Season 7, Episode 18
Original airing: 4/15/2003
My Rating: 76
The Good: This episode does an excellent job of introducing a physical threat to the gang and reintegrating Faith at the same time. It also ends on a powerful note of disharmony and separation within the Scoobies which I hope will have far reaching repercussions in the last bit of the season.
Caleb is an interesting villain. The basis for his character is very in line with Buffy mythology. He’s a man in a traditionally male role which dominates a traditionally male focused religion. Now, he’s attempting to go after literally the strongest woman power there is – the Slayer. I also like the disillusioned Godly man finding his way into the thrall of the supreme evil. It’s a nice symmetry.
The reveal of his joyful violence in the first scene really set the stage for him as a danger to our major players. But I loved how it hid his real strength until he effortlessly knocked Buffy across the cellar. I’m very excited to learn more about Caleb and what he’s capable of. He finally feels like a villain who can have a real effect.
I’m a big fan of Faith’s return. The show does a great job of subtly explaining her time in jail, why she stayed there, and why she’s here now. Even without watching Angel, her appearance makes sense and is tied into the story. Her conversation with Spike in the basement was a huge highlight. It gave a lot of backstory without her just sitting down and explaining herself to someone like Andrew. It also showed that in a lot of ways, she hasn’t changed at all. Her core of who she is remains intact.
I felt Buffy’s plan to attack Caleb was justified and appropriate. Her information indicates he’s just another human working for The First (ala Andrew) and she doesn’t want to risk any more dead potentials, if he has one in his power. She takes the best of her army and pulls a surprise attack. I’m on her side.
Whether or not she was being stupid, it ends in the same place. With two dead and two severely injured, Buffy’s army isn’t happy with her and she feels isolated and beaten down. Having this come at the same time as her rift with Giles really feels like it gives her no place to turn and is a compelling start to the end of the season.
The Bad: Andrew is a bit too much of an idiot in his belief that Faith fought a Vulcan. He seems quite convinced it’s actually true.
While the death of Molly and the other potential did a great job of illustrating Caleb’s brutality, I didn’t feel any particular pang from their loss. Molly hasn’t appeared for a few episodes and the other character was never introduced with a name. It’s an unfortunate example of how poorly the potentials have been endeared to the audience.
Favorite Moment: Even though I knew it was coming, I cringed when Xander’s eye was gouged out. It’s a very painful looking process, but it also hits to the core of Xander’s character and Caleb knows that with his comment about Xander being the one who sees things. This moment is made even more gut wrenching when compared to his impassioned speech about trusting Buffy. Well played, writers.
The Bottom Line: This episode is the beginning of the end and it pulls it off with a bang. Caleb is an excellent, creepy, unexplained threat, Faith is nicely brought into the fold, and we end with some pretty serious consequences. Where could it go from here?