Previously I said I was here for the Miles/Rachel Shipping Tour, but that was before I finished going through the whole DVD set. While Aaron continues to not be relevant to this story basically at all and so is being completely cut out of my version, I have picked up on even more things I enjoy so I've expanded the scope of the post to include "everyone else Miles cares about."
Now if you don't mind, I'm just going to shoot a bunch of random highlights and half-cocked meta off the top of my head. I've decided to arrange it in loosely chronological order, but at times I may jump backward or forward in time (just like the show used to do!) to complete a thought or link it to another example. It ended up being like 2500 words long, so I broke it up with some headers & a bunch of imagery along the way.
Willoughby: The First Four Episodes (Shipper Screener)
Side note: this post is heavier on the beginning of the season than the latter, mostly because I'm pretty sure the first 5 episodes of it are the best in the whole series.
-I remember finding out why Miles was bloodied and burning down a shed in 2.01, but I did not specifically remember it involved Nanite!Ben taunting him about how he's a worthless family thief and doomed to fail them, like he always does, so he might as well just abandon them now. I definitely did not remember the chilling visual of Rachel and Charlie with their throats cut. Yikes.
-The fact that Gene's threatening reminders about how he's trash and betrayed his brother in pursuit of Rachel came right on the heels of that -- and the fact that presumably Miles could not do much to help Rachel in the early shell-shock days*, much as he wanted and tried, hence bringing her to Willoughby for lack of other ideas -- makes his initial choice to leave even more heartbreaking than you thought.
(And his face was already doing a pretty good job of it. Also, the way Rachel's face crumbles when her back is turned, the brave faux-casual face she puts on in suggesting he stay, and the way her smile absolutely plummets when he declines again, is even worse.)
-*Case in point: I do NOT remember the canon fill-in about Rachel slitting her wrists when they first brought her back. HELLO. I'm going to need to chew on that a bit.
-But then when Rachel finally does say she'd understand if he left -- "Stop it. You know I'm not gonna leave you right now, not with whatever's out there. So just...stop it." And never again do they part ways for any especially prolonged period of time.
-I'd forgotten when exactly Miles' hand injury took place/what it was, and it's way back in episode 2, when Skeezy Titus has his #2 smash it with a hammer to prevent Captive Miles killing any more wildmen. It is by far the most pain he's ever been shown to be in, though I kind of wish they'd left the scream as audio-only because the face he makes is hilariously over-exaggerated.
(And it doesn't even stop there! He can barely hold his arm straight when he's back in the cage because his hand is shaking so much, and he has a few good screams left in him in later episodes when people see it's a weak point on his body and go after it.)
-When Rachel asks if they're really going to send that poor woman back to Wildman Captivity, and Miles doesn't see another option, because he's useless and so is the town: "How else am I supposed to protect you?" (PAST ME HOW DID YOU MISS THAT. You know "protect" is a trigger word for joy!) And she just leans into him all
and he leans into her and leaning should not be able to sound so romantic, y'all.
-A favorite quote exchange:
Gene: We don't have a choice.
Rachel: No, we do have a choice. We, we stay, we fight.
Miles: How? One hand tied behind my back? When this goes bad, I'm not gonna be able to --
Rachel: Protect me? That it, protect me? I don't need a martyr, Miles, I need you. So how about we just protect each other, OK?
(Bonus Gene: This is all very touching, but Rachel, get on the wagon or I swear to god I'm gonna throw you on it.)
-After Rachel gets shot with an arrow: I love the 5 or 6 times Miles looks over at her in desperation, each time only able to glance for a second before having to cut down a new bad guy in his way. And how when he finally falls, and the attackers are cut down by machine gun fire, he's got an arm thrown over her leg, the closest thing he can offer to protection.
-Also: how he's just kind of dazed from blood loss and sitting next to her uselessly, until it registers that strange men are surrounding her and oh yeah, she's seriously hurt, prompting a panicky lunge toward her before being gently restrained by medics.
(seriously, he's more out of it than at any other point in the series. Rachel + blood appears to be the only concrete thought amidst this bewildering confusion of guns and rescue and...Patriots?? I've never actually seen him look overwhelmed. It doesn't last long before he's wandering around with a suspicious look of "this doesn't feel right," but still.)
-The happy, easy smile on Miles' face when he sees Rachel is up and on her feet again 3 days later. "It's about time you woke up there, princess." BONUS HUG.
-Miles: You're not going anywhere. You're gonna sit here, on your ass. (off her indignant look) You just took an arrow. And I just sat by your bedside for three days. Think it's time you did something for me. (another look) So. You're gonna stay low, stay off their radar, get better -- in that order.
FYI he makes like five different wonderful faces in this scene; choosing one was hard.
Remainder of the Fall Semester (featuring: Charlie & Monroe)
-Monroe + Charlie's uneasy partnership is even better the second time around. I especially love Charlie's unsympathetic speech ("can you make your eyes water like that on command?") about how Monroe's an empty-behind-the-eyes sociopath, right after he's saved her from gang rape. She actually hurts his feelings and it's wonderful.
-Plus there's that time she actively tried to kill him and he did his absolute best to block her blows just enough to get away, all the while begging her to stop. Not for his own sake, but so he wouldn't have to hurt her.
-Miles' face upon hugging Charlie. "I missed you, kid." Rachel might be everything, but there is no one Miles loves quite like his almost-kid/former partner in crime(s for the greater good).
(We get a little glimpse of that easy familiarity when she's sitting by his sickbed and he grouses at her for giving him water instead of whiskey, too.)
-Other than that and her immediate reaction to killing Jason, Charlie's happiness at seeing Miles in episode 5 might be the only moment in the entirety of season 2 that resembles the Charlie of season 1. As far as I can tell, he's the only person in the world she completely trusts and feels comfortable around. Maybe her grandpa, but he doesn't get her humor like Miles does. /clumsy attempt to quote "You Belong With Me."
-No but srsly look how much they adore each other.
-So when Charlie takes Miles to show him Monroe, and his first words are "What did you do to her? I know you, you son of a bitch; what did you do her?" THAT IS AN INTENSE FACE OF HONOR-DEFENDING. Charlie has to actively tell him, "Hey. I wouldn't let him touch me."
-One of my favorite parts is Miles staring at Dead Texas Ranger Jim Beaver for about 2 seconds, before going all "I KEEL YOU BITCH!" and charging Monroe into the wall. "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, WHAT IS THAT??"
(although the rest is sort of funny --
Monroe; *sensibly explains that they can frame the Patriots for this murder, and boom, Texas declares war just like they wanted*
Miles' Face: Damn. That is a good plan.)
-I did NOT remember an utterly distraught Miles drowning his sorrows over Monroe's (supposed) death in alcohol and wet eyes, and I definitely don't remember him grabbing Charlie's hand and holding on for dear life. It's beautiful, even if it's also pretty much the last close emotional connection they ever have.
I'm around, okay?
gif maker lightgamble has this and more to say about this scene: she'd do ANYTHING for Miles. ANYTHING AT ALL. He just has to ask. Or want it and she'll do it.
That's what I like about Miles. He is the best cross between Rugged Stoic Action Dudes Who Kill Anyone Who Looks Cross-Eyed At People They Love, and the thing like about Deeks, that he is just wildly emotionally volatile and his feelings show all over his face at the slightest provocation. (I honestly don't know how he kept it together as a general for so long)
-Monroe appearing out of nowhere to kill a couple of Patriot soldiers who have Miles/Rachel/Charlie cornered: "I'm Batman."
HOW DID I NOT REMEMBER THAT. I've been laughing for like fifteen minutes straight.
-Miles showing his infected arm to Monroe because he is too much of an idiot to worry the girls, earning him a "Holy hell." I also like how Monroe manages to subtly combine feeling his forehead with headslapping him, so as not to appear too sentimental. Smooth, Bass.
-Sweet talking like a boss:
Rachel: Why didn't you tell me? I could have helped.
Miles: Your dad could have helped. All you can do is act like an idiot. Which is what you're doing right now. Get out of here, you gotta go.
And reminding me why she is the champion of all our hearts:
"I'm so sick of your macho cowboy crap. You are not pushing me away this time. I am not leaving."
-Miles on Rachel, in what could may well be a deathbed confessional: "I never should have let you go. You were always the one." Yep, that's the moment where I was like "time to sift through 487 romance novel summaries until I find the exact right one for this trope." (still haven't found one. Apparently romance novels are mostly disinterested in telling the second-chance-at-love stories of parents in their mid-to-late forties.)
This Is The New Year
-Rachel curled up next to Miles while he's recovering from his black-blood-infection-of-death is still my favorite thing.
-Seconded only by their delightful post-recovery convo.
Rachel: You scared the hell out of me.
Miles: Oh, stop making this about you.
-Miles asking Rachel to come to Mexico, because when he and Bass get together..."people tend to start dying." Although Miles' Redemption is pretty much the theme of the series, especially in season 2, I still love when moments like this come up: where you can see how hard he's trying to reform, and how big a part Rachel plays in both inspiring that desire and actively helping him do it.
-I still get chills at Rachel's "I have to help you find your son after you killed mine" line. It's so effectively placed, because you've started to forget in the fun of the 3 Amigos adventure, and it doesn't get brought up again, but you know it's there, where Rachel keeps it buried deep but ever-accessible.
-Amazed by: the continually fascinating dynamic that is Miles torn between two people he loves who literally want to kill each other. I remember saying something similar about Julia in season 1. And every time I almost say that he's technically a little more inclined to side with Rachel, I remember that Miles has had 927 good reasons and opportunities to kill Monroe/let him be killed, but will never do it.
-Hey can we talk some more about how much I like Miles admitting to his feelings in not so many words?
Miles: Listen, when we go grab this Patriot guy, you gotta stay behind.
Rachel: And if Neville is up to something and you're out there alone with him?
Miles: Then I will have to move fast, and violent, and that's gonna be a lot easier to do if you're not around.
"What if he puts a gun to your head? Takes you hostage?"
-Absolutely everything in Miles' hopeful expression about taking Rachel on one real date, even if it means imagining a movie.
-Also that is the first time in my life I've wanted an actual sex scene as opposed to the cut to black. I don't know what's wrong with me except that they're that good. (also it might cut through some of my giggling about Rachel peeling off her shirt and standing there like, "So, these are my breasts," while he's still wearing like 4 layers.)
Observations On Themes
-One of the many things I really like about their dynamic is that 85% of the time, Rachel is fearless and accomplished with all manner of guns and handheld weapons, and she can back his play at a moment's notice. But then every so often, when trauma hits too close to home, her armor vanishes and she turns into fractured glass, a vulnerable thing in need of a gentle touch to patch the cracks before she shatters.
-Like the scene at the end of 2.10, when Charlie's like "we gotta GO" while Rachel's falling apart in grief about her traitorous father, and Miles is just quietly standing guard nearby, all, "She needs a minute." I really, really like that this is a moment Rachel needs on her own, that it's completely private grief -- and the only person who might be able to share it is her daughter. I really, really like that Miles subtly encourages Charlie to go to her, and lets the women have this. It's as much for Charlie as it is for Rachel, and this is one time it's not his place to help any more than that.
(I'm saying this mostly because the rebellious part of my brain is demanding to know why crying is not being met with IMMEDIATE COMFORT-HOLDING, season 1 style. I keep having to remind myself it's because right now, watching over her is the best thing he can do for her and it's really poetic and beautiful.)
-Weirdly enough, one of those fractured-glass moments isn't even with Miles, but when she finds his blood-soaked jacket after he's gone missing and she just crumples like a leaf. "It's too much blood."
And then Bass, who ten minutes ago was snarling at her with every misogynistic insult in the book, changes everything about his tone and expression to encourage her not to give up hope. It's partly because he needs her help to find Miles and can't just have her on a break with sanity, but I like to think he takes genuine pity on her fragility. Just because you want to kill your enemy doesn't mean you want to win an unfair fight.
-My favorite thing about Miles & Rachel's fake breakup in episode 20 is that we were going on several episodes at that point of people trying to convince Miles he's a killer and lifelong soldier and he'll never change at heart, certainly not for a girl...the show doesn't give in to the temptation. It would be a pretty standard "break up your OTP and make them work for it" tactic going into season 3 if they did that, but instead it's subverted and it's glorious.
-After all that, it's shocking to me to realize they only kiss twice this season. Three times if you count the deleted scene, which for no reason I can comprehend isn't on the DVD even as an extra*; you have to view it online.
*I mean aside from the fact that it's literally the menu screen, which is either fantastic or just the meanest joke ever played. Seriously.
-Still laughing forever at Charlie blatantly shipping Miles with her mom, though I don't really understand what she means by "give it a chance, a real one." What else have they been doing all this time? Literally everyone has been commenting on their love and they've faced certain death multiple times over rather than risking separation.
-You know what this show did not do enough of? Exploring the fact that Miles and Ben were brothers. It's so worried about hammering in how Miles & Bass are like brothers that it almost completely skips over that other childhood. It's possible there are things in season 1 I'm just forgetting, but I really want to know how Rachel was interested in both of them. If Ben ever saw their super obvious shared Looks. We've seen Flashback!Miles pushing Rachel away, and there was that "I failed him, in a lot of ways" line early on, but they really dropped the ball on that when they decided they wanted romance to be a focal point of season 2 and the messy past was apparently getting in the way of forward motion.
Put a pin in that; I want to come back to that another day.
-An orphan quote exchange I'm not sure what to do with:
Miles: I got every instinct in me screaming no, but...I'm trying to picture what a good guy would do. And a good guy would trust him.
Charlie: (after mulling it over) Being a good guy sucks.
Miles: Yeah, it really does.
-I watched the deleted scene where Rachel gets stabbed again, and I've seen it several times but it wasn't until someone online commented about it that I realized what is actually happening. That was deleted from the finale -- I'm assuming right after Charlie tells Miles to hit it and not quit it -- and now I'm really worried that they would have killed Rachel off in season 3 instead of just giving me more glorious life-saving/recovery moments.
I forgot this show has a death option in its "OTP obstacles" diddy bag. Deleted scenes are deleted for a reason, people say, but The Office always said its deleted scenes were still canon and deleted for nothing but time, so that's the mentality I've adopted toward all of them. Ugh, now I'm restless and unsettled.
[edit: this point was rendered moot when I remembered the existence of the comic book wrap-up, but I'm not currently acknowledging the latter's existence and I like my original commentary so it stays.]