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!
With only six episodes left to go in Buffy ‘s highly entertaining third season, I’m left asking myself if I am more or less involved than I was at this point in Season Two. In the case of the two episodes reviewed this week, I will say that I’m just as invested in this season’s storyline as I was in the previous one, even though the obligatory “filler episode” doesn’t quite live up to most of the other self-contained installments that this season has offered. Regardless, I like the way this arc is progressing and can’t wait to see how the Scoobies’ final confrontation with Mayor Wilkins is going to play out.
“Enemies,” the seventeenth episode of the season, has the most to do with the main storyarc of the two episodes, and it contains yet another major turning point within the overall plot. The episode begins with Buffy and Angel exiting a movie theater, visibly hot and bothered by the deceptively steamy foreign film they just watched. Faith then shows up and takes Buffy on patrol with her, where they encounter a tame but enterprising demon who offers to sell them a series of volumes known as the Books of Ascension, which obviously would be quite valuable for Mayor Wilkins’ nefarious plans. Buffy and Faith arrange to meet with the demon after discussing the matter with Giles and Wesley, and Faith runs to her benefactor/sugar daddy Mayor Wilkins with the news. The deceptively chipper Mayor assigns Faith to kill the demon and intercept the Books before Buffy gets a chance to buy them. The unscrupulous Faith is happy to oblige and successfully offs the demon and makes off with the Books of Ascension. She also makes a visit to Angel in hopes of seducing him and taking away his soul but is gently rebuffed by him. The tail end of her visit is witnessed by Buffy, whose jealousy is enflamed by seeing how chummy the two have gotten lately.
Back at the Library, the rest of the gang is trying desperately to get any information they can on the subject of Ascension in order to anticipate the Mayor’s plan. Xander procures the demon’s address, and when Buffy and Faith go there, they find his freshly killed corpse. Meanwhile, Mayor Wilkins charges a mysterious looking gentleman in a shroud with preparing a spell that will remove Angel’s soul. When Faith returns to Angel’s home, she spills blood on him and the shrouded man casts a spell on Angel to revert him back to his old Angelus persona. After the spell is cast, Angel and Faith violently make out, and she takes him to see the Mayor while the Scoobies make a shocking discovery that reveal that Mayor Wilkins is over a hundred years old. In the Mayor’s office, Angel witnesses the Mayor’s newfound invulnerability firsthand when he throws a letter opener at him. He and Faith then successfully lure Buffy from her house and to Angel’s mansion, where she is knocked unconscious and chained up.
Buffy awakes to find Faith and Angel arm in arm and telling her that they plan to torture her. Faith vents to Buffy about her having to live in her shadow. She also reveals to Buffy that Mayor Wilkins established Sunnydale as a “feeding ground for demons” and that his Ascension will take place on Graduation Day. Upon hearing this, both Buffy and Angel reveal that they’ve been playing Faith in order to get information from her, and the two Slayers briefly do battle while the rest of the Scooby Gang arrives at the mansion. The fight comes to a standstill with both combatants holding knives to each other’s throats, and Faith, stating that she knows Buffy won’t kill her, tears loose from the struggle and flees back to the Mayor. Back at the library, it is revealed that the shrouded man was working with the Scoobies as repayment of a debt owed to Giles, and Wesley expresses offense at having been left out of the ruse. Faith is visibly upset at being fooled by her former friends, but Mayor Wilkins reassures her by stating that they will all soon be dead. The episode ends with Buffy stating that even though she knew Angel was pretending to be into Faith, it still hurt her to see him with her but then states that she’ll always be his girl.
“Enemies” was an extremely satisfying episode, not only because it gives Faith a much-needed comeuppance but also because it erased my initial disappointment of thinking that the writers had run out of ideas on how to handle Angel by taking away his soul yet again. With so many losses and betrayals that the Scooby Gang have experienced this season, both individually and as a team, it was very fulfilling to see them finally get the upper hand. Conversely, I have also grown exceedingly fond of the pseudo-father / daughter relationship that has developed between the Mayor and Faith, which is obviously a deliberate ploy meant to manipulate an impressionable young woman who has never had a positive parental figure in her life. “Enemies” continues the show’s tradition of seamlessly blending character and plot while setting up what is sure to be a memorable season finale, and for that it earns 5 out of 5 Sidewalk Sucker Punches.
One of the best episodes of Season Three is immediately followed by the interesting but flawed “Earshot,” which begins with Buffy slaying one of a team of grotesque and mouthless demons and getting some of its blood on her hand while the other demon gets away. Buffy regroups with the gang, who are struggling to get more information about the Mayor’s upcoming Ascension. Buffy’s hand begins to persistently itch due to the exposure to the demon blood, and she consults with Giles about what this exposure is doing to her. Giles consults his books and states that exposure to the demon’s blood may result in her adopting an aspect of the demon, which freaks Buffy out. The aspect, however, turns out to be an ability to hear the thoughts of whoever is around her. Buffy learns to use this newfound power to her advantage but is quickly overwhelmed by the torrent of thoughts coming to her from the students and faculty. During one especially brutal barrage, she overhears someone plotting to kill everyone in the school, but before she can find out who it came from, she collapses from exhaustion in the middle of the school cafeteria.
While Buffy recuperates at home, she shares her discovery with the rest of the Scooby Gang, who each make a list of every student who was in the cafeteria at the time and begin interrogating them, with no success. Giles and Wesley discover that the only cure for Buffy’s condition involves using the heart of the same demon that she killed, which Angel soon procures by killing the other demon. Giles then makes a potion using the heart and administers it to Buffy, who wakes up cured the next morning. The Scoobies corner their main suspect, an antisocial student named Freddy who runs the school paper, but when he is found innocent, their attention turns to a socially awkward and largely marginalized student named Jonathan when they discover a disturbing letter written by him on Freddy’s desk. Buffy tracks Jonathan down and follows him up to the school’s clock tower, where she finds him brandishing a loaded rifle. Buffy convinces Jonathan to give her the gun, but when she tells him that killing everyone in school isn’t going to solve anything, he tells her that he meant to kill himself. Xander actually stumbles upon the would-be killer while snooping around in the cafeteria kitchen and catching the lunch lady pouring rat poison into that day’s meal. After the guilty staff member is caught and dealt with, the gang once again celebrates the aversion of yet another crisis.
While “Earshot” is largely successful, it is more of a mixed bag than most of Season Three’s episodes, if only for the slightly disturbing way it handled the subject of school shootings. According to the Buffy Wikia page, this episode was originally scheduled to air in the late Spring of 1999, one week after the horrible Columbine school slayings took place. Because of the unfortunate juxtaposition of the subject matter of this episode and that particularly unsettling real-world tragegy, the episode was postponed and actually didn’t air until September, a good two months after the season ended. That of course is not the fault of the episode itself, as it was written and filmed long before that tragic occurrence, but the parallels are still quite apparent even fifteen years apart. Aside from that circumstantial issue, I was slightly annoyed at how quickly and easily Buffy’s problem is solved, and while Xander’s discovery of the real killer is handled very humorously, the falling action was wrapped up too quickly and tidily for my taste. This has been a nagging complaint I’ve had with the series for the most part, but the characters and overall storylines have been so good that I’ve mostly waved them off. Here, though, the story and the character beats aren’t quite enough to cover for this gaping storytelling flaw. There were enough good things in the episode to redeem it somewhat, such as Buffy’s realization that Giles and her mother slept together twice while in their teen personas in the “Band Candy” episode. While definitely not my favorite episode of the season, “Earshot” does tell a mostly compelling story that overtakes its initial controversy and earns 4 out of 5 Scathing Music Reviews.