3.14 Bad Girls
Bite Me! pages 201-206
Welcome to week 17 (!) of the Buffy Rewatch! I’ve been noticing in recent weeks that many people commenting on the episodes and the commentary have been saying things like, “I’m surprised no one pointed out the obvious, which was ______.” And in many cases, I did point that out… in my book. But I’m trying not to reiterate too much that I already talked about in my book. So instead at the beginning of each week I’m going to direct you to the pages in Bite Me — The Chosen Edition: The Unofficial Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer that correspond to this week’s episodes. Things have gotten a bit crazy for me here now that I’m trying to cover Buffy, Fringe, Game of Thrones, and any other show that I’m watching right now (by the way, if you’re not watching The Killing… WATCH IT) so I’m just going to focus on the first of our three eps this week in mine, and trust me, the guests I have this week will MORE than make up for my lack of wordage.
This week we finally come to an episode many commentators (including myself) have referred to whenever discussing the ins and outs of Xander: “The Zeppo.” This has been a fan favourite since it first aired, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful in so many ways. Now, when it was first broadcast and the message boards lit up, I distinctly remember a large group of people complaining that the apocalypse that Buffy and the Gang were fighting looked REALLY interesting and they were pissed off that we didn’t get to see it in anything other than snippets. Those people were missing the point, in my opinion. This was an episode showing everything from Xander’s point of view (with a few moments that diverted from that when he couldn’t have possibly known what was happening in a handful of scenes) and the apocalypse itself doesn’t matter. What matters is the behind-the-scenes stuff that Xander goes through, and how this one episode makes you watch everything after it in a different way. Whenever one of the Scoobs isn’t around, what exactly are they up to? Could they be having an even wilder adventure than Buffy at the moment?
The hilarious lines from this episode are many (my favourite being Giles commenting that there’s a “stench of death in the air” and Xander replying, “I think that’s Bob”) but what has always stuck with me about it is the moment where Xander is standing next to the bomb and refuses to let Jack leave. Jack says he doesn’t care because he’s not afraid, and then says, “Are you?” Xander stands there for a second, and a serene smile appears on his face as he softly says, “I like the quiet.” It’s a scene that, with the exception of the first time I watched it (where I stared at my screen in shock), has always brought me to tears. Xander is always the guy with the jokes, the happy fun guy, but deep down he’s endured more pain than possibly anyone else in the crew. Perhaps it’s why he lashes out the way he always does. Buffy might have had to fight her boyfriend and lose him in a battle by her own hand, but what about Xander, whose parents don’t seem to care if he lives or dies, who sleeps outside in a tent in the middle of the winter because he can’t stand the fighting and drinking happening inside, who has been the butt of jokes at school and possibly the victim of abuse in his home? He’s found solace with his friends, and they constantly do things he doesn’t agree with, and so he gets angry. In this moment, we realize that he’s reconciled himself to his own fate perhaps more solidly than even Buffy has. She said poignantly in “Prophecy Girl” that she’s only 16, and doesn’t want to die. But Xander… he seems kind of OK with it. That said, I always breathe a sigh of relief when he seems to snap out of his reverie the moment the door opens and he’s able to leave, as if he was telling himself it was OK in the moment and he didn’t really mean it. Or did he?
I’ll leave “Bad Girls” and “Consequences,” two brilliant Faith episodes (are you totally loving her yet?) to Michael Holland below. Faith, the Mayor, Wesley… god, there is so much to say about these, I’m ticked that this would be the week I’m too busy to weigh in much (but I do have something to say in my book). However, without spoiling you, I just want to say that I know Wesley comes off as the Upper Class Twit of the Year when you first meet him, and you’re not wrong to think that. But I can say without a moment of hesitation that he is hands down my favourite character in the Whedonverse. Really. He is going to go on to have the single most incredible, heart-wrenching, and beautiful character arc of all of Whedon’s characters. And I say that knowing you guys know the love I have for Willow and Giles. They’re both amazing characters, but they can’t touch Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. You can’t see it now, but trust me on this one.
OK! First up in our guests this week, we have a teeny tiny slice of cheese from Steve Halfyard about the music in “The Zeppo”:
*For the next two writers, I'll be using invisible ink. Whenever you see a space with no writing, highlight the area and you can see the hidden spoilery comments. If you're a first-time watcher, don't highlight the spoilers if you wish to remain spoiler-free.
Next up is first time caller, long time listener, Ensley Guffey. I met Ensley's girlfriend, Dale Koontz, briefly at Slayage 3 in Arkansas, after she delivered a fantastic paper there, and when Dale came over to me to say hi at Slayage 4, she introduced him to me as her husband. Now the two of them are my favourite Facebook comedy team, and I think they are one of the most perfect couplings of two people I’ve ever met. I’ll let Ensley give you the rest of his bio, just because it was too damn funny for me to rewrite.
Ensley Guffey is an academic late-bloomer who spends most of his time walking up and down the earth scowling at flash cards and declining Latin nouns, but it beats the restaurant business. His scribblings on a myriad of subjects can be found at Solomon Mao’s, a blog where he manfully attempts to post regularly. He is married to the absolutely incredible K. Dale Koontz, presented his first paper at Slayage 4, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Watcher Junior, and the week this Rewatch post appears he will be presenting on Breaking Bad at the Pop Culture Association’s National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Other plates currently being spun include a paper on Samuel Colt and Supernatural, a look at war in the works of Joss Whedon, graduating from college, and talking someone into letting him into graduate school. He must also find the time to obtain a passport before Slayage 5 because apparently Canada is a whole different country and all. Who knew? He always thought it was part of Maine or something.
A paper by Ensley Guffey
I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons (back when Gary Gygax still worked for TSR, and D&D had yet to turn into a glorified poker game), and with few exceptions, I always played humans, and always fighter-types. I had a Muggle’s instinctive distrust for magic users, and an ingrained belief that despite the lack of any sort of inborn powers or racial ability, the good old-fashioned, un-improved human bean was the most versatile, dependable, cunning, and downright scary critter in any world, real or imagined. A belief I still hold, by and large.
So, when invited to participate in the Great Buffy Re-Watch of 2011, I leapt on the opportunity to write about Season 3’s “The Zeppo,” the ultimate Xander-centric episode, and a love song to all of us guys (including, as Joss Whedon admits, the creator of Buffy his own bad self) who displayed Xander-type traits in high school (and beyond). For a Geek Guy like me, this episode has more emotional realism per frame than any other in the series. This is how high school, first time sex, and dealing with a world far more powerful and insane than I’d imagined really was! Sure the wild boys weren’t dead, but I knew versions of all of them, and I remember more than once having to evacuate my high school due to bomb threats (fortunately none of them real, so far as I know). As for first time sex, Xander pretty much sums it up:
“Long gone. Probably loaded with supplies. Gotta think. I can't believe I had sex. Okay, bombs. Already dead guys with bombs.”
For most of this episode, Xander is running on marbles. It’s doable as long as you keep moving forward, and Xander manages to stay mostly upright, but it doesn’t mean that things are under control. He’s reacting, being swept along, and things are getting crazier and crazier, and while all of that’s going on, he’s trying to figure out just who the hell he is and if that person is worth being. You know, pretty much the story of my late teens and early twenties (and late twenties and early thirties but who’s counting?)
And then he gets laid. By Faith, who is – let’s face it – the definition of “out of his league.” That’s heady stuff, and look at how it’s presented to us: in the reflection on the glass of a television screen, emphasizing just how unreal all of this has got to seem to Xander. He’s leapt from a potentially deadly encounter with a knife-wielding psycho, to roaring around Sunnydale with a car full of dead hoodlums bent on mayhem, to running down a demon with his car, to Faith’s bed. There has been no time to adjust to any of it, no chance to slow down and collect himself, and meanwhile all of his friends are so involved in their own thing (sure it’s an apocalypse, but what isn’t?) that he’s left all on his own.
So what does Xander do? Well, to put it bluntly, he mans up. He does what I think every 17-18 year-old guy who’s ever found himself so overwhelmed by life, sex, and self-doubt wishes he could do: when there’s finally a moment to catch his breath, and when it’s become obvious that Angel and Buffy are too far up one another’s butts with the self sacrificing and eternal love to help out, he straightens his spine and takes care of things himself. More, he does it knowing that he will most likely wind up on the wrong side of the whole dead-guy thing. This is it, this is the core of the episode and of Xander Harris: he screws up, he gets knocked across rooms and buried under trash, he gets into ridiculously dangerous situations – often of his own making – and he always, always stands up. For his friends, to his friends, often in spite of mortal danger, but always in the finest traditions of masculinity.
I’m not talking about any macho-nonsense here, or trying to get into a whole gender-issues debate, I’m just saying that as a role model for the modern man, you could do worse than Xander. He’s utterly human, surrounded by powerful forces he can neither control nor really understand but which directly affect him every day, and every major female figure in his life goes above and beyond the usual meaning of a strong woman. Xander knows this, accepts this, and moves forward, doing his absolutely human best. Xander will hold down a job and work hard. Xander will provide for those he loves in every way he can. And Xander will be there in the darkest night and brightest day. You can count on Xander, and on his humanity, his masculinity, chock-full of flaws as it is. I’m not gonna spoil it for you, Readers Mine, but you can trust me on this one: Whether you want to debate the merits of George Lucas’ casting, build a picture window, or save the world from an ancient, Lovecraftian evil, you want Xander Harris with you.
“The Zeppo” is where Xander discovers all of this within himself, and when we begin to realize that true heroism lies not in being chosen, but in making a choice.
Okay, the other two eps in my block are gonna get short shrift, I’m afraid, but I’ll try to be pithy and brief, with some spoilage as noted by asterisks:
• Oh Mr. Mayor and Mr. Trick, I miss you!!
• Wesley Wyndam-Milquetoast-Pryce*
• Oh noes! Faith is going to the dark side! (never saw that one coming!)
• My inner monologue: “Wow, Balthazar is one disgustingly fat thing. Nasty. I should really start working out again.”
• God I love it when “Ripper” Giles shows up!
• Faith washing shirt in the sink: Lady Macbeth anyone?
*I had forgotten what an incredible journey it is from “But I’d like to have my knee-caps” to “I’ll take away your bucket.” Poor Wes!
Has anyone else noticed that the eye that Xander twitches every time Buffy says “Faith” is the same eye that Caleb “plucks out” in Season 7?
• Faith gets even worse!
• Oh Xander. You moron.
• Angel gets to do some old-school Twelfth Step Work!*
• Oh Wesley. You moron.**
• Mr. Trick!! NOOOOOO!!
• So Sunnydale is a deep water port?***
• See, now if the Mayor had Faith and Mr. Trick, the gang would really be in trouble!
*Faith hasn’t hit bottom yet though, so Angel won’t get to sponsor her until “Sanctuary” in Season 1 of Angel.
** Again, it’s a long way from trying to kidnap Faith in a panel truck to emptying a clip into something Wes thinks is his father when it starts to threaten Fred!
*** Seriously, in “Chosen” don’t we see the crater that used to be Sunnydale completely surrounded by dry land? The Sunnydale docks must be from the same plot-convenience warehouse as the castle in “Buffy vs. Dracula”
Thank you, Ensley! And now, a REALLY long essay (but worth the read!) by Michael Holland. Michael has been one of the most regular readers and commenters on my blog since back in the Lost days, and one day he emailed me to tell me he was the post-production supervisor on Dollhouse and was really enjoying reading the Dollhouse discussions we were having on my blog. It’s always been great to hear from him, and he’s weighed in on some great topics when we were discussing Lost, so when he asked me if would consider allowing him to contribute to the Buffy Rewatch, I didn’t hesitate for a second before saying yes. Now, he actually gave me a giant paper on all three, but when Ensley covered off The Zeppo I decided just to run the parts of his paper here that were on Bad Girls and Consequences, so that every episode would get its say. (However, never fear: I will run his Zeppo rundown in the spoilers section because I can’t bear to just chop something out completely after someone’s gone to so much work on it!) I was hesitant to ask him to cut it down too much, because he’s been very busy ever since his second son was born at the end of March. And to give you an idea of the cuteness that has just come into the world, here is Michael with his first son, Jack. All together now… AWWWWWW.
So without any further ado, here is Michael Holland!
I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.
When I first read that Guest Commentators would be co-hosting The Great Buffy Rewatch, I knew I somehow had to be a part of it. But how? I wasn’t sure. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Nikki in person, just over email, but the little contact we’d had made me believe I could at least email her about it. So I did. And of course she was as wonderfully gracious as you’d expect; as most of you already know. That I – just another fan – could join what many consider the great Buffy academics around.
Which brings me to the biting and chewing.
First of all, who was I to join such academics? Sure, I’ve worked in Hollywood all my professional life – including a stint on Dollhouse – so perhaps I had a certain “in.” And I write about The Whedonverse every once in a while. And I’m definitely a fan, having watched all of Whedon’s series live as they aired, including hosting get-togethers for Buffy and eventually along with Angel those wonderful Tuesday nights long ago. But would any of this give me cred among the real academics?
More biting, more chewing.
For second of all, by the time I garnered enough courage to throw my hat in the ring, all the episodes were already taken. Had I missed my chance? Well, I did see there were a few double-ups, so I thought, “Well, I’ll offer a couple of weeks and see what happens,” pretty sure I could write a little something entertaining, hopefully interesting, and succeed in my own original goal: to simply be a part of this exciting year.
I saw the Zeppo week and remembered how much I love that episode. I’ve always had a soft spot for Xander so I thought, “Yeah! Zeppo! That one will be fun.” (So much of a soft spot, in fact, that I hate Hell’s Bells with a furious passion. But we’ll get to that.) But what I didn’t immediately think about was Bad Girls and Consequences being in the same group. I tried to remember what happened in those. (Before this Great Rewatch, I hadn’t seen Season 3 in a couple of years.) “Let’s see, that’s where Faith kills The Deputy Mayor. And one of them is where Wesley shows up. Anything else? Eh, I’ll figure it out. Yeah, I can do that group.”
For the sake of this review, of course, I rewatched Bad Girls and Consequences again and, um, there’s a lot that happens in them. (As I smack myself in the head) They’re kind of the crux of the rest of the season.
Uh oh. Had I picked the wrong group, especially considering my academic audience?
Had I bitten off more than I could chew?
Camera pushes in on me, wide-eyed at my laptop, furiously typing away and –
w Doug Petrie
d Michael Lange
While The Zeppo is a stand-alone episode, barely if at all dealing with the mythology of the season, Bad Girls and Consequences – they’re really a two-parter, aren’t they? – are very much the mythology of the season. In fact, they’re the season’s very turning point. While up through these episodes we’ve been chugging up the track of the first big hill, the rest of the season is the roller coaster ride. And, wow.
As I say, I’d forgotten just how significant especially Bad Girls is, but felt better when the writer himself, Doug Petrie, said the same in his DVD Commentary Track. Think of it. The Mayor full-fledgingly (it’s a word) stepping into his role; the introduction of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (as it’s spelled in Petrie’s script, though we’ll also see it Wyndam-Price and Wyndham-Price); Angel and Wesley meet [and considering their relationship on Angel, how “Casablanca” (I like to call it; something meaning more the second time you watch it) this truly is]; another character (Balthazar) references The Mayor’s importance; we’re introduced to Faith’s longbow (which will play a significant role in Graduation Day Part 1); and The Mayor becomes invincible. (All in just forty-four minutes!)
There is always The Big Bad of the Season, and Season 3’s is of course The Mayor. But the more significant enemy – certainly to Buffy personally – is Faith. (Foreshadowing Season 6 in which, as Nikki herself points out so well in Bite Me!, The Big Bad is least clear. Some say The Troika, some say Willow, where, really, it’s the characters’ process of growing up. I wish I was as astute, but couldn’t agree more.) Throughout the first three seasons, though it will certainly carry throughout the entire series, Buffy has had to balance her personal life with the life of The Slayer. But what Season 3 looks at specifically, certainly from Bad Girls forward, is what happens when the life of The Slayer takes a different path. (Our great What If episode The Wish looked at this as well, but singularly, and from its Elseworld point of view. Now – much like the cool of The Zeppo – it’s really happening.)
What makes Buffy the hero she is are a myriad of influences, most significantly the people in her life. Remember Spike in School Hard? “A Slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn't in the brochure.” Joyce as her mother – and this is the topic of a much longer article, but consider the impact Joyce had on Buffy’s life for the fifteen years before she became The Slayer. Giles as her Watcher and father figure. Willow and Xander as her friends. Angel (period). Even Oz and Anya. (And Riley and Tara and Dawn and Spike, these four so significantly in seasons to come.) But just as significant as having her family around her proves -- and how wonderfully Whedon spotlights this, as well as solidifying Tara in our group, in Season 5’s Family -- it’s the woman Buffy – Slayer aside – is inherently. Like Peter Parker, another hero we know is inherently a good person, Buffy enjoys quipping with her enemies in a light-hearted manner. She still wants to finish High School, go to College. She still wants to fall in love, shop, pay her bills. (Seemingly insignificant, especially in TV Land, but very significant in Season 6; and one of the “real life, growing up” things I love about the season.) She still wants to be a normal girl. [Still very much a part of who she is. (Consider the very last episode of the series as, pre battle, Shopping and Mini Golf remain topics of conversation.)] So imagine stripping it all away from her. How she was raised, the family around her, her sense of humor, the girl inside the woman. Would she still be as good?
Or, to put it simply … what if The Slayer was bad?
This is the fun Whedon & Company get to have with Faith. And as unnerving as it is, fun is indeed a key word. Because few people enjoy – find pure giddiness in – being evil as much as The Mayor and Faith. (Especially The Mayor. Like Sue Sylvester on Glee, reveling in The Dark Side, it’s why The Mayor is often a – without question my – favourite Big Bad.) As old a device as this is in Story – every Superman has his Bizarro – there’s always something enticing about delving into the dark mirror of our hero.
It starts innocently enough – “Count of three isn’t a plan, it’s Sesame Street” – but soon delves deeper – Buffy cutting class through the window (which, frankly, the teacher didn’t notice?) and dancing at The Bronze – then very deep indeed with the accidental killing of The Deputy Mayor. This too is a topic for a much longer article – and may very well be dealt with in The Body or The Gift or Seeing Red – but human death is an odd thing in The Buffyverse (more so than in the rest of The Whedonverse). Demons are off’d left and right, and we accept demons killing their fair share of humans, but then some are singled out very particularly – Joyce, Ben, Tara – and then to the gravest effect. (Certainly Joyce whose The Body may be the best episode of the series.) But I think accidental is a key word, not just for their innocence sake, but for Faith’s turn specifically in that she knows she has a way out if she talks to Giles, but chooses to let the walls she’s built up keep her from doing the right thing. (The walls Buffy herself may also have if not for her mother, friends, et cetera. Again, this is the turn we see in The Wish, but I digress.) Faith isn’t drawn to The Dark Side for money or power or anything Evil offers her, but is thrust there as accidentally -- as innocently -- as Buffy. (Well, nothing Evil offers her until The Mayor fatherly showers her with The Knife, the apartment, a Playstation, and, in what may be the key moment in their relationship, the flowery dress in which he -- solely fatherly -- sees her prettier than she ever will herself.) And this is where Whedon & Co write her so well: Faith’s very walls simply let her flounder there.
Re Buffy herself, and this reiterates what I was talking about good writing always staying within character, one might argue that her being our hero – an inherently good girl – well, she wouldn’t do some of the things she does in this episode: lying about the Deputy Mayor’s death, stealing from the hardware store, injuring the cops to escape from them. But she does them all within the frame of her being who she is. I particularly like the moment after the car crash where she checks the cops to make sure they’re okay. This could easily have not been written or shot (or it could have been cut for time) but including it solidifies who she is. She may be delving into her own Dark Side for one episode – and fair enough – but she’s still our girl. Besides, who can blame her for almost being drowned a second time? Considering the Season 1 finale, Petrie says it’s a bit like “baptism by fire.” And perhaps she deserves burning off a little steam. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but what ultimately solidifies her remaining our hero is the end of Consequences where there’s this exchange –
I really thought we were gonna lose her.
She still has a lot to face before she can put this behind her. But yes,
she has a real chance. Because you didn't give up on her.
The difference between Buffy and Faith is clear. Faith feels alone. But as Buffy has her mother, Giles, and friends, she can also be a friend.
This is, too, perhaps the topic for a longer article – Cops In Sunnydale – but it’s interesting to see when and where we see Cops in the series. Like the very real death tone of The Body, it’s interesting to see where Whedon & Co decide to use police presence in the show. Two significant episodes right in a row are Bad Girls and Consequences where they’re all over the place. They’re tools for the writers, sure, but it’s at least worth mentioning. I’m ashamed not to give credit to whomever mentioned this in the Season 1 Commentary, but there’s Giles’ line, “People have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't.” (Recalled in the Angel episode The Prodigal when Angel tells Kate Lockley, “People have a way of seeing what they need to.”) And there’s the reasonable buy-in that, as we now know The Mayor is “a black hat” (as Faith will say in the next ep), that he might send the police after our heroes a bit more vehemently than before. Still, it’s interesting when and where they pop up.
Before we get into Consequences, I’d be remiss not to touch on the introduction of our dear Wesley. And I hope you agree he is dear. I certainly think of him that way. In both his incarnations. First, the bumbling brain on Buffy and then the cool stoicism on Angel. I mean, Rogue Demon Hunter? Getting his throat slit? Sleeping with Lilah? Dude takes a turn! But I foreshadow. When Doug Petrie originally pitched the character to Whedon, he says, “I thought of a Michael J. Fox type, kind of a George Stephanopoulos American young aggressive go-getter,” which I think would have been a fun balance, but then we’d miss the doubly British moments like this --
It's not all books and theory nowadays. I have in fact faced
two vampires - under controlled circumstances, of course.
Well, you're in no danger of finding any here.
Then both of them closing that scene by cleaning their glasses at the same time? Indeed, “Giles The Next Generation,” as Cordelia says in the next episode, just shines. Petrie also notes in his DVD Commentary Track that giving Wesley the brainy bumbling also allowed them to take most of that away from Giles, who, for two-and-a-half years, played that role. This, then, more solidly places Giles in the role of the quieter, cooler father figure to Buffy, greatly solidifying that bond.
There are an abundance of insides in this episode – inside jokes, references and the like. Willow being admitted to Wesleyan (Whedon’s alma mater); the Gleaves crypt where Balthazar’s amulet is buried, Gleaves is Petrie’s wife’s maiden name; Balthazar being thought of as a Blade rip-off (though Petrie admits he’d never seen Blade and was instead ripping off Marvel’s The Kingpin); The Mayor’s cleanliness obsession a friendly jab at Executive Producer David Greenwalt; and it was while shooting this episode – the scene in which Angel charges in to save Giles and Wesley – that Greenwalt said, “Yeah, I think there’s a Series in him.” While Angel had been prepped since the end of Buffy Season 2, his exit at the end of this Season was still up in the air.
No doubt about it, this is a big episode. Sadly, I barely scratched its surface. For me it’s really about Buffy and Faith, a very special relationship, of which this is just the beginning. More specifically, this is Faith’s fall from grace. So the questions linger. How long will it be before she claws her way back up? Can she?
Or are her walls too strongly built?
w Marti Noxon
d Michael Gershman
I won’t give Ms. Noxon nearly enough credit in this Commentary, though she very much deserves it. Suffice to say her great script drives the roller coaster. While Bad Girls is the first rush down, Consequences is the first turn, the bare settling, the chug back up the track. It’s a breather, but only a short one, giving us just enough time to comprehend what’s happened; the resetting of a timebomb, threatening us with what we realize was there all along. And still have to face.
As I say, both episodes are really a two-parter, so let’s get right back into it. Faith left us with, “I don’t care” so that’s where we’ll start. (Oh those walls of hers!) Faith herself doesn’t believe she doesn’t care, and Buffy knows it; but, as Milton wrote some four hundred years ago, “Long is the way and hard that out of hell leads up to light.” Buffy, as our hero, can’t shake what’s happened, as her dream personifies: she’s drowning in it. She knows how quickly Faith is falling; more importantly, were those the walls she herself built, how quickly she’d be dragged down with her.
As I began the Zeppo Commentary with how much I love What If episodes, the last half of Season 3 is, as I wrote, sort of a big What If, isn’t it?
What if The Slayer was bad?
As Bad Girls gave us the setup, Consequences is the payoff. And it’s a dark one. Not just for Faith (natch) but for Buffy too. Because Faith is the personification of Buffy’s Dark Side. So, really, we’re getting a glimpse of the shadow, the silhouette, in Buffy’s mind.
Magnifying that idea specifically, there are two big scenes in this episode. For nearly three seasons, we’ve had glimpses of it -- certainly Slayer Vs Buffy-As-Normal-Girl, but also Slayer Vs Slayer (the latter as far back as When She Was Bad) -- but now that Buffy’s inner demons are personified in Faith, we get to hear those thoughts. The first big is in the street –
Buffy. I'm not going to "see" anything... I missed the mark
last night. And I'm sorry about the guy, really. But it happens.
Anyway - how many people do you think we've saved by
now? Thousands? And didn't you stop the world from ending?
In my book, that puts you and me firmly in the plus column.
We help people. That doesn't mean we can do whatever we want-
Why not? This guy I off’d was no Ghandi. We just saw - he was
mixed up in dirty dealing.
Maybe. But what if he was coming to us for help?
What if he was? You're still not looking at the big picture, B.
Something made us different. We're warriors. We were built
(cutting her off)
To kill demons. But we don't get to pass judgement on people,
like we're better than everybody else-
We are better.
(this stops Buffy)
That's right. Better. People need us to survive. In the balance?
Nobody's gonna cry over some random bystander who got caught
in the crossfire.
Buffy looks stricken. Finally-
Faith just looks at her. Shakes her head.
This is key because most likely Buffy has had this exact … if not conversation with herself, the thought has to have crossed her mind. Not to mention, um, “Death is your gift,” anyone? It’s first personified in “Want Take Have” in the last ep, then magnified here. Indeed, Buffy and Faith are better, in a sense. Stronger, faster, all that. The difference, though, is Buffy chooses to use her powers to help people.
The second big is on the docks at the end.
What bugs you is - you know I'm right. You know in your gut.
We don't need the law. We are the law-
Faith moves in closer. Sees that she's getting to her.
Yes. You know exactly what I'm about. Because you have it
in you, too.
No. You're sick, Faith-
I've seen it, B. You've got the lust. And I'm not just talking about
Don't bring him into this-
It was good, wasn't it? The sex? The danger? Bet a part of you
even dug him when he went psycho-
See - you need me to tow the line because you're afraid you'll go
over it, aren't you, B? You can't handle watching me living my
own way and having a blast - because it tempts you. You know it
could be you-
That's it. Something snaps in Buffy. She rears back and POPS Faith a good one. Faith falls back, but she's smiling as she puts a hand to her bleeding mouth.
There's my girl...
Nail on the head.
Because Faith has a point. This is what every Slayer, indeed Buffy, must fight internally; now, as I say, these inner demons are personified in Faith. (These inner demons only grow as the seasons continue; the deepest, I’d say, in Season 6.) Though, interestingly, Buffy hits first. Pushed to it, sure, but “her own way,” as Faith taunts her, pushes back. And can you blame her? They’ve been verbally dueling a while now, so one of them was bound to take it to the next level. But that it’s Buffy who first resorts to the physical? (Again, I can’t help but think of The Primitive here.) Well, even Luke in Jedi, hearing Vader will go after Leia, loses it. And, dear readers, don’t ever get between Buffy and Angel. I wrote a Spec of Smallville many years ago (that show’s Season 2) where Clark and Random Bad Guy are facing off and Random Bad asks him, “Everything you can do and you choose to help these people? Why?!” And Clark says, “Because I can.” Indeed: Buffy can. And does.
But is Faith truly lost?
For me, there are three key moments where Faith’s conscience kicks in, and she, however fleetingly, allows a crack in the wall. For me these moments are key in not letting Faith go too evil, considering how she’ll return to hero mode on Angel and eventually this show. It goes back to what I was saying about writers staying in character. “Buffy wouldn’t be bad, it’s not in her nature,” though Whedon & Co stay in her framework. Same here. If Faith goes too evil? If we don’t have these moments – including the dream in Graduation Day Part 2 – we won’t buy the prodigal return later on. The first, and I think most significant, is in Bad Girls where, after killing The Deputy Mayor, she returns to the scene to view it, let it sink in. (This is probably the turning point, where she decides to let the walls build.) The second is in this episode when she and Buffy are snooping around The Mayor’s office and there’s this –
CLOSE ON PHOTO
A shot of the Deputy Mayor with the Mayor at on official function of some kind. The Deputy Mayor is smiling, proud.
He came out of nowhere.
At this Faith’s eyes go cold and she returns to the search.
Whatever. I’m not looking to hug and cry and learn and grow.
I’m just saying it went down quick, is all.
Buffy, a little stung, decides to let it go.
More letting it sink in – and no pun intended considering how our episode began – it’s what I was saying about Faith choosing to go down this path. Even here, Buffy doesn’t gloat or pry or do anything but agree with her. And Faith knows it. Catches herself and – “shields up!” – can’t buy that there’s any way out besides that which her past allows – no-mother, no-Giles, no-friends.
The third, and fairly most obvious moment is in the end fight where Trick is about to dine on Buffy and Faith stakes him, saving her. Faith could have escaped, let it happen – we see her pause – but instead she chooses to do the right thing and save our hero.
And for an episode named Consequences, ah there are many.
The biggest of which (sigh) is Willow. I’ve often said that no two actresses working today cry better than Gillian Anderson and Alyson Hannigan. (Am I surprised both their first and last names have the same syllables? But I digress …) Witness any time Hannigan cries in this show – hearing about Miss Calendar over the phone in Passion is a great example – or even this season’s How I Met Your Mother when Marshall’s father passes away and Lily has to give him the news. Gutwrenching? You bet. Because she makes it so. Our dear Willow has had to cry so many times in seven seasons, but one of the real hit-homes is in this episode, when she hears of Xander having sex with – losing his virginity to – Faith (and this, remember, two episodes later). It’s setup by a comical moment, the double “Oh” between Buffy and Giles, as they realize what’s happened, undercut by the solemn, “I don’t need to say it” Willow gives; she having realized it first. And then the cut-to her crying in the bathroom. Ugh. (In the larger Whedonverse, we’ll see this moment again in Firefly as, in Heart Of Gold, Inara realizes Mal has slept with Nandi. And, yes indeed, sigh again.)
The other big consequence is, after the same significant scene, the simple cut-to Xander laying on the stairs of the library thinking about what’s happened. Not that he’s slept with Faith, not that he’s lost his virginity, but that Willow now knows, again two episodes (call it two weeks) later. They talk every night, so two weeks? Willow, his best friend since they were six, who he knows has been in love with him for as long (pre Oz), who he knows must have cried after hearing the news. Once again, with as big a switch-up as Whedon & Co throw at us turning Faith, and the consequences that births, it’s the simple everyday relationship issues that hit home the hardest. And work the best.
I mentioned the sigh, right?
As remiss as I would have been not to mention Wesley’s introduction in Bad Girls, I have to mention his key moment in this episode. Upon learning of Faith’s indiscretion, he takes it upon himself to SWAT her back to The Council (foreshadowing the “wetworks” team in Season 4’s Who Are You?). Whereas so far in these two episodes we’ve only seen him as the brainy bumbler, this gives him a moment of substance, some grounding to believe that there’s more to him than just the comedy. As well rounded as all the characters are in the Whedonverse, so indeed is Our New Watcher. And I know I mentioned this before, but oh the arc he’ll continue in the remaining episodes of this season and especially Angel. I wonder how long Whedon & Co initially planned to keep him around, considering he’s gone from Sunnydale in Season 4 and doesn’t show up in L.A. until that show’s tenth episode, Parting Gifts. In any event, I’m glad he returns, because he is our dear Wesley.
And last but not least, from a production standpoint, I have to mention the great Michael Gershman, who directed this episode. This is his second Directed By – after Season 2’s Passion (another Best Of The Series) and we’ll see him direct next on Season 4’s A New Man – and I think he does a wonderful job. You know his name as he’s been Buffy’s Cinematographer (and will be for eighty-some episodes); and, as Mr. Pateman pointed out so well in his first Commentary of our Rewatch, he successfully helped establish the look of the show.
Couple of things, if I may.
First, I found it interesting in Gershman’s DVD Commentary of this episode that there were never storyboards for the show. An aside, really, but I found it interesting.
Secondly, please note the three long camera moves in this ep: through the crime scene to Angel looking on; following Angel out of the mansion into the courtyard to see Buffy; and off Giles’ office to Wesley listening in. Why significant? Because most decisions made on a TV Show have something to do with time. The less time spent on something generally means the less money spent (all the way to the Network Cut of a show, as they want to cram as much Advertising in as possible). For a myriad of reasons for another much longer article, you just don’t see long shots like this in a TV Show; one of the reasons being how long it takes to light enough Set for that long a shot. But as Gershman was the Cinematographer on the show – knew the sets and what it took to light them – he could plan-for and get-away-with them as Director. Again, perhaps an aside, but I find it interesting.
As Ms. Stuller wrote so well in the Season 1 Prophecy Girl Commentary about The Hero’s Journey: redemption resolves. Unfortunately, as we see in this episode’s final scene, Faith chooses to continue down the dark path, turning herself over to The Mayor; not in any heroic sacrifice, but, in a sense, turning over her very soul. Does she really feel that alone? Are her walls that fully built? The roller coaster rushes on, redemption left to wait, as it seems Milton’s hard way into light is indeed still a long one before us all.