Funnier in Latin
Who Is Fred? Professor Seidel, Gunn, Wes and Portholes to Hell
Lately there's been a lot of speculation on what the first evil is or what evil is in general, what makes us do evil acts. Love? Jealousy? Pride? What causes us to hurt each other? To enslave someone? To decide someone is less than us? And what happens to someone that we do this to? Do we create our own monsters? How do you survive something incomprehensible? What does abuse and slavery do to people?
In Angel the Series - Season 4, Supersymmetry - we have two questions posed, very important questions.
1) Why did Professor Seidel send Winnifred Burkel to Pylea and when he discovers she's back, why does he attempt to send her to another hell dimension? 2) Why was it so important to Fred to send Seidel to a hell dimension?
These questions relate back to an event that happened a year and a half earlier in Angel the Series - Season 2, Over The Rainbow, Through The Looking Glass and There's No Place Like Grlbtz. They deal with a young girl who was whisked into a hell dimension by opening a book in a library, and like the characters in Octavia Butler's Kindred - has to deal directly with the effects of slavery and complete and utter loss of power and control over her life. For a woman raised in the 20th century in the independent state of Texas, who is startlingly intelligent and had a promising future ahead of her as the top female brain in physics - the idea of losing complete control and being forced to do nothing but menial chores is a hell beyond comprehension. The young girl, Winnifred Burkel, is eventually rescued, but not until after she has spent five years of her life, with no clear hope of rescue, in the hell dimension called Pylea. After a year or so in California working with Angel Investigations, the people who rescued her, she ventures back into her old field : physics and reunites with her mentor and professor, Seidel. Fred has been invited to give a lecture on super-string theory, an incredibly complex scientific theory in quantum mechanics that few people can comprehend. Seidel wrestles the head of his department for the honor of introducing her. We learn that if it weren't for a lecture Seidel gave in physics six years earlier, Fred would have become a history major. But his theories intrigued her and she became his best student. They had an almost "Pygmalion" type relationship. Seidel tells Fred that he had to come up with a different grading scale for her (basically throw out the rule book) because her intelligence surpassed everyone else, including his Teaching Assistant.
After Seidel introduces Fred and she begins to give her lecture, a portal opens above her head and a horrible beast attempts to pull her into another hell dimension. Gunn, Fred's current boyfriend, and Angel save Fred from the beast. But she is understandably traumatized, briefly reverting to the state she'd been in shortly after they'd rescued her from Pylea, writing formulas and equations on the wall. Gunn manages to get her to settle down and Fred goes back to the University to meet with Seidel. She desperately wants to impress her old mentor and tells Gunn how afraid she is that he will think she's crazy or see her the way she was earlier in their bedroom, crazily writing equations on a wall and muttering to herself. Fred and Seidel's meeting goes well. Seidel tells her she should come back to the school, take up her education again, that it is her "true calling", what she was meant to do. Fred, thrilled by his offer, says she'll consider and agrees to wait in his office while he helps another student. While he's gone, Fred notices a book out of place on his shelves, she pulls it out and flips it open. What she discovers is that Seidel is the one who sent her to Pylea six years ago. Not only that, but he was attempting to do it again.
1) Why did Professor Seidel send Winnifred Burkel to Pylea and when he discovers she's back, why does he attempt to send her to another hell dimension? 2) Why was it so important to Fred to send Seidel to a hell dimension?
In Octavia Butler's Book, Kindred, the lead character, Dana, is pulled against her will into a time period and place in US history where she is considered a slave and has no power. The person who pulls her there, is her great great great grandfather. While there she is chastised and abused by the character who pulls her into this time as well as his relatives because of her ability to read and write and her educated speech. The fact that she knows more than they do, can speak better than they can, and is educated annoys them to no end. At one point she is harshly whipped for attempting to teach another slave how to read. Like Winnifred (Fred) - Dana gets in trouble due to her intellect. Her intellectual power threatens the slave owners just as Fred's threatens Seidel. Intelligence is a kind of power.
Dana can't imagine ever being able to hurt anyone. But after two hours on slave plantation in 1815 Maryland, Dana realizes she would have no qualms cutting a man's throat or poking out his eyes to save herself. When she returns to 1976 California, her husband asks her to show him what she'd do with a switchblade he gives her to protect herself. Using a ruler for demonstration purposes she cuts him twice across the stomach. Shocked, he wonders what else he doesn't know about her. Dana replies she didn't know she could do it either until she was actually there. I think we have no clue what we are capable of until we find ourselves at the mercy of others. Literally. The incomprehensible is difficult for us to imagine.
People have been asking what motivates an evil act. What pulls someone to the dark side? What indeed?
Who is Winnifred Burkle? Sadist? Girly-Girl? Southern Bell? Slave?
Factual biography as given by the text of Angel The Series :
Winnifred Burkle is a twenty-something young woman from San Anton, Texas.. In her teens like many upper middle class geeky teens (or at least the one's I've known) she did pot with her friends and still got good grades. (Spin the Bottle, Ats s4) At seventeen she went to a good University. Got A's in all her classes. Worked in the Library. She was going to major in history. But fate intervened and she met physics Professor Seidel, who appeared to take an intellectual interest in Fred. At first it looked like Seidel wanted to be Fred's mentor and he was until he realized that Fred's abilities surpassed his own. She's not his TA, like Laurie Diamond who is enslaved to him for the period of her doctoral work, no Winnifred could very well outdo him in his own field. A former history major no less. So he sends her to a hell dimension. When she returns six years later with a super-string theory that he can barely grasp, he attempts to send her back again, just as he sends all the other student competitors. There's no reasoning with Seidel as Angel discovers - who attempts to kill Angel via the same methods.
What hell dimension did Seidel send Winnifred to for five years? Pylea. (Which Winnifred describes in the following manner to Seidel: "Pylea was a hell dimension, actually. Not as bad as Quor-toth, but - if Angel and Gunn and the rest of them hadn't rescued me, I'd probably be dead by now. " ) Fred was 17 when she was sent to Pylea. In Pylea - humans are slaves to demons. They are fitted with animal collars that will blow up their heads if they disobey. They wear rags, sleep in filth, and are whipped. Fred spent five years in Pylea. She manages during her stay to disable the collar and escape slavery for a while, getting recaptured when she attempts to help Cordelia who has fallen through a portal herself. If it weren't for Cordelia's visions, the AI gang and Groo, Cordy would be dead - that's how bad Pylea was. But the AI team doesn't really get a true taste of Pylea, they are observers when they arrive, involved but also outside the action.
Cordy, for instance - ends up becoming a Princess. When her friends arrive to rescue her, she ends up rescuing them but only briefly. She barely registers the horrors of Pylea until her own life is threatened and she is forced to deal with her friends' predicament. But even then, Cordy ignores what is happening, taking the stance, it isn't affecting me. Cordy is never alone. A handsome Warrior named Groo falls passionately in love with her and swears to protect her with his life. It isn't until she discovers the monk's plot to use her gifts to kill others as well as herself and those she cares about, that Cordy takes action. In later episodes - Cordelia looks back at her time in Pylea where she was a princess with a handsome prince, Groo, with a sort of fondness. So if we see Pylea through Cordy's eyes it seems not so bad, funny even. Contrast this with Fred's experience.
Fred manages to survive in Pylea for five years by herself and as a slave. She works during that time period to find a way home and keeps herself somewhat sane by writing formulas on cave walls. But the trauma has changed Fred, to the extent that when Cordy asks her where she comes from she answers:
"I was born here. I-I mean, not really. I j-just...some-sometimes I think I was. I mean, I don't think it was my thought. I forget certain words." (Over The Rainbow, Ats S2)
When Cordy asks where they and how they get out of here Fred laughs, stating with a combination of despair and cynical humor:
Fred: "Pylea […..]Another dimension. You're lost. I
can tell. So many of us are lost even there. But - but it's true. I'm
not crazy. Well, crazy, but I'm not wrong.
Cordy: "So, how do I get out of here?" Fred lets out something between a laugh and a sob.
Fred: "Oh. I forgot. Laughing. (Glances around) You don't. They use you as a slave. Then your body gives - zip! - Gone."
(Over The Rainbow)
In Pylea - humans are treated like animals, property. They are called cows. When Angel saves Fred in Through The Looking Glass - she is about to be beheaded by Lorne's family for escaping from her owners and attempting to help Cordelia. Fred regards Angel as her savoir, someone she never expected to see. For a while she thinks he is a mirage. When he turns into a Beast to save her - she runs from him at first, then tenderly heals his wounds and helps him back to being Angel. Unlike Cordelia or the AI gang, Fred doesn't despise or fear Angel's demon face. She's seen far worse and reacts to his kindness. Also unlike Cordelia, Fred isn't living the fairy tale. She's not the little girly girl who gets swept into an adventure she's not ready for or even chooses the adventure. She's not Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ or the child in Spirited Away. This is not a fairy tale adventure where the heroine chooses her fate or for that matter everything turns out wonderfully after she completes a few tasks. Fred is actually more like Dana in Octavia Butler's Kindred - pulled into a world not of her choosing and against her will.
(Apologies for the following long textual inclusions - but recent essays and posts indicate that people may have forgotten just what happened to Fred. It wasn't anything remotely comparable to Wes's child abuse or Gunn's childhood or Cordy or any of the other characters in the Buffyverse. What Fred came out of in Pylea is incomprehensible to the AI gang and by extension most of us. And I believe it is the key to understanding Fred's character.)
Angel: "You disappeared from a library in Los
Angeles five years ago."
Fred shakes her head: "Stop it."
Angel: "It's not a dream, Fred."
Fred: "It's not?"
Fred: "And my head's still on?"
Angel gently pushes her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose.
Fred smiles: "You're real?"
Angel smiles and nods. Fred's smile melts into a frown and she starts to shake her head as she moves a few steps away from Angel.
Fred: "No. No, I don't want you to be real."
Fred turning back to face him: "Because! You're nice, and you saved me. And bad things will happen to you here. (Shakes her head and looks down, twisting her fingers together) Bad things always happen here."
Angel: "No, no, no. Nothing bad's gonna happen. I-It's gonna be okay. We-we can take you out of here."
Angel: "Yeah. Me and my friends. We-we're working on a way to get out of here. We can take you back."
Fred:"Can't get back. There is no back."
Angel: "No, there is. If we can open the portal...."
Fred hurries closer: "The portal! She fell through the portal!"
Angel: "Who did?"
Fred: "That other girl. I couldn't save her. I was arrested. They got her. She's a slave. She'll die!"
Angel: "Oh. Cordy. No, she's fine. They made her a princess."
Fred: "They... Really?---Oh. (Looks down) When I got here they... They didn't do that.---Well. That's nice for her."
(Through The Looking Glass, Ats S2)
When we think of Pylea arc, we think of Princess Cordy and Groo, not of Fred enslaved, alone in a cave. How traumatic - to be saved, to learn the person you tried to save didn't really need saving because she became the princess - while you were almost beheaded. Five years in a hell dimension. Alone. After a while you probably begin to wonder if you ever were anywhere else. Fred, unlike Cordelia, isn't gifted with visions or for that matter much besides intelligence, the ability to see how molecules fit together in her head. And it's her gift, her intelligence that sends her to Pylea in the first place, just as it is her intelligence that almost gets her killed in Provider by an alien race who wants to replace their leader's head with that of an intellectual. (Ats. S3) Her gift is apparently as much of a curse as are all the gifts of our heroes. Gunn envies her gift, he feels it separates them - "I'm just the muscle" he states repeatedly, not getting her awesome intelligence, which also to some degree has kept Fred sane under completely insane circumstances.
After the gang finally pulls Fred out of the dimension, Fred won't come out of her room at the Hyperion for at least three episodes. She comes out briefly, sees a monster, dashes back in again. Inside, the walls of her room resemble the walls of her cave in Pylea, they are covered with equations, formulas, words, the crazy overflow from her brain, the means home. Yet - those equations never brought her home. She was never able to control the portals that took her there. And somewhere deep inside, she must fear a return to that horrible dimension since Fred herself did not assert power over her arrival or her return. So Fred retreats inside her head - terrified of what lies outside it. Slowly the gang coaxes her downstairs. Angel gets her to go out for ice cream and she is understandably enamored of him, he is "her knight in shining armor" and Fred remember has never had a knight. When her parents show up hunting her, she wants to run from them, misleading us to think they are monsters. Truth is they are normal, loving parents, and Fred's fears of them have nothing to do with abuse. They have to do with who Fred has become. Fred's feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
"I got lost. I got lost, and they did terrible things to me, but, but it was just a storybook. It was just a story with monsters, not real. (keeps shaking her head) Not in the world but - but if you're here and you see me then - then it's real! And it did happen. If you see what they made of me... I - I didn't mean to get so lost!" (Fredless S3 Ats)
Seeing her parents, make Fred realize what she went through was real and who she has become, is real as well. If it only was just a story - that she could handle like Dorothy's dream of The Wizard of OZ or Alice's journey Through the Looking Glass, but it's not - it's real just as Dana's journeys back through time in Butler's Kindred are real. "If you see what they made of me…" She's done things she would prefer not to remember. But there's something else going on here, Fred's sense of powerlessness. In first part of Season 3 Angel, Fred barely comes out of her room, she plays the damsel. As the season moves forward, Fred slowly, gradually starts to take back her power and she does it not just through her brain, which certainly didn't get her out of Pylea, but through a combination of smarts and violence. In several episodes in Season 3 - we see Fred convincingly pretend to kill people (This Gange of Mine, Lullaby), create a contraption that injures Wes before he can hurt her while under a demon's spell (Billy), kill demons herself, and slap Justine (Forgiving). Fred has begun to take back her power and how she does it is evidence of the rage she must feel for being powerless for so long. But it is not until Season 4, that Fred finally takes control over her greatest fear, she, through Wes'help is finally able to control the portals that destroyed her life.
The Gunn/Fred Relationship
In Supersymmetry - Gunn believes Fred is on the verge of tainting her soul by taking vengeance on Professor Seidel. He thinks he can save her from becoming something she's not - but how does he know she isn't already there? He assumes she isn't. As do we, since we are looking through Gunn's eyes. Fred knows she's already there. If she wasn't, don't you think she might have been able to go back home again? Or re-enroll in school? Think about how Connor came back from Qu'torth. Filled with hatred, violence and resentment. Fred to some degree identified with that. Fred is a lot like Connor, uncertain whether to trust anyone. She wishes she could go back to the innocent little girly-girl she once was and on numerous occasions mostly through food (pancakes, ice cream) tries to, but as she tells her parents in Fredless, it's not really possible.
"Look - I could go home with you and pretend the last five years didn't happen. - I could even pretend to have a normal life. - But the truth of it is... Well, I'm not normal anymore.."(Fredless)
Why does Fred go for Gunn? She actually tells us why in Supersymmetry. For the pancakes and the merry-go-round and to be his "girly-girl". To feel safe. She goes for Gunn for the same reasons she initially went for Angel. The tall handsome knight who won't hurt her, won't betray her, and will protect her. Which makes sense - part of what is going on inside Fred is her overwhelming fear that she will be sucked back to Pylea at any moment. Fred has felt powerless for five years. That does something to you. A part of Fred will always remain in Pylea. The part that is still there - may possibly be the girly-girl everyone thinks they see. The innocent, young aspiring student, who believed she had power over her environment and did not have to resort to violence. That monsters weren't real. Human or otherwise. The child who believed people like Professor Seidel did not exist. Fred goes for Gunn, because Gunn idealizes her, he sees the person she believes she's already lost. Gunn doesn't believe she has it in her to hurt someone, to be sadistic, to be dark. As she tells Wesely when he inquires why Gunn isn't helping her with her plan to punish Seidel -
Fred: "'Charles doesn't have it in him. It's part of what I love about him."' (Supersymmetry)
Fred may be right here, Gunn chooses murder over torture. In past episodes, Fred sees him upset with Angel for torturing Linwood (Forgiving) and Gunn has to pull Fred off Connor, when she tries to torture him in Deep Down for hurting Angel. Gunn's view of violence is the quick kill, the necessary kill. He's not much for the maiming and torturing - as Sol points out so well in her essay. But Fred is. Fred has a sadistic streak in her - one that has been nurtured by a five year stay in a hell dimension. She knows it's inside her and she probably has been fighting it for some time. But several things happen to Fred this year that would try the resolve of a Saint and bring back Fred's worst fears.
1.Angel and Cordelia disappear in Tomorrow (s3 Ats), leaving Fred and Gunn in charge of Angel Investigations (AI) and Connor for four months. In Deep Down and later Grounded, it's clear that Fred is running the show and has been for quite some time. Gunn appears to be playing back-up and making certain key decisions like whether they should ask Wes for help. (Apparently they did once or twice and gave up. Fred believes they should try again, make amends, Gunn sees no point.) So it's Fred who has been paying the bills, keeping track of expenses, and making the tough decisions. Then she discovers the kid she has been taking care of all this time is a traitor, that according to Weseley - this was the kid who took Angel away from them and possibly Cordy too. Fred goes ballistic. And we get our first hint of what Fred is truly capable of and what is holding her back.
Fred: "How could you do that to us? (Fred steps
closer to Connor the tazer in her outstretched hand shaking a little)
We took you into our home. We cared for you, and all this time... How
could you do that?!"
When Connor only looks at her, Fred suddenly buries the tazer against Connor's chest.Connor arcs back, screaming.
Fred: "How could you do that?!"
Gunn pulls her back: "Fred!"
Part of Fred's problem with Connor is later echoed by Seidel. The betrayal of trust. The lack of control. And Fred is as we learn a bit into control - having been without it for so long. Connor - she trusted, she believed in and she finds out via Wesely that Connor is the one responsible for the mess her life is currently in. For being the one who has to pay all the bills and make decisions. Connor took her white knight (Angel) away from her. Wes brings him back.
2.When Gunn almost dies in Grounded, Fred almost collapses under the strain. And we are reminded once again of Fred's deepest fears.
Fred: "I am so *sick* of holding everything up around here. First Wesley leaves, then Angel and Cordy. I - I'm sick of taking care of everything, and paying bills, and making peace and plans, and keeping my chin up. God! I'm so sick of my chin being up!"
Apparently - the disappearance of these three people has affected her the most - put Fred in control - something she hasn't been for a very long time and yet, like most of us, the type of control she is in is ironically no control at all - she's at the mercy of others - the bill collectors, Connor, Gunn's decisions, etc.
Gunn: "You know what? Just electrocute me now.
Because I don't know what kind of alien female thing..."
Fred goes back to rearranging things on her dresser.
Fred: "I thought it'd get better when Angel got back. I thought I would finally be able to breathe again."
Gunn sits up: "Fred, no one forced this responsibility on you."
Fred spins to face him: "Well, who else was gonna do it? Who else was gonna hold everything up after you left me all alone? (Gunn just stares at her) You died and left me all alone!"
Being left - all alone. Just like she was 6 years ago in Pylea.
3. When Fred finally, finally decides to rejoin the world and gets an essay published in a journal and is asked to speak on the subject, she faces the one fear that lies in the back of her subconscious that will not go away. The fear of being whisked to another hell dimension. The fear of losing control over her life. Of being all alone in a weird place and used by others. Having to become a monster herself just to survive.
Gunn rolls over in bed and wakes up when the spot
beside him is empty.
Gunn sits up: "Fred?"
Fred is squatting in a corner, writing on the wall, and muttering to herself.
Fred: "P versus NP, where NP is nondeterministic polynominal time. This is NP. Lost time. Time spent."
Fred is trying to determine how much time she lost while in the portal and how to control it to bring her back. If she can figure out what causes the portals, she will have power over them and they won't just open up and grab her as one does in the auditorium. She will be able to reassert control.
Gunn comes up behind her: "I never liked the paint
in here. Hey, lets - lets redo the place, really make it ours."
Fred turns away from the wall holding her throat with one hand.
Fred: "I was just - I couldn't sleep."
Gunn takes a hold of her hand and softly pulls it away from her throat.
Gunn: "Fred, demons, portals - that happens. Doesn't mean that you're going back to Pylea."
Fred: "Every time I close my eyes I see it. Like it's happening all over again."
Gunn: "I know, baby."
Fred walks past him her hand going back up to her neck.
Fred: "Five years of hiding in caves and scrounging for food, wearing that collar. You don't know! You couldn't."
Gunn: "You're never going back to that place. You're safe now."
Fred: "I was safe in the library until I opened that book and read those words, and then wham! I was hurling through dimensions."
Fred is holding her throat as if she can still feel the collar still around it - the collar pulling her back to Pylea. The imaginary collar, which represents/symbolizes a leash or lack of control - the collar Seidel put around her, enslaving her. Perhaps even the collar Gunn has figuratively put around her neck - as his sweet cute girlfriend with the wicked right hook ? (I don't know, I sincerely doubt Gunn ever intended that, but Fred's life unbeknownst to Gunn is rapidly becoming all about control or rather her lack of it. ) Until Fred can control those portals - she is their slave - they can drag her back to Pylea at any time.
In Anne, Buffy and Lily find themselves slaves in a hell dimension, together they fight their way out, sealing the dimension forever behind them. (Btvs Anne, S3) In There's no Place like Grbltz, Fred does not free herself - she is whisked back by the gang, actually by Wesely who with Fred's help, and the monk's books figures out the portholes and gets them back. But Fred doesn't really fight her way out like Buffy did in Anne, the AI gang does. She doen't end or even begin to understand the portal's ability to suck her there. Her theory about supersymmetry is her attempt to figure it out, to put an end to the nightmares. Throughout the episode it's made clear that Gunn has no clue what supersymmetry means, he just feels stupid. He doesn't understand why she's trying to figure it out. He doesn't understand why it is important to her to understand portals. From his point of view - it won't happen again - she's safe now. But Fred knows that's not true and is proven right in Supersymmetry, The Price and Sleep Tight - when portals change her life, Wes and Angel's. Connor is thrown into a hell dimension in Sleep Tight, he returns from it in the Price along with parasites that threaten Fred's life and of course Seidel tries to kill Fred with two different portals, one which almost gobbles Wes as well.
Gunn truly doesn't understand. He can't. Fred's fear is a part of her. She has no control over what happened to her and the fact that Seidel is attempting to do it again does not help. In Octavia Butler's Kindred , Dana's husband Kevin doesn't quite believe Dana's journeys back in time until he actually goes with her back through time. At first he just thinks she's disappearing. But experiencing it himself helps. Yet, even after they are transported, his experience and hers conflict. He doesn't see the time period as being that bad. He's bored. It's not traumatic to him. She however sees it as brutal, gruesome and feels horrible that she can't do more to change it. Compare this to Gunn and Fred in Pylea - Gunn never really sees what it's like for Fred in Pylea - he's working with Wes and the guerrilla fighters or he's in the castle with Cordelia. Only Angel and Cordelia see what Fred goes through. And remembr Gunn argues with Wes' view that anything is better than slavery.
Fred's Decision to Use A Porthole to Pay Back Professor Seidel
Why does Fred wish to use a porthole to punish Professor Seidel? Why doesn't she let Angel and Gunn take care of the problem for her?
In Supersymmetry, Fred finally decides to put an end to her fears. To no longer rely on someone else to save her or to solve her problems. And in order to put an end to it, she relies on her intelligence and the skills she developed in Pylea. Those barriers she'd put up have begun to break down. Slowly. Gunn doesn't see beyond the barriers, he only sees the girly-girl Texas Southern Bell façade. But beneath that façade is the person Fred knew couldn't go home again, could not go back to her college career, can not become a physicist. Oh she tried in Supersymmetry and even Fredless to go back, but deep down, she knows she can't. Just as Wesely knows he can't and Angel knows he can't. Their souls are tainted.
Wes is well aware of what vengeance does to a person of the taint on his soul- he states it to Fred: "'Fred, you do know that everything Angel and Gunn told you is true. Vengeance will have a price---and once you've acted you can't go back. You'll have to live with your actions forever."'
The biggest mislead of Supersymmetry is Gunn's niave belief that he can save Fred's soul now, that she doesn't have it in her, that she isn't already tainted - that she hasn't already had to do horrible acts. Fred is no longer a Southern Bell from Texas - that girl died five years ago in a hell dimension called Pylea. As Fred told Cordy - "I think I was born here", the Fred, we know, was. That's why she doesn't go home with her parents or re-enroll in the University. All she knows how to do is kill demons. She can't go back. Fred is no longer the girly-girl in pig-tails, although she does a great job of pretending to be. She has a sadistic streak, she knows how to kill, and she has a dark side that terrifies her. Part of her attraction to Wesely, even possibly to Angel, is that dark side. She won't be tainted by Wesely - she's already there, she's been there since Cordelia met her.
And she can no longer hide it from Gunn. Too much has happened, she can't keep that side of her a secret any longer. But that's not all that's going on here - Fred also feels powerless. In the beginning of the episode, she had taken back her power, she was at the top of her game, she had found a way to reenter the field she left five years ago - a way to reclaim what she loved. Then in the middle act - her power is taken away from her - by her trusted mentor, Professor Seidel. She is rendered helpless against his ability to risk her away at any moment. She is dependent on Gunn and Angel to save her from him. There's is no guarantee as is proven on two different occasions that Seidel won't do it to her again and Gunn may not be around to stop him. When Fred realizes it is Seidel and not just happening by chance - she decides to take back the power, she realizes she can stop him. If he can control the portals, so can she. She does not have to be the damsel any longer. She does not have to be at everyone's mercy.
Why does Fred ask Wes's help?
Because Wes is a sadist? No, because of all the AI team, Wes is the only one who can help her figure out how to control the portholes. In There's No Place Like Grlbtz - it is Wes who helps Fred figure out how to get them all back to LA. In The Price - it is Wes who figures out how to save Fred from the parasites. In Deep Down - it is Wes who figures out where Angel is and brings him back. In Grounded - it is Wes who figures out how to find Cordelia. And in Supersymmetry, Wes shows up at the lecture and has read Fred's article and understands it. Remember a big deal is made in that episode about how little Gunn and Angel understand about portholes and super-string theory. Gunn doesn't believe you can control them at first. Gunn doesn't solve problems with mathematical equations and books - he solves them with street smarts and fighting skills. Fred's problem is not one you can solve with street smarts and fighting skills - her fear is not that someone is going to physically attack her. She can deal with that. Her fear is she will be whisked away into a porthole and into hell. That she will be lost again and alone and powerless. Gunn can't help her. But Wes can.
When Fred comes to Wes for help - he goes to the books. When Seidel opens up a porthole to hurt Fred - Wes uses his knowledge to close it. With Wesely, as we learn later in Long Day's Journey when they do it again, Fred learns how to open and close portholes. She takes back the night, back her dreams, back her control. When she leaves Wes's side in Supersymmetry to confront Seidel, Wes offers to come with her - but she tells him not to, she needs to do this alone. He understands and lets her. She needs to fight Professor Seidel on her own terms in order to no longer have these nightmares.
Gunn/Fred and what happens to Seidel
In Gunn's head - he is being noble when he kills Seidel rather than let Fred throw him through a porthole that she's opened. Gunn believes he has saved Fred's soul. Gunn does not understand why she's angry at him. Nor does Gunn understand why it was important to Fred to send Seidel to whatever dimension she planned to send him. He never understood her problem with the portholes. Or her relationship with Seidel. Remember what the First Evil states in Btvs' Lessons? It's not about right or wrong - it's about POWER!
By killing Seidel - Gunn made the mistake that Wes didn't - he took away Fred's power. He has the power in that scene. By snapping Seidel's neck and nobly keeping Fred from tainting her soul, he places the collar back around her neck - a collar she's been struggling to remove for over a year. It was important to Fred to show Seidel that she could control the portholes now, that he no longer had power over her intellectually or physically - she was no longer afraid of him. By doing what Seidel did to Fred - Fred takes his power over the portholes, renders it impossible in her head at least for anyone to do it to her again.
Gunn, and not unjustifiably, believes that if Fred succeeded in her task - she would become Seidel. He believes by doing what Seidel did, she would be taking his place and he wishes to avoid that at all costs.
Fred believes that when Gunn snapped Seidel's neck then threw the body in the porthole that he took over. He saved her. Again. Made her into the damsel and by association a murderer. Because of her actions, he killed Seidel and that makes her a co-conspirator and co-murderer. Whether Fred would have gone through with her plan to send Seidel into the dimension - I don't know. Probably. But she didn't plan on killing him. She also knew what dimension she was sending him to - Gunn didn't - so it was possible it could have been temporary or no worse than Pylea. The writers don't tell us - so we'll never know for sure. But in Fred's head - Gunn took that power away from her - he put the collar back around her neck. He did not save her soul - that had been tainted long before he ever met her. It was too late for that.
Octavia Butler's book Kindred opens and closes with a mystery of how Dana, the lead character, loses her arm - the implication is somehow it got left in the past. Part of her is cut off. She is forever tainted by the experiences she's gone through. The same thing for poor Winnifred Burkel, she too is forever tainted by Pylea. Part of Fred - the cute girly-girl, the naïve student, the girl with all those hopes and dreams - has been cut off from her left in Pylea. She can pretend to be this girl, act the part, but sooner or later, the other parts of her will break through.
Back to our two questions: 1) Why did Professor Seidel send Winnifred Burkel to Pylea and when he discovers she's back, why does he attempt to send her to another hell dimension? 2) Why was it so important to Fred to send Seidel to a hell dimension?
The reason Fred attempts to send Professor Seidel through a porthole is in an odd way the same reason Professor Seidel does it to Fred. To take back the power over their lives. Seidel felt threatened by Fred's intellectual power - so sends her to hell. Fred feels threatened by Seidel's power and attempts to take back her intellectual power and her power over her life by doing the same to him. By snapping Seidel's neck - Gunn takes that power away from Seidel and Fred both. Leaving behind the stink of what they'd done. By helping Fred find the knowledge but not participating directly - Wes allows Fred the ability to take the power back herself and make her own choices.
I think the reason Fred can't quite deal with Gunn is partly due to the fact that he fails to recognize her need to feel empowered over her own life. He believes she already had that power. He did not understand how Pylea took it from her or why Pylea still haunted her. And I think the reason Fred has turned to Wes, is he does appear to understand this on some level that she realizes Gunn never quite will. The betrayal of the father figure, being thrust into a place you have no power, no control, and to feel like a failure because of it, particularly when someone else who falls through a similar porthole becomes a Princess instead. That is something Wes can grasp, it's not something Gunn can. It's partly why Fred was first attracted to Gunn, because he can't conceive of it and it may ironically be why she looks past him now.