Faith, Hope and Trick. Let’s deal with those three in reverse order, as that approach will take us on a journey from least to most interesting. Mr Trick is presumably going to be around for a while, so it’s too early to stand in judgement over him too much, but first impressions would suggest that he’s a sort of watered down version of Spike. He’s a vampire who embraces the modern world and survives, in comparison to “Kissing Toast”, an ancient relic with a grudge who doesn’t make it to the end of the episode. I would think Mr Trick is an excellent character… if I hadn’t just watched Spike for a year. Instead, he just makes me want the real deal to return soon, instead of having to watch the tribute act.
Scott Hope is an all round nice guy with nothing to hide. Unless I’m watching the wrong series, that probably means he’ll turn out to be an all round bad guy with lots to hide. He is included in this episode as part of Buffy’s attempts to move on with her life after the death of Angel, but it feels far too soon and I didn’t buy that even a hormonal teenager would want to start dating again while still clearly grieving, nor that her friends would be so keen to push her into a rebound. That brings us to the episode ending, which is also too soon. As much as having Angel back will be fascinating, his return after just three episodes robs the finale to the previous season of some of it’s significance. It’s too swift and too easy a reversal of a tragic loss. Buffy needs to get better at dead meaning dead, or it’s going to feel like a world where the ultimate price never gets paid, and that makes Buffy’s life seem a little bit safer than it should.
Faith is our replacement for the dear departed Kendra, the “vumpire slayer”, and she’s immediately a far more entertaining character. She certainly entertains Xander with her anecdotes of battles and nudity. She knows how to charm the men, complimenting Giles immediately, who concludes that she has “a lot of zest”. She is indeed zesty, but all that “five by five” stuff and referring to Buffy as “B” might wear a bit thin quite quickly. She seems a little further removed from coming across as a real person rather than a caricature than Buffy as a show normally manages. Matters are helped towards the end of the episode when she is shown to have another side to her personality, panicking when she comes up against the monster who killed her Watcher.
But Faith’s most important role in the episode is to give Buffy the impetus to move on. As Buffy says, Faith “had a lot to deal with, but she did it; she got it behind her”… and then Buffy gets the thing behind her that has been eating away at her:
“Angel was cured.”
That’s great writing, and there’s a lot of truth in the feelings she experiences next:
“I’ve been holding on to that for so long, it felt good to get it out.”
And if we thought that was great writing, what happens next is sublime. Giles reveals to Willow that he was not preparing a spell at all. He was questioning Buffy so that she would deal with the secret she had bottled up inside her. Compare that to Joyce the Bitch Mum’s treatment of Buffy earlier in the episode:
“Buffy can be awfully negative sometimes.”
She can’t wait to compare her daughter unfavourably with Faith. In contrast to that latest bit of nastiness, Giles shows us what it really means to be a parental figure to a teenager, quietly and gently nudging her towards the place she needs to be to move on with her life. And just when Buffy and her happy team are settling back into their normal lives, it looks like moving on isn’t going to be as easy as it seems… RP
The view from the Sunnydale Press…
After a fairly mundane episode, I was hoping for another big, meaningful story. I fully understood why the last one was a bit slow, but didn’t expect Faith, Hope and Trick to be a bit weak as well. That’s not fair; it’s not weak, it’s just building up a season and I am feeling like I need to be generous, because between the start of Season One and the end of Season Two, the show drastically defied my expectations, so I can’t be unkind to this story. The episode also serves to continue Buffy’s lessons on consequences where Faith gets introduced and starts pulling an 11th Doctor move on all her friends. (The Lodger, an episode of Doctor Who, features Matt Smith getting involved with Craig, played by James Corden, where he basically overshadows Craig in every area of his life.) So, unless I miss my mark, we are being introduced to recurring characters. Scott Hope, I assume, will be returning as Buffy’s newest love interest. Faith is going to be a friend to help Buffy slay the really tough vampires. (I confess, it was amazing seeing Eliza Dushku as Faith. Like Xander, I was a bit taken with her…) The world building continues, as Faith was created with the death of Kendra, at the end of last season. And let’s not forget Trick, the main baddie, with his pal Kakistos, who gives me my second Doctor Who thought in one episode: he clearly kept a TARDIS in his shirt. Allow me to explain…
The main monster is a vampire who is so old he has cloven hands, feet and looks a bit like Woody Harrelson. As the audience, we spend the better part of the episode dealing with Buffy feeling like she’s second best to Faith, before she goes to confront the new slayer, knowing there’s something wrong there. Mr. Trick and Kakistos show up for a confrontation. Each time he’s appeared in the episode, Kakistos is portrayed like a big villain. I even wondered if he would be the season-long threat? Nope. He’s dispatched in one brief fight, when Faith takes a wooden rafter and plunges it into his chest, where it goes about 3 feet deep but never comes out the other side. I’m convinced it was TARDIS technology. Then he dematerializes in a puff of smoke, as vampires do. Mr. Trick walks off with a “my prayers are with him”, in perhaps one of the funniest escape-lines of all time, and he’s gone. (Maybe he’ll be back this season, replacing Spike as the annoying lurker in shadows.) Kind of a lame battle overall.
“Find a new theme!” True, the show isn’t about the battles. They add excitement but they are not the juicy part of the show. It’s really down to the characters. They utterly make this series. Unfortunately, they also exemplify some of the silliest aspects of the show at the same time. There’s a “Watchers’ Retreat”? Come on! How does one get invited? Are there brochures? And remember my comments last week? The Summers’ house is intact, no harm to anything and no police investigating the lost kids. Oh, well. We can’t have everything, huh? Oh, and the confrontation between Snyder and the Summers’ family goes so well until the mother says “what I believe my daughter is trying to say is ‘na-na-na-na-na-na’”. I cringed. Although on the flip side, there are moments like when Joyce finds out her daughter died (Season One finale). Although I think her reaction is far more muted than most parents, I do credit that they addressed it. Must be something they teach moms during that Slayer Pride Parade Joyce mentioned! I am also delighted that Buffy got it off her chest that she killed Angel after he was saved. That was a big deal and really shows a depth to Giles who gets her to say it under the guise of needing it for a spell. He helps her achieve a sense of catharsis. Maybe now, the show will be back on track. Maybe with the Principal in fact; I want to find out what’s going on there. When the mayor calls him, it just serves to let us know that there is definitely something afoot. (Maybe the mayor knows he’s a Ferengi in disguise? Too soon??)
If there’s been one thing I haven’t liked this season, it’s Angel. It’s as if they regretted writing him out of the show. I thought it during the first episode when Buffy dreamed about him. When it happened in the second episode, it solidified it. To have it a third time, I realized there must be more to it that just keeping David Boreanaz employed. And I was right though I was actually tricked at the last minute. As Buffy puts her ring on the ground in an act of saying goodbye, the screen goes dark and I almost hit stop because I don’t want Amazon to launch the next episode. I hovered my finger over the remote, when the screen came back to life! Can you imagine my shock! Would we get some moment of beauty before the end of the episode? Not based on the music! For no reason that makes any sense to me yet, Angel appears, back from hell. And he’s naked! Considering he died with his clothes on, that’s rotten luck and an absolutely beastly way to return to the series. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Beauty and the Beasts