In Pursuit of Faith

Faith1

Welcome to the Hellmouth! If you haven’t been around this week, we’re celebrating Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s (the show’s, anyway!) sweet sixteen with a month of Buffy-related posts, character analyses, and tours of the show’s many philosophical themes.

As usual for these sorts of posts, beware of SPOILERS.

Today’s character is one who I’ve always really liked. In fact, she’s been part of the inspiration for a new project I started working on just for the funsies. Faith Lehane is a character who as always intrigued me, both in her role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her appearances on Angel. She has some fascinating relationships with the other characters on both shows, and she’s the perfect example of character evolution.

The Dark Slayer

First of all, I always love characters who explore the “what might have been” sides of existing characters, and Faith Lehane is a perfect picture of what Buffy could have been had she not had the support system of her family, friends, and Giles. When we meet Faith, she talks a big game, but she’s terrified out of her wits and on the run. The vampire chasing her is old, old enough to still have cloven hooves. And Faith had to watch as he tore apart her Watcher. Where Buffy had a loving mother and friends who stuck with her in spite of the monsters who populated her life, Faith was alone in the world and terrified.

Everyone reacts differently to terror and guilt, and Faith was dealt an abundance of both. After she accidentally kills the deputy mayor of Sunnydale, Faith doesn’t know how to deal with her guilt. Instead of choosing to trust Buffy (who has admittedly often pushed Faith away, jealously guarding the life she’s cultivated from what she perceives as Faith’s encroaching), Faith puts her trust in the Mayor.

FaithAndMayorWilkins

Faith and the Mayor

I think that what Faith wants more than anything is for someone to accept her and value her for her strength and who she is. Her relationship with Buffy is too adversarial for that kind of bond, but Faith finds what she’s looking for in Buffy’s season three Big Bad: Mayor Wilkins. It’s an unexpectedly beautiful relationship that brings out emotion every time I watch it develop. Evil or not, Mayor Wilkins sees the value in Faith. Beyond the fear-hardened Slayer, he sees someone desperate for acceptance, and he loves her. It’s something Buffy never quite figured out — the way to gaining Faith’s trust and loyalty is, quite simply, to accept and love her for who she is. The two people who do that gain a strong, intensely loyal ally. Those who distrust her and seek to use her find out how dangerous she is.

Faith and the Mayor form a beautiful bond that persists even after his death, as evidenced by how the First chooses to manifest itself to Faith in the form of the Mayor. I think that bond is what allowed Angel to eventually reach Faith.

Faith_&_Angel

 

To Pull Faith from Darkness

Whether out of a sense of sadism or some other draw, Faith is pulled toward Angel from the first time she meets him. I don’t feel that her reasons are based on causing Buffy pain necessarily — I think she relates to him because of his past and hers. And in truth, her relationship with him is based on a mutual sense of understanding. After Faith kills the deputy mayor, Angel is the one who starts to get through to her. It’s her deranged replacement Watcher who manipulates her and messes with her mind enough to negate Angel’s influence.

All that said, Faith’s relationship with Angel is most explored in the spinoff when Faith arrives in LA. While Angel’s decisions regarding Faith after she tortures Wesley may seem insensitive from Wesley’s perspective (I wouldn’t be too Faith-friendly after that if I were him either), it’s Angel’s continued belief that Faith can become a better person that allows her to make the choices she needs to make. And Buffy doesn’t help with that, swooping in and freaking out.

Their experiences bond Faith and Angel in a way that Buffy can’t quite grasp or compete with. Buffy is, almost without exception, the epitome of the heroic archetype. Faith as an antihero is someone who has to make her own decisions and isn’t used to deciding for others. Angel and Faith can get through to one another in a way that no one else can. Theirs is a decidedly no-bullshit bond, but it’s also one of clarity and understanding.

Faith2

 

Defining Faith

Almost everyone is a product of her circumstances. When we first meet Faith, that’s who she is. She’s gone from rough upbringing to a tragic and overwhelming calling. What sets her apart as a character is how she manages, through the course of many years, to rise above simply being a churned out Slayer from a hard knock life.

Faith is able to make a choice to be something more, and while she’s still not perfect, she pushes herself beyond the girl who chose to work for the Mayor. She makes the active decision to be something more. I think that Faith’s eventual acceptance of herself is showcased in the final season of Buffy when she is able to return leadership to Buffy and admit that she wasn’t the best person to lead the Potentials — and incidentally, that moment is where Buffy gives Faith more acceptance and trust than she ever has before.

What do you think of the other Slayer? Who is she to you? Do you think that she would have been less of a tragic character if she had the kind of support system Buffy had? Do you think any of Faith’s development is Buffy’s fault?

 

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on March 13, 2013, in 16th Buffyversary, Buffy, Fandom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. J. Michael Wright

    Faith is absolutely one of my favorite characters on Buffy. A) She’s a super-heroine and I’m fancy to that kind of character. B) She shows both sides of the same coin. At first, she was a bad guy showing the other side, the dark side of being a Slayer. Plus, she seemed more down to earth, unlike Buffy. I ❤ Buffy, don't get me wrong, but Buffy whined a little too much (though I completely understand why). I feel Faith embraced her abilities more, instead of her responsibilities. That's most likely why I enjoy her character more. C) She's a brunette. I am not a fan of blondes. Never have been.

  2. Random side comment: I loved her character in Angel but even more so in Dollhouse. Eliza Dushku does a fantastic job of putting depth into the characters she portrays.

  3. Yes! I loved Faith. Her relationship with the Mayor was so unexpected and perfectly handled, it took my breath away. (As an aside, one of the episodes which really showcased Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting chops to me was the body switch. “Because it’s wrong.” Holy shit.)

    And Faith and Angel (as friends) always made perfect sense to me. As did Faith and Spike (as friends + fuck buddies). I’ve always been a little sad the proposed Faith/Spike series never got off the ground.

  4. Tabaqui Jackal

    Absolutely agree – Faith has always been one of *the* most interesting characters on ‘Buffy’, and her story was much more interesting to me than Buffy’s in a lot of ways. I was always horrified by how the ‘Scoobies’ treated Faith. All of her ‘dark side’ adventures could have been averted if they’d treated her like a human being and a young woman in need, instead of like an enemy.

    (I know, i know – drama! But still….) I enjoyed Faith every time she was on the show, and really did love her interactions with Angel *and* with Spike. I’d watch ‘The Faith Show’ any time.

  5. I like Faith, but I’d like her a lot more without the idiosyncratic slang. Particularly “five by five.”

  6. I haven’t seen the show in a while, but I loved Faith, because she was so three dimensional. She is that character that keeps you on the edge of your seat, because you want her to change so badly.

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