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Five by Five
War Zone
Blind Date
To Shanshu in LA




Written by Tim Minear & Joss Whedon

Directed by: James Lange

[Follow this link for a Review of the Buffy, Angel, Riley scenes in:

The Yoko Factor]

Redemption for Faith?

In "Five by Five" we saw Faith reduced to her lowest point, a point she probably didn't realize she could reach.  She had been left without any shred of self-respect and was helplessly asking to be put out of her misery.  But she was still not yet at the point where she was explicitly looking for redemption.  Here I am happy draw upon the parallel between her and Marquez.  Both Marquez and Faith had souls and, as Wesley pointed out, both therefore had "deep down inside an urge to do what's right."  But that does not mean they will do so.  When trying to persuade Marquez to testify in the murder case, Angel had told him: 

"You're gonna have to face your demons sometime." 

In reply, Marquez said "What if I don't want to face my demons?"  Angel's counter is "Then you'll have to face mine." In other words, "I will force you to testify."  And, while it is not made explicit, it may very well be that that is what happened.  Marquez testifies not because he sees the light but because the consequences of not doing so are more immediately painful.  Thus, although Marquez has the possibility to be redeemed, he is not.  With this parallel the writers may be telling us that redemption lies in Faith's hands and she may make the wrong choice.  And this possibility is reinforced dramatically by the scene in which, in a daydream, she repeatedly stabs Angel.  This is a reprise of the scene in "Who Are You" when she attacks Willow.  Later we see Faith with a real knife and Angel has to disarm her and she makes one attempt to run away. In all of these episodes we are clearly being warned just how dangerous and unstable Faith still is.  Redemption is no certainty.

And yet in the end she gives herself up to the Police.  There are, it seems to me, therefore, two questions before us.   First of all, how credible is it that a person who has been given so many opportunities to change would do so now?  Secondly is her action in doing so any form of redemption? Does it have a meaning at all or is it – a bit like the coma in which she found herself in  GD2 – a cop out.  It seems to me that the most important things the writers have to do is to explain her decision to give herself up now in terms which make sense, given all the other opportunities she wasted.  I think they have.  If there has been one consistent theme in Faith's life it has been the importance of relationships in it. She had an alcoholic mother.  In "Consequences" she implied that (presumably before she became a Slayer) men had taken advantage of her sexually. Instead of a friend she seemed to think of Buffy as competition and she certainly resented her "holier than thou attitude".  Wesley as a watcher had let her down. As she said in “Enemies” to Angel

“Look, I'm not so good at apologies. Mostly because I think the world's out to screw me so I'm generally more owed than owing.”

That is the key to her refusal to take responsibility for her own actions.  It was always someone else’s fault.  For her the key moment was when she killed Alan.  That was an accident.  But because she refused to face up to what she had done it led to her alliance with the Mayor.  The rest, her first deliberate murder of the demon, trying to steal Angel’s soul and finally killing poor harmless Lester followed on from this.  The Mayor valued her and cared about her and she trusted him.  Everyone else had let her down. On each step on the way down she justified her actions to herself by insisting she was the wronged one.  This is a picture of someone who had given up control of her life, abdicated any sense of responsibility for it.  As she said to Buffy on the roof in “Sanctuary”:

“You're all about control.  You have no idea what it's like on the other side.  Where nothing's in control, nothing makes sense.  There is just pain and hate and nothing you do means anything.”

It is not that she could not control her actions it was just that, once on a downward spiral, it was easier not to.  It was easier to trust the Mayor.  And once he was gone what was left for Faith - just the hate and with it, because she had a soul, the pain of what she had done.  There are obvious parallels here with someone in the grasp of an addiction.  Deep down she wanted to change but she could not.  So she kept on taking the easier way out.  In “Five by Five” any time someone said something she didn’t like she resorted to violence without thinking.  In “Sanctuary” too she does the same with Angel – she hits him almost be instinct.   That is why he doubts that she can be “free”.  Freedom means being in control of your own life.

She could not free herself on her own.  But for the first time she had real help: Angel.  By the end of “Five by Five” he had achieved a position of moral ascendancy over her.  He was the one to whom she had to turn.  In turn he was what she desperately wanted – someone who cared about her.  With that came a reason to value herself; a reason that this time provided an incentive to change.  That was the beginning of her looking for redemption.  The question was whether she could achieve it.  What Angel told her was that she had to start with her pain; accept it for what it is.  It meant that she had done wrong – not someone else.  There was no justification in what she had done and she had to take responsibility for it.  Only then would she be free.

There are no quick fixes here.  We are not shown Faith being redeemed.  Angel stresses that redemption is not a single change of heart.  It is a process in which Faith has to work through the first five minutes and then the next and then the next.  And it has to be for life.  Angel puts it this way:

“Just because you've decided to change doesn't mean that the world is ready for you to.  The truth is, no matter how much you suffer, no matter how many good deeds you do to try to make up for the past, you may never balance out the cosmic scale.  The only thing I can promise you is that you'll probably be haunted - maybe for the rest of your life."

Here he is saying that she will never be completely free of the legacy of what she has done.  Instead she will have to struggle for the rest of her life with what she has done.  There is nothing particularly profound here.  I don’t think we have been given any devastating new insights into the nature of sin or redemption. But what it does say it says clearly and in doing so makes a great deal of sense.  First of all the way that Faith is brought to the point of deciding that she wants redemption is coherent, consistent with her past behavior (including all those times she has turned her back on help) and believable.  Secondly we are explicitly shown that this is not redemption.  This is just Faith getting to the starting gate.  There is a long road ahead and no guarantee of success.  She is where Angel was when Whistler found him in 1996.  But she is not Angel.  I remain to be convinced that she has the strength to carry the burden he is asking her to and which he himself does.  But that is what I like most of all about this episode.   The writers, in keeping with their message, have not themselves taken the easy way out e.g. with Faith just skipping town having agreed to re-examine her life.  That would be to trivialize the issue of facing up to her responsibility.  That would be to equate it with having a long think about it.  Instead she faces prison with all its the connotations of retribution for past sins and paying debts to society.  This is the hard road she has to take and is therefore of great symbolic importance.  But perhaps even more importantly Faith ended up in prison voluntarily. In other words she took that road of her own free will.

Angel and his Mission

One of the things that I appreciate most about "Sanctuary" is that it was not simply about Faith and whether she can be redeemed.  Perhaps even more importantly it was also about Angel and how he conceives his mission, certainly in relation to Faith but also generally.  And it also shows us how far he has already come in that mission.  In fact the whole idea of “moving on” (and in some cases refusing to do so) plays a very big part in “Sanctuary”.  It is, I think, the key to understanding the whole dynamics of the episode.  And the ability to move on seems in one way or another to be tied up with the concept of “trust”.

First and foremost Angel now for the first time really trusts himself.  He believes he can understand Faith.  He believes he can reach her and if he reaches her be believes he can persuade her to save herself.  By extension, therefore, he believes in Faith, believes that there is in her someone who wants to be redeemed and is prepared to try.

And in this context may I say how much I love the way Angel's character is used here.  In my review of "Five by Five" I commented on the unfairness of his attack on Wesley for the botched abduction of Faith.  I said that I thought it illustrated how strongly Angel felt about seeing Faith slip away into the darkness.  As it turns out this was an understatement.  As we see both in "Five by Five" and "Sanctuary" he really does understand Faith and strongly identifies with her.  That is not to say they are the same.  They are not.  But the choices they must make are and they are hard choices.  When Angel tells Faith, in the words I quoted above, that redemption is a life long struggle he is talking about himself and his own experiences.  So, if he really wants redemption himself he has to believe that Faith can achieve it too. He had spent a hundred years in misery without any hope of it ending.   Writing her off as someone who cannot be redeemed simply on the basis of her past might be seen as writing him off as well.

But, although Faith's case has a special resonance over and above any other cause he has taken up, there is more to it than that.   What we have in "Sanctuary" is the clearest possible picture of the way Angel sees his purpose generally.  I think we can see this from his conversation with Cordelia after Wesley storms out of the Office:

Angel:  "You understand why we have to help Faith, don't you?"
Cordelia:  "Totally.”

Angel:  "We can't just arbitrarily decide whose soul is worth saving and whose isn't."

He is no longer brooding boy, drifting helplessly under the weight of his remorse.  He is no longer just Buffy's boyfriend.  There was a time when she was the most important thing in his life.  Not any more.  In fact he isn't even comparable any longer to Buffy herself - the chosen one who at times rather wishes that she wasn't.  Angel is now a man with a Mission (capital 'M').   It is that which now defines him.  And that is why he reacts to Buffy in the way he does.  Just when he is reaching Faith Buffy shows up. Faith is at a delicate stage and she threatens to ruin everything. So all he can think about is that he has to stop her repeating Wesley’s mistake (a possibility stressed when Angel himself reminded Wesley of that mistake in “Five by Five”).  That is his one concern and nothing else matters. 

Of course in his attempt to help Faith and in setting out how he sees his mission, Angel does come across as pretty high handed.   In "Sanctuary" he alone knows Faith.  He alone can help her.  No-one else as the right to interfere. When people disagree with him he lectures them on what is right and wrong.  Talking about Faith to a still raw Wesley he says:

“She's a person.  In case you've forgotten - we're not in the business of giving up on people.”

But what is so great about the way Angel’s character has been written here is that it shows us precisely how people in his situation think.  They have been specially chosen to pursue their cause; they are uniquely qualified for it.  They are single minded and can often be insufferably opinionated, to the point of self-righteousness.  It is no wonder that many of the great saints of the Church came to such bad ends.    So, in effect what the writers have done in "Sanctuary" is to definitively nail both character and mission - this is what Angel is all about.  But then again I do not find his attitude all that unsympathetic.  Since when was refusing to abandon another human being to a thirst for revenge something to be sorry for?  And if we bear in mind what I have just said about his personal sense of identification with her is so surprising then that nothing else, not his friendship with Cordelia and Wesley, not even his One True Love, is allowed to interfere with his attempts to save Faith? And that is the point that Buffy in particular either missed or simply did not care about.  That this was not just about Faith; it was about Angel too.  To him it must have seemed that she was putting her petty and vindictive desire for vengeance above something that Angel considered of great importance to his own quest for redemption.  And that must have hurt - a lot.


Buffy and Angel

And this is where I think bringing Buffy to LA worked so beautifully.  There is no reason to disbelieve her when she said that she was concerned for Angel's safety.  And we can all understand why she was so distrustful of Faith.  She had been given multiple chances in the past to reform and had refused to do so. Apart from that, as I have already said, the doubts that the audience might already have had over her had been reinforced by the time Buffy arrived on the scene.  So no-one can blame the suspicion with which she treated Faith.  But Angel was saying to her - trust me. I know what I am doing. And she couldn't or wouldn't.  That, and not her inability to trust Faith, was the really significant part of "Sanctuary" from Buffy's point of view.

But why?  She was always the first one to make a distinction between him and Angelus.  He hasn't done anything since breaking up with Buffy to show he is untrustworthy.  And she is hardly in a position to complain about what he did in GD2.  Indeed if he was that untrustworthy why did she come to LA at all?  It seems to me that there is only one explanation for Buffy's attitude.  Buffy continues to think of Angel as her boyfriend - former - from Sunnydale.  She still defines him as he was then; someone who was dependent upon her for his sense of identity and who saw in their relationship his possibility of salvation.  In "Sanctuary" this cozy little picture is blown unceremoniously sky high.  Sure Angel has fought with her before.  But she has always shown him who was boss, even if it meant a little "physical" coercion - for his own good of course.  He could always be persuaded to see things her way.  Not now.  Now, not only is he refusing to do what she wants, he is actually taking the moral high ground with her, the slayer.

That I why I think she reminds him of his murderous past.  On the face of it, it is simply a cheap shot.  But it reflects her inner confusion about their new positions relative to one another.  She is saying to him remember you are the one trying to redeem himself - don't come all high and mighty with me.

But the most powerful indication of their changed relationship comes when she hits him and he hits her back.  I have to say that I am deeply schizophrenic about this.  It is a very powerful moment, not only for the punch itself but for Buffy's reaction.  She can't believe it.  She has hit him before but he has never fought back like this.  It was the ultimate demonstration of his declaration of independence from her.  I do not think dialogue alone could have encapsulated the meaning of that moment half so well.  And the writers were very careful to avoid any suggestion of physical abuse on Angel's part.  That was why they had him explicitly refer to her being a little bit stronger.  So, on paper and in terms of character, I do not think that Angel's reaction can be construed as particularly blameworthy.  Still, the image of this big man hitting a much smaller woman in what might be described broadly as a "domestic" dispute is disturbing.

The whole new dynamic between Buffy and Angel is, I think, summed up in her exchange with him at the end when he said:

"Buffy, this wasn't about you.  This was about saving somebody's soul.  That's what I do here, and you're not a part of it.  That was your idea, remember?  We stay away from each other."

The gulf between Buffy and Angel is now an enormous one because while he has moved on she hasn't.  Many people have commented on her self-centeredness, nor only here but in season 4 of BUFFY generally.  This is reflected perfectly in her attitude towards Faith.  As I have already said, no-one would blame her for distrusting Faith in general.  But it is soon fairly clear what the source of her real problem with Faith is.  Faith was always jealous of Buffy but Buffy too has her own share of insecurities where Faith is concerned.  In Enemies and Earshot, for example, the mere fact that Angel pretended to be friendly to Faith was enough to trigger this.  I think the most revealing passage in "Earshot" is where she says-

“You know, I think she was hurting a lot. And some people, protective type people, might be drawn to that I guess... Well, the thing about Faith…“.

Buffy recognizes how much Faith needs people.  She recognizes in Angel someone who responds instinctively to that.  She may even deep down agree that Angel can reach her.  But I do not think she is prepared for the implications of this.  I think she fears Faith as a rival for Angel.  When she and Angel were together it was bad enough but now that they have broken up she has no claim to counterbalance Faith's.  And when she arrived in Angel's apartment what was the very first thing that she saw?  Faith and Angel in a compromising position and Angel, while scrambling to button the front of his shirt up, acting if not guiltily then in a very embarrassed manner.  Hence her remarks about him punishing her with severe cuddling.  There was her distrust for all to see and it had nothing to do with faith being a murderer.

Then on the roof, when her anger at Faith spilled out and she talked about herself as being a victim, what was top of her list - Angel and Reilly (significantly in that order).  I think the implication to be drawn from this is clear.  Buffy really cannot get past the personal - how Faith's behavior has affected her.  She hasn't moved on in terms of her duties as a slayer - her higher calling.  Essentially her attitude is the same as in GD2.  Her boyfriend (emphasis on the "her") first and foremost and let everything else take care of itself.  Here the most ironic comment comes from Buffy herself when she tells Angel about Reilly.  I am sure that this was more defensive than intended to be deliberately cruel.  She could see Angel's sense of independence and how he was forging a separate identity for himself based on his mission in life.  He no longer needed her as he once did.  She was trying to say she no longer needed him. But when Angel spoke of her moving on, he could not have been further from the truth.  It seems to me that what we are being given here is a picture of a couple only one of which has moved on, the other is stuck in the past.  Only the one who has moved on is not Buffy.

Here, as with Angel, the writers seem to me to have nailed the season 4 Buffy perfectly.  There has always been a "me, me, me" element to her character (traceable no doubt to her pre-Slayer cheerleading days).  But this season it has assumed very uncomfortable proportions indeed.  Bringing Buffy and Angel together and measuring the gap that has now grown between them by reference to the way they see Faith was inspired.  It is, and I think was intended to be, a devastating comment on where Buffy is now emotionally.  I can only hope that the purpose behind this is to foreshadow some change in her current direction.


Wesley and the Council

Which brings us to Wesley.  I know that I can be a bit of a bore about counterpoint. But I love playing with it as a device and in Wesley I see the perfect counterpoint for Buffy. Wesley could not have been particularly blamed for accepting the Faustian pact he was offered by the Council.  He had every reason to disapprove of what Angel had done in relation to Faith and he had been very careful to protect him personally.  But, in a series of revealing remarks, to and about the Black Ops squad, we see how few illusions Wesley has about the Council now.  This is a very different Wesley to the one we saw in Season 3 Buffy.  He too has moved on.  He still doesn’t trust Faith but he measured his trust for Angel against his trust for the Council and the Council came up wanting.  Here the most significant remark was where he said:

“In point of fact I've confronted more evil - slayed more demons - in short, done more good while working with Angel than I ever did while in the Council's employ."

I have said before that they key to Wesley is his desire to make a contribution, to belong.  That was why he was so insistent on being part of the team in “Five by Five”.  Here we see that, as part of Angel Investigations, Wesley has found what he is looking for and because of that and the resulting bond of trust with Angel he is willing to set aside his own doubts over Faith.  This seems to me to counterpoint perfectly Buffy’s sad inability to do likewise  and was excellent use of character development.  Indeed it also counterpoints the inability of another person to move on.  The death of Kate’s father at the hands of vampires has traumatized her far more than we knew.  She is now obsessed with them and, for her, Angel is no different to any of the others.  This fact was nicely used in presenting the dénouement of the episode by bringing everyone down to the station.  It had no real consequences in and of itself but it certainly set up hugely interesting possibilities for the future.  Again this was another plus.


The Plot

Having spent so much time dealing with the character issues I will try to be brief about the plot.  There is a lot going on here.  Angel’s attempt to convince Faith about her redemption;  Buffy’s arrival, the way in which that interfered with Angel’s plans and how they reacted to one another over that; Wesley being tempted to the dark side and the intervention of the COW black ops team and finally Wolfram & Hart’s attempt to cover their tracks.  But these different aspects of the story were all subordinated to the central tale of Faith’s journey to redemption.  This gives the plot a tremendous unity, a feeling of a single story with different facets each contributing to it rather than distracting from the A plot.  In unfolding this tale, the tension never lets up.  First, as I have already suggested, the question was whether Faith even wanted redemption.  Then we were thrown off balance by the Buffy/Angel confrontation and what that meant.  We were misled into believing Wesley might betray Angel.  Then we were launched straight into that terrific extended action sequence.  And hanging over all of this was the Wolfram and Hart plotting and the question of where it would lead. Finally there was the big twist at then end with Faith’s confession.  And, at crucial moments as when Angel stopped Faith running away or when he confronted Buffy, the scene fairly crackled with tension.  The emotion was running high and how each individual would react to the intense pressure they were put under  was uncertain.  Our attention was riveted from beginning to end.


Other Matters

Finally I have to say a word about both the Wolfram and Hart lawyers and the COW Black Ops.  Like many I spent a lot of time during season 1 of ANGEL wondering when something was going to be made of Wolfram and Hart.  Now something is being made of them – with a vengeance.  Lindsey, Lee and Lilah make a simply wonderful combination.  They play of one another so well and combine soulless ambition and a terrifically dark self-knowing humor.  There is so much I could quote here but my favorite has to be

Lindsey:  "We're lawyers.  It's a mistake for us to try to work outside the law."

Lilah:  "He's being ironic."

And I thought the scene between Wesley and the COW Black Ops team in the Pub was also terrifically well done.  It was serious alright but it was full of humorous sidelights on the COW and its attitudes, including the sort of conversation employees have about their employers:

Wesley:  "Well, it seemed as good a place as any to - re-evaluate my situation after being asked to resign my position with the Council.  -  And the weather - I find it - dry."

Weatherby:  "Wouldn't cough up the dosh for the airfare home, would they?"

Wesley:  "No, they wouldn't."

 Smith:  "All those alchemists on the board of directors and they still make us fly coach.  Miserly bastards."



10/10:  Again “Sanctuary” is not perfect but I think I have found a new benchmark for ANGEL.  As an episode this works in so many different ways.  First of all it is a profoundly important turning point in the whole Buffy/Angel myth arc.  It does not mean that B/A can never be together again.  Actually it makes it pretty clear that they do still love one another.  But it does mean that they can never be together as the couple they once were – slayer and boyfriend.  If they are ever to get together again it will only be as equals and in order for them to be equals it is Buffy who must do the growing.  There is a remarkable inversion of the Season 1 to 3 dynamic between them.  In this context it establishes in the most clear and convincing way who Angel now is and what his mission means.  He had to choose between it and a lot of things that mean a lot to him personally and he did not hesitate.  It deals with Faith and her road to redemption in a coherent, consistent and credible way.  It further advances Wesley’s character development and may constitute an important stage in the use of Kate.  And it does all of this in the context of a story that never stops moving  and which is illuminated by a lot of delightfully dark humor which fits in very well with the whole feel of the episode.



Review revised and rewritten on Sunday, September 17th 2000