Rebecca (nikitangel) wrote in idol_reflection,

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Faith (BtVS) Part One

TitlePretty, Dark Hair, Kills Things
Author: </a></a>nikitangel
Spoilers: Through BtVS S3, plus two very brief mentions of S6 and S7 eps
Email: nikitangel at gmail dot com
Website: My Fanfic
Note: This turned out to be a far more extensive undertaking than I realized.  I have decided to split my essay into (still very long) parts.  The following is the first of two parts that are an analysis of Faith as she appeared on Buffy S3. I hope to post the other parts soon.



Her name alone invokes awe.

Faith: A set of principles or beliefs on which you are willing to devote your life.

The Dark Slayer. A lethal combination of beauty, power, and death.

For years and years - or to be more accurate - months, Faith fought on the side of good, terrorizing the evil community.

But like so many tragic heroes, Faith was seduced by the lure of the dark side. She wrapped evil around her like a large, evil Mexican serape. She became a cold-blooded killer.

Nobody was immune to her trail of destruction. Not friends, not family. Not even the most pacifist and logical of races.[1]




Drift through the dancers, lingering on a WILD GIRL (FAITH, young, loose and fast, 18-ish, biker type meets trailer park) dancing suggestively with an older guy.[2] -- For some time, the title of the “Faith” forum on Television Without Pity has been “Mmm…Faith.”  This visceral reaction is typical of many Faith fans, and no essay would be complete without addressing the “hotness” factor.  Eliza Dushku is physically attractive, a quality capitalized on by dressing her character in revealing clothing and giving her sexually suggestive dialogue.  For some, “teh pretty” is enough.


I want to go further, however.  I believe the character deserves more.  For many of us, it’s the complicated mental and emotional swings and the redemptive arc of this character that make her interesting.


From the beginning, Faith has possessed the lure of the Bad Girl.  She was clearly created as a foil for Buffy, dark where Buffy is light, wild where Buffy is controlled.  In some ways, Faith is a precursor to the Wishverse.   She is a way to explore an AU Slayer while remaining in canon.  She is the Road Not Taken. 


Spent way too much time in hospitals. We don't click.[3]  -- We only know bits and pieces of Faith’s pre-Sunnydale life.  We don’t even know her last name, a narrative device that leaves the character incredibly isolated and without the family support system Buffy has and makes for herself.[4]  From the few comments Faith has made, we can infer that her mother was alcoholic, possibly abusive, and is likely dead.  Faith’s lack of verbal sparring skills and quick reliance on violence could be seen as the result of an abusive childhood.[5]  Her expression of distaste for hospitals supports the idea as well, as we have to assume her experience in them happened before Sunnydale (we only saw her in one during her S4 coma).


When I’m fighting, the whole world goes away and I only know one thing: I’m gonna win and they’re gonna lose.  I like that feeling.[6]: -- Still, Faith has at least one fond memory of her mother – that of being called “Firecracker.”  Her stories of jumping off high cliffs as a child indicate that Faith’s exuberance in Slaying is in her nature, rather than a characteristic limited to her Slayer-ness.[7]  Faith has always lived life “entirely large.”


It's all old-hat, man. [shrugs] Every guy's got some whack fantasy.[8]  -- Faith’s sexual history is somewhat mysterious.  Her flirtatious nature and wild tales show her desire to project a sexually advanced image, but the reality of her situation is unknown.  Given Joss’ fondness for metaphors, we could take Faith’s scene with Scott Hope as a hint.  Faith’s stance in front of a poster reading “Campus Rape Starts Here” is telling, as equally telling as the poster behind Buffy (“Lets YOU Choose Your Future”) in the same scene.[9]  We know she has at least some sexual knowledge, considering her mention of “safe words” in “Consequences”.  In flirting with Spike in “Dirty Girls”, we are treated to the beginning of quite an interesting story involving a boyfriend who dressed her up as a schoolgirl and gave her a bullwhip.  Her assumption that “they were screwing” when Oz mentions two classmates “horsing around” is further evidence of a bleak sexual history.  In any case, her cynical views on romance, evidenced in her self-designation as a “loser magnet” in “Revelations” and her “all men are beasts” assertion in “Beauty and the Beasts,” indicate a highly unhappy romantic past. 


Buffy arrives in time to see: Faith up against the wall, her head in shadow and the guy – he’s a vamp all right – moving towards her.  The gang arrives as Buffy whips out a stake, charges in, ready to slay.  Faith brings her head up, into the light: it’s not a face full of fear, it’s a face full of glee – ready to kick ass.[10] -- The timing of Faith’s appearance is vital; Buffy is already feeling defensive about her life, and Faith’s arrival kicks Buffy’s possessive instincts into overdrive.  Buffy’s resentment at being “Single White Female-d” overshadows much of the episode, and she makes the first of many claims that Faith is less than sane.  Willow and Xander are “charmed and amused” by the new Slayer, [11] and even Giles is flattered by Faith’s flirtatious remarks.  Even though Buffy approaches the relationship warily, Faith makes numerous friendly overtures, asking for stories about Buffy’s Slaying experience and talking about the fun they’ll have together, “Watcher-less and fancy-free.” She’s come to Sunnydale for a new start, intent on leaving her horrific past behind her – an intent not unlike Buffy’s a few years ago, and even a few episodes ago.


Kakistos is still laughing as Faith rises from the ashes, the broken support beam in hand.[12] -- Of course, this is the Jossverse, and neither Slayer will get off that easily.  Faith is forced to confront the terrifying Kakistos, who has followed her to Sunnydale.  She ends up confessing her past cowardice to Buffy, an act that likely haunted her later on.  Angel returns, throwing Buffy’s world into chaos and sparking a storyline that will closely interlace with Faith’s arc in the seasons to come.  Things will never be the same.


It involves being part of this school and having actual friends.[13]-- Over the course of the next few episodes, Faith attempts to find her place in the group.  She is included in Scooby meetings and assigned to wolf-sit, and she teases Buffy about Scott Hope while they are patrolling.  Still, she’s an outsider.  Her “missing internal organs” joke in “B&TB” is greeted with confused looks and silence.  She again attempts to bond with Buffy after Scott dumps her, offering to attend Homecoming with her, since she is apparently un-invited until this point.  None of the Scoobies seem to be concerned with how Faith spends her spare time.  No effort is made to have Faith enroll in school, or even move out of the dodgy $18-a-day motel she’s living in.  Still, Faith persists in her attempts to really belong, even going so far as to obtain a fancy Homecoming dress, which surely must have been a financial strain.  Similar to a suggestion first put forth by Joyce in FH&T, Faith is offered up by Giles in “Band Candy” as a way for Buffy to leave Sunnydale and attend college, an idea both insulting (Faith apparently doesn’t merit a future beyond Slaying) and promising (at least she is considered competent enough to take over for Buffy).  A tenuous social balance is achieved.


I don't know. Something with Buffy and her friends. / Oh, right. I guess that doesn't include me.[14]-- Were it not for the events of “Revelations”, we might have actually seen a stronger relationship develop between Faith and the Sunnydale crowd.  The episode even begins with a wink-wink joke about “just [being] good friends.”  Unfortunately, ex-Watcher Gwendolyn Post subsequently ensures that she is the last human in Sunnydale Faith will ever truly trust.  Faith’s concern about Angel killing “a whole mess of people” leads her to attack him, an act seemingly in line with a Slayer’s duty, but the Scoobies’ exclusion of Faith in their meetings means that Faith is uninformed.  Buffy arrives to stop her and the resulting battle between her and Buffy is spectacular.  Though Buffy makes a peace offering in the end, the last image of the episode is of Faith all alone in her dingy motel room.


The first target, Buffy, you've all seen. The second, Faith, is... a little more elusive.[15]-- After that, we don’t see much of Faith.  A brief mention at the beginning of “The Wish” tells us that her scarcity worries Buffy.  Willow suggests that the group socialize more with Faith, an idea apparently not taken up in practice.  Joyce has to guilt Buffy into inviting Faith over for Christmas.  Faith’s assumption that Buffy’s visit to her motel room is prompted by “scary monsters” serves to show the business nature of their relationship.  Still, Faith hasn’t completely cut herself off, and she accepts the invitation in the end, even going so far as to purchase presents and wrap them in newspaper.  The girls share a brief moment of friendship on the porch when Buffy sincerely says that she’s glad Faith came, and we begin to have hope for the friendship.  The Angel situation intervenes, however, and Buffy takes off, promising to explain later and cutting off whatever Slayer bonding might have occurred that night.  Faith is absent from the next two episodes, mentioned in passing to be on “one of her unannounced walkabouts.”[16] 


Hold me.[17] -- Faith’s sexual encounter with Xander in “The Zeppo” is far more important than it initially appears.  Especially significant is the cuddling scene directly following the sex, a scene that the FX network actually cuts out in its airing of reruns.  Faith allows herself to be held in Xander’s arms and caressed.  The two of them have faint smiles on their faces, and she inches forward until they are nearly touching noses.  This tender scene is of course juxtaposed against her subsequent tossing-out of Xander, but it remains significant in light of their later interaction in “Consequences”.  We see in the opening scene of “Bad Girls” that Faith is still thinking about that night, questioning Buffy on the extent of her relationship with Xander to see if she’s crossed any friendship lines.


And here we’ve got the growing lesbian subtext between these two, which was always fun to play with, and Eliza was always kind of pushing the sexuality.  No one remembered to stop her from doing that, which we’re all very happy about.[18] -- Bad Girls.  This episode is the turning point, the point where Faith falls from whatever semblance of grace she has managed to hang onto.  Things start out well for her – she manages to truly connect with Buffy for the first time.  When the girls jump down the rabbit hole/sewer to fight the Eliminati, they work in tandem, with Buffy even throwing her stake across the way to take out Faith’s attacker.  The pleased look on Faith’s face is second only to the terrified look moments later when one of the vamps tries to drown Buffy.  According to Doug Petrie’s commentary, this is Buffy’s rebirth.  From this point on, “you’ll notice her attitude is different.   She’s been badly scared, she faced death, and now she’s a lot more like Faith.”[19]  Faith visits Buffy at school the next day and lures her out with more lesbian subtext.  The girls go on a Slaying bender, topping it off with wild dancing at the Bronze (at which point in the commentary Doug Petrie comments, “I’m sorry, I forgot what I was talking about.”)  Faith is no longer alone.


They’re fighting for their lives, they’re scared, they’re running, they basically have to kill everything they see.  ...  Here’s where the season changes, and here’s where the characters change, and here’s where [we go] where we’ve never gone before.[20] -- Buffy’s enthusiasm for the carefree Slayer life begins to falter after the girls are caught stealing weapons from a sporting good store.  Faith convinces her to run for it, but the incident remains in Buffy’s mind.  That night’s infractions fade in light of the next day, however.  A fateful turn down the wrong alley leads to Faith’s staking of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch … a human being.  And suddenly, the girls aren’t on the same side anymore.


He came out of nowhere.[21] -- That moment, right there – that’s when Faith goes from being an interesting character to a fascinating one.  Her panicked guilt, her denial of the guilt, her desperate attempts to cover up the incident, and her immediate shunning of emotional interaction all swirl together in one maelstrom of a character.  The entire next episode focuses on how she and Buffy deal with the consequences of what happened.  Faith does everything she can to prevent Buffy from “ratting her out,” terrified at the idea of prison and bitter that Buffy was willing to lie for Angel and not her.  Buffy urges Faith to open up, admit to the same feelings of shame that Buffy is feeling, but Faith responds with characteristic anger and denial.  One can only wonder what would have happened had Buffy shared her Ted the Robot experience with Faith at this point.


Anyway, how many people do you think we've saved by now, thousands?[22] -- Buffy and Faith’s conversation after their visit to the Deputy Mayor’s office is central to the concept of the entire show.  What is a Slayer?  What are her duties?  What are her privileges?  Is she subject to human laws?  The questions remain long after Faith is gone, popping up in episodes like “Selfless” during Buffy’s “I am the law” speech, and “Dead Things,” when Spike takes a page from Faith’s book and tries to prevent Buffy from turning herself in after Katrina’s death.  There are no answers, only people fumbling through life.  Being Called was probably the best thing that ever happened to Faith, because it gave her a sense of purpose.  People need her to survive, she tells Buffy, and that greater good justifies her mistake.  Faith clings to this reasoning because it’s all she has left.  If being a Slayer doesn’t make her “better” than everybody else, she is nothing.


He had to know what you did.[23] -- When Faith realizes that Buffy is going to confess anyway, she beats her to the punch and tells Giles that Buffy is the guilty one.  She crosses a line here by telling a lie that she must know has no hope of succeeding.  There is no part of Faith with enough confidence to believe that the Scoobies would believe her over Buffy.  This is a desperate act.


See, you're trying to hurt me. But right now, you need someone on your side.[24] -- Xander’s well-meaning attempt to confront and comfort Faith goes horribly wrong.  She’s too far gone by this point.  She assumes he wants what all the men in her life have wanted from her – sex.  She laughs at his claim of their “connection” and attacks him sexually.  She taunts him, doing everything she can to ensure he will stay away from her in the future.  Personal closeness is more frightening to Faith than anything else, and she is scared enough as it is.


I could make you die.[25] -- Faith’s attempted asphyxiation of Xander is one of the most controversial Faith scenes in the Buffyverse.  It is assumed that she was trying to kill him, but we don’t know that.  We’ve established that Faith likely has a history of extreme sexual experiences, at least one of them involving pain boundaries (the guy with the bullwhip).  It is impossible to know her thoughts and emotions in this scene, but it is entirely feasible that she was testing her and Xander’s limits, physically toying with the idea of both her physical and emotional strength.  We’ll never know if/when she would have stopped, because Angel knocks her out and takes her to the mansion.


I hope evil takes MasterCard.[26] -- The ensuing scene between Angel and Faith sets the groundwork for their interaction in the first season of Angel.  He reaches out to her, ignoring her sarcastic rebuffs, and manages to establish a glimmer of affinity.  Faith’s facial expression indicates a softening, but Wesley and the Council interrupt and steal her away before we can see what she would have done.  Faith finds herself in the exact situation she’s been avoiding for days, and promptly escapes.


See, you need me to toe the line because you're afraid you'll go over it, aren't you, B? You can't handle watching me living my own way, having a blast, because it tempts you! You know it could be you![27] -- Of course, Buffy is able to track her down before she can leave Sunnydale.  They proceed to finish their earlier conversation about Slayers and The Law, and Faith goads Buffy into punching her.  Even at this late stage, Faith is yearning for she and Buffy to be the same, for Buffy to have the same desires and feelings that she does.  If Buffy feels it too, Faith is not alone, no matter what happens.  Buffy denies her this comfort, and Faith gives up.


continued in Part Two


[1] “Dirty Girls”, Andrew

[2] “Faith, Hope and Trick” script, stage direction

[3] “Dirty Girls”, Faith

[6] “FH&T” script, Faith

[8] “Dirty Girls”, Faith

[10] “FH&T” script, stage direction

[11] “FH&T” script, stage direction

[12] “FH&T” script, stage direction

[13] “Homecoming”, Cordelia

[14] “Revelations”, Gwendolyn Post/Faith

[15] “Homecoming”, Mr. Trick

[16] “Helpless”, Buffy

[17] “The Zeppo”, Faith

[18] “Bad Girls” DVD Commentary by Douglas Petrie

[19] “Bad Girls” DVD Commentary by Douglas Petrie

[20] “Bad Girls” DVD Commentary by Douglas Petrie

[21] “Consequences”, Faith

[22] “Consequences”, Faith

[23] “Consequences”, Faith

[24] “Consequences”, Xander

[25] “Consequences”, Faith

[26] “Consequences”, Faith

[27] “Consequences”, Faith


MAJOR, major props to the folks at Buffy vs. AngelWithout their transcripts, I would be lost.  Many thanks to </a></a>hernewshoes, without whom I would be sadly unbeta-ed.

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