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Monday, April 9, 2012

Enemies

[Updated April 30, 2013]

The title of Enemies is ironic. Faith became Buffy’s enemy the moment the Mayor opened his door in Consequences. Buffy just didn’t know she had an enemy until now.


When I first saw Enemies, I missed the clue that Buffy caught when she realized that Faith had killed the demon and had gone over to the Mayor. So for those watching for the first time, when she and Faith went into the demon’s apartment, they had no way to know what might be there. “Buffy: Faith, careful.” However, Faith entered the room without any concern that the demon might be still alive. Then she went straight to the light switch around the corner in the other room as if she knew where it was. Buffy even gave her a look at that point. It’s subtle, but the clue is there.
I’ll start the discussion with the metaphor. When Faith first approached Angel with blood on her hands, she was trying to seduce him. We didn’t know that at the time, but the later conversation between Faith and the Mayor confirms it:
“Faith: It's not like I wasn't trying, okay?
Mayor: Hey, there's no need to convince me. I'm sure you gave it your level best. I just don't understand what that boy could be thinking?
Faith: Try Buffy Summers, like in a big, fat, one track way.
Mayor: Hey, come on, don't be discouraged. You're a bright, young, energetic girl with a whole life ahead of her. And I won't tolerate brooding. So you couldn't give him that one moment of true happiness.
Faith: I was thinking more along the lines of a long weekend, but okay.”

Had Faith been able to sleep with Angel, this would have accomplished three purposes. First, it would have meant that Angel betrayed Buffy. Second, it would, in Faith’s mind at least, have validated her superiority to Buffy. We see this in the later dialogue: “Faith: Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you're better than me? Do you? Say it, you think you're better than me. Buffy: I am. Always have been. Faith: Um, maybe you didn't notice. Angel's with me.”
Third, it would have taken an ally away from Buffy and given one to the Mayor.
When the original plan didn’t work, they opted to summon the Mage and use the spell. I see this as a metaphor for almost a kind of emotional blackmail. What the spell did, in essence, was allow Faith to say “sleep with me or I’ll tell Buffy you slept with me by showing her ‘evidence’ that you did”. It was important to her that she be able to flaunt such a ‘triumph’. The plan backfired because Angel merely pretended to demonstrate that “evidence” and he told Buffy the truth. I’ll elaborate on the context of this point in my post on Graduation Day.
Now let me turn to Faith’s weaknesses, which the episode openly explores. Enemies marks a giant leap into the dark for her. Where she was willing to save Buffy’s life in Consequences and was reluctant to harm Willow in Doppelgangland, she now is willing to loose a monster onto the world. She’s become a monster herself (Joss’s word). And she’s doing it as much to hurt Buffy as for any practical benefit to the Mayor’s plans (which we get the first hints about).
It’s resentment that’s driving Faith’s rage. We see it when she thinks she has Buffy helpless:
“Buffy: Why, Faith? What's in it for you?
Faith: What isn't? You know, I come to Sunnydale. I'm the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who's everybody thank? Buffy.
Buffy: It's not my fault.
Faith: Everybody always asks, why can't you be more like Buffy? But did anyone ever ask if you could be more like me?
Angel: I know I didn't.
Faith: You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat. This is supposed to be my town!
Buffy: Faith, listen to me!
Faith: Why? So you can impart some special Buffy wisdom, that it? Do you think you're better than me? Do you? Say it, you think you're better than me.”

Faith’s basic complaints are all false. She wasn’t “doing her job better than anyone”. When she came to Sunnydale, she was running away and planned to dump her problem on Buffy. She cooperated only sporadically with Giles and Buffy in between her “walkabouts”. When she did act as the Slayer, her judgment was erratic and even dangerous when she went after Angel in Revelations. She failed to notice Buffy’s plight in FH&T and she was reckless throughout Bad Girls.
Nor was it the case that she was rejected when she first arrived. In FH&T it was Buffy who was feeling left out because Xander, Willow, and Joyce all seemed so charmed with Faith. Giles was prepared to act as her Watcher and Wesley insisted on it.
What really bugs Faith, I think, is that at some level she knows what she’s saying is false and that Buffy really is better than her. And it’s that sense of inferiority which is driving the rage she admits to. Notice the example she uses when wants to prove her superiority: “Angel's with me.” This wouldn’t be much of an example at any time. It’s more an expression of spite than superiority.
This leaves us to explain Buffy’s concern about Angel which she expressed to Willow after she saw Angel and Faith seemingly intimate, and in the fact that she requested a “break” from Angel at the end. As I see it, the role she asked Angel to play (which he did all too well – though it’s not text, I assumed when I saw it that “Angelus” and Faith had sex) called into question just what it was about Buffy that Angel found attractive. This would concern Buffy because she doesn’t want it to be her dark side. She wants to be loved for her good qualities, not her dangerous ones. Who wouldn’t?
Trivia notes: (1) The movie Angel and Buffy saw in the teaser is fictitious. (2) Faith’s description of Buffy and Angel as “close but no cigar” seems like a Freudian pun. (3) Faith described the SG as the Super Friends, which was an animated cartoon series from the ‘70s and ‘80s. (3) Buffy described Faith as “making Godot look punctual”. Godot was the friend who never arrived in the play Waiting for Godot. (4) Willow found the Mayor’s files empty because in Doppelgangland she told Faith that she was trying to access them; Faith obviously told the Mayor. (5) “Angelus’s” words to Buffy “Maybe there's still some good deep down inside of me that remembers and loves you.” are nearly an exact quote of what she said to him in Innocence. (6) Writer Doug Petrie compared Angel’s role in this episode to the TV show Wiseguy, which involved an undercover agent who infiltrated the mob. One of the issues that show raised was the extent to which playing such a role leads one to become the part. This helps explain Buffy’s request for a “break”.

2 comments:

  1. Mild structural spoilers...

    This is one of my favorite episodes...particularly as a pivot point for the season, since in the fashion of most of the seasons, there is a build toward the final few episodes that I feel is climbing at this point...I'm curious if you'll talk at all about how the season arc from this point works both with and without Earshot, since originally, it wasn't aired...

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    1. Your timing for this question is perfect -- I got it just as I was revising my Earshot post. Your question hadn't occurred to me, but it's a good one and I'll add some thoughts on it. Thanks.

      When I first saw the Enemies, I didn't think that much of it. Like I say above, I missed the clue and didn't get what was going on. I've since come to think it's pretty damn good.

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