In the seventeenth episode of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith finally decides it is time to face her former adversaries and enact the Mayor’s plan to destroy Buffy Summers. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
I feel like this show has entered another plane of existence. Like, this whole run of episodes has been entirely serial, beautifully written and acted, and intensely joyful to watch. That’s not to say that everything that came before this was awful or anything! I’ve had a lot of fun watching Buffy and I’m certainly at a point where these characters are firmly attached the emotional center of my brain. But it took the show until the third season to hit all the right buttons for me in terms of the kind fiction that I enjoy. Character growth, dark humor, moral ambiguity, the search for identity, and the deconstruction of the archetypes and roles that the show set up over two seasons are some of the things I’ve come to love about what Buffy is doing.
I really can’t believe that I once thought that Buffy was a fluffy or disposable show. I know the fact that it was on the WB was one of the things I held against it, but I couldn’t really accept that this show was as good as people said it was. It is a beautiful thing in this case to be so utterly wrong. The show is anything but what I thought it was. The one thing I didn’t expect the most? How utterly unsettling the stories on this show can be. I think “Enemies” is disturbing in a psychological way. We’ve seen some gross things or perturbing images, but this one eats away at a character I think a lot of us like a great deal. It’s hard to watch someone you care about give up on being a good person. (And for the record, I’m not saying I dislike the character of Faith. If anything, I’m utterly fascinated by her turn and I’m very pleased with how the show is executing it.)
I also just want to devote an entire paragraph to this thought: Bless Harry Groener and his hilarious portrayal of Mayor Wilkins. Who knew that pure evil could be so chipper? That contrast between his germaphobe, high-energy self and the things he enacts in Sunnydale is just downright genius. On top of that, this episode gives us a huge chunk of his backstory, namely that he’s over a hundred years old and CREATED SUNNYDALE’S HELLMOUTH. (At least that’s how I interpreted Faith’s line. Oh god, what if I’m wrong? OH GOD I WILL BE SO EMBARRASSED.)
I think a lot of the tension in this episode, though, is derived from trying to figure out the character’s intentions. We’re introduced to a nameless demon (who’s kind of adorable, no?) that claims to have the Books of Ascension, something Mayor Wilkins will need for something? I’m sure it’s related to the “ascending” he referenced when speaking to Mr. Trick. How this cute demon got the books is beyond me, and I don’t think it was a part of the long con enacted by the Scoobies. I suppose that’s not important. What’s important is that after Faith murders the demon in a deeply fucked up scene, she goes to Angel for support. I don’t think Faith is the best liar, so I agree with Giles on that. But multiple times during Faith’s first scene with Angel, I kept wondering if what we were seeing was genuine. Was she truly disturbed by her own penchant for violence? Up until she left and we immediately saw her with the Mayor, I wondered if we really were going to get a redemption story for Faith.
I believe the long con that Giles sets up happens right after this scene, especially since it makes no sense for Buffy to act surprised after walking in on Faith being affectionate with Angel. Does this mean that Buffy immediately told Giles what was going on? If so, BRAVO. FINALLY, YOU KIDS DO THE BEST POSSIBLE THING IMAGINABLE. I suppose it was then that Giles contacted that weird ninja-looking spirit to fool the Mayor and test Faith’s allegiance, which would also mean that Angel had to have suspected that Faith was lying when she came to him for comfort. So, basically, once you think about it, most of the characters in this episode made nothing but good decisions for once. This is shocking to me! I JUST FEEL SO PROUD OF EVERYONE.
I had a review planned in my head to talk about the idea of jealousy in a relationship, since that seemed to be what Buffy was experiencing, but the end sort of negates that point. They both knew it was all an act. But I didn’t catch on until Angel revealed it, and it’s the strength of “Enemies.” I believed that Angel lost his soul. I believed that he was on board with torturing Buffy. I believed that EVERYTHING WAS A GODDAMN DISASTER. I mean, how could it not be? Seriously, in that scene where Angel “lost” his soul, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and never watch this show again. HE JUST GOT HIS SOUL BACK. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME? WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN? Though, to be honest, I really like David Boreanaz’s portrayal of Angelus, so there was a part of me that was excited to get him back. IT WAS A VERY SMALL PART, I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW. JUST VERY SMALL. LIKE 10%. OR MAYBE 45% OF ME, I DON’T KNOW.
I don’t know that I would say this episode is Faith-centric, but it certainly revealed a lot more about her than I expected. I’m inclined to believe her admission about her childhood life; there’s no reason for Faith to make up a story about her neglectful, alcoholic mother. She’s definitely not lying about feeling inadequate living in the shadow of Buffy. It’s not a massive, game-changing backstory, but it’s just another piece of her character’s motivational history. We know that Faith has trust issues, and we know she has a violent streak of independence. I think what’s going to be interesting to see is how Faith responds to being duped. Like, for real, could you imagine a worse thing to do to someone who doesn’t innately trust people than to con them for days? WHOOPS.
We have a lot that’s set up at the end of the episode, too. We now know that graduation day is going to play a huge part in the season finale, or at least I’m guessing that. Each season has dealt with the end of the school year, so I don’t imagine they’ll rush to that before we finish the third season. We know that Mayor Wilkins has been around a whole lot longer than we thought, and that whatever he’s planning is going to be horrifyingly destructive. OH GOD WHAT. Wesley and Giles are slowly becoming more comfortable with one another, and I’m really enjoying the dual team of Watchers. Can Wesley not die? I hate even typing that because I know that it’s basically a death sentence, but I like him a lot. UGH I ALREADY REGRET SAYING THAT, BUT WHATEVER.
But we also have Buffy requesting that she take a break after watching Angel have to basically woo someone Buffy isn’t a big fan of. I totally get this, and I’m glad Angel agrees. It’s quite reasonable of him. Of course, they have to throw in that line of, “You still my girl?” “Always.” And then I just break and I hate that these two can’t be together and WHYYYYYYY.
One more thought: If the Scoobies graduate at the end of season three, what the fuck is this show going to do in season four??? This is a show about high school. Do they all go to different colleges? No college? What the fuck?