"Faith, Hope & Trick" (3x03) quick link here "Homecoming" (3x05) quick link here
Two quick notes before we get started...
1) I will be reviewing the episodes in bullet point form. This is because it makes the reviews simple to read, and helps break up the text.
2) If you are watching the show for the first time along with these reviews, please be warned that there may be a few spoilers for things that haven’t happened yet.
With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?
• This is one of those episodes like “Ted”, “Lie To Me”, or “I Only Have Eyes For You”, that always seems to get underrated by the fandom in general. While it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it does do a great job of exploring the theme of abusive relationships. Unlike most metaphors in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” episodes, this one isn’t well masked. Nor should it be. When dealing with an issue like abuse or loneliness, I feel like the audience shouldn’t have to try and analyse what the message of the episode is. It should be obvious because there’s no grey-area in such a negative issue. Exploring a story about abuse isn’t a new venture for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, as this issue was also brought up in season two’s “Ted”. However, this is boyfriend-girlfriend abuse rather than step-parent/step-child abuse like in “Ted”. While both are similar in some ways, in others they couldn’t be more different.
• This episode also plants the seeds of the ridiculous and out-of-character whirlwind romance of Xander and Willow that starts in the next episode. You only have to look at Xander’s face as Willow tells him that she’s seen Oz half-naked to know that something is different in their dynamic. Xander looks jealous. It’s the first real hint of what is to come.
• Speaking of Xander, I love that when Xander is on Oz-watch, he instantly goes to sleep. He doesn’t even try to stay awake. The second Willow leaves, he goes to sleep on the table. Utterly useless.
• Faith: “Every guy from mammal down to Mr. ‘I love the English Patient’ has beast in him. I don’t care how sensitive they act; they’re all still just in it for the chase.”
I take severe umbrage to that sentence (not the toad-face from Harry Potter, "Umbridge"). It’s so sexist! It is entirely in character for Faith to say something like that, and I am aware that Buffy and Willow both disagree with the statement the next day, but I hate that line with a passion. I would just let it go, but this gets recycled (in a much worse way) in the Angel episode “Billy”, where the episode is actually about how all men have some sort of primal asshole-streak buried deep down inside them. For a show that is well-known for its anti-sexism message and usually deals with issues like this perfectly, this really irks me. Sexism works both ways.
While I dislike the way Faith explains it, one of the genius things about this episode is how it handles Angel, Pete, and Oz’s inner beasts, and how their love interests react to them. Angel brings back a lot of feelings for Buffy that she’d chosen to move on from at the end of the last episode. Plus, she’s now dating Scott Hope. Angel’s return means that Buffy has to choose between the two. Does she date the ‘normal’ guy and try to lead a more normal life (like she’s always wanted) or does she go back to the man that she was in love with and lost her virginity to? The inner beast inside Oz is a more complex issue, and one that gets explored and explained in greater detail next season.
The first two-thirds of this episode act as a ‘whodunnit’ in relation to the recent string of murders. Like a demon, supernatural version of Cluedo.
• Buffy: “We have a marching band?”
Oz: “Yeah, but y’know, since the best jazz is improvisational we’d be going off in all directions, banging into floats...scary.”
Willow: “Oh he’s just being Oz.”
Oz: “Pretty much full-time.”
If I had to list the most underrated main character of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Oz would almost definitely win that. Perhaps Riley, as he gets a ridiculous amount of hatred for very little reason...but that’s a story for another day. Oz has some of the best dialogue from all seven seasons on a consistent basis. He doesn’t try to sound funny, but he is. He says everything in the same tone of voice.
• I have to praise two guest stars in this episode before I go any further. The quality of guest stars in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is high in general, but this episode was truly top drawer. The first of which is John Patrick White (Pete Clarner). Before it is made apparent that he is a woman-beating jerk, you can tell that there’s more to him than meets the eye because of John’s subtle acting. He manages to convey jealousy with nothing more than his eyes. The second is Phill Lewis. Talk about taking a one-episode character with limited scenes and making it memorable! He’s only in one scene where he’s alive, but he somehow leaves a lasting impression. It’s no surprise that he’s gone on to have such a great career since filming this episode. I wish that Mr. Platt was a recurring character in the third season. Think about how many fantastic scenes this could have led to, like the one with Buffy in this episode! Willow could go to him about her feelings of inadequacy, Cordelia could visit him after Xander cheats on her, Xander could ask him what the essence of cool is in “The Zeppo”...you could even have Oz visit him to say three words and then leave. Missed opportunity!
• Giles: “No need to panic.”
Oz: “Just a thought, poker, not your game.”
Oz: “I may be a cold-blooded jelly donut, but my timing’s impeccable.”
Yet again, Oz gets the best one-liners on the show.
• Mr. Platt was smoking inside a public building. Wait, is that illegal in America these days? It’s illegal in the UK now. Oh, how times have changed...
• Mr. Platt: “Any person: Grown-up, shrink, Pope. Any person who claims to be totally sane is either lying or not very bright.”
Mr. Platt: “You know, lots of people lose themselves in love. It's no shame. They write songs about it. The hitch is, you can't stay lost. Sooner or later you have to get back to yourself.”
Buffy: “And if you can't?”
Mr. Platt: “If you can't...love becomes your master and you're just its dog.”
I think this counselling session was really good for Buffy. Granted she only gets the one before Mr. Platt is inevitably killed (his cigarette still being lit was a nice touch), but she seemed to get a lot off of her chest in this session. Counselling seems to have this reputation that if you go to it, you’re perceived to be weak. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re going to see someone who is trained to help you. This person has been studying for years to be able to help you with your problems. You need to find the one that works for you, as different counsellors will have different personalities and methods, but counselling is something that you should consider if you’re currently battling a difficult period of your life. Trust me, I’m a trained psychologist...or I will be in a couple of years. Talking to a stranger like Mr. Platt is in some ways easier for Buffy than talking to one of the Scoobies. She doesn’t have to look at Mr. Platt every day, and she knows that whatever she says will be judgement-free. Buffy would have had a much harder time adjusting to Angel being back in this episode if it wasn’t for Mr. Platt.
• Giles: “It would take someone of extraordinary will and character to survive that and retain any semblance of self. Most likely he’d be a monster.” Enter Angel: A man of extraordinary character and will.
Angel returned from Hell a brutal, demonic, savage beast...for all of half an episode. He was in Hell for hundreds of years and he managed to adjust to life again in half an episode! Logic, where have thou gone? Three years later Buffy is in Heaven and it takes her the entirety of season six to adjust to being alive again. I find it unrealistic that Angel would be relatively fine again so soon.
• One of my favourite parts of the episode is when Willow tells Xander and Cordelia off in the morgue for arguing and being squeamish, then she faints. That was unexpected and hilarious.
• Eventually the inevitable happens as it is revealed that Pete is the one taking the potions, not Debbie. While this was obvious, it didn’t detract from the emotion in the rest of the episode. Is the ‘potion’ a metaphor for alcohol? I think it is. Pete is without a doubt one of the most hateable villains in the show thus far. Perhaps the most hateable villain. The person committing these murders and beating up his girlfriend (eventually killing her) is a teenage boy that is human and that has a soul. Vampires and demons have some form of excuse to justify their actions as they lack a soul. Pete has no such excuse. It’s really tough to watch the scene where Pete is beating up Debbie because it’s so true to real-life. Vampires, demons, werewolves, etc. aren’t real, so watching a vampire doing evil requires you to suspend your disbelief. Watching Pete smacking Debbie is something that happens around the world every minute. What I also appreciate about this episode is the realism of the abusive relationship. Debbie is convinced that she’s the one in the wrong because Pete has manipulated and broken her to the point that she has no semblance of self left to see the difference. I’ve seen a lot of friends in abusive relationships over the years (I’ve never been in one myself), and the accuracy to this episode is something to be admired.
• Buffy is overly mean to Debbie in the bathroom. There’s a time and place to give someone tough love, and I don’t believe this was it. Something that I’ve always found strange is why the Scoobies didn’t try harder to help Debbie after the scene in the bathroom. Why not take her back to the library and comfort her? Buffy is clearly distracted at having Angel back.
• Oz: “Time’s up. Rules change.”
I love, love, love this line! It’s quite rare to see Oz so confident in himself. He’s usually so stoic and calm.
• The funniest moment in this episode is without a doubt Giles getting shot in the ass with a tranquiliser dart, and his “oh, right, bloody priceless” afterwards.
• Yep, that werewolf costume is still brutal. How could they not come up with a more realistic-looking costume than this? Fluffy, cuddly gorilla costume is not invoking terror in anyone.
• Angel recognising Buffy, falling to his knees, hugging her waist, and breaking down in a crying fit, was beautiful. It’s one of my favourite ‘Bangel’ moments. After everything that happened, after Buffy sending him to Hell, after all the terrible deeds that Angelus did, after Angel spending hundreds of years being tortured in Hell, it was nice to see a moment of genuine happiness for them both. With this being the Buffyverse, I know the happiness won’t last long. You have to grab moments like this with both hands.
• Buffy (V.O.): "Night came on and a full moon rose high over the trees, lighting the land ‘til it lay bathed in ghostly day…and the strain of the primitive remained alive and active. Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and root were his; yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. And from the depths of the forest, the call still sounded."
This is beautiful. The parallels between this voiceover and the episode are apparent. It could easily be talking about Angel, Pete, or Oz.
Quote Of The Episode
Xander: “Oz does not eat people! It’s more werewolf play. You know, ‘I bat you around for a little bit like a cat toy. I have harmless wolf fun’. Is it Oz’s fault that, y’know, side effect, people get cut to ribbons and maybe then he’ll take a nibble...I’m not helping, am I?”
I’m forced to remember a certain quote from Buffy that will appear later in the season – “Xander, I beg you not to help me.” Xander rarely knows when to stop talking.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10
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