Retro Recap: Angel S1.E19 — “Sanctuary”

[E] Slay BelleLadyGhosts of TV Past2 Comments

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“I do not, however, understand why the woman who brutally tortured me last night, this morning gets pastries.”

Faith and Buffy, windblown by a helicopter

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.

Faith holding a large kitchen knife

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.

Angel hugs and comforts Faith

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.

Buffy and Faith glare at each other

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.

Animated gif: Buffy punches Angel; he punches her back; she looks shocked.

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 and the Council

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.

Faith leans against a wall, looking defeated

Images courtesy of BuffyWorld and Goodbye Piccadilly Farewell Leicester Bloody Square  and property of 21st Century Fox.

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[E] Slay BelleRetro Recap: Angel S1.E19 — “Sanctuary”

2 Comments on “Retro Recap: Angel S1.E19 — “Sanctuary””

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  1. Profile photo of Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn
    Sheena really wouldn't mind an early autumn

    I think this episode is Eliza Dushku’s best representation of Faith. No bravado or strutting or trying to prove that she’s strong and can take care of herself. She’s still subconsciously living in flight-or-fight, ready to stab someone or bolt. But, really, she’s exhausted and traumatized and ultimately just wants to stop running and hiding and fighting. And, well, Angel was more prepared to help with some aspects than others — like the philosophical soliloquy about how microwaves work.
    Faith’s first truly adult, mature decisions were in this episode — especially turning herself in to the police. Since I first saw this episode, I hoped that therapy was included — as a “you turned yourself in, so we’ll help you not be a murderer anymore, but you’re still spending your young adult years in prison” deal.

    This was about the time that I started to actually like Cordelia, too — especially her few minutes in this episode. Cordy didn’t have any objections to Angel helping Faith, but she didn’t want to be there until Faith wasn’t quite so dangerous. Cordy isn’t even really holding much of a grudge so much as protecting herself…I think she knew that, while Faith was dangerous, Faith didn’t hate her. Faith didn’t really care about Cordelia, Cordy was just there. Cordelia hadn’t done anything to her, not really; she wasn’t the other Slayer who had everything Faith never had, she never betrayed Faith, and she never used or abused Faith. The elbow-in-the-face knockout was a lot like Faith-as-Buffy verbally cutting into Tara — both were there and both were fairly easy targets. But both had reason to fear Faith, because she was prone to striking out at the easy targets.

    And, Buffy. I started to lose a bit of that idealization of Buffy when I saw this episode, because (unlike her actions through S5 on her own show), Buffy was just being cruel. Sure, she had reason to be angry — many, many reasons — but the only person she’s ever really hated and wanted to suffer was Faith. She forgave Spike in the end, ffs, and sees Angel and Angelus as completely different people. Buffy doesn’t even really consider that Faith wants to change or is trying not to hurt people, she’s just lashing out at her. Buffy’s anger is justified (between the pre-coma and post-coma murdering, kidnapping, torturing, and beating on people Buffy cares about, and THEN Faith-as-Buffy boinking Stupid Riley…), but she is so convinced that she is Right and Faith is Evil that she won’t consider any other interpretation.

  2. Profile photo of MJ
    MJ

    “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.”

    Just reading that makes me want to curl into a little ball of misery and cry like a baby again.

    Not that I did that before, when I watched the first time.

    Never mind.

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