- “All those hours locked under the stairs and you still weren't good enough. Not good enough for Daddy, not good enough for the Council”
- ―an Ethros demon to Wesley[src]
Little is known about Wesley's childhood, only that it was a largely unhappy one. In the episode "Lineage", it is revealed that, at the age of six or seven, Wesley attempted to resurrect a dead bird using a mystical scroll stolen from his father's library. As a teenager he attended an all-boys preparatory school where he became Head Boy while training to become a Watcher -- a member of the Watchers Council, an organization that waged war on the forces of darkness and trained the Slayer.
Watcher to Buffy and Faith
Wesley comes to Sunnydale as a replacement Watcher for Slayers Faith Lehane and Buffy Summers, following the discharge of Rupert Giles by the Council. Clean-cut, pompous and bossy, he is immediately disliked by the girls under his watch. He is inexperienced and handles himself poorly in combat; prior to his assignment to Buffy and Faith, his only encounters with vampires had been brief and "under controlled circumstances". Giles, his predecessor and fellow Englishman, does not take him seriously, and tends to support Buffy's predilection for ignoring Wesley's counsel. Originally Wesley was intended to be killed off after just a few episodes, but the writers grew fond of his character and decided to keep him alive. Wesley develops an inappropriate crush on Cordelia Chase, a high school student and ex-girlfriend of Xander Harris. Their flirtation culminates in a dance at the high school prom, followed a few days later by an awkward kiss, after which both characters realize that the attraction had been illusory and they lacked any sort of chemistry. When Faith goes rogue and Buffy turns her back on the Council, Wesley is subsequently fired for his failure.
Joining Angel Investigations
Wesley meets Angel and Cordelia again the next year, and he joins them as a member of supernatural detective agency Angel Investigations, serving as a partial replacement for the recently lost Doyle, providing the two with his detailed knowledge of demons. Wesley proves his loyalty to Team Angel when, after being tempted with the offer of returning to the Watcher's Council, he betrays his former colleagues in order to help Angel protect Faith, despite the fact that Faith had brutally tortured him in the previous episode; Wesley states at this point that he trusts Angel more than he trusts the Council. Wesley eventually finds himself running the organization in Angel's absence during his friend's descent into darkness and shows himself to be highly capable, as well as developing a strong brothers-in-arms relationship with streetwise vampire-hunter Charles Gunn. No longer the coward he once was, Wesley is shot trying to protect Gunn and his friends from a zombie police officer and remains in a wheelchair for several weeks afterwards. After becoming the official leader to the group, Wesley seeks his father's approval over being made leader of Angel Investigations, but instead finds his father is more concerned about his next failure following his being fired from the Watchers' Council. This, in combination with the natural leadership displayed by Angel upon his return to the agency - even if he is not officially in charge, Angel remains the group's strongest fighter as well as their 'official' champion - results in a crisis of confidence for Wesley, who nevertheless re-asserts his leadership when he is placed in charge of a rebellion in Pylea, exhibiting a ruthless pragmatism when he explains his decisions to sacrifice some rebels' lives and risk Angel's life as well: "If you try not to get anybody killed, you end up getting everybody killed."
In the third season, Wesley's path soon becomes filled with tragedies and difficult choices. Just as he is beginning to have romantic feelings for teammate Fred Burkle, he is supernaturally influenced to attempt to kill her, ending his immediate opportunity for love (cf. "Billy"). After the birth of Angel's son Connor, Wesley becomes convinced by a prophecy that Angel will eventually kill the baby. With the intention of taking him to safety, Wesley betrays his friends by kidnapping Connor. Wesley's plan goes terribly wrong, resulting in his throat cut and the baby being taken to a hell dimension. As Wesley recovers, a furious Angel tries to kill him- his anger made even worse by the discovery that the prophecy was faked by a time-warping demon who had learned that Connor was destined to kill him- and he is alienated from his friends, while Angel officially takes over the agency again. Wesley continues his descent into self-loathing when he begins a sexual relationship with Lilah Morgan, an employee of evil law firm Wolfram & Hart and Angel's long-time enemy. He forms his own team to fight the good fight, but maintains an interest in the affairs of Angel Investigations. In the opening episode of Season Four, Wesley rescues Angel from the bottom of the ocean, reviving him with his own blood. Wesley eventually returns to the team full time during the gang's first confrontation with The Beast and Jasmine's manifestation. Now deeply serious, humorless, and pessimistic, he takes command and makes the difficult decisions of bringing back Angel's evil alter ego Angelus when information is uncovered suggesting that Angelus had previously faced the Beast, subsequently helping Faith escape from jail in order to stop the Beast and capture Angelus. Wesley also has to face the trauma of Lilah's death, particularly when he is forced to decapitate her corpse when it appears she was killed and possibly sired by Angelus (In reality she was stabbed in the neck by a possessed Cordelia and Angelus was simply found holding the body)(cf. "Salvage"). In an attempt to save Connor Angel performs a powerful mind-wipe which removes certain events from the collective memories of the world at large.
Wolfram & Hart
As Wesley adjusts to working for Wolfram & Hart, his father arrives to try and convince Wesley to join the new Watcher's Council. Roger Wyndam-Pryce is soon revealed to have sinister intentions when he attempts to steal Angel's free will. When his father threatens to kill Fred, Wesley shoots and kills him without a moment's hesitation, and continues to fire his gun until the magazine is empty. Although it turned out that the being he had killed wasn't his real father, but a convincing cyborg copy, Wesley is still understandably traumatised. Wesley finally gets together with Fred, only to lose her shortly after, when her body is occupied by the spirit of the Old One known as Illyria. This tragedy leaves Wesley a broken man who turns to alcohol to ease his pain and tries to help Illyria understand the world, a move that furthers Wesley's suffering but, at the same time, he sees as the only way to keep some part of Fred close to him. Upon finding out that Charles Gunn was indirectly responsible for what happened to Fred, he stabs him in retaliation. Wesley also kills Knox for his part in Illyria's ascension, a fact that annoyed Angel as he had just been giving a speech about how fighting for human lives was what made them better than the likes of Illyria. When Angel proposes to attack the Circle of the Black Thorn, the secret arm of the Senior Partners, Wesley agrees to challenge a demon sorcerer named Cyvus Vail, who knows of Wesley's growing instability and believes him to be a wild card who could betray Angel. Vail proves too powerful for Wesley, and he is overpowered and mortally wounded. Despite his wounds, Wesley manages to temporarily knock Vail out with an energy sphere, which allows him to spend his final minutes of life with Illyria at his side, finally agreeing to let the demon take the form of Fred to allow Wesley, in some way, to say goodbye to the woman he loved. After Wesley passes away, Illyria avenges his death by shattering Vail's skull with a single punch.
Following his death, Wesley is now a ghost due to the standard perpetuity clause in his Wolfram & Hart contract keeping him working for the company even after death (Writer Bryan Lynch has stated that he finds this appropriate despite the resolution of Wesley's storyline as it reflects how Wesley is still being denied peace). He is currently the liaison between the Senior Partners and the now Hell-based L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart, permanently trapped in one of his old suits. He was apparently destroyed when the vampire Gunn destroyed the Wolfram & Hart building. Then he convinced the bodiless voices in the White Room to let him return with Angel. As he returns in the battle against the demon Lords of LA he is seen by Illyria who becomes Fred. Spike subsequently tries to keep Illyria from Wesley, because as Fred she is vulnerable. Illyria however, is protective both over Wesley and his deceased body, which remains in his possession. Wesley unsuccessfully tries to contact a higher power - Cordelia, but she is unable to exert any influence in Wolfram & Hart's domain. When Angel is brought near death by a vampiric Gunn, the Partners take him there to deliver their message: that Gunn's visions were their own, and that Angel is still entitled to the Shanshu Prophecy should he survive to become a vampire again. Wesley transfers the Partners' vision of a post-apocalyptic Angel, fulfilling the Shanshu, to the dying Angel.
After Connor dies, Angel in a fit of rage begins slaughtering Worlfram & Hart's army. After questioning the army, Wesley realizes that the Senior Partners cannot allow Angel to die, thus giving them an opportunity to undo the death and chaos caused by the Partners sending Los Angeles to Hell. Although aware of what will happen to him if they succeed, Wesley walks off, seemingly resigned to his fate, reminding Angel that "she" (Presumably Fred) is dead as well. With Angel's death, Wolfram & Hart are forced to return Time to the moment before they sent Los Angeles to Hell, restoring Angel to his vampire status while leaving Wesley deceased once again. It is unknown if Wesley will return but with the second demolition of Wolfram & Hart's L.A. Branch it is highly unlikely.
Personality and traits
- Wesley: “The perception is I'm weak. That's why they went for me.”
- Angel: “They're wrong. You do what you have to do to protect the people around you. To do what you know is right, regardless of the cost. You know, I never really understood that. You're the guy who makes all the hard decisions, even if you have to make 'em alone.”
- — Wesley and Angel[src]
Wesley's most notable personality trait was his ruthlessness; he was "one to make the hard decisions even if he has to make them alone." This is evidenced even in his early episodes on Buffy, where he would rather allow Willow to die than to give the Mayor back an object which would allow him to complete his Ascension. He is immediately dismissed by the Scoobies as lacking in compassion, though his logic is sound (cf. "Choices"). Later examples include his plans to storm the Pylean Royal Palace, sending numbers of rebels to certain death to allow the rest to infiltrate the palace; taking baby Connor away from Angel; and, most important, shooting what he thought was his own father to protect Angel and Fred. Despite this, Wesley has allowed his emotions to get the better of him, such as stabbing Gunn and killing Knox after Fred dies. Wesley began as a "by-the-book" Watcher, characterized as an "annoying version of Giles", demonstrating an arrogance in his knowledge and an over-confidence in his lackluster combat skills, but gradually matures to show a more caring, compassionate side through his friendship with Angel and his temporary position as team leader, as well as becoming a skilled independent combatant capable of standing up to such powerful foes as Angelus, The Beast and magician Cyvus Vail.
As Wesley's experiences progressed, his appearance changed as well. From the glasses, suit, clean face and trim haircut he eventually left behind the glasses and began to wear jackets and casual shirts as well as changing his haircut and sporting a five o'clock beard. Although he reverted to his original appearance of suits and glasses when he became the new liason for the Senior Partners in maintaining contact with Angel, this was only as part of their continued attempts to torment him, the writers describing it as the Partners forcing Wesley to unwillingly 'regress' to a point in his life that he has long moved on from.
Powers and abilities
Wesley had average strength for a man his height and weight, although he was somewhat athletic due to the lifestyle he led. Although trained in the skills of a Watcher, his overwhelming fear initially prevented him from gaining experience in real-life combat, and rendered him useless in fights. However, as his personality hardened, Wesley gained experience during his time with Angel and became an incredibly skilled martial artist, as well as being proficient with weapons. He was able to take on vampires with success and subdued Justine Cooper single-handedly on two occasions. The best marksman with firearms in the Buffyverse, he is able to hit a tiny target while performing acrobatics (e.g. in episode "Inside Out", when he killed the demon Skip by shooting a bullet into the small hole in his armour created when Angel broke a horn off in a previous confrontation); in fact, Wesley is the only major character in the Buffyverse who regularly uses firearms in combat (while other characters, such as Spike and Buffy during her time trapped in Faith's body, have used guns as self-defense, they have not actually fired them, and Buffy once stated that guns are "never useful", possibly as a reference to their general ineffectiveness against most of the beings that both the Scooby Gang and the Angel Investigations crew regularly face). His superior and detailed knowledge of demons and sorcery aided Angel and the team regularly. He has a wide range of knowledge in both academic and occult fields, is a brilliant strategist, and possesses incredible talent in both human and non-human languages. Wesley's superior arcane knowledge lent towards a minor talent for sorcery on occasion; at his time of death, Wesley could conjure fireballs to his palm by force of will.
In his current state as liason to the Senior Partners, Wesley retains his detailed arcane knowledge and possesses a link to the Partners that allows him to communicate with them, but is trapped in an intangible state that prevents him from making contact with anything, while having the bonus of rendering him completely immune to physical attacks. Whether or not he, like Spike, will be able to make contact with the world around him if he wants to badly enough remains to be seen.
- Cordelia Chase — Wesley's romantic relationship with Cordelia was limited to flirting and infatuation that eventually ended after the two shared a pair of incredibly awkward kisses.
- Virginia Bryce — The two met and slept together in the Angel episode "Guise Will Be Guise" under the false pretense that Wesley was in fact Angel (Virginia's father had been attempting to hire Angel as a bodyguard for her, with Wesley posing as Angel due to the real Angel currently being away on a 'spiritual retreat' due to his recent obsession with Darla). However, the two continued in a fairly serious relationship for the rest of the second season, but Virginia left because she didn't feel capable of coping with Wesley's lifestyle.
- Lilah Morgan — Lilah and Wesley's relationship initially began as simply physical but eventually grew into something more. Wesley broke off the relationship after realizing that he could no longer bring himself to ride the line of good and evil.
- Winifred Burkle — From the beginning of Season 3 until the end of the series, Wesley was quite clearly in love with Fred. This set him at odds with Charles Gunn. Even after the others broke ties with him, Wesley continued to help Fred when she needed it, and also tried to end her relationship with Gunn. In the episode Lineage, Wesley shot to death who he thought was his father in order to protect Fred. Fred began pursuing him in the episode Smile Time (though he was completely clueless), and their relationship would last about a week. Wesley was the only one with her when she died. Alexis Denisof described Wesley as being obsessed with Fred and that he viewed her as his soulmate.
- Illyria — Though not a romantic relationship, Wesley felt drawn to Illyria as she was all that remained of Fred. Although they were mostly at each other's throats for a long period, Wesley took a keen interest in helping Illyria navigate Earth, and was easily the person who understood her eccentricities the most. For her part, Illyria treated Wesley as a trusted guide and advisor. At the very end, Illyria took Fred's shape and gave him a moment of comfort before he died.
Wesley appeared in 110 Buffyverse episodes:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Nine episodes of Season 3.
- Wesley was a regular character, technically starting with the episode "Somnambulist," though he first appeared in the previous episode, "Parting Gifts". He appears in every episode after, with the exception of the episode "Destiny" (due to Alexis Denisof's real-life wedding to Alyson Hannigan, although in the continuity of the series, he took time off to recover from the trauma of shooting the cyborg duplicate of his father). He appears in exactly 100 episodes of Angel.
- Angel: After the Fall
- Wesley has appeared in all of the episodes thus far
- After the Fall #1
- After the Fall #2
- After the Fall #3
- After the Fall #4
- After the Fall #5
- After the Fall #7
- After the Fall #9