Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 15, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S3, E17 – Enemies

Cordia’s Second Look
Season 3, Episode 17
Original airing: March 16, 1999

My Rating: 53

The Good: This was an excellent episode – the first time I saw it. It allowed the characters to catch up to the audience in a very dramatic, fun way. As viewers, we already knew Faith was evil and that the Mayor was planning something big. After everything that happened in Bad Girls (S3E14) and Consequences (S3E15), it was nice to keep the momentum going with this tricky story. However, it doesn’t fair well on Rewatch. The crux of the episode is the long con Buffy and Angel are playing. Knowing what’s coming, it just becomes too easy to focus on the plot holes instead of getting wrapped up in the story.

That being said, there were some great things in this episode. I loved Faith. She’s wild and crazy, but calculated. Her attempts to seduce Angel are keyed to his desire to protect damsels in distress, she takes that demon out with ferocity, and she still feels the loss of her “Slayer life” at the end of the episode. She brought this all about herself, of course, but we can see that she’s a bit lost and confused by all that happened. It was also fun to see the developing twisted father-daughter relationship she has with Richard.

Angel as Angelus was also very interesting. The upside to this being a Rewatch was seeing how David Boreanaz plays Angelus ever so slightly differently when he’s Angel pretending to be Angelus. It’s still oh so convincing, but there’s just a bit more restraint in the character. He punched Xander instead of killing him and he waited to chat with the Mayor before attempting to stab him with the letter opener. Two examples of things Angelus, the real demon, probably would have done a bit differently.

And, finally, seeing the emotions the ruse stirred up in Buffy were the best part. While I was frustrated that it seemed like no one else really knew what was going on (The Bad), it did allow Buffy to finally begin to explore how her doomed relationship with Angel makes her feel. They can’t ever really be together, but they’ve been doing a good job so far of pretending that doesn’t matter. Now, “Angelus” has reared his ugly head again and Buffy is painfully forced to face her memories of last year. The final scene of the episode was the first in the Buffy/Angel relationship that I’ve found stirring and emotional since Angel’s return in Beauty and the Beasts (S3E4). This felt real.

The Bad: The unfortunate thing is that what made this episode great on first watch, made it terrible on the second. Not knowing the con being played on Faith makes it exciting and confusing. However, knowing what’s coming just allowed me to focus on the questions of: Why didn’t they tell the rest of the Scoobies? When did Angel and Buffy plot this? Why are they now beginning to suspect Faith when last episode they believed she was reforming? Why did they let Faith escape at the end instead of capturing her? How the heck did Giles and Richard just happen to contact the same mystical ninja guy? Who contacted him first?

The questions go on and that’s the problem. The more you dig into the con, the more flimsy the feasibility becomes. Especially because it went completely unexplained at the end. Buffy didn’t apologize or justify her decisions to the Scoobies. For people she’s been treating as almost-equal partners in the protection of Sunnydale, this was very disappointing.

Worst of all, however, is Cordelia. The writers cannot figure out a long-term game plan for her. Some weeks she’s wonderfully fitted into the story and some weeks she’s so plainly shoe-horned in, it’s painful. This was a very bad week. Her over-directness involving Wesley is out of character and unreasonable. She’s the popular, pretty girl. She doesn’t chase boys, they chase her. She acts very desperately around Wesley, attempting to trick him into asking her out and then declaring that she’s essentially not leaving his side. Even more cruelly, she’s being so blatantly obvious in front of Xander. While I can believe she might try to rub his nose in things a bit, this was just too over the top. The show even goes meta by having Xander comment on Cordelia’s complete lack of subtlety. This doesn’t make it funny, it just makes me cringe more.

Favorite Moment: Despite all of my complaints, my favorite moment stems from my fond first memories of this episode. As a new viewer, I had no idea the con was going on. I thought Angelus was back and evil as all get out. Therefore, the short scene between him and Joyce was chilling to me. I honestly thought he might kill her in that moment. It brought chills to my spine that I still remember today.

The Bottom Line: This is a great episode on first watch, but it does not hold up to multiple viewings.


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