"I have to believe in a better world."
"Go ahead. I have to live in this one."
As I've said previously, the advantage of covering multiple episodes each week in the Buffy Rewatch is being able to skim over less interesting episodes. But the drawback to covering multiple episodes each week is that sometimes I'll want to write about all of the episodes. And this week brings three fantastic episodes - and they're all fantastic in their own ways.
In "Revelations", Faith's new Watcher Mrs. Gwendolyn Post (played by Serena - sister of Kristin - Scott Thomas) arrives in Sunnydale - only by the end of the episode we find out that she'd been fired by the Watchers Council and was in town to do some evil. Another authority figure lets Faith down - no wonder she's so cynical, so troubled.
The other big development in "Revelations" is that everyone discovers that Angel's back. The Scoobies attempt an intervention with Buffy, and it's as awkward as you'd expect. Given the events of season 2, there's no way that Angel would be able to be fully re-integrated into the gang, and the Scoobies (especially Xander and Giles) make that clear. Giles tells Buffy: ""I won't remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the Slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you've jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harboring a known murderer. But, sadly, I must remind you that Angel tortured me... for hours, for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn't. You have no respect for me or the job I perform." His disappointment upsets us almost as much as it upsets her.
The real strength of "Revelations" is in the setup of the final showdown. Xander tells Faith that Angel's back; after finding Giles unconscious at the library, Faith goes to the mansion to kill Angel. (Xander, to his credit, expresses doubt that Angel attacked Giles.) Buffy goes to the mansion to stop Faith from killing Angel. Mrs. Post goes to mansion to retrieve - not destroy - the glove. Faith arrives, sees Angel and Mrs. Post fighting. Faith tries to kill Angel, but Buffy stops her. They fight. The great thing about this scene is that, based on what Faith knows, her actions make perfect sense. Mrs. Post eventually tells her "Faith, a word of advice: you're an idiot." Faith insists later, as she often does, that she's "five by five", but it's clear that she's damaged. She says "I'm on my side, and that's enough", but she clearly could use a Giles, Willow, and Xander.
If I wanted to list all the things I adore about "Lovers Walk", I'd probably end up just reproducing the script. Seriously, it may be the most quotable episode of the series.
In a shot that references his arrival in "School Hard", Spike returns to Sunnydale. Except this time, he's drunk, depressed, and alone. Drusilla, unsurprisingly given the events of "Becoming, Part 2", dumped him. ("So, we got to Brazil and she was... she was just different. I gave her everything. Beautiful jewels, beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them, but nothing made her happy. And she would flirt. I caught her on a park bench making out with a Chaos Demon. Have you ever seen a Chaos Demon? They're all slime and antlers; they're disgusting.")
By the end of his visit to Sunnydale, Spike tells Buffy and Angel: "You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight and you'll shag and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it." Thanks for stopping by, Spike - see you in season 4!
"Lovers Walk" also bring an end to the romantic quadrangle nonsense involving Oz, Willow, Xander, and Cordelia. I haven't talked about Xander and Willow's secret kissing; it's not that I don't like it, it just feels kind of minor in hindsight. What's interesting about it, looking back at it now, is how it, in a way, resembles what happens in season 6, where we're more sympathetic to Willow and Xander's romantic partners than we are to Willow and Xander themselves. It's a tricky balance - you want to allow your characters to make mistakes so they can grow, but you don't want to make them completely unsympathetic. I think we're also more forgiving of characters in high school than we are of characters who are a few years older and should know better. (I expect this will be a recurring theme when we get to season 6.)
The only thing I don't like about "Lovers Walk" is the edit to the graveside funeral - you know the one, where we're supposed to think (for, like, five seconds) that Cordelia's dead. Actually a bunch of the editing in the episode is a little precious (a conversation in one scene appears to segue to the conversation in the next) - but the flaws are so minor they're irrelevant. "Lovers Walk" is a classic.
I'm a sucker for alternate universe stories. Seasons 2 and 3 of FRINGE brilliantly created two worlds and examined the ramifications of Walter Bishop's selfish (but entirely understandable) actions. And even more amazingly, allowed us to sympathize with characters in both worlds. "The Wish" gives us a much shorter, but also fascinating, look at an alternate world: one without Buffy.
Cordelia, understandably, remains upset with Xander following their breakup in "Lovers Walk". There's a new girl hanging out with Cordy's old friends -- and it's Anya. HI ANYA!! Anya doesn't really have much to do here - she's much more interestingly written in her next episode, "Doppelgangland" - but we do find out that Anya is a Vengeance Demon who grants Cordelia's wish "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale."
A Buffy-less Sunnydale is, naturally, a desolate hellscape. The Master is still alive and is running the town. Angel is imprisoned and being tortured. Giles, Oz, Larry, and (some girl named) Nancy are the "White Hats", fighting evil as best as they can. And, oh yeah, Willow and Xander are vampires.
(The first thing we hear Vampire Willow say is "Bored now." Make a note of this for later.)
Buffy eventually shows up - and she's a harder, more cynical version of herself. She's more like Faith. The series continues to do a great job of showing, not telling, when it comes to how much Buffy actually benefits from not fighting her battles alone.
And let's check on the death count at the end of "The Wish": Xander kills Angel. Buffy kills Xander. Oz stakes Willow. And The Master kills Buffy, again. Giles destroys Anyanka's power source, everything's back to normal, and Anya's stuck as a human teenager in Sunnydale.
And now, I can't WAIT to get to "Doppelgangland".
"Lovers Walk": A+
"The Wish": A+