harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Buffy Reviewed: S3's "Bad Girls"


Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 03, Episode 14

Bad Girls

Writer: Douglas Petrie
DIR: Michael Lange

Blurb: When Buffy’s new Watcher, Wesley Wyndom-Pryce, arrives, Buffy takes off with Faith on a rebellious rampage that ends with the staking …[spoiler!… rude].

Scene 01: We open with Buffy and Faith in the midst of being jumped by a group of vampires in old-timey middle ages clothing. But as they’re fighting, Faith’s attention is more on a personal issue about Buffy.

Despite Buffy stating this is a weird time to be asking, Faith insists on knowing if Buffy really has never done “anything” with Xander… after all of this time of them fighting together.

[As you’ll recall, Faith took Xander’s virginity last episode, explaining her interest in how Buffy couldn’t have already tapped that by now.]

Buffy insists the answer is “No!”.  Faith can’t believe that after all the sweating and adrenaline, that she and Xan have never put in for a little after hours “uh!” but Buffy tells her that she loves Xander… she just doesn’t ‘love’ Xander. Faith blows that off, as it doesn’t take true love to scratch an itch but Buffy’s opinion is that sex in friendships can be too disruptive.

As they’re winding down, Buffy notes the footprints from the battle and calls Faith’s attention to their having missed one of the bad guys.

Scene 02: Buffy leads Faith toward a gravestone, intuiting that their fourth is ducked down behind it. She tells Faith on the count of three as they approach for an ambush.

Faith’s not one for waiting and goes on the count of one, to Buffy’s annoyance.

The impetuous Slayer starts fisticuffs.

Scene 03: While Buffy is expressing her annoyance to the air, Faith gets picked up and thrown against a headstone. Buffy rushes in to distract the vampire, but he pulls out a pair of swords and swinging one, decapitates Buffy’s stake.

He and Buffy have a short fight, but he’s clearly been around awhile and a warrior, because Buffy quickly finds herself backed over a waist high marker, and him leaning in for the bite.

Faith though, has recovered. She rushes up and gives her stake into the vampire’s back.

After the staking, Faith gives Buffy a smug grin with a twinkle in her eye. But Buffy is not at all amused. Faith thinks Buffy was diverting the bad guy’s attention in a partner move, but Buffy points out that she was fighting for her life.

Faith blows this all off as their jobs not being a Tupperware party and asks if Buffy knows who the vampires were, considering their dress. Buffy suggests grabbing up the weapons for inspection by Giles, but when she turns to look, they’ve already disappeared to her befuddlement.

Commentary: I liked this scene for SMG and Eliza’s bouncing off of one another, and the fact that this fight scene pretty much encompasses the Slayers’ outlooks for later. Faith is impulsive. She leaps before she thinks. She’s not overly worried about her safety and she expects those fighting at her back to watch out for their own necks so she isn’t distracted.

Buffy wants to go in with a plan, even if it needs modifying with the ebb and flow of battle. And she expects that her friends and she will have one eye on each other so nobody can get into too much trouble.

Faith also isn’t very attentive to detail. She’s the point-me-and-I-slay type. While Buffy is interested in knowing who her enemies are and why they showed up. She has more of a big picture mentality, probably instilled in her by the years of Giles’ tutelage and his being information guy helping her defeat apocalyptic plans that she easily could’ve missed otherwise.

Faith is ‘short attention span’ on the danger in front of her. And once that danger is gone, she considers it a win and moves on. Buffy though always wants to make sure that there isn’t a larger purpose to any ‘random attack’ that might be leading to something she has to stop for the world’s safety. A won battle isn’t the end, that doesn’t come until she believes that there isn’t a larger plot involved [which has most certainly been informed by the number of times that the Hellmouth has been an object of interest to the vampires - with Faith never having had to face being a Hellmouth guardian].

Scene 04: The swords that Buffy was looking for are currently in the mayor’s office.

They’ve been delivered by Trick, who warns the mayor that he’s been seeing a large number of “this breed” around, and wonders - like Buffy - whether there is something larger going on that they’re not aware of yet.

Deputy Mayor Finch wonders what they should do about the situation, but for now the Mayor states they should just keep a sharp eye out. The Mayor mentions an important dedication coming up that can’t be interrupted. Allan suggests, hesitantly, on postponing the dedication but Mr. Trick rightly states that the Mayor hates that suggestion. Which is obvious by the Mayor’s sudden, very hard look at his Deputy.

He slowly stands up from the chair and walks around his desk toward the very uncomfortable Deputy Mayor Finch. But he walks by Allan to the cabinet of witchery and tells the room that the Dedication is one of the final steps toward the Ascension and he’s waited too long for this to allow random-vamps on a mission to get in the way. He also infers that once this Ascension is completed, he’ll no longer have to worry about “the little things”… including his apparent obsession with germs.

After wiping his hands with a towelette, he tells Trick to start watching their new visitors and if he comes up with any helpful information, he should leak it to the Slayers. With any luck, they’ll all end up killing each other.

Commentary: Allan Finch is interesting here. He has to be a bad guy. He has to be. He knows way too much about the inner workings of the Mayor’s plans, and Wilkins speaks much too freely in front of him for him not to believe Allan is completely on board with what he’s trying to do.

Which makes it so interesting that Allan is clearly not a bad-bad guy. He’s uneasy with the Mayor, and Mr. Trick’s involvement in city hall business. He has expressed worry about this upcoming Ascension, while leaving it ambiguous whether he’s worried for the mayor, or about the mayor.

And thanks to the writing, and Jack Plotnick’s skittery acting, you can tell that Finch is clearly much different than any of the Mayor’s other associates. How did this ‘nebbish’, nervous man even attain such a position so close to Wilkins? How does the Mayor not have some severe doubts about Finch’s resolve?

Even when Mr. Trick appears to have gotten the Mayor’s ear more, as in this scene where Finch is kept on the opposite side of the desk while Trick is at Wilkins’ shoulder through the scene, Finch is clearly still of great value to Mayor Wilkins. He doesn’t do anything threatening toward Allan, and he doesn’t suggests that Allan’s concerns are suspicious or disloyal in some way, even when he brings up an action that would throw off the mayor’s timetable. I find Allan Finch being in the inner circle of the mayor’s to be a curious anomaly. I wish we’d gotten to know some sort of back story on this particular character.

Those credits be doin’ their thing.

Scene 05: The following day at school, our gang are sitting in the student lounge area where Xan is disturbed by the number of college early admission packets that Willow has been receiving. Being among the toppest of top students at SHS, she’s naturally being wooed by all of the best ivy leagues.

Xander laments that he’s only expecting slips of paper on which is written, “No way”… possibly in crayon, though Oz tells him they pretty much all type them now. Willow is giddy at everyone pitching woo to get her, and Buffy is smiley on her behalf.

Cordy stops by for a few minutes to ground Xander down a bit more, which he allows, despite his whole hero-hijinks the previous episode.

[Which - just let me insert a complaint here. Xander Harris is one of the most static characters in the Buffyverse. Every time you think, “Finally! Xan knows how important he is and is stepping up to the plate”, something happens to push his characterization backwards. It’s deeply annoying as a Xan fan.]

Wills and Buffy makes plans for later for a study jam as Final Exams are still coming up before the post-high school plans can really be formalized. With a bell ring, Buffy jumps up to run to the library for an after-slayings report to Giles. Willow mentions that she saw Rupert earlier and something was on his mind he wanted to speak to Buffy about. This worries.

Commentary: This scene is really pretty dull, and I find it bothersome while watching but I also know it’s serving a purpose. We, as viewers, are wondering just how BTVS can keep going after high school and the show is starting to address the logical problems with everyone remaining in their monster haunted town, instead of getting out of there.

So, it’s nice that the characters are discussing their options, but the scene really drags on and on for too much screen time. And the bit with Cordelia was just plain unnecessary and unpleasant, with even the lack of mirth in Xan’s attempts to verbally defend himself.

Scene 06: Skipping over to the library ahead of Buffy’s arrival, we can already see what it is that Giles needs to discuss with Buffy. And, oh dear….

It appears there is a new Brit in town. And he’s a Watcher. In fact, he’s The New Watcher. And he’s already being an annoyance by invading Rupert Giles’ space and telling him that he - Rupert - is part of the old, obsolete school of Watcher-thought.

Upon Buffy’s arrival, introductions are made and we find out our newcomer is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Buffy gives him distrustful looks and refuses to shake his hand. She asks Giles if he’s evil, clarifying to Wes about the last new Watcher who showed up. Wes had been filled in on Mrs. Post and assures Buffy that he’s fully vetted.

Wes asks for Buffy’s update from the previous night’s patrol and after specifically looking to Giles’ approval to share, she tells them both about the vampires the night before. Although, getting details requires more questioning from Wesley which wouldn’t have been necessary with Giles, of course.

The scant details of Buffy’s encounter is enough for Wes to identify the costumed vampire with the swords as a follower of the demon, Balthazar. There is still the question of why a vampire cult who hasn’t been seen in Sunnydale for a hundred years and whose patron demon was reportedly killed already are now back.

Wes has a theory regarding an amulet of Balthazar’s which was taken from his corpse when he was killed and is interred in the crypt of a local family. After a moment’s consideration, he instructs Buffy that she will visit the Gleaves family crypt and retrieve the worthless trinket, just as a “might as well keep it from them for shits and giggles” thing.

Buffy is a bit peevy about being issued orders and reports that Giles always said please and promised her a cookie when she gets back.

Commentary: Okay. This scene, while I understand it’s to let us know that Wesley isn’t a complete incompetent [because they’re going to go out of their way to turn him into a near useless tool later], cannot escape the weight of making him an info-dump repository.

The scripting here is … well, nakedly an info-dump in the worst sense. Wesley puts together salient points from Buffy’s minimal description of a vampire with swords to immediately know just which cult she’s talking about. A cult that hasn’t been heard from in a century and Rupert describes as only vaguely familiar, but Wes has a book with the relevant description of them right on top of his box o’ books just waiting.

The “Giles gives me a cookie” was cute, and ASH’s facial expressions behind Wes’ back are wonderful, but I just HATE this type of exposition that isn’t handled with any flair or at least being made to sound natural.

Scene 07: While Wes is discussing with Buffy how they seem to be starting off on the wrong foot, Faith strides in to check in.

She gets one look at Wes, confirms he’s the new Watcher, and announces “screw that”. She turns on her heel and walks out, leaving Buffy jealous that she didn’t think of that first. Rupert sighs but asks Buffy to go see if she can wrangle Faith back to be a bit more cooperative for this transition.

In the meantime, Wes grabs for a handkerchief and begins to wipe his glasses in the same moment that Rupert is doing the same… to his disturbance.

Commentary: Really, ASH pretty much owns this scene despite not doing anything because the looks on his face throughout are funny, including when he notices that Wesley is doing the same thing he does with polishing his glasses when Buffy/Faith do something mildly annoying.

Scene 08: Outside, Buffy catches up with Faith. They have brief words about Wes and following “the dork’s” orders, but Buffy explains it’s the job. But Faith isn’t hearing that crap. She offers that they’re the Chosen Two, so why let Wesley order them around and “take the fun out of Slaying”. Buffy offers that she didn’t notice all that fun with the stabbing and beheading, but Faith calls her out as lying. She tells Buffy that she’s noticed her mood when she’s gotten finished with a good slay, and it’s the same high that she feels.

Buffy tries to deny these feelings that Faith seems to embrace, but Faith tells that they’re built to kill vampires. If she’s not having fun doing it, then she’s doing something wrong.

Scene 09: That night at the Gleaves family mausoleum, Buffy does some snooping through the caskets interred, looking to complete Wes’ assignment and maybe smooth over their first unpromising meeting.

She just finds the amulet, when she hears the vampires - more than one- coming up to the crypt. Acting quickly, she tucks herself away into one of the coffins and listens.

[Hmm. I’m really going to assume that Buffy isn’t sure they didn’t bring a whole army, which is why she isn’t just tucked into a dark corner to stake them all before they realize she’s there. Because… well… just how often do we see Buffy *hiding* from vampires. And since there are five or six of ‘em, maybe I can cut her a bit of slack.]

Thanks to Buffy’s reticence in confronting the Cult Vampires, they successfully retrieve the amulet, which shouldn’t be a big deal according to Wes, since it’s little more than an heirloom at this point.

Scene 10: Buffy, tucked into a coffin hears them apparently leaving and creeps out. She gets a jump scare from a lurking Faith, who is appalled to find Buffy hiding. Buffy explains the 6 against 1 odds, and Faith tells her it’s 6 to 2 now, and urges to hurry along behind her to intercept the vampires.

Scene 11: They exit the mausoleum just in time to see the vampires leaping down into an underground storm drain. Faith immediately heads for it, and when Buffy urges her to stop and think about this, Faith is all ‘uh-uh, lets kills us some vampires”.

Buffy follows Faith to the manhole and explains the cramped spaces, the outnumbered-ness against them, the no easy exit if things go bad facts. Faith cares not. She tells Buffy that she wants to find out how many vampires are down the hole, and the only way to know is to drop down on them. And if Buffy refuses to follow her, she might die… and then leaps with a quirk of her lips down the hole with zero plan.

Buffy, not okay with this at all, sighs but follows.

Commentary: And I’m sure that we’ve already gotten the idea before but this clearly shows us our two Slayers’ conflicting way of doing things. Buffy wants to consider options, plan out attacks, and be ready to have the advantage when she’s facing numbers larger than just her [which is actually a lesson you could say she learned when she was so easily overpowered by The Three]. Faith on the other hand doesn’t want to think, she wants to act on her gut instincts and her ability to always be fluid with the situation. Buffy knows that even with her being the Slayer, she’s not Supergirl [until S8, but I don‘t wanna talk about it]. Faith feels invincible, or at least not as concerned about the possibility that she could lose the fight, because she’s going to have a rip roaring time until that happens.

And both of them are going to have to find a way to accommodate their differing approaches, or simply stay out of one another’s way… which would be simpler said than done with their sharing a Watcher and Sunnydale being so small (well, allegedly).

I like the dynamic that it sets up and I enjoy this period of BTVS, where we’re really being asked to judge which Slayer’s approach is the right one. We’ve already seen that when a Slayer is too buttoned down to rote procedure and technique, she’s vulnerable to the unexpected… the way Kendra wasn’t prepared for Drusilla’s ability to lull her into a hypnotic state. Where Kendra was taken aback when she was briefly overpowered by Dru and unable to think on her feet to get herself out of it before Dru had hypno-whammied her, Buffy would’ve stomped on her foot to break her focus and given herself space to break her hold.

So clearly, the Slayer needs to act instinctively, and too much “by the book” in her training isn’t ideal. But, is instinct all she needs? Is Buffy over thinking things by constantly trying to anticipate, analyze and plan ahead? Is it causing her to hesitate, when acting without thinking about it could be what saves her life?

Or is Faith the one who is making herself vulnerable to getting into an inescapable situation by being all-gut, all the time in her approach?

Scene 12: Back in the library, Giles paces as he waits for Buffy to return.

Wesley in the meantime is making sure that Rupert has given him all of the Watchers Diaries, including the one he’s been keeping in regards to Buffy. Giles’ first diary entry comments on Buffy’s willfulness, her insolence and her abuse of the English language. But Giles points out that Wes just needs to get to know her.

He comments that Buffy should be back, but Wesley offers that his mission scenario has her returning in one minute and there shouldn’t be any problems.

Scene 13: Back with Buffy and Faith, they’re finding problems in that they’re outnumbered as expected. And these are warriors, not just hunters of the weak and dumb. And they’re not new to the game.

 Buffy complains they’re surrounded, which Faith has picked up on, thank you. Faith separates from Buffy in order to split the vampires’ avenues of attack on them.

Head Sword Guy tries to pierce Buffy through, but when she’s able to dodge/block his sword strike, he chooses to drown her in a very convenient barrel of water. She tries to lift her head, but starts to go limp, with Faith being pinned against a far wall and unable to help her.

Faith struggles, but can’t break free and Buffy stills.

Thankfully, Buffy is a big faker in this instance. One of our swords ended up in the convenient tub o’ water with her. Once Head Sword Guy thinks she’s drowned she snatches up the dropped sword and swings around, cutting him. She mutters that she really hates when they drown her [i.e. ‘Prophecy Girl’ reference of course].

Buffy disarms Head Sword Guy, while Faith shouts to her that they gotta go. Buffy snags the amulet around Head Sword Guy’s neck and he takes off with surviving henchvamp. Faith grins at Buffy and asks her if she’s not getting off on this whole fighting the evil dead thing, and Buffy admits that it didn’t suck.

Scene 14: In the library, Wes examines the amulet, while Giles lurks and drinks tea. Buffy complains that Wes’ “nearly extinct cult” was “out in force” using as much Buffyspeak as she can manage.

Giles asks after her condition, and she assures him she’s fine and then pointedly stares at Wes as she thanks him for asking. Wesley points out that the Slayer is always supposed to be prepared for surprises.

With a bell ring, Buffy’s off to a Chem test. On her way out, she tells Giles that they’ll need to talk later. This gets Wesley’s back up, and he orders her not to discuss Slayer business with her ex-Watcher. She pointedly, again, turns back to Rupert and tells him they’ll talk later.

After she leaves, Wes turns on Rupert and tells him he’s not helping with the transition. Rupert acknowledges this, and replies sarcastically that he feels just sick about it.

Commentary: This is a relatively small episode, but you can see it’s a set up one as well, so it’s okay for what it’s doing. I like the shake up of the status quo that has come with Rupert’s firing in ‘Helpless’ and I enjoy the scenes with Buffy and Faith, contrasting starkly the two’s styles and outlooks on their “gig”.

But I like it more in retrospect because I now know where things are headed. On first watch, things just didn’t appear to sparkle - especially with the dialog, because I had really expected Buffy to get in some great zingers at Wesley, or between Wes and Rupert. What we actually get is pretty low-key, and not all that clever, though the acting is very good, of course. Especially by Anthony.

But what I want to mention here, as a matter of full disclosure because I’m having trouble reviewing this fairly due to it, is Wesley’s characterization. It’s nothing against Alexis, but the writing for Wes feels overbroad and he’s been encouraged - I think - to treat the role as almost a parody of a Watcher. At the time, this wasn’t a big deal because we weren’t expecting him to last long as Buffy’s Watcher anyway. But in retrospect, it’s more difficult not to cringe at how useless he’ll be portrayed as, when we see what Angel the Series did with the character. Wes grows to be an indispensable member of Team Angel, and that series really gave Alexis Denisof a lot of meat to show his range - especially mid-series and later. It makes watching Wes in this period feel like the character is barely a sketch, and the acting is overblown.

I’m really struggling to accept the character as he is now, rather than where I know he’ll go but it’s much more difficult with him, than with Cordelia, Willow, etc.

I think it’s probably because Wesley, due to the restrictions of his part in Buffy’s story, can’t really grow here. He ends the season in the same place, practically, as where he started.

Scene 15: In the Chem test, Buffy is regaling Willow and Xander with just how free a force she felt during the battle of the vampires the night before. Something she hid from Faith, but now feels the need to go on and on about. Wills tries to tell her she knows how she feels [which I’ve always taken as a hint over the magic that she’s been dabbling in, some of which we heard reference to in “Dead Man’s Party”] but Buffy cuts her off, stating that it’s really a Slayer-thing and she doesn’t think Willow could get it.

Buffy continues to try to interrupt the test taking, to Will’s mild annoyance because school is a very big deal to her, with her excitement over the power she felt fighting with Faith.

Xan complains about Buffy distracting them during an important test, but she’s more interested in the fact that every time she mentions Faith’s name, Xan’s eye twitches. He denies this, but she deliberately stares at him and says her name… and his left eye does a violent twitch. Xan tells her to knock it off and sends her back to her own seat to test take, leaving the “ode to Faith” for later.

Scene 16: Buffy doesn’t even get to question one, when Faith shows up outside of the classroom and knocks on the window. She pulls it open, and tells ‘B’ they need to go, as Faith has tracked down a sleeping nest of vampires… but not by blowing their secret identities or mentioning vampires out loud, thankfully. Instead she blows air on the window and draws a heart and stake in the condensation. She gives Buffy an eyebrow wiggle and a huge grin.

To Willow’s shock and dismay, Buffy takes off in an instant out of the window to join Faith, rather than take the Chem test that she had thought was important, before her latest brush with death.

Scene 17: Buffy and Faith bust into an abandoned building [of which there are a lot in Sunnydale, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from building exponentially nearly constantly].

Our kick ass sisters strike a pose. And then get on with the Slaying.

Commentary: This part was interesting because it was clearly leading Buffy to be seduced by the power of the Slayer, something that she had gone out of her way to avoid during the past two seasons. In fact, she hated Slaying because of what it did to her personal life. But suddenly [A bit too? It’s a judgment call], she’s embracing her killing side, almost like a protégé of Faith’s, rather than trying to temper Faith’s wanting to throw herself into danger without a plan.

But what I really like about seeing Buffy falling under the sway of Faith here, is where it’s leading. Like I mentioned, this episode is much better in retrospect, than in ‘real time’.

Scene 18: We smash cut from Faith and Buffy about to kill, to The Bronze where they’re dancing together wildly. They’re joined by a group of guys, all of them dancing in an orgiastic way together, with Buffy clearly feeling as wild and free as her counterpart.

[I really don’t like the way this shot is framed. The guys don’t just join the girls uninvited on the dance floor, they literally surround them, bumping against them like some twisted, assaulting gang bang is about to happen. Obvs, that wouldn’t happen to Faith or Buffy without a lot of broken bones, but the shot set up really left me feeling uneasy and grossed out.]

Scene 19: While Buffy is wild dancing with Faith, and random bump-n-grinders, Angel comes in to find her. He looks particularly disturbed by her dancing with other guys. Buffy spots him and rushes over into his arms, jumping up and wrapping her legs around his waist in a much too intimate manner, considering their current status.

Angel tries to turn attention to the business at hand - the cult demons and their overlord, while Buffy continues to intimately hang on Angel, driving him to push her off and to step away from her in discomfort at her closeness… considering where that has led.

[This reminds me of “When She Was Bad”, where Buffy did this to Xander out of spite. Now, she just seems oblivious and insensitive to how difficult it is for Angel to be this close, but not able to touch her.]

Angel tells her that Balthazar’s death was overstated. He brings up the amulet, but Buffy tells him it’s not a worry, as they’ve already retrieved it so it can’t be used to restore the demon’s strength. Angel isn’t convinced they’re not still at risk, but before he can go on, Wesley interrupts from stage right.

He’s in a snit over Buffy going out Slaying without leaving him a way to contact her, but she’s more concerned at the moment about where the amulet is stashed. He tells her archly it’s somewhere safe. She notices his jacket “poofing out” and reaches into his inner pocket to find the amulet there. Angel complains that carrying it around is like a target on Wes, and Buffy tosses it over to Angel to store it somewhere actually safe.

Wesley objects strongly, especially as Angel and Buffy are planning out their play against Balthazar without any input from the Watcher in the trio. Angel and Buffy share a kiss with Angel strongly admonishing Buffy to be careful. And with Wesley continuing to insist that Balthazar is dead, so that line of concern is pointless.

They separate, leaving Wes clueless and complaining at not knowing what is going on.

Scene 20: Buffy walks back out onto the dance floor to grab Faith from her dance partners and drag her away. Faith flirts on the way out, with all of them.

Scene 21: Elsewhere in an old warehouse, we see whom we can presume is Balthazar. He’s having water poured over his skin, and sounds weakened… and pissed off.

He’s nearly immobile, we find, due to extreme bulk and is sitting in a vat of water. Balthazar complains that his vampire cultists are standing there with fear in their eyes and no amulet to restore their patron’s strength. And this displeases him mightily.

One of the cultists tries to explain about the Slayers, but this is cut off by the demon. He telekinetically lifts the vampire into his fat rolls, and crushes his head for him [Idle question? He’s not dead because he didn’t dust. But could a vampire actually heal from that sort of injury without a lot of blood fed to him? I hope somebody dusts the guy off screen, ‘cause leaving him like that is just horrible. Even too horrible for a bad guy].

He orders Head Sword Guy to get closer and closer to him, before he starts issuing an order about what he wants to see next….

Scene 22: Meanwhile, Faith and Buffy are exploring the warehouse on Angel’s tip.

They spy on our demon and his dozen cultists. Faith is ready to hit ‘em fast and hard, but Buffy points out they’re weaponless. For once, Faith agrees that rushing in does seem like a poor idea, but rather than head back to the library for arms, she spots a sporting goods store and directs Buffy across the street.

Scene 23: It’s easy for Faith to break in to the store. And though Buffy seems hesitant about what they’re doing, she doesn’t exactly storm out in outrage. Faith gives her a ‘Life is simple for a Slayer. We want, we take, we have’ as she grabs a crossbow and a pair of nunchakus.

Buffy gives a ‘Want, take, have’ of her own as she spots a small knife that looks nifty. She breaks the display case and grabs it for herself, getting into the simplicity of it.

[So frickin’ disappointed in her, I can’t even… WTH, BUFFY!?!]

But, things like breaking and entering don’t go unnoticed. And shockingly, the police actually arrive due, no doubt, to a silent alarm which neither of our Slayers could be bothered to consider. An officer fires a round into the ceiling to get their attention, and orders them to put the weapons down two minutes ago.

Scene 24: Buffy complies immediately, while Faith spends some time sizing up her chances, but ultimately she complies as well -- though not without smirking and thrusting her boobies at the cops.

[And I was gonna go on about cops just firing their weapons, but considering the news these days… plus: Sunnydale. So just never mind.]

Scene 25: In the back of the squad car, Faith consults with Buffy about not staying. Buffy has “aren’t I in enough shit” look, but Faith reminds her they can’t save the world from jail.

[God, the future!irony, Faith. Clearly Karma has its baleful eye on you.]

Buffy’s convinced, though unhappily, that they do have a bigger issue than attempted burglary to deal with. She joins Faith in scrunching down in the back seat, so they can do a four footed power kick on the grating separating the back and front of the passenger compartment. This causes driver-cop to swerve and crash into a parked vehicle.

After the crash, Buffy wants to call an ambulance but Faith tells her the two cops are fine and with the racket they just made, half the block is on the phone right now. They quickly unlock their cuffs with keys snatched… somehow… [really, check out this scene and then explain the logistics… their hands are cuffed behind their backs; Just how twisty did they need to be to reach over the front seat and down to one of the officer’s belts in order to get these keys?!].

Faith shouts for Buffy to get moving, while she hesitates over the injured police officers.

Commentary: I really liked the acting here between Eliza and SMG, as I often enjoy their working together. I wasn’t expecting Buffy’s comeuppance with dancing on the wild side to come so quickly, but I kinda liked that she can’t get away with nuthin’… not even once.

I’d almost be tempted to say this was a little intervention by the PTB. Since Buffy is the guardian of the Hellmouth, I could see them interfering whenever she shows the slightest signs of drifting from her mission, while Faith (sorry, Faith) isn’t of grand importance overall to keeping The Gate sealed.

But what I really love, is again in retrospect, how we can see Faith drifting farther and farther off the right path which everyone is too busy to notice. And how this will lead the Slayer into getting utterly lost. Faith’s story is tragedy, and redemption in ways that Buffy’s can’t be at this point because she’s been set up too well as ‘The Hero’. In fact, I think Faith’s arc is far more about redemption than even Angel’s throughout his whole series.

Scene 26: The following morning, Buffy is dressed subdued in black. She’s retrieved the morning paper, and scours it for any information that she’s been identified from her actions the night before.

Joyce comes in and gives Buffy a quick start by telling her to admit something, but turns out to be Joyce wanting to skip her diet for a breakfast full of waffles. Buffy isn’t feeling hungry. As she continues going through the paper, Joyce asks what she and Faith got up to the night before.

Joyce tries to entice Buffy again with waffles, but Buffy can’t think of eating. She offers to help Joyce make them for herself, but Joyce pulls out mom-logic and tells her the waffles are only calorie-free if she makes them for her [which, I totally love this line and the way Kristine delivers it… so much so, that I often pull out that food is only half the calories as long as somebody else is sharing it off their plate, inspired by this one line].

Scene 27: Over at the Mayor’s office, he’s taking a picture with the generic version of the Boy Scouts or Eagle Scouts or Campfire Woodchucks…whatever….

[The Mayor is so frickin’ warped. He’s planning on eating all of these kids that he’s so busy smiling and joshing with… it’s like he’s in a permanent state of cognizant dissidence.]

Deputy Mayor Finch rushes the troop out of the office. The Mayor closes the blinds, and tells Trick he can come out of the side office safely now. The Mayor goes on to pontificate about how kids are the backbone of America. He asks Trick for any updates on the Eliminati, as he’s opening his office closet.

He’s shocked to find one of those very vampires waiting to rush him, apparently having somehow snuck into the office and hung out until it was safe to attack!

It’s Head Sword Guy, and he delivers a message from Lord Balthazar that The Mayor can just die. Fortunately for Mayor McCheery, Mr. Trick is able to knock the vampire out from the periphery before he can shish kabob him. [Alas, for the rest of us.]

Mr. Trick belittles Head Sword Guy for the vampire habit of always being so backward with the lack of modern weapons, while The Mayor questions on how he could’ve gotten by City Hall security to wait in ambush. Deputy Mayor Finch sweats.

The Mayor has Head Sword Guy locked away, instead of killing him immediately, despite Mr. Trick’s warnings.

Commentary: Now, at first blush, this seemed completely random and out of place. It just didn’t make sense that with the hunt for the amulet, Balthazar is worrying about The Mayor, or anyone else at City Hall. It felt like he should be attacking the library [as all villains should just do as their first order of business, really] or tracking down Buffy/Faith. I didn’t understand why this scene was here.

But towards the end of the episode, it becomes a little more obvious. In addition to Balthazar wanting his health back, he’s also concerned with stopping the Ascension. This is interesting to me, because we don’t often see one bad guy trying to interfere with the plot of another bad guy. But apparently the Ascension is such a big deal, that even the demons with their own agendas are worried about Mayor Wilkins being successful.

I really wish that we’d gotten a bit more on other demons coming to Sunnydale, maybe even teaming up with Buffy to shut this thing down. On the other hand, BTVS is pretty stuffed with characters at the moment, so I don’t know how much more they could cram into this season.

Still, it’s a tantalizing hint that others know what the Mayor is up to, and don’t like it.

Scene 28: Back with The Baths of Balthazar, the demon is singing the praises of Vincent for his courage. Before snitting that he utterly failed and sucks.

He has another shouting fit, demanding that his surviving cultists forget about honor and their warrior’s code. He demands that they bring the Watchers to him, find and kill the Slayers, and to kill everyone in their way of getting his amulet into his hands.

He also, interestingly, hints that Mayor Wilkins may’ve been the one to cripple him a century before, complaining that he now stands on the threshold of ultimate power and adding to a reason why Balthazar wanted the Mayor out of the way.

Commentary: Which also, alas, shoots logic right in its face. If he wanted the Mayor dead for past ‘injustice’ or to stop his gathering of power… why send Vincent alone? It’s stupid, and doesn’t make a lick of sense - like it was a late edition to the script to pull the Mayor more into the episode and to set up the audience finding out how far the Mayor has already progressed toward Ascension.

So, ultimately, it really comes across as too clumsy and awkward to really work. I’m disappointed that they didn’t pepper some hints before now in the demon’s scenes to build toward the attempt on the Mayor’s life.

Scene 29: Meantime, Willow has come over to Buffy‘s, where Wills is all proud of a protection sachet that she whipped up for Buffy. She asks her what the plan is for that night’s Slaying. Willow is excited to spend time cruisin’ Sunnydale on a patrol as it’s been a while since they’ve had a girl’s night.

But Buffy suggests that there shouldn’t be a “Willow comes with” thing going on because the Eliminati stuff is getting hairy, especially with that big demon in the background of everything. Willow reminds Buffy that she’s been in the thick of things before and can handle herself but Buffy doesn’t want her in danger.

Faith interrupts any further conversation between them to grab Buffy and get started for the evening, leaving Wills to feel left out and disappointed in this gulf between her and Buffy since Faith made the scene.

Willow calls herself stupid for her little protection charms.

[And what in the hell is that ancient television in Buffy’s room?! Is she using rabbit ears still to watch tv? And wouldn’t it have been a nice gesture to at least offer Faith a bit of magical protection, Wills? I mean, she probably wouldn’t have appreciated it any, but we could spare an effort since the other Slayer doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.]

Scene 30: After sundown, Faith and Buffy scours the alleys. Faith has, in the meantime, gone back for that bow set she tried to steal -- no answers on whether she bought it or broke in again.

She comments on Buffy being awfully quiet. Buffy tells her she just wants to get this done, and Faith agrees. Buffy mentions to her that she can’t believe she went back for that stuff from the sports store but Faith feels like the long bow may be her new ‘thing’.

She mentions maybe getting a plate of ribs after they’ve killed off their demons for the night. But before Buffy can answer, another Eliminati leaps down from a roof to confront them.

Scene 31: Meanwhile, at the library, Wes is being Wes-like.

He is confronting Giles about his emotional problem when it comes to his former charge, but Rupert tells him that his attachment to Buffy isn’t a problem. In fact, it makes them a stronger fighting force.

Wesley tells Giles that the way he’s handled his Watcher assignment has been something of an embarrassment back in England. Rupert snips that Wes can critique his training methods, if he wants, but he can keep his snide commentary to himself. And, he also can keep his critiques of Giles’ training methods to himself.

Wesley tells Rupert that although he’s done well [making it sound more like ‘adequate’ with his tone], it’s simply time for somebody else to take over the field. Rupert looks over Wesley’s shoulder and tells him that now is a good time to start.

And in through Giles’ office window, we can see more of the Eliminati glaring in at our two Watchers.

Scene 32: Back in the alley, our Eliminati rushes Buffy. While she’s fighting, Faith fumbles with her fancy bow, finding out a little late that it’s harder than it looks to seat the arrow and draw the string… especially in the midst of an action scene: Hawkeye or Green Arrow, she isn’t.

When Buffy is shoved aside and the vampire comes for her, Faith gives up on the bow and uses the arrow as a stabbing spear, instead, which dusts our bad guy.

Faith tells Buffy they’ve got more incoming, and Buffy tells Faith they’ll never make it back to Demon Central this way. Faith mentions that if the bad guys keep coming at them one at a time, they’ll have a shot.

At that moment, another costumed vampire hops down at Faith feet, and engages.

Scene 33: After staking this one, Buffy and Faith rush around an alley corner only for Buffy’s shoulder to be grabbed. She gives a hard shove, and we see that it is Deputy Mayor Finch and not a vampire. Something that Faith fails to notice as she rushes forward with her stake.

Buffy shouts a warning to wait, but Faith is riding on adrenaline and her usual careless attitude when it comes to brawling. As Finch is bouncing off a trash collection bin and slumping to the floor of the alley, Faith STAKES him!!

Buffy rushes past Faith, to find Allan looking in shock at the blood flowing out of his chest.

Buffy tries to comfort Allan or help him, but there isn’t anything to be done. In the meantime, Faith herself is deeply shaken by what has just happened. But as Buffy is mentioning 9-1-1 and finding something to stop the wound, Allan gets a look of far on his face. He gurgles out some sounds, with blood running from his mouth to Buffy’s horror.

Allan struggles for a few more seconds, but then dies as Faith and Buffy watch in helplessness.

Commentary: And really? This one scene and its impacts is what makes this episode. It was okay up until here. A little interesting with Buffy being seduced by Faith to put being the wild and free Slayer above her high school life, in contravention of what Buffy had always cared about before. A little boring with small bits of amusement in regards to the over-the-top Balthazar. More tiny amusement with Wes’ stick-up-his-ass and Giles’ eye rolling and side glances at him.

But it’s this moment where everything really changes and shakes up the season and on first watch, it was shocking. Not only surprising though, but SMG really sells Buffy’s horror at what just happened, and Eliza has a strong performance in showing the underneath of Faith’s bravado when she’s looking in near panic at what she accidentally did.

I also appreciated the way that Allan wasn’t immediately killed, but forced Buffy and Faith to watch him struggle to breathe, really bringing home the horror of the moment with his death. It’s one of the few times where we see the Slayer really feel the impact of causing a human death [compare this to S5, where Buffy is barely blinking at all of the Knights she’s probably killing in order to protect Dawn].

Scene 34: Faith shouts at Buffy that they have to go, and yanks on her shoulder until the two of them are running away. Allan is left lying in the alley with blood down his chin and a look of shock in his eyes.

Faith jumps over a wall, and Buffy struggles with whether to go back or not, before finally leaping over a fence - specifically not following Faith.

Scene 35: We follow Buffy across a road and into another large alley of Sunnydale. She’s nervously glancing over her shoulder, when Angel startles her from the dark.

Angel tells Buffy she was looking for her, but his attention is caught by the blood on Buffy’s palm. She yanks her hand away and tells him she’s okay. Angel gets back to business by telling her that he was waiting for her at the warehouse to help her. But things have now gotten a bit more urgent, as Angel saw that they’ve gotten Giles.

Scene 36: In the meantime, Faith has circled around. She slowly approaches Allan, with an air of stunned shock. She slowly kneels near him and reaches out a finger to touch the blood that she caused on his shirt.

Commentary: I really liked this moment. Not only does it show again that there is a person underneath the brashness of Faith, but it also totally made what comes up later a blindside.

I am sometimes really naïve. It seems unbelievable, but clearly I am, because I was sure that this was going to be the beginning of Faith’s following in Buffy’s path in regards to her Slayerness. I thought that we’d see a severe withdrawing of Faith into herself as she copes with what happened, and I was guessing that this would be the way that Faith is written out. Either that she’d hesitate at the wrong moment and get killed, or that she’d perform an heroic sacrifice to save somebody else to make up for Allan’s death and die that way. I was ready for this to happen against the Mayor in some way. I was also considering the possibility that she’d just disappear on the run, and so would be missing in action during the big fight at the end of the season.

I was not prepared for what the crazy bitca actually does.

Scene 37: While Faith is trying to process what happened and how everything just got a little too real with this Slayer business, Rupert and Wesley have been brought before Balthazar.

Giles is defiant. Wesley is quivering. Wes tries to make a deal with the demon to spare them in exchange for the amulet. Balthazar says this is an intriguing proposition, but then immediately shouts that no, it’s boring. He orders the Watchers’ kneecaps removed!

Wes panics and basically sells out Angel, though to the demon’s questioning, he admits that he didn’t catch the name. Giles tries to bargain for Wes’ release by offering the information instead but Balthazar doesn’t wheel and deal. He tells both Watchers that they’ll either die slowly or quickly. He shouts for them to give him his amulet holder’s name immediately.

From off stage, we hear “His name is Angel” as Angel strides forward in vampire face.

Scene 38: To the Buffy-action-music, Angel starts attacking the Eliminati.

In the meantime, Giles aims a well-timed head butt to another and Buffy leaps from a stack of barrels to start throwing punches of her own.

As Buffy grabs a sword off one of the Illuminati, Rupert spins his back to her. She swings around and slices through the ropes that had his hands bound behind his back, allowing him freedom to engage the vampires as well.

In the meantime, Balthazar is stuck in his tank of cruddy water screeching that this is all unacceptable.


Scene 39: As Angel is polishing off his opponents, the demon uses his telekinetic power to snatch Angel off of his feet. Angel is yanked backward into the demon’s grasp, where he starts to crush the vampire’s skull.

Thankfully, Buffy has also cleared the Eliminati fighting her. She looks for a way to help Angel, and sees the light hanging over the cruddy pool of water. She uses Slayer strength to rip its power line down and sends the live electrical line into the tub of lard water.

Angel slumps to the side of the tub, while Balthazar is left doing a jittery convulse.

Scene 40: Buffy rushes to Angel’s side in front of the tub. Balthazar has been fried, but he has just enough strength to issue a warning to Buffy before he dies for real this time:

Slayer. You think you’ve won. (bitter laugh) When he rises, you’ll wish I’d killed you all.

Scene 41: While Buffy is pondering Balthazar’s last words, The Mayor is kneeling in a pentagram inside a circle, with smaller circles of candles at the points of each star. He’s chanting.

Trick is watching over this ritual, and Head Sword Guy is being kept in a rusty cage. The room suddenly shakes with dark power.

When the tremor subsides, Wilkins wonders where in the world Allan would be and can’t understand his missing this. Trick ignores this to ask The Mayor if it worked. The Mayor can’t be sure, so instructs him to let the Eliminati free.

Trick is dubious on this, but The Mayor is excited to see what happens. He hands the Eliminati his sword through the bars and allows Trick to release Head Sword Guy.

Since Head Sword Guy has an assignment and all, he doesn’t immediately leap from the cage and behead Mr. Trick. Nor does he guess that this seems a might set-up-ish and choose to make a run for it until he understands more about what Wilkins just did. Instead he gives The Mayor exactly what he wanted… he rushes him, sword in hand.

He splits The Mayor’s head in two! But the inside of The Mayor’s skull is filled with black gelatin now, instead of blood. And the two halves nearly immediately pull together and fuse into a whole again… and leaving The Mayor with not so much as a headache!

Scene 42: Head Sword Guy backs away with his mouth hanging open, in shock.

Mr. Trick then neatly dispatches him. The Mayor is very pleased and checks off “become invincible” from his check list.

The Mayor tells Trick that this starts an official 100 day period in which nothing can harm him, until the date of the Ascension. He laughs and tells Trick that he’s feeling so chipper and invites the vampire out for a root beer.

Scene 43: The following day, Faith is at her motel room, furiously scrubbing her tee shirt in the sink, when Buffy stops by. She wants to have a heart to heart with Faith about what they’re going to do, but Faith won’t have any of it.

She informs Buffy that Allan’s body was weighted down and gotten rid of, so there isn’t anything for them to discuss. Buffy tells her that getting rid of the evidence doesn’t make what happened go away. But Faith is working on a huge heaping of denial and she isn’t in the mood to be interrupted.

Buffy points out that Faith killed a man. But Faith informs Buffy that she’s doesn’t care.

The Good: First, I really liked how the differences in Faith and Buffy's approaches to slaying are highlighted at the beginning of the episode, only to lead into the tragedy with Allan later.

I loved Eliza's acting throughout this episode, starting with walking out on Wesley before he can even introduce himself, through to smilingly telling Buffy that if she doesn't follow her into the vampire nest unprepared though they are - she might be killed, and ending with Faith's shock while standing over Allan's body and then later her telling Buffy, "No, you don't get it. I don't care..." about her accidentally killing him.

I also really liked how Faith was used to point out things that have been going on in Buffy, but that she's largely hid from us as the audience, like the fact that she isn't hating the slaying as much as she complains about it. And the way that Faith starts to influence Buffy's take on "the job", seducing Buffy into thinking things are as easy as "take, want, have" when you're a Slayer. Only for reality to ensue.

The Bad: Cordelia's very tiny bit in this episode is ... just ... useless. And unnecessarily mean spirited. I just wish they'd given Charisma the episode off, or had another very small scene later to show her in a more sympathetic light. Maybe just her looking wistfully as Giles and Buffy as they're walking toward the library to show us that Cordy kinda misses being in on the hero business. Anything to dull the sharp edges of this scene, if they really needed to have her in the episode for contractual reasons.

The attempt to tie Balthazar in to The Mayor's story was really badly done with a few throwaway lines out of nowhere. This could've been an interesting development, but it came too late in the story and nothing was done with it.

Other Thoughts: I liked that the post-high school hijinks of the gang are being thought about, and shown to be discussed by our characters. It's important that Buffy's high school career won't last for 7 years. But, I also find it dull as a scene. I'd rather just have random lines thrown in here and there to suggest that everyone is thinking about after graduation, rather than minutes of screen time dedicated to it.

Wesley's introduction is a bit too clunky and in shorthand for the scene to work for me. I liked the immediate tension with Rupert, and I liked Buffy's obvious reticence in even talking to him, preferring to continue to address Giles. But in order to "show the audience" that Wesley really is a Watcher, they have him come up with the exact identity of Buffy and Faith's attackers from the night before on a description that is generic as could be. Not only that, but their descriptives just so happen to be in a book of Wes' that he has on top of his box o' supplies within easy reach. It's trying way to hard to introduce him as a "real" Watcher, only to then just as clumsily tear him down as a character later in order to make Giles look more badass-Watcher. I don't like the way that the character is brought into things, but I have to admit it stays out of the bad because Giles' constant looks of derision are amusing, and Buffy continually addressing Rupert instead of Wes was kinda awesome.

The demon Balthazar is a bit dull, too, really. But I do like the way the actor delivers some of his over-the-top lines, with special mention going to praising Head Sword Guy and then immediately bitching about how he didn't do diddly crap where it mattered. And telling Wes that he finds his deal intriguing, before immediately switching to telling him it's boring, and then ordering his kneecaps removed. But other than those two short lines, he was just 'meh'. And I found the vampire cult to basically a large 'meh', too. Overall, their onscreen time was dull.

The Score: 3.25   is all I can give this one because the powerful moments are surrounded by stuff that is just kinda dull.

Next Review: I don't know, but probably The Six Million Dollar Man's "Population: Zero". Or, if I can get the damned disk to read, maybe the movie "Death Warmed Up" (1984).

Tags: buffy season 3 reviews

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