Bad Girls is an episode with an explosion of plot. Finally we get to talk about Faith. Finally the Mayor’s plan begins to come into focus. There’s a lot to talk about with this one, including a pair of very strange comparisons that kept jumping to mind while watching this one. Let’s get into it.

Mid Vampire slaying Faith is grilling Buffy on whether or not she and Xander had ever gotten pelvic with each other. With one vampire left Buffy proposes a plan and Faith rushes in. On saving Buffy’s life Faith gives her the stiffest come hither look Buffy’s gotten since mid season 2 Angel. Though Angel’s glances always had an air of guilt to them (rightfully so you perv.) The vampires the Slayers fought were sword bearing, something Mr. Trick brings to the attention of the Mayor. The Mayor mentions a coming ceremony he doesn’t want interfered with and tells Trick to steer the Slayers towards the swordy vamps.

“After the ascension I’ll no longer have to worry about the little things.”

He says that after using a disinfectant wipe on his hands. Is the Mayor’s entire evil motivation germaphobia? The gang is contemplating life after high school. Willow has gotten into every school under the sun. In the library Giles is being subjected to the pedantic ramblings of a new character.

Buffy describes the nature of the swordsy vampires and Wesley realizes they’re the heralds of a demon called Balthazar. Faith enters and reacts poorly to Wesley’s presence as well.

“Screw that.”

Buffy and Faith set out after an amulet the swordulent vamps are seeking. Faith jumps in again without a plan. Buffy pays the price in being drowned by the vampire leader.

“I hate it when they drown me.”

Faith and Buffy bring the amulet to Giles and Wesley, Buffy now wearing a dark leather jacket. She goes to take her chemistry test and seems oddly…excited about her near death situation with Faith from the night before. Willow says she understands

Faith shows up and interrupts the test with another come hither look and Buffy leaves with her out the window. IS THERE NO TEACHER HERE? Cue some super sexy vampire hunting. During their dance there is a moment where Faith is holding Buffy’s arm above her head. I was reminded of a marionette. Angel shows up and Buffy vault mounts him. He is unamused and has information for Buffy on the demon seeking the amulet. The demon who apparently did not die. Wesley shows up and Buffy takes the amulet and gives it to Angel. As he leaves they exchange an interesting kiss. I really like the chemistry of that. They have the affection of a doting but strong and developed couple. Very interesting little element that stood out to me.

Balthazar is a large blubbery demon in need of a constant spa day. He sends the swordly vampires after the two Watchers to get his amulet which, presumably will return him to his normal stature. Buffy and Faith consider jumping in and Faith suggests they arm themselves first by breaking into the hardware store across the street.

When they do break in the police show up and Faith and Buffy escape by crashing the car. The next day the Mayor is attacked by a minion of Balthasar’s. The mayor tells Trick to lock him up for later. At Buffy’s house Willow has given Buffy a protection spell and Buffy tells Willow she probably shouldn’t come with her patrolling that night. Willow is obviously hurt.

Faith and Buffy go patrolling and are consecutively attacked. They turn the corner and Faith stakes Allan, the mayor’s very human advisor. They flee and Angel catches Buffy in the alley. He smells the blood on her that is not hers. She dodges him and runs.

Wesley and Giles are brought before Balthazar and Wesley wets himself. Angel comes in and saves the day. Buffy joins him and electrocutes Balthasar. Balthasar dies with a foreboding warning about something more dangerous rising and we see Mayor Wilkins become invincible through a ceremony.

Buffy confronts Faith at her hotel room. She is now again clothed in a much more Buffy like outfit. Faith tells Buffy she weighted and dumped the body.

“Faith you don’t get it. You killed a man.”

Prepare to have that one on every previously on for the rest of the season.

So, let’s talk about Faith. This season has been all about shadow selves. The wolf. Giles and Wesley. Cordelia and Buffy’s face-off in Homecoming. Faith has represented some aspect of Buffy herself but it isn’t until Bad Girls exactly what that is becomes clear. With the exception of the episodes Faith, Hope, and Trick and Revelations this season, Faith has been relegated mostly to the background. But there have been a few tidbits of information dropped so far this season that, within the context of Bad Girls begin to make much greater sense. And some of it feels…familiar. As let’s not forget…Buffy has killed a man before.

“I was so hoping you’d do that.”

As I said in that guide, it’s true that Ted turned out to be a robot and not dead but that doesn’t change the fact that Buffy went after him with the full force of the Slayer power. For a quarter of that episode she is a murderer. In some ways her murder was more egregious than Faith’s as Faith’s was an act of pure impulse. Buffy’s attack was calculated.

Interestingly, much of Buffy Season 3 is heavily foreshadowed in Ted. In that episode John Ritter is taking Joyce away from Buffy. Causing in her massive rage that she takes out while slaying.

“It’s staking time don’t you think.”

In Faith, Hope, and Trick, Faith’s Watcher with whom it is suggested she had a very close relationship, has been brutally and horribly slain by Kakistos. And Faith spends extra time unnecessarily pummeling vampires.

“Faith Stake him already and give me a hand.”

In the episode immediately previous to Ted, Buffy advocates to Kendra the amplification of emotion in order to raise her Slayer game. And in the episode Homecoming Faith says to Buffy:

“No I mean it you’ve really got some quality rage going. Really gives you an edge.”

If Cordelia represents the shadow-self of Buffy’s human side, Faith is the dark half of Buffy’s Slayer side. Power unchecked, lacking a moral center.

But where Buffy has ties to the world in Xander, Willow, and Giles, Faith’s trust is continually crushed. Her first Watcher Diana Fowler is murdered. She is used as a tool in Revelations by BOTH Xander, who gives her just enough of the truth, and Gwendolyn Post.

“Faith, you’re an idiot.”

And now she’s living in a dodgy hotel cleaning her clothes in the sink. Witness to Buffy’s life with family and friends. A mother in Joyce, a father in Giles. A home to go back to.

In addition to Ted, there was another very odd comparison that kept springing to my mind throughout Bad Girls: Superman 3. Two episodes ago in helpless, Xander and Oz had a brief conversation about the nature of different Kryptonites and their effects on Superman.

Now stick with me here in Superman 3, Richard Pryor gives Superman a corrupting piece of kryptonite, that causes him to turn dark and immoral, engaging in such heinous acts as drinking, casual sex, blowing out the olympic torch and straightening the leaning tower of pisa. You can tell he turns dark by the darker more yuckified version of his super suit. I wonder what kryptonian feet smell like anyway.

Here, post drowning Buffy skews towards Faith’s shade of the spectrum.

Ditching school, stealing, and acting much more rashly. She even dresses in much darker attire throughout her brief flirt with the power. In the final scene once she’s come to her senses her clothing has once again gone back to the brighter or at least more neutral end of the spectrum.

Interestingly, Superman’s struggle with his inner darkside culminates in a scene where he splits into his component parts, good and evil. Light and shadow. Moral and immoral. And the two fight to the death in a very literal demonstration of Jungian individuation.

Ultimately, the line between light and dark isn’t defined by lack of mistakes. We’ve covered earlier in this season that a good person is defined by how they take responsibility for their mistakes, not in the total avoidance of them. When Buffy beat Ted to death, she own up to it. Here Faith avoids and denies responsibility.

In the end, Faith may already be beyond reach. She says she doesn’t care about the murder but we can see by her face at Allen’s death that she’s feeling anything but indifference. The betrayals she has suffered and her frequent isolation has pushed her into defensive walls and posturing.

I have only one minor quibble with this one. And it’s that at the moment of Allen’s staking Buffy says, “Faith no.” It feels like a missed opportunity to me on two fronts. First, it makes Faith look a little stupid and too impulsive. The way the shot is blocked it feels like hours between when Buffy yells and Faith stakes. The second is there is a real missed opportunity here for some grey area with Buffy. This is the pivotal moment in the season and raises all the important questions about Slayers and morality. It would’ve been so much more compelling to have just tossed Buffy in the deep end. So to speak.

The moral and philosophical implications of Bad Girl’s haven’t quite been brought up yet so I’m going to leave those for a little later. But it’s a wonderful episode and feels fantastic to be brought back into Faith and the Mayor’s subplot. With only a couple of short joyful detours Season 3 now continues to pickup speed leading right up to Graduation Day.