Sunnydale. Town’s got quaint, and the people: he called me “sir,” don’t you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it’s not a haven for the brothers. You know, strictly the Caucasian persuasion here in the Dale. But you know you just gotta stand up and salute that death rate. I ran a statistical analysis and, Hello Darkness. Makes D.C. look like Mayberry. And ain’t nobody sayin’ boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun.
I think one of the things I most appreciate about Buffy is that the plotting of the show never takes the easy way out after big emotional pieces. We’re in the third episode of this season and the repercussions from “Becoming 1 & 2” are still revealing themselves. BvTS will live under the shadow of those two episodes for the remainder of the show’s life – it always comes up, it will always come up, even if it manifests itself in different ways.
Simple things first – Kendra’s death finally calls another Slayer, Faith, who rides into Sunnydale while trying to escape a cloven-hoofed vampire named Kakistos. Buffy and Kendra had their issues. Kendra did try to kill her at one point, so, you know, it took a bit for them to get along. Faith is an entirely different beast. Buffy is motivated by righteousness. Kendra by obligation. Faith – well, she seems to revel in the killing part just a little too much, likes her power a little too much, and doesn’t seem to really get the whole “protector” aspect of the job.
I was struck in rewatching this episode by how much Buffy disliked Faith. It’s painted as jealousy and threat to her own position, but knowing how things unfold, I was reminded that Buffy is repeatedly shown to have excellent instincts. She spends a lot of time distrusting her gut in the early seasons – part of her growth as the Slayer is embracing that she has some hint of extra-human something-or-other that sets her apart from the Slayers that have come before her. She reacts badly to Faith, everyone discounts her feelings, and a lot of people are going to die on account of it in the coming weeks. Many more people will bleed because of it.
The show’s subtext of Slayer-as-sexual-orientation, which is generally especially present in conversations between Buffy and her mother, leaps directly into the text when Joyce admits to the trouble she’s had embracing the way Buffy was “born” and that she’s tried to march in the “Slayer Pride Parade.” Joyce also asks if Faith can take over as the Slayer since Buffy will be going off to college soon, which I thought was a pretty funny stab at a reverse-LAG joke. (Lesbian until graduation.) There’s probably something here about how vocal Faith is about her interest in guys and her voracious sexual appetite as a metaphor for her denying her lesbian interests, particularly in Buffy, whom she kisses on the mouth after an emotionally charged fight later in the season, but now that I’ve written it out, I think I just made that point.
Other minor points of interest – Willow’s interest in magic keeps developing, with her asking to get involved in the special “spell” Giles is crafting. Joyce finds out Buffy died in season 1, which Buffy blows off with, “It was just for a minute or so.” I’m sure Xander probably did something douchy, but nothing stands out.
The more complicated season 2 fall out – Buffy’s lingering guilt over killing Angel.
She’s a hero. Killing Angel saved the world. He probably deserved it. Any other show would have devoted an episode to making Buffy feel bad about it before seeing that she did it for the greater good, but BvTS takes a more nuanced approach. I mentioned last week that her friends and family give Buffy a rash of shit about how her running away made them feel without bothering to ask themselves why she would have done something so dramatic, but what I didn’t mention and is very important, is that Giles wasn’t there for the guilt-Buffy-athon. He is the one person who knows that something is very wrong with her. And he’s the one person who tries to help her, by convincing her to lay down her burdens, even if just for a moment, by confessing what really happened in the mansion that night. Willow’s spell worked, so the monster she had to kill was really Angel. Her instinct to protect her friends is so strong that she’ll carry these horrid secrets around with her, because she’s the Slayer, and carrying burdens is what she does. There’s a direct line from the actions in this episode all the way through to the sixth season, where Buffy suffers for her friends and has to be coerced into giving up the truth.
Buffy: When I killed him, Angel was cured. Your spell worked at the last minute, Will. I was about to take him out, and, um… something went through him… and he was Angel again. He-he didn’t remember anything that he’d done. He just held me. Um, but i-it was… it was too late, and I, I had to. So I, I told him that I loved him… and I kissed him… and I killed him.
Buffy: I don’t know if that helps with your spell or not, Giles.
Giles: Uh, yes, I, I believe it will.
Willow: I’m sorry.
Buffy: It’s okay. I’ve been holding on to that for so long. Felt good to get it out. I’ll see you guys later.
Willow: Giles, I know you don’t like me playing with mystical forces, but I can really help with this binding spell.
Giles: There is no spell.
Go ahead. Argue with me that Giles isn’t the best TV father you’ve ever come across.