In the fifteenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith refuses to deal with her actions, and the Scoobies become involved in the drama. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I am just in awe at this point. This is some damn fine storytelling, and the choice to move to a small, serialized batch of episodes has made this season so much more satisfying to me as a viewer. I’m generally a fan of serialized fiction, so I know that I’m biased. I don’t think I really need Buffy to become an entirely myth arc-based show. I like that we have one-offs, that the show can explore darker and sillier themes. (Can I just say that I think The X-Files had a large part in at least showing that audiences would be willing to sit through this? I’m not saying that Joss ripped off or was influenced by The X-Files directly, but that show paved the way for so much that came after it. Also, I will take any opportunity to gush about my favorite show of all time. Seriously, if there was a way I could pull it off, I would do Mark Re-Watches The X-Files.)
I didn’t think we’d get another story focusing on Faith directly after the last one, and a lot of the themes explored in “Bad Girls” are brought to an end that’s both upsetting, horrifying, and remarkably believable. I know that I poke fun (and rage) at the idea that Joss Whedon doesn’t want anyone to feel joy, but it’s really just my way of complimenting him and his team of writers for refusing to take the easy way out. There was a very clear and simple path that “Consequences” could have taken: redemption. This story could have been about Faith finding a way to reconcile her actions with her own personal belief system. I don’t doubt that that would have been an entertaining thing to watch. Instead, however, the writers pen an increasingly frustrating and unsettling narrative about how Faith’s actions have a ripple effect of consequences on nearly every person she’s come into contact with in Sunnydale.
What’s interesting to me is how the characters sort of teeter back and forth between believing they know what’s best for Faith and then rejecting that very idea. It’s such a difficult thing to deal with, and if any of you have had a friend who seems to be slipping away or making bad choices, it’s something you’ve had to deal with. How much can you get involved as a friend before you’re overstepping your boundaries? The various characters who all try to intervene on behalf of Faith have to deal with this. Buffy has to feel hopeless as she tries to demonstrate to Faith that Faith can trust her. Xander has to feel awkward and worthless as he deals with Faith’s rampant nihilism. Wesley has to cope with his own lack of control when he tries to take Faith away. Giles is faced with a Slayer he has no power over and doesn’t even respect him enough to tell the truth.
And then Willow. Sweet baby Gandalf, my heart just hurts for her and her unbelievably complex feelings. For real, that scene with her in the bathroom stall is too much for me to handle and I might have been a bit teary-eyed during it. Just because she cares for Oz doesn’t mean that her feelings for Xander have all gone away, and I think it was an interesting character choice for us to see that moment.
Oh, and Cordelia is just fabulous. I do miss her being a part of the Scoobies, though. Perhaps she’ll flirt more with Wesley and we’ll get to see her in more scenes? I CAN ONLY HOPE.
The one character that could have broken through to Faith was Angel, and it was a brilliant choice for him to compare his own life to hers. A great deal of what Faith is feeling is that she is powerful. Without being held accountable for her actions in the past, she feels she’s being attacked or limited when asked to take responsibility for Finch’s death. I think Angel was right to focus on that: she knew that she had the power to eliminate a future, and that power is addicting. Who else would know better than the man who was once Angelus? On the surface, there’s certainly something appealing to Faith about being above the law, and that sort of freedom isn’t something most people would give up. But I think that she mixes this idea of freedom too much with a negative idea of what it means to be accountable. No one is asking her to become Buffy, and they’re not asking her to stop being herself. As Giles says at one point, accidents happen. (I’d be interested in hearing more about those.) But just because something is an accident doesn’t mean that no one got hurt and that everyone can just go on their merry old way! Faith killed someone. She took a life that was undeserving of such a verdict.
This clearly is eating away at Buffy, and it’s why she seeks out her closest friend, Willow. Oh my god, how emotional is that scene in Willow’s bedroom? Alyson Hannigan, you are the very best Willow humanly imaginable, and I love your portrayal of a young woman caught between such conflicting emotions. She misses having Buffy as a close friend, but she resents that she’s been replaced. That line she delivers about killing something with her bare hands…I WINCED. Wow, she had no idea. Thankfully, she does give the best advice possible: TELL GILES. I like that this is basically an iteration of YOU SHOULD ALWAYS TELL AN ADULT.
So did anyone else nearly have a heart attack of anger when Faith tried to set Buffy up? I’m glad that writers didn’t have Giles believe Faith because I would not have believed that myself. His character is far too close and familiar with Buffy for him to accept that lie.
Still, what exactly do you do with a situation like this? The Scoobies all meet up to determine how to approach her, and it’s there that they realize just how ridiculously complex this is. She has trust issues, that much they know. So how do you navigate those valid issues without distancing her even further? You can’t make someone trust you. You can’t force someone to see you as a friend. It’s why I appreciate that Xander admits something awkward and uncomfortable as a method to reaching Faith. I mean, I can’t imagine that he was thinking that the whole group would be ecstatic to find out he had sex with Faith. I think he believed it was a legitimate method of getting through to her since he had a different relationship with her than anyone else.
Of course, the show doesn’t avoid how INTENSELY FUCKING AWKWARD this is. I’ve already spoken about how this affected Willow, but we also see how this admission hurts Xander. Buffy explains to him that Faith doesn’t exactly think highly of her sexual partners, and in that one sentence, she has no idea that she inadvertently destroys Xander. In terms of character continuity, it’s a fascinating follow-up to “The Zeppo” because it forces Xander to examine his ideas around sex. Perhaps he wanted the moment to be more special than it was. Perhaps he wanted Faith to treat him like he was special after the fact. Neither happened, though. Was he feeling regret while at his house that night? Was he feeling worthless or disposable? I think it’s an interesting thing to explore when two people have different ideas of what sex means to them. I personally know that I tend to develop emotional attachments before I have sex and it was something I had to accept and cope with early in my life. If that’s who I am, then I had to learn to accept that others were not like that, and that it was unfair to expect others to do the same thing or feel similar emotions.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason that Xander decides to confront Faith. Maybe he wants to demonstrate that very idea to her, that he accepts that their sexual history was just that one moment. I admit that I was surprised by how much of a disaster it turned into, and was increasingly disturbed by Faith’s refusal to believe Xander. Of course, she tries to turn the encounter into sex and what she does to Xander is just miserable. Fuck, it was so uncomfortable and wrong and horrifying. There’s no other way to describe it. She uses Xander to demonstrate what this is all about for her: power. She wants to hold that sort of absolute power over everyone around her.
The best way to do that is to leave, though. She knows that all these people are trying to interfere in her life, so why shouldn’t she just board a boat and leave town? She can leave all these people behind and start over and not have to worry about anyone telling her what to do. Running away from her problems is just what she does, and she’s a person of habit. However, I think the fact that Buffy saves her life is, at least in that moment, a significant thing for her. If Buffy had not shoved her out of the way of the crate that Mr. Trick dropped, she might have died. Despite everything that Faith had done, Buffy was still willing to save her. I think that on some level, that matters. It’s why she chooses to save Buffy. However, it’s entirely possible that she just did this to return the favor, and now believes that they are even. I initially agreed with Giles that this act seemed to be a sign of hope, that maybe there is a part of Faith that really doesn’t agree with her own philosophy. But the end of this episode assures me that Giles is wrong, and that Faith’s story is about to get a whole lot worse.
When the Mayor opens his office door to see Faith standing there, I knew in an instant that Faith was going to continue to pursue power. Having eliminated Mr. Trick, I think she recognizes that there’s an opportunity for her to continue to gain more traction for herself. It makes so much sense for her character, as much as I didn’t want to see it. Oh god, is Faith going to be the villain for the rest of the season? It’s so fascinating to me, but NOOOOOO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
This goddamn show, I swear. So good!