[Review by Mike Marinaro]
[Writer: Douglas Petrie | Director: David Grossman | Aired: 03/16/1999]
I’ll just say outright that I’m not a big fan of this episode. Like all of BtVS there is always good stuff within a poor plot which is exactly what happens here. I just hate the idea of making us think that Angel lost his soul again because we’ve seen Angelus so recently. While I’m glad they were faking it to trick Faith and the Mayor, I’m still not pleased with most of the execution. I didn’t like how Giles just happened to know the guy who the Mayor used to yank Angel’s soul. Not all of it was poor though! I adored the stabilizing relationship between Faith and the Mayor along with the new information we got about the Mayor himself. So lets gets started with the specifics.
The episode begins with Buffy and Angel coming out of what appeared to be an erotic foreign film. Not the best choice of entertainment for this couple as Buffy pointedly observes. This entire little conversation between the two of them is very amusing. She thinks she’s getting him “worked up” when doing stuff like this with him. I can sympathise with Angel when he says just being with Buffy is all he needs to get worked up. I also appreciated seeing him show Buffy that he is in complete control of his emotions.
The Mayor’s relationship with Faith continues to grow more fascinating. It is now very clear that he sees himself as a father to Faith. She’s not sure she’s comfortable with this but soon warms up to the idea. She then begins to show that affection in reverse. It’s so unique and odd to love the bad guys so much you almost hope they win. I’m pleased that Faith still hasn’t completely lost it yet by her reaction to violently murdering a demon. She does, however, repress her feelings very easily to be able to use that experience to try to seduce Angel. It’s also interesting to see Faith throwing nonstop jabs at Buffy once she thinks she has her chained to the wall later on.
It’s unfortunate, but that’s about where the major positives end. I’ve got some real fundamental problems with the way this episode was handled. First off is Buffy’s reactions involving Angel and Faith. Buffy and Angel have been through so much together that there should be a level of trust between the two of them. Unless Buffy sees some indisputable evidence that Angel for some reason doesn’t love her completely anymore, she shouldn’t assume he doesn’t! This annoying behavior arises twice here. I could understand it when she saw him with Drusilla back in “Lie to Me” [2×07] because their relationship was still largely unexplored at that point. At least Willow points out that she’s acting insane over this. Not only is her reaction silly, but the fact that she walks in on Angel and Faith right when Faith briefly kisses him on the cheek is simply poor writing. The other time Buffy acts in an annoying way is at the end when she needs to “break it off” with Angel because of what she had to watch him do with Faith. She still thinks that he might rather be with Faith than with her. Come on Buffy!
The main plot is simply completely unnecessary. Why does the Mayor even want to remove Angel’s soul? Is this just something to pass the time to his ascension? Why wouldn’t he be even more focused on killing Buffy now that he knows that she knows he’s up to something really bad? I also didn’t care for the fact that we’re led to believe that Angel actually lost his soul again until the end of the episode. I would have preferred it if we’d known he was playing Faith from the start. It would have made the episode fun which would help offset the uselessness of it. The scene where Buffy first thinks Angelus is back is frustrating to watch. We’ve seen Angelus so recently that even Angel faking it isn’t interesting to see right now.
So overall it’s a pretty mixed bag. The main plot isn’t terrible and it does provide some admittedly fun moments including Angel punching Xander out, Angel throwing a letter opener at the Mayor, the group finding out that Faith is now working for the Mayor, and Angel’s “second best” moment. But ultimately it’s a waste of an episode because the important material could have easily been wrapped up in a more important plot. It’s really difficult to give an episode of this series a really low score because the character interaction is always so entertaining and interesting. That holds true here as well.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ A demon wanting money for the Books of Ascension.
+ The Mayor offering the hooded guy a mint.
+ Cordelia’s nonstop flirting with Wesley.
+ The additionaly information on the Mayor. He’s been the Mayor for a hundred years.
+ The Mayor comforting Faith with fatherly love and the prospect of minature golf. My reaction is exactly what Faith’s reaction is.