Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#9: Gunn

It's probably Gunn's curse to be a bit overlooked. In Angel, he's often downplayed as merely 'the muscle', despite having an impressive background and a commitment to 'the good fight' that arguably dwarfs everyone else's on the show, including the 'champion' Angel. In addition, in looking at the series at a whole, his contribution, and that of his actor J. August Richards, feel often inadequately recognised. Who, if asked which four characters on Angel had spoken the most dialogue on the show, would correctly label Gunn for number four?

Even Gunn's entry to the show, late in season one, feels understated - oddly, since it occurs in an episode primarily devoted to him. While Gary Campbell's "War Zone" makes a rather heavy-handed contrast between the poor street-dwelling vampire fighter Gunn, engaged in the netherworld because he needs to be to protect those close to him, and the Bill Gates-modelled David Nabbit, a billionaire dabbling in the netherworld out of boredom, Gunn is clearly the more interesting character, and his #3 finish here with 460 words falls behind her sister Alonna and Angel himself, with whom Gunn has a complex relationship throughout the series. Gunn appears in every episode from then on, though with only two episodes left, he's hardly a major contributor to the season.

Gunn takes a much more significant role in Season Two, coming fifth for the season with 6417 words, becoming a regular member of Angel Investigations and a central part of it during Angel's estrangement. Still, he gets few opportunities this season to truly shine, topping 400 words only twice: once with 1035 words (his highest word-count ever) but only a #2 finish in "First Impressions", the episode where Gunn really becomes a permanent team member, with Cordy tailing him out of fear for his life (the two contribute 56.6% of the entire script). The other time is a #1 finish in the estrangement-era episode "The Thin Dead Line", a confused episode about zombie cops set in Gunn's former neighbourhood.

Season Three features more of Gunn than Season Two, though he still feels largely like a minor character for a good deal of it. He finishes fifth again, with 7501 words. His romantic involvement with Fred brings a much-needed non-work aspect to Gunn's character, and as he played a particular role in keeping the gang together during Angel's estrangement, so he does again during Wesley's. "That Old Gang of Mine", the third episode of the season is a much-needed 'Gunn episode', resolving certain aspects of the duality of his life, confronting his former 'gang' as a full member of his new 'gang' (Angel Investigations). His 948 words give him a number one finish. After that, we go all the way to the final stretch of the season for two consecutive number-two finishes, one, "Double or Nothing" is most definitely his episode, in which the bargain he'd made seven years previously exchanging his soul for a truck comes back to haunt him, but he finished number two behind Fred, with 754 words. The next episode, "The Price", in which the Hyperion is infested by slug-like creatures and we finally meet teenage Connor, has Gunn at 667 words, partly through his concern as Fred becomes infected by one of the creatures.

While Season Four is so thoroughly caught up in its main plot that it might appear characters would be pushed to the wayside, it is very much 'Gunn's season'. He and Fred break up and he finds himself constrained by his role in Angel Investigations, but he's given such a chance to shine that he actually winds up at #3 for the season, behind only those two people who appear on the DVD box cover - and even at that, he's little more than a sentence away from #2, with 9103 words to Cordelia's 9111 (and by 'Cordelia', I mean all aspects of the 'Cordelia/Jasmine' character not played by Gina Torres). This expanded role becomes immediately apparent, as he gets a #1 ranking with 744 words in the season opener, "Deep Down", playing the 'alpha male' at Angel Investigations in Angel's absence. In the third episode, "The House Always Wins", he speaks 692 words for a #2 finish behind main character Lorne, and in the fifth, "Supersymmetry", he speaks 686 words for a #2 behind main character Fred and ultimately joins the rather large club of Buffyverse characters who have killed humans. By far, Charles's biggest chance to shine in the season comes in "Players", where he teams up with Gwen, who finished ahead of his 1006-word number-two finish. The two are good for 54.4% of the dialogue in what is otherwise a crucial episode of the evil-Cordelia plotline.

Season Five sees all of the characters changing their roles, but perhaps none so much as Gunn, who is transformed into a cunning attorney with much more moral ambiguity that we have seen in him to date. 7841 words represents a drop in a character-filled season, but he still finishes a respectable fourth. Despite this, there are no real 'Gunn episodes' this season, as he in many ways returns to being a dependable but apparently inessential team member. The legal knowledge implanted into Gunn's head becomes the main aspect of his storyline, and when it starts to fade, his attempts to get it back lead indirectly to Fred's death. Much of the remainder of Gunn's season is spent atoning for that action. He gets no #1 finishes, finishing #2 only in season opener "Conviction" with 681 words and again, surprisingly, in "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" with 764 words, ahead of Numero Cinco himself.

His role in "Not Fade Away", the series finale, is understated: 285 words and number four. In the very final scene, Gunn is alive and kicking, about to go into the battle that Angel's team's actions have unleashed, but he has wounds that Illyria describes as mortal. More than any other character in the Buffyverse, his status as the series ends is unclear. It's resolved in the comic book series, where, unexpectedly, he dies and is turned into a vampire, but when Angel says "Let's go to work" and the credits role, Gunn is still alive, valiantly supporting Angel and selflessly fighting the good fight with no consideration for whether he lives or dies. Just as he always did.
  • Overall ranking: #9
  • Ranking on Angel: #4
  • Total words spoken on Angel:31,598
    • Season 1: 736
    • Season 2: 6417
    • Season 3: 7501
    • Season 4: 9103
    • Season 5: 7841
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 91
    • Ranking #1: 3
    • Ranking #2: 8
    • Ranking #3: 10
    • Ranking #4: 12
    • Ranking #5: 14
    • Minor: 44
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