Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Buffy: The Turning Point

Bad Girls
A great episode that contains two strong choices that I think are wrong.

First up: Buffy and Faith are fantastic together when they're having fun - they kick arse and then celebrate in a way that feels liberating, sexy and a bit dangerous. It's fantastic to watch them enjoying themselves to what they do best ... and naturally it can't last. In fact, it doesn't last more than about 15 minutes of screen-time. Now I get that happy characters are dull characters; I get that you have to bring the conflict. But it strikes me that you could've stretched this change in Buffy towards being a bad girl for at least one more episode, and used Willow's feelings about being displaced as a friend (and the Scoobies' concerns about Buffy's transformation) as a source of conflict. So, yeah, I wanted to see the two female leads actually have fun for a while.

Second: I do not buy Faith's line at the end ("I don't care.") Sure, it's harsh and sets up some good conflicts down the line. But it feels forced and inconsistent with the character we've been watching. I seem to remember this gets deconstructed in later eps (especially in Season 4), so I'll withhold some of my judgment for a while.

This is also the episode that confirms the Mayor is the Big Bad, introduces Wesley Wyndham-Price and begins his epic character arc, and really strongly showcases the Buffy-Faith relationship. Pretty essential stuff.

So, I as I was saying, I really wanted to see more of Faith and Buffy working together as Slayers who are good at their jobs and enjoy life ... and this ep sort of didn't give me that but after a while I didn't mind.

What starts as a placeholder episode (we know Buffy is going to tell Giles about the murder eventually) ends as an intensely action-packed mini-feature film filled with lots of story and character development.

It kicks off the Angel-Faith plot that crosses from here over to Angel and then back to Buffy again.
It has an AMAZING moment between Xander and Faith.
It finishes with a bold twist. If I didn't know better, I'd say Faith was going undercover.

Playing Faith as being in denial is a good choice, and alleviates quite a few of my worries from Bad Girls. I still don't fully buy Faith's reaction to the murder, or her psychology, but Consequences gives me enough to get by.

There's also a really nice shifting focus between who the villain is: The Mayor or Faith.

An excellent episode, vital to the main line of Season 3 (and featuring a great moment where Giles holds the idiotball that made me yell at the screen).

Basically, this is 'just' an excellent mistaken-identity farce. A spotlight episode for Willow that features two well-motivated versions of her character initiating their own plots and bouncing off each others. The multiple sources of pressure on Willow to conform and obey lead to her desire to be rebellious, which (at a writers' level) motivate the arrival of her doppelganger from Dark Sunnydale. It's a big episode for Willow that shows her as the go-to wicca for serious magic, and illustrates again that she's good at whatever she does, whether that be computer hacking or being a vampire.

A great episode, but only essential-ish. There's some Faith-Mayor developments that feel a little too rapid to me, especially when the Mayor raises the subject of what to do about Willow. There's only 6 episodes till the end of the season and it feels like things haven't really gotten moving yet.

I don't have much to say about this episode. The opening scene provides a good illustration of why the Buffy-Angel relationship won't work, and the rest of the story follows that through in a covert yet interesting way.

The episode is based on a tension of 'When will Buffy find out that Faith is evil?', but because the whole story is based on a deception which I remembered from my previous viewing, I felt little sense of jeopardy.

Coupled with that is realisation that while the Mayor's paternalism towards Faith is a great character trait, it's feels cosmetic - there haven't been enough on-screen events between the two of them for that relationship to have been earned. I'm also finding Faith's characterisation to be all over the place, and I'm looking forward to watching the essential episodes of Season 3 to find out how it all tracks when you string the key episodes together.

In all, this episode is essential for a few plot reasons, but I found it kind of irritating.


margo said...

As luck would have it, I have just recently finished watching the entire Buffy series.

My take on the entire series is this: there are not too many women heroes portrayed in popular fiction that are not only strong physically, but show leadership qualities, and have a little bit of fun to their characters. Buffy and Faith that is, and later on in the show, Willow.

But, I think, only one strong female personality can be on the screen at once for that reason.

hix said...

"... there are not too many women heroes portrayed in popular fiction that are not only strong physically, but show leadership qualities, and have a little bit of fun to their characters."

And that's a damn shame.

I get that it's Buffy's show (and I think Team Noxon gets a lot of mileage out of the contrast between Buffy and Faith's leadership styles in Season 7), but I still thing they could have shown more friendship, or at least fun, betweeen the two of them here.

I guess there's a downside to that: it makes Faith rejecting Buffy a little more difficult to buy. But goddamnit I wanted the fun!

margo said...

I agree with you on the Faith and Buffy. I too wished they could have had a little more 'fun' together. But...that would have left Xander and Willow out of the loop. Their characters need Buffy to support them.

Though, as a side line, I can't stand Dawn and wondered why they ever included her in the script.