FEATURE: Angel - Sanctuary
Previously on Angel: Faith arrived in LA after putting Buffy through hell in Sunnydale, looking to throw down with Angel and is employed by Wolfram & Hart to kill him. She beat Cordelia and tortured Wesley to get to him, but Angel quickly realised what she needed was help.
Sanctuary picks up from where Five by Five left off as Angel brings Faith back to the office in order to keep her safe. Naturally, Cordelia and Wesley are far from impressed; she uses the company expenses to take a vacation whilst he goes drinking. He's soon approached by the Watcher's Council hit squad, fresh from being beaten by Buffy-as-Faith in Who Are You, looking to finish their business with Faith. Angel's plan to rehabilitate her hits a stumbling block when an exceedingly angry Buffy arrives, demanding to know why her ex is cuddling her nemesis on the sofa. Meanwhile, Wolfram & Hart are attempting to cut their losses by hiring a demon to assassinate the rogue slayer and Kate at the LAPD is also trying to track her down.
I spoke in last week's post about how the show deals with Faith as a person who causes so much chaos but who refuses to deal with the consequences of such and it's a pattern reflected across the two episodes. In Five by Five (and Who Are You), we see the damage done whilst in Sanctuary, Faith takes a backseat as everyone else decides what to do with her. Her conversations with Angel are all theoretical, pondering how she could possibly begin to make up for the damage caused, whether 'sorry' will ever be enough (I love that Buffy won't let her apologise yet - forgiveness is about timing here). As such, it makes her first practical effort, to hand herself into the police, land better as a dramatic finish. It's the first choice she makes entirely on her own and it's her first step on a path to the redemption she, like Angel, will always be fighting for.
There's something about having Faith around that seems to make everyone involved up their game, whether it's on Buffy or Angel. The writing gets tighter, the acting gets better, the drama cuts keener. This episode is no different as the show continues to ponder the question of whether Faith is worth saving or not. Everyone splits into two camps depending on how much Faith has tortured/maimed/switched bodies with you. On the one side is Angel, seeing so much of Faith in himself that he is confident he needs to at least try and save her. On the other side is everyone else, each feeling the effects of the destruction Faith is capable of wreaking, led by Buffy.
Given the last time Angel and Buffy saw each other, it was the end of I Will Remember You (sob) so naturally feelings are still running a little raw, exacerbated by Angel's decision to help Faith who Buffy is, quite rightly, still furious with. This episode though, perhaps more than any other, marks the break between Angel and Buffy quite violently; it's the first time he hits her in his ensouled form and the shock of it, for both Buffy and us, is palpable. Likewise, his speech at the end to her about how she no longer gets to bark orders at him is on point, but so is her belief that Faith cannot be saved and doesn't deserve to be. There's no real wrong answer, but their positions are too different to be reconciled and that final exchange of verbal barbs will have long-lasting effects, particularly spilling over into Buffy.
Sarah Michelle Gellar is a force of nature in this episode, operating on a level of rage that we don't usually get to see from Buffy. "I've lost battles before, but no one has ever made me a victim" is such a great line and it reinforces the trauma that Faith inflicted; Buffy's weakest moments are when she loses her agency, the empowerment that naturally comes from being a Slayer. I love how unyielding she is too, having learnt nothing from her experience as Faith, but also from her experience with Angel. It's only a few months ago that she was arguing with Giles that Angel could still be redeemed, after all. Tim Minear brought in Joss Whedon to write the Buffy scenes and it pays off enormously, allowing the character to operate on the darker level that Angel allows whilst embodying Faith's capacity for destruction.
When speaking of this episode, Whedon states that it's the moment "the training wheels came off" and that he understood "what Angel is and it's not Buffy." That scene feels like a clean break for the audience too, a swift delineation for the new show that's finally standing on its own. The evil in Buffy, for the most part, tends to be easily categorised. People do bad things and Buffy dispatches them accordingly as the good guy, not resorting to anything particularly underhand to do so. The waters will muddy in the later seasons of the show, but it operates on that basic level. In Angel, nothing is defined in simple terms and Faith's involvement here illustrates that perfectly. He's in the business of saving now and will resort to whatever methods he can to do so (I'll definitely touch more on this in the fifth season).
Fittingly, it's the last time we see Buffy on the show, though Angel will return to Sunnydale a few more times. Although it would become an issue of scheduling difficulties rather than intent, it works to Angel's benefit. Sanctuary might not have a happy ending, but it's the right one. And I didn't even get to talk about the rooftop fight scene, which is so damn good (notice how Buffy immediately moves to protect Faith; she ain't all bad kids).
Quote of the Week:
Faith: I've got to be the first Slayer in history to be sponsored by a vampire.
The Sunnydale Connection: This episode follows on from the events of Who Are You and features the most crossover characters (five) in one go: Buffy, Faith, Collins, Smith and Weatherby, with eight if you count Angel, Wesley and Cordelia, considering they originated on that show.
You can read Becky's look at the previous episode, Five by Five, here.