Actions have consequences, and the more serious the deed the bigger the consequences. Some can be dealt with easily. Others create lasting damage. Last time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer we saw Faith kill a human being, while Buffy failed to stop her. Let’s look at the consequences of that crime:
Consequence #1: Guilt
Faith has shut herself off emotionally, so instead we see Buffy’s guilt manifesting itself at the start of the episode in the form of a dream. Interestingly, she is bring dragged down under water by the victim, but is also being drowned by Faith, which plays into how she must feel about the situation she’s in, as an accessory to the crime: she’s a victim herself, but also partially responsible at the same time. Later she expresses her feelings to Faith, and she feels “dirty, like something sick creeped inside you and you can’t get it out.”
Consequence #2: Damaged friendships
Willow is still disappointed by Buffy ditching her in favour of Faith, which is some great continuity. Everything has consequences in this show. Later, Xander spills the beans about having sex with Faith, and this hurts Willow deeply. It’s unspoken as to why exactly that might be, but it probably plays into the similar feeling she had about Cordelia. Xander failed to choose Willow for years, and then chose Cordelia, and has followed that up with a night of passion (well, ten minutes of passion maybe) with Faith. Willow tries to cover up her misery but it’s written all over her face, and later we see her in tears alone. Xander, is also clearly embarrassed and ashamed.
Consequence #3: Faith hardens her heart
Buffy and Faith have very different ways of dealing with things, but then again they have very different problems: Faith is the one who stabbed the stake into a man’s heart, after all. Faith tries to rationalise her behaviour as some kind of a right, and talks about how many people she has saved, but she’s not fooling anyone, least of all herself.
“We are better. That’s right, better.”
Consequence #4: Police involvement
Secrets often get found out, eventually. Once again, the world of law enforcement intrudes on the fantasy world of the Slayers, but they made this happen by doing damage to the human world.
Consequence #5: Betrayal
When Buffy goes to Willow, and then to Giles, it’s the first sensible thing we’ve seen her do for a long time. Giles is the one person who can genuinely help, and could actually put things into some context: “this is not the first time something like this has happened.” But Faith got to Giles first. Naturally, he doesn’t believe her for a second: “she may have many talents, Buffy, but fortunately lying is not one of them.” It’s a desperate tactic from Faith, and a betrayal of this nature in most circumstances would render somebody entirely friendless. Fortunately for Faith, her friends might be new to her life, but they are a very special bunch of people. The more she has tried to act alone, the worse things have got for her, and that is mirrored by the actions of Wesley. Time and time again, this series shows us the value of working in a team vs going it alone. Wesley’s intervention doesn’t just make things worse, it does so very quickly.
Consequence #6: “She’s got a taste for it now.”
The moment Xander arrives at Faith’s apartment we have an incredibly awkward build-up to the most uncomfortable and shocking scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer so far. Faith is sexually aggressive towards Xander, threatens him and then things escalate. If Angel hadn’t intervened, Xander would have been raped and strangled to death. We are left in little doubt that he would have been Faith’s second victim, and this one would have been deliberate. In fact, she may have already been in the act of raping him when Angel arrives; it’s unclear, as it has to be. Either way, in that moment, Faith has crossed a line that places her on the wrong side of the good/evil divide in this show, and that prepares the ground for…
Consequence #7: Faith switches sides
Mr Trick makes a surprising early exit from the show, but it’s a stroke of genius on the part of the writers, because it leaves a job opening for Faith. It’s a big, shock ending, but why does she do this? Broadly speaking, there were only three options open to her: (1) run away, and live with what must be unbearable internal torture forever, (2) face up to what she has done and allow herself to be helped in a healing process that will take a very long time and a huge amount of inner strength, plus potentially some very serious legal consequences, (3) double down on the Bad Girl attitude. And for somebody like Faith, it’s surely a very simple equation. She goes for the easiest option. What she does is the simplest path to taking control of her life, or so she thinks. She’s trying to make herself think she wants to be the person she has become. A life in denial of her true nature might just be the biggest consequence of all. RP
The view from the Sunnydale Press…
Well, it’s pretty clear that Consequences is a direct sequel to last week’s Bad Girls. This isn’t the first time the series has done this; we are given a two part story, but without the title to let the audience know it. Bit of a cheap shot in some ways, as I plan my weekly viewing early! As one might expect, Consequences is about the … you guessed it… consequences of last week when Faith murdered a man then moved his body. Obviously we need to look at what the fallout from such an action could be but as I’ve come to learn with this series, we’re in deeper waters even than that. We are shown many consequences here. The consequences of ignoring friends (Xander is almost killed by Faith when he goes on his own to speak to her against their advice), the consequences of loose lips (Willow is heartbroken to learn that Xander had sex with Faith), the consequences of betraying people (Wes is treated like an outcast even when he offers to help) and of course, those of the murder of the mayor’s assistant. These two episodes offer us a double dose of deepness, if you’ll pardon the alliteration!
The writing draws us in and it’s very clear that this is not the teen-saves-the-world silly show we thought it was back in Season One. We are made to feel for Buffy and Faith. We know it was a mistake but Faith won’t come clean; she won’t accept help, thinking to do so would be a weakness. Worse, she betrays Buffy, but I love that the standard approach is completely subverted in a very realistic way: Giles knows Faith is lying. He doesn’t fall for her lies. That is very mature of the writing because it’s so common to use the “she confessed first” card to get the confessor out of “jail”. It typically ignores the fact that one character should know the other. Equally, I love that Buffy confides in Willow. Again, these people know each other and have been through some really harrowing ordeals; they should be able to confide in each other. I applaud the writing for that!
Unfortunately, there are things that still get under my skin. The biggest is admittedly a major plot point: when Buffy and Giles are talking, why does no one think to close the door?? Wesley is eavesdropping and had they just considered the fact that someone might walk in, as has happened before, that could have been avoided. But I’d be willing to let that go due to the stress of the situation except for the fact that Wesley then turns up at Angel’s house. How?? When did he get Angel’s address? And considering he takes the vampire down, why doesn’t he kill Angel? (Not that I want that, but it makes less sense that he’s allowed to live!) And I’m bothered by the investigation around the murder of Mr. Finch. The woman interrogated says she heard a scream and the forensics experts are cleaning blood on the dumpster from where he was killed. Except, Finch was eerily quiet as he died from a wound to the chest which was facing away from the dumpster. I’ve seen enough Dexter to know which way blood spatter goes! There shouldn’t have been any blood on the dumpster! Not to mention, after the events of Ted, surely some of the local constabulary must suspect things are amiss the moment Buffy is involved! I know I’ve been made to eat humble pie before, and in reality, I hope I do again, but these are still irksome moments for me. It’s been a while since I’ve brought up Babylon 5, but I can hear Roger’s words talking about that: it was often one rewrite away from perfection. I see the same thing with these errors. Buffy has risen to a very high place indeed, in just three seasons, but we’re often still a step away from perfection!
On the other hand, I love that there’s continuity in that Willow is still trying to de-rat Amy. I loved the reaction Wesley has toward Cordelia especially as Giles walks by and whispers that she’s a student. I do have to ask though: how is it that this dude is not being investigated himself. He’s an adult loitering around a school, and even fawning over Cordelia. Surely, someone would have something to say about that. (I also loved that Cordelia called Wesley, “Giles: The Next Generation”!) I was stunned that the big bad of the season, Mr. Trick, was killed in this episode. Clearly I misunderstood who the big bad was! I know the Mayor, but I thought Trick was in league with him. Clearly he’s in a different league altogether! But most impressive is the idea that Faith represents the mirror, mirror image of Buffy; the “what if” version that might have been had she not had her friends. We got a glimpse of that in The Wish when Cordelia wished Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Now we see it again but in Faith. Faith truly believes that “we are better” when talking to Buffy about other people. Seems like that other Buffy would have agreed. Yet we want Faith to come around and I was pretty convinced she would. That’s the way these shows work. But the series maintains the high ground where it counts and subverts expectation yet again. Faith does not come around; in fact, she “goes around” to the Mayor’s office and asks for a job. And we’re left wondering what that means. Is this going to be like Angel, where sooner or later she is saved? Or is that a copout, giving us another lucky victory somewhere down the line?
Even though the episode is not flawless, I am still deeply invested in where the story is going. I love the arc and the development. And more than anything, I love the characters, even when things are not working out as planned. Right now, my interest in dichotomies just has me hoping that, copout or not, they can save Faith from this lost doppelganger version of Buffy that has landed on the mayor’s doorstep! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Doppelgangland