Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | June 25, 2012

Robin’s Review: S4, E16 – Who Are You (2)

Synopsis: Fuffy is taken away by the police and then captured by the men from the Watcher’s Council. Baith takes a bath and gets used to her new body. She books a flight out of town and then pops by Giles’ house to catch up with the Scoobies. She tells them she is off to hunt for Adam but goes dancing at the Bronze instead. After teasing Spike she mocks Tara and then heads to Riley’s. Tara senses that something is wrong and she and Willow perform a spell to locate Buffy. The next day Fuffy returns to find Giles while Baith heads for the airport. Meanwhile Adam has stirred up some vampires who invade a local church during a service. Baith and Fuffy rush to the scene.

The Good: N.B. Fuffy = Faith in Buffy’s body. Baith = Buffy in Faith’s body.

This was a revelation. I knew I was going to enjoy rewatching it but I didn’t remember just how fantastic this episode was.

Body switching plots should always be entertaining but this was on an entirely different level. The first layer of entertainment was watching a tour de force by Sarah Michelle Gellar and anticipating each new interaction that Fuffy would have with her friends. But the second layer was quite remarkable as we saw Faith finally able to understand why her actions were immoral by being forced to walk in Buffy’s shoes for a day.

That second layer was quite moving and brilliantly constructed. Fuffy begins her journey by mocking Buffy’s high minded ideals by saying “Because it’s wrong” into the mirror in a silly voice. The psychotic part of her is of course just under the surface as she imagines stabbing Willow and cackles at the news that Baith is being taken to England. She spells out her attitude to Spike by pointing out all the amazing things Buffy could do with her life but chooses not to because of her calling.

In the midst of her revelry she stakes a vampire in order to keep up appearances. She is so taken aback by the feeling she has when the victim she saved her thanks her with the sincerity of the truly grateful. Fuffy then heads over to Riley’s to further degrade Buffy by sleeping with her boyfriend. Riley has no time for her sex play and makes love to her before voicing that emotion in words. Again Faith is shaken by being treated with genuine love and between that and Willow’s spell she is confused as she falls asleep.

The next day she angrily denies being a killer (to Forrest) and when she sees the news report about the terrorised church she comes running. Her conscience is finally awake and when the vampire asks her why he can’t kill the parishioners she responds genuinely “Because it’s wrong.” That is simple, circular writing which hit its point directly and emotively. We’ve known for a long time what Faith’s issues were but to see her broken by Buffy’s goodness in this unexpected way was a beautiful thing. When Baith arrives to take back her body Fuffy pounds and pounds at her own visage crying “You’re nothing!”

It is of course a most interesting twist that it is Sarah Michelle Gellar and not Eliza Dushku who gets to deliver this epic portrayal. It is yet another amazing performance amongst a collection which will stand the test of time. From her first head bob and delivery of a mean jibe she captured the spirit of Faith without ever seeming like a bad impression. She made wonderful use of physicality to demonstrate who was meant to be occupying her body. From the leg lifts in the bath, to teasing Spike, to offering herself to Riley she made uses of her body that she never would while being Buffy. Her smiles were different, her frowns were different.

The simple dynamic of body swap of course paid enormous dividends. The bath\mirror sequence had an un-Buffy quality to it that was most effective. It also made the obvious point about how Faith would be experiencing a whole new world now that she had a new body. Then we got the fun of seeing Faith decide how to respond to Joyce and her friends. As she swallowed her desire to hurt them her reactions became fascinating to watch. I loved the scripting of her jab at Xander’s prowess (perhaps from personal experience) and the interaction with Spike. Seeing her clock who he was and his confused impotence was tremendous and reminded us of their chemistry in “Something Blue” (409).

The scripting of the Fuffy-Tara interaction was brilliant too. With Faith absorbing a bunch of information all at once she doesn’t check her tongue and reveals too much about herself while also giving Tara’s fragile self esteem a good smack. The Fuffy-Riley scene reached an even greater peak. I thought his determination to close the door when she was so keen for sex was quite the moment. It was such a subtle demonstration of the world of propriety and gentleness that Buffy lives in and Faith doesn’t. For the first time I really liked Riley as a character. He was all for sex but had no intention of cheapening the love he felt in that moment by demeaning Buffy. It was such a natural reaction from the character and yet I hadn’t anticipated the effect this would have on Faith. Afterwards he tells her that he loves her and she panics. Willow’s spell confuses the issue slightly but it’s clear that Faith knows she has crossed a line and realises what is missing from her own life.

Adam too managed to be swept along in the gathering brilliance by providing intriguing psychoanalysis to a group of local vampires. By forcing them to confront their fear of God their attack on a church seemed particularly fitting as the cry for help which even Faith couldn’t ignore. We even got a little comedy as Giles reacted to Baith’s arrival and then distracted the police with some hasty lies.

Tara and Willow inch toward physically expressing their affection with another spell as sex analogy. More effective though was Willow telling Tara that she wanted to keep her to herself and Tara saying “I am…yours.” You really felt in that moment for Tara as she got as close as she comfortably could to saying how she feels.

The Bad: The only downside here is how quickly everything played out. This was such a mesmeric episode that I could well have taken a third part to give us the full story of Faith slowly coming round to the light side. However if you watch “Angel” that story will continue.

The Unknown: Tara being able to sense energy seemed a little convenient. Would it have been implausible or even more effective if she had simply told Willow how mean Fuffy was? Their spell added confusion to Fuffy’s reaction to Riley’s “I love you” but it was still a very effective scene.

Adam claims he was made to destroy all life which was interesting. I’m assuming that Professor Walsh actually designed him to kill all demon life but perhaps he has interpreted that mission differently.  He seems to be making himself into the antichrist telling the vampires to do a John the Baptist and let the world know that he is coming.

Best Moment: A very tough choice. I will try and pinpoint the moment when my emotions were most effectively engaged. I would say it was when Riley says “I don’t wanna play.” I think you could have just about predicted the interactions between Fuffy and the rest of the Scoobies. But to see Riley’s goodness overwhelm Faith was unexpectedly moving.

The Bottom Line: Written and directed by Joss Whedon this was once more Buffy at its absolute best. A simple but brilliantly constructed story which took a character on a satisfying and moving journey. Yet again the core of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is goodness. Buffy’s choice to sacrifice selfish desires in favour of saving lives can move the hardest of hearts within the show and outside of it.

87/100

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Responses

  1. I finallly caught up, and hahaha, I realized after I left my first message that pronouncing my name would be funny. Grammatically speaking Robin is right, but my parents pronounce it the same as “Amy” the rat.

    I love this episode so much. It didn’t feel fast to me like it did Cordia, though I understand her reasoning. I think because I don’t really ever see Faith as psyco-evil so much as easily manipulated and desperate for love and approval the pacing feels perfectly fine for me here and for most of season 3 as well. SMGs acting is just so unbelievably good. Faith’s journey is amazing. The first time I connect with Riley as a character is in this episode, and he has that great line “then you be Buffy.”

    On to my next thoughts, I understand why people believe Spike should have been staked good and proper when he showed up chipped at Giles’ and I know I am in the minority disagreeing, but I am hard pressed to think of a single instance in which Buffy has killed anything because it used to be a threat, for vengance for previous wrongs, or because something that is not an immediate threat may become one. I have a very difficult time imagining the Buffy I know and love slaying anything that can’t fight back – even Spike. I never wondered why they didn’t kill him. I would be really upset if they did, because a defenseless target is murder not a calling. Faith would have done it no problem – just not the Buffster.

    Willow and Tara… As a lesbian I know I am supposed to like them together. I love Willow and I love this story. I love the way its being told and at this point I get that Tara is supposed to remind us and Willow of who she was before all the magic and confidence. I like all of that. They just aren’t feeling like a real couple to me at this point. They never have, and I have never figured out why. They have a very tender, sweet, calm chemistry and I can’t tell what is missing for me at this point but something is. They feel like friends who hold hands…

    This is really long already, and now that I am caught up they should get shorter, so I will save my Riley issues for next time! Thank you so much for the podcast. It is very exciting to hear you discuss my thoughts, and I am glad to be caught up, but sad because now I have to wait for new episodes!

    Ammie


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