FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - This Year's Girl
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Kendra was killed by Drusilla, Faith was called, a Slayer from Boston with some mental health issues and a passion for turning to the dark side. Buffy put her in a coma before the big fight with the Mayor and there she's remained. The Initiative is crumbling with Adam on the loose and Riley's hospitalised.
Buffy is still reeling from Riley being taken away from her and Adam running loose around Sunnydale, dissecting demons and generally being a bit horrible. However, a more immediate problem is on the way. Faith, in a hospital since her scrap with Buffy before Graduation Day, has woken up and has escaped. The rogue Slayer is on the move and after Buffy, reeling from finding out that not only has she been in a coma for eight months, but Graduation Day has failed and Buffy succeeded in killing the Mayor. She goes after our little Buffster with a neat weapon the Mayor managed to leave her.
After the considerable awfulness that has been the last two episodes, I've been so looking forward to getting to the Faith episodes because a) they have a real classic Buffy feel about them and b) Eliza Dushku is awesome in this role. She slips back into it fast, a riot of pent-up energy and rage that's directed in the Scoobies' direction. Her first scene with Sarah Michelle Gellar also snaps back into the antagonistic relationship their characters' share with their quips and begrudging respect for each other. It's amazing how quickly the Initiative stuff falls away once she arrives and the quality of the season once again soars. Plus, Joyce comes back!
Kristine Sutherland's absence has been notable from this season, a voice of reason to counter Giles and the others with wit and style. Donald Petrie's script acknowledges this by having Faith use it to get to Joyce, mocking her with hypotheses that Buffy has forgotten them both because she's so damn selfish. Of course, Joyce gives as good as she gets and takes the piss out of Faith with glee. Glorious. I do feel a little sorry for the 1630 Revello Drive though; it's been months since it had to have any repairs done to it. It must have been so peaceful. Poor house.
An interesting element of the episode, amongst others, is seeing into Faith's dreams. Buffy's prophetic dreaming crops up as needed, but This Year's Girl allows us to see into another Slayer's psyche and it's Faith's so it's twisted. Obviously. It positions Buffy as the bad guy, a Terminator-like presence determined to ruin her life. It's a swift way of reacquainting us with their antagonistic relationship, as well as clueing us in to the eventual topsy-turvy nature of the follow-up episode, Who Are You.
Christophe Beck's ethereal score in the sequences are truly amazing, especially the horror-esque vocal refrain that haunt Faith as she's being chased by Buffy. It gives the dreams an even more wacky quality, removed from the rest of the episode but highly important for what's to come. Hello, Dawn foreshadowing; it's the second reference we get from Faith about her after the Little Miss Muffet line in Graduation Day Part 2. He's a canny bugger, is that Whedon.
Most of all though, and it's something the worst episodes of the fourth season are missing, is that it's so damn entertaining. Dushku seizes her return with gusto and reminds everyone why we all love to hate Faith in these pre-redemption and her fights with Buffy are scrappy and dramatic. Those fights are also ones for the longterm fans; we know how good both of them are so there's no pauses, no need for orchestrated dynamic shifting. It's just two skilled fighters going at it and you're never quite sure which one is going to come out on top in each one.
This Year's Girl is the first of a two-parter and ends on one heck of a cliffhanger. I remember watching that for the first time, hearing "five by five," realising what happened and then being ridiculously angry that I need to wait another week for the resolution. Fortunately, the power is in my hands to watch it right now. You guys have to wait another week for what I think of it, but I'm sure not many of you are particularly angry about that.
Five by five.
Quote of the Week:
Giles: Well, we have to find [Faith].
Willow: What about Adam?
Xander: I'd hate to see the pursuit of a homicidal lunatic get in the way of pursuing a homicidal lunatic.
Inventive Kill: Adam, unseen for the episode, dissects a demon and leaves it hanging between trees for the Scoobs to find. Lovely.
Let's Get Trivial: The shop where Faith stops to admire the knives in the window is the same shop that she and Buffy broke into back in Bad Girls.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Goodbye Iowa, here.