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Revisiting ANGEL - Sanctuary

Shane King returns with another in-depth look at a key Angel episode. This time it's episode 19 from Season 1, the second half of Faith's appearance in LA, Sanctuary.

“Sanctuary” couldn’t have been an easy episode to write. After more than eighteen months of Faith falling down the rabbit hole into shrouded darkness, how do you make her likeable? How do you make her sympathetic after some of the crimes she’s committed? Killing innocent humans like Leister, killing innocent demons like Skyler, ruining Buffy’s life, trying to kill Angel, trying to kill Buffy, trying to kill Xander, sleeping with Riley’s current boyfriend, can Faith come back from this? The answer isn’t easy, but it comes in the form of honesty and redemption. Angel doesn’t sugarcoat things for Faith. The road to redemption is rocky and never ending. Faith can never make up for all the lives she’s taken and all the damage she’s caused, and who better to show her that than Angel, a character that is going through exactly the same thing. Joss Whedon and Tim Minear do aterrific job in this episode of sewing together a lot of stories seamlessly. Faith’s character arc needs to be resolved, Buffy needs to be brought in to the equation to give her story with Faith in “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You?” some resolution, we have Wesley’s post-torture attitude to contend with, the Watcher’s Council are brought in, and Kate appears! That’s a lot of story in one episode.

A quick the end of the last episode,
 “Five By Five”, Faith had a meltdown and begged Angel to put her out of her misery and kill her. How sweet. Angel, knowing that Faith was capable of changing, refused to kill her and in doing so refused to accept that she was evil. The episode faded to black with Faith crying in Angel’s arms in the pouring rain. Before any of that, Faith switched bodies with Buffy in Sunnydale, slept with her boyfriend, ruined her life, and skipped town as soon as they were returned to their regular bodies.

The episode opens almost immediately where
 “Five By Five” finished, which was a terrific and unexpected choice. We, the audience, need to see the immediate aftermath of Faith’s breakdown for it to hold weight. If “Sanctuary” opened the next day, it would have done “Five By Five” a disservice. We need to see how hard it is for Faith to change. We need to see how hard it is for Faith to want to change. Faith arrived in Los Angeles with the sole goal of wishing to be murdered at Angel’s hands. She didn’t foresee the breakdown. She didn’t foresee living past the fight with Angel. As most of you are aware (see “Amends” if you aren’t), I’ve been in a similar situation to this myself. After losing my best friend, a heap of other bad stuff happening, and fighting severe depression for four years, I tried to kill myself. In my depressive, hopeless state of mind, I’d completely given up on life and fully intended to die on that day in July 2011. Miraculously, I survived. I don’t know how. I shouldn’t have. After deciding to live again, the hardest part, without question, was finding the will to live again. Like Faith here, I didn’t intend to survive. I hadn’t thought of a future past that day. So, when life has other plans for you, how do you adjust to still being alive? It isn’t easy. In Faith’s case, step one for her is taking responsibility for her actions and starting to make amends for those actions.

Thanks to Faith, Angel Investigations are looking a little worse for wear the morning after our dear sweet Faith had her breakdown. Cordelia has an impressively large black eye and Wesley’s face is basically one giant bruise with an array of artistic cuts surrounding it.

Cordelia: “Well, if it’s any consolation, it really does look like you were tortured by a much larger woman.”

There’s always that silver lining, I suppose. I bet that made Wesley feel much better about being tortured, Cordy.

I must admit, I don’t envy Angel in this episode. He’s walking a tightrope...
and that’s before Buffy arrives. He has to try and support Cordelia and Wesley, his injured colleagues and friends, yet on the other hand he has to try and support and rehabilitate Faith. Personally, I don’t feel like Angel takes Wesley’s feelings into consideration enough at the beginning of “Sanctuary”. Angel’s energies are all going into Faith at the moment, which I suppose they should to a certain extent. However, Wesley is one of your best friends, Angel! He was being brutally tortured 12 hours ago! Ask how he’s doing! He should be vastly more concerned about Wesley’s physical and mental health at this juncture. I suppose it’s ultimately a decision to weigh the percentages in Angel’s case. He knows that Wesley will be fine and will heal up okay, but he doesn’t know if Faith’s breakdown will last or whether she’ll start trying to kill everyone again. I’ve always found that the biggest difference between “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” is how they go about helping people. “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” is very much a show about saving people’s lives and helping the innocent. As the Slayer, Buffy has a duty to protect the world from the forces of darkness. “Angel” is a show about saving souls, as opposed to saving lives. “Angel” is a show about redemption and atoning for your mistakes. Faith’s character journey here is something that simply couldn’t happen on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” in this way. Angel is trying to help Faith find some peace and move on through redemption. Until the 6th season of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, the members of Angel Investigations screw up far more often than the Scooby Gang. The beginning of Faith’s redemption arc had to happen on “Angel” and ithad to be Angel himself that started this with her. However, just because Angel is willing to help save Faith’s soul, it doesn’t mean that Wesley, Cordelia, or Buffy are. Cordelia literally leaves the cityuntil the psychotic Slayer is gone from Los Angeles. That’s hilarious. I miss Cordy in this episode, though.

Understandably so, Faith is falling apart at the seams. She’s beat up, she’s exhausted, and she’s mentally drained. I can’t overemphasise this point,
 Faith wanted to die in the last episode. Let that sink in for a moment. She wasn’t just prepared to die in battle, she actively wished for it. Now, she’s hit rock bottom and she’s had her epiphany moment, but she still doesn’t know how to handle it...

Angel: “Where are you gonna go? Back out in that darkness? I once told you that you didn’t have to go out in that darkness, remember? That it was your choice. Well, you chose. You thought that you could just touch it, that you’d be okay. Five by five, right, Faith? But it swallowed you whole. So tell me, how’d you like it?”
Faith: “Help me.”

This was the second key moment for Faith in her rehabilitation (the first being the breakdown in the alley). Faith, who has always kept her vulnerabilities hidden to the world and gave off an aura of being strong and self-sufficient, is asking for help. It looked like it physically pained her to ask, but she asked nonetheless. She doesn’t know if she’s capable of changing yet, but she
 wants to change. Faith is disgusted by the person she’s become. You only have to go back to “Who Are You?” to know that. Faith (in Buffy’s body) was staring down at herself and yelling that she was disgusting and a bitch. She loathes herself. Yet again, Angel explains to Faith that feeling better and making amends isn’t going to be easy. It’ll be the hardest thing she’s ever done. The only way to start to move on from being a murderer is to feel the full weight of her actions and try to correct those wrongs as best she can. Even then it won’t be enough. Faith has spent 18 months making poor decisions and now she’s paying the price for those. Just like Angel’s redemption, Faith’s redemption should be hard. Brutally hard. Bless this show for enforcing the notion that actions have consequences. Forgiveness is not an easy thing to receive. Buffy and Wesley’s aren’t portrayed as wrong for wanting revenge against Faith or encouraging Angel to stop helping her. They’re fully entitled to that revenge. Angel sends Wesley home while he tries to get Faith back into a mentally stable place.

It’s at this moment that the Watcher’s Council present themselves to Wesley. The same three Watcher’s Council members that were in Sunnydale for
 “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You?”. The same people that tried to take Buffy (in Faith’s body) back to England to stand trial. It’s pretty cool continuity that the same three people are still hunting Faith and have followed her from Sunnydale to Los Angeles. The Watcher’s Council have a proposal for Wesley: give us Faith and we’ll welcome you back into the Watcher’s Council with open arms. Remember, before being fired by the Watcher’s Council, it was the only life that Wesley had known. He’d been groomed to be a Watcher for most of his life and it was the only job he’d ever wanted. Now, he gets to have all of that back if he’s willing to give up the female that had just been brutally torturing him. It should be a simple decision, right? Wrong. It’s not just Faith that Wesley would be giving up. He’d be betraying Angel in the process.

While Angel is helping Faith, she accidentally lets slip that Buffy has a new boyfriend. Oh dear...Angel’s face is just heartbreaking. Angel has very little time to recover before Buffy arrives in Los Angeles, fuming at the fact that Angel is ‘coddling’ the murderer that slept with her boyfriend and ruined her life. I can
 completely understand Buffy’s reaction and rage in this episode. If someone slept with my girlfriend, stole my body, and almost destroyed my life, I’d want revenge too. Buffy shouldn’t forgive Faith in this episode and I’m glad that Joss and Tim didn’t take the easy way out. However, out of every single episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, this might be the one where I dislike Buffy Summers the most. It’s very rare that I dislike Buffy. Very rare. Buffy punched Angel in the face for letting Faith LEAVE THE ROOM, attempted to punch him again, and then after he blocked her punch and hit her back, she acted like a hurt little puppy.

In real life, I don’t condone physical abuse of any kind (barring self-defence), but this is the Buffyverse. Buffy is significantly stronger than Angel and she hit him first...why is she the victim? Buffy’s reaction to Angel helping Faith is also interesting. Remember 18 months ago when Buffy was defending helping Angel to Giles, whom Angelus had tortured and murdered his girlfriend? Now the roles are reversed entirely. Buffy has taken on the Giles role and can’t fathom why Angel is helping a murderer.

Wolfram & Hart’s second assassin is, uhh...interesting. I’m gonna go with interesting. Why does it exist exactly? It lasts a grand total of
 three minutes. THREE. Why introduce it? The only logical conclusion I can come to is that Faith having blood on her hands again, even demon blood, is used as a way to shock Faith further into the path of redemption.

Lee: “This is getting ridiculous. The first assassin kills the second assassin, sent to kill the first assassin, who didn’t assassinate anyone until we hired the second assassin to assassinate her.”

Say that ten times fast when drunk.

I was so proud of Wesley for not turning on Angel or Faith in favour of rejoining the Watcher’s Council. I wouldn’t have blamed him for handing Faith in! It showed some real growth and integrity on Wesley’s part to stand by Angel. Wesley had every reason to turn on Faith. The only thing that stopped him was his trust in Angel. Wesley trusted that Angel could succeed in turning Faith’s life around, rather than believing that all hope was lost and helping the Watcher’s Council. Wesley has seen firsthand that Angel is capable of helping the hopeless. What is Faith in this episode if not hopeless? Unlike Buffy, Wesley has seen Angel helping people in Los Angeles. He’s witnessed Angel not only saving lives, but saving souls, and he’s trusting Angel to do the same again. Also, his look of glee at hitting Weatherby (Jeff Ricketts!) with a dart, and his subsequent punching of Weatherby and stating “that’s for calling me a ponce”, is absolutely gut-wrenchingly funny. I’ve rewound that moment so many times on DVD.

Buffy’s arrival in Los Angeles is more than just a way to boost the ratings. It’s a way to give Buffy and Faith closure on
 “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You?”. Buffy has the chance to confront Faith over Faith’s actions and Faith has the chance to apologise to Buffy, even if Buffy doesn’t want to hear it. It was definitely needed before Faith went to jail. Something else that I’ve always loved about this episode is that as soon as the Watcher’s Council start firing at Buffy and Faith, they stop their argument and team up to stay alive. The truce only lasts as long as the Watcher’s Council are a threat, but it just goes to show that when it really counts, Buffy and Faith are still capable of functioning as a good team. It makes Faith’s return to Sunnydale in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” season seven more believable.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate show up in this episode. It is
 crystal clear for the first time ever that Kate loathes Angel and wants to see him suffer. She arrests Angel for aiding a fugitive and intends for him to die in a sunny jail cell, until Faith hands herself in to the police! I didn’t see that coming. Faith chose to hand herself in. Faith chose to start her path to redemption instead of running away, which she’s always done historically. Faith has always been a character that blamed other people for her problems and always ran away when the going got tough. She blamed Buffy after she accidentally killed Allan Finch, she blamed Buffy for her problems in Sunnydale, and she blamed her mother for her problems during her youth. In this one clinch moment, Faith takes responsibility for the first time. It appears that someone finally got through to Faith. She does the right thing and hands herself in of her own free will. She knows the path to redemption is going to be brutal, but she’s willing to give it a try anyway. Angel has taught you well, young Padawan. I was so proud of Faith in that moment.

Someone I wasn’t proud of in that moment was Buffy. As I mentioned in “I Will Remember You”, I’ve always wondered what “Angel” fans that don’t watch “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” thought of Buffy. She’s only in two episodes of “Angel” and she’s quite bitchy in both. Again, I understand her fury and thirst for vengeance, but I despise the way she goes about it. Angel tells Buffy that what he was doing with Faith isn’t about Buffy, it’s about saving Faith’s soul. Angel is right, the work he does in Los Angeles doesn’t involve Buffy and she has no right to barge into his city demanding vengeance. Again, I understand why Buffy wants revenge and I would want revenge too, but Angel is in the middle of a delicate process with Faith and the outcome could save many people’s lives, not just Faith’s soul. Faith is at a crossroads and Buffy being there is making a complicated situation all the more complicated and difficult. All of this is acceptable behaviour on Buffy’s part. The part which I find totally unacceptable is when Buffy throws in Angel’s face that she has a new boyfriend. Not only that, but she tells Angel that it’s ‘very new’ because she knows and trusts Riley, implying that she didn’t know or trust Angel when they were together. It was a low blow by Buffy and was completely uncalled for. How would Buffy have felt if her ‘soul-mate’ had arrived in Sunnydale proclaiming that he had a new girlfriend that he knows and trusts more than he did Buffy? I love Buffy, but she’s such a bitch in that scene. Then, to top off my annoyance, Angel goes after Buffy to apologise(!!!). WHAT THE HELL FOR?! He did nothing wrong except raise his voice (with good reason!). Buffy deserved to be ordered out of Los Angeles because of the way she was acting! UGH.

The episode closes on the note that it should. Not on Buffy and Angel arguing, but on Faith sat alone in a prison cell. Faith was the focus of the episode and this moment brings closure to 18 months worth of storytelling surrounding her character. From start to finish, this story has arguably been the greatest character journey in the Buffyverse. An argument could be made for Wesley (I personally think Wesley has the most character development), an argument could be made for Cordelia, but Faith is definitely in that upper echelon as far as character development goes. What a terrific episode from start to finish.

Quote Of The Episode

Angel: “Buffy, this wasn’t about you. This was about saving somebody’s soul. That’s what I do here and you’re not a part of it. That was your idea, remember? We stay away from each other.”

Buffy: “I came here because you were in danger.”

Angel: “I’m in danger every day. You came because of Faith. You were looking for vengeance.”

Buffy: “I have a right to it!”

Angel: “Not in my city.”

Buffy: “I have someone in my life now that I love. It’s not what you and I had, it’s very new. You know what makes it new? I trust him. I know him.”

Angel: “That’s great. That’s nice.  You moved on, I can’t. You found someone new, I’m not allowed to, remember? I see you again, it cuts me up inside and the person I share that with is me. You don’t know me anymore, so don’t come down here with your great new life and expect me to do things your way. Go home.”

Buffy:  “See, Faith wins again.”

Angel: “Go!”


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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