You and me, Faith, we’re a lot alike. Time was, I thought humans existed just to hurt each other. But then I came here. And I found out that there are other types of people. People who genuinely wanted to do right. And they make mistakes. And they fall down. You know, but they keep caring. Keep trying. If you can trust us, Faith, this can all change. You don’t have to disappear into the darkness.
On the heels of “Bad Girls,” Faith’s downward spiral picks up a lot of steam. “Consequences” is chock to the brim with betrayals and bad choices — in retrospect, it seems so strange that everything changes in the course of one episode, but everything about Faith at this point is rash and unthinking. Of course she nearly kills someone else, frames Buffy for a murder, gets captured twice, and switches allegiance to the dark side in less than 48 hours. It doesn’t feel faked or dishonest — if Faith took a breath, she might have to face her guilt. Or hell, any feelings at all, and anyone who watches this show knows Faith does her damndest to keep those at bay.
We pick up with Buffy dreaming about drowning again, but instead of at the hands of The Master, she’s dragged down by the murdered corpse and held under by Faith. No prophecy here — that’s a straight up nightmare. She tries, over and over again, to get Faith to confront what she did and own up to it. Buffy couldn’t stand thinking she murdered Ted back in season one, and now that someone actually is dead (and not a homicidal robot), she can barely stand it. Heroes don’t kill innocents.
Faith is a warrior, not a hero, and there’s where they diverge. She is not only unwilling to admit, even to the Watchers, what happened, but once the cops are on her tail, she throws Buffy under the bus, telling Giles that Buffy is a murderer. And she walks away, so sure that her lies work. Which has to be active denial on her part — he loves her and he knows Buffy better than anyone. (“She’s a hero, you see.”) None of it saves Faith from Wesley pulling rank and reporting her to the Council, who abducts her from Angel, who in turn had kidnapped Faith while she was trying to send Xander to the big sleep. With every door slammed in her face and no way out of the cage she built for herself, Faith trades teams, signing up with the Mayor after she slays Mr. Trick.
There’s a point in the episode when Faith throws it in Buffy’s face that she was willing to lie to everyone she knew and loved when she discovered that Angel was alive. Faith means this as an insult but the irony is that the same instincts that drove Buffy to protect Angel were driving Buffy to try and save Faith. Just as Buffy knew that there was something worth saving in Angel, she knows there’s a piece of Faith she might still be able to reach. She argues this to her friends, even while bruises are blossoming around Xander’s throat and after Faith tried to frame her, and she argues this to Faith herself, trying to pull her back from the abyss. She sends Angel after her, to try and reach her, every action desperate. Nothing works, because Faith can’t or won’t allow it. Faith doesn’t understand help. She doesn’t understand teams. She doesn’t recognize friendship. As Alex pointed out last week in the comments, Faith is the Slayer Without — without friends, without trust, and without faith.
And so she’s lost. Faith has one last kindness in her, one thing she does on instinct — she keeps Trick from murdering Buffy. She stopped at the cliff’s edge before flinging herself over it, landing in front of the Mayor’s office door.
The costuming, when not trying to explode our eyeballs with giraffe printed pants, is always a treat to pay attention to. As Buffy wrestles with what happened in that alley and keeping that a secret from Giles and the others, she’s dressed in dark, somber colors. When she finally confesses to someone, Willow, she wears a brilliant red coat, an echo of her little girl lost coat/cape from “Helpless.” It’s a color that we see her in when she’s feeling vulnerable. And finally, as she’s looking for Faith on the docks, she’s in a mottled black and white jacket, all conflicting emotions and purposes. Faith is out of white; not even her tank top makes an appearance this episode. Halfway through the episode, she’s loaded up in leather, fetishy pants and heavy boots. She’s decided she’s going to be a villain. She might as well dress like one.
Easter egg, of sorts — During Buffy and Trick’s showdown fight, he wraps a red rope around her neck and tries to strangle her with it. If you’re familiar with the original Buffy movie, you might get a sense of déjà vu. During Buffy’s struggle with the master vampire, he attempts to hold her in place and kill her with a red ribbon drawn around her neck. It’s a motif repeated several times during the course of the movie, and is itself a reference to post revolutionary France, where red necklaces and scarves were all the rage to mock the beheadings. Vampires don’t usually guillotine their victims, but the neck usually ends up pretty bloody anyway. (Chantal/Lily/Anne wears a large red choker the night she’s going to be turned into a vampire as well.)