Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Who Are You?" (Buffy 4.16): Slayer on Slayer Action

Any episode written and directed by His Highness Joss Whedon is worthy of celebration, and this is a particularly evocative offering. Though the Big Bad storyline only moves forward incrementally, the internal development of our favorite Slayer-in-waiting advances by leaps and bounds. The Buffy guide to walking a mile in someone else's body is the latest season 4 highlight.

DO familiarize yourself with the equipment. When the Mayor's last bequest successfully switches Faith and Buffy' s bodies, the former spends some time exploring the studio space, so to speak.

It might not look like it, but this scene is chilling.
The episode is truly an acting masterclass for Sarah Michelle Gellar. She manages to communicate Faith-in-Buffy a lot more successfully than, for my money, Helena Bonham Carter pulled off Hermione-in-Bellatrix. Gellar even rocked Eliza's idiosyncratic Boston accent, pulling out an expert "a-boat."

Though the patented Slayer Hair Tossing Dance remains the same no matter who is possessing your body.
DO take advantage of available opportunities, part 1. While Faith is wearing her Buffy suit, she briefly pauses to mindfuck Spike, but good. Her seductive flirtation is worth quoting in full:

"I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I've got muscles you've never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you pop like warm champagne and you'd beg me to hurt you just a little bit more."

As my intrepid co-watcher Jenn points out, this S/M-tinged speech is a little hard to enjoy with "Seeing Red" looming in season 6.

Why does Season 6 have to ruin everything?

DON'T get too close to an intuitive Wicca. I've been (unintentionally) downplaying the development of Willow and Tara's relationship in these posts, but it really is impossible to overlook in this episode. Tara is the one who is able to first identify the soul-switching spell,

This is Tara's "I'm figuring it out" face.

and also engages in some metaphorical sexytime with Willow.

As Jenn points out, unfortunately, metaphorical sexytime is really all they're allowed.

DO take advantage of available opportunities, part 2.  This is like the opposite of sexytime, metaphorical or otherwise. Faith-in-Buffy gets groiny with Riley, and his tender lovemaking is the beginning of her rehabilitation.

Though, as Jenn notes, Forrest-the-asshole also does his part. His designation of Buffy (Faith) as a "murderer" does produce the first denial of this identity that Faith articulates.

And I was just wondering where Graham was.

DON'T forget that pretending to be someone else only teaches you more about yourself. Though the Buffy-in-Faith vs. Faith-in-Buffy showdown is unfortunately brief, it does highlight the depth and ferocity of Faith's self-loathing.

Pictured: What self-loathing looks like if you've happened to switch bodies with Buffy.
Faith's brutal self-beatdown will eventually send her straight to L.A., into the arms of a more understanding and empathic mentor than the Watchers Council, the Mayor, and even Buffy could hope to be.

Yeah. It's this guy.

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