The last episode was Jane Espenson’s debut, and this one is Doug Petrie’s – which rounds up the list of core writers that were on the staff until the finale (Whedon, Noxon, Fury, Espenson, Petrie), with the exception of David Greenwalt, who left at the end of season 3 to run the Angel spinoff. It’s an average but important episode - it moves the plot forward by having the Scoobies learn that Angel is back, and has some long overdue character confrontations – even if it doesn’t really resolve anything when it comes to the conflict between Buffy and Xander over Angel, for instance. The other plot is about Faith’s new Watcher, Gwendolyn Post, who continues Faith’s bad luck with Watchers and destroys her already weak ability to trust people. The title likely refers to both the revelation about Angel, the revelation about Post, and the apocalyptic nature of the power that Post would’ve gotten through the MacGuffin called the Glove of Myhneghon, which the Scoobies destroy at the end. (“Apocalypse” = “Revelation”.)
But maybe the most interesting revelation in this episode is that there are 12 cemeteries in Sunnydale (!). Which, come to think of it, isn’t surprising considering the mortality rate. How bad was it when they did not have a Slayer?
These events end up putting cracks into the developing friendship between Faith and Buffy. At the beginning of the episode, they are really close, both obviously enjoying an opportunity to have an equal slaying partner, and doing what Buffy calls “synchronized slaying”. They’re again having girl talks about their love lives, and this time it’s Faith telling Buffy about her dating history – she had a string of loser boyfriends (listed are: “Ronnie, deadbeat; Steve, klepto; Kenny... drummer”. So drummer is in the same category as a kleptomaniac and a deadbeat guy?), until she decided you can’t trust guys and that it’s much better to stick to casual sex (“get some, get gone”). The impression we get about Faith’s dating history in this episode is different from the one we get in later seasons (AtS, BtVS season 7, season 8) where she talked about screwing bankers and older guys who wanted her to dress as a schoolgirl etc., which paints a darker picture about her past and points out, probably not to outright prostitution but “compensated dating”. Before she got the Slayer powers, sexuality was probably Faith’s only power that she used. See Stormwreath
’s analysis of Faith’s background as depicted/hinted in canon: http://stormwreath.livejournal.com/85963.html
On the other hand, Buffy doesn’t want to talk to Faith about Angel, since she’s still hiding that he’s back from everyone. We’re treated to another scene of Angel’s shirtless tai chi, this time he and Buffy and doing it together. The rest of the time, they are acting awkward, trying not to start making out, still seem to find it difficult to have an conversation about anything – except in this case, the Glove of Myhneghon, which Angel has somehow found. It’s interesting that Buffy makes another connection between slaying and sex, when she admits that she is going to vent her sexual frustration by going to hunt the demon Lagos. Meanwhile, guilt over his cheating with Willow has sent Xander roaming through Sunnydale, and in one of those amazing coincidences, he happens to see Angel entering the mansion, and then Buffy and Angel make out just in time so he could see them. (Can anyone kiss in this show without getting caught, usually by the person or persons who would be most upset by it?) Buffy’s secret is finally blown, which leads to a big confrontation in the library.
And that confrontation… I can understand where everyone it’s coming from, but it’s unpleasant, it’s one of the “everyone gangs up on Buffy” scenes (the last one was in Dead Man’s Party
) yet this time Buffy really is in the wrong and she knows it. She tries to ensure her friends she would never let anything happen to them, walking right into Xander’s inevitable mention of Jenny Calendar. It doesn’t make her look good when she deflects the accusations by focusing on Xander and venting some old frustrations at him. He’s the one member of the gang who’s been most vocal about his hatred for Angel, but who’s also had a bias against him long before he turned evil. Buffy finally accuses him of hating Angel out of jealousy – which seems out of place at this particular moment, with Xander in a relationship with Cordelia (and secretly cheating with Willow, which Buffy doesn’t know), but I think it was just Buffy finally voicing something she was trying not to say all these times in season 1 and 2 when Xander was showing obvious jealousy of Angel, and disliked him before he did anything wrong to the Scoobies. And while Xander has no designs of that kind on Buffy now, his jealousy and anger that Buffy chose Angel over him contributed a lot to the hatred that he developed for Angel. Or it can be seen as Buffy losing the argument and deflecting it – Xander is the only one she can accuse of bias. I understand Buffy’s reasons and I think that Xander’s lie in Becoming II
might have contributed to Buffy’s wrong impression that everyone, including Willow, would want Angel dead immediately, and wouldn’t understand her feelings. Cordelia is right, however, that Buffy’s friends had a right to know, since his evil MO was to go after Buffy’s friends, instead of Buffy. Each one of the Scoobies is acting through to character – Willow is trying to calm everyone down and doesn’t want conflict, Oz is simply pointing out the facts, Cordelia says what everyone else is thinking, and Giles takes Buffy’s side, until he’s alone with Buffy. It’s only then that he scolds her, reminding her that Angel tortured him and that he’s a murderer (it makes sense that Giles wouldn’t mention Jenny just to make a point) and accusing her of having no respect for him or her job – and Buffy is genuinely ashamed.
BTW, this is the first time Buffy utters the classic catchphrase “He’s not my boyfriend”
.This time it refers to Angel – all the other times, in later seasons, were about Spike.
Buffy: What are you guys talking about?
Oz: Oddly enough, your boyfriend – again.
Buffy: He’s not my boyfriend. Really, truly… I don’t know.
The episode does a good job setting up Gwendolyn Post as one of those annoying characters who feel like antagonists because they don’t get along with our heroes, even though they’re on the same side and not evil – until she actually turns out to be evil. (Maggie Walsh is a bit like an American version of Post. Post also reminds me on the surface of Adelle De Witt from Dollhouse
.) Post is a really stuffy, arrogant ‘proper’ British person with a condescending attitude towards Giles, claiming she’s sent not just to be Faith’s new Watcher but also to report on Giles’s performance. The contrast shows how relaxed, informal and attached to the Scoobies Giles has become in comparison. Are all Watchers British? Or just most of them? Funnily enough, she “accuses” Giles of having become “too American”. Apparently, Watchers tend to also be insular and nationalistic. Later she appears as one of those “firm but fair” people with Faith, gaining her trust. For all her apparent rebelliousness, Faith is actually really in need of parental figure and ready to put her trust in any authority figure who seems to care about her. And then Post manipulates her by telling her that the Scoobies are having a meeting that she wasn’t invited in – which hits the nerve with Faith, since she feels she’s excluded from the circle of Buffy’s friends. Which in this case isn’t quite right – it makes sense that they wouldn’t want Faith to witness their dirty laundry from the history that she doesn’t share. But on the other hand, why isn’t the Council or Giles (who might not be her Watcher, but was the only Watcher in Sunnydale before Post arrived) helping this girl financially so she wouldn’t have to live in a motel room? She’s a Slayer, shouldn’t the Council at least help her out, if they aren’t paying the Slayers salaries, like they do to the Watchers? Just how incompetent is the Council? It’s being portrayed as an outdated, stuffy patriarchal organization out of touch with the real world. There’s even a joke about it at the end, when Giles has learned that Post had been thrown out of the Council a while ago for dabbling in dark magic (this seems to be a recurring theme with the Watchers) – and they swear they sent a memo he didn’t get. What were they using, a fax machine? They don’t seem to be aware that there’s such a thing as e-mail. How about phone?
The third storyline in this ep is the ongoing Willow/Xander fling, and that’s one secret that does not get revealed yet. After playing footsie in the classroom the last time, now they’re making out in the library and almost getting caught by Giles. Could it be that it’s exactly the secrecy and the feeling that they’re doing something forbidden that they find exciting? It certainly seems to be the case with Willow – she asks Buffy is the secrecy made her relationship with Angel feel sexier (Buffy says no, after a while it’s just too much pressure). Willow was, to her credit, close to telling Buffy about her and Xander, before chickening out. Her own guilt over keeping a secret is also the reason why she’s more forgiving of Buffy (on the other hand, it doesn’t work that way at all for Xander).
I can’t really blame Xander for anything he says in the library – he does have a point, and he has a good reason to be angry. But I can’t say the same about his decision to go behind everyone else’s back and tell Faith that Angel has a glove, prompting her to go and try to kill him. To be fair, it was on the spur of the moment, when Faith found him at the Bronze, while Xander was still fuming – and he does change his mind later and tell Faith to wait until they are sure. But he should have thought about that later. Faith is even more impusive and, at this point, prone to black and white thinking when it comes to vampires, so even Xander ends up being the more moderate one. Maybe it’s not just how she feels about vampires, but about men as well. Post hits another button with her when she tells Faith that Buffy is blinded by love – Faith is prone to not trusting men and seeing romantic feelings as a weakness.
Post is revealed to be evil when she knocks Giles out after learning where the glove is. And this is the time when I start thinking I should’ve perhaps counted the number of times Giles has been knocked out. Instead here’s a list I stole from somewhere
- The Witch (by vampires who want to raise the Master again)
- Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (by Andrew Vorba in the crematorium)
- Prophecy Girl (by Buffy, to stop him from trying to help her)
- When She Was Bad (by the vampires attempting to raise the Master)
- Passion (by Angelus, after Giles attacks him for killing Jenny)
- Becoming (Part 1) (by a group of vampires who take him to Angelus)
- Beauty and the Beasts (shot with a tranquilizer gun)
- Homecoming (by Lyle Gorch and Candy).
- Revelations (by Gwendolyn Post, in his office)
This is the first time he ended up in a hospital. It’s a miracle that man hasn’t had a brain damage yet. (Luckily the same list says he only gets knocked out 3 more times after this episode).
How strange it is now, knowing the relationship that Angel and Faith will have in the future, to see that their first meeting consisted of fighting each other: Faith believed he was evil, and Angel probably believed Faith was evil and working with Post (I guess Buffy didn’t tell him about the other Slayer). This is followed by the first fight between Buffy and Faith. Post meanwhile uses the mayhem to put the glove on, which seems to give her some sort of mystical power; it’s mentioned that the glove can never be taken off once you put it, which means she had no interest in being human again. She rubs salt on the wound with these lovely words: “Faith, a word of advice – you’re an idiot”. That’s it’s harsh (how was Faith to be sure who to trust and who not to, and Post fooled everyone, not just her), besides not actually being advice, technically speaking. It turns out Post was quite an idiot herself - it didn’t occur to her that Buffy won’t have to take the glove off her hand, she might simply cut off her hand. (Is this where The Vampire Diaries
got this idea from? I haven’t read the TVD books, but I doubt that this detail was in them.) Apparently, separating the glove from the wearer’s body while they’re channeling the power results in the destruction of the wearer by the force of lightning, which happens to Post, another one in the line of villains destroyed by the same power they were trying to use against others (like Catherine in Witch
or the zookeeper in The Pack
The Post storyline and Angel’s role pave the way for the Scoobies to accept Angel more easily – Willow says that the fact that he saved her life maker her like him again. But on the other hand, Faith’s fragile trust in the Watchers is damaged by what happened when she put her trust in Post, but so is her trust in Buffy and the Scoobies, because they kept secrets from her. In the last scene, Buffy comes to check up on her and tell her she’s her friend and that she can trust her, but Faith is aloof and says the only thing she knows is she can trust herself.
Faith: You can’t trust guys.
Buffy:You can trust some guys. Really, I've read about them.
Cordelia: What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover again?
Buffy: It was an accident!
Xander: What, you just tripped and fell on his lips?
Maybe it’s the right time to bring this back, since it’s the first time in season 3 someone has brought up the issue of Angel’s responsibility for his actions in season 2.They talk about the things he
did and the danger that he might turn into a killer if he
loses his soul again,nobody is using the name “Angelus” yet, and it’s worth mentioning that Buffy never tries to use the argument that Angel is not the one who did those things, which speaks against the often repeated claim that Buffy believes that Angel and “Angelus” are literally not the same person. Giles scolds Buffy for “harboring a known murderer” and says “I must remind you that Angel tortured me... for hours... for pleasure“. Buffy doesn’t voice any disagreement with that.
The contrast between Buffy’s and Faith’s clothes isn’t that big now that they’re good buddies. But note the way that dark lipstick and heavier makeup clearly marks Faith as the bad girl. Buffy wears black when she goes to see Angel, other times she wears a lot of pink (and has a hat with the word “BOMB” that I’m sure was never seen again).
Did David Boreanaz have a clause in his contract that he had to be shirtless in every episode this season? This time it’s more shirtless tai-chi, this time with Buffy.
What the slashy heck:
When her friends speculate if she’s secretly dating someone, Buffy deflects the question joking that she wouldn’t use the word “date”, but that she is “going out” with someone – Faith, grinning and adding “Really, we’re just good friends”. Writer Doug Petrie was a big supporter of Buffy/Faith slash subtext and it shows from the start.
Destroying English Language:
Xander says at the beginning of the episode that Buffy certainly wouldn’t keep secrets from the Scoobies, since they’re “the best of Buffy’s bestest buds” (aliteration!). The first two times “bestest” was used on the show, it was in a sarcastic way; in this case it’s… insecure exaggeration, trying to convince oneself? Xander later doesn’t hesitate to jump to bad conclusions about Buffy and her ability to make decisions regarding Angel.
Willow refers to Giles as “the emotional marathon man”. Cordy reacts to Buffy accusing Xander of jealousy by calling her “Miss-Not-Over-Yourself-Yet”.
Pop culture references:
Faith calls Post “
Mary Poppins” and “Miss Priss”.
When does this string of more or less average episodes end? This is a rhetorical question, I know exactly when this season gets really good, and fortunately it’s with the next episode.