Again, I warn thee: here there be SPOILERS!
Noticing a trend with my Monday Man/Wednesday Woman theme, eh? Yes. I thought I noticed you noticing. I’m building up to the big finish, gentle viewers. Fear not. Stay with me.
Cordy. I’m sitting here with a strange little look on my face. I can feel my cheek and lip in a different position than usual just at the mention of her name. She brings back so many funny little memories, no?
When we first meet Cordelia Chase, she is the classic high school bitch. (And lest you doubt my choice of label, just ask her. She’ll tell you. See “Rm w/ a Vu”) She takes to Buffy when she finds that Buffy’s from L.A. and can spot a designer bag, but Buffy doesn’t reciprocate when she witnesses Cordelia’s treatment of Willow.
For the first couple seasons, you rarely see too far inside of Cordy’s head. Actually, that’s not true. You see exactly what is inside her head, because whatever is in her head comes right out her mouth. Usually what comes out is less than pleasant, if often funny. Her first humanizing moments come when she starts to fall for Xander — the geeky scourge of her world. Forced together through vampire attacks, psychotic bug man episodes, and some hilarious kissing scenes, they get together. Even then, it’s hard to figure out how she feels about him, because the moment her friends (the quintessential cool kids) get their teeth in her new relationship, Cordelia bails. On Valentine’s Day.
It takes a laugh-out-loud backfiring love spell and a “what stinks?’ look on Harmony’s face, but Cordelia eventually realizes that she can date who she wants. That’s one of her big turning points. She becomes a de facto member of the Scoobies through her relationship with Xander, and her second major human moment comes when she and Oz discover that Willow and Xander have been making with the kissy-kissy behind their backs.
If you ever doubted that Cordelia had feelings — and I know you probably did at some point — this scene will jolt you out of it. For once, her entire facade of holding it together crumbles right through the stairs with her and lands on a chunk of rebar. Not only does she have the metaphorical impaling, but poor Cordy had to deal with the real deal as well. For Xander, there’s no coming back from this one.
Cordelia’s acerbic words return in full force for the rest of seasons two and three, and we find that her daddy made “a little mistake on his taxes…for the last twelve years” and lost every penny. Cordelia never had to work for anything in her life, and now she has to work just to make enough to get her prom dress — which she isn’t able to do. Xander pays it off for her, which gives at least a little resolution to their relationship when she thanks him, all warmth and sincerity, at prom.
After she gets to dust a vamp at graduation, the next time we see Cordelia, she’s schmoozing at a party in L.A. She’s got the grin back, she’s got the foot in mouth, she seems to have everything under control — until we discover that the dress she’s wearing is the only one she has. Her tiny, filthy apartment has hot and cold running sludge, and her closest neighbors are cockroaches. She starts to work with Angel, and after the death of their friend Doyle (naturally right as he and Cordy were forming a romantic attachment), she gets Doyle’s head-splitting visions from the Powers That Be.
One season and a really rotten haircut later, Cordelia is barely recognizable. She counsels her friends. She’s gone through a demon pregnancy and more than a few tortuous moments because of the visions — when Wolfram and Hart hire
Kal Penn a mystical dude to make her visions manifest physically, she ends up burned, sliced open, and covered in boils. Needless to say, Cordelia changes.
The big hoopla happens when Cordelia is heading to tell Angel how she feels. Did I mention that they were falling for each other? No? Oh. Angel’s feelings start to become evident almost as soon as Angel recovers from his bout of despairy peevishness at the end of season two, but it isn’t until season three that he admits it. They take a long, roundabout route to get to that oceanside bluff, and by then Cordelia has been whisked away to another dimension. To, you know. Get infested with a power-hungry demon entity who wants to take over the world.
Season four makes my head hurt. Cordelia seduces Angel’s now-teenage son and gets pregnant with the entity who has been orchestrating her movements, and when she does finally give birth to Jasmine, she falls into a coma, which more or less ends her character arc for good. Trapped in her comatose state, she stays there until the 100th episode where she seemingly awakes to help Angel battle an old foe and pass on information to help him bring down some big Wolfram and Hart baddies — except that he finds out at the end of the episode that she died that morning.
Cordelia’s development is impressive, but I for one always felt cheated out of it. From the middle of season four, she simply disappeared, the real Cordelia taken over. She had become one of my favorite characters on Angel at that point (who am I kidding, I love them all), and seeing her slowly slip away made that season so relentless and painful to watch.
So here’s to the Cordy we were just getting to know. For that, Cordelia Chase is today’s Wednesday Woman.
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