Hey, everyone! I’ve decided today (since it’s a Sunday, and that’s always slow at work) to post a new REVIEW for WaTchers: The Virtual Series.
This would be S1, E18 – GANGLAND
Story by Coll, CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by Coll and CN Winters
Directed by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Produced by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by: Kate and Amazonchyck
Sound Department: Steff
Art Director: Chris Cook
Artists: Chris Cook, David Zahir, Sarah and CN Winters
Becky Wahlstrom as Julia, Sophia Loren as Faith's Watcher, Rowan Atkinson as Nikki's Watcher, Kel Mitchell as young Robin Wood and Norika Fujiwara as Mia.
TEASER: We start in Willow’s apartment at the Watchers Council. With her is Faith and they’re talking about the Magna Carta… which might strike one as unusual on first glance. I mean, Faith is talking about the Magna Carta?? It just looks wrong.
So why is this occurring? Well, it goes back a few episodes where we discovered that Faith wanted to ease off on heading the Slayer contingent in order to get her G.E.D., finally finishing her abbreviated high school career. She’s been enrolled in night class and has a test coming up… and who better to help you with cramming then Willow?
It’s a nice scene with a lot of nice bonding between Willow and Faith… a long way from when one of them was holding a wicked looking knife at the throat of the other back in Buffy. They’ve come a long way in relating to each other since even S7 of BTVS and I like it.
Within all of this, however, we also get some insight into what has been happening within the Council itself. Willow mentions things like how they’ve been working on the Watchers Creed… the original rules under the Old Guard. They’ve been updating and revising it to fit Giles and Willow’s worldview on how the Council should work.
There some more dialog work here before we jump forward to later that night. Faith is leaving her class, post test we assume.
"Hmm…do a quick sweep and get some action or go home and get some action…?" To reinforce the decision, Faith weighed the options by physically holding up both hands and saying, "Either way I get action." She’s musing.
The decision is taken out of her hands as two young girls race by her headed for an alleyway. Faith decides that she better follow along behind them. As she finds the two girls, by hearing the sounds of a fight in progress, she rushes in to the rescue, only to decide she has the wrong ones pegged as the victim. You see, the two girls are busy beating the heck out of some guy… a mugging? Well, Faith isn’t taking that on her watch. She dives in to intervene.
As she yanks on girl off of the poor guy, her partner in crime immediately responds by leaving the guy to take on Faith. The Slayer finds herself battling a just-as-strong girl and figures that she’s tumbled onto a couple of vampire chicks. Fortunately, Faith has an obvious advantage with her experience and is more than able to hold her own. Unfortunately, the innocent victim-dude is no such thing, being a vampire himself!
Of course, she’s had plenty of experience with that, too. Good-bye vampire-dude.
As the vampire dusts, Faith spins to confront the two power-girls, still not sure what she’s gotten herself into the middle of. However, where there were two, there now are ten!
Fortunately… before Faith can find herself up against twenty fists, rather than four, the apparent leader steps forward and calls an end to the fight.
"Cool it girls," she shouted back to them, never taking her eyes off of Faith. "She's one of us."
Act One: Flashback, 1998 – Boston: We open the scene on two boys running from a persistent pursuer. They flee into an alley, only to run into one of the chain link fences that you see in police shows… I always wonder what that fence is doing there, when I see that. But, that’s neither here nor there… the point is that they take a moment to listen to the silence and believe that they’ve shaken off their chaser… naturally, they’re wrong.
Both are quickly revealed to be vampires when a younger Faith throws a stake, immediately dusting on of them. With one of them gone, Faith takes her time with the second one… why immediately stake the vampire when she can have fun with the straddling and punching? As I’m sure you’ll remember… very much the Faith attitude Buffy complained about back in BTVS, S3 and the exact attitude that Faith herself bitched Kennedy out for a few episodes ago.
The sound of a voice clearing behind her interrupts her ‘fun’ and she quickly finishes off the vampire under her. When she turns, she finds an annoyed Watcher… this would be Rosa. An Italian woman who isn’t at all amused by Faith’s “take my time and have fun fighting” battle mode.
ahem…. Anyway, Sophia (er… Rosa) is annoyed with her Slayer.
"Would you like to explain to me what you were doing?" Rosa asked, still looking disapprovingly at Faith. "The first staking was supremely executed, but the second…"
"Hey, job's done, Watcher lady," Faith told Rosa. "I slayed, you watched, and the vamps are dust in the wind." Faith thought for a second before she chuckled to herself. "Huh, get it? Dust in the Wind? Kansas?"
Yep… classic Faith attitude. Rosa tells her she needs discipline, that she isn’t in a game and that there are slaying-rules for a reason. But, Faith only replies that ‘rules are made to be broken’ and that she is a ‘wild child’ who can’t be tamed.
Back in the present day – Julia introduces herself to Faith and tells her that these are ‘her girls’.
Naturally, they’re Slayers ( a fact that Faith is a bit too slow on the uptake to figure out ). Faith questions why Willow didn’t detect these Slayers, being so close to the Council, but it presents an interesting wrinkle… and an unintended consequence to activating Slayers the world over.
A bit later that night, we get a group scene watching T.V. in a lounge. The main thing I get from this scene is that for reasons unknown (but not unexpected – I suspect Faith is just a little embarrassed) Robin Wood doesn’t yet know that Faith is back in school. Also clear here, is that Willow has in fact developed an interest in Rowena Allister, to which Ro is completely blind.
Faith arrives and she has dragged along Julia to meet the Council. Julia is obviously nervous and standoff-ish with meeting these people. Julia isn’t aware of the whole Slayer/Watcher thing, of course. She simply suddenly found herself with increased strength, speed, able to take a punch, and a desire to hunt down fanged monsters. Finding others like herself, they’ve formed their own gang of Slayers… one that doesn’t have the guidance of the Watchers Council. The question is… what will Giles, et. al. do with them now… and will Julia be receptive?
With Kennedy receiving the task of showing Julia around the facilities, Faith talks to the Council leadership - and her friends, of course about Julia’s situation.
A gang of homeless, leaderless and guidance free Slayers present an interesting issue for the Council. On the one hand, the new Council isn’t about forcing Slayers into the program, like the old way of doing things. On the other… is it really a good idea to leave street urchins with that sort of power to their own devices?
Meanwhile, with Kennedy’s attempts to show Julia what happens at the Council meeting an uninterested wall of boredom, she sends Julia back to the main lounge, while she detours. (Actually, this is a bit of a weird aside, just because you’d think Kennedy would ESCORT her back) Kenn swings by the medical wing where Lori Carew is still recovering from her brush with death last episode.
She shares words with Andrew, some of them a bit harsh. The bottom line? Kennedy feels guilty for nearly getting Lori killed… and I have to say, she should. I absolutely love what the Watchers Staff have done to humanize Kennedy as a character and make her sympathetic, but in this instance she really deserves to feel everything she is.
Act Two: Elsewhere, the gang and Julia have relocated to a meeting room where Giles has been giving her a (hopefully condensed… this is Giles) history of the Council.
(She’s not really buying) "Nice story, Mr. Giles, but I just came here to check things out," Julia told him before she nodded over to Faith. "I didn't make her any promises."
Anyway, Julia does nothing to hide her boredom with this Council stuff. As she gets up to go, Giles pleads with her to stay and listen to a bit more of their proposal. First, they have to explain the Hellmouth, as she doesn’t know anything about that bit of business either.
The central conflict rapidly begins to develop here. It’s clear that Julia isn’t interested in the Watchers Council – she’s lived on the street too long and isn’t interested in fighting for some ‘greater good’. But, she also has such a vested interest in ‘her’ girls, that she is denying them the chance of joining a larger organization that can offer food, shelter, structure and guidance and that is something that is troubling to the Council. They’re perfectly willing to “live and let live” with these ‘freelance’ Slayers… but they don’t like the fact that Julia won’t let them present an offer to the rest of the 28 girls she’s heading.
Faith, especially, is having problems with Julia’s “I call the shots” attitude when Faith herself knows how valuable Giles has been to her own life, as she shares with the room.
(Faith, regarding Julia’s choices) "I may not be able to change Julia's mind, but I'll be damned if I won't try to help those other girls," Faith shot back. "If I know them the way I think I do, a warm place and three meals a day will sound a hell of a lot better than what Julia can give them."
"How do you know?" Robin asked, his tone laced with doubt.
Faith chuckled, despite the way she choked out, "I can relate."
Clearly, meeting these homeless youngsters has had a real impact on her. And as the earlier flashback hinted, it’s obviously tied to her life before she appeared in Sunnydale – on the run from the vampire who murdered Rosa.
Unfortunately, when Robin tries to go with Faith, she puts the kibosh on that idea. Pushing him away, so she can deal with these girls her way on her own leaves a bad taint on the scene. When you add this tiny bit to Robin’s initial reaction to Xander staying full time at the Council, it appears on the surface that there may be a bumpy ride in the Robin/Faith relationship.
(Of course, this could work to Giles/Becca’s advantage in taking over the ‘Cutest Couple’ title, but I really like Robin and Faith together….)
As Faith head out to track Julia and try to convince her girls that the Council can offer a better way than living on the streets, we flashback to New York City – 1989… and a young Robin Wood.
Robin is an angry, young man. Telling his guardian, Nikki Wood’s former Watcher, that he’s going out to the movies when really he spends his time stalking vampires. The ex-Watcher is angry at Robin for putting his life in danger, but more, he’s worried. It’s obvious that he looks on the boy as a foster-son and he wants him to stop obsessing on which one of the fang-heads killed his mother and to walk away from the violence of slaying.
It doesn’t work.
With boy-Robin unwilling to give up killing the creatures that took his mother from him, his guardian has little choice but to compromise, which is how Robin began his formal training in how to deal with the vampire threat.
Leaving Robin’s flashback/memory of his own times on the street, we return to the present again. Faith is tracking Julia, though the young street-tough isn’t exactly naïve and is trying to make sure she isn’t being followed. Julia is no dummy and tries to make sure she isn't followed, but Faith is better.
With Julia arriving at an abandoned warehouse, Faith espies her and the rest of her gang. We see that there is at least one member of her ‘team’ who isn’t exactly a mindless follower. This would be the beautiful Mia (Norika Fujiwara), whom I’ll tell you about right now… she’s going to be important to a member of the Council and have an ups and downs career, there.
Anyway, it becomes very obvious that Julia is very much the “don’t question me” type of leader… more ‘gang leader’ than ‘team leader’… something that Faith might be able to use. It’s also obvious that Julia and Mia have clashed before this and that neither really likes nor trusts the other. Division in the ranks is never good. Despite this difference between them, however, they’ve managed to hold things together, making Mia her second in command.
Julia takes five girls for a late-night hunt, leaving the rest of Mia’s care. While Julia is all barking orders, as soon as she leaves, Mia shows she’ll be a different sort of leader when the opportunity presents itself:
(Mia in charge): "Julia's not here anymore, guys," she told them with a frustrated tone. "You can do whatever you want. Just make sure you're asleep in two hours when she'll be back."
With Julia out of the way, Faith makes an impression on Mia and the remaining Slayers. She basically invites them to check out what Julia has seen and rejected… the Council way of life. And Mia shows immediately that she’s always thinking on her feet: when Faith tries the old “if you’re chicken” route when they don’t immediately take her offer of showing them a better way.
"We're not chicken," Mia answered defiantly.
"Then prove it," Faith challenged. "Come with me. Just remember there's safety in numbers, so the more the merrier."
Faith turned and started toward the door with her eyes closed as if praying the girls wouldn't call her bluff.
"You're trying to use our egos against us," Mia told Faith.
The Slayer stopped and turned around. "Did it work?"
Mia cracked the tiniest of grins and nodded for Faith to lead the way as the other girls followed behind them.
Alas, Faith isn’t as smooth as she thought. It appears that Julia didn’t go far and now she’s a bit miffed that the other girl is “invading her turf” with the others.
As Mia shares with Faith, Julia is suffering from “big fish in a little pond” syndrome and she doesn’t want to lose that authority and power. As Julia confronts Faith on her trespassing where she isn’t wanted, Faith tries to convince Julia that the other girls deserve to make the choice she did… join the Council or stay with a self-contained group.
(Faith, trying to get through): "Look, me and you, we're not that different. I've been in your place, I know what it's like and I'm proof that you can come out of that change fine."
(Julia): "Oh really, Miss Know-It-All. Please enlighten me[.]"
Which, Faith proceeds to do through a flashback. We return to Boston, 1998.
And… Faith is in another warehouse… this one not so abandoned. Why she’s there we don’t know yet, but her body is pushing her reserves of energy to their limits. She plows through a door and into a room where wreckage is strewn about, out of breath. Finding a arm buried in rubble, she quickly digs at it, but screams when she finds the arm isn’t attached to anything.
A moan nearby draws her attention and she uncovers from more wreckage her barely alive Watcher, Rosa. She’s had two of her limbs removed violently and is barely holding on. As Faith tells her she’ll get her out of there, Rosa uses the last of her strength to tell her she’s in a trap and needs to get out. She tells her….
(the dying Rosa to Faith): "Go now. Remember. Sunnydale. Buffy Summers. Go!"
Faith catches a fist, and watches in horror as Rosa’s last moments are spent screaming. Her murderer sizes up the Slayer….
Back in the present day, Julia asks if he killed Rosa, which Faith confirms. More than that, however, is that she can clarify why the Watchers Council… why being part of the Council is much better than anything they have going on their own.
(Faith, trying to make her point): I have a kick ass job, a guy who loves me even though he's outta my league and I'm fixing my life by trying to finish school. I have goals and plans that don't include how I'm gonna get my next meal. Can any of you say that?"