Synopsis: A Preacher called Caleb rescues a new Potential on her way to Sunnydale. But he then stabs her and tosses her in front of Willow’s car with a message for Buffy. Willow brings Faith back to town and she joins the Scoobies as Buffy tracks down Caleb. The ensuing fight is a disaster.
The Good: This was very strong. Caleb felt like a Turok-Han upgrade. He was equally strong but represented a far more specific threat to the Scoobies and Potentials.
The choice of a Preacher who enjoys killing “dirty girls” feels intrinsically Joss Whedon as a choice. If you believe that powerful men and organised religion have tried to control women and their sexuality then Caleb seems a perfect representative. He worships the First in all its evil and almost lusts over the chance to do its bidding.
It’s interesting to wonder who would have been cast in this role if Firefly hadn’t been cancelled. As it is ultimate nice guy Nathan Fillion does an excellent job at playing evil. It helps that Caleb is well written and effective. Unlike the Turok-Han he kills those he’s tormenting and targets Xander specifically for shocking mutilation. His introductory car ride was superb. He lectured and tortured all with a smile and a sureness of purpose.
I enjoyed the scene where the First allows him to relive his past kills. It was like a strange form of seduction with the First indulging Caleb in his murderous memories. That sequence had an interesting echo in Faith’s conviction that all men have hidden sexual fantasies (and I suppose to Xander’s literal ones).
The writing was solid throughout this. Faith really felt like Faith as she talked about her time in prison and her willingness to fight the good fight. Her flirtatious chit chat with Spike crackled with unsurprising chemistry. Giles’ caution was entirely understandable and perhaps accurate. Xander’s passionate defence of Buffy’s motives was believable and of course pitifully foreshadowing.
The big fight scene was very well constructed. The barrels of wine made for a fresh dynamic as bodies smashed into blood coloured rivers. The choreography of the heavy hitters taking on Caleb was dramatic. While the brutal killing and maiming were suprising and effective. It ended the episode with the Scoobies vulnerable and disunited just as the end begins.
The Bad: I know he was telling the truth but I wasn’t too thrilled with Andrew telling stories again. I don’t believe he’s stupid enough to claim Faith fought a Vulcan.
The Unknown: If Caleb is human where does his power come from? Earlier this season we heard about Xander seeing things (712) but how did Caleb know that?
Best Moment: Caleb reliving his Greatest Hits. It felt like the first time the First has really come across as properly creepy.
The Bottom Line: This was exactly what the season needed. Finally there are consequences and serious losses on the Scooby side. Now they have to pull themselves together and find a way to save the world.