Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 15, 2012

Robin’s Review: S3, E17 – Enemies

Synopsis: A demon offers to sell the Slayers the “Books of Ascension.” He says the Mayor wants them. While Buffy consults with Giles, the Mayor orders Faith to get the books. She kills the demon and then goes crying to Angel over her feelings around murder. She tries to seduce him but fails. The Mayor wants Angel’s soul gone and so turns to a demon to take it. He does and Angelus and Faith tie Buffy up to torture her.

The Good: There were some fun lines here. I liked Giles asking Xander if he had got a receipt for his bribe and it was good to see Willow tell Buffy to cut the crap and just go talk to Angel. I also liked the opening scene where we finally got some focus on how Buffy and Angel’s dating life actually functions.

The Bad: Otherwise I really didn’t like this.

I never thought Angel had turned into Angelus. Yet the slow motion turn of Faith’s head when the ruse was revealed makes it clear that I was supposed to. It was a bad miscalculation by the writers to go anywhere near Angelus.

It’s so rare for television shows to create genuinely emotive villains. We’ve all seen too many silly James Bond-style bad guys to take the average character seriously. Yet in season two Buffy managed to create the truly chilling thought that her boyfriend was now a dangerous, unrepentant psychopath who could kill at any moment.

As soon as “Angelus” reappeared here my b.s. meter went off. Could the writers really be so foolish as to actually bring him back with no build up? Fortunately they didn’t but unfortunately they played at it. I found the scenes where he and Buffy had to interact pretty unpleasant. I didn’t like the idea that the show was trying to squeeze emotion from something really important in what I saw as a flippant manner.

Perhaps I would have felt differently if the story was written in a different way. At no point did anyone discuss a suspicion that Faith was working with the Mayor. Not even after they had uncovered the truth. Sometimes twists like that can work well but on this occasion I thought it felt flat. The way it was presented I kept thinking “is it really worth dredging up these horrible memories just to find out more about the ascension.” Also if Buffy really suspected that Faith was working for the Mayor then shouldn’t she have planned to capture her somehow? Angel could have taken her by surprise and knocked her out but no, they had to give the audience the “shocking” revelation which actually undermined the logic of what they were doing.

The whole episode felt badly organised. Before Buffy’s plan came into being we also got the Mayor and Faith making an unannounced attempt to take Angel’s soul. It was only after he had rejected Faith that we learnt that that is what she was up to. To already have had an unexplained plan go on earlier in the episode took more away from the main twist.

We are also asked to accept that Faith is now evil and happy about it. Last episode she looked uncomfortable at the thought that Willow was going to be killed. Now she is revelling in the thought of the Mayor massacring the town. She also shows no discomfort at psycho Angelus being by her side despite years of slaying and is ready to torture Buffy. That part I find particularly difficult. The idea of the Mayor slaughtering people is a bit abstract at the moment so perhaps she is not really thinking it through. The Angel seduction is a jealous reaction to the life Buffy has. But torture? So she is going to watch Buffy scream in pain and die slowly and enjoy that? It’s all a big jump from the attention seeking, confused girl we have known so far.

The Mayor is also a problem. Early in the episode he seems to have an interesting push-pull relationship with Faith where he makes a veiled threat about killing her should she fail in her task. Yet when she does fail the task he acts like her Father and tries to cheer her up with talk of miniature golf. His endless chatter about germs and mints is becoming a bit obnoxious. The Master liked a camp turn of phrase but there was no doubt about his desire to kill and maim. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think about the Mayor. It feels like the writers have fallen in love with their creation rather than actually building a character to make the audience feel something. I mean, who cares about calories if you are going to ascend?

I didn’t think much of Buffy getting jealous over Angel liking Faith. At this point in her relationship with Angel is she seriously worried about him leaving her for another girl? It seemed so petty, especially considering there is clearly nothing in a relationship for him (as they discussed in the opening scene).

Finally I disliked Cordelia relentlessly hitting on Wesley. It seemed unbecoming for a girl who once played with men for her own social benefit to be begging for a date so shamelessly. She also seemed crass for doing it all in front of Xander (the writers thankfully acknowledged this).

The Unknown: What is the ascension? What kind of being is the Mayor?

Best Moment: Willow telling Buffy to stop whining and go talk to Angel.

The Bottom Line: I thought this was a major miscalculation. To mess with the emotions surrounding Angelus felt flippant and foolish. The story was poorly structured and required a major unexplained leap forward in Faith’s turn to the dark side.

45/100

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