Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Enemies


Season #3, Episode #17: Enemies

 

"Psych." 
 

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.


2 comments:

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  2. Yeah, I was really puzzled by when the act really started and chose not to dwell. Buffy being all insecure about how much Angel enjoyed playing the other side: sigh. I guess it's part of the ol' back-and-forth insecurity of (teen) relationships. I laughed at blue ninja owing Giles a favour. Faith's dark side is over the top here. I have not seen Smart House, but I shall.

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