Sanctuary
Written by: Tim Minear and Joss Whedon
Directed by: Michael Lange
Air Date: May 2, 2000

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I don’t know how else to have watched these episodes and I feel bad, now. I thought there was going to be some mention in “BtVS” about Faith being in L.A. and that caused her to show up in this episode, otherwise I wouldn’t have waited so long between them. Whoops. This one picks up right after the events of “Five by Five” and I mean that literally – the very first scenes are of Angel bringing Faith to his home and beginning the long process of trying to help her overcome her demons (figurative and literal) and take off on the road to recovery. This is something Wesley and Cordelia don’t take well, with the latter tricking her boss into signing checks that allow her enough money to take a vacation during their unexpected guest’s stay. Wes, on the other hand, is simply flabbergasted Angel is getting his would-be-killer donuts and also departs, leaving Angel alone with Faith.

This episode rests mostly on the shoulders of Boreanaz and Dushku, playing Angel and Faith respectively in an episode that is almost entirely downplayed and quiet. The scenes between these two work incredibly well, of particular note the first attempt Faith makes at taking off and the scene where Faith wants to make popcorn. The way Angel talks to her about pain, suffering, redemption, and battling inner evil is true to character, as are the reactions Faith has. And in the popcorn bit specifically, I love that the episode is written to show that they aren’t going to be heavy-handed with the speeches, because when Faith asks “how does this work” and Angel rants about how to forgive oneself and ask for forgiveness from others, she was actually just asking how to use the microwave and it is well handled and reminds you that these characters are real people.

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But as much as Faith needs to seek forgiveness from Wesley and Angel, the real person she’s hurt is Buffy. And, after killing a demon Wolfram & Hart sent to take her out, that is exactly who shows up, just in time to see Faith cuddled up in Angel’s arms. After calling Giles in the previous episode, she’d found out Faith was in L.A. and came to make sure her ex- was OK. More than OK, it seems! Buffy says Faith goes to jail, Angel says that it won’t save her soul and the two come to blows. Literally. This episode works incredibly well at having a huge supporting cast, some of whom are crossover characters, and they all advance the plot and never as just a “hey, look who it is!” Buffy is the prime example, never feeling forced and never feeling against character or there just for the hell of it. It makes sense that she’d be there and all of her actions make just as much sense.

The rest of the characters work, as well. Weatherby and the rest of the Watcher’s Council wetwork team show up and are just damned pissed off about being screw-ups previously, so they try to rope Wesley into helping re-capture Faith with the promise that he gets reinstated to the Council. But even though the episode attempts to show a dark Wes who would consider this, it is his loyalty to Angel and the mission that keeps him grounded and sane, warning everyone about the issues at hand and buying time to escape. At the end of the episode, Wesley even agrees with all of Angel’s decisions, turning his own opinion around as to whether or not Faith is worth saving, or even capable of saving at all. Its a great bit of character development that really strengthens him and his relationship to his boss. Hell, even Kate shows up and is used appropriately, both in interactions with Angel and also with Lindsay, who rats on Faith and Angel in an attempt to take them both out of the picture.

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As stated, Buffy’s presence is what both cements and legitimizes the messages of this episode. And it is her interaction with Faith on the rooftop prior to the helicopter battle that steals the episode. Angel is shown trying to give Faith a chance and Buffy isn’t, and Faith attempts to rub that bit of info into her face. But Buffy snaps and takes the higher ground while delivering the low blow: she gave Faith every chance at every turn. Even as recently as “This Year’s Girl” when she provided an option to not fight on the campus, which Faith shot down. While Faith delivers some nasty lines about Buffy that are true, it is the admission of her guilt – which is presented on Faith’s face – that leads her to her final destination in the episode: behind bars. In a move that shocks Buffy and pleases Angel, she’s turned herself in and Angel and company are free from any charges.

This leads to a tense and dramatic ending where Buffy and Angel trade more barbs before Angel throws her out of his city, for good (literally, as this is the last time SMG shows up on the spinoff program). Its a lot of painful stuff, but in the end, Angel is right. About everything. And his being right is part of the themes and messages of the show, as a whole: saving souls. His fight to protect Faith and give her a chance is part of what constantly drives him and the rest of this series. Going above and beyond, trying to help others, and doing so at any expense and putting the fight before his own needs (something that comes into play in the show’s final minutes). More of this Angel/Faith story will come into play in upcoming seasons of the show as well. But for now, this is an episode that plays to the show’s overall strengths and succeeds at nearly every turn. Extremely solid.

Episode Rating: 94

Additional Notes:
-Who was flying the chopper?
-Likewise, what happened to the Watcher dudes?
-Bullseye, Wesley.
-That look Buffy gives Angel after he punches her. Way to play through the eyes like always, SMG!
-The pain Angel has over Buffy being with someone else is visible and you can hear it in his voice
-Don’t worry, Angel, you’ll get to punch the Doofmeister General in the face soon enough
-I like that Lilah knew about Buffy and Angel in Sunnydale. Good universe-building

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