Monday, July 19, 2010

#10: Fred

Anybody looking for proof that Angel was not just your average run-of-the-mill hour-long drama need look no further than the character of Fred. I can't imagine which other TV show would create such a unique character. Or alternately which actor, other than Amy Acker, could inhabit the character so completely and bring her to life so endearingly. Technically, her first appearance is in Shawn Ryan's “Belonging”, the last epsisode of Season Two to be set entirely in LA, though it's only in photos and flashbacks: she never says a word. It's easier, then, to see her début as occurring in Mere Smith's “Over the Rainbow”, where she says 176 words. From those early appearances as a half-insane vagabond on the run from the authorities in the hell dimension of Pylea, through her amazing evolution into the self-confident scientific mastermind of Wolfram & Hart in the first half of Season Five, the character inspires nothing so much as a kind of unconditional love. It's impossible not to love Fred, as becomes apparent in the Season Five episode “A Hole in the World”, where the essence of the 'Old One' Illyria, brought to Wolfram & Hart by Knox and through Gunn's accidental agency, enters her body and kills her. That episode and the ones that follow show a mourning for her loss unequalled in five death-filled seasons of Angel. Fred occupies a unique spot on the show as the single character whose loss affected the team greatest.

Fred says only 920 words in Season Two, since, as with Gunn a season before, she's introduced only at the tail-end of the season. She's in only three episodes, in Pylea, reaching the top five only with season finale “There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”, where her 495 words get her a number three finish.

She comes back to LA with the team, taking residence in the Hyperion Hotel while slowly readjusting to life in the human world. It's touch-and-go whether she'll become a regular member of the team, but by the end of the season, she's well entrenched in her new role, central to the team and dating Gunn as well. Rather shockingly, she jumps all the way up to number three for this season, meaning she speaks more words than everyone else on the show that season save two characters. The 8984 word-count is also as high as she ever got. Though that run contains 10 minors, three number-fives and six number-fours, it does also contain fully three number-one finishes, 1343 words (her largest count ever) in the eponymous “Fredless”, where we meet her family and she becomes a permanent member of the team, and two back-to-back number-ones, 754 words in “Forgiving” and 1022 words in “Double or Nothing”, a Gunn episode, where he still speaks almost three hundred words fewer than his girlfriend.

Season four features Fred and Gunn's breakup, but otherwise there's not that much for Fred to do until the Jasmine mini-arc at the end of the season. As with the Pylea mini-arc, Fred's character shines in the multi-episode format. She starts off well, with two number twos at the beginning of the season, 730 words in “Deep Down” as effectively half of the understaffed Angel Investigations and a surprising 669 words in 'Gwen episode' “Ground State”. Episode number five of the season is a 'Fred episode', “Supersymmetry”, where the story of her expulsion to Pylea is tied up and Fred and Gunn's revenge on the professor who sent her there puts a permanent wedge in their relationship. At 30.5% of the whole script, her 1138 words are well-earned.

Its mostly the shadows from then on until Jasmine. In “Shiny Happy People” she's second only to Jasmine herself (the two characters combine for 59% of the episode's dialogue) and in “The Magic Bullet”, she's second to none, albeit with a surprisingly low 557 words (the third-lowest number-one-ranking word count in the series). All in all, if the Jasmine 'epic' is considered as a single episode, Fred ranks #2, behind Jasmine herself but ahead of Angel himself. All in all, in Season Four, Fred finishes fourth with 8801 words.

Numerologists might be intrigued that Fred finished third in Season Three, fourth in Season Four and, you guessed it, fifth in Season Five. 6857 words is a drop, but one must remember that her character dies in this season. For the remainder of the series, Illyria walks around in Fred's 'shell', played of course also by Amy Acker. If we considered Fred and Illyria to be the same person, and we shouldn't, a total of 9453 words would only raise her to number four. “A Hole in the World” is the episode of her death; 33 words spoken in a dream of Wesley's are credited post-mortem to her, but none of Illyria's experiments with the body (colour) or voice of Fred count. “A Hole in the World” is a comfortable number-one finish, at 826 words, but her other number-one and number-two finishes this season are all in support of other people: “Unleashed”, at 907 words and number one, is a Nina episode. “Hellbound”, at 909 words and number two, is a Spike episode. And “Harm's Way”, at 700 words and number two, is Harmony's episode. Her willingness to play sidekick might explain that crowd around her deathbed, and might explain why not loving Fred is about as perverse a response to the TV show Angel as one could imagine.
  • Overall ranking: #10
  • Ranking on Angel: #5
  • Total words spoken on Angel: 25,562
    • Season 2: 920
    • Season 3: 8984
    • Season 4: 8801
    • Season 5: 6857
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 63
    • Ranking #1: 7
    • Ranking #2: 5
    • Ranking #3: 4
    • Ranking #4: 11
    • Ranking #5: 6
    • Minor: 30
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