“I do not, however, understand why the woman who brutally tortured me last night, this morning gets pastries.”
Faith’s story arc winds up this week in the second part of her Angel guest starring role, “Sanctuary.”
We’ve had three weeks of fighting and revenge, all culminating in Faith’s breakdown at the end of last week’s episode, “Five by Five.” “Sanctuary’s” challenge is to make us believe that Faith is ready to redeem herself and that she’s in the place where she’s going to accept the guilt and burden of her own acts. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk, because we’ve had a couple of seasons of Faith’s “evilness” rammed down our throats. Just last week, she brutally tortured Wesley, something the show doesn’t shy away from reminding us of. It’s certainly the most challenging of the four parts and I was disappointed but not surprised to see it fall flat at several moments. It’s not helped that an episode about the redemption of a murderer’s soul is punctuated with the kind of jump cuts and funny editing that was super popular at the time it was filmed. The flashing lights and inverted colors that mark cuts to different scenes are so dated and glaring, I was filled with second hand embarrassment for all involved.
Angel has taken Faith in after the alleyway fight. He is attempting to offer sanctuary. Wesley understands, theoretical-like, why Angel didn’t kill her but seems unsure about coddling her with pastries. Wesley has every right to hold a grudge; he’s certainly acting more understanding than I would be in a similar situation. This is a far cry from the Wesley that came onto the scene in Sunnydale. That’s the one who turned Faith into the Watcher’s Council, a technically correct move that loses points in the moral execution department (depending on your point of view). Cordelia, ever practical, has Angel send her on an all expenses paid vacation. Forgiveness is not her thing.
It is also not Wolfram and Hart’s thing. Down one Slayer for Hire and still holding steady on the vampiric enemy with a soul count, they call in another demon assassin to take care of their dirty work. But wait! At the same time, the Council Hunters from Sunnydale have slunk into town after Faith and approach Wesley with promises of getting him back on the Council if only he’d lead them to Faith’s hideyhole.
Faith suffers from the same hallucinations she was having in “Who Are You,” in which she saw herself violently stabbing Willow to death, except this time it’s Angel. She’s shaken by the thoughts but trying to power through while Angel hovers around her, waiting for her fragile sanity to crack all the way through. She is walking around the house holding a knife she hasn’t seemed to realize she picked up. The demon assassin crashes into this scene, requiring both of them to fight, and in order to save Angel, Faith stabs the demon to death with a kitchen knife. Faith has generally done her killing close up and personal, but after the demon is dead, this seems to be the first time she really sees the blood on her hands, and she breaks down.
As Angel comfort-cuddles Faith, Buffy waltzes into the apartment, catching a partially clad ex-boyfriend embracing her nemesis. To really get the full impact of the WTF-ness of this scene, you should be aware of a few things: 1) Faith tried to seduce Angel back in season 3 and Buffy had to watch the two of them make out for hours as Faith prepared to torture her. 2) Buffy was willing to commit murder to save Angel’s life, leading to stabbing Faith, which led to the coma she was in the for the past year. 3) Faith tried to frame Buffy for murder. 4) Faith stole Buffy’s body after threatening to murder her mother and fucked Buffy’s boyfriend in Buffy’s skin. 5) Buffy and Angel are in that horrible post break-up phase where you still feel proprietary over each other but you can’t be together and every interaction feels like sandpaper on your soul anyway.
Needless to say, all of this looks terrible.
Faith is quick to say that there is nothing she could ever say to apologize for what she’s done to Buffy, and part of me suspects that Faith mostly means everything that’s happened over the last couple of weeks, not everything Faith’s done. And Buffy, who really can hold a grudge with the best of them, threatens to beat her to death. And then Angel jumps in with his “only I can understand what Faith is going through” shtick, which plays even less well with Buffy than it did with Cordy and Wesley, and then, the two of them come to blows over Faith. Despite the fact that she struck him first, Angel hitting her back to protect Faith shocks Buffy.
And then they’re not fighting about Faith any more, they’re arguing over their dead relationship. Buffy rubs it in his face that she has a nice, normal mid-western boyfriend she can trust and whom she loves, which is lying on a couple of levels, even if it’s unconscious. To really get the full impact of Angel’s reaction to this, you would have had to have been watching his show because just a few months before this, Angel was granted his mortality. He and Buffy had a night of passion, and then he discovered that being mortal made him weak and vulnerable and it made her weak to protect him. So he bargained with the Powers That Be to undo the last day of his life and everyone in the world, but he, would forget about the time he could have been with Buffy forever. So when Angel lashes out at her about her wonderful life and how he has no one to talk to about the pain he’s going through, he’s not just talking about the fact that they broke up. He sacrificed a whole future, for her. His happiness, for her. Everything that could have been, for her, and he can never tell anyone about it.
Wesley has struck a false deal to fake lead the Council hunters to the very real lair and interrupts all the domestic squabbling with important news about the trap that’s being laid for them. But the hunters weren’t really going to give Wesley his job back, nor do they trust him, because liars expect everyone else to lie to them too. So the gang needs to fight their way out of the trap, up to the roof, where Buffy defends Faith even though she hates her, because that’s what Buffy does.
Faith disappears during the helicopter rooftop fight. And! Wolfram and Hart have gone to the cops and told them that Angel is protecting a murderer, so they arrest Angel for obstructing justice. Buffy and Wesley accompany Angel and the cops down to the station, afraid that Angel is going to be put in a sunny cell for the want of one murderous, insane, Slayer.
Faith is waiting for them at the station. She wants to confess to a murder, she says.
Images courtesy of BuffyWorld and Goodbye Piccadilly Farewell Leicester Bloody Square and property of 21st Century Fox.