[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Douglas Petrie | Director: Michael Lange | Aired: 02/09/1999]
This episode represents an interesting experiment in trying to make Buffy more like Faith. The problem is that most of Buffy’s actions seem rushed and out-of-character rather than a natural extension. Faith is pushing her to be more free-spirited right when the new prissy Watcher, Wesley, comes to town. The combination of these things is sure to make Buffy want to act out a bit, but giving into Faith’s “want, take, have” philosophy in response is just out of character. That and the fact I find Belthazar pretty corny are the reasons why I’m not crazy about this episode.
The fun begins with Faith telling Buffy she “thinks too much” while fighting some vamps in the cemetary. Right away the core topic touched on. Faith believes Buffy thinks too much while the new Watcher, Wesley, seems to believe she doesn’t think enough. Buffy is torn between two worlds; Faith’s of “do what you want” and Wesley’s of “do what you’re told.” Early on Buffy shies away from thoughts of doing (and doing) what she wants and disobeying authority, but as Wesley continues to pressure her with orders and attitude she decides to gives Faith’s method a try. It’s also really fun to see her still discuss everything with Giles, even against the Council’s wishes.
All of this leads to Buffy skipping out on her chemistry test and then later breaking into the weapons shop with Faith and stealing stuff (including a longbow Faith is amusingly fond of). Faith tells her in the shop, “want, take, have.” This really sums up Faith’s philosophy of life at this point. Rather quickly the two of them get caught by a pair of police and we can immediately see Buffy is scared by the experience. In the cop car she is extremely quiet and it’s obvious that “bad Buffy” is dead for now. The following day when looking in the paper we even see her dressed completely in black. She feels dirty and bad about what she did. Faith, on the other hand, isn’t affected by getting caught at all which is the first sign of her indifference at being involved in crime.
Faith’s indifference is naturally carried over when the big “staking a human” scene arrives. She kills a human, shows little remorse, and immediately wants to flee the scene and not accept responsibility for she’s done. Buffy is terrified and can’t understand why Faith doesn’t appear to have any problem with what she did. We know from future episodes of BtVS and AtS that she does have feelings of guilt but they are buried deep and are repressed within her.
I really love Wesley’s addition to the show. Aside from pushing Buffy towards Faith, the introduction of Wesley also sparks changes in Giles who now looks a whole lot cooler. During the fight against Belthazar’s minions he really kicks some quality ### and even cracks jokes in the face of torture (he has been tortured recently in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] ). He really mixes up the tedium of monster research and adds an interesting dynamic to the group’s discussions.
Unfortunately, Belthazar just doesn’t work for me as a threatening villain. While I love the idea of a crippled and fat demon it is his personality that loses me. He just comes across as hokey and the effect of him pulling vampires towards him is poor as well. Ultimately this episode tries to do some interesting things but simply doesn’t manage to fully succeed. The highlight is definitely the somewhat surprising ending where Faith says she doesn’t care that she’s now killed a human. Based on her character’s development throughout the season thus far, this turn, while surprising, is still completely believable. If nothing else, that alone gives this episode importance.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Faith wondering why Buffy hasn’t had sex with Xander before.
+ Buffy acting hot and wild and Angel not liking it.
+ Wesley being completely out of the Buffy loop.
+ The Mayor genuinely enjoying taking photos with kids.
+ Ending fight scene is well done except it’s far too easy to spot Buffy’s stunt double.
+ Finding out more of what it is exactly that the Mayor is trying to do. 100 days to his ascension.
+ The Mayor’s “to do” list is absolutely hilarious.
– The fake drowning of Buffy and the lame joke that follows.
* Willow feeling disconnected from Buffy because of Faith. This is yet another thing that puts a wedge between these two that will only continue to grow through S6.