Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 18, 2011

Robin’s Review: S3, E3 – Faith, Hope and Trick

Synopsis: A new slayer called Faith arrives in town and tells Buffy to loosen up. Buffy thinks she is a little unstable and slowly uncovers the truth about a vampire called Kakistos who is pursuing her. A suited vampire called Mr Trick accompanies Kakistos and talks about the big picture. Scott asks Buffy out and she eventually overcomes her feelings about Angel and says yes. She tells Willow and Giles the truth about Angel and later that night he reappears in the Mansion.

The Good: This was a very dense episode and as usual the writers tackled all the different stories with skill.

One of the signs of a good television show is when new characters can be introduced and immediately click. Here we get three and each is cast and written to stand out. Mr Trick seems to be taking Spike’s role as the agitating vampire in residence and his suits, talk of the big picture and dubious loyalty all make him one to watch. Not to mention his unique take on fast food delivery. Then we have Faith who swaggers in, fearless and braggadocios and seems ideally cast as the anti-Kendra. Finally we have Scott who comes across as instantly charming and sweet by repeatedly trying to get Buffy’s attention.

Faith is the one we spend the most time with and her story is a good one. As Kendra did, she manages to shine a light on what makes Buffy so important. Kendra embraced slaying like it was a martial art. She studied, practised and followed the rule book. Faith looks at slaying as a licence to be wild and experience things that other people can’t. Where Buffy’s friendships and improvisation made her better at slaying than Kendra, it’s her morality that makes her better than Faith. You can’t imagine Buffy would ever leave Giles to die, even if she thought it was the right thing to do.

The way Faith’s hidden fear and anger came out was well written. She pulverises one vampire and makes light of the fact that Buffy was left to fend off two by herself. Soon we discover that she is running from the powerful Kakistos and it becomes clear that her bravado was a cover. Buffy has to remind Faith of the need to never give up fighting and they overcome him together. It was a good solid story and Faith’s fear was well played and made Kakistos seem threatening.

The other story going on was Buffy finally letting go of Angel. We got another dream sequence and several flashbacks to his death as Buffy was repeatedly haunted by the memory of what happened. It affected her attitude to Scott and to Faith and it was good to see the details finally come out. Not only did Buffy admit what really happened but we saw Cordelia and company discussing it in a way that was missing from the previous episode. I’m glad it took three episodes-worth of time for Buffy to reach this point but that doesn’t seem relevant now that Angel has re-materialised (see The Unknown).

With so much going on the writers deserve credit for keeping everything moving at a good clip and keeping the dialogue sharp. I liked the Scoobies being sensitive enough to “uncouple” around Buffy. Mr Trick’s discussion of Sunnydale’s death rate was witty and fitting. Faith’s revelation about feeling hungry and horny after slaying led to a hilarious response as the gang all looked at Buffy. Giles’ reminiscences about the Watcher’s retreat made it and him seem more real. Xander’s shameless interest in Faith was funny and revealing. Joyce learning that Buffy died and her reactions in general to seeing Faith’s attitude to slaying was interesting and well written.

The Bad: I would say that perhaps there was just too much going on in one episode. Faith’s arrival alone probably could have carried the whole episode. I certainly felt that Kakistos could have been a bigger villain in the show than he was. Faith’s fear made for gripping television as he arrived at her motel room. If that had been the final moment of the episode it would have made for a great cliff-hanger. Similarly Angel’s return at the end kind of trumps everything that has gone before. Buffy has finally found closure, Scott has arrived and now boom – Angel is back. That’s not to say that any of these things on their own were bad. It’s just to say that it might have made for even better TV to spread them out a little more.

The Unknown: Angel’s return is an interesting moment. I don’t know if anyone really thought he was gone for good. David Boreanaz remained in the credits and the dream sequences implied strongly that he wasn’t gone for good. Does his return cheapen what happened in “Becoming”? I would say yes. Of course it depends what happens next and of course it doesn’t take away the emotions Buffy went through at the time. However any character who returns to a show after dying is making their death seem less important.

Giles cunning plan to get Buffy to reveal what really happened with Angel was interesting. We’ve never seen Giles meddle in quite such a direct way before. Last episode he was the one who saw that Buffy needed to be left alone. It seemed slightly odd for him to now try and push her to share her dark secrets. I suppose it worked and helped her but it felt like an out of character moment in a way.

I liked the idea that Kakistos was so old that his hands were cloven and his skin was so thick that he couldn’t be staked. It reminded me of the Master and how he had become ever more demonic looking and powerful over time. Again I feel like Kakistos should have been in the show for longer.

I neglected to mention that last week we got a reference to the Mayor. Here again Snyder hops to when the Mayor comes calling. The hints have been building for some time and it’s clear he is an important figure in this season.

Best Moment: Buffy fighting Kakistos and pushing Faith to snap out of her fear. That was a pretty entertaining fight sequence and reminded us once again of why Buffy is so great.

The Bottom Line: This was as dense an episode of good television that you are likely to see. I think it would have been even better if it wasn’t quite so packed with incident but I can’t complain too much about the quality of what we saw.

68/100

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