Who Survived the Alley
By Malkin Grey
In My Spare Time, Lately...
... I find myself pondering "Not Fade Away," and the ever-entertaining question of who made it out of the alley, and who didn't. Given the the deliberately open nature of the series ending, you could make a plausible case for the survival of just about any set of characters, but that never kept a body from speculating yet.
I'm fairly certain, for example, that if anybody at all made it out alive/undusted, Spike was among the survivors. For one thing, that's just how he is -- he's like the cat-who-came-back in the song, the one who "just wouldn't stay away." (I'm fairly certain that if you asked Angel what two things would come crawling out of the rubble of a thermonuclear disaster, he'd tell you cockroaches and Spike.) From a thematic point of view, he's the only member of the gang -- except for maybe Illyria, but we'll get to her in a minute -- who didn't in some fashion choose to be tainted by Wolfram&Hart. Instead, he was pulled into the gang's orbit by the machinations of Eve&Lindsey, or by long-term schemes of the Senior Partners, or by the fortuitous interaction of those two sets of plans. For once, at least, he's a more-or-less-innocent party.
Plus . . . vamp. Hard to kill, at least compared to fragile humans.
Gunn probably didn't make it. He was fading fast when he showed up, and he was the last member of Angel's original AI Gang left alive. He'd taken Wolfram&Hart's deal not just once, but twice, and all of the others who took it are by that point either dead, like Fred and Wesley, or spiritually destroyed, like Lorne. I know that Angel was the one who signed the deal, but Gunn and the rest of the gang showed up for the limo ride all on their own. They took the tour and bit into the shiny red apple of temptation, and even before Angel inked the contract they showed every sign of liking the taste. Angel, at least, only took the deal as a way to save Connor; he wasn't rendered complaisant by the promise of lab space or library books or a "more than just the muscle" mind-meld with the Senior Partners' pet kittycat.
(The Wolfram&Hart deal, in thematic terms, has a lot in common with the Scooby Gang's decision to bring back Buffy. There's a primary mover -- in the one case, Angel; in the other, Willow -- but everybody is on board with it. And everybody who was involved in it, pays. Willow loses Tara, Xander loses Anya, and Anya and Tara are dead; Wesley is dead, Fred is dead, Gunn is dead or dying when last we see him, and Lorne has either lost or renounced his anagogic gift.)
Illyria, like Spike, could plausibly have made it out. Like him, she has the hard-to-kill advantage; also, as a former (if considerably diminished) God-King and Old One, she might still have unsuspected powers and abilities. And like him she is, in her own strange way, an innocent.
And then there's Angel. You could, thematically, write finis to his story right there in the alley, letting him end in one as he was made in one; you could with equal justification say that it would be more in keeping with the tone of the series for him to be left standing when the battle's over, but with all his human friends and surrogate family gone. It seems to be his fate only to be able to save those of his loved ones whom he's willing to let go -- Faith; Connor; Nina; Buffy.
Also . . . it's raining, there in the alley at the end, and rain in the Jossverse is usually a symbol of hope and redemption. Such a symbol, of course, can be read in a multitude of ways, from an indicator that the gang was going out fighting the good fight, all the way to shanshu. (In my opinion, Angel's signing away the shanshu, so that he was no longer doing good for the hope of its reward, was an act that rendered him more worthy of it, not less.)
So. Plenty of justification for all sorts of outcomes. Which means that I can happily read just about any post-NFA story that comes my way, and not have to suspend my disbelief any further than required by the original source material.
So I should have been working, the other day, and instead I found myself thinking back again to the AtS series-ender and the question of who, if anyone, made it out alive. And this time I came up with a list of what I think are all the possible outcomes (after discarding the ones that are duplicates except for the order of the items in the series):
Angel, Spike, and Illyria
Angel, Spike, and Gunn
Angel, Illyria, and Gunn
Angel and Spike
Angel and Gunn
Angel and Illyria
Spike and Illyria
Spike and Gunn
Illyria and Gunn
I'm fairly sure there's a mathematical formula for working this out -- I know that there's one for working it out when you're assuming that the order of the items is also significant -- but I did it by the strongarm method, which means that I didn't have the patience to work it out even further and see what the possibilities would be if I subdivided the Angel and Spike items into vampire Angel/shanshu'd Angel and vampire Spike/shanshu'd Spike.
Just looking at the list I've got, though, I can see that the fanwriters have covered most of them, but more of some of them than of others. Angel&Spike seems to be a popular one, as does Spike&Illyria. Gunn, however, doesn't get much post-NFA fanfic attention, probably because he's a top candidate on the Most Likely Not to Make It list, but possibly also because in the absence of the rest of the team it's hard to imagine him sticking around to enjoy the company of either Angel or Spike.
On the other hand -- and here's a plot bunny free to a good home -- it would be interesting to see a Gunn&Illyria fic where the two of them team up post-NFA on a quest through the Hell dimensions to rescue Wesley's soul. Het and/or slash content optional.
ETA: indri points out, in the comments:
You missed "Spike, Gunn and Illyria" which takes the total up to 16 possibilities.
The sum of the number of combinations of n things is 2 to the power n. Here n is 4, so 2^4=16.
Back to the Essays section