Thursday, April 21, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Faith, Hope, and Trick"

There is so much going on in this David Greenwalt penned and James Contner directed episode. In this brief essay I want to concentrate on several aspects of “Faith, Hope, and Trick that I think are important: new arrivals, flashbacks, trauma, hope, and revelations.

New Arrivals: There is, as Oz notes early on in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” a new Slayer in town. Her name is Faith (the Faith of the title). Faith, the Slayer called after the death of Kendra, is cocky or self-assured, sexy, dressed in black, plastered in dark makeup (Cordy refers to Faith’s fashion, make-up, and dancing sense as “slut-o-rama”), and a more than willing story teller when it comes to talking about her Slayer past.

The Scoobies first see Faith at the Bronze dancing with a guy who looks like he should be boogeying down to a K.C. and the Sunshine Band (a disco band that found success in the 1970s) tune. As Faith and the disco vamp leave the Bronze Buffy realizes that disco vamp is, like carbon dated guy from “Welcome to the Hellmouth, a vamp. So Buffy and the Scoobies exit the Bronze stage it turns out right to protect Faith from what they are sure will be certain death at the hands of yet another carbon dated vampire. But just as Buffy turned the tables on vampires in season one Faith turns the tables on disco vamp and dusts him announcing afterwards that she is Faith, the Vampire Slayer.

Faith says she has come to Sunnydale to meet the famous B, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seems, however, that it is the Scoobies who are more interested in Faith and Faith’s tales than Buffy. Xander, being Xander, is fascinated by Faith’s slayer tales of fighting vampires, “naked”. Cordy is jealous of Xander’s continuing Slayer fixation telling him to change the theme. Buffy is also jealous of the attention the other Scoobbies, save Cordy, are paying to Faith and her stories just as she was jealous of Kendra.

Unbeknownst to the Scoobies there are a couple of other new arrivals in town, the somewhat Spike-like snarky, cynical, smart, technologically savvy, and innovative Mister Trick (the Trick of the title) and Trick’s vampire “master” (apparently other vampire collectivities have, just like “the Master” and his group in the first season of Buffy, “masters”).

And then there is that other new arrival Scott Hope (the Hope of the title). Scott, a student at Sunnydale High School and Buster Keaton fan, is interested in dating Buffy. Willow, in good Jewish fashion (think Thornton Wilder's “The Matchmaker”), is trying to play matchmaker between Buffy and Scott.

Flashbacks: Memory continues to haunt Buffy the Vampire Slayer and “Faith, Hope, and Trick”. Buffy’s killing of Angel continues to haunt her dreams. Buffy dreams early on in the episode about Angel and the claddagh ring her gave her. She flashes back to the battle with Angel at the end of “Becoming” when Scott gives her the same friendship ring Angel gave her in season two, a claddagh ring after Buffy finally agrees to go out with him. The music underlines the traumatic memories Buffy has of Angel via the Buffy/Angel theme and variations on it.

Trauma: Memories in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” and Buffy in general are intimately linked to trauma. Trauma, of course, has become something of an obsession with film analysts in recent years as books and articles like Trauma Cinema (Walker), Trauma and Cinema (edited by Kaplan and Wang), “Trauma Cinema and the Algerian War” (Austin) and Trauma Cinema (Conley) show. Trauma, however, whether it be the traumas of war, the traumas of genocide, the traumas of dating, or the traumas of high school have long impacted human life and films (think film noir and Alain Resnais's "Hiroshima mon amour) and television shows.

In Buffy the traumas are personal ones. Buffy is still traumatized by her killing of Angel. She also remains traumatized by her Slayerness. While Faith seems to accept her Slayerness and revel in the joy of being a Slayer Buffy is, as Faith says, “wound up”, up-tight. She seems, in other words, to subconsciously or unconsciously be uncomfortable on some level with who she is, a Slayer.

Buffy, as we learn in the course of “Faith, Hope, and Trick”, is not the only Slayer who has been traumatized. Though Faith says early in the episode that she came to Sunnydale looking for B while her Watcher attended a Watcher’s Council retreat in the Cotswalds, Faith has a secret. Her secret will out while she and Buffy are in the midst of fighting several vamps, not, of course, the best time for traumatic secrets to emerge from repression. While Buffy is cornered by two vamps Faith “lives” large on one putting Buffy in danger. It doesn’t take long for Buffy to recognise that Faith is taking out her traumas on the vamp she is wailing on and alerts Giles to the danger. Giles finds out that rather than her Watcher being at the Council retreat in England she has been killed by Kakistos, “the worst of the worst”, a vamp so old his hands are now cloven as Giles tells Buffy. Kakistos, it turns out, has killed Faith’s Watcher in front of Faith’s eyes and she was not, as she admits to Buffy, able to do anything about it.

Kakistos as we know but Faith and Buffy don’t has come to Sunnydale for revenge for though Faith was unable to save her Watcher she did injure Kakistos giving him a scar along the right side of his face. With Trick’s help Kakistos find the Slayers at the cheap hotel at which Faith is staying. When Buffy tells Faith that Kakistos has followed her to Sunnydale Faith goes into hysterics and packs her bag intending to flee Sunndydale just as Buffy fled Sunnydale after killing Angel at the end of season two (what is it with Slayers and flight?). As Faith is packing and telling Buffy about what Kakistos did to her Watcher Buffy tries to calm Faith down. Just then, however, Kakistos, Mister Trick, and several of Kakistos’s henchmen arrive at the hotel. Buffy and Faith escape but they soon realise they have been tricked by Trick and end up exactly where Kakistos wants them, in Kakistos’s Sunnydale warehouse lair. Faith tries to fight Kakistos but her traumas and his strength force her to cower against a wall. Buffy, however, continues to fight Kakistos. She even stakes him but the stake isn’t big enough to kill the old one. It is Faith who, finally and now somewhat mentally together, who comes to the rescue staking Kakistos with a monstrous stake making up, in the process, for her sin of putting Buffy in danger earlier in the episode as she took out her traumas by wailing on a vampire.

Hope: Though Hope is the last name of one of Buffy’s new arrivals, Scott Hope, hope refers to more than simply Scott in this episode. Buffy hopes that she will once again be able to return to a normal life of dating, shopping, going to school, hanging out, and saving the world, all the normal girl stuff as she says. LOL. Though Buffy says she wants to do all the normal girl stuff including saving the world one can’t help but think that in some way Buffy secretly hopes that Faith may be over to take over Slayer duties for her, just as she once hoped Kendra could replace her as Slayer, so she can lead a normal life.

Revelations: There are quite a lot of revelations that are revealed in “Faith, Hope, and Trick” during the course of the episode. We learn that slaying makes a Slayer “hungry and horny” or at least, Buffy’s case hungry. Xander, of course, is more interested in the “horny” part. And then there is the revelation that ends the episode. Buffy takes the claddagh ring Angel gave her to the mansion and puts it on the floor just as in her dream at the beginning of the episode. The screen fades out on the ring encircled in a small shaft of light amidst the blackness of the Mansion. Then the ring reappears, there is a tremor, and a man, a naked man, comes down from above. It is Angel. Angel is back. If “Angel” was the first episode so to speak of the Angel/Angelus, “Lie to Me” the second, “Becoming the third, then “Faith, Hope, and Trick” is the fourth. It will not be the last. Finally, at the end of the episode we learn that Willow had cured Angel right before Buffy killed him thanks, in large part, Giles faux binding ritual for Acathla that was really about helping Buffy work through her trauma. Season three is off and running.

Mormons: Eliza Dushku who plays Faith is the second LDSer to play a major role in the Buffyverse. Larry Bagby, who plays Larry, was the other.

Witchy Woman: Willow pesters Giles to let him help her with the binding spell for Acathla. Giles warns Willow for the first time in Buffy about the dangers of witchcraft.

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