Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Goes Dark And Murderous With "Consequences" For (Slayers) Being "Bad Girls!"

The Good: Character, Serialized nature of the plots, Decent acting
The Bad: No bonus features, Very much a middle act.
The Basics: Faith and Buffy go out on the town and suffer the consequences for their actions in this two parter on one tape!

For those who do not follow my reviews, I am a huge fan of serialized television. I like stories that develop over many episodes and characters who are vibrant and made more distinct by having space and time to breathe over many years. The best character-driven works almost universally involve growth through characters dealing with the consequences of their actions. It is perfectly appropriate, then, that Buffy The Vampire Slayer - a show which takes what appears to be a throw-out episode in the second season ("Halloween") and makes it one of the most important episodes of the series - appropriately and in an engaging fashion builds its stories and characters over many years. In the third season, this takes the very literal sense in a de facto two part arc called "Bad Girls" and "Consequences."

The thing is, even understanding the full richness of "Bad Girls" and "Consequences" means that most viewers will need to watch episodes that precede these and after the way "Consequences" is resolved, they will be eager for what comes next. "Bad Girls" and "Consequences" make for a compelling character study on their own and the episodes work well, even on video.

In "Bad Girls," Buffy opens up to the reckless ways that Faith, the other vampire slayer, represents. Faith has essentially dropped out of high school and she exposes Buffy to the philosophy of the street whereby she encourages her to take what she wants. Faith and Buffy go on a minor shoplifting spree while tracking down swords from deadly vampires who have arrived in Sunnydale. In their attempt to thwart the Mayor's plans, Buffy and Faith roam Sunnydale in a delinquent fashion, looking to recover the swords.

Unfortunately, disaster ensues in the final moments of "Bad Girls," which leads to "Consequences." As Sunnydale police search for who killed Finch, the Mayor's attache, Buffy and Faith spar about their involvement in the incident. Wesley insists they investigate and the conflict between Faith and Buffy reaches a head.

"Bad Girls" has moments that are thematically disappointing when viewed separate from the rest of the series. Quite frankly, young people doing stupid things simply because they are young bores and disappoints me. Faith is street-hardened and reckless, fueled by adrenalin and her characterization is based on being the anti-Buffy. She works beautifully as that. Buffy, on the other hand, is largely wholesome and good, in a way that is sometimes almost bland. But, she is characterized as a young woman with a strong moral core.

In "Bad Girls," Buffy not only tests that moral core - which is normal and a decent character aspect to explore - but she loses it completely. The appeal of things like shoplifting weapons makes little sense, even with Buffy being a goody two-shoes most of the time. Sure, thwarting the dimwitted Sunnydale police makes sense, but not causing them any harm. The only way "Bad Girls" truly works is when viewed in the context of the entire series; the extremity of Buffy's reaction and ability to abandon herself is a much-needed test. On its own, it just seems like stupid kids doing stupid things.

What makes it palatable is "Consequences" and not having to wait a week to see it is pretty wonderful. "Consequences" cements the divide between Faith and Buffy and restores her character to the side of good and reasonable. Having broken the cardinal rule of being a Slayer, Buffy and Faith fight over how to deal with that and that is not an easy decision. The moral implications of the death of Finch are explored and make for a compelling character struggle.

Moreover, "Consequences" gives Harry Groener the chance to truly shine as the Mayor. Mayor Wilkins is a far cry from his cerebral turn on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Tam Elbrun in "Tin Man" (reviewed here!) and "Consequences" finds him behaving even more loopy than normal. He has the ability to make the absurd sound reasonable and he turns his character's emotions on a dime. He goes from being enthusiastic and chipper to menacing with the blink of an eye. Groener is compelling and funny.

Similarly, Eliza Dushku creates a character that is tormented and intriguing. Dushku knows how to run, jump and fight, even in the abysmal Wrong Turn (reviewed here!). In "Consequences," she brings out her ability to play more emotionally tormented, like she does with her quieter character from City By The Sea. In "Bad Girls" and "Consequences" she plays Faith with an easygoing stride and a loose body language that is unlike any other role she has. It is an unlikely place, but on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dushku performs and lives up to her amazing potential by believably playing a tormented character who has so much anger in her.

It is Sarah Michelle Gellar who holds up the dramatic end of "Consequences." After performing with a greater sense of ease and using a very different type of body language than Gellar is accustomed to on the show, Gellar opens up with some real emotional gravitas. She has the ability to say a lot without speaking and she emotes with her eyes frequently in "Consequences" to make clear to the viewer just what her character is thinking and feeling. It is no surprise to those who have heard other actors talk about working with Gellar that she is truly as good as she is in this episode. In fact, the pair of episodes works very well together if for nothing else than to see how well Gellar may perform from the extreme range of recklessness to that of responsibility.

Fans of the franchise will likely also enjoy going back to the early episodes with Wesley Windham Pryce, who is still stuffy in his role in this episode. Wesley goes on to Angel and his role on that is vastly different from his appearance in these two episodes. On their own, "Bad Girls" and "Consequences" makes for a great way to become acquainted with the character for Angel fans without having to buy the whole third season on DVD.

Of course, given the quality of these episodes, odds are people who watch this video will want to pick up the season in its entirety!

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the graduation season here!
or the complete series is available here!

"Bad Girls" - 7/10
"Consequences" - 8.5/10
VHS - 7/10

For other television reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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