FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Enemies
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith is working for the Mayor, but the gang aren't quite aware of it yet, even if they know what the Mayor is sort of up to. Angel and Buffy's relationship is back on track after everything, despite his obvious connection with Faith.
A demon approaches Faith and Buffy on patrol, offering to sell them the Books of Ascension, something which the Mayor is after. Faith gets the drop on Buffy, however, and manages to get hold of the books before sh can report to the gang and then head back. Meanwhile, the rogue slayer also makes her moves on Angel to try and turn him to Angelus, eventually resorting to magic when he rejects her advances. With Angelus back in town, he begins to work with Faith and the Mayor to take Buffy down. Only all is not what it seems.
I often go on a bit of a nostalgia trip in these reviews (hell, the entire rewatch is a nostalgia marathon), but revisiting some episodes, my emotional reactions to them are as vivid as the memories of the episodes themselves. Enemies is one such instalment, a twisty, knotty story that finally roots out Faith's treachery and gets to the heart of what is happening with the Mayor. The moment when you realise Angelus is back was a real kicker back in the day.
After seeing Angelus in action in the previous season, the stakes for the transformation seem that much higher because we're perfectly aware of the havoc that the vampire can cause. Teaming him up with Faith and the seemingly unstoppable Mayor at this point felt like Sunnydale was about to fall apart. Boreanaz always looks like he's having a blast when he's playing Angelus and portraying both sides of the character's personality in one episode is no mean feat. He does just enough to differentiate them in his physical performance (Angelus doesn't stoop quite so much) and in his line delivery. There's a great moment when Faith and Angelus trick Buffy into coming back to the mansion with them when his whole demeanour changes, selling the show's twist hook, line and sinker.
Most shows would be content to pack in one twist per crucial season arc episode, but hey, this is Buffy. They can pack in two if they like. For as the episode draws to a close and it looks like curtains for our poor Buffy at the ends of a psychopathic, sharp implement-armed Faith, writer Douglas Petrie turns the tables on us once again. It turns out the entire Angelus thing is a ruse to work out just what Faith is up to and it pays off as Angel and Buffy learn everything she knows in her monologue (never, ever monologue). Both twists are executed with skill and are, perhaps most importantly, more plot and character-driven instead of being used for just pure shock value.
Believing Angelus to be on her side and Buffy at her mercy, Faith is allowed to be as open as she wants to be, spewing out every single little resentment she's harboured against Buffy since arriving in Sunnydale. As she's created to be an anti-Buffy, her grievances are sympathetic, even if the way she goes about airing them is borderline assault. Likewise, for Buffy, it offers her a chance to realise what she could have turned into without the support network that she has around her. When the pair fight each other briefly at the end of the episode, they have become complete polar opposites from their visual appearance to their very different approaches to morality.
Enemies is one of my favourite episodes of the series' run, primarily because it still feels just as shocking and just as important as it did when I first watched it. And then watched it repeatedly on VHS. The promised clash between Buffy and Faith was still building at this point, though this offered a little taster of what was to come, and is still only their second confrontation. Yet, because of everything else that occurs in the episode, it feels so much more urgent, so much more deadly when the pair end up opposite each other with a blade at each throat.
Now that the gang are aware of what the Mayor is up to and when it's likely to go down, things really start to ramp up heading into the final few episodes of the season and building towards what is probably my favourite of all the Buffy finales. As Faith would say, stick around.
Quote of the Week:
Faith: What can I say? I'm the world's best actor.
Angel: Second best. *mic drop*
Let's Get Trivial: This episode sort of gets a nod in The Avengers when Coulson echoes the demon's description of the Books of Ascension, describing the 'slight foxing around the edges' of his Captain America baseball cards.
You can read Becky's look at the previous episode, Doppelgangland, here.