Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Catching up With Season 3 of Buffy: Faith, Hope & Trick

(Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy and Faith, from FanPop)

I was bitterly disappointed when I missed two episodes ("Faith, Hope & Trick" and "Amends") from Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while MTV was broadcasting the series for a brief time a few months ago. As I found out when I was watching Angel for the first time last year on TNT, the episodes I tend to miss are quite crucial to the overall season story arc or have special meaning for me. Fortunately, thanks to my employers' broadband connection, I was able to catch up with these missed Buffy episodes recently on Hulu. I'll focus on "Amends" in my next post.

Faith's Introduction to the Buffyverse. The first episode I missed was "Faith, Hope & Trick", which was obviously significant because it introduced a favorite character of mine, rogue slayer Faith. Right away I was disappointed. For one thing, Faith was pretty unlikeable, which surprised me because I'm a big fan of her Angel crossover appearances. Also, for whatever reason, I didn't realize that Faith and Buffy would have so many conflicts right away. When I first saw them together in later episodes, it was obvious that they were working through a few differences. However, for the most part, I thought they seemed to have a pretty cool Gal Pal thing going on until things started going downhill for them in "Bad Girls". I suppose their personality conflicts were necessary for dramatic tension, and I can imagine it did make their story arc seem that much more complete by the time Faith's character returned in the final season of Buffy.

"Faith, Hope & Trick" also reinforced a suspicion that I've had for quite a while that, believe it or not, Buffy is the female character that I seem to identify with the most inside the Buffyverse. (I wonder if that's by design, since in many ways, she's the most "normal" girl out there?) I could really identify with how Buffy was correctly sharing her frustrations and concerns about Faith's reckless ways, only to have people imply she that she was a spoiled "only child" who didn't like to share the spotlight. They also put the onus on Buffy to change her behavior so she could get along better with Faith and her "different temperament".

When I look through the written dialogue, Faith seemed fairly harmless, but in reality she was disgustingly crude. (Although I did enjoy her "nude slayer" story.) I know I wouldn't appreciate it if someone said I was way too uptight because I wasn't a complete skank, and that same person was horribly insensitive about problems I was having in my personal life.

Buffy ultimately helped Faith through her own personal crisis by helping her kill Kakistos, an ancient vampire who had also killed Faith's Watcher a short time earlier. Presumably, Buffy and Faith patched up their differences off-camera, since they seemed to get along much better the next several times they got together. However, for whatever reason, I didn't have the impression that things were any better between them at the end of "Faith, Hope & Trick" than at the beginning of the show. I'd probably have to watch the episode again to find out for sure.

I've written glowing reviews of Eliza Dushku's performances in Angel. Whenever she made crossover appearances as Faith in Angel, she seemed to upstage everything else around her. In Season 3 of Buffy, Dushku's performances seemed more muted, since she was clearly cast as an ensemble actress rather than one with a starring role. I also wonder if it helped that Dushku had one more year of acting experience by the time she landed on the set of Angel. I had mentioned before that everyone seemed to ratchet their acting performances up a notch whenever Dushku showed up on Angel, but perhaps it was actually the other way around? Maybe all of the actors on Angel inspired Eliza to bring out more energy in her performances? Regardless of whether it was the acting, the script, the story line, the direction or the production, it all seemed to come together in Dushku's Season 1 and Season 4 appearances on Angel. (And of course I can hardly wait to see her Season 7 performances on Buffy.)

The Mystery of Gwendolyn Post. I did get one mystery somewhat solved in this episode. I had wondered in a previous post why Giles accepted faux-Watcher Gwendolyn Post so readily in "Revelations" when she blew into town, and didn't bother to check her credentials. It turned out the Watchers' Council had informed him that a new Watcher would eventually be assigned to Faith. When Gwendolyn arrived Giles naturally assumed she was the official new Watcher. (It was still pretty poor that he didn't double-check right away, since he should have been informed she was heading to Sunnydale ahead of time.)

Faith was lying when she said that her former Watcher was attending an exclusive Watchers' retreat in England. (In fact, her Watcher had been murdered.) I'm assuming that there really was a retreat going on at the time. Giles was smarting from the slight of not getting an invitation. I'm also assuming that when Ms. Post showed up unexpectedly, he just figured that was just one more instance of the Watchers' Council not treating him with the respect he deserved.

Mr. Trick. "Faith, Hope and Trick" also marked the debut of K. Todd Freeman as Mr. Trick. I liked Mr. Trick, since he was sharp and carried out his assigned duties with style and flair. I wouldn't say he was a worthy adversary for Buffy and the Scoobies, since that would imply he had some redeeming qualities. Instead, Mr. Trick was more of a classic villain, someone we appreciated even though we booed and hissed every time he took the screen. Trick was witty and simply just a lot of fun to watch. I liked him a lot better than the other ridiculously simpering villains in town, like Mayor Wilkins and Principal Snyder.

I didn't really want Trick to become a permanent character, but then I wasn't quite ready to have him dusted off so soon either. It was a rather interesting twist that we should have been happy to see Faith kill Mr. Trick in "Consequences", since we always want the Good Guy (Girl) to heroically triumph over Evil. Instead, Faith's actions put her on the path to becoming the Mayor's assistant and working for Evil instead. Trick got his just desserts, but not in the way we would have liked.

Angel had their fair share of strong characters who only stuck around for a few episodes before leaving. However, I'm under the impression that Buffy had a lot more more of these appealing temporary characters than Angel. In fact, it's kind of surprising to me how some of these people who I thought might have been somewhat permanent fixtures on Buffy were actually just around for a few episodes or a few seasons at the most. Mr. Trick was one, and Faith was another. (Heck, I might as well add in Principal Snyder, Mayor Wilkins, Spike, Dawn and Joyce Summers while I'm at it.) I think if I would have gotten more used to this aspect by watching Buffy before Angel, I might not have gotten too overly attached to the temporary characters (like Groo) on Angel.

Willow. I had also written in a previous post that:
Willow sure had a knack for messing things up, didn't she? And she always seemed to get away with it too, (at least in the early seasons) with minimal damage to her self-esteem and credibility, as opposed to what happened to Wesley and some of his "poor" decisions."
I wrote that in the context of how Willow made the tragic decision in "Becoming - Part 2" to carry out her spell to ensoul Angelus, which she succeeded in doing just before Buffy was forced to cast the newly-ensouled Angel into Hell. If Willow had not cast her spell, Buffy would have been shoving the evil Angelus into Hell instead, which would have been a lot easier on her psyche than pushing in her lover Angel. At the time, I wasn't sure how valid that statement was that I made in the previous post, seeing as how I've only really seen one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I almost immediately felt vindicated when I saw this scene, where Buffy finally explained to Giles and Willow what she was forced to do to Angel in order to save the world. Buffy ended her narrative with "So I, I told him that I loved him... and I kissed him... and I killed him. (pause) I don't know if that helps with your spell or not, Giles", which she said in response to a phony binding spell story Giles came up with in order to coax the truth out of Buffy.

Willow answered with a simple, "I'm sorry", then, after Buffy left, she said matter-of-factly, "Giles, I know you don't like me playing with mystical forces, but I can really help with this binding spell."

Did Willow sound like she was wracked with guilt for doing such a horrible thing to Buffy and Angel? Did it sound like she even acknowledged that it was a tragic event? Of course Willow had no idea what was going on in Buffy's battle when she cast the spell. However, everyone raise your hands if you've ever been held brutally accountable for failures that occurred as a result of good faith actions you had taken.

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