[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 02/16/1999]
This is a really strong episode which digs into the Buffy and Faith issues a whole lot more thoroughly and successfully than in “Bad Girls” [3×14] . I don’t understand why the episode is called consequences though, because there aren’t really any of those to be seen here; they are yet to come. Although on first thought not much happens, it’s quite the opposite. A lot of big stuff happens in this episode, most notably Faith hooking up with the Mayor. The fact that the writers were able to make this revelation believable is something really astonishing and really says a lot about how well thought out and developed this season’s themes are.
The dream sequence in the beginning of the episode has a bit of significance. I take it as meaning that Buffy is ‘drowning’ in fear over what she was a part of. This interpretation is backed up when Buffy tells Faith later on that she feels “Dirty. Like something sick creeped inside you and you can’t get it out. And you keep hoping that it was just some nightmare, but it wasn’t.” Buffy is being very open about her feelings with Faith, but for whatever reason (wouldn’t it be interesting to see Faith’s story of becoming a Slayer?) Faith is closed off and will not accept responsibility for what she did and allow herself to feel remorse. She’s repressing her emotions which is rarely good, especially for as long as Faith appears to have been doing it.
I’m very pleased that Buffy and Faith found out that the Mayor’s involved in some dirty business at this point in the season. I’m also pleased to see Faith giving Buffy a nugget of remorse over what happened while digging around the Deputy Mayor’s office. What’s even more interesting than all of that, though, is the speech between the two girls about showing one’s real face. Faith says, “It doesn’t matter what kind of vibe you get off a person. ‘Cause nine times out of ten, the face they’re showing you is not the real one.” Buffy wisely throws that right back in her face when she replies, “I guess you know a lot about that … It’s just, look at you, Faith. Less than twenty-four hours ago, you killed a man. A-and now it’s all zip-a-dee-doo-dah? It’s not your real face, and I know it.” Buffy really nails Faith’s problem right here and now, only Faith’s not even remotely in the mental state to admit it.
Faith goes through a natural progression of spiraling out of control. Early on she can see that Buffy desparately wants to tell Giles what happened. This scares Faith (even though she never shows it) because she doesn’t want to have to deal with the consequences of her actions. This is why she continually tells Buffy to keep her mouth shut and that it will blow over. Faith is actually being pretty devious here, because while she’s telling Buffy to be quiet she’s also planning to back-stab her by telling Giles Buffy killed the man. This is a horrible act of betrayal, yet Buffy still doesn’t give up on her. The problem is that Faith is pushing herself further and further into a corner by each poor decision. Nearly choking Xander to death continues this trend.
Angel then captures her and does his best to relate his own experiences to what Faith is going through. He even makes progress with her until Wesley ruins everything. Faith escapes the Council’s team and with no one to run to decides to skip town via boat. Buffy finds her on all-offensive mode, attacking Buffy and her methods. A fight ensues and Faith appears to have saved Buffy from dying. The question remains whether she did it to help Buffy or to guarantee herself a job at the Mayor’s side. I’m not sure what the answer to that is and I think both answers could be concurrently correct.
An important topic Faith brings up twice is the belief that her and Buffy are ‘better’ than everyone else and because of that they can do whatever they want. Faith knows that Buffy has many of the same mental, physical, and sexual urges as herself. While she may have a point, she shouldn’t go overboard and let those urges dominate herself. She believes that they don’t have to follow any rules and that Slayers are the law. Later in the series Buffy comes to the realization that she is the law only when it comes to the supernatural. Slayers must abide by human laws just like everyone else. Unfortunately Buffy doesn’t have the experience to relay that message to Faith at this time. At this point in her development she is still unclear on what her role is and what her boundaries are.
What Faith is offering is obviously very tempting to Buffy. Faith plays on this when she says, “You know exactly what I’m about ’cause you have it in you, too … I’ve seen it, B. You’ve got the lust. And I’m not just talking about screwing vampires … It was good, wasn’t it? The sex? The danger? Bet a part of you even dug him when he went psycho … See, you need me to toe the line because you’re afraid you’ll go over it, aren’t you, B? You can’t handle watching me living my own way, having a blast, because it tempts you! You know it could be you!” Throughout all this, Buffy doesn’t convincingly deny anything Faith is saying about her. Buffy does have a lot of that dark stuff within her that she hasn’t fully figured out yet. We really see the darker sexual side to Buffy in S6 through her ‘relationship’ with Spike. She does some depraved things but still never manages to lower herself to the level Faith is at here. Faith represses her concience and that is something Buffy never does no matter what she’s going through.
All of this is a fantastic contrast to Buffy’s character at the end of S6 and into S7. Buffy genuinely and naturally learns, evolves, and grows as a person from now to then. I’m amazed by how well thought out her character is over the course of the series. In this episode Buffy doesn’t have a lot of answers because she’s still young and figuring out things for herself. It’s wonderful to see all these experiences accumulate to form the backbone of her strong convictions of the later seasons. Her speech to Xander and Dawn in “Villains” [6×20] and her speech to Xander and Willow in “Selfless” [7×05] both come to mind.
Even though most of the episode focuses on Buffy and Faith, there’s some small but significant moments for Willow and Giles as well. Willow is feeling resentful over the seemingly tight relationship between Buffy and Faith. She avoids talking with Buffy at school and feels really left out. The fact that Buffy didn’t go to Willow immediately after the stabbing illustrates how the Scoobies are not remotely as close as they were the first couple seasons. Buffy and Willow aren’t the only ones either. Xander and Willow are even less close than Buffy and Willow are. Xander doesn’t tell Willow when he had sex with Faith. This is something huge in Xander’s life and he didn’t feel comfortable anymore to share that with Willow. That is why she cries in the bathroom afterwards.
This is the first episode where we see that the relationship between Buffy and Giles has evolved. Buffy has learned from the mistake she made in “Revelations” [3×07] and goes to Giles about what happened as soon as she can. Giles is also very understanding when Buffy confirms that Faith was trying to keep her quiet. I also love the way he puts her mind to ease on the whole accidental murder issue by explaining that these things have happened before.
This episode has a ridiculous amount of complex issues running around it. It is so well constructed, though, that when watching it you hardly notice that fact. This is fantastic material that gives volumes of insight into who Buffy currently is as a person, Faith’s emotional state, the status of the gangs’ relationships, and it manages to significantly progress the season’s arc with a surprising final scene. The season won’t be the same from here on out and neither will the characters. The only reason why I couldn’t bring myself to give this a perfect score is simply because it doesn’t punch me in the gut and leave me breathless.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Cordelia and Wesley’s hilarious first meeting.
+ The Mayor is unhappy the shredding machine didn’t cheer him up.
+ The interrogation scene where Buffy and Faith separately tell their stories.
+ Xander trying to be “I see things” guy with Faith and failing to get through.
+ Willow pointing out that maybe Faith belongs in prison.
* Angel begins to make progress breaking down Faith’s defensive barriers right when Wesley and the Council barge in and haul her off. Angel’s genuine connection with Faith will be the pivotal thing that tames her at the end of “Five by Five” (AtS 1×18).