You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat. This is supposed to be my town!
I said a couple of weeks ago that Faith couldn’t pause in her downward spiral because it’s the only way she can live with herself. If she takes a breath, if she thinks about what she’s done, the guilt will catch up with her.
She hasn’t slowed down in the least by the time we get to “Enemies.”
The short of it: Faith and Buffy meet up with a demon offering to sell them “The Books of Ascension.” He’s under the impression that the Slayers already know what’s really going down in Sunnydale vis-à-vis the Mayor. One of them is, and Faith trots right back to the Mayor to let him know what’s going on. This sets in motion a plot to rob Angel of his soul and murder Buffy, which seems a bit extreme for a girl who played for the white hats less than a month ago. The Mayor lets her work up to it by murdering the demon brokering the books. It’s not like he’s human, right?
Murder-diddly-urdering done, Faith sets her sights on Angel, working a horizontal mambo angle in her quest to unleash Angelus.
I find it amusing that literally almost every person on the show defines Angel’s ‘”moment of happiness” trigger as the ability to have sex. Just any sex. Sex with anyone. One orgasm, pay with your soul. It’s a decidedly phallic-centric approach to the concept of the curse and everyone buys into it. Except for Angel. He’s implied that he understands it wasn’t the act of sleeping with Buffy that cost him. It was the fact that he loved her, and she loved him back, and they were able to fully share themselves with each other. I observed once before that Whedon sets up a dynamic where traditionally masculine/patriarchal ideals repeatedly cause trouble in his world — people who can’t evolve beyond that mode of thinking are left behind and frustrated. The whole sex=happiness debacle falls firmly under this umbrella. Faith wouldn’t have been any closer to Angelus if Angel had slept with her, but she has no way of understanding this. She’s bought into a whole host of patriarchal rigmarole that colors the way she views Slaying, how she relates to her friends, and how she views sex.
When seduction doesn’t get what she wants, the Mayor hires a sorcerer to rip Angel’s soul from him, and the two of them team up to get Buffy out of the way. Instead of just killing her, Faith relishes the idea of maiming and torturing Buffy — a fellow Slayer, a former friend, and more importantly a human being — all because she feels like she plays second slaying fiddle. So gleeful that she’s finally one-upped Buffy, Faith spills everything she knows about the Mayor’s planned Ascension. This is when Buffy and Angel reveal they’ve been playing her all along — Angel has his soul, they have the information they needed, and more importantly, Buffy’s not really chained up. Faith’s treachery is out in the open and after a brief throw down, she flees to the Mayor’s side.
Unlike last week’s “Dopplegangland,” “Enemies” is a slow burn, with few moments of humor and a depressing pall cast over the entire episode. The last third of it, where Faith and “Angelus” go on their tear, is a stunning example of how well Whedon and company handle dark storylines. It’s difficult to watch at times, especially the way that Faith is just so happy about torturing Buffy. She absolutely relishes the idea. The reveal of the torture instruments and her delight in describing exactly what she’s going to do with them is unsetting, to say the least.
On another show, such a turn about in personality — from savior of the world to villain in a handful of episodes — might have seemed inauthentic, but BVTS has been seeding the season’s episodes with hints of how deeply Faith covets everything Buffy has. So when Faith is standing in the mansion, knife in hand, and all the bile is spewing out of her, it’s completely understandable how Faith moved from feeling guilty about killing the demon earlier in the episode to plotting her friend’s murder with a song in her heart. It’s deep and ugly and real. Jealousy will fester. It will corrupt. And in someone as unstable as Faith, it’ll take over.
Faith: Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you’re better than me? Do you? Say it, you think you’re better than me.
Buffy: I am. Always have been.
There’s no coming back from this moment for either of the Slayers. Everything that is said in the mansion will color every interaction they have, all the way through the show and into the comics. Faith’s return in season 4’s “Who are You?” just reiterates the same themes, and later in season 7, when she handles the Scythe for the first time, Faith says though she feels like it was meant for her, that just means it really belongs to Buffy. And Buffy — who is able to separate Angel from the actions of Angelus, who forgives Giles for betraying her in “Helpless,” who remains friends with Willow after the close of season 6 — never, ever forgives Faith. She never gets over Faith’s betrayals. Maybe if Faith had just beaten her up a bit, or even if Faith had just slept with Angel, Buffy might have eventually moved on. But Faith betrayed what it means to be a Slayer and for someone like Buffy, who feels the burden of her responsibility so deeply, that is an unpardonable sin.
Next week: “Earshot”
Bonus Content: You’re welcome.