Thoughts on Buffy and Faith in Bad Girls / Consequences:
Having Buffy present when Faith stabbed Finch makes her culpable for his death. She was touching Finch only moments before Faith killed him. She actually tossed him to Faith, with the intention that Faith would kill him. It was only after Faith had taken him that she realized that Finch was human and called for Faith to stop. Buffy’s degree of culpability is ambiguous.
This irritated me on first watching, and still does: Buffy is responsible for killing a human being without actually being responsible for killing a human being. It’s a trick, so the writers can tell the story while keeping Buffy “clean”, so to speak. It also makes it very clear that Faith is Buffy’s shadow-self, all the impulses that Buffy suppresses.
Interestingly enough, after the scene where Giles finds out, Buffy is essentially cleared of her culpability. By the show, I mean. I never felt like we were supposed to see her as “responsible” after that. Faith is the “bad” one.
Faith seems to have mixed feelings about her role as the “bad” slayer. Sometimes she embraces it, insisting that she has more fun doing whatever the hell she wants, other times she tries to blame Buffy, like when she tells Giles that it was Buffy who killed the deputy mayor. She wants to be the good one, and have Buffy be the bad one.
Faith is already very dark by the end of this two-parter. It is hard to have sympathy for her after the scene with Xander—I had forgotten that they actually show us the bruises on his neck. And yet, there is something touching about her continued loyalty to Buffy, despite their differences. I had wondered why Faith didn’t try to blame Finch’s death on Buffy when the police questioned them. I thought maybe she did it for her own sake, thinking that it was better for her if the police thought that neither of them was present for the killing. But now I think that in her state of mind, that I don’t think she would have realized that telling the police what happened, only making Buffy the killer, would have made things worse for her. I think the main reason she didn’t tell them was because she didn’t want to do that Buffy. She probably figured that Giles wouldn’t be too hard on Buffy, since Giles was so loyal to Buffy. And of course, Faith saves Buffy’s life at the end.
Buffy is freaked out and overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to say or do. Faith’s only solution is to pretend that nothing happened, and Buffy knows that that’s a very bad idea, but doesn’t seem to know what they should do. It is really striking to me, though, that Buffy is not very good at arguing her point of view to Faith. Buffy can be so articulate in some situations, but not articulate at all in others.
I have seen Buffy blamed in fandom for saying the wrong things to Faith, leading Faith into further defensiveness and a turn to the dark side. There is some truth to this. But while Buffy may not have said all the right things to Faith (what with the part where she was freaking out over sharing responsibility for killing a man), Faith was very defensive right from the start. Faith dumped the body. Buffy kept their role in the killing a secret until she had the chance to talk to Faith, and when Faith made it clear that she wanted it to remain a secret, Buffy continued to do so until it became apparent that she was a) completely in over her head, and b) Faith had no practical or ethical idea of what they were going to do.
When Buffy approaches Faith at the end of “Bad Girls”, Faith is already in denial. When Buffy asks how she is, she says, “I'm alright.” When Buffy says she wants to talk about what happened, Faith says, “There's nothing to talk about.” It’s only after Faith has made these statements and dismissed what happened as Faith “doing my job” that Buffy says anything remotely controversial: “Being a Slayer is not the same as being a killer.” While this was clearly not the right way to reach Faith (and I think Buffy, who was also freaked out and guilt-ridden about the incident, didn’t know how to reassure Faith any more than Faith, also freaked out and guilt-ridden, although expressing it very differently, could have reassured Buffy), it happens to be true. Faith didn’t mean too, but she did kill a guy. She was reckless. Buffy is being defensive in response to Faith shutting her out, which makes Faith more defensive, which makes Buffy more defensive. It’s a vicious cycle that both girls are responsible for, but in this case, Faith started it. Yes, Faith was freaked out and after the Gwen Post incident I can’t blame her for not wanting to trust ANYONE, but she is still the one who started it. She is responsible for her own actions.
I’ve heard it argued that Buffy is too quick to pass judgment on Faith, but I did not see her offering a judgment. I saw her upset, freaked out, crying, in over her head, feeling horribly guilty (because of the man who died in front of her, because he could have lived if either she or Faith had been more careful or more observant, because of her own fears about what she is capable of) but I did not see her reach any verdict about the incident or judge Faith in any way (although neither she did she offer the forgiveness she had given Faith when Faith screwed up in the past). When it comes to what Faith’s final fate should be, she’s quick to take anyone else’s point of view. When Faith says, “jail for the rest of my young life”, Buffy accepts that. When Giles later says (to quote Buffy quoting him), “with counseling, they might not even need to lock her up”, she accepts that, too. Buffy knows what they did was terrible (which it was), but has no idea what degree of terrible. I think Faith is in the same place, but she can’t cope with the guilt, and she can’t trust anyone else the way Buffy still trusts Giles. She goes into denial rather than crying, or trying to talk to others, as Buffy does.
Buffy does have guilt issues (and I think she expects Faith to feel the same way because Faith, like her, is a slayer) but Faith was suppressing and denying her guilt before Buffy started revealing her issues. Also, sorry, but Buffy is not responsible for Faith’s mental health. She is not: a) Faith’s psychologist b) her parent c) her counselor d) her watcher or e) any other person who is in any way, shape, or form responsible for Faith. Buffy, all throughout S3, tries to reach out to Faith as a FRIEND, but she is not responsible for the girl being fucked up. The only reason Buffy is trying to help Faith with her mental health is out of respect for FAITH who didn’t want to bring in any other party. Note that as SOON as Buffy brings Giles in, she stops trying to help Faith with her mental health (on a one-to-one conversational level, that is), perhaps because she knows that she doesn’t know how to help. Or at least, she stops until things get so out-of-control that Faith is on the run again. Unfortunately, Faith doesn’t have a psychologist, or parents. Giles chooses not to take responsibility for her, Angel has too many of his own issues, and Wesley is inexperienced and in over his head
Buffy’s defensiveness is not the best way to reach Faith, and Faith’s defensiveness is not the best way to reassure Buffy. Faith’s insistence that “This is all gonna blow over in a few days” is not just unethical, it’s impractical. The slayers don’t know this, but Angel has already realized that they had a role in Finch’s death. The mayor has also been putting two and two together. Even ignoring the ethical issue (which Buffy can’t), there is no practical way they can ignore this. Faith doesn’t want to acknowledge that, and when she does finally realize the practical issue, she makes her decision without consulting Buffy (she tells Giles that Buffy was at fault). Communication is a two-way street. Both slayers are screwing up the communication side of things.
Buffy assumes that she and Faith are alike: “Look, I know what you're feeling because I'm feeling it, too.” It’s interesting in this scene that Buffy is speaking as though they are equally guilty. I think part of the reason Faith doesn’t accept Buffy’s offer of sorority (i.e., treating the crime as if it is something they BOTH did) is because she doesn’t think it will last under pressure. Interestingly enough, Buffy’s willingness to accept equal responsibility for the crime does fade as soon as Faith betrays her, and not a minute sooner. In retrospect, I wonder if things would have gone better if Buffy had approached Faith and right away started talking about “what you did” as opposed to “what I did”. Buffy’s good-faith offer of solidarity is harder for Faith to deal with than rejection would be.
And when it comes to their internal feelings, I think Faith has a lot of doubts about whether or not Buffy really knows (which, btw, is also why I think Buffy telling Faith about the Ted incident probably wouldn’t have helped much: Ted isn’t actually dead) what she’s going through. Buffy didn’t stab the guy. Buffy is not the killer. I don’t think Buffy fully realizes how different Faith’s perspective is from hers, at least not until Faith betrays her to Giles. Maybe that’s why Buffy tells Giles that she owes Faith help. Buffy couldn’t give Faith the sisterhood she had promised, but maybe she can bring her back from the brink, somehow.
I think Buffy really does feel genuinely guilty about the guy’s death. She was the one who tossed him to Faith. But I don’t think…hmm. I don’t know. Why doesn’t she want to acknowledge that Faith is the one who put the stake in him? Because it means acknowledging differences between her and Faith? Because she’s afraid Faith will interpret that as rejection? I think it’s just a good-faith gesture of sorority: “you can trust me….I'm on your side.” The problem is, Faith can’t afford to trust blindly. Not after what she’s been through.
So Buffy tells Willow what happened, and under Willow’s advice she goes to tell Giles. It’s interesting that she goes to Willow first. I think she is unwilling to betray Faith, and thinks she can control what Willow does or does not do with the information. Again, we see that Buffy has no idea what to do. She follows Willow’s advice because she has no real ideas of her own. It’s also possible that she went to Willow because she knew Willow would agree with her that going to Giles was the right thing to do, and thus give her the strength to (from a certain point of view, at least) betray Faith.
She approaches Giles in the library and starts to tell him, and then Faith appears behind him. When Buffy sees Faith, she changes her story. Why? This is my question. Why not tell him, with Faith there? Is she afraid of Faith? Perhaps she feels guilty about betraying Faith, and can’t do it with Faith watching. I don’t know. It’s strange.
Of course, Faith has betrayed her already, but Buffy has Giles’ trust, and Faith can’t take that away. Giles sends Faith away, and it is only when he is alone with Buffy that he admits he knows the truth. It is when Faith is not there, when Giles is talking to Buffy, that Buffy refers to Finch’s death as a “murder” for the first time. I think this is the first time anyone in the know has called it a “murder” up until this point. I think Buffy is unthinkingly echoing what she saw the TV reporters call it, and what Giles and Wesley called it at the beginning of the episode. The word “murder” has been floating around her and around Faith, and they are both terrified by it.
Giles is very incompetent in this episode. Faith has positive feelings towards Giles (she even defends him to Gwen Post in Revelations: “Giles is okay.”), but he made no attempt to reach out to her, emotionally, during the course of S3. Now, she’s coming apart at the seams, and he makes no attempt to talk to her on his own. Instead, he brings Xander and Willow into the game, who are young and inexperienced. Perhaps Giles is not fully recovered from the events of S2. Perhaps he doesn’t want to get close to another slayer, who will inevitably die on him. Perhaps he keeps his distance from Faith because he knows she is unstable (just as he leaves Buffy in S6 when Buffy starts to fall apart). Whatever the reasons, he has failed as Faith’s mentor from the very start, and is no better in this episode than he was before.
Buffy differentiates herself from Faith for the first time in her scene with Giles, but it’s actually Faith who does the differentiating. Faith says, “I told him....He had to know what you did.” Before that Buffy and Faith spoke in terms of what “we did”. It’s only after Faith makes it clear that she wants the official story to be that Buffy did it and she didn’t do it that Buffy falls into the pattern of differentiating herself from Faith. In contrast to her previous description of the event as something “we did”, Buffy now tells Giles, “I didn't do this. I swear.” Again, Buffy is following someone else’s lead in how to view the crime. It’s Faith who refused to see the two of them on the same side, and Buffy who ends up following her lead in that.
There is debate in fandom about Faith’s scenes with Angel—whether he was reaching her, and could have helped her had Wesley not shown up, or, by comparing her to his soulless self, encouraged her to think of herself as evil. I think that the answer is a bit of both. At first, I felt like he was bad for her, telling her how great it felt to kill people and getting only snarky responses (that disguise Faith’s inner anxieties). On the other hand, I do think he was saying the right things by the end, and I think he was starting to reach her.
Now, Buffy was obviously very supportive of Angel during this whole procedure, so she arguably shares responsibility for whatever effect Angel had on Faith. On the other hand, she was desperate to help Faith, and they had few options at that point. Because of course, the Faith problem is a lot deeper than the accidental killing that pushed her over the edge. It’s her past, her lack of support system, the incompetent systems that surround the slayer (both the Watcher’s Council and Buffy’s “go it alone” solution to the Watcher’s Council are very flawed).
Faith has already decided what this means for her, and how she is going to deal with it. Buffy gives her bewildered messages. Xander gives her mixed messages, and she hears only the bad. Angel also gives her mixed messaged. Even WESLEY gives her mixed messages. It’s certainly hard for Faith having to deal with all those external mixed messages along with the ones in her head, but it also means that her decisions come from within, from her own past not, not from others. I really don’t think anyone could have reached Faith unless either a) they knew her very well or b) they understood human psychology very well. Unfortunately, no person with either of those traits was available in Consequences.