In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
The shocking climax to the Season Three episode “Bad Girls” created a sizable rift between Buffy and her fellow slayer Faith that continues to divide them in the follow-up episode, the even more aptly-titled “Consequences.” As this episode begins, Buffy is still disturbed and offended by Faith’s nonchalant attitude toward her accidental murder of Deputy Mayor Allen Finch, which makes for an awkward situation when both of them are charged by the oblivious Wesley with investigating the cause of his death. Buffy tries to convince Faith to confess, but Faith refuses and threatens to implicate her as well if she tells Giles or Wesley. Mayor Wilkins begins shredding any of Finch’s personal files that might reveal the Mayor’s plans for the town, which Buffy and Faith discover later that night when they sneak into Finch’s office to find any evidence that explains why he was sneaking around the site of a Slayer / vampire throwdown. Buffy begins to suspect that Finch was involved in some shady dealings, and when she and Faith attempt to leave, they catch a glimpse of Mayor Wilkins conversing with Mr. Trick, whom Buffy recognizes from before. This discovery puts the Mayor on Buffy’s radar and makes her the Mayor’s primary target when he later spots her and Faith on a surveillance tape.
When Buffy returns home, she is visited by a Sunnydale homicide detective who asks her about where she was on the night of Finch’s death. Buffy lies and states she was nowhere near the crime scene, and Faith tells tells him the same thing when he visits her motel room. Upset about the situation, Buffy goes over to Willow’s house to vent, where Willow tells her how hurt she’s been about the numerous times that Buffy has blown her off to patrol with Faith. Buffy tearfully apologizes and tells Willow all about the previous night’s accident. Willow tells her that she needs to tell Giles, but when she goes to the library to confess, Faith has beat her to it. However, Faith has told Giles that Buffy was the one who killed Finch, but after Faith leaves, Giles reveals to Buffy that he does not believe her and only pretended to in order to prevent Faith from getting violent again. He tells Buffy that Faith has become unstable and that the situation needs to be handled very carefully, which is overheard by Wesley, unbeknownst to both Giles and Buffy, and he immediately calls the Council to report Faith’s crime.
Buffy and Willow tell Xander about what Faith did, and Xander volunteers to try to talk some sense into her. He states that he and Faith have developed a connection and inadvertently reveals that they slept together, which upsets Willow greatly. When he visits Faith’s motel room, Faith ignores his attempts to convince her to come clean and instead pushes him onto the bed and begins to strangle him. Xander is saved by Angel, who knocks her out with a baseball bat to the face. She wakes up to find herself in chains in the mansion, where Xander tells her that she understands her newfound bloodlust because he’s experienced it himself. Buffy is also there, and Angel tells her that Faith has become extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Angel’s intervention is interrupted by Wesley and a group of fellow Watchers, who attempt to apprehend Faith in order to bring her before the Council to atone for her crime. The ever-resourceful Faith soon escapes her captors and makes a run for it. Wesley informs the gang about her escape, and they all run after her. Buffy finds her on the docks, attempting to leave on a departing ship. While arguing yet again about whether Slayers are beholden to regular human morality, they are both attacked by Trick and his fellow vampires. They fight them off, and Faith saves Buffy from Trick by staking him from behind. After telling Giles about Faith’s selfless act, Giles states that there may still be hope for her, but as we find out in the final scene, Faith seems to have shed all loyalty to the Scooby Gang when she arrives at Mayor Wilkins’ office and offers her services as a replacement for the departed Mr. Trick.
Faith’s heel turn at the end of “Consequences” isn’t quite as drastic or dramatic as Angel’s in Season Two, but it is far more ambiguous as to why she makes such a bold decision. From the time she was introduced to the Scooby Gang, Faith has held herself at arm’s length from them while at the same time feeling left out of their close-knit unity. Perhaps this decision to help the man she had up until now been working against is a reaction to what she interpreted as Buffy’s betrayal but what was actually a product of Wesley’s unilateral decision to keep things official. Speaking of Wesley, he’s truly been messing things up since he arrived in town to take the reins from Giles, and based on his introduction to Cordelia earlier on in the episode, he’s definitely in danger of engaging in some less than moral behavior himself. Instead of taking a breath from the previous episode’s shocking twist, “Consequences” continues to up the ante and lays the groundwork for what is sure to be a memorable season finale. 4.5 out of 5 Death Laments.
The next episode doesn’t have nearly as much to do with the overall arc of the season, but it makes up for that with a fun tale centered on Willow, who has been the most consistently sensible member of the Scooby Gang. It’s that very status that forms the basic plot of “Dopplegangland,” as Willow starts to feel like a bit of a doormat for her constant dependability. This feeling is increased when Principal Snyder charges her with tutoring the school’s star basketball player, who takes the idea of tutoring as just having her do all his work. Willow’s dependability earns some unwelcome attention from Mayor Wilkins, who is informed by Faith about her continued efforts to hack into his computer files in order to uncover the truth about him. The Mayor makes a plan to have Willow killed by a group of vampires in order to keep his secrets safe.
This episode also reintroduces us to the depowered demon Anya, who was turned into a mortal teenager at the end of “The Wish.” After trying in vain to have her wish-fulfillment powers restored, she makes fast friends with Willow after revealing her own interest in witchcraft. Anya asks Willow to help her with a spell and Willow agrees, not knowing that the spell is meant to restore power to Anya’s amulet and turn her back into Anyanka. While the spell doesn’t do what Anya wanted it to, it does accidentally transport Vampire Willow from the alternate reality last seen in “The Wish” to the reality that we’ll just go ahead and call Sunnydale Prime. Vampire Willow is at first deeply confused at seeing so many mortals walking around with no fear, but when she runs into the Mayor’s vampire minions, she easily overpowers them and convinces them to work for her. They begin their reign of terror by invading The Bronze and holding all the kids there hostage. Buffy and Xander incorrectly surmise that their Willow has been killed and turned into a vampire, but when they go to the library to tell Giles, they see that Willow is just fine and that her vampiric double has somehow appeared in town. Back at the Bronze, Evil Willow quickly strikes up a deal with Anya in exchange for a trip back to her reality and a chance to get her powers back.
Angel soon arrives at the library with the news that Willow’s bloodsucking doppleganger has taken over, and they all make plans to go to the Bronze to stop her. Before they can leave, however, Evil Willow shows up and attacks the real Willow before being shot by the tranquilizer gun that is usually meant for Werewolf Oz. The gang then gets an idea to dress Good Willow up in Evil Willow’s leather outfit so that she can help them infiltrate The Bronze. When Evil Willow wakes up in the book cage, dressed in Good Willow’s clothes, she is found by Cordelia, who thinks she is the actual Willow and agrees to let her out, but only after lecturing her on the evils of boyfriend stealing. Upon being freed, Evil Willow immediately tries to attack Cordelia but is repelled by a cross-toting Wesley. Thwarted, Evil Willow returns to The Bronze, where Good Willow tries to get all the vampires to step outside one by one, where they are picked off by Buffy. Anya becomes aware of the ruse and informs the vampires that this Willow is a mortal, which leads to Buffy, Angel, and Giles entering the Bronze to do battle with the ghouls. Evil Willow returns and attempts to kill Good Willow but is stopped by Buffy. Good Willow pleads with Buffy not to stake Evil Willow, stating that instead they should send her back to her reality and give her a chance to redeem herself. Willow and Anya successfully send Evil Willow back to the final battle at the end of “The Wish,” where she is immediately staked and killed. Afterwards, Willow appears slightly freaked out at the entire ordeal, but there is a bright side of having her fellow students encounter her more aggressive doppleganger, as the obnoxious jock she has been charged with tutoring has agreed to do his own work instead of just having her do it.
While definitely not the most important episode of Season Three, “Dopplegangland” is a fun B-side to “The Wish,” which introduced us to the dark alternate reality that Evil Willow came from. Based on the strength of this episode, I wouldn’t mind seeing more extradimensional characters pop up or perhaps have the Scoobies visit yet another parallel reality. Having Anya stick around as a student at Sunnydale is an interesting choice and should make for more headaches for the Scooby Gang. The most impressive aspect of this episode was the usage of split-screen during the scenes that included both versions of Willow, which were quite well-done for a late nineties WB TV show. Willow’s visual discomfort while interacting with the more aggressive and sexually voracious Evil Willow was also quite fun to watch. As Buffy progresses from season to season, I remain impressed by how Whedon and company are able to make even a potential filler episode a fun and substantial viewing experience that adds even more depth to a central character. “Dopplegangland” earns 4.5 out of 5 Incomplete Expletives.