BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER:
“Who Are You"
Spectrum episode guides contain credits (actors, writers, and directors), plot summaries, and commentaries on every episode of a given show. To give new readers an idea of the kind of commentaries that we do, here are our comments for “Who Are You,” the sixteenth episode of the fourth season. This is reprinted from Spectrum 25.
COMMENTS: “Who Are You” takes the Faith storyline in a surprising new direction and sets up her appearance on Angel a few weeks later (“Five By Five,” April 25). The first step to repentance is recognition of wrongdoing, and that is what happens to Faith, though, interestingly, the revelation comes not in a simple, straight line, but with intriguing complexity. In “Five By Five,” Faith insists she’s “evil” (and even commits a few new deeds to prove it) and begs for Angel to kill her, which of course he will not do. What happens before is in “Who Are You”: by switching bodies with Buffy, Faith begins to play the part of Buffy too well, and this changes her. Is this realistic? Sure it is, and Whedon isn’t the only one to recognize it. In C.S. Lewis’s famous book Mere Christianity, he notes (in a chapter titled “Let’s Pretend”), “What is the good of pretending to be what you are not?...When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.” (p. 161.)
Faith, then, pretends to be Buffy. At first she does it very badly, which would be expected. (The scene with Spike is a standout even by Whedon’s standards—and continues subtle hints of the possibility of a repressed Buffy/Spike romantic attraction.) But after saying, “I’m Buffy” a number of times, that—and having a few experiences she’s not used to having—begins to have an effect on her. The first one comes early, when she saves a woman from being attacked by a vampire. The woman earnestly thanks Faith, and clearly this is not a common situation for her. Later, when Riley says he loves her, she can’t respond—she senses his goodness and honesty and has no reply except to push him away. She’s sure there’s a catch. But there’s not, and she finds herself wanting to flee the entire situation. She prepares to get on a plane but hears about the plight of the church hostages and must do something to help—Buffy’s goodness is a part of her.
Why, then, does she lash out at Buffy and later commit more mayhem during “Five By Five”? Because she is struggling with her newfound knowledge. Recognition of evil must predate repentance, but it does not necessarily lead to repentance. The alternative is despair—in “Sanctuary,” the follow-up to “Five By Five,” Faith considers leaving Angel’s care at one point in order to “go back out into the darkness.” That is where she thinks she belongs and what she thinks she deserves. This is why both mercy and judgment are integral parts of faith; one without the other will not work. In the case at hand, Faith has been “judged” (she recognizes her evil) but must also accept mercy in order for the repentance to be completed. Angel (quite appropriately, considering the name) offers mercy, but it takes her a while to accept it. In the meantime, she’s pulled back and forth between despair and the mercy that allows for repentance.
Praise should go to both Gellar and Dushku for extraordinary acting. Obviously they have their own characters down, but here they have to portray each other’s—or, more precisely, Gellar has to portray Faith as filtered through Buffy, and Dushku has to portray Buffy as filtered through Faith. Both require deft, nuanced performances, and both are perfect.
Whedon creates the best Adam scenes yet on the show. They’re not enough to get us excited about the story arc, but they are interesting. Adam tries to teach the vampires about fear, and how they can get a handle on it. One interesting observation is that vampires fear death more than humans, even though vampires are virtually immortal. Humans, on the other hand, are more apt to accept it as a natural end to life. This episode also reveals Adam’s “purpose in life” (if one could call it that)—he was “born to kill.” Why was he born to kill? Unfortunately, Whedon doesn’t tell us, which makes Adam a rather shallow, uninteresting character. Perhaps Adam’s demon half is dominant, but that still begs the question—was it inevitable, or a flaw in the experiment? Further muddling the issue is Buffy’s statement in episode 19, “New Moon Rising,” that there are degrees of evil in vampires and demons.
RATING: 4 (out of 5)
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