Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 12, 2011

Robin’s Review: S3, E14 – Bad Girls

Synopsis: A group of vampires are out hunting an amulet which once belonged to the demon Balthazar. Faith encourages Buffy to enjoy slaying more and follow her reckless path. Buffy gets caught up in the adrenaline rush of it all and skips a test to go fighting and partying. Meanwhile the new Watcher Wesley Wyndham-Pryce arrives and irritates Giles with his prissy manner. Buffy and Faith discover that Balthazar is alive but are arrested while stealing weapons from a store. The next night they return but while slaying vampires Faith accidentally kills the Mayor’s aide Allan. Balthazar’s men capture Wesley and Giles but Buffy and Angel arrive in time to save them. The Mayor completes a ritual that leaves him invincible for one hundred days.

The Good: This was another strong episode and finally allowed both Faith and the Mayor to take centre stage.

The Faith story was very well constructed. She pushes Buffy to behave more like she does and the writing escalated that believably. First it was just talk about how exciting slaying could be. Then Faith foolishly followed a gang of vampires forcing Buffy to follow her. Once that succeeded Buffy was excited enough to skip school and spend the day slaying and the night partying. Then Faith took it a step further by robbing a store for weapons. Buffy’s morality kicked in but with lives on the line you could see her giving in to the temptation to view life a little more like a Slayer’s playground. Then the fight in the alleyway was staged expertly to show the increasing threat of the vampires before Allan arrives at just the wrong moment to catch Faith unawares.

As we saw in Ted (211), Buffy knows that killing a human is not collateral damage. It is an unacceptable consequence of slaying. Faith clearly knows that it’s wrong as she runs away initially and then returns to dispose of the body and wipe the blood metaphorically and literally from her person. When Buffy confronts her she has gone into arrogant denial. She says “I don’t care” with a smile but the fact that she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore makes it clear that it has affected her deeply. Faith’s way of dealing with her calling is to see herself as entitled and special. She can’t stand the emotions that go with Buffy’s more responsible approach. This episode beautifully sets up a conflict between the two and the story was thoroughly entertaining as it unfolded.

The Balthazar part of the episode felt more relevant than just a monster of the week even if that is clearly what he was. Part of that was the sight of vampires running scared and doing the bidding of one demon. It made Balthazar seem powerful and the gross spectacle of his body was certainly memorable. His main function within the series was to provide a hidden warning to Buffy about the Mayor. We know that it was the Mayor who crippled Balthazar a century ago and the strength of Balthazar adds to our understanding of how strong the Mr Wilkins must be.

The Mayor’s invulnerability was another eye catching visual but right now we don’t know what he is going to turn into once he ‘ascends.’ Again though it sets in motion a story which will presumably run up to the season finale.

Then there is Wesley Wyndham-Pryce who manages to establish his presence, once again in memorable fashion. As Niles did for Frasier, Wesley manages to shine a light on how much we have come to like and respect Giles. Although Wesley shares a lot in common with how Giles initially approached the job he has none of the steel that a past as ‘Ripper’ can give. He also has less of Giles’ common sense and honest, respectful communication skills. Wesley is clearly a product of the out of touch Watcher’s Council and it will be interesting to see how he develops now that he is faced with the realities of life in Sunnydale.

Xander and Cordelia have gone back to their season one sniping which I don’t mind after “The Zeppo.” Willow would naturally be courted by good colleges and it’s an often remarked compliment about Buffy that the writers embraced the march of time rather than pretend that their characters would stay high school students forever. I liked the follow up to Xander and Faith’s hookup. They both referred to it without rocking the boat by telling the whole truth.

The Bad: Nothing exactly but I have some concerns in “The Unknown.”

The Unknown: The writers, director and the costume department did their best with Balthazar. He really was a memorable villain and while he was threatening people he almost pulled off his role as a scary demon. However it was really hard not to laugh at him. His rolls of flab were such an amusing concept for a demon to have and the fact that he spent the whole episode being basted only added to that. The final humiliation came as Buffy and Angel began clearing house and he waved his useless arms about, wobbled his flabby body and warbled “Unacceptable! Unacceptable!”  I can’t say this was bad necessarily because the producers must have intended for him to get some laughs. It did undercut him as a threat to Buffy but in an episode that was more about Faith and Wesley that didn’t matter to me. The makeup people did a nice job showing his flesh after electrocution too.

I’m not sure about the Mayor yet. He is creepy but his fussy manner and constant giggling make me unsure how seriously to take him.

I was interested by the portrayal of Buffy and Angel’s relationship. She seemed more than happy to get physical despite his, um, limitations in that department. He pushed her off but I suspect that was because of his urgent demon business rather than genuine concern for their physical proximity. They then kissed goodbye presumably confirming that they are back as a semi-couple after the miracle in “Amends” (310). I suppose we will have to wait for their problems to be addressed further down the line.

Best Moment: I thought the moment where Faith stabbed Allan was built up to expertly. Not just in that scene but through the episode as a whole.

The Bottom Line: This is the beginning of the third act of this season and this was a great start. Unlike previous episodes with Faith this didn’t feel like too much was being crammed in. It felt action packed and entertaining while exploring the characters and stories that will drive the rest of the season.

70/100

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