Cultural Catchup Project: One Faith, Three Narratives (Buffy and Angel)

One Faith, Three Narratives

July 8th, 2010

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When I wrote about the first crossover between Buffy and Angel, I wrote that it wasn’t so much a crossover as it was ancillary elements (a returning Spike, the Gem of Amara) crossing between the two series and created largely independent stories which happened to share a basic foundation. However, Spike was a fun villain at that time as opposed to a neutered anti-hero, and the Gem of Amara was a simple MacGuffin without much meaning, so the episodes were meaningful less for what crossed over and more for the stories which those elements created for each series’ respective arc.

As we arrive at the final crossover event (stretching, technically, over five episodes) of the season, what’s clear is that the rules have changed: while the awakened Faith is, like Spike, a character-based connection between the two worlds, it is a connection with much more baggage than Spike’s villainy, and one with wide-reaching complications for both narratives. Whedon is very interested in Faith’s story, which remains diverse and compelling over the course of these episodes, but he is acutely aware of the different role her story plays in each series: while there is technically a clear thread which charts Faith’s behaviour over the course of the four episodes in which she appears, there is a distinction between how much each series focuses on her story as opposed to the story of those around her.

The result is three separate stories, unquestionably connected but distinct in terms of their sense of momentum. While a single narrative of Faith’s awakening stretches over both series, and Buffy and Angel travel back and forth between the two shows working out some of their lingering issues, Faith’s impact on Buffy’s narrative (in “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You”) is very different from Faith’s impact on Angel’s narrative (in “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary”), her story finding the series in two very different places which result in unique consequences.

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith’s return is a continuation of a past storyline and a thematic reminder for the series’ ongoing arc; for Angel, Faith’s return is a turning point for the series’ sense of narrative momentum and character dynamics. Throw in Faith’s individual narrative, and you’ve got the sort of television event that you don’t see every day, and one which helps justify the decision to watch the two series simultaneously even in its quasi-fractured structure.

“This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You” are about Faith to a degree that isn’t necessarily seen in “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary.” While the two Angel episodes continue the character’s storyline, the Buffy episodes are more intensely linked to the character’s past, and when she arrives to Angel she is a particularly complicated client for Angel Investigations as opposed to a part of that series’ ongoing story arcs. At this point in their reflective runs, the two shows are in very different places: while Faith’s return brings to light various questions of identity which have been an integral part of Buffy’s fourth season, it also has to deal more explicitly with Faith’s recurring narrative from Season Three, which makes the episodes more intensely personal for Faith as a character. This is not to suggest that the Angel episodes don’t have meaning for her character, but rather that her impact on Angel has less to do with her character arc (which some Angel viewers wouldn’t have known) and more to do with how her arc impacts the show’s characters as they deal with similar, but more integral to the show’s future survival, questions of identity.

Partially because of this burden for the Buffy episodes to deal with Faith’s return, “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You” are largely devoid of any sort of plot-driven connection to the season’s ongoing storylines, capturing the current state of affairs without really trying to push things forward. You get a few moments where it seems like a big storyline is going to happen for the Scooby Gang, as Buffy plots to spring Riley from his hospital prison, but then he shows up in Xander’s basement, and everything goes back to relative normalcy. The gang is simply going about their normal slayer business fighting demons and searching for Adam, and so Faith returns in an episode that focuses entirely on the world she lost and the world she has woken up in. “This Year’s Girl” is the very definition of a setup episode, giving Faith and Buffy a chance to get reacquainted, giving Faith a chance to come to terms with what happened to her, and then giving Faith a device which sets the action of “Who Are You” into motion.

Poorly balanced two-parters are something I’d normally frown upon, but I think this one is justified: the show had to get Faith out of a coma in order to play out the action of “Who Are You,” so the various dreamscapes were an evocative way to reintroduce the character and her psychological trauma which went beyond function. The dreams demonstrate that Faith is truly alone now: she turned to Wilkins because he offered her the unconditional support she desired and didn’t judge her for her mistakes, but with his death and Buffy’s willingness to murder her and place her into a coma there is nothing for Faith to grab onto but the desire for vengeance. What the dreams nicely capture is that it also makes her more vulnerable, her grief over the loss of Wilkins an honest beat amongst what is otherwise a pretty nefarious plot to harm our protagonist. It says a lot that the show managed to make me feel bad for a murderer getting emotional over the death of an evil maniac who turned himself into an enormous demon and threatened to destroy the entire town, but I think “This Year’s Girl” achieves just that, which keeps it from seeming too inconsequential.

“Who Are You” threatens to seem inconsequential, as a body-switching plot is not necessarily the most sophisticated of narrative devices. In fact, even though I quite liked the episode, sophisticated isn’t a word I’d use to describe it: the show gets the expected mileage out of the mistaken identity, finding humour in situations like Faith not knowing who Anya is, drawing subtle conflict from having Tara’s first interactions with “Buffy” take place during the episode, and drawing major conflict with Riley proving unable to figure out something was wrong and sleeping with “Buffy.” None of this is particularly surprising when the plot is introduced, and it represents the extent of the episode’s meaning for Buffy’s story arc (and the Tara situation is glossed over as soon as it’s clear that they switched bodies). While this is a pretty substantial event in Buffy’s life in that she’s nearly killed or shipped to England by the Watcher’s Council, and Adam ends up causing trouble to give Buffy and Faith a reason to converge in the same location, this isn’t an episode about Buffy.

It is, however, an episode about identity, which plays a key role for Riley (who’s struggling to discover who he is without his role in the Initiative), Spike (who questions whether he’s truly a vampire if he can’t bite anyone) and Faith herself. It’s also been playing a key role for just about every other character on the show, so there’s great meaning even in Tara and Willow confidently using a spell to assist Buffy in her efforts to return to her rightful body (despite the fact that the characters’ questions of identity have played out in a very subtle fashion). Whedon effortlessly works a standalone and gimmicky structure into the existing framework of the season, doing a little bit less plot-driven work than in “Hush” but balancing it out with a sort of status check on the psychological position of the various characters. And while the episode touches on character who will be sticking around, a lot of it hinges on Faith, who starts out enjoying abusing Buffy’s body before eventually discovering that she feels compelled to live up to the world’s expectation of her blonde counterpart, better understanding the pressure Buffy faces as the Slayer, and experiencing once again the same kinds of pressures which haunted her after murdering the Deputy Mayor and which sent her down her dangerous path in the first place. While other characters ponder what their lives would be like without that which defines them, Faith gets to experience the definition which she rejected all over again, and the result is some really effective dramatic television, and certainly a more compelling view into identity than Adam’s on-the-nose philosophizing in “Goodbye Iowa.”

And yet, I sort of prefer the way Faith’s story plays out in Angel, if only because it seems to create so much more momentum for Angel as a series. “Five By Five” is almost bizarre coming from the conclusion to “Who Are You,” as we find Faith in her basic psychotic murderer phase without any of the subtexts provided by “This Year’s Girl” (which would have aired weeks previous, and which some viewers might not have seen). However, her psychotic behaviour allows for two important things to happen: Wolfram & Hart gets to take an active role in trying to take Angel out of the picture by bringing in a rogue slayer to finish off their friendly neighbourhood vampire, and the central premise of Angel gets to be tested in a major way.

In the former case, I like seeing further inside the belly of Wolfram & Hart: to this point, they’ve remained dangerous but shadowy, so Angel’s infiltration takes what has to this point been an indirect battle and brings the two sides closer together in a way which gives the series some considerable momentum in the “big bad” department (even if they remain more annoyed than threatened by Angel’s presence at this particular stage). However, the latter point is even more interesting, as Wesley and Angel argue around the central question of the series: can Angel save everyone? The young kid that Angel convinces to testify in order to sink Wolfram & Hart’s defence proves that Angel can be persuasive, but should they be helping people who have done something terrible and yet show some signs of remorse? Faith is clearly damaged, and has obviously done some pretty terrible things, but Angel still believes there is good in her, a belief which Wesley (who lost his job because of her) does not in any fashion share. The flashbacks to the days before and after Angel became a vampire with a soul offer us a reason for why Angel believes that people can change, why he believes that a person is not necessarily defined by their actions once he or she is forced to live with the consequences: his instinct was to keep killing once his soul returned because he didn’t know what else to do, but eventually he realized that he couldn’t do it. It’s a great bit of storytelling, as it provides more back story for Angel while also connecting to Faith’s story for fans of Buffy who know the entire saga from beginning to end – while Faith had some thematic and character relevance to the ongoing storyline in the Buffy episodes, it wasn’t this substantial, nor did the show get to follow through on it to the same degree.

“Sanctuary” is smart in that it doesn’t resolve any of the tension from “Five by Five”: that final moment, with Faith breaking down in Angel’s arms as she struggles to fight against her guilt over her past actions, is incredibly moving stuff (and the best work I’ve seen Dushku put on screen) but only solidifies Angel’s view rather than changing Wesley’s mind. Wesley remains just as conflicted as he was before, trapped between his growing trust in Angel (who has come to be his friend over the course of the previous nine episodes) and his continued distrust in Faith (who did just tie him to a chair and torture him). Throwing Buffy into the mix is almost unnecessary, even if it does ratchet up the tension that one extra degree: now Angel is fighting against pretty much everyone in his life (Wesley, Cordelia, Buffy, Kate) in harbouring this fugitive, and eventually everyone places their trust in Angel above their reservations about Faith: Wesley thwarts the Council’s plans, Buffy helps them fight off the Council’s extraction team, and Faith even shows her own bit of trust by turning herself in. I don’t think Wesley forgives Faith so much as he suggests that his trust in Angel is more important, which is an integral bit of team building that helps solidify the way in which their relationship has evolved over these nine episodes. In two episodes, the show successfully transformed an extension of a Buffy storyline into a key turning point for its spinoff series, making this yet another crossover which is less important for what connects the two series and more important for how each show transforms the crossover elements for their own purpose.

There are some important moments for Buffy and Angel here, as there’s a great deal of emotion behind their physical and verbal confrontations in “Sanctuary,” but I don’t really find it that worrying even if I do find it very intriguing. At this point, I’m ready for the crazy kids to get on with their own shows, which isn’t to say that I don’t welcome these crossovers but rather that I don’t necessarily have any vested interest in their relationshi[. It’s not just that I’m not a shipper, but I sort of like the ways in which they’re growing apart, and how Faith comes between them and shows them the different lives they lead and how their approaches to life are different now that Angel is a protector (or no longer her protector) while Buffy is a slayer (the former prioritizing defensive actions, the latter prioritizing offensive ones). In fact, I thought that “The Yoko Factor” (which I’ll talk a bit more about when I get to the episodes leading up to “Restless”) sort of lost some of the subtlety of their arguments, with Angel seeming too much the jealous ex-boyfriend upon his arrival in Sunnydale and never quite picking up on the ways in which “Sanctuary” put his character in a compelling place. It’s kind of want Angel to stay in his own series, where I feel like he’s finally coming into his own as a character independent of Buffy (which was not a priority for the spin-off in its early episodes).

These episodes represent a single story for Faith, of a damaged girl waking up having dreamed of vengeance, living that dream in a fashion which makes her aware of some difficult realities, acting out in an effort to repress those emotions, and then facing the weight of her actions falling onto her shoulders all at once – that story is beautifully told by Whedon and Co., well-acted by Dushku – and, in “Who Are You,” by Gellar – and another gold star for the Buffyverse. However, at the same time, these episodes represent two separate stories for the two series: Faith’s arrival and departure are a thematic stopping point for Buffy, clarifying certain characters and their motivations in a post-Adam world, while Faith’s struggles become a window into how Angel views his cases and how his hope for humanity is the lynchpin of his operation even when his colleagues may disagree with his optimism in this particular case. Faith’s story is the most effective emotionally as a result of our history with the character, but Angel’s story feels the most significant considering how it solidifies the series’ dynamics moving towards the conclusion to the first season. While I like “Who Are You” quite a bit, the Buffy side of this story is the least significant, not because it lacks any sort of connection to ongoing storylines but because there aren’t really any major storylines to speak of (more on that in the near future), and the character connections are mostly stating the obvious in a compelling fashion rather than introducing new ideas (which is what “Hush” did so effectively).

This being the final of the season’s crossovers, I think that it’s the ultimate example where watching the two series simultaneously is important: while I don’t necessarily need to know the specifics of Buffy and Angel’s interactions (since those gaps are more or less filled in), Faith’s story would have been incomplete had I not seen how it evolved, and I am attached enough to her character (as I am to Cordelia, Wesley and Angel) that to know her story continued and not seeing it through would have been tough to swallow. Like the crossovers before, Faith creates two separate stories with two separate functions, but the fact that she is a living, breathing person as opposed to an object makes this a dynamic crossover event unlike anything I’ve experienced in television before, and a very good bit of momentum creatively for the two series as they head towards the conclusions of their respective seasons.

Cultural Observations

  • Whedon shares a writing credit on “Sanctuary” and wrote “Who Are You,” but it’s his direction of the latter which really stands out here: Gellar and Dushku both do a great job stepping into other characters, and the scene in the mirror is really evocative of the episode as a whole.
  • Really enjoyed the “Eliza Dushku as Buffy” credit on “Who Are You,” which I hadn’t expected (although which is quite logical) – and yes, I was on the lookout for the similar bit of credits tomfoolery to come in “Superstar.”
  • Clever bit of introduction with Lilah Morgan popping up so incidentally in “The Ring” and then popping up here in a more substantial capacity – I really like the way Wolfram & Hart have sort of stayed on the margins, so I’ve very curious to see how their role evolves.
  • I liked how Whedon and Greenwalt acknowledged that Angel is not entirely convinced that Faith has reformed with the brief flash of a potential scenario where she attacks him at the start of “Sanctuary”: it’s important that Angel doesn’t seem too saintly in his “faith” of sorts, and that bit of uncertainty goes a long way to showing him as compassionate rather than gullible.
  • This review has actually taken quite a while, so I don’t know if I have too many small details to really pick up on (as my memory isn’t quite that good), so feel free to (as always) share your own memories and moments from the episodes.
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73 Comments

Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

73 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: One Faith, Three Narratives (Buffy and Angel)

  1. Cameron

    “This review has actually taken quite a while, so I don’t know if I have too many small details to really pick up on (as my memory isn’t quite that good), so feel free to (as always) share your own memories and moments from the episodes.”

    You already hit the big one – Faith breaking down in the alley at the end of Five by Five is such a pivotal moment for her character. At this point, anybody who really despised Faith for what she did in Buffy’s third season came damn close to (or maybe even started to) like her.

    And now you’re getting to the meaty Wolfram & Hart stuff.

    I think you make a good point about how Faith’s story actually helps give W&H leverage as the Big Bad of Angel. It’s definitely their involvement there that really begins to give us insight into their workings. I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing your reactions to the end of Angel S1 and, to the future, views on the development of Wolfram & Hart. It’s a fun ride. 🙂

    • mothergunn

      Yeah. In the alley. Has anyone else noticed how important alleys are in AtS? People are always having epic emotional moments in them. And being born… and dying… and being reborn…

  2. KokoBuffs

    An event indeed! 🙂 So much to cover, I’m just gonna come back later… who am i kidding, can’t help myself to a few niblets.

    Just did the whole quintuplogy–new word, yes?–a few days ago, just FANTASTIC.

    Couple things:
    “I liked how Whedon and Greenwalt acknowledged that Angel is not entirely convinced that Faith has reformed with the brief flash of a potential scenario where she attacks him at the start of “Sanctuary”: “
    I thought those represented what was going on in Faith’s head, what she was fantasizing about/demons she still was struggling with even when trying to be good (parallel to Angel)–calling back to her fantasy flashes of stabbing Willow in “Who Are You” when she was bent on evil/letting the demon in her win.

    Also, I think it’s noteable that actually, it’s Wesley who first indicates she’s a “sick, sick, girl” while Angel is at first not trying to hear any of it. To the extent that Wesley even kinda seems surprised by Angel’s response, then pauses thoughtfully with something like, “Wait, did she do something to Buffy.” Angel says something like, “Giles only said it was rough.” The emotional part dissipates maybe after his first real interaction with her…somewhere throughout “Five by Five,” and all the Angel flashbacks the viewer’s getting, I think he starts to see through her and realize what she really wants and who she really wants dead. Herself. He can relate.

    On the Buffy side, “Who Are You” ended up being almost as much about Buffy as it was about Faith…more on that later, but that end of the fight scene. Loved it. I was moved not just by Faith’s “self”-mutilation of sorts, but that great bit of acting by SMG in the transition from Faith to Buffy…that her acting and the direction, told me so powerfully that she could still feel the lingering hatred, a driving powerful self-hatred…so powerful, that you don’t know how much that final position she’s in where she’s leaned back looking stunned, is just her catching her breath and how much is her moved by the emotional revelation. I just loved it. Faith and Angel keep telling her that she doesn’t know what it’s like and it reinforces a divide between them.

    What else, love that Faith spends much of “”Who Are You” mocking who Buffy is and by the end becomes her–“Because it’s wrong.” And just when Faith’s at the moment of becoming, of acting out the role she she’s supposed to be (remember, this was supposed to be her life, Buffy, in activating her but staying alive took it)…poof, behind a cloud of dust, she comes face to face with the visage of the person that’s holding her back. A reminder of who she is (relegated to). A Slayer just with the power, without a place. Without a place, she has no title. No sense of belonging, only a name.

    • skittledog

      I thought those represented what was going on in Faith’s head

      Yup, me too. It makes sense to me that having been in fighting mode for so long, her instinct is to attack and run, and for me that scene showed the struggles going on inside her mind, rather than any interpretation by Angel of her suddenly wanting to talk to him.

      • Mel

        me too, although I think it makes sense for both Faith and Angel to be thinking of it–we know that Faith has resisted efforts toward rehabilitation before, which is why I thought it was her–plus what a great ploy to get close to Angel and collect the bounty, and Myles already said why it makes sense for it to be Angel. Yay, new point of view!

    • Karen

      Yes! These episodes really forced me to acknowledge things from Faith’s point of view – that she’s a *spare* who isn’t needed (or wanted?) Made me wonder just how hard everyone would be working to help her over her traumas if Buffy was truly dead and it was Faith alone who stood against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.

      A great 4-parter…..

    • Agreed. That is Faith’s flash of defensive anger, as she recognizes what her instinct is in this situation, and chooses not to.

      I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, KoKoBuffs… I love, love, love “Who Are You” and the way Faith gets to show some seriously powerful self-hatred. The scene at the end, where she’s beating up on her own body and screaming at it, is an amazing moment. And it nicely mirrors the end of the previous ep, where she lets Buffy beat her up until there’s just one good solid punch needed, and then she activates the switch and delivers that punch herself.

      Buffy’s never gone to the dark side, which lets her judge people through a more black-and-white kind of morality. So, yeah, she doesn’t get it.

  3. Impressive analysis Myles. I find myself not necessarily disagreeing with you, but a few times simply having different priorities than you.

    A few thoughts:
    *I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Dollhouse in this post. “Who Are You?” almost feels like a test run for that show. To be honest, I think it’s arguably a lot more successful than any individual episode of Dollhouse actually was, at least when it comes to raw character development.
    *Why no mention of the sizzling scene between Faith (in Buffy’s body) and Spike at the Bronze? I find this scene potent. Note that the way she casually teases him, works him up, and then tosses him aside ends up actually being important later.
    *I really think Whedon nailed “Who Are You?” not only in a number of ways all related to character development and overall writing quality, but also as a director. I love a lot of his visual flair here, particularly in the mirror scene, the Riley post-sex scene, and Willow and Tara’s utterly beautiful, potent, and emotional spell.
    *One of the best aspects of the Buffyverse is its love of secondary and recurring characters. Many of them get arcs of their own and end up as nicely developed three-dimensional characters thereby giving the entire world a much more realistic lived-in feeling.
    *While I obviously feel “Who Are You?” is the best of all the crossover episodes (based on how fixated I’ve already been on it in this comment), I want to mention that I still love “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary” too and find them instrumental as a turning point for Angel as a series, which I feel you captured excellently Myles. While I agree that the Angel episodes end up being more of a ‘defining moment’ for that show, I still feel that “Who Are You?” packs the bigger punch and shouldn’t necessarily be knocked because it doesn’t bring new ideas to the season’s table. For me, at least, excellent and insightful character development that utilizes a season’s theme in a unique way is all the reward I need, and I feel “Who Are You?” just barely edges out the Angel episodes in this regard (although they’re not devoid of character development by any means).

    I really look forward to your take on “New Moon Rising” and “Restless” in particular going forward. Thanks Myles! 🙂

    • I’d also like to add that although, yes, “Who Are You?” is a gimmick episode on the surface, it utilizes this (as I prefer to call it) ‘unique situation’ as a springboard for piercing insight into one or more characters that allows them to grow and/or flourish in a way that would have been difficult if not impossible to otherwise. This is a technique that “Hush” shares with “Who Are You?” (more so in “Who Are You?” I’d argue) and something you’ll see used even more in some major episodes to come throughout the remainder of the series (the next one being “Restless” — my easy choice for best episode of the season).

      Also, while “Who Are You?” may not have been “sophisticated” in its base premise, I personally feel that how Whedon utilized this premise to develop Faith *was* sophisticated. I’ve seen so many other lesser shows take a plot like this and do nothing with it but play it for surface-level hijinks, but Whedon digs much deeper.

    • KokoBuffs

      “*While I obviously feel “Who Are You?” is the best of all the crossover episodes (based on how fixated I’ve already been on it in this comment), I want to mention that I still love “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary” too and find them instrumental as a turning point for Angel as a series, which I feel you captured excellently Myles. While I agree that the Angel episodes end up being more of a ‘defining moment’ for that show, I still feel that “Who Are You?” packs the bigger punch and shouldn’t necessarily be knocked because it doesn’t bring new ideas to the season’s table. For me, at least, excellent and insightful character development that utilizes a season’s theme in a unique way is all the reward I need, and I feel “Who Are You?” just barely edges out the Angel episodes in this regard (although they’re not devoid of character development by any means).”

      Me too. I LOVE them both, and they’re complementary. “Who Are You” makes me giddy throughout and “Five by Five,” is awesome because of well, all the Faith-y goodness of course, and with the Wes and Faith dynamic, but moresp where it ultimately and poignantly leads.
      I’ve never really tried to compared them in quality cause they are so different and serving two different, functions, narratives and even mood/culture of shows–but if I HAD to choose a MOST LOVED, I’d go with “Who Are You.” “Sanctuary’s” a great denoument, but the Yoko Factor barely counts (with regard to this story). I even forgot that Angel comes back in that ep.

    • Christopher

      Yes, I too feel like “Who Are You?” is a very solid episode and that it edges out the Angel episodes in terms of character development.

      It’s also just a blast to watch, IMO. Sarah and Eliza have such fun with each others mannerisms and character tics. And, as others have said, Whedon explores the impact and nuances of characters switching bodies in a way that feels fresh and inventive even though we’ve seen the basic premise before in other places.

      I feel in general that is a lot what makes Whedon so talented; he takes familiar formats/tropes and twists them or explores them in unexpected and fascinating ways. Many aspects of Buffy, especially, might sound like clichés when described superficially, but he not only makes them work but opens them up to explore the potential that made them clichés in the first place.

      • Christopher

        To clarify:

        When I said “…explore the potential that made them clichés in the first place.” what I mean is that the ideas had some power, some juice in them when they were first executed. And the original executions were effective enough so that others copied them to the point of them eventually becoming something people had seen so many times they got predictable.

        Whedon takes that predictability and plays with it, both by undermining it and by emphasizing it in unexpected ways.

      • Completely irrelevant, analysis-wise, but since you mentioned mannerisms and character tics….

        “What’s a stevedore?”

        • Christopher

          Yeah, I love that.

          I also love, shortly after that, when Willow and Tara come into Giles apartment and Willow says “Tara, this is Buffy…only really, this time…” This makes me laugh out loud. Of course it’s Buffy in the sense that it’s her personality/soul/essence, but it’s not really Buffy in that she’s stuck in Faith’s body.

          Just another small example of the ways in which Joss plays with the body switch storyline and uses it to explore concepts of identity and one’s true self, etc. But it’s not much more than a casual, throw away line (which Alyson Hannigan nails). And by this point the viewer also feels like this is really Buffy. There’s a lot of depth to the concept the way he writes it.

        • mothergunn

          You mean a comfortador?

    • Re: Dollhouse —

      :::::SPOILERS if there is actually anyone on this thread who hasn’t seen both seasons of Dollhouse::::::

      There is an interesting comparison with Dollhouse here, but I don’t think it’s foreshadowing at all. These eps are all about how people can change, and redemption (particularly for Angel and Faith), and being able to see things through another person’s eyes. Dollhouse, by contrast was ultimately all about having something deep in your soul that simply can’t be taken away – particularly with Victor and Sierra, of course — but also with Echo just in general. Her wipes were never fully clean. (I could elaborate more but that’s not really the point here 🙂 )

      • Yes, but both also touch on the notion of identity in various ways. Plus, the whole your mind being in another body aspect (or vice versa). There are some similarities here.

        I didn’t mean to imply I thought it was literal foreshadowing but rather that it’s intriguing to look at this episode again after seeing Dollhouse.

  4. KokoBuffs

    “There are some important moments for Buffy and Angel here, as there’s a great deal of emotion behind their physical and verbal confrontations in “Sanctuary,” but I don’t really find it that worrying even if I do find it very intriguing. At this point, I’m ready for the crazy kids to get on with their own shows, which isn’t to say that I don’t welcome these crossovers but rather that I don’t necessarily have any vested interest in their relationshi[. It’s not just that I’m not a shipper, but I sort of like the ways in which they’re growing apart, and how Faith comes between them and shows them the different lives they lead and how their approaches to life are different now that Angel is a protector (or no longer her protector) while Buffy is a slayer (the former prioritizing defensive actions, the latter prioritizing offensive ones). In fact, I thought that “The Yoko Factor” (which I’ll talk a bit more about when I get to the episodes leading up to “Restless”) sort of lost some of the subtlety of their arguments, with Angel seeming too much the jealous ex-boyfriend upon his arrival in Sunnydale and never quite picking up on the ways in which “Sanctuary” put his character in a compelling place. It’s kind of want Angel to stay in his own series, where I feel like he’s finally coming into his own as a character independent of Buffy (which was not a priority for the spin-off in its early episodes).”

    I too enjoyed the dissolving of their relationship, and not in a anti-Buffy/Angel way, but more in the pro-liking how naturally they are making it feel that I can feel them growing apart. Even though having rooted for them not that long ago (though wouldn’t call myself a shipper, cause I “ship” good story and character development, however that may turn out above all), I am understanding of, and yes eager, for them to finally close that door.

    When I watched them at the end scene in the police station, I really felt yeah, this is done. I see all that Angel’s been going through that she knows nothing about, he’s even suffered death of a loved one, and just get this don’t-fit-in-each-other’s worlds anymore vibe. Their final words, to me, although angry(Angel), hurt (both), and spiteful (Buff)…felt very…how do I put it… adult? sorta, lol, probably because they angry, hurt, and spiteful–like they just signed the divorce papers at the courthouse. And Angel can have custody of the kid, Buffy’s HAD it 😉

  5. Aeryl

    Faith is honestly my all time favorite Buffy character, even though she is really only in a handful of episodes. She is just so compelling, and the continuation of her story in the Season 8 comics made me SQUEE!!

    I loved her dreams at the beginning, how they illustrate the headspace she’s in when she wakes up. NOTE: Remember the bed they were making, and the cryptic things she discussed with Buffy while doing it. It refers to more upcoming events.

    that final moment, with Faith breaking down in Angel’s arms as she struggles to fight against her guilt over her past actions, is incredibly moving stuff (and the best work I’ve seen Dushku put on screen)

    I’m a huge fan of Dushku(fans of adult dramedys, check out her indie flick, Sex & Breakfast, she’s absolutely spot on), so I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but I do appreciate it. Dushku took a lot of flack for her portrayal in Dollhouse, but I honestly thought that the fact that all her imprints seemed somewhat similiar was intentional, since the original plan for Echo to become self aware at the beginning of the show was hacked by FOX.

    She is superb in these episodes.

    *Goes off to mourn the lack of a Faith spin-off.

    • I second your squee for Faith’s arc in the comics!

      I’ve been finding Season Eight to be long, rambling, disjointed, and overall just plain annoying. (It may work better on a second read-through.) Faith’s arc is absolutely the best thing in there. And it explores a nice connection with another character who has worked through a fling with the dark side.

      • Nicole

        I feel like I’m one of the few people out there who likes the S8 comics. Of course they’re not as good as the show, but because they’re a different medium they’re interesting and bring a new perspective on characters, so that we see the writers’ and artists’ work instead of the actors’ and actresses’. Of course I only have been buying the trade paperbacks, so I’m not all caught up, but rereading them only makes me like them more.

        I love Faith’s arc in the comics, it’s one of my favorite parts. It’s very true to her character and I like that she gets to hang out with another character who she has things in common with and who she didn’t get to interact with much on the show.

        • Aeryl

          I love the comics. Part of it is getting to see the group dynamic I lurved so much again, but I do like the themes they are touching on, and the repurcussions of the actions at the end of the show. I’m not liking all of those repurcussions, b/c they seem to be negating the positive messages that came from Chosen, but I have faith the final Whedon arc will wrap all this disjointedness in a nice neat bow.

          Of course not all of it will be wrapped up, b/c there is a Season 9 scheduled, and things always bleed from one season to another(I really need to know how a certain character ends up where they are at in the “Time of Your Life” arc).

          I also love getting to see some characters that departed, get to come back, now that there are no contractual obligations or scheduling conflicts to worry about.

          • Susan

            I, too, enjoy the comics a lot. I will say this, though: I think Whedon and his writers do better, storywise, with some pretty stringent limitations.

            As an example, think about the greatness of “Epitaph One,” the Dollhouse ep made on a frayed-shoestring budget in about a minute and a half. The less you give Joss, et al. to work with, the more spectacular the final result.

            Their imaginations are completely unfettered in the comics, and that makes for some . . . interesting narrative choices. I’m a fan (of, course, I’m kind of a zealot and not entirely sure what would have to happen to make me turn away) but the TV series is leaps and bounds better.

          • Aeryl

            They are definitely not without their flaws.

            You know that observation worries me for The Avengers. Having a huge Hollywood budget, and the ability to draw in characters from all over the Marvel universe, may end up being too much of a good thing.

  6. Nicole

    I think I find Faith more interesting than Buffy, and yes, I certainly agree that the scene of her breaking down in Angel is the best I’ve ever seen her do. Having watched Dollhouse, I must say that Eliza Dushku is her best when she plays Faith or Faith-like characters. I’m not sure if I would have wanted a Faith spin-off, but I do like her character and would have liked to see her more. She has quite an interesting character development, but the nice thing you can say about Buffy and Angel is that most every character, secondary or otherwise, has depth and growth over the course of the one (or both) series. Also, I do think that the body-switching thing in Who Are You was used with a lot more sense of consequences than I usually see when the idea is used in other shows/movies. Oh, and I like that Faith and Angel really get each other. They have so much more in common as far as having done bad things and trying to redeem themselves. Of course Angel can blame that on Angelus, but he doesn’t. Faith is simply human.

  7. skittledog

    I love all these four episodes so much, in different ways. They are definitely the ultimate crossover (although I enjoy the subtler ones in s5/2 as well, but none of the straightforward ones really work for me except this one), but they are also all four very good episodes.

    I loved having Faith back in Buffy because it reminded me of s3’s atmosphere whilst showing me how far the characters had come – and because Faith was my conduit for that, as someone who’d been AWOL and now needed to catch up on all that had changed. My favourite tiny moment in This Year’s Girl is probably Riley having to ask who Faith is. Who Are You? is just an acting masterclass from both ED and SMG (who have both taken their fair share of flak for bad acting over the years since), plus it’s a lot of fun (‘because it’s Wrong’) and also deeply sad for Faith. Good episodes.

    But I loved her even more on Angel because, as Nicole says above, she is a very good fit both with Angel’s character and backstory but also with the tone of the show itself – redemption and never giving up on anyone. There are a very few characters who Angel ever does give up on, and oh boy do those ones hurt me – but at this point, trying to save Faith from herself is the ultimate mission statement for the show, what sets it apart from Buffy’s yearly saving of the world. Angel’s saving one soul at a time, which is simultaneously a smaller canvas and yet a more all-encompassing scope (and one that appeals more to me personally).

    On a different note, I love the inclusion of Buffy in Sanctuary because it allows us to hate her just enough to want her to stay out of LA. She doesn’t fit there and she’s not able to allow Angel to make the decisions (until Faith takes it out of both their hands). It separates the characters at the same time as separating the shows, which is very necessary on both counts, and near-perfectly executed here.

    Final comment, honestly: I love Wesley. I love that Angel has to ask him why he isn’t siding with the Council. And I love that Wes is blind to the parallels between Angel and Faith (at this stage. I think you could say he gets there eventually).

    No! I lied, I have one more thing to say: rainy alley scene! All the best things happen in rainstorms in alleyways. 🙂

  8. Witness.Aria

    The Angel episodes of this crossover are where I finally got what Angel was about. It took the seed sown in “Consequences” and fully developed it in ways I didn’t see coming and was very unique for its time. TV didn’t have as many antiheroes and ambivalent good/bad characters then as it does now, so having the hero doing his best to redeem this seemingly evil, sadistic murderer, at a time when everything is about 3 strikes and payback for victims and prison as punishment instead of rehabilitation, just seemed revolutionary to me.

    Great review of the function of Faith in both stories/series.

    Just for fun: “Can’t any one of your damn little Scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all?”

  9. Christopher

    “Five By Five” is almost bizarre coming from the conclusion to “Who Are You,” as we find Faith in her basic psychotic murderer phase without any of the subtexts provided by “This Year’s Girl” (which would have aired weeks previous, and which some viewers might not have seen).

    I know what you men Myles, and I think I felt this way the first time I saw the episodes back-to-back, but I’m now inclined to read it a bit differently.

    I think Faith’s shift during “Who Are You?” was due to being in Buffy’s body and all the relationships and “duties” that came with that, along with being treated differently by those around her. She was influenced by their expectations and came to honor and even respect that role (saying to Riley outside the church that she was there because she was Buffy).

    And I think Faith was relieved to be able to cast off the person she had created (i.e. Faith) through her choices, and that this escape from her past was part of what allowed her to move into the role of “being” Buffy.

    So when she returned to her own body and it’s reputation and history (while in the midst of expressing her deep self-hatred by beating it up) she had to confront an even deeper feeling of guilt about who she had become. She didn’t feel like she could turn that life around. She couldn’t just become Buffy-like in her real body, it had too much baggage.

    I think this accounts for her starting Five-by-Five in that “psychotic murderer” mode. She had tasted a life of being good(ish) as Buffy but couldn’t embody that as Faith and so sank even deeper into self-hatred and despair.

    • skittledog

      I’m sort of the opposite, in that I didn’t notice the possible disconnect when first watching (on dvd, one straight after the other) and am now wondering whether I should have done. I’m not sure, though – I think her final shot in Who Are You?, sitting in a train going to an unknown destination, is sufficiently bleak that I never questioned the continued downward trajectory of her life.

      I think Myles actually pointed out why I feel it makes perfect sense when he said “Faith gets to experience the definition which she rejected all over again” – because, as well as experiencing what it is to be a Slayer again, she also gets to experience what it is to be rejected as unworthy of being a Slayer again. She gets to play out her whole season 3 arc backwards (gaining a support system, a sense of meaning, a duty) and then has it taken away from her… essentially playing out the arc forwards in the blink of an eye.

      And so I think, on balance, it makes sense to me that she reverts back (or even dives more deeply into) the ‘basic psychotic murderer’ version of herself. But it’s interesting to be forced to view things differently, which is why I’m loving these reviews and discussions.

      • Yeah. I think that, leaving at the end of Who Are You, Faith was contemplating her life and Buffy’s. But that’s an awfully hard thing to do by yourself. It was a lot easier for her to try to go back to being “evil” so that she could still hate herself. Ultimately she needs Angel’s help to be able to confront things.

  10. Tausif Khan

    I had seen 5×5 independent of Buffy. In this episode Wesley keeps on mentioning that he is Faith’s Watcher. Then Faith asks Wesley if it would be different if Faith had Giles as a Watcher. This confused me because I had thought that Wesley was always Faith’s Watcher and never Buffy’s. This gave me the feeling that Buffy Faith and Angel Faith are completely different characters and the shows are working from separate mythos.

  11. I have lots of responses here, so apologies if I go on too long.

    Just the law student in me – and I know that TV shows never get legal things right – but Faith’s initial killing of the deputy was not murder. It was an accident, so it’s manslaughter, tops, and with a good attorney she might not have had to serve any time at all. (Er. My posting name has nothing to do with this.)

    Of course, she did go ahead and murder people after that, so…

    I don’t think Wes lost his job because of Faith. I think Wes mishandled the Faith situation so badly that the situation completely fell apart. (After all, he was idealistic and inexperienced and not-understanding-the-dark-side himself.) Angel: “I was pulling her back from the brink when some British guy kidnapped her and made damn sure she’d never trust another living soul.” And Wes in 1.10: “I had not one, but two Slayers under my watch! Of course they sacked me!”

    Given what that means for Wes’s insecurities and sense of failure, his feelings about Faith must be complex, to say the least. I think that at the beginning of 5×5 he does want to believe there’s a bit of good left in her. After the torture, well, not so much.

    I don’t think it was “instinct” on Angel’s part that led him to continue killing after regaining his soul. But that’s probably a discussion for another post.

    And finally, to touch on BtVS for a moment: the Riley-post-sex scene. Oh boy. That is the *perfect* representation of a girl who has never been loved and is frightened out of her wits when someone is physically tender to her. Faith has had sex (actually, I’d use a stronger word), but she’s never made love, and that confused, incoherent panic is spot-on. But then, I’ve watched that scene with guys who didn’t understand what was happening. To me it is crystal clear. Any other interpretations?

    • Eldritch

      “And Wes in 1.10: “I had not one, but two Slayers under my watch! Of course they sacked me!””

      Well, not to defend the counsel, but I think Wesley’s performance would be considered failure in any organization. He was responsible for two slayers, one of whom goes rogue, the other, resigns and refuses to follow any Counsel directives . Then rather than persuading her to rejoin the fold, he goes to her offering to let her order him around. He failed on every level.

      On the other hand, the Counsel is, of course, a bunch of hidebound, pompous fools. They have only one asset: the slayer. Lucky for them, in this unusual situation, they have two. And yet they place an inexperienced, inflexible, first-time watcher in charge of both and order him not to seek advice from the only experienced watcher on site.

      It’s not actually a surprise that he screwed up his first assignment. It’s the Counsel’s fault for assigning him to the position.

      The thought that prompted this post is that we never actually see him fired on “Buffy,” which I suppose is why he had to explain what happened to him in the AtS episode.

    • Aeryl

      I disagree with your interpretation of the Riley sex scene. I think she was triggered about a previous sexual assualt, probably by some sick freaky pedo who was “making love” to a poor young girl. The fear in her voice when she asks, childlike, “What do you want from her?”, the absolute terror when she was trying to get away from Riley. Plus, she always says she likes to be on top, and I think that stems from that. It’s why she’s never sought tenderness in sex.

      Also, having just watched the last half of 5×5 this morning, I agree that instinct wasn’t why Angel attacked that woman and her escorts after being ensouled. He screams at the men, “I’m a monster!” in much the same way Faith screams “I’m bad!”, which tells me he was seeking to be killed, just like Faith.

    • lyvvie

      Completely agree with your interpretation of the post-sex scene, that’s exactly how I saw it, though you phrased it more eloquently than I would have. I have no idea how Joss manages to be so smart about these seriously complex things. The episode would have still worked without that scene but with it it just takes the insight onto a new level.

      I know you were paraphrasing but just to add that full Wesley quote from 1.10: “I had two, two! Slayers in my care. One turns evil and now vegetates in a coma, the other is a renegade. Fire me? I’m surprised they didn’t cut my head off.” The WC don’t seem like a particularly forgiving bunch so it’s no surprise they fire him, though I’d say they were pretty stupid to give him the job in the first place.

      • Thanks for the actual quote!

        The WC is a little like the people running Dollhouse, in some ways. They keep making the most terrible decisions (Gwendolyn Post, anyone?), and there’s no justification except to say, “But if things didn’t go wrong, there wouldn’t be anything to have a TV show about this week!”

        • Aeryl

          Oh, I totally get why they screwed up so monumentally, they were totally blinded by power. They were a bunch of old stupid men, who grew soft with gloating over their ability to manipulate and control the Slayer.

          **SPOILER**

          I would have liked to have learned more about the Guardians.

  12. Susan

    Excellent analysis, Myles, of course.

    I seem to be of a minority opinion here in that I am more sympathetic to Buffy than to Faith. Don’t get me wrong–I love Faith, and Dushku has never been better than playing this character (and during these episodes, especially “5×5”). But I am generally more interested in Buffy’s journey than in Faith’s.

    In many ways Faith’s rebellion and struggle seems kind of mundane to me. She had a rough childhood, and she never quite fit in, so she decides she has no use for those who have no use for her–and then she proactively decides that *no one* has use for her, so she has no use for anyone. It’s fairly typical in life and in TV. Mix some superpowers and a demonic father figure into the stew, and you get homo-/sui-cidal psycho. Still fairly typical, fiction-wise.

    Conversely, Buffy’s comparatively normal, supportive, nurturing life is in many ways a heavy burden. And not just because she brings with her into every life-or-death battle the safety of people she loves as well as the fate of the world and herself, but because she has to juggle so much to maintain what seems to be normal, supportive, and nurturing.

    Whereas Faith’s rebellion against what might be a community leaves her alone, it also leaves her unencumbered. Buffy heaves the expectations and well being of like a dozen or more people–and the world–on her shoulders.

    Truly, she doesn’t fit in any more than Faith does, but she works hard to hold open a tiny sliver of space in the community. The main reason Xander pisses me off so royally and so often (he’s my least favorite character, though I still mostly love him) is that he is infuriatingly quick to be a judgmental (not to mention hypocritical) prick toward her. The list of incidents starts early, but there’s a moment in S6 where it’s all I can do not to throw something into the TV, aiming at his head.

    Everyone from Buffy’s mom to Willow at some point slams her for closing herself off from the group. And she usually responds the same way: in the end, it got to be just her. Buffy is alone–but, ironically, *because* she loves and is loved, she fully and painfully knows how very alone she is.

    Anyway, that’s why I think Buffy is a more interesting character than Faith. I do think “Who Are You” is a wonderfully crafted insight into Faith’s psyche, and I think it’s especially interesting, in light of the opinion I’ve expressed here, to think of Faith coming to that same realization as she inhabits Buffy’s body and life.

    I think that SMG and ED both do some of their best work in “Who Are You,” but SMG nails Faith more spectacularly than ED gets Buffy. ED shines more on Angel.

    • Susan

      Typos. Oy with the poodles already. “[I]t got to be just her” should read either “it’s got to be just her” or “it has to be just her.”

    • Witness.Aria

      Great post. And I’m so glad to come across someone else who identifies so strongly with Buffy the character (as opposed to “Buffy” the series). I’m right there with you and her.

      • At first it actually really surprised me how much ambivalence there is to Buffy as a character out there. She’s rarely listed as anyone’s favorite character, let alone even *one* of their favorite characters.

        I feel that Buffy is the most consistently developed character I’ve even seen in all my years of watching TV and movies. Buffy grows, learns, and evolves a *lot* over these 7 years, and in many ways ranging from her fighting style, maturity, opinions, self-awareness, view of romance, and much much more. All of this development is spurred by what we see carefully crafted on screen — it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Those of us who put ourselves in her shoes, which the show invites us to do, come to truly and wholly understand everything about this girl along with what got her here and what drives her forward. It’s really well-crafted and beautiful character work.

        I say all this not to devalue the sublime growth that other characters got as well, but I don’t feel any other has growth as subtle, gradual, consistent, and just plain natural as Buffy herself did.

        • Aeryl

          Buffy is fave of mine, I just identify with Faith more, her story just calls to me.

        • Witnessaria

          “I feel that Buffy is the most consistently developed character I’ve even seen in all my years of watching TV and movies.”

          Yes. And that’s why she’s my favorite. And why I relate to her even though her background and personality and talents are all very different than mine. She’s very real in a way I get, a way I hadn’t seen in many women characters on TV.

    • Aeryl

      “Everybody’s looking to me, trusting me to lead them, and I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life…..And that’s you every day, isn’t it?”

      Very insightful, and totally true. Faith’s story is more interesting to me, because it’s about redemption, and the lure of evil. It’s not about this nice girl from a stable middle class home, a life of privelege, but about a broken girl, who comes from a life of poverty and abuse, and for whom being good doesn’t come easy.

      Of course Buffy’s good, she comes from a world where people do good things. Faith comes from a world where people do bad things, but when she tries to be good, she learns it comes with a price, something Buffy has already learned. You have to sacrifice a part of yourself to be good, like Buffy did in Prophecy Girl. When Faith comes up against that choice, having never had anyone sacrifice anything for her, her response is why should I sacrifice for them.

      • While Buffy’s home life may certainly be considered “stable” by Faith’s standards, it’s certainly not entirely stable either. Her parents got divorced before the series started, which is something that clearly hurt her quite a bit. It also effected her romantic relationships and overall personality throughout the series. When her dad began distancing himself from her more and more, we see tremendous pain from her.

        This doesn’t change the contrast you’re making between the two much, but let’s not ignore that Buffy’s life isn’t as perfect as you make it sound and that’s it’s oversimplifying things to say that it’s assumed that someone with Buffy’s background would be good.

        • Aeryl

          But culture matters. That’s why Myles writes this website, I’m sure.

          And Buffy was raised in a culture where people helped one another. Where it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility of asking a neighbor for childcare assistance, or to borrow ingredients.

          Faith wasn’t, and that shaped how she approached slaying. Even at the beginning, for her it was all about the thrill of the fight, not about protecting humanity.

          And as far as stability, yea her parents divorced messed her up, but for the first 15 years of her life, it was Leave It To Beaver. By the time your 15 I think your worldview is pretty much formed, though you’ll mature of course. So, even though the divorce affected the stability, it never changes WHO Buffy is, because it happens so late in her life.

      • Oh, and please be careful with the untagged spoilers. Personally, I want Myles to be as free from future hints and knowledge as is reasonable.

        As for the S8 comics, I frankly think they’re terrible and that they tarnish many of the very qualities that made the TV show so unique and full of quality.

        *SPOILER*
        The Faith arc early on is literally the only one that even remotely approached the quality of the TV show. There’s a ridiculous amount of out-of-character behavior and over-the-top silliness in them. I’m glad someone’s enjoying them, but I had to stop reading them somewhere in the mid-20s.

        • Aeryl

          Nothing is spoiled by that line, I left out any of the context that reveals who is saying that line to Buffy. It’s totally relevant to Susan’s comment about the burden that Buffy has, because she is so involved with her friends.

          S8 Spoilers:

          Well, since it took you 2 reads to discover the beauty of The Chain, I really think we have nothing to say to each other, lol. That issue had me bawling.

          As far as the comics go, I love em. All my favorite characters together, dramatizing, fighting, dialoging. It’s great. They are all still acting like themselves, even if I don’t agree with their decisions.

          • *Spoilers*
            I meant the Faith arc was the only *arc* that felt of that quality. There were some alright one-offs early on. I admit I can’t stand the comic book format in general, so that really affects my potential enjoyment, but a lot of the characterization in the comics is extremely inconsistent with who these people were in the series. It doesn’t feel like they’re acting like themselves at all to me.

    • lyvvie

      On the series overall, absolutely. Buffy is my favourite character (yourself and mikejer have pretty much articulated why) and I love her more than any other fictional character I’ve ever watched/read about. More than any of the other characters she is a real person to me.

      In just these episode she doesn’t have too much to do though and it is pretty much Faith’s story so at this particular point Faith has my attention (I wouldn’t say she has my sympathy as that sounds like Buffy has none, there is plenty to go around!). There is very little Buffy in these episodes really and her actions are more plot than emotion-based. We don’t see much fallout from Faith sleeping with Riley (yet), ‘Sanctuary’ probably has the most Buffy development in the sense that we get to see her angry about Faith’s involvement with Riley and Angel but still end up trusting Angel in the end. But its not her show so we don’t really get to see it from her POV.

      One character I do feel intensely sorry for in ‘This Year’s Girl’ is Joyce. When Faith is giving her speech about being left behind and Joyce has the whole pile of letters for Buffy etc.

    • Bluedove

      What you said, Susan. I’ve seen more Faith-like female characters than Buffy-like female characters, and to me it feels as if Faith is more complex-looking on the surface, while Buffy is seen as less interesting because her background make her problems less obvious and easily explained.

      Plus it bugs me that people seem to easily accept a connection between being poor and not having a network and becoming a murderer. I’m not poor myself, but I don’t see how that would equate to being totally alone and enjoying killing people. I know it means a lot less privilege, and it could make it easier for a person to become a criminal if they wanted to live well, but still. The general view I see, that of course someone who was one of “those people” would turn out bad, is yucky. The fact that the general reaction is pity doesn’t make it feel much less yucky than if it were disdain.

  13. Morda

    I’ve always thought that Faith is pretty much the only character who works equally well on both shows.

    She connects with Buffy because they are both Slayers and Faith represents Buffy’s “bad side” as it were. Even though the two girls sort of hate each other they do share a kind of unbreakable bond which makes her scenes in Buffy seem that much more interesting. I think of the dream sequence in Graduation Day Part II where the two slayers are talking amicably (And rather preciently – 730 anyone?!) as the ultimate representation of this.

    She works just as well on Angel though because she shares an equally powerful, exsitisential relationship with Angel. They both have had similar lives and they are both seeking for redemption (Angel’s is just more extreme).

    I think this four part extravaganza highlights this more than anything. She might cause chaos in both series but it’s not as if she hinders either narrative or feels in anyway out of place in what are two very different shows.

    Like her, dislike her. You’ve got to give her credit for being able to fit into and affect both narratives better than any other person in the Buffyverse.

    P.S. Faith nearly always tends to give the best dream sequences (Minus Restless, duh). And since Buffy and Angel’s dream sequences are some of the best in the world (Yes!) then that’s quite a compliment.

  14. Karen

    …it actually really surprised me how much ambivalence there is to Buffy as a character out there. She’s rarely listed as anyone’s favorite character…

    It really is amazing. I would love for Myles to look at this issue after S7. I suppose it’s the basic, (mundane?) reason that Buffy, while flawed, really is a Superpower hero and that makes it difficult to identify with her. Yet I wonder if there’s more to it? My favorite episode for reflecting on this is 7.19.

    • Susan

      Mine, too. Also 7.5. It’s 6.18 that makes me want to hurt Xander quite badly. But he says something in 7.12 that makes me mostly forgive him.

    • skittledog

      I’m not sure it’s something that can be accurately reflected on whilst you’re still watching, so perhaps after s7 is the right idea. I never disliked Buffy while watching – indeed, I usually loved her without question and I definitely empathised with her except when the show was specifically trying to make me not do. But I do find her easy to poke fun at, as a character, which leads to a lot of post-watching conversations and mockery wherein it’s easy to forget why she was so awesome in the first place.

    • I identify with Buffy much more in 3, 4, and 5 than in the earlier or later seasons. Some of that is just what we each personally connect to. But a lot of it is that the heroine of the story is always the “straight man,” and all the other characters revolve around her with their own (often more interesting) character arcs. I think a similar thing happens with Angel on AtS.

  15. Shambleau

    For what it’s worth, on French message boards, back when the show was on, Buffy the character was tremendously popular.

    I loved all four episodes, but the end of Five by Five just gutted me.

    Identity crises as a major motif of the season must have been discussed in analyses and commentaries before Miles, but for the life of me, I can’t recall any. But you’ve got Giles, Oz, Faith, Riley, Xander and Willow all going through them with varying degrees of intensity. “Who Are You” turns out to be even more resonant as a title for the season than for its episode.

  16. Sorry for not wading into the comments sooner, but the Emmys ate up yesterday, and I’ve only been glancing at the comments as they hit my inbox.

    First, I’m glad you’re all being kind in regards to the fact that I didn’t dig “Who Are You” as much as the rest of you. Obviously, I still enjoyed it, but I feel like it’s one episode which would have read better if I had been watching Buffy on its own. After moving onto Angel, “Who Are You” seems sort of transitional (especially since I sort of cheated in jumping RIGHT to “Five by Five,” which isn’t how the episodes would have aired), leaving it no time to really sit in my brain before moving onto the next step. Some episodes just aren’t built for a rewatch like this, and I imagine it would stand alone more successfully (or when you know going into the episode the role it plays and can focus on the nuances a bit more carefully).

    As for the points about Dollhouse, I think “Who Are You” represents some of Whedon’s interest in that sort of concept, but the problem with Dollhouse is that its premise was not initially connected to its characters. Here, the body-switching (as the comments have nicely indicated) really speaks to Buffy and Faith as characters, but on Dollhouse it was just an idea for too long, with Echo remaining too boring and Victor and Sierra taking too long to really connect with it. Once they got into Season Two, Whedon had nailed it down, and the result was a much tighter show which reflected the true potential of the concept, but here Whedon is quite successful at keeping things simple and getting some compelling results (which, frankly, should have been his goal in those early episodes of Dollhouse as well – sure, he didn’t have three and a half seasons of character development to work with, but he could have done more to capture the meaning inherent in these episodes even with the procedural expectations from FOX).

    As for Faith’s transformation, here’s one more TV comparison: without spoilers, Faith’s behaviour in “Five by Five” sort of reminds me of Jesse’s behaviour at the start of Breaking Bad’s third season.

    Otherwise, some really intriguing stuff here that I’m staying out of due to the chance of being spoiled (which isn’t to say y’all are ruining things, but there’s some disagreement on the level of spoilers involved, so I’ll have to return to it at a later date).

  17. Gill

    Coming in very late here because travel to Italy has restricted my internet access. you’ve got the sort of television event that you don’t see every day, and one which helps justify the decision to watch the two series simultaneously even in its quasi-fractured structure.

    Exactly why I was one of the voices encouraging you to watch both shows in this way. This multiple crossover is given so much more depth if you see all of the parts together.

    Again, this is a show with deeply embedded continuity. There will be references to the events of this crossover in the final seasons of each show. And the themes of redemption as well as of identity also resonate from one show to the other, as you will see from the S5.S2 crossover too.

    Another enjoyable analysis; I am happy that you are approaching the shows so openly. At the time of original broadcast shipper wars were already becoming ugly and were to descend to still worse depths!

  18. Becker

    I’m really short on time, so I’ll be brief. I mainly only partially remember the Buffy eps, but I do remember thinking the following about “Who Are You”. I thought that Eliza was better at nailing Buffy than SMG was at Faith, though I do admit that SMG actually had a far tougher job in that she had to no just act like Faith, but had to act like Faith acting like Buffy, which is probably part of the problem. But when I really noticed it was when ED as Buffy goes to Giles. It was during a rewatch and I wasn’t looking at the screen and I had to look up as I thought SMG was on screen, ED had nailed how Buffy talked so perfectly in that scene. Most of the SMG as Faith felt a little more forced.

    I didn’t see too much disconnect of Faith from The Buffy to the Angel half of the crossover as she was left in a place it made sense for her to go dark again, and to end up begging for death.

    Lastly, as 5X5 and Sanctuary were two of my fav Angel eps period, it was at this point where I was absolutely enjoying (as series) Angel more than Buffy.

    • Becker

      Forgot this bit: “I always love having a character say, ‘It’s not all about you, Buffy.'” – Joss Whedon.

      I’ve had issues with Buffy as a character since S2 and actually enjoyed when Angel went off on her. Her whole bringing up of Riley, particularly how she did it, was just mean spirited. And the look of shock on her face when Angel hit her back, “….you’re stronger than me.”

      I would have been happiest if that had been the last time those two characters had crossed paths. other characters, not a problem.

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