Sigh. Again, I must disagree.
I think Joss himself stated it best in an interview I read at some point in the past week or so. The message at the end of the episode is that Angel (and his crew) will ALWAYS be fighting. Right to the end. Whether that end is 5 minutes, 5 years, or 5 centuries after those final credits rolled. And that fact defines Angel far more than the Shansu Prophecy ever did.
Angel has never really been in this fighting evil thing for the possibility of "becoming a boy" -- he's been in it to fight evil. The becoming human thing was only ever a possible fringe benefit, something he fooled himself into thinking he wanted, to help motivate him. But it was never really the true "carrot". Any more than Buffy was.
So the resolution to the Shanshu Prophecy -- at least for Angel -- was the very fact that he gave it up willingly in favor of fighting evil.
And I thought the "going out with guns blazing" ending kicked ass. That's a classic Butch & Sundance ending there. (Or Thelma & Louise, if you're a girl.) It says the fight is more important than the winning. Is it a frustrating ending? Certainly. But on a primal level, for me, that made it all the more satisfying. More satisfying than the Buffy finale, which I felt wrapped up a little too neatly. I've gradually lost interest in wondering where the Scooby Gang is now -- but I'll always be wondering Angel's Avengers somehow managed to live through that battle against 40,000 demons.
And secretly, I believe they did.
GeekBoy, you are either my favorite new person, or my archnemisis in television!
You make some excellent points. I've actually stopped to think, and you're dead on about the value of the fight. Struggle is central to the Whedon world. And, in that respect, maybe it was the perfect ending.
However, on some level, I didn't watch the show to check on the progress of the fight. It was about the people, discovering how they moved forward in life. The family they had created. The humor they brought to horrid situations. For me, I enjoyed watching the personal struggles more than the apocolyptic ones. So, in that sense, I felt cheated by the ending, because it wasn't about the characters, but about the larger mission.
Though, I guess in some way, the mission is what kept them together, because it wasn't close to the same family-like vibe that the scoobies had in Sunnydale. If Buffy didn't have her cause, I believe she'd still have her friends. If Angel's Avengers didn't have their cause, would they even speak to each other?
Just rambling at this point, huh?
Oh, and one YAY for the episode: Conner's comments about inappropriately erotic moments.
You're certainly right that ending itself was less about the personal dynamics. Which is why I was glad that Joss took care to spend time on all the personal stuff throughout the episode. Connor clarifying for Angel what he was -- and wasn't -- to him. Gunn returning to his roots for the day, reminding himself how he got started on this path. Spike finally finding a rhyme for "effulgent". Allyria caring enough to "lie" to Wesley. And of course, Lorne caring enough to send all those tender bullets through Lindsey's body.
I guess I sort of feel there were so many personal resolutions throughout the episode that if the ending itself had been more resolute than it was, it would have felt far too "neat".
And don't fool yourself J.Go -- I am most certainly your archnemesis. You just better hope I don't start watching Alias. :)
And let us not forget Spike reading his Cecily poem at the slam and getting the props he so richly deserved - and craved. I would have loved "Angel" if only for returning the Spike I like to my TV screen.
I tend to agree with Geekboy that I thought the ending was appropriate. For me, it says the story isn't over - there are more stories to tell someday. And the fanwanker in me says Angel now has the power of the Senior Partners, so who knows what he's capable of. And maybe Lorne returns with a magic amulet and saves them all. It worked for Buffy against similar odds, right? The hellmouth, the First Evil - they seem just as big bad as the Black Thorn.
Comparing "Angel" to "Buffy" is hard, especially when the finales were very different. But one big difference for me is that I never felt betrayed by characterizations on "Angel." Everyone changed over time - sometimes a lot (Wesley), some not as much (Angel), but never was character I understood sacrificed to move a plot point (Buffy's plan is awful / Buffy's plan is brilliant / wait, it's the same plan) or artificially preserve a relationship that made no sense after a while(Buffy/Spike, Willow/Kennedy).
And in Angel, I liked that all the supporting characters got their turn to shine in the last half season. If only Xander and Willow got as much. I get the feeling a lot of what happened onscreen with "Buffy" had a lot to do with what was going on offscreen, a problem "Angel" didn't seem to have.
And Anya's sacrifice vs. Wes' ... Both sacrificed during the big fight. Anya deserved a bigger moment either during or after. I can't complain at all about how Wes was concluded - except that they killed my favorite boy.
Geekboy - I hadn't read your post when I posted, so we covered the same Spike ground.
I loved the episode and one reason was because it didn't remind me at all of the Buffy finale. I didn't feel cheated by the ending at all--it just made me cry (and boy did I cry) all the more.
I absolutely agree about not being betrayed by the characterizations--well, with the exception of one, which brings me to: I do think off-screen affected on-screen and the Cordelia Chase character was the victim. The awful way that character was treated, especially when you compare her death to (and the other character's reactions to) Fred's, remains one of the only really sour points to the series. Well, that and Spike and Fred: I don't care how much Joss tells me to love them, he never convinced me with actions that they were worthy of all that, so I didn't.
JC, I forgot about Cordelia! She's off my radar since her storyline was wrapped so early in the season. But I agree - off camera drove on camera.
I liked Cordy, but was never a huge fan. The "You're Welcome" ep did the character some justice to my way of thinking - at least the character had one more ep to shine in and got a fate. And I was never a fan of Angel/Cordy - it felt forced, and one of the reasons I adore S4 is that they abandoned it. Cordy/Connor was equally as hard to believe, but I fanwank it that Jasmine manipulated the situation. Cordy was over when she ascended.
But I can easily understand how the S3-5 treatment of Cordelia could burn up her fans.
I think Lorne was the great character surprise of the finale. People at TWOP have observed that his narration of "Spin the Bottle" takes on a whole new meaning now.
I just happened to run across a piece of dialogue as I was looking for something else today. It's a bit of a speech that Angel gives to Numero Cinco ...
"You made a difference in the lives you saved. And you did it because it was the right thing to do. Nobody asks us to go out and fight, put our lives on the line. We do it because we can, ’cause we know how. We do it whether people remember us or not, in spite of the fact that there’s no shiny reward at the end of the day, other than the work itself."
So there you have it -- from the mouth of Angel himself. I just thought that summed up the message of the finale far better than my previous ramblings did.