“Enemies” opens with Buffy and Angel coming down from a surprise encounter with erotica in film. The two of them are aroused, but thwarted by that darn gypsy curse. So, instead of a kickin’ fight, we get a sterile, low-key chat about their doomed romance and not-so-sexy celibacy situation.
(I’ve written about abstinence porn in last summer’s post about V.C. Andrews and Twilight, “Sick Sex Smackdown,” and I suppose this is another form of same, but it doesn’t really read. The Angel/Buffy ’safe as houses’ kiss is chemistry free, as far as I’m concerned.)
Anyway, Faith shows, needles Buffy about the pointlessness of her love choices, and then whoopsie daisy! A nice demon falls through the big hole in the Buffyverse worldbuilding. He’s wearing a T-Shirt that says “Srsly, Whistler wasn’t an exception—not all demons are totes bad!” (You missed this because it was inscribed in mysterious magical implications and not actual English, but I am pretty sure it’s there.) Anyway, this particular lovable horned cousin of the devil has come into crucial intelligence on the Mayor. And boy is he keen to sell it and blow town.
Faith, naturally, runs to Wilkins with the news, where she gets milk, nurturance and her first official hit assignment. Kill the guy and steal the books, honey, for the win! Don’t forget your calcium! Richard Wilkins III, I continue to totally heart you.
Team Buffy, meanwhile, decides they’ll just bully the books out of the target. The implication is they’ll get Faith to whale on him a little, which seems kind of mean.
Alas for all involved, Faith gets the address first. She spills affable demon entrails all over his crummy carpet, spelling out the important message: “Nice Spawn of Satan finish last, chump.”
Then, for bonus marks and seemingly out of nowhere, she uses her semi-faked guilt and trauma to try to get Angel into the sack. This doesn’t work, but Buffy sees it all happen and gets bummed and jealous. Faith is disappointed too, because, you know, no sex.
The Mayor, ever practical, decides that if Faith can’t rid Angel of his soul the old-fashioned way, maybe a mage can just yank it.
Next day, Buffy and Willow discuss Angel’s faithfulness. Among the many wonderful BFF scenes between these two, this is one of my favorites. Willow sees what’s going on so very clearly, and she doesn’t let Buffy wallow. And how can you not love a scene with a line like “I too know the love of a taciturn man”?
After watching “Enemies,” I had to do something that rarely happens with BtVS stories: parse out the chain of cause and effect in this episode. What I figure is at this point Buffy doesn’t know what’s up. There’s no reason whatsoever for her to lie-whine to Willow—who would never confide in Faith. And if she already knew of the Mayor’s plan, she wouldn’t be upset and jealous. So this means that there are three unaired missing scenes that take place right after Willow says “I give you leave to go.” One’s where Giles hooks up with the Mage and gets the whole sordid story about the Mayor, Faith, and the soul-snatching plan. The third is where Buffy and Angel maturely sort things out between them and then cook up their foolin’ Faith plan.
(The second? That’s where some combination of Scoobies thinks to check that Wesley isn’t eavesdropping on them this time before they figure out what to do.)
By now our rogue slayer has orbited back to Angel. There’s to, there’s fro, there’s woe and guilt and rejection. She throws blood on him, magic fills the air, and it does all seem to render nobody’s favorite vampire free of angst and light on soul. Angelus and Faith get some quick facetime with the Mayor and there’s a simultaneous Scooby meeting, too. The latter results in a decision to break in to City Hall. Also, Buffy plays Wes and us by being broody about Angel.
But the big payoff for all this stuff seen and stuff behind-the-scene is when Angelus and Faith grab Buffy. We get distasteful Angelus/Faith smoochies, violence, chains, and squicky torture threats. In time, Faith cuts loose with a big angry monologue about how it sucks not being Slayer Prime—this is someone who really hasn’t critically assessed Buffy’s quality of life over the past three years—and how, when and where the Mayor’s gonna fix everyone’s wagon but good.
And then Buffy gives her the gotcha.
“Enemies” is, overall, pretty plotty. We get all these revelations about the Ascension and even though there’s so much shouting and kissing and scrambling around doing stuff, the fact that the clues are gift wrapped by a cuddly demon and a romantically-minded mage means really the knowledge has just sort of dropped into the Scoobies’ collective lap. What does shine through is the growth in team resourcefulness that’s occurred since Buffy first arrived in Sunnydale. The Scoobies are a lean, mean, investigation team at this point, capable of rapidly putting together a con on a turncoat, faking out Wesley, and digging up crucial info all at once.
But, like that opening kiss between Buffy and Angel, the emotional arc of this episode rings false. We all know—all we knew by then—that Angel had one foot out the door, that he was going on to bigger and Spinoff things. So “Enemies” is meant to feel all, “She loves him, she wants him, she can’t have him, and then he gives her an excruciatingly painful reminder as to why.” Instead it’s more like one of Lex and Clark’s many Smallville break-ups. For me, it’s like they’re both checking their watches and counting the minutes until the next shift in mood.
So while the “Are you my girl?” / “Always” exchange between Buffy and Angel is meant to be the saddest thing ever, and the two actors really try to sell it as such, it leaves me with an overall feeling of: just go already, Angel!
How about all of you?
A.M. Dellamonica has two novelettes up here on Tor.com. First up: an urban fantasy about a baby werewolf, “The Cage” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd.” In October, watch for a novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.