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Revisiting ANGEL - Five By Five

Shane King takes an in-depth look back at episode 18 from Angel's debut season, Five By Five.

 Is “Five By Five” the greatest episode of “Angel”? It’s certainly one of them. I don’t think it quite lives up to “You’re Welcome” or “Not Fade Away”, but it’s a damn good episode and easily in the top 5 best of “Angel”. If you take away the terrific ending, it would still be a great episode, but it wouldn’t be perfect. This episode only makes sense after you’ve seen Faith’s breakdown in the alley. Without that, do the flashbacks make sense in context to the story-of-the-week? No. Without that, do Faith’s actions make sense in regards to Angel? No. Faith is getting Angel’s head in the game so that he’ll be pissed off enough to kill her and put her out of her misery. It explains why she hits Cordelia, why she kidnaps and tortures Wesley, and why she gave Angel a gun. Her behaviour only makes sense after the reveal at the end. It’s this reveal that makes the episode work. However, like “I Will Remember You”, you have to have seen “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” to truly understand and appreciate Faith’s journey here for what it was. Thirty seconds worth of ‘previously on...’ at the beginning isn’t enough information to give you the full scope of Faith’s breakdown and doesn’t allow you to fully enjoy the beginning of Faith’s redemption in the next episode, “Sanctuary”. While we’re on the subject of ‘previously on...’, can TV networks and DVD distributors stop putting on anything that will ruin the episode?! Faith’s arrival in Los Angeles, Riley’s return in “As You Were”, and many more big moments are ruined because the ‘previously on...’ section is dedicated to them! We’re paying attention to the show, trust us!

For those of you that watch “Angel”, but not “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”...firstly, watch it! Secondly, here’s a quick recap. A few episodes previously on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Faith woke up from an eight month coma (Buffy put her in the coma). Faith used a device left to her by The Mayor, her father-figure and mentor. The device allowed her to switch bodies with Buffy. While in Buffy’s body, Faith caused chaos – including sleeping with Buffy’s boyfriend, Riley. However, cracks started to appear beneath Faith’s ‘bad girl’ persona. By the time the body-switching was reversed, Faith loathed herself and started to realise that she was responsible for the rubbish state her life was in, not Buffy. She fled Sunnydale before Buffy could catch up with her. What you’ve got to understand is that Faith has always been jealous of Buffy. Faith arrived in Sunnydale Watcher-less, friendless, and alone, whereas Buffy has a loving mother, a close friendship group, and a Watcher that treats her like a daughter. Buffy has everything that Faith wants. For a while, Faith tried to be good and befriend Buffy, but she felt as though she was always kept at a distance away from the rest of the Scoobies. Buffy felt a responsibility as the Slayer to protect people, whereas Faith viewed herself as above the law because of her powers. She started to resent Buffy and after accidentally killing a human man, Allan Finch, she joined the evil Mayor, who in turn became a father-figure to her. Faith had never had a loving parent before. Her mother was an abusive alcoholic and her father wasn’t around during Faith’s childhood. The Mayor, while evil, loved Faith and in turn Faith would do anything for him. After being inside Buffy’s body for a while, Faith realised that Buffy doesn’t have everything Faith wants because she’s the Slayer, she has it because she’s Buffy. Buffy, the person, is what makes people follow and love her. Faith has a moment of clarity where she realises that she’s alone in the world because of her previous actions. She alone caused the mess that she’s currently in.

When you couple this with The Mayor’s video tape message to Faith, you can see why Faith wants to die. The Mayor left Faith a video recording that said without him being in the world anymore, Faith’s days are numbered. He meant this lovingly, but he was absolutely right. Without The Mayor’s direction and guidance, Faith is lost and alone in the world once again. Faith arrives in Los Angeles ready to go out with a bang. Make no mistake, the second she gets off that bus, she’s in Los Angeles with the sole goal of dying at Angel’s hands. First, she needs to get his head in the game. She knows that Angel doesn’t want to kill her. During her reign of terror in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season three, Angel was the only character that almost got through to her. He’s all about redemption and second chances because he’s messed up so much himself during his life. He knows that deep down Faith has a spark of decency left in her. As long as he can see that spark, he will refuse to kill her. Turns out, Angel was right.

“Five By Five”, and the subsequent episode, “Sanctuary”, are the last
 true crossover episodes of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”. Some characters appear in the other show after this, but this is the last time a story truly starts on one show and ends on the other.

The episode opens with Faith’s arrival in Los Angeles. She brutally attacks a man at the bus station (can’t say he didn’t deserve to be punched a little...) in order to steal his clothes and keys to his apartment. Soon after this, Faith goes to a club and somehow manages to cause a massive fight without breaking a sweat. Faith is beyond the point of caring anymore. So what if someone pulls a knife on her and stabs her? So what if she gets hurt? She wants to die anyway.

Another interesting point of discussion about this episode is the use of flashbacks. Until the scene in the alley at the end, the flashbacks make no sense in the context of the episode. Why are they included? Why is an episode revolving around Faith showing flashbacks of Angel and Darla? What it’s doing is comparing Angel to Faith. After being re-ensoulled (it turns out Darla kidnapped the gypsy girl in Romania that Angelus fed on...does this make Angelus’ re-ensoulling Darla’s fault? Hmm...), Angel had to look at his previous behaviour and try to make amends. After getting his soul returned to him, he had to try and retrieve his humanity (so to speak) and stop living like a monster. It’s not easy. It’s something that Angel is still trying to achieve and it forms the basis of the show. Seeking redemption and making amends is a constant, challenging process. This is what Faith is up against and about to face after her breakdown in the alley at the conclusion of the episode. It’s like Faith has just had her soul returned to her. All that guilt, all that remorse, all that’s about to hit Faith like it hit Angel after he got his soul back. It explains why Angel refuses to kill Faith. He can empathise entirely with what she’s going through.

“Five By Five” is also the first episode of “Angel” where we’re introduced to the politics at Wolfram & Hart. One of the things I find the most fascinating about this show is the dynamic between the Wolfram & Hart employees – especially Lilah and Lindsey in season two. Everyone is desperate to out perform one another. Not just because they want to gain power and praise, but also because if they fail, they’ll probably be killed. It’s a complicated, complex moral conundrum (that’s a good word!). In this episode, Lee, Lilah, and Lindsey (do they only hire employees whose names begin with ‘L’?!) hire Faith to kill Angel. It’s worth noting that Faith doesn’t hesitate at all when Wolfram & Hart ask her to murder Angel. As I mentioned, outside of The Mayor, Angel was the only person that seemed to be able to get through to Faith in any way at all. I think the lack of hesitation is because if Faith is going to be killed, she wants it to be Angel. Unlike Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies, I think Faith quite likes and respects Angel. She knows Angel and she knows that if she pushes him hard enough, he’ll snap and kill her...or so she thinks. Also, Lee, don’t talk down to a rogue Slayer. It’s not the same as a rogue demon hunter. A rogue Slayer will break your nose and disfigure your face.

Cordelia (about Angel): “You can always tell when he’s happy. His scowl is slightly less scowly.”

After accepting Wolfram & Hart’s contract, Faith walks up behind Angel, crossbow in hand, and aims at his back. It’s a jaw-dropping moment that literally made me yelp (yes, like a dog) out loud when I first saw it!
 FAITH’S IN THE MIDDLE OF A CROWDED ROOM DURING THE DAY AND CASUALLY WALKS UP BEHIND ANGEL AND TRIES TO KILL HIM! WHAT THE ABSOLUTE HELL IS GOING ON! Angel’s reflexes are terrific and he’s able to catch the crossbow bolt before it pierces his heart. Do you think Faith waited that extra second before firing because she wanted Angel to stop her from killing him? Her eventual plan is for Angel to kill her, why would she want to kill him? I think this was the first instance of head games from Faith in order to get Angel angry and in a killing mood.

Wesley: “You’ve been targeted by a psychotic, I’m certainly not going to run and hide.”

Is this the same Wesley from
 “Parting Gifts”? The same Wesley that would literally fall over his own feet and scream like a pre-pubescent girl if someone surprised him with a pat on the shoulder? Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve achieved character growth. In just eight episodes, Wesley has grown significantly as a person. Wesley is already a much stronger, more confident man than he was when he stepped out of the shadows and into Angel’s life as a rogue demon hunter.

The mind games continue as Faith enters Angel Investigations headquarters and presents Angel with a gun. Why does she do this? At this point in the episode, you think that she’s doing it to mess with Angel before killing him. However, in reflection, she’s doing it to see if Angel’s ready to kill her. He’s not. He tries to kneecap Faith with a bullet...the only problem is that Faith gave him an empty gun....mostly. Faith fires the second shot of the gun, which turns out to not be a blank. Sadistic. Highly sadistic. Faith knows that Angel’s head is not in the game. What can she do to piss Angel off enough to kill her? Hurt his friends. Since arriving in Los Angeles, Angel’s friends have become his family. Cordelia, Doyle, and Wesley have meant
 everything to Angel since he rediscovered the will to fight. I must admit, Phantom Dennis slamming the door on Cordelia and Wesley to try and keep Faith away from them was another nice touch. Oh, Phantom Dennis, I adore you. He wanted to protect Cordy from Faith. How did Faith know where Cordelia lived? Did she follow her home before this? Do Wolfram & Hart know Cordy’s address? Both seem feasible. Faith gives Cordelia a black eye and disappears into the night with a kidnapped Wesley.

Outside of the alley fight/breakdown at the end, the scene that makes this episode perfect is the one where Faith is torturing Wesley. In England, season one of “Angel” is rated an ‘18’ (the highest you can get). I’m fairly certain that this torture scene is what tipped it over the edge. While it’s not overly graphic or brutal, it’s certainly a step up from the violence we’ve seen on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” thus far. It definitely couldn’t have taken place on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, that’s for sure. So, why did Faith kidnap and torture Wesley and not Cordelia? Wesley was Faith’s Watcher. I think she blames him for a lot of the problems that she encountered while in Sunnydale. He represents a lot of negative emotions for Faith and I do genuinely feel that she would have killed him if Angel had not intervened. In a weird sort of way, I could watch the torture scene all day. There’s so much going on! You can see Faith starting to unravel. She’s on the edge of catatonia. Watch the scene where Faith drops a piece of glass out of the window and looks into the horizon. She looks broken. It’s like everything in her life is negative and she just wants it all to end...I understand those feelings all too well (see “Amends”). Eliza Dushku has never been better than she is during this episode. She manages to convincingly play Faith as unstable. Not unstable in a ‘I’m a psychopath’ way, but in a ‘I give up on life’ way. Not only that, but the subtlety in her performance is a thing of beauty.

Wesley:  “I also believe in my heart that you’re not a bad person.”

...She then tortures him.

He happens to be right, though. She isn’t a bad person. Not deep down. Not below all the stupid mistakes, rough experiences, guilt, and pain. It’s a shame that Wesley has to be tortured before she realises that...blunt, cold, hot, sharp, and loud. I’ve heard of the five stages of grief. I’ve never heard of the five stages of torture before. Perhaps Dexter should teach a class. He’s a lumberjack now after all (*angry mumbles*). Also, Wes, I love you, but don’t call the person torturing you a ‘piece of shit’. Especially when there’s still four torture groups left to explore! There’s a fine line between courage and stupidity, sir, and you just crossed it. It’s nice to see Faith exploring the classics too. The ol’ lighter and aerosol canister flamethrower technique, I remember it well. I used that one a few times in my youth...for pretty flames, not torture.

“A stake rammed up your English channel”...such a way with words, our Faith.

Angel arrives in the nick of time to save Wesley from being decapitated by Faith. They fight inside the apartment, fall out a window together, and the fun really begins. The fight scene in the alley and Faith’s subsequent breakdown is one of my favourite scenes from any television show in history.
 It’s just so well done. The fight scene itself is perfectly choreographed. It’s even better one you know the end of the episode. They’re fighting so viciously and furiously because Faith is trying to encourage Angel to kill her, while Angel is furiously trying to stop Faith so that he doesn’t have to kill her. The emotion behind the fight scene makes it one of the best in the Buffyverse.

Eliza Dushku, guys, Eliza Dushku. What is there to say? Flawless. Remarkable. Perfection. It’s the mark of a good actor or actress when you can’t possibly imagine anyone else playing the role. Eliza is the embodiment of that mentality. In a lot of ways, this scene is Faith’s defining moment and Eliza Dushku not only brings it, but she exceeds my own expectations of her, which are already high. I implore anyone that hasn’t seen this the scene in the alley at the end. Watch Faith
begging and pleading with Angel to end her life. Watch Angel refuse to accept that Faith is evil. Watch Faith fall apart. Watch Angel hold her. Oh God, it hurts just thinking about it.

Angel refuses to kill Faith because he knows that she’s capable of great good. Let’s not forget, this moment is over a year in the making. It’s been a long time since Faith was a ‘good’ character. It’s this long-term approach that makes Faith’s journey realistic and one of the best things that either show ever did. Angel refused to kill her and in doing so refused to accept that she was evil and allow her to take the easy way out of her predicament. If she wants to make the pain end, she needs to seek redemption and fight for her life again. “Angel” is a show that is all about redemption. Angel is on a mission of redemption because of all the horrific and brutal acts he committed as Angelus. Cordelia is on a mission of redemption to become a better person and help people after being such a cow at Sunnydale High. Wesley is on a mission of redemption to prove himself as something more than a failure after all his errors as a Watcher. Doyle was on a mission of redemption after refusing to accept his demon side, which resulted in a number of his demon kin being slain. Now, it’s Faith’s turn.

I don’t think
 anyone besides Angel was capable of not only saving Faith, but keeping her on that path in the next episode. There’s a mutual understanding and love between these two characters that nobody else can understand. Faith has murdered people? So has Angel. Faith has made some cataclysmic mistakes? So has Angel. Faith needs to find her humanity again now? So did Angel. The only difference is that Angel had nobody to help him when he was going through it so he spent a hundred years living in isolation. On the other hand, Faith has Angel to help her. She has someone that not only cares about her, but understands how she’s feeling and what she’s facing.

For those of you unaware, the rain in the alleyway was genuine and not planned. In the original script for the episode, they wanted rain, but they cut it from the script for budgeting reasons. However, when they began filming the scene, it started raining out of nowhere, so they kept it in. What a fantastic stroke of luck! The rain adds
 so much to the scene. It’s almost as though Faith had her old life washed away in that alley and was born again.

A closing question for you all...if Faith had not had that breakdown, do you think Wesley (who left the apartment with a knife in his hand) was capable of killing Faith? Personally, I think he was. Angel wasn’t capable, but Wesley was. More than any character on “Angel”, Wesley is the one who does things for the greater good. He kidnaps Connor to save him from Angel (or so he thinks), he shoots his father to save Fred (or so he thinks), he destroys the box containing everyone’s former memories of Connor, he helps Illyria...he does what he feels is best for the world regardless of the consequences to himself.
Quote Of The Episode

No question. The raw emotion in this is second to none...

Faith: “I’m evil! I’m bad! I’m evil! Do you hear me? I’m bad! Angel, I’m bad! I’m bad! Do you hear me? I’m bad! I’m bad! I’m bad. Angel, please, just do it. Angel, please, just do it....just kill me. Just kill me...”

Angel: “Shh, it’s alright. It’s okay. I’m here, I’m right here.”


Shane ‘Shangel’ King is a blogger from England, where he spends most of his time reviewing television shows, attending conventions, and fanboying professionally. He’s currently reviewing every episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” in-depth on his blog, and will soon be covering “Firefly”, “Game Of Thrones”, “The Walking Dead”, “Chuck”, “Doctor Who”, and more in equal depth! You can also follow Shangel on Twitter.

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