Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Season #3, Episode #17: Enemies



Spoilers: Angel will leave the show semi-permanently at the end of this season. But considering the fact that he hasn't really belonged in Sunnydale for a year and has nothing at all to do, the show needs to come up with some reasons why he has to leave now as opposed to ten episodes ago.

So what better way than revisiting the concept of Angel getting a little too hot 'n bothered and losing his soul? He takes Buffy to see a French film which is apparently "very artistic" in the French sort of way that leaves the two of them in need of a cold shower. But Angel assures Buffy that he doesn't need no French people to stir his loins, and that basically every time he looks at Buffy it's like a French film in his pants. And yet, his soul is still intact. We'll put this assertion to the test in Enemies.

Faith turns up to take Buffy on patrol, where they run into a demon who wants to sell them the Books of Ascension. And isn't that convenient, since those just so happen to be the exact books the Mayor needs to complete his Ascension at the end of the season! Faith reports to the Mayor, who is more interested in giving Faith wholesome fashion advice and pouring her milk than hearing about these books. As he says, "There's nothing uncool about healthy teeth and bones!"

Buffy reports back to her father figure to learn more about the Ascension so they can decide whether or not to buy the books. The Ascension, in which a demon becomes really huge and does some bad stuff as far as I can tell, is so threatening that nobody even thinks to whollop Xander when he asks if the books contain any naughty engravings of nymphs.

But too late for the Scoobies, as Faith has already headed to the demon's sad apartment, killed him, and stolen the books. She freaks out a bit when he bleeds red blood all over her hands like Alan blood.

Faith heads to Angel's because she doesn't know where else to go, doesn't trust herself, and is in too deep. For a moment you wonder if she's being sincere and really asking for one more chance, but then she tries to jump his bones and extract his soul with her magical lady powers. Is she trying to serve her new boss's interests, or trying to get back at Buffy for having the perfect boyfriend and perfect life? I will say, the show does a good job of complicating Faith's motives.

Things get complicated when Xander turns up with the address of the now dead demon so that they can go buy the books. As if finding the demon's corpse isn't awkward enough, Buffy is acting awfully frosty toward Faith--she caught a glimpse of Faith and Angel "bonding" the night before.

Buffy tells Willow about this secret rendezvous. Willow assures her that Angel would never go there, even though Faith is the sluttiest hobag from whoreville. Which is really meaningful coming from someone in this outfit.

Angel is back in his lair doing yoga as per usual when Faith turns up to apologize for the night before. But what she's really there to do is splash some gross blood all over poor Angel's white tank top, at which point a blue ninja says some mumbo jumbo and creates some blue swirlies. We are to understand that this process has freed Angel of his soul. And yeah, Angelus's first move is to kiss Faith on the mouth and then punch her in the face.

Faith tells Angelus that she can hook him up with the real power in Sunnydale, and then starts emphatically making out with him. So I guess she really was jelly of Buffy all along. The two head to the Mayor's office to get their next mission. Angelus is feeling a bit rebellious and demands he be called Master, until he tries to throw a letter opener through the Mayor's heart and learns that he's invincible. The Mayor gives Angel the same task as Faith--find Buffy and kill her.

Angelus lures Buffy back to his lair promising to deliver her the books of Ascension, but instead he knocks her out cold. When she comes to, she's tied up in chains watching Faith make out with Angelus right in front of her. Faith then gives an excruciating speech about how she had an absent dad and alcoholic mom, and that explains why in the span of two episodes she, without hesitation, unveils a whole set of torture devices to extract Buffy's teeth with and otherwise torture her slowly until she dies. Faith also goes from jumping around jovially on patrol with Buffy two episodes ago to telling her that she can't wait to see all of Buffy's friends slowly killed, adding, "Think about that when your boyfriend's cutting into you."

Oh, and one more thing. Faith tells Buffy her rage comes from the fact that Sunnydale was supposed to be her town, but all she ever hears about is Buffy Buffy Buffy. So basically it all boils down to Faith essentially being Jan Brady, and being jelly jeal that Angel luvs Buffy and not her. Add two parts Troubled Childhood, and voila.

Except, no? That is totally contrived? We've seen Faith act unhinged. We've seen Faith be reckless. I can buy her turn of character having accidentally killed Alan. But I cannot buy this. And what the show offers by way of explanation is paltry. If (1) the Jan Brady factor and (2) Troubled Childhood don't convince you, the final rushed justification we get is that Faith turned to the Mayor, who is Evil, as a father figure, to serve as a mirror to Buffy and Giles. Many fans point to the deep bond developed between the two of them. To which I say, no.

Let me explain. Have you ever seen the 1999 Disney Channel original movie Smart House? In this film, a family moves into a big mansion that is taken care of by a computer named PAT. PAT is basically HAL from 2001, only posing as a suburban housewife. Things start to get crazy when PAT tries to teach herself how to be a good mom by programming herself with many 50s sitcoms about nuclear families, which culminates in her trying to hold the whole family hostage.
[Jump. Jump. The house is jumpin'.]

This is the Mayor, in a nutshell. If I had more time, I would go back and compile every line of dialogue uttered by the Mayor to Faith. I would be willing to bet that 95% at least are extremely hokey throwaway lines of dialogue from Leave it to Beaver. In this episode alone, he gives Faith that whole spiel about drinking milk. Later, he entreats Angelus to have Faith home by 11, and wistfully reflects, "They grow up so fast!" Which isn't moving, even in a creepy way. Faith has been in the Mayor's employ for all of one episode. Everything he says to her is played for laughs, similar to everything he says to anyone, all the time. I get it--the Mayor is a germaphobe, and also an evil demon! LOL! But by episode 17, we have beaten that horse so dead that to try to resurrect it in order to explain why a Slayer has now dived headfirst into the deep dark black lagoon of Evil and Bad Decisions is incongruous at best.

But ANYWAY! When Faith tells Buffy that she's the world's best actor, Angelus responds, "Second best." INCEPTION! Angel was only pretending to be Angelus, and Buffy was in on the plan. Which leaves one to wonder--how long was she in on it? It turns out that blue ninja was really acting on behalf of Giles because he owed him a favor for introducing him to his wife. So was Buffy only pretending to be all emo about Faith and Angel? It's best not to ask these questions.

I didn't mention that at some point, the Scoobies did some research and uncovered the startling truth about Mayor Wilkins--he has been the Mayor for many centuries. And nobody has ever noticed this because...?

And what did Angel and Buffy manage to learn via inception? The Mayor is planning his Ascension on graduation day. But Buffy also learns to feel a little uneasy about Angel's "act" for no discernible reason other than it's time for him to leave the show. "It was just an act," she keeps telling herself. And to a degree, fair enough. Even if it's obvious that Angel doesn't truly want to torture and kill Buffy, it wasn't all that long ago that Angelus was actually stalking her, and trauma wounds run deep. Those times just seem so long ago, and not just because I am a lazy blogger.

Favorite Moment: OBVIOUSLY the best moment of this episode is when Xander sees Angel and Faith walking down the street, runs up to them, and gets knocked out by Angel. Angel is posing as Angelus in this moment, but when he says, "I never liked that guy," you'll be right there with Buffy wondering if it really was just an act.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Season #3, Episode #16: Doppelgängland  

"Did you try looking inside the sofa in hell?"

The back end of Season 3 alternates between evil Faith and her Lipstick of Darkness, and charming little one-offs like Doppelgängland. I will warn you ahead of time that despite enjoying the humor in this episode, I find myself without much to say besides "LOL good one Joss!"

We begin after the events of The Wish, in which Anyanka was thwarted by Giles and lost her vengeance demon powers. Her punishment is to live out her mortal life as a teenage girl at Sunnydale High. This is excruciating for Anya, who is centuries old and used to have great power, and is now "flunking math."

As Anya loses her power, Willow's magical powers are growing--she can make a fake pencil rotate in front of her face! Lest you fear this coming into her own as a witch cause Willow to mature ever so slightly, she punctuates her pencil levitation to kick her feet and say, "Wanna go to the expresso machine and get sugared up on mochas??" and, "What's with the calisthenics, aren't you already buff, Buff? Hee hee, buff buff!" Also, she is wearing this.

But to be fair, the writers may be playing up Willow's Peter Pan-ness considering the events of of the episode to come. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. It seems that in order to prove she's not a raving lunatic, Faith has to undergo some sort of physical aptitude test ordered by the Council. If you can't follow the logic behind that, it's probably because I have no idea what I'm talking about. And in fact, Buffy has to take the test as well. So, huh? I guess there weren't any Consequences after all, har har!

Willow has her own task--Principal Snyder has enlisted her to help tutor super jock Percy. He's flunking history but is totes a dreamboat.

While the Council might be indiscriminately trusting of Faith, we know better! She does some spying on the Scoobies to see what they know about the Mayor, and then reports back to her new boss in the fancy new apartment he bought for her. She jumps around like a kid in a candy store, then creepily grabs him by the lapel and says, "Thanks, sugar daddy."

The Mayor finds this as creepy as I do. He's a family man, and Faith's new father figure. But he doesn't mince words when telling Faith of his plans for her--ultimately, she will kill Buffy. And then on a lighter note, he tells her, "If I'm not mistaken, some lucky girl has herself a Playstation!"

Faith may be lucky, but Willow isn't faring so well. Percy orders her to write his history paper for him. Oz didn't tell Willow about a kewl Dingoes Ate My Baby show because he figured she wouldn't want to miss school. And worst of all, Buffy calls Willow "Old Reliable." "That's a real sexy nickname!" she protests. But I mean, it's probably as sexy as would be appropriate to describe somebody wearing this sweater.

And who should turn up at this exact moment but...Anya! She asks for Willow's help casting a spell, and since Willow is feeling particularly uncool, she jumps at the opportunity to do something ~dangerous~. Even if the spell in question will bring forth Anya's magical necklace and enable her to open up all kinds of terrible hell dimensions. When Willow senses the darkness of the spell, she walks off in a huff, causing Anya to smash a magical plate and...well, it's best not to fret about the details. Long story short, she unleashes Vampire Willow from The Wish into their universe. Which is all to say, uh-oh!

Vampire Willow heads to The Bronze looking for fresh meat. She runs into Percy, and wastes no time throwing him over a pool table and trying to choke him to death.

When Xander and Buffy turn up, she's sad to find out that Xander is still a lowly human and not her dreamy vampire boyfriend. To Buffy, she snarls and says, "I don't like you," before revealing her vampire face. Now, remember that the alternate universe in The Wish had no bearing on our universe, so none of the characters remember Vampire Willow, and instead think that Human Willow has been killed and turned into a vampire.

A group of vampires attack Vampire Willow in the alley thinking that she is Human Willow. But, since she is a vampire, she easily overtakes them and extracts information from them by slowly breaking their fingers one by one. Among the information they reveal: the Mayor sent them to kidnap Human Willow. But Vampire Willow doesn't care about any of that. She enlists the vampire's help to take over the Bronze and make things fun, like they used to be in her universe.

The Scoobies mourn Willow's death in the library, solemnly reflecting on the fact that she was a better person than all of them, and, according to Giles, "much, much better" than Xander. So imagine their surprise when Human Willow enters the library none the wiser. After hugging and shrieking and crying, the Scoobies fill Willow in that her leather-clad doppelganger is prowling the streets.

Vampire Willow and her Merry Gang of Vampires take over the Bronze. Most of these scenes involve Willow slowly weaving through a crowd giving people the eye and alternating between a whimper and a snarl. Oh and also killing some kids. She's about to give Oz the kiss of death when Anya turns up to explain the whole alternate universe concept to Vampire Willow and offer her a way of getting back to where she belongs.

Anya's plan involves breaking into the Sunnydale High library and kidnapping Human Willow in order to fix the spell they attempted earlier in the episode. But first Vampire Willow creepily licks Human Willow's neck, like, coming onto herself? Thank you very much, Joss, for this classy visual.

Human Willow shoots Vampire Willow with a tranquilizer gun and locks her in the trusty library cage. But what to do about the bevy of vampires at the Bronze looking to kill? Buffy comes up with a "really bad idea"--that is, dress Human Willow up in Vampire Willow's clothes and have her pose as her alternate universe self. (Are you getting confused yet?)

You have to hand it to Alyson Hannigan, who does a much better job of inhabiting her alternate universe self than she did in The Wish. She can do the weirdly sultry and quietly menacing vampire stuff, but when she heads back into the Bronze as her human self, she's the same old bumbling perpetual child that we know and love (or at least tolerate.) Much hilarity ensues as she tries to be menacing while simultaneously sending the vampires outside one-by-one to their deaths: "I think I heard something out there. Can you go check?"

Meanwhile, Vampire Willow wakes up just in time for Cordelia to come to the library looking for Wesley. She nearly convinces her to open the cage, but Cordelia takes the opportunity to take who she thinks is WIllow to task for ruining her relationship with Xander.

Blah blah blah, eventually Anya figures out that Vampire Willow is not so much a vampire. The gig is up, and Willow sends out the Buffy signal. Vampire fight ensues. Meanwhile, Cordelia lets Vampire Willow out of her cage and is saved at the last second by Wesley. More vampire fighting. But honestly, vampire fights in the Bronze is soooo The Harvest.

In the end, Vampire Willow gets sent back to her universe, only to be immediately killed by Oz. And Percy, motivated by his near death at "Willow"'s hand, gives her two detailed outlines for his paper and a shiny red apple.
Minus the stuff with Faith and the Mayor, the plot of this episode isn't very compelling. I guess our major takeaway is that Willow will try to take on the more rebellious aspects of her vampire self--there's a lot of dialogue about wanting to kill the weak, childish Willow who lets people walk all over her--but I don't think we see too big a change in Willow's character for another season or so. Tho I might be wrong.

Also, much foreshadowing--Willow thinks that her Vampire Self might be "kinda gay," because apparently being gay = wanting to make out with yourself. And Willow tapping into her dark side...let's just say we haven't seen the last of it. Also, there will be many more terrible sweaters.

Fans love this episode because of little humorous moments that are difficult to translate to text. For example, when Anya reveals that "Vampire" Willow is actually human, Willow says, "Oh yeah? Could a human do this?" and screams for help, to which Anya responds, "Yeah, I think so." You will laugh. And I suppose that if you are a person who really deeply loves Willow, this is the episode for you. As for me? Bored now.  

Favorite moment: When Willow first reveals herself to the Scoobies, who think that she's a vampire, Xander runs at her with crucifix in hand. When it doesn't work, he shakes the crucifix a few times, and tries again. A little piece of physical humor.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Season #3, Episode #14: Consequences  
"I guess that means you have a job opening."
A funny thing happens when I don't update my blog for two months. I start thinking about updating my blog, and decide that I am not strong enough to undertake the arduous process of watching a 45-minute episode and writing some stuff. It seems like the most difficult and time-consuming process imaginable. But then I actually get up the wherewithal to review an episode and realize I am just a big fat whiner. It seems easy again. Expect frequent updates.

So, without further ado...Consequences.

Our episode begins with a dream of High Metaphorical Importance. Buffy is underwater, where gross dead Alan tries to pull her down further. She escapes and kicks to the top, where Faith is ready to dunk her back under. It would seem that she is dealing with the feelings of guilty and anxiety over Alan's death and her inevitable punishment for it...poorly. Whereas Faith gleefully ignores her emotions, and is also sadistic and evil!!!
Turns out Buffy's anxieties are justified. Despite Faith's reassurances in Bad Girls, a crack team of cops manage to find Alan's body in the water by morning. Props to the Sunnydale PD, who up until this point only turned up to scratch their heads at neck puncture wounds and recover Ted's corpse without realizing it was the corpse of a robot.

Wesley sends Buffy and Faith on their next mission--solving Alan's murder. Pursuant to Buffy's dream, Faith keeps her cool and agrees to join the investigation, while Buffy flails about in protest. Lucky for her, Wesley becomes distracted when Cordelia comes into the library with her youthful exuberance and feminine wiles. She asks him what he's doing in Sunnydale and he responds, "I am here to watch girls."
Later, Faith asks Buffy if she plans on turning her in, but not without first pulling some Jedi mind tricks to convince Buffy that they're equally responsible for the murder, which I don't think is strictly true in the dictionary sense of responsible or even the legal definition; she does a number on Buffy's psyche regardless.

And Buffy has plenty to worry about, considering the fact that everyone around Sunnydale is beginning to piece together the details. Angel remembers finding Buffy with blood on her hands (like, actual blood, we're out of the dream of metaphoric importance) at the scene of the crime, and Mr. Trick tells the Mayor that Alan had wood splinters from a stake in his stab wound. This delights the Mayor.
As part of her master plan to manipulate Buffy, Faith insists that there was probably something shady about Alan, and why was he out by himself in the alley anyway, and at this point you realize that the Slayers are not yet onto the Mayor's more evil pursuits. It really has been a long time since I've watched the show.
Anyway, while digging through the Mayor's files, Faith tries the old statistical approach to dealing with murder, and tells Buffy that since they've saved so many people's lives, killing one person is no big. I seem to recall somebody using this same argument back in Ted to help assuage Buffy's guilt, but she wasn't buying it then, and she's not buying it now. They may have a sacred calling®, but Buffy doesn't feel it makes their lives more valuable. Faith disagrees. She flat-out says, "We are better." A more adept blogger than myself might call this part of the "bargaining" stage of grief to follow up her previous encounter with Buffy, which was maybe "anger," though I'm not sure which comes first--possibly sloth?

(Also, there's a huge missed opportunity to tie the events of Ted into this episode, as they're basically rehashing Buffy's process of grief after she killed a "human" only to contrast it with Faith's process. But there's no need to do that, since they already did it in Ted. Plus, the whole "I killed a guy before you made it fashionable" line of conversation might be to Buffy's advantage here.)

Regardless of her disagreement with Faith, Buffy keeps up the act when a detective turns up at her door questioning her whereabouts the previous night.
Desperate and alone, Buffy goes back to Willow to confess. You will recall that she blew Willow off in the previous episode to go hang out with her cool BFF Faith like so much fairy dust in a princess hat. But her foray into cool-ness with the hip, popular girl left Buffy wanting to go back to her more innocent former life. You'll notice that even the wardrobe choices here set Faith up like a jezebel, while Willow and Buffy are dressed like a six-year-old and her doting soccer mom, respectively.
Unloading to Willow gives Buffy the courage to go to Giles and confess. Only Faith is already at the library when she arrives, having confessed to Giles her fanciful version of the story in which Buffy killed Alan. I mean anyone can see through that, look at their outfits.

Luckily, Giles sees right through Faith, but doesn't let on. He finds her unstable and dangerous until she's able to take responsibility for what she did. He and Buffy decide to leave the Council out of it until they're able to try to get through to Faith, but a dramatic camera pan reveals Wesley sitting outside listening to their covert plan.
Then we get to a point where I realize I have no idea what is going on in the series because Xander is confessing to having slept with Faith, and Willow finds this traumatizing and cries in a bathroom? And I'm like wait, where's Oz? Did Willow and Xander already do that awful thing that I swore I would never think about ever again? Are we still hung up on this?
Anyway, the context for this is that Xander thinks he can get through to Faith due to the fact of their boning in The Zeppo, and despite Buffy's protestations, he stops by her place to try to reason with her. Suffice it to say that Faith is not really receptive. She first attempts some good old-fashioned sexual assault and then tries to choke Xander, possibly to death? And while I can't say I love Xander, this is probably as strong a declaration of Faith's crossing into evil-dom as there ever will be.
Good for Xander, Angel is doing what he does best and lurking creepily in the shadows, and knocks Faith out with a baseball bat. Faith gets tied up in Angel's lair. Angel drops some knowledge on Buffy about what it's like to kill a man, and his assessment is basically that it's not all too dissimilar to opening a can of Pringles. Which is to say that they shouldn't have too high hopes of Faith's rehabilitation.
He tries to reason with her nonetheless, giving her a pep talk about redemption, and the power of free will, and for more, make sure to tune into Angel the Series! He knows what it's like to feel drunk on power, and that ending a life with your own hands is the pinnacle of that power. Unfortunately, Wesley already tipped off the Council that Faith is the culprit, and they bust in at this precise moment to find a vampire holding a Slayer hostage. They tie Angel up in a net and arrest Faith.
Poor Wesley, however, is too much of a bumbling moron for words, and basically gets slapped up and down a police van by Faith. Buffy chases her to a dock where Faith is trying to hop aboard a freighter. Here we get lesson #3 in master manipulation, as Faith accuses Buffy of being jealous that she can't live free and die hard and, handily for the viewer, explicates the basic reason for the existence of her character: "You need me to toe the line because you're afraid you'll go over it."
Because at the end of the episode, all three of Faith's appeals to Buffy are true, in a way. True in the way that anyone who has ever been a 4-year-old or a Chuck Palahniuk fan will be able to relate. Faith argues that: (1) It's Buffy's fault, too, and (2) even if it isn't her fault, who even cares, cos using an abstract intellectual argument about math, nothing really matters dude, and (3) whatever Buffy you're just jealous!

But there's more to what Faith says than just me being disingenuous. Throughout this season, Faith has served as Buffy's mirror, or in her own words, an example of what Buffy could be if she didn't have to toe the line. She is Buffy's repressed dark side. She gives into her baser impulses of a person with power, to exploit, to take thrill in exerting her power, to succumb to her earthly desires. And if Faith doesn't repent for doing these things, if she just gets away with it and doesn't have to suffer the consequences, then that means Buffy has no reason to stop herself from crossing the line. Because why not? Faith's having fun.

And that all sounds well and good in my head. But in my humble opinion, creating an entire character whose function is to be a mirror, rather than an actual person, is more obnoxious than intellectually satisfying. And Faith annoys the crap out of me. Nothing that happens with her character after this point held any weight with me the first go round, because suddenly we're supposed to stop seeing Faith as Buffy's shadow figure and feel sorry for her. And in episodes to come we're going to get some vague back story to flesh out Faith, but it's a hack job. They take her character too far with too little to carry her. OR SO I THOUGHT the first time--I'm already enjoying Faith more now than I did then. I will be happy to be proven wrong.

So anyway back to the dock. Mr. Trick turns up to take out the Slayers with their newfound knowledge of the Mayor's dirty doings, and very nearly kills Buffy--only to be unceremoniously turned to dust by Faith. Mr. Trick, we hardly knew ye. I mean, seriously, what a wasted character.
But the fact that Faith saved Buffy when she didn't have to tells Buffy that she isn't really all bad after all. I think we pretty much settled this roundabout the time she almost murdered Xander, but hey, maybe I'm just a pessimist.

And sure enough, no sooner does Buffy express hope for Faith's redemption than Faith goes to the Mayor's office and asks him for a job.

Too far, and too little to carry her?