Consequences begins this season’s third act. We’ve swept away the pieces of Season 2 and set the table. It’s a Marti Noxon episode and I find it…solid. Really really solid. Like all of Season 3. No clunkers. Just really really really good…but I know that Buffy seasons, not just individual episodes, can be extraordinary. And watching Consequences I once again found myself wondering, what’s missing?

Buffy is plagued by nightmares about Allen’s death. I like the juxtaposition in this dream. Buffy is drowning from the guilt over Allen’s death and any attempts she makes to save herself from them are stymied by Faith. And let’s not forget Faith dumped Allen’s body in the water. Back in the real world Allen’s body has been discovered. So much for Faith’s job weighting it down. Wesley puts Faith and Buffy on the case of researching Allen’s murder and Cordelia meets Wesley for the first time. Interesting what book she came in looking for.

“And you teach psychology.” – “I take psychology.” – “She’s a student.” – “First word Jail, second word bait.”

Buffy pleads with Faith to let them both come clean.

“Faith we have to tell. I can’t pretend I don’t know.” – “Oh I see but you can pretend that Angel is still dead when you need to protect him?”

Faith suggests Buffy’s mutual culpability for the crime and that if she goes down Buffy will is well. Here we get into the interesting grey area of the legalities in the slayer role. Obviously the idea the supernatural is suggested to be a secret to all the normal Sunnydale residents, as evidenced by both Oz and Joyce’s reaction to the revelation. And this adds a certain degree of danger and unfairness to the Slayer job. It was a split second mistake that lead to Allen’s death. I imagine, “We were hunting vampires and got confused” wouldn’t be a strong argument in court.

Buffy turns to Willow for solace who is still feeling slighted after not being allowed to go on patrol the last episode. Meanwhile the cops are investigating Allen’s murder and Angel realizes who the blood that he smelled on Buffy’s hands belongs to.

At the Mayor’s office Wilkins is trying to cheer himself up using the shredder (a detail that makes me giddy) and Mr. Trick reveals that the police found wooden splinters in Allen’s wound.

“Well this is exciting. A slayer up for murder one.”

Faith and Buffy break into the mayor’s office to investigate Allen. When they do, they hear the mayor discussing things with Mr. Trick who Buffy met in Band Candy. Later Wilkins and Trick discover the two Slayers on video and the Mayor tells Mr. Trick he has to do something. Buffy pleads with Faith to let her talk to Giles one more time and Faith refuses.

“Anyways how many people do you think we’ve saved by now? THOUSANDS? And didn’t you stop the world from ending.”

Their conversation is the most philosophically relevant to the season. But lets back to it.

After Willow convinces Buffy talk to Giles, Buffy discovers Faith has beaten her to the punch and blamed the entire affair on her. The first time I watched this scene I was completely gutted. I’m especially susceptible to drama between Buffy and Giles and his feigned rage in this scene makes me crumble. It might seem dramatically manipulative that he does this and I’m always leery of drama that isn’t grounded in character or proper motivation. Thing is, as a Slayer, Faith essentially has an uzi on her at all times and Giles does not. If he immediately understood that Faith was lying his playing along most likely prevented a confrontation in this scene. And his unsinkable faith in Buffy makes me treasure their relationship even more.

Giles indicates that this is not the first time this has happened.

“The Slayer is on the front lines of a daily battle. Accidents have happened. It’s tragic but…”

He says the gang needs to meet and come up with a plan to intercede and at the moment he has no plans to involve the council. Wesley, overhearing the entire conversation however, has other ideas.

At the Scooby meeting, Xander indicates he might have a connection with Faith that would allow her to hear what he says and Willow realizes that they slept together . She is obviously hurt. There was a similar event in this episodes cousin, Innocence. In that episode Willow discovered Xander and Cordelia’s relationship and took him to task for it, something I disagreed with. Hurt or not, she hadn’t earned the right to punish him for his relationship with Cordelia. There is a very significant difference between that scene and this one though. While Willow is hurt, she doesn’t take it out him, but finds some space for herself to have the emotional catharsis she needs. Yes she may have picked Oz. She may have ended things with Xander. But, as we’ve said, the heart is not a rational organ. And at least we get a scene of the Scoobies off alone with an indie ballad playing over the top of it. A cliche that should’ve been covered in The Zeppo.

Either way Buffy suggests Faith doesn’t prize her relationships with men.

“Faith doesn’t take the guys she sleeps with seriously. They’re kind of a big joke to her. No offense.” – “Oh no. Why would I be offended by that.”

And here again, Xander ignores the decision made by the group, and acts in the way that HE thinks is best, deciding to and try to talk some sense into Faith. She resists his attempts at conversation in all forms. Dodging or attacking.

Faith throws Xander on the bed, again.

“I could do anything I want. I could make you scream. I could make you die.” WHAM

Angel tries to reach-out to Faith and she resists the way she did Xander and it’s revealed that this is all part of Buffy’s plan to make a connection. He seems to make a little progress before Wesley breaks in with the Watcher’s council lackies to capture Faith and take her back to England. She escapes and Buffy stumbles on her at the docks. They fight and are attacked by Trick and the gang. Faith saves Buffy, restoring everyone’s trust in her.

And the episode ends with Faith appearing before the Mayor, offering to spy for him.

So, let’s get back to Faith and Buffy’s conversation.

“Anyways how many people do you think we’ve saved by now? THOUSANDS? And didn’t you stop the world from ending.”

She’s attempting to apply a sloppy utilitarian framework to the collateral damage that is Allen. One death in the name of hundreds. The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Does Faith’s freedom and continued involvement as Slayer mean more than the loss of just one individual? Utilitarianism’s simplicity is both what is seductive about it and what is fundamentally flawed with it. You just cannot simplify all the complexity of a human life to a single. Even if you could process all the complexity of a person’s past and figure out some valuation for their choices made, you simply can’t value a person’s potential future. As an example, what if Allen really was, as the mayor thought, going to betray him to Buffy and Faith. He might’ve been able to provide them information that could have stopped the Mayor’s plans and saved many lives. If there is math to existence it’s an equation we’re simply not capable of reading in it’s entirety.

“That does not mean that we get to pass judgement on people like we’re better than everybody else.” – “We are better.”

Here Faith and Buffy represent opposite ends of the stages of moral development. There’s a link to the wikipedia article in the description. What the stages describe are the reasons individuals do or do not behave ethically. People in the first stage of development focus only on the direct repercussions of the actions, as they apply to themselves. What punishment can be incurred for what I’m about to do or what I have done? That is their basis of ethics. And, after all, who is physically even capable of punishing a Slayer? What ramifications for them can their truly be without them being willing to submit to them themselves?

And at the other end of the spectrum you have individuals whose morality is based on a set of universal ethical principles. For that person action is never a means but rather an end in itself. That person acts because it is right, regardless of punishment one way or another. In Ted, Buffy didn’t NEED to submit to police investigation. She chose to.

Things is we already have a precedent in this season for whether or not Faith honestly believes what she says here. As she said, she is superior in power to anyone else. There is no one who is capable of punishing her for her actions. If she truly believed the things she was saying, then why keep it a secret? Remember in Revelations when Buffy keeping Angel a secret came out to the group?

“You must’ve known it was a mistake Buffy otherwise you wouldn’t have kept it hidden from all of us.”

Helpless refuted Faith’s argument as well, through inverting the same scenario. In that episode the council attempted to lorde Buffy’s physical weakness over her as evidence of inferiority and she proved them wrong. Power does not make you special.

But we know of course that Faith probably doesn’t really believe the things she’s saying. What has really brought us to this moment can be seen in the dichotomy of Faith life to Buffy’s. Faith’s downward spiral, continued desire for connection, and self defensiveness are all in strong play here. Especially in the scene where she and Buffy are searching through Allen’s office.

“Came out of nowhere.” – “I know.”

While I still maintain that the murder scene could have been edited a bit tighter, this scene is a good argument for including Buffy’s, “Faith no” from the previous episode. Here, you can sense Faith grappling with her guilt in saying he came out of nowhere. And because of Buffy’s “Faith no,” her conciliatory tone here feels…superior, to me. BUFFY did catch it. Faith didn’t.

One thing I found fascinating in this episode in which the supernatural collides with the real world, is that the it’s the bad guys that use bureaucracy as THEIR tool. Buffy never tries to indict a Big Bad for tax evasion but you could see things going the other way.

“A Slayer up for murder one.”

The Lesbian Subtext:

Since I did the Bad Girls review, it has come to my attention that the lesbian undercurrents to Buffy and Faith’s relationship aren’t necessarily self evident for everyone watching. Maybe just Freudian wishful thinking on my part. Given the shows significance in the LGBT community I thought perhaps this topic deserved to be more fully developed here in the guide.

While we run through these points, understand I’m not saying that any individual item on this list suggests that Buffy are Faith are looking to de-pants each other and go to town. Only that the body of evidence as a whole indicates that there is more to the relationship than meets the eye, perhaps literally but definitely metaphorically. I’m also not making broad statements about large groups of people but rather speaking specifically about these two characters.

With that in mind let’s take a look at the way Faith relates to men specifically. In Beauty and the Beasts, as Buffy shares about her new relationship with Scott Hope, Faith says:

“All men are beasts Buffy. And I don’t care how sensitive they act. They’re all just in it for the chase.”

In this quiet conversation between just the two of them, the perspective Faith tries to convince Buffy of, doesn’t paint Scott Hope (or any man for that matter) as a good source for intimacy, love, and connection. In Revelations the two of them continue their conversation as Faith shares her own past experiences with men.

Revelations 11:28: Faith: Ronnie, deadbeat. Steve, klepto. Kenny… drummer. Eventually, I just had to face up to my destiny as a loser magnet. Now it’s strictly get some, get gone. You can’t trust guys.

And in this episode when Xander suggests he might be able to get through to Faith because they had sex Buffy responds:

“Xander Faith doesn’t take the guys she sleeps with seriously. They’re kind of a big joke to her.

Of course a mediocre perspective of men as a source of intimacy could be viewpoint a lot of heterosexuals share as well. So let’s consider the various innuendos stitched throughout the first half of the season.

In the episode Homecoming:
Buffy and Faith are in the library getting all *sweaty*.
They’re training.
I stand by my phrase.

And in that episode, Faith literally asks Buffy to the Homecoming dance. In Revelations the gang is sitting around speculating as to the identity of Buffy’s mystery boyfriend and Buffy says.

And in that episode when Faith finds out Angel, Buffy’s ex-boyfriend, is still around she goes after him with a stake and she and Buffy come to blows. At the end of the episode, Faith’s trust seems broken. But within the episodes actual plot, Faith’s trust was broken by Gwendolyn Post, not Buffy. But Faith treats Buffy in this scene as though lies have been exchanged between the two of them. Sure Buffy kept Angel a secret and that gave her friends plenty of motivation to react emotionally, but Faith wasn’t even around in Season 2. Why is she so bothered by it?

“You can trust me.” – “Is that so…”

Bad Girls is of course laden with innuendo.

From Faith’s heart on the window and her practical wink at Buffy, to the dance scene. Sure they’re surrounded by men but who is dancing with whom in this shot exactly. And even here, as in Revelations, Buffy’s heart belongs to someone else.

Beyond the innuendo, there is thematic parity between the episodes Surprise and Innocence from Season 2 and Bad Girls and Consequences. The episode pairs match up very close numerically but also have structurally similar plots. Throughout Season 2 Buffy and Angel grow intensely close. It is a love relationship. And in that season there had been some wordplay comparing orgasm to death

“When you kiss me I want to die.”

The relationship is an unhealthy one for Buffy and succumbing to it represents the death of her identity and individuality. And when that happens though orgasm (the figurative death) Angel dies and Angelous, darkness personified, is brought back. In Bad Girls, Buffy’s drowning (the figurative orgasm) represents her succumbing to the darkside, which leads to Allen’s death and the creation of a cold and distant Faith. And in Innocence Angel betrays Buffy’s trust just as Faith betrays Buffy’s in Consequences.

There are even tangential relationships between the two episodes as, in Innocence, Willow discovers Xander’s relationship with another woman and is hurt. And in Consequences Willow discovers Xander’s relationship with another woman and is hurt. The point here is that within this plot structure Faith is Angel, and by analogy Buffy’s boyfriend.

And then there was Eliza Dushku’s performance. There are a number of different secondhand accounts, suggesting that she was consistently pushing the flirty relationship between the two Slayers. In the DVD commentary for Bad Girls, Doug Pietrie said of Eliza: “And here we have the growing lesbian subtext between these two – which was always fun to play with. Eliza was always pushing the sexuality and no one remembered to stop her from that – which we are very happy about.”

As I said to start, I’m not suggesting that any of this has to mean that Buffy and Faith (or even just Faith) as literal characters are looking to find a home, settle down, and make the morning bed together, though it might. My point is that there is a something here, not a nothing here. This could all be a thematic byproduct of the season arc. The season 3 storyline is all about Buffy’s struggles with authority and morality. Faith’s character is there to tempt her towards that moral darkside. It makes sense then that she should be…well…tempting.

What’s most interesting about all this is that Joss Whedon never actually intended for there to BE lesbian subtext between Faith and Buffy. In an interview with NPR, he said he was initially irritated when fans raised the subject. To quote: “I was like ‘You guys see lesbian subtext behind every corner, you just want to see girls kissing – get over it.” After a fan directed him to their website where they had dissected Buffy and Faith’s interactions, Whedon realised that he had been wrong, stating “Everything they had said was true, it was all right there.”

There is a lot more evidence of this dynamic going forward but little else for me to say about it besides, ‘See look there it is I told you so.’ Because of that as those things arise I’m simply going to ring the subtext bell. *Ding*

As I said, there is a lot of rhyme between Seasons 2 and 3 but I have to admit, I still struggle to feel as emotionally invested in this season as I did Season 2. I wish that Faith had not been such a background player for the first half. I wish they’d incorporated her more – given her more significant human moments. it would have made this turn so much more interesting. I’ve gotten more out of these episodes on this runthrough but I wonder if it isn’t because I know where things go, how characters change, and feel a greater empathy for them then I did on this initial runthrough. Which wasn’t a problem for me when Angel turned.

Nonetheless it’s still one of the strongest seasons so far, and picking up speed towards an explosive season finale.