Mark Watches ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: S04E16 – Who Are You

In the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I am just so utterly destroyed in the best and worst ways by what just happened. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.

I am in awe. After spending over three and a half seasons worth of time with these characters, I get this episode. It could not happen without the history of Willow, Faith, and Buffy, and now fully introduces Tara into the mix. This is a story that centers the four incredible young woman that are on Buffy, and it does so in a way that’s unsettling, revealing, infuriating, and OH SO JOYOUS. I’d actually like to address all four of them separately, if you don’t mind, so I can properly organize each and every one of my feels.

Willow

Oh, Willow. I was so worried about that first conversation she was having with Tara. I know that fear so well! My first boyfriend didn’t want me to meet his friends, and I later found out it was because he was embarrassed by me. (Which, seriously, your loss dude. I’m amazing.) So I thought that’s where Willow might be heading. I thought she would say something about not being ready to introduce Tara, or perhaps worrying about ruining the dynamic of the Scoobies, or even give some excuse about how she’s concerned that Tara might not fit in. It’s clear that Willow really likes Tara, and it wasn’t until this episode that I felt like I could outright confirm that. These two are definitely dating. And I think that’s why Willow surprised me. Before this, I thought things were far more one-sided, that Tara was pursuing Willow. I can see why I thought that, but now Willow is telling Tara that she wants something that’s just hers, and I just kept pulling my hoodie closed over my face because I was just so happy. THIS IS NOT QUEER SUBTEXT. IT’S JUST GAY GAY GAY EVERYWHERE. This makes me so happy! I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE HOW MANY BILLIONS OF WORDS IN ROT13 WERE USED ON WILLOW/TARA. My god.

I was equally happy to see how excited Willow was to introduce Tara to Buffy. Unfortunately, it was Not-Buffy and everything was awful, but it does lead to Tara leading a ritual to find Buffy’s real energy, which I am now going to claim is a very obvious and beautiful reference to sex and I’m sorry Willow looked like she was having sex. NO, I’M NOT SORRY FOR THAT. Oh my god, Willow/Tara is a real thing and I can’t deal with it.

Tara

I actually relate more to Tara out of the two, though. I have eternally been the awkward, doubtful hopeless romantic. I have fallen for so many people who ended up being straight and not at all reciprocal of the feelings I had for them that I’m pretty sure Tara knows all of my pain. I’m also tend to be the one who just wants to constantly do nice things because nice things are nice. It’s weird because these days, I’m so comfortable talking to a room full of strangers for three hours, and I’m dating again, and I get so goddamn nervous. Like, almost in the exact same way Tara does here. I’m working on pushing through that insecurity, and honestly? Seeing Tara like this helps! It’s comforting to know that even on a fictional level, someone acts as I do.

I think it’s also really amazing that she has to hear all this awful shit out of Not-Buffy’s mouth, and she still makes sure to help Buffy anyway. Like, she is so secure in her morality that she allows herself to get hurt in that moment in order to help a girl she’s never met. This is really beautiful to me?

Buffy

Wait, let me first just say that Joyce broke my heart when she asked her Not-Daughter to visit more. Fuck you, “Who Are You.” Stop it. STOP IT. Oh my god, I missed Joyce so much. I think this body swap episode starts off almost being a satire of the way that Buffy acts, but it obviously becomes horrifically disturbing. The vast majority of the story focuses on what Faith does inside of Buffy’s body, but you can see the quiet determination building in Faith’s face. I mean, look, I’ll say this about a thousand times in my life from this point on, but Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku are ridiculously talented. I was just shocked (pleasantly so!) by how well they were able to portray each other’s character. You could see Faith in Buffy and vice versa. So I could see that in Faith’s face as Buffy realized just how serious her situation was. Buffy is a far more patient person, and I think that’s why she’s able to escape from those Council dudes.

Plus, of course Buffy would bring up Giles and her mother having sex to prove to Giles that she was the real Buffy. Bless her. Bless her.

Faith

I actually think that this is a Faith-centric episode, and it explores not only her hatred and jealousy Buffy, but how she’s so closed off from the world that her only way to cope with things is to lash out at others and then disappear. She wants to dismantle the image of Buffy before she leaves town, so she proceeds to be a complete and utter asshole to pretty much anyone. But I don’t want this to seem like this is a one-dimensional writing choice. There’s this fascinating subtext of Faith’s moral imperative. Despite that she wants no one or nothing to have any authority over her, she can’t resist doing what she’s destined to do: slay. We see her follow a vampire out of The Bronze, and then experience this bizarre moment of reflection after the woman she saves thanks her. And it’s this genuine, meaningful gesture of appreciation! And Faith stops and I’m pretty sure she’s coping with the fact that she just did good. Isn’t that what she’s supposed to be fighting against? She’s so furious at Buffy’s moral crusade, but isn’t the Slayer supposed to technically do good anyway? OH GOD MORAL CRISIS. MORAL AMBIGUITY. This show was made for me. It’s too good.

A lot of Faith’s actions in Buffy’s body just made me want to climb into a hole in the ground. Like her graphically hitting on Spike. what is air. I just sat there and laughed because I had no way to deal with how overwhelmingly bizarre it was. Nothing about it was funny. I cannot imagine Spike and Buffy together. Well, to be fair, I have only seen them do couple-y things while either: under a spell, or via Invasion of a Body Snatcher.

I was just going to type, “Plus, I feel really good about Buffy/Riley anyway!” Yeah, so what the fuck. What the fuck. Does this count as rape, technically? I mean, whatever way you want to look at it, it makes me feel ridiculous uncomfortable and I kind of hate it. But the writers do portray this not as an act of conquest, but one that’s immensely unsettling for Faith. Who is she if she’s in Buffy’s body? This guy clearly loves Buffy, but that’s not who she is. In a show that’s got along-running examination of identity, I think Faith has the most terrible time with it. All throughout season three, we watched her struggle with her role in Sunnydale, and now, she steals someone’s body and she still is so fucked up. The thing is, I know she does awful things. I don’t excuse them. But I feel so much sympathy for her because you can see her try to navigate this journey and make wrong turn after wrong turn. Even if it was towards a destructive end, at least the Mayor believed in her.

I wonder if the night with Riley, combined with everything else that happened, is what made her leave the airport to go ambush Adam’s vampires. (For real, the heavy dose of existentialism in Adam’s speech is just so wonderful to me please never change.) Did she believe she still had the capacity for good? Was she disgusted with herself? I think those things she was yelling at Not-Faith were a sign that she hated what she had become. But there is no easy end to all of this. We don’t know for sure what Faith is going through, and we don’t know where she’s going. We don’t know how Riley and Buffy will work past what Faith did to both of them, and there is no simple answer to who any of these people are.

This is so fucked up. How many times have I said this? Who cares at this point. This show is so fucked up.

Mark Links Stuff

– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at MarkDoesStuff.comHarry PotterTwilight, 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 FranciscoLos AngelesSan DiegoLas VegasPhoenixTucsonEl PasoAlbuquerqueDenverSalt Lake CityBoiseSpokanePortlandSeattleVancouver 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 Two Towers 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!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: S04E16 – Who Are You

  1. Silverr says:

    Well, now I’m in awe of your review, because you hit on every single thing that I love about the show in general and this season in particular.

    For me, the essential detail of Faith in Buffy’s body was the thing with the lipstick. In that one short exchange we see Faith’s self-loathing (which we see so vividly at the end of the episode: I think she’s as much lashing out at herself there as at Buffy) and also the fact that this show wastes nothing. ~ From that little throwaway line in the previous episode – which seemed entirely appropriate in context and didn’t at all feel like “Oh Hey Significant Detail Here” there — it gets a follow-through here, and it works, and that “Burn it” just breaks your heart.

  2. Silverr says:

    Well, now I’m in awe of your review, because you hit on every single thing that I love about the show in general and this season in particular.

    For me, the essential detail of Faith in Buffy’s body was the thing with the lipstick. In that one short exchange we see Faith’s self-loathing (which we see so vividly at the end of the episode: I think she’s as much lashing out at herself there as at Buffy) and also the fact that this show wastes nothing. ~ From that little throwaway line in the previous episode – which seemed entirely appropriate in context and didn’t at all feel like “Oh Hey Significant Detail Here” there — it gets a follow-through here, and it works, and that “Burn it” just breaks your heart.

    And oh yes, that spell scene was mentioned somewhere in commentary as their way of making sure that everyone would be absolutely clear that “doing a spell” was going to be the code word for things that they couldn’t show or talk about fully. *squee*

  3. Lyndizzle says:

    This episode makes me want to bake Faith cookies and give her a hug. But then she is MEAN TO TARA and I am conflicted because OMG LEAVE TARA ALONE!!!

  4. Wind's Name says:

    Hey, Mark, has anyone talked to you about doing a detour to Lone Rock Beach on Lake Powell on your way from Salt Lake to Phoenix (or vice versa)? The lake is almost between those two cities and that’s where they filmed the Death of the Doctor in the Impossible Astronaut. I had the wonderful time of finding out that we were within 16 minutes of there on my spring break and I got wonderful pictures and then I rewatched the episode and our car was parked where Canton’s was and IT WAS WONDERFUl !! and do you want pictures?

  5. Jeldaly says:

    WILLOW AND TARA AND SEX METAPHORS I CALLED IT I WIN!!! Oh, and Faith. Come here. Let me hug you and give you things and love you.

Comments are closed.