FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Who Are You
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy put Faith in a coma for 8 months prior to the Mayor's Ascension, but the rogue Slayer awakes and goes after Buffy, swapping bodies with her. The Scoobies have steadily been growing apart over the course of the season and fractures are getting worse.
Picking up directly after This Year's Girl, Faith finds herself trying to get used to Buffy's world and her body, picking up on the events that she's missed and the people she hasn't met yet (Anya, Spike). She takes advantage of her new freedom and the trust that everyone has placed in Buffy to get on and do what she wants for a bit. Meanwhile, Buffy is trapped inside Faith's body, dragged away first by the cops and then by the agents from the Watchers' Council, unable to convince anyone of who she says she is. As Faith has to get accustomed to being the good guy for a change and the effect it has on her, Buffy finds life on the other side difficult, fighting her way back to her own body.
Who Are You marks the halfway point of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the turning point for Faith as she realises that she might need saving after all. It's an extremely clever way of doing it. Much of Faith's resentment towards Buffy is borne out of the things that our Miss Summers is surrounded with - friends, family, people who love and respect her - people that Faith has never had in her life and didn't know how to accept when it was offered to her. It's key that Faith's big freak-out comes after Riley tells her, believing her to be Buffy, that he loves her. He doesn't mistreat her, he doesn't use her, he simply wants to be with her.
After that moment, Faith starts to see redemption as something she might want after all. That saving people and doing the right thing might be the path she wants to go down. Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance is a fantastic one, asked to perform a character that is so completely different to Buffy and to convey one of the character's most important moments within that. The climactic fight between Faith and Buffy brings out all of Faith's self-loathing, something which will be explored more once she appears in Angel soon. It's interesting though that once they've switched back, Buffy doesn't seem to have learnt anything from her time as Faith. She still sees her as a criminal who needs to be dealt with rather than someone who needs to be understood and helped. Maybe Faith has a point about that stick up her butt after all...
On the opposite side, Eliza Dushku gets to play the hero and does so with aplomb, capturing Gellar's mannerisms with ease, ensuring you never forget which one of them you're watching at any moment in time. Gellar may seemingly have the harder job, but it's Dushku on whom the episode's success relies. Her line delivery all the way through as Buffy is brilliant, particularly her scene in which she tries to convince Giles of who she is. The way she says "you were inching!" is perfect. Even the eyebrow movements are recognisably Buffy's.
There are interesting little moments in here about Tara's future role in the group, confirming her relationship with Willow for a start, but also, she's the first person to notice that Buffy, as Willow believes her to be, is not herself, something which the Scoobies miss. Later on, Tara and Buffy would go on to develop quite a close relationship, partly due to Tara's perceptiveness and Buffy's willingness to trust her. It's a good measure of just how fractured the Scoobies are at this stage in the season. None of them notice Buffy's exceedingly odd behaviour until it's pointed out to them in no uncertain terms. Tara proves to be the key to the episode, an essential component in the gang who they don't realise they need just yet.
But the episode belongs to Faith, a deeply fascinating character and one who undergoes one of the biggest arcs, probably behind only Spike's and Willow's respective stories over the course of the show. Bringing her back, positioning her once again in opposition to Buffy, but with considerably more sympathy, is a genius move, another soaring high point in the ridiculously mixed fourth season.
We've still got a bit to go, but hey, have you heard about this amazing Jonathan guy? He's a superstar.
Quote of the Week:
Faith: You're not going to kill these people.
Vamp: Why not?
Faith: Because it's wrong.
Let's Get Trivial: The expiration date of Joyce's credit card, glimpsed briefly, is May 2001, the month in which Buffy will die for the second time.
Sunnydale Who's Who: The credits list "Eliza Dushku as Buffy" this time around.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, This Year's Girl, here.