The Immortal and the Antihero

“Is Buffy home yet?”

Antiheroes are sexy. They are roguish free spirits that take what they want, live for themselves, and always come out on top. They are unshackled by the chains of morality, and they don’t spout some crotchety evil agenda to everyone within earshot. At least, that’s how writers want you to see antiheroes. Antiheroes tend to be a lot of things, but mostly they are just stupid. I’m not saying the antihero as a concept is stupid, I am saying that how they have been portrayed has generally been ridiculous. People who do whatever they want without regard for any guiding principles are just assholes. When you slap on the moniker of “antihero”, they suddenly become acceptable as heroic figures, with assassins (people that murder for cash) often being portrayed as agents of justice. One of the things that made Breaking Bad so amazing was its ability to see through that bullshit. Walter White did the things most antiheroes are known for; he acted selfishly (as much as he’d like to deny it) and thought mostly of himself. Yet there was nothing glossy about the whole enterprise and the audience knew that because of how ugly things got for Walt by the end. While Breaking Bad’s Walter White taught us the ugly truth about antiheroes, Angel‘s “The Immortal” taught us to laugh at them.

The Immortal is a character featured in the season 5 episode of Angel known as “The Girl in Question”. It follows the titular Angel, and his frenemy Spike (two vampires with a soul) as they trek through Italy on assignment, but with their focus entirely consumed by what their morally ambiguous nemesis The Immortal is doing with their old flame (Buffy Summers); who they are mortified to learn is now dating The Immortal. What follows is a hilarious adventure that lampoons several common tropes that are prevalent within their own universe. The often cheese ball romance between Buffy and these two men, the ” line” between good and evil, and the very premise behind the show itself are all fair game here. Spike’s signature black coat being destroyed during the course of the episode is symbolic of the theme that nothing was considered too sacred to trash during this hour.

The Immortal himself is an exaggeration parodying many of the common tropes associated with antiheroes. He’s unbelievably handsome, skilled in the art of combat, charismatic, womanizing yet somehow on great terms with the numerous women he’s bedded; and of course, he is never truly on the side of either good or evil. His presence dominates the episode he was in, yet he never actually makes any appearance. The most we see of him is the back of his head since he’s always out of reach for our heroes and always one step ahead. His enigmatic persona, and his impossible perfection mock so many aspects of the show itself. The frivolousness (and the fetishization in some cases) of his moral ambiguity are a riff on the nature of both Angel and Spike, his relationship with Buffy, and Angel and Spike’s childish reaction to it tear down the illusion of the “sacredness” of their love lives, and his increasingly impossible accomplishments expose an inherent absurdity in a universe that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

Angel loves Buffy. Spike loves Buffy. In most other episodes of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its kick ass spin-off Angel, this fact is taken extremely seriously. Both these men have dark pasts, grappled with what it means to be good and evil, and had strong romantic desire for the “Girl In Question”, Buffy Summers. They are vampires with souls, who love to sport dark colours and live in the shadows. When you get right down to it, these guys aren’t as different as they’d like to think they are (Buffy certainly does have a type), yet they constantly bicker about small details regarding who is “better” and who should end up with Buffy. Pointing out specific embarrassing incidents, throwing personal jabs, and being at each other’s throat for every little thing are just some of the things these two are up to when they’re together.

Angel, having an air of superiority over Spike who he feels is a dumb brute, while Spike finds Angel to be arrogant and too thickheaded to understand the things that surround him. The wonderful part about all of this being that they both have a lot of the traits they attribute to each other in themselves, which makes them uniting in their hatred for The Immortal all the more humorous. The truth is, The Immortal is just all the dumbest anti hero tropes taken to the extreme, which Angel and Spike both represent to an extent, which makes their utter contempt for the man hilarious.

Because we see The Immortal through Angel and Spike’s eyes, we can easily grasp how-full-of shit his existence is; however, the infuriated reaction the two vampires have to him differs a great deal from the laughter he draws from viewers. The Immortal should never be forgotten because he taught us to laugh at antiheroes in an age where people were putting them on a pedestal. He also created a scenario where Angel and Spike ended up repeatedly asking at the door if “Buffy was home”, and memories like that are forever. Watching these two otherwise “badass antiheroes” get reduced to immature teenagers because of the presence of a “mega” version of themselves is priceless. The Immortal’s name is an apt one, because his brief stint on Angel is something that will last forever within the minds of anyone whose experienced him for themselves.

Quotes on The Immortal:

“I mean, he’s not some common vampire. He’s—I don’t know what he is. A giant. A titan straddling good and evil, serving no master but his own considerable desires.” – Darla

“She’d never fall for a centuries-old guy with a dark past who may or may not be evil.” – Angel

The Immortal does not need men like me to do his business. He is a wild card, a wolf removed from the pack, a stallion without, uh, the bridle.” – Alfonso

“… And spiritual. Did you know he spent 150 years in a Tibetan monastery? Which I guess explains all the desire…” – Darla

“Ah, The Immortal. Ah. Then your friend is lucky. Ha ha. I have had dealings with The Immortal many times, and I must say that the outcome is always… most satisfactory.” – Ilona

“Cast by the vilest wretch this side of Mount Everest. Which… I’m told he has climbed… several times.” – Spike

“No, no, no, no. Well, OK, yes. But if anything, he’s more of a, uh, inspiration, a spiritual guide. Have you read his book? It’s a life changer.” – Alfonso after being asked if he was in love with The Immortal.

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