In the eighteenth episode of the first season of Angel, well, that wasn’t something I ever expected to happen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Angel.
I know this is a tad repetitious of me since I’ve brought it up before, but it’s very hard for a show to bring back characters or stories after they’ve seemingly ended. It’s with that that I state unequivocally that both Buffy and Angel have used the return of Faith to give us some of the most powerful stories in both series. I’m glad that I always skip the “Previously on…” segments for whatever show I’m watching because I HATE BEING SPOILED FOR SOMETHING I’LL LEARN IN FIVE MINUTES. Shows, can you please stop doing this? This particular episode hinged so strongly on Faith’s return that when I watched it a second time (YES I NEEDED TO SEE THIS TWICE) and happen to catch the opening, I was mad that they included scenes from Buffy letting us know that Faith was going to make an appearance. Can you just start trusting that we’re paying attention? I mean, who the hell is watching Angel without having seen a second of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Wait, I’m sure that’s actually a thing, so don’t answer that. God, that must be a strange experience. Anyway, the point is: STOP DOING THIS. I wasn’t even spoiled by it, and it still irritated me.
I think it’s a goddamn tragedy that Eliza Dushku did not get ALL THE AWARDS for her performance in “Five By Five.” (And a note about that: I generally don’t read the episode titles. I just click play, so I was truly unspoiled by this.) From her first appearance to her nervous breakdown at the end, she plays Faith brilliantly, and it’s the power of her performance that really makes this such a spectacular episode. It’s also all the confirmation I need that the end of season one (which is rapidly approaching) is going to have to be about Wolfram & Heart. At this point, how could it not? I mean, they hired Faith to murder Angel. I think Angel’s not going to let this one go? Well, and I’m sure Wolfram & Heart aren’t going to, either.
While most of “Five By Five” is a pretty straightforward narrative, I was initially confused by the inclusion of flashback scenes to Angelus’s life with Darla. It wasn’t until the second viewing that I understood the parallel to Faith’s life, and it’s one that clearly outlines where this story is headed. Angel had to, at one point, find his humanity again, and it’s through the return of his soul that he’s able to start it. I was fascinated (and pleased) by the fact that at no point do the flashbacks tell us how that was achieved. In a way, I think that’s actually a work in progress, and it defines Angel’s quest for redemption on this show. Instead, the writers chose to show us how difficult it was for Angel to cope with the memory of what he’d done. It’s in this that we can see just how challenging it’s going to be for Faith to realize the same thing.
Her appearance in Los Angeles is riddled with a detached sense of violence. She starts fights because she can. She beats people to get what she wants. In her quest to find her true identity in a post-Mayor Wilkins world, she chooses to ignore any guilt or reluctance she might have for violence. Rather, she embraces it. It gives her power and it gives her a very temporary sense of meaning. Well, shit, I must admit that it also gives her joy. Look how truly happy she seems when she tries to kill Angel in the courthouse! (Which, by the way, was the exact point in “Five By Five” that I knew that shit was going to get disgustingly real.)
It wasn’t until she kidnapped Wesley (OH MY GOD I SHRIEKED WHEN SHE APPEARED IN CORDELIA’S HOUSE) that I started to piece together what I was witnessing: Faith was trying to self-destruct. I think the Mayor’s words to her in that video he left behind had unraveled her sense of reality because she knew he was right: she didn’t belong in this world anymore. So she kidnaps her old Watcher, brutally tortures him, and expects Angel to show up at any time. This was all planned. She was drawing him out. (An aside for a quick second: that moment when Wesley starts to tell Faith that she’s a piece of shit is one of the most tense scenes in the entirety of Angel. Alexis Denisof, you’re amazing.)
When the fight between Faith and Angel begins, it’s just horrifying. In a split second, this stops feeling like a television show, and it feels so real and raw. Faith is determined to get Angel to play the game, but not because she wants a challenge. She wants to die. I think she knows that Angel could beat her, so she tries everything she can to get him to defend himself in the most violent way imaginable. It’s why the fight is so vicious and brutal, more so than any fight on Buffy or Angel. I didn’t really figure this out at first; I thought Angel was just stalling, trying to tire Faith out.
I know it’s ridiculous to have a fight end in a rainstorm, but I’m kind of totally into it here. It just adds to that moment when Wesley is free and you expect him to rush out to Angel and kill Faith himself, and then Faith suddenly collapses into Angel, crying and sobbing, begging Angel to get him to admit that she is evil at her core, and Angel just refuses. He refuses to accept that she is evil. And in that moment, as the full brunt of Faith’s past is more evident and present than ever, she simply resorts to asking for Angel to kill her.
I just… my god, that image of her, Angel, and Wesley in the rain is devastating to me. I know that this is a possible sign that Faith might be able to find her humanity again, but that doesn’t mean I feel good about this scene. It’s the opposite for me. I feel awful for her. I feel so terribly bad about the past she must have had that would bring her to this point, and I want nothing more than for her to find a way to feel whole, and to feel happy.
I have no idea where the next four episodes are headed, but I can guess that Faith and Wolfram & Heart will play a big role. While I think that Angel hasn’t been terribly consistent over season one, the show has absolutely hit a high point with “Five By Five.” I’m not surprised that Faith was the one to help bring this about, but I’m completely hooked at this point. Oh god, I am so unprepared.
Mark Links Stuff
– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at MarkDoesStuff.com. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Firefly books are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 a piece, and are available in ePub (iBook, iPod, iPad, Nook), Kindle, and PDF files.
– I now have a Lulu storefront, where you can purchase physical copies of all of my previously released books, including a full Mark Reads Twilight book that includes all four sets of Twilight reviews.
– I am going on tour in the following cities this month (click the name for the Facebook RSVP page): San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, Boise, Spokane, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C. I still need venues/spaces in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Spokane, and Portland. Even if it’s your house, I don’t care. I’ll show up! Please let me know if you have any ideas. I can also be reached at markreadsandwatches [at] gmail [dot] com.
– I am presenting for three days at Ascendio 2012! Come hang out and have the best weekend ever in July!
– Mark Watches The Return of the King will happen most likely on Sunday at 1pm PDT, which is the same as this past weekend. Y’all better break the comment record again.
– I finish Mark Reads The Princess Bride on April 13th, and then Mark Reads Sandman begins on Monday, April 16th. I will split up reviews by issue, and I will be reading the extra books/volumes. IT SHALL BE GRAND.
– I’m on Twitter (@MarkDoesStuff) and I have a Facebook page y’all can Like and flail about on. Join me!
– This is my fifth consecutive year riding in the AIDS/LifeCycle! I’m aiming to raise $10,000 this year. For every $1,000 I raise, I will make a video live reading of a community-chosen fanfic. I am not bluffing. I will read as much of it as possible, and it will be beautiful. Help me out if you can!