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Old January 26 2012, 12:24 AM   #124
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

3.03. Faith, Hope and Trick

This episode feels more like a proper season opener, as it introduces some new characters that are going to be play important roles season 3 (and some whose roles aren’t really going to be that big, but who are there as a temporary distraction) and features the return of an old character that’s framed as a surprise but that everyone must have seen coming long before. (Yes, that would be Angel.) It’s not a great episode or anything, but it’s pretty good in what it sets out to do.

For once, the title actually says exactly what it’s about, naming the three recurring characters introduced in this episode – Buffy’s new love interest (of sorts), Scott Hope; the new vampire antagonist, Mr Trick; and one that this episode is really remembered by – Faith, soon to become one of my favorite characters on the show and one of the most popular characters in the fandom at large.

There’s also some obvious play on words with the title, but I don’t know if it’s supposed to be deep and meaningful or if it just sounds good as a pun on “faith, hope and love” or whatever it’s usually supposed to be. Are the names of the characters supposed to have a deeper meaning? Mr. Trick obviously has the most appropriate name, since a) he’s a tricky fellow, and 2) his entire role on the show is the kind of narrative trick that the show already did with Spike in season 2. But if Scott Hope was named that way because he is supposed to represent “hope” for Buffy to move on… that’s a poor hope indeed. As for Faith… I’ve always wondered why exactly she was named that way. Joss once said that her name was ironic because “she is one of the most faithless characters on the show”. Was she supposed to represent someone who, at first, seems to have “faith” in herself and in Slaying? Which she really doesn’t, as we learn later. Another irony, maybe?

There are three narrative threads in the episode, that more of less come together: Buffy finally starting to cope with sending Angel to hell, and at the same time trying to “move on” by dating a rather bland guy at school, urged on by her friends; a new group of vampires who arrive to town, and whose boss has the intention of killing “the Slayer” (except that, as we soon learn, it’s not the one we think it is); and the Scoobies meeting the other new Slayer, Faith, activated a few months earlier when Kendra died.

Despite Giles’s threats in the last episode, Buffy hasn’t yet been admitted back to school, but soon is, thanks to the school board overruling Snyder. It’s great to see Joyce supportive of her daughter in front of Snyder. The Slayer-gay metaphor is brought up again when Joyce tells Buffy she’s tried to “march in the Slayer Pride”.

Buffy has another dream about Angel, fulfilling her quota of a dream per episode, and this one is less subtle than the one in Anne: Buffy and Angel are dancing at the Bronze, with her friends staring at them, until he starts blaming her for killing him, asking her how she could do it when he loved her, and turning into a maniacally laughing zombie. We get it, Buffy feels really guilty about sending him to hell (so much that she’s apparently forgetting that she had no choice since the whole world would have otherwise been sucked into hell, together with Angel, and that it was all the result of Angel’s previous actions). The Claddagh ring plays quite a role in the episode, dropping on the floor in a scene that Buffy will later be reminded of when Scott Hope shows her the new “friendship” ring he bought her, which will really freak her out.

In the spirit of the Scoobies’ apparent belief that being single is not an option and that the only way to move on from a romantic relationship that ended tragically is to immediately jump into a new relationship with anyone single that fancies you and that you don’t find abhorrent, Willow suggests to Buffy to date a guy called Scott Hope. His main qualities seem to be that he’s presumably not a mass-murdering demon and that he seems to be into Buffy because he keeps looking at her (high standards or what?!). He’s cute, if you like the bland boy-band type of look, and the Scoobies think he’s charming, which he is in the sense that he’s not an outright jerk, he’s sociable and he can make a conversation. But he kind of tries a bit too hard, like giving Buffy a ring after they’ve known each other after just a couple of days. (Note: in the original script, it’s made clear that he didn’t actually buy her a Claddagh ring, which would’ve been really creepy, but an ordinary plastic ring, and it just looked like a Claddagh ring to Buffy for a moment; but buying presents like this is still really weird in that stage of “relationship”.) Buffy doesn’t even seem to be all that into the guy but seems to think this is what she should do to “move on”.

The one who’s doing a much better job of trying to make Buffy deal with her Angel trauma is Giles. He weaves some tale of how he needs to know what exactly happened with Acathla so he would perform a binding spell. In the end he reveals to Willow there never was any binding spell. He was just trying to get Buffy to finally talk about what happened in Becoming II. After having helped Faith with her own trauma, Buffy finally finds the strength to tell Giles and Willow that Angel had his soul back before she sent him to Hell. This seems to allow her a degree of closure, and in the last scene she leaves her Claddagh ring on the floor of the mansion, saying “Goodbye”.

And of course, it’s right after she leaves that Angel finally returns, or rather is returned from the hell dimension and drops to the floor of the mansion.

The other two narrative threads are much more interesting. The teaser introduces two new vampires. Kakistos is a very old vampire (so old that his feet have become cloven – another confirmation that extremely old vampires become physically less human, as we’ve seen with the bat-faced Master) who is described as someone very scary (his name is supposed to mean “the worst of the worst” in Greek according to Giles) and is introduced as a red herring Big Bad in the season 1 vein, but is really quite cliché and doesn’t have any of the presence or dark humor of the Master; he’s more like the new Luke, a big strong scary vampire who’ll get disposed of very soon. Kakistos wants revenge on Faith because she blinded him in one eye and left a scar on his face (what do you need to do to blind a vampire, anyway, without poking his eye out? Throw holy water on his face?).

A far more colorful character is his minion, Mr. Trick. One of the few black vampires – and black people in general – that we see on the show, he is funny, stylish, pragmatic and manipulative, wears designer suits and thinks that vampires should get on with the times and use the opportunities presented by Internet. And he really likes to use young male fast food employees and pizza delivery boys as food. He despises his master’s old-fashioned ways and is quite content to let him die at the hands of the two Slayers. His introduction on the show is one of the best, and he presents an opportunity for the writers address their own failing to have more ethnic diversity on the show, by having him note that Sunnydale is an overwhelmingly white town. He also notes the incredible death rate, comparing it to Washington D.C., in a clever fake-out where the show almost makes you think for a moment that he’s a black gangster stereotype, until he’s revealed to be a vampire, talking to another vampire.

Looking at the season as a whole, Mr. Trick’s role is what Spike’s role in season 2 was initially meant to be: to be a fun, interesting, unconventional villain until he is killed halfway through the season to make way for the real main antagonist and the betrayal by a character close to Buffy. Although it may not have been planned as such initially, since actor K. Todd Freeman has said that he was supposed to be in just one episode and that they wrote him in 5 more because they liked him.

And now for the main reason why this episode is important – the introduction of Faith.

Charismatic, confident, tough, sexy, loud, brash and open, Faith is the type of person who takes everyone by the storm the moment she bursts on the scene. If it’s comparable to something, it’s to the way Buffy immediately captured the attention of Xander, Willow and even Cordelia when she burst onto the scene of Sunnydale High in Welcome to the Hellmouth. Faith’s slaying stories hold the Scoobies breathless, Xander can hardly keep himself from literally drooling over her, Giles is flattered when she calls him young and cute, and even Joyce seems taken by her and sees her as a potentially positive role model for Buffy since Faith, unlike Buffy, seems to really enjoy her calling.

If Kendra was a contrast to Buffy as a traditional, rule-abiding Slayer, Faith is on the opposite side of the spectrum, as a rebellious and fun-loving Slayer. But Kendra and Faith do have some things in common that separate them from Buffy: both unambiguously accept and love their calling, and both are alone, Faith more so since she’s lost her Watcher. But while Kendra was alone because of her future calling – she was separated from her family at an early age in order to train as a Potential – Faith’s life already sucked due to her family background and things only got better for her when she became a Slayer.

Faith has no qualms about admitting that she enjoys her powers and slaying for other reasons than just the satisfaction of doing good, and openly mentions that “Slaying makes you hungry and horny”. Buffy admits at least the former, when she proposes that the two of them have something to eat after they’ve killed Kakistos – as for the latter, she genuinely doesn’t seem to have thought about it, but we’ve seen hints of that when she got closer to Angel in Angel after they fought the Three, kissed him after killing the Order of Taraka assassin in What’s My Line I, and had sex after running from the Judge.

At first everyone seems to be taken by Faith, except Buffy – and maybe Cordelia, who also shows signs of jealousy, e.g. when she says “Does anyone think that’s her real hair color” (probably the writer’s private joke at the expense of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan). But Buffy is really jealous and threatened by Faith, and while I can understand where it’s coming from – Buffy has changed a lot since season 1 and become a lot gloomier, and Faith is now stealing her thunder and becoming the center of attention the way Buffy used to be – Buffy’s behavior is rather poor and her fears of Faith taking over her life really exaggerated (at this point). It would be nice if she were happier to have another Slayer and empathy for the fact that Faith has nobody and nowhere to go except to a cheap hotel. She is upset that Faith is eating her food at dinner, instead of understanding that it’s because Faith is not used to good homemade food and to being invited to dinners. Generally, Faith does not bring out the best in Buffy. But why is Buffy so threatened? Because Xander has someone else to drool over? Because Faith hit it off with Buffy’s not-boyfriend she’s not even that into? What’s the real reason Faith seems to be “taking over her life” as Buffy feels? Maybe because she’s another Slayer, one who enjoys her calling a lot more than Buffy does? The only good reason for Buffy to be threatened is that, whatever she may say, she thinks of herself as the Slayer and doesn’t want to let someone else take over – something that her mom suggests, but Buffy immediately rejects it with a rather unconvincing explanation.

But Buffy’s instinct is correct when it comes to the fact that Faith is hiding something, and that there’s something off with her. Beneath all the bluster, there’s vulnerability and insecurity, as we see soon when Faith freezes when she has to confront Kakistos, which triggers a recent trauma. She lied about her Watcher being in England because she wasn’t able to tell them how her Watcher died, just like Buffy wasn’t able to tell the Scoobies about Angel having his soul back when she ‘killed’ him. We see hints of Faith’s abusive history and the first sign of her disturbing enjoyment in violence as a way to take out her emotional issues, when she keeps pummeling a vampire and screaming “MY DEAD MOTHER HIT HARDER THAN THAT!” and“DON’T TOUCH ME!” instead of dusting him and coming to help Buffy fight the other vampires. We’ve already learned a few big things about Faith’s background:

- Dropped out of high school
- Didn’t have any good friends in school
- Comes from a poor background and lives in cheap hotels
- Her mother is dead
- Her mother used to beat her up
- Her Watcher was killed is a gruesome way by Kakistos, and Faith still feels guilty for running away before she could kill him.

Faith’s Watcher was a woman, and probably an older woman (since Faith implies that she didn’t know Watchers could be as young and cute as Giles). She might have been a much needed mother figure to Faith.

When Buffy helps Faith work through her trauma and they fight Kakistos together, with Faith being the one to dust him, the two girls finally start bonding, and Buffy goes on to work through her own trauma. The irony is that the two of them wouldn’t have seemed so different in other circumstances, and if Faith had met Buffy last year, before Innocence, she would have met someone a lot more open, bubbly and fun. As it is, Faith will get the impression that Buffy is uptight and with no sense of fun.

Fashion in the episode is something I really have to comment on. While Willow has become less nerdy and is wearing cute sweaters instead of silly “Look at me, I’m nerdy” shirts and overalls, Xander is still the king of silly shirt designs, Cordelia is elegant as usual, and Giles is halfway between his stuffy early style and his later seasons casual style, Faith wears tight vinyl pants and a black top that Cordelia considers trashy, and Buffy has for some reason suddenly started dressing like soccer mom. I cannon describe how much I HATE Buffy’s outfits in this episode, and IIRC, it continues throughout season 3. What the hell happened, Buffy, why would you change your style like that – except to allow the show to make a bigger stereotypical good girl/bad girl contrast with Faith?

Best lines:
Buffy: All right, yes, date and shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know, I want to do girlie stuff.

Buffy: So let me get this straight. I'm really back in school because the school board *overruled* you. (Snyder faces her) Wow. That's like having your whole ability to do this job called into question, when you think about it.
Joyce: I think what my daughter's trying to say is: 'Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!'

Willow (to Faith): Oz is a werewolf.
Buffy: It's a long story.
Oz: I got bit.
Buffy: Apparently not that long.

Worst lines:
Cordelia: Oh, you mean 'cause of how the only guy that ever liked her turned into a vicious killer and had to be put down like a dog?

Uh, Cordy, “the only guy that ever liked her”?! That’s very inaccurate, did she just forget about her boyfriend Xander’s huge and annoying crush on Buffy? Not to mention Owen, another guy Cordy seemed to fancy. And that swimmer guy. And all the guys who liked Buffy before she came to Sunnydale. It’s hardly a question of Buffy not having had any options, it’s about how she was in love with, methinks.

And this bit of dialogue doesn’t make sense:

Buffy: Mom, no one can take over for me.
Joyce: But you're going to college next year. I think it would be...
Buffy: Mom, the only way you get a new Slayer is when the old Slayer dies.

What does that have to do with Buffy letting Faith take over? Buffy has already died and that’s how Kendra and Faith came to be Slayers. Buffy is actually in the perfect position to retire, if that’s what she wants to do. She doesn’t really seem to want to and feels threatened by Faith, which says a lot. Was her mom just too distracted to learn that Buffy died that she failed to notice that Buffy wasn’t making sense? Or was it just a clumsy writing attempt to have Joyce learn that Buffy died at one point.

Mythology: The first time the Council of Watchers is mentioned. They hold their yearly „retreats“ in England with a lot of lectures as well leasure activities like kayaking, but Giles has never been invited to one of those. Why was that?

Maybe it used to be because he was known as a rebel/troublemaker, and now it’s because he’s too busy.
We also learn that Faith was activated when Kendra died, which means that the next Slayer should be called when Faith dies; although at this point we still don’t know for sure what will happen when Buffy dies for the second time, and if it would result in yet another Slayer (as we now know, it won’t – the Slayer line doesn’t go through her anymore; though this obviously became irrelevant after Chosen).

Pop culture references: When Buffy prepares a lunch for her friends, Cordelia compares her to Martha Stewart (I guess it goes really well with Buffy’s makeover into a soccer mom in this episode ). Buffy references the movie Single White Female in which Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a psycho who’s trying to take over Bridget Fonda’s life. Scott invites Buffy to a Buster Keaton film festival. Mr. Trick (mis)quotes George Gershwin’s song „Summertime“: „Where the humans and jumping and the cotton is high“.

Nicknames: Faith immediately starts calling Buffy „B.“. Buffy ironically calls her back „F.“. Cordelia’s first reaction to seeing Faith for the first time, dancing with a guy who turns out to be a vampire, is to call them „Slut-o-rama and her Disco Dave“. Buffy keeps messing up Kakistos’ name, calling him Kissing Toast and Kaki Trousers.

Destroying English language: Buffy sarcastically calls Faith „my bestest new little sister“. This is the second time „bestest“ has been used on the show, and both times it was in a sarcastic way. Something interesting to keep in mind when reading season 8...

Ooh, kinky: Willow makes one of her unintentional double entendres, telling Buffy she should charm Scott by doing „that thing you do with your mouth that boys like“. Upon Buffy’s startled reaction, she quickly explains she meant Buffy’s half-smile, not „that bad thing with your mouth.“ It’s not a bad thing, Willow...

Cordelia comments on Xander’s attraction to Slayers and that maybe she should dress up as one and put a stake to his chest (which is the type of fantasy Spike will enact with Harmony and Buffybot in season 5), Xander says he would like that to be more than sarcasm. Am I the only one who’s a bit fed up that so far it’s been always Xander (out of the non-vampire characters) who tends to have kinky sex fantasies, per the stereotype of a horny teenage boy? Luckily Faith’s arrival is soon going to change this.

Shirtless scene: Or rather, the first naked scene, as Angel falls into this dimension and onto the floor of the mansion, butt naked.

Foreshadowing: The Mayor is name-checked again; they’ve slowly been building him up since season 2, until we finally meet him. Faith will in fact literally try to take over Buffy’s life in Who Are You? Buffy’s „little sister“ comment and Joyce’s line that it’s fortunate Buffy is the only child might be seen as foreshadowing for Dawn, though I doubt that it was planned back in season 3. Kakistos’ line „I don’t care if there are hundreds of Slayers...“ is probably another bit of completely accidental foreshadowing.

Rating: 3.5
Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

my Buffy/Angel rewatch
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