“I do not, however, understand why the woman who brutally tortured me last night, this morning gets pastries.”
-Wesley Wyndym-Pryce, Angel S1E19: “Sanctuary”
Brief synopsis: Angel continues to try and rehabilitate Faith, even when Buffy arrives and is furious at this.
Title significance: A sanctuary is somewhere where a person can go to be safe. Angel is certainly determined to provide this for Faith, alienating Cordelia, Wesley, and even Buffy in order to do so. He knows that the only way for her to begin to heal is for her to feel safe; if she feels threatened, she’ll bolt.
“Sanctuary” also connects to the idea of a sacred place. What is happening between Angel and Faith is sacred. It is redemption. This is why when Buffy tries to impose herself on the sanctity of this event, she loses. Redemption is more sacred than even his love for Buffy. She cannot invade the sanctuary he has created for Faith.
Questions of morality: Angel is the only one who believes in Faith this episode. Cordelia has jumped ship. Wesley is hurt and angry that Angel is choosing to coddle her. Buffy is outraged. They all seem to feel that there is an evil in Faith that can’t be defeated, that she’ll be bad again as soon as she’s bored with guilt.
They are so convinced of that she is irredeemable because of the things she has personally done to them. They remember the pain she caused and think there is no way she can come back. She has done too much evil. But Angel has been in the same place as her. He would like to believe no one is irredeemable.
Intrigue of moral ambiguity: More overt, but I still liked it.
What “Sanctuary” does right:
- Angel – I absolutely love Angel this episode. His empathy for what Faith is going through is so believable, and through it, we gain more sympathy and insight into his own story. The fact that his knee-jerk reaction was to protect Faith, even if it meant hurting Buffy, was so powerful. Saving Faith’s soul was more important to him than kissing up to his soulmate. His statement that this had nothing to do with Buffy rang very true, and his statements at the end were spot-on. Buffy ended up looking quite bad in the end, and I think that’s actually a good thing.
- Faith – Faith’s pain is so palpable this episode, so much more so than in “Five by Five” when she screams about being bad. The way she mourns how much it hurts, the way she tries to leave, then comes back again. I loved her reaction to learning the popcorn was Wesley’s. She was ashamed. Her final decision to go to the police, alone, is a beautiful moment, and I think it really gives the ending meaning.
- Wesley – I love Wesley’s arc here. He is clearly feeling a bit miffed, a bit betrayed, by Angel’s treatment of Faith. We understand why he would away. Then when we expect him to grab Faith, he chooses to help Angel get her out of there instead. Wesley had a terrible relationship with his father, which has been hinted at in previous episodes, which creates in him a loyalty to Angel, who is fulfilling that paternal role in a way that Wesley doesn’t feel like such a screw-up. It was really great to see how much this loyalty meant to him.
What “Sanctuary” could have done better:
- Buffy and Faith – There is a confrontation between Buffy and Faith this episode. It’s part of the climax. I’m sure this would have been a very powerful moment if it occurred on Buffy. It didn’t, though. It was on Angel. I care about our characters. I care about Wesley having a confrontation with her. I care about her interactions with Angel. I do not care about her and Buffy. This emotional climax should not have occurred with two guest stars.
- Darts – We see Wesley playing darts early on in the episode. Afterwards, he throws a syringe like a dart in order to immobilize one of the Watchers. Just in case we didn’t get that this referenced the earlier scene, Wesley gives himself a score. I hate it when shows do things like this, especially when it isn’t needed.
- Buffy – While I thought many of the interactions between Buffy and Angel were well-done, there was way too much Buffy this episode, and it just lacked the emotional resonance that “I Will Remember You” had. This really needed to be about Faith, Angel, and Wesley, and there was no reason to give the climax to Buffy and to spend time with her fighting the Watchers.
Overall: I really like this episode.