Hasslein Blog: Faith the Vampire Slayer


Hasslein Blog

Friday, February 14, 2014

Faith the Vampire Slayer

By Duy Tano

I don't really talk about it much, but I'm a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's probably my favorite live-action TV show ever that's not a straight-up comedy, and although I'm not that big a fan to follow the comics, I could watch certain parts of the show and its spinoff, Angel, over and over again. I even tried starting a Buffy blog at one point, with the intention of watching each episode and commenting on it, until I realized it was too much work.

I fell in love with the show in the middle of Season 4, widely regarded as one of its worst seasons. Specifically, I was hooked on what was probably its best two episodes: "This Year's Girl" and "Who Are You?", featuring the return of Faith, the rogue vampire slayer.

Anyone who reads The Comics Cube on a regular basis knows I'm a sucker for the evil twin gimmick, the "road not taken," the villain with the same powers as the hero, but deadlier! And of course, to top it all off, Faith was portrayed by Eliza Dushku.

In short, she was hot.

Faith was my favorite character on both shows, and I'd like to think it was more than just because she was so physically attractive, since, well, that universe also had Charisma Carpenter and Amy Acker and Sarah Michelle Gellar and so on and so forth. There was just something compelling about her. Eliza played her perfectly.

I've often said that Eliza is Faith. It's basically the only character she can do. Whenever she's tried to expand her acting chops—which is an admirable thing to do—the success rate hasn't been high. She's not that good an actress. But no one else is Faith.

The final shot of Buffy has, in it, Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles, all four of whom were in the show from the very beginning. They were the core cast. It also had Dawn, Buffy's sister, who was introduced and retconned into the story, and was a core member of the cast for its last three seasons. And it had Faith, who appeared in 20 episodes of Buffy and 6 episodes of Angel. Just to put that in perspective, Buffy and Angel ran for 144 and 110 episodes, respectively, for a total of 254 episodes. Faith appeared in only 10% of them, and yet, here she was, standing next to those who showed up in pretty much every episode. The thing is, she didn't look out of place at all.

So what is it about Faith Lehane, vampire slayer turned bad then good again, that made her special to me? I might have just answered my own question, but I think, in the end, I'm really just a sucker for the idea of redemption. Faith got caught in a whirlwind of events where she just sank deeper and deeper into hell, and at first she blamed everyone else, but in those two episodes I saw in season four, where she got to see life as Buffy sees life, she felt the weight of everything she did.

And then she went to Angel, trying to run away from things, eventually by asking Angel to kill her. This may actually be my favorite two-episode stretch in the entire Buffyverse. The first episode is titled "Five by Five," Faith's code phrase for saying things are great and okay and she's doing fine, and in fact, she's spending most of it gallivanting around, dancing the night away, and then treating a paid hunt for Angel as a game.

Before the end of the episode, though, she has tortured Angel's friend Wesley Wyndham Price (who also guest-starred on both series), and is clearly holding back when fighting Angel, who refuses to fight back. He knows, better than anyone, what she wants, and that's to die. Faith finally breaks down by the end of the episode and drives a wedge between Buffy and Angel in the next episode, when Angel wants to give her a chance for redemption. She takes it, turning herself in.

The next times we see Faith, she's in prison, a prison she can easily escape from, but she doesn't, because she's sincere about serving out her sentence, and then she comes back when she's needed, partly because she owes Angel, and partly because it's the right thing to do.

There's just something there, in those last three paragraphs, that really appeal to me, but I can't discount the way Eliza would just shift, so easily, from wild party girl to violent killer to regretful Slayer. She covered those so well, and even when she was on the side of good, you knew she still had her problems. She also meshed so well with Angel, not in a romantic way, because that's just weird, but the two of them together held up mirrors to each other. No one knew what the other one felt like better than each other.

This was, to me, the most wasted of opportunities in terms of spinning off of Buffy. In 2003, Tim Minear, one of my favorite screenwriters for Angel, pitched a Faith spinoff in which Faith would travel America on a motorcycle getting into adventures. She was easily, in my opinion, the character who could most carry her own show. (I tend to see Spike as much better off playing against other people.) She could have an arc, and she could grow. In short, I'd have watched it.

But it didn't happen, and I think it's a real shame. Faith the Vampire Slayer was an interesting study in contradictory impulses and emotions, and a small series featuring her trying to make up for her past mistakes would have been entertaining and fascinating.


Duy Tano is a popular Internet blogger and comic book expert. Check out his blog, The Comics Cube!, at www.comicscube.com, which tackles all sorts of different topics for all sorts of different forms of sequential art. Superhero comics, indie comix, komiks, manga, BD—you name it, it's a valid topic for discussion.

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