Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Enemies

This is an expertly-crafted episode of Buffy, which pivots around two huge twists in the tale. The first is the return of Angelus, and the second is the non-return of Angelus. Both of them work brilliantly. Even on repeat viewing, knowing these moments are coming, it’s all hugely exciting. The first time round, it was electrifying viewing.

The first twist is linked to showing how far Faith has fallen. Before it happens, she crosses another line by killing a harmless demon, not for the sake of doing her job as a Slayer, but to steal something from him. Make no mistake, this is her second killing but her first murder. We are gradually moving towards a Buffyverse where demons can be people too. We have seen the start of that already with Anya (and arguably Oz), and it’s very early days, but we are on a path to a place where this series and its spinoff will treat some demons as possessing just as much humanity and moral code as a human. Skyler isn’t quite in that category, but he’s relatively harmless, the exact equivalent of Faith murdering a small-time human crook for some stolen goods. And we can see that it troubles her. Faith is somebody who always enjoys the kill when she’s staking a vampire, but this is different and she knows it.

That sets things up beautifully for Faith apparently seeking help from Angel, really selling that plot development as entirely plausible. But just when we think she’s hovering between good and evil and might be saved, Faith proves she has gone far too far down the wrong path. Anyone watching nowadays will probably struggle to understand the excitement of what happens next, but on first viewing there was no reason not to think we had just seen Angelus return, which of course would be a huge moment. Angel sells the deception well, a little too well, in fact, because his performance troubles Buffy so much that she needs a break from their relationship by the end of the episode. We are still very much in the realms of exploring the consequences of betrayals within relationships, and what Buffy had to go through with Angelus is always going to be festering away beneath the surface of their celibate romance. We also see the continuing consequences of Xander’s betrayal of Cordelia. She is moving on, possibly even on the rebound because Wesley is clearly an idiot in most respects, but Xander is fast becoming the outcast. He doesn’t quite hit rock bottom in this episode, but he comes close to it, removing himself from a group that would have been two couples plus Xander, and ending up as a punching bag so Angel can sell the return of Angelus. As is so often the case, Joss Whedon is an expert at making moments like that bittersweet by adding that essential extra ingredient: very funny comedy:

“That guy just bugs me.”

It’s interesting how quickly we have moved on from Faith being discussed as a potential version of Buffy as she might have been without friends, to Buffy specifically claiming to be a better person:

“You think you’re better than me.”
“I am. Always have been.”

But I think that’s because the choices Faith is making now are a very different matter to the accidental killing and the understandably messy way she handled the aftermath of that situation. This is a conscious decision to do the wrong thing, but it’s also interesting how much of a father figure the Mayor is becoming for Faith. As somebody who has felt so alone, even among her supposed new friends, it’s clear to see how feelings of loyalty to somebody who treats her like a daughter might cloud her judgement so severely. That’s why Buffy labelling Faith as a “loser” is a judgement we cannot subscribe to quite yet. She is much further down the wrong path than she was at the start of this episode, but her reaction to the messy business of killing the demon makes one thing clear: when we see Faith and the Mayor together, we can’t quite say “like father, like daughter”.   RP

The view from the Sunnydale Press…

I’m amazed at how on edge this show has been able to keep me.  I went from taking this series as a total laugh to a show that I’m really invested in.  All I can say is, Humble Pie never tasted so good.  In Enemies, the truth about Faith comes out and I’m supremely disappointed.  I wanted her to see the error of her ways, but I realize that’s more the fantasy than the reality and, for a show that lives firmly in the realm of fantasy, it does stick with reality where personalities are concerned. Plus it puts “Buffy and the Superfriends” in a pickle because Faith is bad enough on her own; when it seems like Angel and Faith are teaming up and that’s a match made in hell that the superfriends might not be able to beat. But like everything else with this show, it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve and I couldn’t be happier.  The truth is, we’re so used to the idea that Angel teeters on the edge of villainy, that when he goes over to the dark side, we accept it; there was always a sense of inevitability.  I have a confession though: I had one mild spoiler that made me think the Angel situation would have to be resolved this season (though I didn’t expect it in the same episode): I know Angel takes place around season 4 of Buffy so I didn’t expect him to stay bad for long, but I did expect him to stay bad for this episode.  To find he’s just a damned good actor was a punch-the-air moment.  I loved that moment when Faith puts it all together.

While that may be the biggest surprise of the episode, it wasn’t the only one.  Maybe this episode should have been called Surprises.  When Faith killed the friendly demon so brutally, I was honestly shocked.  Then she goes to Angel looking for help and I thought she was being legit.  I should have known for one reason alone: she leaves her hands bloody to show Angel… then runs her fingers through his hair when she wants to steal Buffy’s boyfriend.  Come on, Faith, that’s just evil!!  I mean, the bloody hands, not the stealing the boyfriend; I think that’s just teenagers.  Yet I really thought the clue Buffy needed to know about Faith was when they visited the friendly demon’s house and found him dead; Faith turns on the light without looking for the switch.  Considering she does it without turning around and it’s on the opposite side of the wall from where they are, that should have been the dead giveaway!  Buffy is no Sherlock!  (Or was she?)

I’ve been saying that this show has managed to be about actual important things and I really did think we were going to deal with addiction when Faith went to Angel and he said she “can’t do this alone”.  In her case, it would be that she is addicted to killing but the “hidden” message would be about actual addiction.  Instead, the best I could get out of this was the fact that sometimes friends drift apart and that’s a devastatingly painful thing.  Still, that’s ok because there doesn’t have to be a moral to every story.  And it could just be like Giles says: its about standards.  I thought Giles’ complaints about the standards of demons these days was marvelous.  Speaking of the superfriends, they always seem to have great lines in every episode.  Willow’s “I too know the love of a taciturn man” was hilarious, as was Xander’s, “He broke my face in a good way.”  Less enjoyable to me is the relationship between Wesley and Cordelia.  Oh, it should inspire me.  The king nerd of the geek kingdom is the apple of Cordelia’s eye?  Hot damn!  Except that’s less likely than vampires and demons running the streets of California.  The fact that she is literally “jail bait” should be a warning to Wes, but then if I’m a single guy working in a library and  Cordelia hits on me… yeah, let’s move on.  On the other hand, this episode goes out of its way to remind us that they are approaching graduation day which means, Cordelia could actually be 18 by this time.  Not that it changes things much, but in strictly legal terms, it does make a difference.

That Graduation day reminder is of significance too.  I’ve been watching on Amazon so I see the titles of what’s coming this season and we’re effectively told what’s happening in the finale.   The Mayor’s rise to power will have to reach that climax soon and with five episodes left to the season, it seems pretty clear when that will be happening.  But then, like Angel hurling a knife at the mayor when he was actually not evil, the series can still surprise us.  Actually, in retrospect, I think the most shocking moment was that the undead Arabian sorcerer was a good guy working with Giles since Giles set him up with his wife!  Genius!!  Plus, I want friends like that.  Well… that or Cordelia.  Unlike some demons, I have standards!  In fact, not to offend the undead sorcerer, but I’d take Cordelia over him any day, even with his special powers.  Mind you, I wouldn’t say that if he were anywhere within earshot…  ML

Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Earshot

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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