I always loved the Buffy and Faith relationship, since both come at their identical destinies from vastly different perspectives. Buffy sees her destiny as a burden, something she's been plagued with and something that cuts her off from an ordinary existence. Faith, on the other hand, loves her destiny, seeing it as something that makes her special and interesting. She sees it as fun, and as a result she's more reckless and violent in battle. But when you look at their individual backgrounds, Buffy has always seen everybody else in the world as an 'other', people who are able to have fun and live fulfilled lives, while Faith (somebody from a poor background with a supposedly fragile family history) loves being a Slayer so much because she doesn't believe there'd be any 'other' life she could lead which would be better. In Buffy's mind, the grass is always greener. With Faith, her life right now is the best it could ever be.
Faith enters the show like a tornado. She's fun and aggressive and sexual and spunky, Buffy immediately left in the cold as everybody around her becomes more and more intrigued by this newbie Slayer amongst them. There's the same snarky tension that occurred when Kendra arrived, but Buffy isn't immediately cast as the 'better' Slayer. While Kendra was easy to undermine and ignore due to her reserved, patriarchal background and by-the-book nature, Buffy struggles to do the same with Faith, somebody so wild and unpredictable. Faith has vulnerability, sure, but she's also a hot-as-hell badass, something Buffy can't easily dismiss.
Once again, we see the series opening up a lot. Faith is a very different kind of character, while Mr. Trick is a vampire with some fire and personality. Compare him to the rent-a-vamps in early season two, and he's a goddamn spitfire of charisma. Kakistos, too, is ridiculously intense and scary, a nightmare depiction of old, ancient evil. We also have the sudden, brutal (and wet and naked) re-appearance of Angel, but more on that next week.
Then there's Scott Hope, somebody so normal and sweet and the perfect guy for Buffy, but she's unsurprisingly still hung up on recent events. Giles' efforts to somehow close the book on Angel's death were beautifully written. He understands Buffy completely, and used his maturity to get her to open up in a way that he knew she'd actually respond to. I love those two together, and they had some great scenes here, especially that moment where Buffy's mispronouncing Kakistos repeatedly ("Kissing toast", "Taquitos", etc.) and later when she briefly walks away to signal to Giles that he's rambling.
There's a real feeling of the season truly starting up here, with an expertly crafted script from David Greenwalt, full of wonderful pieces of dialogue and clever asides (the 'hungry and horny' discussion, for example). These characters are so rich and beautifully observed, I genuinely love watching them right now, more than ever. A+
Guest stars Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers); K. Todd Freeman (Mr. Trick); Fab Filippo (Scott Hope); Jeremy Roberts (Kakistos); Eliza Dushku (Faith); Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder)
Writer David Greenwalt Director James A. Contner