character deaths in the whole 'verse -- and here we thought it would be among the most predictable ones!)

I loved Spike in this issue, too. The Spike-Connor rapport was funny and adorable; he's definitely the boy's "cool uncle" in this weird family dynamic. (Can we get a dream sequence with Angel, Darla, Connor and Spike playing Scrabble together, pretty please?) Spike swearing off "attachments" on account of what happened to his previous attachments, most recently Jeremy, was very sad and believable, too. His affair with Spider makes even more sense when viewed from that perspective, although I'm not surprised to see he's become a little more attached than he had intended to. (This issue is not likely to improve people's opinion of her, by the way, with the Charmed reference. *g*)

Also, this is not likely to interest anyone but me, but... what is up with Spike and musicals? LOL! He appears to be acquainted with "My Fair Lady" ("By George, I think he's got it!"), "The Music Man" (The day you suss out what you do want, there'll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones"), "Les MisÚrables" ("Trust me, halfway through the first act, you'll be drinking humans again"), and now "Starlight Express". No wonder he gets along with Lorne. (Loved that little nod, by the way. Canonize Asylum and Shadow Puppets already!)

Also loved that the Hugh Hefner jokes that had been running rampant in the forums for months were made textual. Hee!

Franco has a lot to do with the awesomeness of this issue, too, since he did some of his best work here. The first panel featuring the Sadecki, the "nothing human about her" Illyria panel, the "It's scary, I know --" Illyria-as-Fred panel, Jeremy's death and Spike's reaction to it, the time-travel sequence, that simplistic and simultaneously loaded panel of Illyria-as-Fred holding her hand... wow. I didn't like the colouring, but I've gotten used to not liking it by now, so it didn't really detract from my enjoyment.

The only thing I can think of that took me out of the moment was Connor's "Feed you, how? Like, a date? Because that is inappropriate and ill-timed, and I kinda like someone else", which seemed... inappropriate and ill-timed. ;) Oh, and I thought the last few pages moved a bit slowly. However, these things were barely a blip in my radar compared to the Good Stuff, so I give it...

This has been a great series, and the comments here are mucho insightful.
RebelAt, I was wondering the same about Connor this issue. When he showed up in #3, I fully expected some kung fu mastery to be laid down, but instead he spends this comic basically being bounced around from bad chick to bad chick. The best I could explain it is that it's just the transitional Connor from when we saw him in First Night being unsure of what to do and confused about his role in the grand scheme of things to where he gets to be later on in After the Fall, which is back to "the Destroyer" (or whatever his nickname was) but for the good guys. Maybe the combo of getting his memories back and the disorientation of being thrown back into a hell made it so that he wasn't as initially ready to hit the ground running as someone like Spike, which is why they compliment each other in my opinion.

Also, Non's comments were about what she was told by Gunn, which he got from his "visions" which we know now were not real. For all we know, Spike could make it out of hell somehow while everyone else is left behind.
Spike/Connor bonding! I kept giggling at the 'smile' bit. Aww. It made all the angst so much sweeter. I am with Connor, HOW is it that everyone knows who he is? I can't wait to find out if this is W&H's way of breaking all agreements with Angel or something else all together.

ETA: Jeremy: A Friend. I had to reread those pages just to relive the 'ouch'. Beautiful agony for all concerned.

[ edited by Mirage on 2008-11-02 14:44 ]
Oh damn. I just read it and hadn't stopped to think about the fact that we hadn't seen Jeremy in Angel ATF. Ow.

And the posts above are good. The triumph and tragedy of Spike, all at once, has always been that he's a lot more like Angel than he either wants to see or can see. Angel has let enough people down, has messed up many times and been hurt like hell by the consequences, but all Spike can see is the always-successful Angelus, or even the always-the-leader Angel. And yeah, Spike has a lot of areas where he's actually better than Angel, but he totally misses the part where they have anything in common worth sharing. I guess that's necessary since it makes the moments where they half-glimpse it worth having.

Oops, this is beginning to sound a bit dodgy. Not what I meant - I just live for characters seeing parts of themselves in other characters.

[ edited by skittledog on 2008-11-02 23:37 ]
Okay so I'm glad I read these comments. I think I'd went into denial about the Fred thing. I just read Spike 4 and AtF 13 in quick succession, and the line about Spike not making it totally set me up for AtF, and the stuff dealing with Frillyria and her vulnerability in Fred form totally sets you up for the ending of AtF. Brilliantly timed. And all made so that we don't know who's alive by the time Buffy S8 is happening.

Brian found a way for me to care about Jeremy's death. I was sad for Jerry (obviously), for Spike, and for Illyria. Illyria begging Spike to tell her she was right to do it, like she'd done what was natural and realized it was wrong...that was a demon god's version of Anya's breakdown in The Body. The demon trying to understand, trying to be a person, but how being a person just doesn't make sense.

I revise my statements about Fred being a part of Illyria. However, even though I think "Fred" is completely gone, I say Illyria has Fred's soul as her own, now. And the less demon there was, the more the soul affected Illyria's judgment. But, if you kill the Fred, and the soul goes with it....

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