"This Year's Girl" [4x15]
Review by Mikelangelo "MikeJer" Marinaro
Posted by MikeJer on March 19, 2006Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Michael Gershman
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
This is a decent episode which has a cool dream sequence, a few character insights, Faith awakening from her coma, and a lot of waiting around. The biggest problem is that the pace is really slow. It feels like everyone is waiting forever for Faith to do something surprising, and that doesn't happen until the very end. A lot of the scenes feel like padding to fill time, which is rare on BtVS and hasn't been much of a problem since S2. There's still a lot to be entertained by though. The episode begins with a dream very similar to the one in "Graduation Day Pt. 2" (3x22). As I did in that review, I'll analyze the dream very thoroughly and throw out some guesses as to what it all means. Please take note that I'm aware how much I could be stretching with some of these connections.
Buffy says, "They smell good, don't they? ... Clean sheets. Like summer." Since I assume they're getting Dawn's bed ready for her arrival, the talk about "clean sheets" could represent Dawn's innocence and how, through her, Buffy can see life again with a fresh new look and share warmth (summer) with her. Faith replies, "I wouldn't know." This makes sense, because Faith is definitely not the paradigm of innocence, nor has she likely ever been. Buffy then says, "Right. I forgot." I think this is showing how Buffy's always held her hand out to Faith; she's consistently tried to be kind to her and Faith always spits in Buffy's face for it. But Buffy is still the optimist, as we see later in the episode when discovering Faith's awake. Buffy says, "She could be terrified. Maybe she doesn't even remember. Or maybe she does and she's sorry and she's alone hiding somewhere." A bit later in the dream Faith says, "Little sis' coming," which is obvious in meaning. Buffy then says, "So much to do before she gets here." This means that Buffy still has her big fight with Adam and an encounter with the first Slayer ahead (among other things), before Dawn arrives. At this point the focus switches to Faith taking control of the dream. The knife Buffy used to stab her appears in her stomach, and she begins to villify Buffy.
In the next part of Faith's dream, we see her having a picnic with the Mayor on a bright, sunny day (summer, warmth, innocence). It quickly becomes obvious, when Buffy slowly walks up to the Mayor and slits his throat, that Faith is portraying Buffy as the murderer who ruined her home and happiness (the Mayor). As the dream continues we see Faith trying to escape a cold and calculating Buffy who is following her. Eventually she falls into a grave, is alone, and is scared. Buffy jumps in with her, but Faith emerges victorious, rising from the grave with a new focus. This is the moment when Faith awakens from her coma. Soon after finding out what date it is, she finds Buffy and spies on her. While looking into Giles' home she discovers that Buffy isn't staying at home, that Buffy's found a new lover, and that the Scoobies are still together.
While walking outside around the university campus, Buffy and Willow run into Faith. With her newfound knowledge, Faith immediately starts throwing jabs at Buffy, including the fact that Buffy's not with Angel anymore. While this 'discussion' is happening, Willow slowly walks behind Faith to prepare a distraction, but Buffy subtley gestures her not to. This leads to a cool little fight in front of a lot of people which Willow helps break up for the time being. Faith then wanders off and finds a message meant for her from the Mayor. This video recording is great. For one, it's just nice to hear the Mayor again and it reminds us how absolutely lame the villains have been this season in comparison. But more importantly, the Mayor says some key things: "See, the hard pill to swallow is that once I'm gone, your days are just plain numbered. Now, I know, you're a smart and capable young woman in charge of her own life, but the problem, Faith, is that there won't be a place in the world for you anymore. By now I bet you're feeling very much alone." The Mayor not only nails what Faith is feeling, but he also gives her a gadget that allows her to switch bodies with someone.
Picking up on the fact that it doesn't look like Buffy's been home much lately, Faith goes to the Summers' residence and attacks Joyce. I love this entire scene: Joyce's confidence in Buffy. Faith trying to make a connection with Joyce ("Nobody cares, nobody remembers, especially not Buffy fabulous superhero. Sooner or later you're going to have to face it. She was over us a long time ago Joyce"). Faith using all the letters from Buffy as evidence. Buffy crashing through the window. The quick Buffy/Joyce greeting. The awesome fight between Buffy and Faith. The fight the two of them have in the house is really well done. I was particularly impressed by the glass from the door breaking on Buffy and the re-use of the "Graduation Day Pt. 1" (3x21) Buffy/Faith fight music. Of course, at the very end of the fight Faith uses her gadget to switch bodies with Buffy. This plot mechnanism has been used a lot on a variety of different shows. By itself, it isn't anything all that exciting. It's how Whedon uses situation, in "Who Are You?" (4x16), that makes it so powerful and unique.
While Faith was the focus of the episode, Buffy and Riley got a bit of attention as well. Early on, before Riley returns, Buffy is extremely harsh, snappy, and even a bit irritable to the Scoobies. Why is this you might ask? Well, she's got no boyfriend around, she's gotten very little sleep, and there's big danger running loose outside. Any of this sound familiar? Buffy in S7 sound right? It's no wonder why she's so harsh during that season. In this episode Riley shows up and Buffy can get some sleep. That doesn't happen during S7, which helps explains why she remains harsh for so long. Anyway, later on Buffy gets to chatting with Riley about how he's going to cope post-Initiative. She uses her experience with the Watcher's Council as an example of how Riley can survive on his own. Riley responds to her with complete honesty when he says, "Now, see, that's where you and I are different. I just suck at the whole gray area thing." As we find out early in S5, he really does suck at the "whole gray area thing." He tries, but miserably fails at being bad -- it's just not who he is. It's not surprising, then, that he ends up working for the military again, taking orders for a living.
One more thing worth mentioning is when Riley tells Buffy he wants to help. She responds by throwing a ball at him, which he catches and cringes in pain. This is an interesting correlation to when, in "Who Are You?" (4x16), Faith (in Buffy's body) runs into Riley at a church. He says, "I'm coming with" and Faith responds, "I can't use you." I'll further discuss that connection in my review of the next episode. Anyway, this is a solid setup to the great episode that follows it. It has an unfortunately slow pace and a lot of Faith's wandering seem like padding, which obviously hurts the episode a bit. Overall, though, there's enough great action and moments of characterization that allow it to succeed.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
QuotesWILLOW:Well, why don't we experiment? Press some buttons, see what happens.
GILES:I'd like to veto that.
XANDER:Second. It's called a blaster, Will, a word that tends to discourage experimentation. Now, if it were called the Orgazmater, I'd be the first to try your basic button press approach.
BUFFY:Oh God, I'm sorry! Did I hurt you?
RILEY:No, a giant skewer through the rib cage hurt me. That was just a reminder.
RILEY:All I had in there was this one little part of you.
BUFFY:It's just the scarf part of me really.
SPIKE:What do you need?
XANDER:Her. Dark hair. Yay tall, name of Faith, criminally insane.
GILES:Have you seen her?
SPIKE:Is this bird after you?
XANDER:In a bad way, yeah.
SPIKE:Tell you what I'll do then. I'll head out, find this girl, tell her exactly where you are and then watch as she kills you. Can't any one of your damn little Scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all? Just because I can't do the damage myself doesn't stop me from aiming a loose cannon your way. And here I thought the evening be dull.
XANDER:Go ahead. You wouldn't even recognize her.
SPIKE:Dark hair, this tall, name of Faith, criminally insane. Like this girl already.
XANDER:(to Giles) We're dumb.
JOYCE:You don't know the first thing about Buffy. Or me.
FAITH:Don't I? I know what it's like. You think you matter, you think you're a part of something and you get dumped. It's like the whole world is moving and you're stuck. It's like those animals in the tar pits. It's like you just keep sinking a little deeper everyday and no-one even sees.
JOYCE:Were you planning to slit my throat any time soon?
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