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(Review) BtVS 9.04 'Freefall' Part IV

14th December 2011 (21:41)

Issue 4 of Season 9 was a strong one, and ended the first arc on an upnote. I do think there are some weaknesses in the storytelling; the characterisation does still tend to be a bit too much Tell, not enough Show, and the plot isn't as convoluted as Season 8. Of course, many people would say that's a good thing...
 
It is interesting to compare 'Freefall' to 'The Long Way Home'. Andrew Chambliss's storytelling is more straightforward than Joss's, without the multiple parallel threads and jumping around that Joss is so fond of. That certainly makes the narrative of S9 easier to read, but means there's less to talk about in reviews since we're not puzzling over exactly how it all fits together! There were some good action scenes in 'Freefall', but they didn't blow my metaphorical socks off as much as Buffy's "No. Panic." line in 'The Long Way Home'. I've already mentioned that the characterisation isn't presented as deftly here, although there's nothing wrong with the actual content. There's plenty to talk about regarding the relative situations of Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Willow and Spike.
 
As for the plot, S9 actually seems to address the main criticisms of S8 head on. There's been no massive multi-year time jump: S9 is set about seven months after the end of S8, but all the characters are pretty much in the same situation we left them. The changes are the minor sort of thing you'd expect: Buffy has a new apartment, Willow has a new girlfriend. Certainly nothing on the level of seeing Buffy in combat armour jumping out of a helicopter, or Dawn being a giant. The first arc of Season 9 is crammed full of character interaction, not only between the main characters but with new secondary characters who are just normal folks going about their lives. Buffy's fighting vampires in alleys and having trouble with the police, not fighting giant robots on the streets of Tokyo and having trouble with the US Army.
 
It's probably way too late to draw back the people who gave up on the comics because Season 8 wasn't what they were wanting, but Season 9 seems to be giving us that in full. The only risk is that it doesn't drive away the people who actually liked Season 8 for what it was...
 
Anyway, onto the review.
 
So, Severin is an enemy after all. I did wonder last month if it might be a fake-out - but on reflection, I can't see how that would have improved the story. That would only really work if they were playing it for laughs - ha ha, you thought he was evil but he was just summoning his power to demonstrate it for Buffy! So, they fight. I do think it's an interesting insight into Buffy's current mindset that she was so quick to trust him last issue. She's always been someone who prefers to think the best of people, not the worst. But right now, with most of her friends drifting away from her and feeling devoid of purpose after the Slayer Army fell apart, she was particularly vulnerable to the offer of a friendly face and a strong arm.
 
We start with a flashback to "three months ago" - interestingly, last issue Severin said that he discovered his powers "a couple months ago". So either he was being vague and "a couple" here meant "three"; or for some reason he was lying to Buffy to make her think he'd had his power for less time than he actually had. Either would work. Apparently he was letting himself be attacked by random vampires, then revealing his powers and using them to threaten the vamp into telling him where Alessandra is. She was the vampire who turned his girlfriend into a zompire, and apparently at that stage he thought she was to blame for why the turning didn't work properly. But he's interrupted by a mysterious woman telling him that it wasn't Alessandra's fault: it's Buffy who he should be angry at for breaking the Seed.
 
Given the reveal on the last page, we can assume the mysterious woman is Simone. Her motive is hatred of Buffy, plain and simple: she wants to "Destroy everything that makes her who she is. Her power, her freedom, and the nauseating idea that she's doing good." Severin, on the other hand, considers that he's "not the bad guy" here: Buffy is. I don't think we're meant to take his word for that as authorial authority, mind you; this isn't a morally-grey-Buffy story.
 
Severin blames her for the zompire epidemic, and it's true that technically that was Buffy's fault even if she didn't cause it intentionally or knowingly. But the idea that zompires are actually worse than regular vampires strikes me as special pleading. Severin wanted to become a vampire; he admitted that last issue. Buffy breaking the Seed took away his chance for gaining immortal youth by preying on the blood of the innocent, and he's pissed off at her for that. His line about how she "doesn't deserve the power she has" strikes me as coming from Simone. I said last issue that Severin came across as a bit naive, and while some of that might have been play-acting to deceive Buffy it might not all be. He's fallen for Simone's blandishments.
 
Incidentally, I think it's an interesting aside that Simone defines the qualities that makes Buffy who she is as "power and freedom" plus "the idea that she's doing good". And she wants to take away Buffy's power and freedom because, in her eyes, Buffy doesn't deserve them. She's not a hard woman making hard choices in the name of power; Buffy believes in liberal tripe like altruism and helping other people. So we've got politics and feminism all mixed into the story. :)
 
Also, we now see that Severin was the round-glasses guy from the last issue of Season 8. And it's implied that Simone has been researching him in depth; she knows who he is and what his story is. Of course, Severin has apparently been making the rounds of the vampire community trying to find Alessandra, so he's not been low-profile.
 
One final interesting note before we cut away to the other characters; Severin gloats to Buffy that he's going to take her power. And Buffy's first reaction isn't rejection or defiance: it's to ask, "You can do that?" I do wonder if she's tempted by the idea. Of course she then fights him, so she clearly wasn't tempted enough to actually go for it.
 
An interlude at the police station, where we finally learn that the woman detective's name is Cheung. An anonymous tip has been phoned in - presumably either by Severin himself off-camera before the issue, or by Simone - that Buffy has killed hundreds of vampires down at the Embarcadero wharfs. Dowling seems quite taken aback by Cheung's vehemence in response. Simone and Severin's plan is also spelled out; the whole idea is to frame Buffy for the murders, then drain her power and leave her to be picked up by the police. It answers why Severin didn't just take her power while Buffy was asleep in his apartment the previous night: she needs to suffer and to lose everything.
 
Spike and Eldre Koh are on their way back from Alcatraz and taking the opportunity for a little male bonding on the way by discussing girl problems. I do second Spike's demand why they couldn't just take the ferry, but maybe Koh's not as confident in his disguise... Spike's comment about vampires and water not being best friends caused a lot of comment when this page came out in the previews: there's never been anything before on the show to suggest any particular such weakness, but several indications that vampires have no problem at all with seawater. Personally I prefer to believe that Spike just doesn't want to get wet, and was spinning a line. Seawater would probably stain his leather coat, and maybe interfere with his carefully-set hairstyle, and certainly wouldn't be good for his smartphone.
 
This is the scene that did feel a bit too exposition-y, although it's not exactly a bad thing to see Spike's current feelings for Buffy set out clearly. He'd "do pretty much anything to keep her safe" because they "go way back", but there's no chance of a relationship because "she needs one thing, and that's normal", which he isn't. I've seen this scene criticised because Spike is apparently deciding what's best for Buffy without actually asking her. It's a fair point, but I think that from Spike's perspective, he has asked her. The last time they spoke, she told him that the thing she wishes most of all is that breaking the Seed had taken away her power, and she was no longer the Chosen One or a Slayer and could just be Buffy. Since Spike can't ever be just a normal person - William Pratt died 130 years ago - he thinks it's what she wants if he backs away from her. It's in character with what he was doing in late Season 7, too.
 
Koh, of course, sees right through his pretence, and tells him that Spike would prefer his relationship with Buffy to be a lot more than it is. But Spike doesn't admit it.
 
Cheung is still hyper, and demanding a SWAT team to take out Buffy because "you know what a Slayer is capable of". I'm not sure if she's just gung-ho, or if she takes Buffy's attempt to flee custody personally, or maybe she's trying to hide her nervousness since she does know what a Slayer is capable of. Dowling is still playing the Good Cop, though, and is apparently genuine about it.
 
Back to the battle. Buffy is trying to stop Severin putting his hands on her head, and one question I had last month is answered now: absorbing vampires' power does give him superstrength. (So if he absorbed power from a demon with magical abilities, would he get those too?) He talks about having "more power than hundreds of vampires" - and honestly, what he's doing by trying to drain Buffy is by its very nature vampiric. So it's appropriate that in self-defence she stabs him with a wooden stake, although not through the heart.
 
Severin now reveals he can also use his power to heal himself. Buffy, though, makes the intuitive leap that doing that has drained a lot of his power, and if she can keep on hurting him without giving him chance to recharge, eventually he'll give up. I don't think there's any concrete evidence that she's right, but it' generally how most Buffyverse demons seem to work so it seems a fair assumption. Plus as I said, Slayer intuition. It was a bit clunky for her to actually tell us all this: the TV show could have used camera angles and CGI and significant glances to get across the idea that Buffy notices that healing himself drained some of his power, instead of using dialogue,. A problem of the comics format.
 
They crash through the floor into the basement, almost completely unlike the similar scene in 'Smashed'. and apparently Severin has been storing up zompires as a kind of personal recharge station...
 
Brief cut to Xander and Dawn watching the news. They don't come off especially well here, though I think it can be overstated. Xander is clearly both angry and exasperated with Buffy, but even so his first reaction is that of course he'll help her raise bail. He's not abandoning her to her fate even if he resents the necessity to help. Dawn seems more worried than annoyed, and it's quite interesting that her first thought is to contact Willow. For help? Advice? Moral support? Why is she turning to Willow and not to her boyfriend who's sat right next to her? Although her body language as they sit there is very closed in: knees together, arms tucked in, not physically touching Xander at all. I think they're still on bad terms.
 
Incidentally, compare this scene to the preview cover just released of Buffy and Spike who are also sitting on the sofa watching TV. But in that image - which is probably a fantasy, but anyway - the two of them are snuggling together cosily, both looking at the same thing, and brightly lit in clean, vivid coloured clothing. This scene here is a much less happy-domestic image.
 
And Tumble and Anaheed discover that Buffy is a Slayer, not to mention wanted by the police. Anaheed has been nosing around in Buffy's room. This could be interesting... For the record, the contents of Buffy's private arsenal include:
 
The 'Vampyr' book.
A credit card?
A crossbow.
A battleaxe.
A morning star flail.
A nunchaku (I don't think we've ever seen her actually use one of those?).
Three throwing knives.
Six wooden stakes.
Three bottles of holy water.
A cross on a chain.
Two sticks of some description, which don't look large enough to be weapons.
And... two hand grenades?!
 
Back to the battle, and Buffy is fighting off zompires as Severin drains them for a power-up. She reminds him that if the vamps kill her he won't be able to drain he power, which is logic he accepts... He also manages to zap a vampire in mid-air, although it's not clear if he drained its power, or is just developing long-range magic powers from draining so many of them. This new power, whatever it is, is bad news for our heroine...
 
Meanwhile Dowling meets Spike and Eldre Koh, who tell him to leave for his own safety while the two of them handle the Siphon. Dowling is clearly intimidated by meeting a vampire face-to-face - Spike puts his game face on - and apparently does what they say, although as we'll see he doesn't actually go far. They then hear a noise from below, and I notice that while Koh says, "The Siphon" Spike shouts "Buffy!"
 
Severin has Buffy by the throat and comments that a Slayer's power "sparks" differently to a vampire's. He uses his new long-range zapping ability again, this time on Spike and Koh - Koh is knocked out cold, but Spike is tougher. It doesn't do him much good, though, because Severin grabs him in his other hand and starts draining his power too. So Buffy and Spike are held at arm's length from each other by Severin, whose eyes are glowing solid green. The two of them say each other's names: I've seen some discussion about who Buffy is addressing here, but to my mind, when she says "Spike... don't..." she's talking to him, and telling him not to throw away his life by leaping to her rescue and getting himself killed. Though I suppose it's also possible she's asking Severin not to kill him. Either way she's definitely more worried about Spike than her own power.
 
As the lightshow proceeds Buffy starts to look weak and pale - though that might just be the artist showing the effect of the lighting - and Spike changes from vampface back to human. However, Severin tells them that "in two seconds" Spike will be a corpse and all Buffy's power will be... We never hear the end of his sentence on account of how Dowling shoots him repeatedly in the back. That was a pretty dramatic scene, especially the reveal of a nervous-looking Dowling crouched there with his smoking pistol in his hands.
 
I thought there was a continuity error at first since Severin talks about being shot three times, but there are four bleeding wounds on his torso. But the fourth is where Buffy stabbed him with the stake, not a bullet hole.
 
So did Severin actually affect the two of them at all? Buffy seems to think she's still a Slayer afterwards, and Dowling says that Spike is still a vampire. So maybe they were unaffected; Dowling was in time, and Severin's power drain is reversed because it never actually completed. Or maybe we'll discover later on that the partial drain did affect them in some way; Buffy has lost some of her power, Spike is less vampire, more human. At the moment I'm more inclined to reject that idea, and go with Severin failing to affect them; but we'll see.
 
The lighting effects in the final scene were kind of weird: the blue and red flashing police lights give an odd tint to everything. Buffy is grateful to Dowling for "figuring out what was going on" - in other words, realising that Severin, not her, was the bad guy. He's also managed to get her cleared with "his supervisors" - Cheung isn't mentioned and doesn't appear in this scene, which is interesting - so she's no longer wanted by the police. I liked her flat "Yippee" reaction to that, and can just imagine Sarah saying it - and I also liked the call-back to the well-known fact that Buffy doesn't like guns. Also, an interesting comment that if Spike had died, his body would be "shipped across the Pond" - repatriated back to Britain, in other words. So the San Francisco police know that Spike is a British citizen, and for that matter, his citizenship is still valid 130 years after he died? :) Or maybe Dowling just recognised the accent and assumed...
 
More reinforcement that Koh just want Spike to go talk to Buffy already, but Spike wants her to be *with* "what this realm calls normal". Those two are becoming regular buddies, while it's also implied that Dowling and Buffy might get involved with each other.
 
Now Willow shows up to give Buffy a lift home. I was kind of curious about the way she apparently walked through the barrier of police cars and SWAT teams and calmly interrupted a homicide detective to say, "I've got it covered". I don't know if this is the effect of her now being New and Improved Self Confident Willow, or a reflection of the idea that she's a solid, respectable middle class citizen and thus naturally given the kind of respect by the police that people like Buffy don't get; or maybe she has some sort of mysterious connection to the authorities now. Who does she work for?
 
And it's pretty touching and thoughtful that Willow's reason for coming to help Buffy was in case she had lost her powers and needed sympathy from someone who'd gone through the same thing. Compare Xander and Dawn, who apparently didn't think that Buffy might need personal support as opposed to the financial kind. I liked the staging of the conversation too, with the car between them but them obviously connecting on an emotional level.
 
I've said before that I don't think Buffy broke the Seed because she had a sudden flash of Slayer intuition that it was the only way to save the world. She lashed out in grief and anger because she blamed magic and the supernatural for everything that had gone wrong in her life -especially Giles's death - and decided that she'd just had enough of it. The Seed itself - magic, creativity, wonder - was morally neutral; but instead of fighting to preserve it for the good guys as Willow wanted, Buffy decided on impulse to just break it so that nobody could have it. "In order to save the village it had to be destroyed". That's why she's now feeling guilty.
 
As for Willow, it seems she thinks Buffy was thoughtless - similar to Xander's feelings in a way - but she was never motivated by jealousy. She cares about Buffy too much to wish the same on her that Willow suffered. She has, however, "lost what makes her tick", and I still think she' holding it together a lot better than I'd expect. Unless we're talking about a 'Something Blue'-level amount of denial here but older Willow is better at keeping it bottled up?
 
Buffy promises Willow that "We'll figure it out" how to get her magic back. I think that's important. Of course we don't know if it's even possible, and I'm sure Buffy doesn't know either; but a promise like that from her to her best friend isn't just idle words. Finding a way to get magic back, either generally or only for Willow, is going to be a priority to Buffy from now on. Of course, given what we saw of Future Dark Willow, that may not end well...
 
And we end on the reveal that Simone is indeed Severin's puppetmaster. As others have mentioned there are logistic problems here: shouldn't he be in police custody? And if he is, how did Simone get in? It's also interesting that Severin wants to drain "just a taste" of Simone's own Slayer power to help him heal, and she recognises what he's trying and warns him off. So has he done tht to her before? Or did she just work it out? He's becoming more and more vampiric; I suspect he'll be the naive but basically decent guy who turns utterly evil by the end of the arc due to the corruption of power.
 
So will Simone be the big bad of the season? Or will she be the Maggie Walsh, and Severin is Adam, her creation that eventually turns on her? I'm actually now excited to find out.

Comments

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 02:37 (UTC)

Really great review, and for once, I think we're on the same page down the line.

I think there is an edge to Dawn and Xander's reaction to Buffy's situation -- but I think it's understandable if not justifiable. I don't know if we'll explicitly explore what it would mean to Xander to have watched Buffy f*ck the world into a craphole with Angel and get Giles killed in the process, but it makes a lot of sense to me that a guy who has sacrificed a lot to the cause would be pulling back now that Buffy's personal life has, again, imposed high costs on others. I agree a lot about the body language between Xander and Dawn. I look forward to that story.

I wonder how Koh will fit in going forward. I think this was a decent starting arc. And if history is a guide, it'll look even better when the season kicks in and we see how things were being set up here.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 03:45 (UTC)

Thanks! The impression I get from Xander is that he's just Had. Enough. He's bored with it. He still cares, but he resents that he does.

I think on current form, Koh is going to be Spike's guy friend. I'm bit surprised he hasn't actually spoken to Buffy yet, considering he's meant to be there to thank her and offer his services - does he feel it would be rude to cut in on Spike?

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 03:24 (UTC)
Season 8 - Buffy

Thanks for the detailed review, very thoughtful. :) Unfortunately, my comments were written by a disappointed grumpus and I'm tempted to not post them, but I'll give it a whirl. I'd love to be brought over to the happy-and-excited side...

In my experience, American vernacular for "couple" = "two or three" so it's not a big. Sorry we're less precise!

I like your points about why Buffy's so quick to trust Severin. My thoughts exactly. I'd add Spike into the inclusion of people drifting from her, as he shows up to help her, then runs off before she can talk to him.

So, Severin is an enemy after all. I did wonder last month if it might be a fake-out - but on reflection, I can't see how that would have improved the story.

To compare, consider the awesome cliffhangers we experienced in Season 8 like "I'd like to test that theory" and Vaughn's NFFY arc and Goddard's gruesome cliffhanger with Renee which led to such a heartwrenching opening sequence for #15. Bitter about the writing for Season 9 thus far? Who, moi? It's all just... lackluster.

It was a bit clunky for her to actually tell us all this: the TV show could have used camera angles and CGI and significant glances to get across the idea that Buffy notices that healing himself drained some of his power, instead of using dialogue,. A problem of the comics format.

Was this an issue in Season 8, though? I don't recall that. (Except maybe in Safe.) I think it's more about the quality of writing, less about the limitation of the comics form. Rather, not knowing the best ways to show a story in comics form, thus over-relying on Tell, narrating it all the way through dialogue. Dialogue explaining it all as a writer's crutch, basically.

As the lightshow proceeds Buffy starts to look weak and pale - though that might just be the artist showing the effect of the lighting - and Spike changes from vampface back to human. However, Severin tells them that "in two seconds" Spike will be a corpse and all Buffy's power will be... We never hear the end of his sentence on account of how Dowling shoots him repeatedly in the back. That was a pretty dramatic scene, especially the reveal of a nervous-looking Dowling crouched there with his smoking pistol in his hands.

Best part of the issue, imo. *she grumpily notes that it primarily relies on the art to show the story*

More reinforcement that Koh just want Spike to go talk to Buffy already, but Spike wants her to be *with* "what this realm calls normal". Those two are becoming regular buddies, while it's also implied that Dowling and Buffy might get involved with each other.

It reminds me of Lorne urging Angel to go to Cordelia. Which... kinda worries me? That execution wasn't exactly great. Will Koh start talking about Spike and Buffy's kyrumption?

And it's pretty touching and thoughtful that Willow's reason for coming to help Buffy was in case she had lost her powers and needed sympathy from someone who'd gone through the same thing.

I liked that part. Though it seems like she, like Xander and Dawn, totally skipped the essential stage where they worry about Buffy being in enough danger to lose her powers. They're all dealing in the consequences of her losing her powers, not trying to prevent it. Meaning, I think they wouldn't mind if she did lose her powers. No matter that it would make her vulnerable to people trying to kill her deader than a chicken. But it's all about bailing her out of jail, letting her cry on their shoulder, not about helping to prevent her from losing what 'makes her tick.'


Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 03:25 (UTC)
Season 8 - Buffy and Willow Evil Grin

re: Seed, still disagree. Willow's plan didn't make sense to me. The world would've been stripped clean of all native Earth beings in the battle over the Seed as the portals never closed and the Twilight!Kitty kept pouring demons down it just for shits 'n giggles. I don't see Willow's plan as sustainable -- unless we suddenly discovered a magic amulet that burned Turokhan with the light of the sun. Oh, wait.

As for Willow, it seems she thinks Buffy was thoughtless - similar to Xander's feelings in a way - but she was never motivated by jealousy.

Which... bothers me. Because having some jealousy in the mix would make it interesting. Instead, Willow is just good and more all-knowing, et al, rather than being a shade vindictive with her overall good intentions. Which one sounds more like Willow? Actually, which one sounds more human/interesting? *wants more complex characterization*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:09 (UTC)

The world would've been stripped clean of all native Earth beings

I think what it comes down is that I don't believe the supply of demons was actually infinite. Sooner or later they'd either run out, or the demons would realise it was a losing game and stop attacking. Maybe.

And hey, maybe Willow could have found a way to make the Seed itself glow with red fire and burn all the demons to ashes. ;-)


wants more complex characterization

I'm inclined to agree, with the difference that I don't think we're being told everything about Willow yet. I think there's things she's bottling up, even if she doesn't realise it herself; and if there is a 4-issue arc solely about her (and told from her perspective and internal narrative), I think that's when we'll learn what it is.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:01 (UTC)

Unfortunately, my comments were written by a disappointed grumpus

I'm jealous now. Can I get a grumpus of my own to write my comments for me too? And what's the plural of grumpus, grumpuses or grumpi?


I'd add Spike into the inclusion of people drifting from her

True, although in his case it's because it's what he thinks she wants rather than a genuine reflection of his feelings.


In hindsight, I think the cliffhanger ending of 9.03 was pretty awesome. I was let down by my wondering if it would be a mislead, which as I said here, would actually make no sense from a narrative perspective. But re-reading... Buffy and Severin are going to wipe out a vamp nest, which for Buffy is just comfort food... but the vampires are all dead already... and Severin killed them, which makes him more powerful than Buffy, and he's grinning as he say that... and O NO HIS EYES ARE GLOWING GREEN WHAT DOES IT MEANNN?


Dialogue explaining it all as a writer's crutch, basically.

I get the impression that Joss is happier than most writers to leave the audience to make up their own mind what something means, while Andrew C. wants to make sure we understand what he had in mind.


Will Koh start talking about Spike and Buffy's kyrumption?

ROFL. (Not literally. More SOCL actually.)


she, like Xander and Dawn, totally skipped the essential stage where they worry about Buffy being in enough danger to lose her powers.

That part doesn't really bother me, because it's Buffy. The fact that they're not really worried about her personal safety is a compliment to her, and a sign that they know her and what she is.

She's been heading off every night to risk her life since she was 15, and they don't lie in bed sleeplessly worrying if Buffy will get back from patrol or if some vampire will kill her. And demons are more dangerous than the San Francisco Police Department...


I think they wouldn't mind if she did lose her powers.

Willow says explicitly that she doesn't want that, and I believe her. But remember, there's not a lot she can do now to help, beyond offering a lift home and a shoulder to cry on. She's lost her powers; "supportive friend" is all she can be now, not "ally in the fight".

And I'm glad you did post your comments. :)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:12 (UTC)
Season 8 - Buffy and Willow Evil Grin

I keep my grumpus locked in the closet and I offer it a bucket when I want it to write my comments. Works well enough, though I'm questioning how it's affecting my humanity.

I... guess I just really don't think the cliffhanger was awesome. It still reads as "oh look the guy I was expecting to turn on you has in fact turned on you." It feels predictable -- and I like my Buffy a bit more twisty. (Also bendy. Wait.)

I get the impression that Joss is happier than most writers to leave the audience to make up their own mind what something means, while Andrew C. wants to make sure we understand what he had in mind.

I don't think I'll be shocking anyone when I say I think Joss is a better writer who can create three-dimensional context within stories that allows readers to invest and lock in emotionally with the characters while also not over-relying on what he ~meant for you to take away. Sometimes he messes up with his need to shock and awe us -- like with the execution of Spike's soulquest or the Cordy/Jasmine dealio. But when it comes to writing straight interaction between the characters. He's just better. Sorry, Chambliss. Pay more attention to how Joss writes, please.

ROFL. (Not literally. More SOCL actually.)

Color me disappointed. (Not literally.)

they don't lie in bed sleeplessly worrying if Buffy will get back from patrol

Sure, but that's just run-of-the-mill vampires, not the SWAT team. Did you see my comment on BF? If Buffy actually came into contact with any police officer other than Dowling and she, you know, resisted or they're just trigger happy after seeing the massive numbers of bodies around her -- odds of getting shot are high. Also consider that her friends know she went slaying and now cops/SWAT showed up and she's on the news -- calling that a run-of-the-mill night strains my credulity so hard I have to rub it down with Icy Hot.

I mean, Willow would mind for Buffy's sake, but... I dunno. See, this is my problem with the writing. I'm not exactly reading HUGE CONCERN OMG LOVE YOU from these scenes. So, the blase comes off as... blase.

Ta :)

Sidebar: How ugly is the art for the A&F preview? WOW. /shallow

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:31 (UTC)
Harmony comics

Sidebar: How ugly is the art for the A&F preview? WOW. /shallow

:(

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:33 (UTC)
Andrew Crime Tastes Funny

Did I make you sad or was it the art? If it was me, then feel free to kick the grumpus!

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:34 (UTC)

Haha no it was the art! I JUST WANT IT TO BE GOOD SO I WILL PRETEND IT IS. *huggles adorable!Andrew*

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 05:25 (UTC)
Buffy SITH

I JUST WANT IT TO BE GOOD SO I WILL PRETEND IT IS

I FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT A CERTAIN SOMEONE'S WRITING

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:17 (UTC)

I'm starting to feel really sorry for this grumpus. Locked in a closet, deprived of its bucket, and now you're inviting other people to kick it! Meanie.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 13:55 (UTC)

Sidebar: How ugly is the art for the A&F preview? WOW. /shallow

On the other hand - this was the first time A&F made me smile (Angel dreaming himself up as the lone ranger hero saving sexy damsels in distress). ;-)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:16 (UTC)

Twisty bendy Buffy sounds like an action figure with posable limbs, actually. :) And I'm imagining a grumpus to look a bit like a walrus...

I wasn't expecting Severin to turn on her so suddenly. And the trap with the "vampire nest" was neat mechanically - giving Severin the power-up he needs to defeat Buffy while simultaneously getting her alone and isolated. It worked psychologically too, playing off Buffy's tendency to take refuge in violence, and also exploiting her regrettable (in Simone's eyes) altruism.


I think Joss is a better writer Color me disappointed. (Not literally.)

What colour is disappointment, anyway?

Although there's only been once in my life when I've seen someone literally rolling on the floor laughing. I'm glad to say it was because of my joke, too, if 'joke' is the right word. I was explaining John Stuart Mill's theory of individual liberty, with actions and sound effects...


that's just run-of-the-mill vampires, not the SWAT team.

I dunno. I think that in the Buffyverse we're meant to see demons as the real threats, while the police and human authorities are, for the most part, deeply stupid. They're only a problem for Buffy because they have the whole weight of society behind them and they just keep coming and you can't kill them like you do vampires. But they're not so much an actual threat to her.

And I do think that Dawn, Xander and Willow are blasé. Like I said on BF, "Buffy's in trouble. Must be Wednesday". She's got out of worse situations before - and there may be a teensy bit of resentment there that she got herself into this mess through her own choices - made directly against their advice - so let her stew in it for a while. That would be a perfectly human reaction.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:17 (UTC)

Bit between my teeth here so I'm focusing on one aspect of your comment:

"Buffy's in danger. Must be Wednesday" -- how does that work exactly? Because the point of Xander and Dawn's POV is that Buffy's fucking up and failing to deal with the police. So how does it work that they expect her to ~handle it and yet they're also angry at her for continually failing to handle everything?

Either they think she can handle it and that's why they're not concerned or rushing to her side, or they think she's been messing up at handling it (incapable!) and consequently needs their help now more than ever.

It reads to me as Xander and Dawn feel Buffy's incapable of dealing with her problems and they're tired of being the ones who help her. Xander bemoans that he has no money to give and Dawn foists her responsibility for emotionally supporting her sister onto Willow. They're too tired of helping to show up, no matter that they think Buffy sucksucksucks at dealing with the police and she sucks at making her life better.



Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:51 (UTC)

Because the point of Xander and Dawn's POV is that Buffy's fucking up and failing to deal with the police.

Sure. But that's a human problem, a social problem.

What I thought you were implying, and certainly what a lot of people on BF are implying, is that Buffy's life is in serious physical danger and so X/D are being callous and heartless by not caring. I disagree that it's a big issue for them, hence my "Must be Wednesday" line. They're not worried that Buffy's going to get herself killed. They're confident in her ability to deal with anyone trying to bite her or stab her or, yes, shoot her. It's her ability to navigate real-world problems that's the problem.

And they signed up to help her fight Evil, not the police. They're fed up with baling her out of her real-life issues. Which I think we agree on, don't we?

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 19:05 (UTC)

No, not agree. I was communicating X/D POV, not my own.

As for Buffy not being in danger from the SFPD, (to repeat myself from BF), you don't get on the news in live time feed unless you're a clear and present threat. That's the sort of situation reserved for danger. Cheung is desperately calling in SWAT because Buffy's a Slayer, the news are waiting for this amnesty situation to blow up and for this Slayer to reveal herself to be a terrorist/mass murderer. In what world is that not a situation waiting to explode? If we didn't have Dowling, the powderkeg situation would've blown up. That's the whole point of Dowling -- that he saves the day. I.e. the day needed saving because the situation was more than Buffy could handle as both a Slayer and a responsible human being.

I think you're minimizing the actual danger Buffy was in. What's more, you're minimizing the fact that Buffy's died twice and her friends recognize that they're an essential aspect to her continued survival. She's told them this time and again over the years, they've expressed this themselves. They do not expect her to be a literal Superwoman who can handle the SFPD out in force with SWAT backing them up and a news team ready to capture the shit hitting the fan live.

But they didn't sign up to help her fight Evil. They're out. Done. Don't wanna be here. They showed up to the Scoobie meeting to tell Buffy to go the cops, not to help figure out the evil that needs slayin'.

What real-life issues have they bailed her out of besides offering her a couch to sleep on?

(Note, my take on the cops situation is very different. I don't think Buffy did the right thing, but I understand why she's skeptical about working things out directly considering past authority figures always trying to murder her and such. She's trying to reclaim her secret identity, she's not adapting well. But Xander and Dawn telling her "just do it" isn't exactly doing much to help, either. Let's talk strategy here people.)

Edited at 2011-12-15 19:07 (UTC)

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 14:03 (UTC)

You know, i just realized that - despite all my buttons being pushed by S8 - i'm with You on the slightly disappointing writing and wishing some more season 8-ish writing back...

(Also, with all the new characters i'd really wish for a new great female character on the cast.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:20 (UTC)

Joss wrote the whole first arc of Season 8, not just the first issue; and I gather he had a lot more direct input into other people's writing as well, with comments and amendments. To be fair to Andrew C, he's fairly new at this and still finding his voice, so hopefully he'll improve over time.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:43 (UTC)

Oh, i don't want to diss Chambliss. Just - after season 8 i really, really want my Buffy back. And plot and writing are not helping. (So, this is mostly me being grumpy. ;-)

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:32 (UTC)

I love the idea of Simone as Maggie Walsh. I love Simone in general. Has anyone written Simone fic?

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:34 (UTC)
Writing Spike!Porn

I wrote a Simone-centric chapter in my long Season 8 fic. Does that count?

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:35 (UTC)

I want to read your fic so badly! Do you want to know a secret? Multiple times, I have tabbed up the entire thing, and then gotten overwhelmed and quit my browser. But you know what, it's time. When I am in California :).

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 04:38 (UTC)
Belle loves books

Hee! If it's any help, the writing improves as you go. Also, I'm told my writing style ends chapters on a cliffhanger-y type moment which keeps you reading on -- so hopefully that makes it easy to get into?

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you do read, btw. Especially since I think you'll totally get what I was going for with how it's a fanfic commentary on Season 8. But no pressure!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:18 (UTC)
Buffy

You should read it - it's awesome, really. I hope that Emmie will finish it, sooner or later.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:22 (UTC)

I'm actually struck by the resemblance between Simone and Andrew Ryan from 'Bioshock', if you're familiar with that? I'm getting an Ayn Rand vibe from her at the moment.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 14:06 (UTC)

Thank you for your review.

I think you summed it up prettily and i have only one remark to add: Buffy's willingness to kill human Severin quite quickly (despite not being in mortal danger herself). Season 8 changed Buffy - a lot!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:25 (UTC)

Thanks!

I wonder about that. Buffy is certainly fighting him all-out, but I don't know that she's specifically trying to kill him. She stakes him in the side, not through the heart. I'm also not convinced she appreciates that she's not in mortal danger - she's surrounded by dead bodies who were killed by Severin, after all, and she's not sure on exactly how his power works.

Even discounting the idea that taking away everything that Buffy defines herself by - her power and her freedom, to quote Simone - would be a 'mortal' danger to her.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 15:40 (UTC)

Oh, i don't want to belittle the situation Buffy is in! Severin explicitly states that he wants to destroy Buffy in every sense but the physical existence! Just, that before season 8, Buffy didn't ever contemplate killing humans (except in "all or nothing" self defense scenarios: Knights of Ni, for example).

And a stake to the abdomen/breast is certainly a killing move in my eyes. (And, as you put it elsewhere, it is a fitting weapon against a vampire-like being, vampires being the ones Buffy actually kills with no moral qualms whatsoever.)

I don't know if this is a "Buffy is fighting for her life" scenario or a profound change in her moral views or just "comic book morals", ie. the "good guys" are allowed to kill the villains without any moral questions arising.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 16:58 (UTC)

I don't know if this is a "Buffy is fighting for her life" scenario or a profound change in her moral views or just "comic book morals", ie. the "good guys" are allowed to kill the villains without any moral questions arising.

I'd say the first. Buffy has been betrayed, and is under sudden surprise attack by someone who has magical superpowers. (And for that matter, Severin is arguably not a normal human now anyway.)

Also, I'm not an expert on 'traditional' comic books by any means, but I think you're misrepresenting them. "Comic book morals" means never killing your enemies under any circumstances, but arresting them and handing them over to the police to be put in prison. From which they will inevitably escape a few months later to appear in the next season arc... Killing bad guys without moral reflection is a TV and movie thing, not a comic book thing.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:36 (UTC)

Haha, good call on my prejudices. ;-)

(I don't even know that many super hero comic books - i grew up on Moebius and the likes, who don't even have "heroes" or "villains" in their books.)

What i meant more accurately is just what you described in context with movie and TV. Or, as i would say: pop culture's dangerous dance with death.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:00 (UTC)

Severin's normal human status is also a little questionable (from Buffy's point of view) when he's in his powered up form. Buffy went all out against Faith in S3 /S4 and Warren in S6 (when he was superpowered).

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:39 (UTC)

True, but then i consider Buffy vs. Faith her "darkest hour", so to speak (knife to the gut). (And with Warren she explicitly stops the fight once he is ball-less, even stating that it is not her place to judge/execute him.)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:44 (UTC)

I included her later fights with Faith in S4 deliberately. She also hasn't attacked Severin ball-less so until she does the jury's out.

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:58 (UTC)

Buffy never tries to kill Faith again (after that first time). But here, she tries to kill Severin within the first quarter of the fight. To me, that's different than before.

But, as stated perhaps it is meant to be an "all or nothing" situation.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:28 (UTC)

When Buffy stabs someone in the side not the heart she's going for wound not kill. Especially if that someone's just told her he has the power of hundreds of vampires (and then she reaches for the stake).

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 19:24 (UTC)

Seems we look at this differently, then. I cannot remember Buffy ever "stabbing" (or slicing) a human purely "to wound". A few good fists to the chin? Sure. Maybe my memory is faulty and that's the reason i took this scene more seriously than it's intended.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 19:46 (UTC)

Off the top of my head, she cuts off Gwendolen Post's hand in 'Revelations'. (Although the magic then backfires and kills her.)

Posted by: norwie2010 (norwie2010)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 20:34 (UTC)

Yeah, didn't remember that one.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:17 (UTC)

Great review, thank you for sharing.

Buffy's arsenal on her bed looks so strange that I can't not wonder if somebody tries to frame her. Or maybe I'm just paranoid. I asked Jeanty if hand grenades are supposed to make us wonder about a provocation.

Posted by: ceciliaj (ceciliaj)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:38 (UTC)

I thought that, too, that it looked like someone was trying to frame her. Most of that stuff is no use to her most of the time anyway...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 17:56 (UTC)

Strange? It seemed pretty normal to me actually. An axe, a crossbow, knives, stakes, holy water - she uses this sort of thing all the time. The flail and nunchaku are a bit more out of place - she never used them on the show that I remember.

But then again, weapons where you twirl the heavy pointy bit around on a chain are extremely dangerous to the user as well as the enemy, if you don't know what you're doing. So maybe the Props department didn't want to risk the life of Sarah's stunt double any more than they had to. :) Put it this way: I can certainly imagine Buffy being interested in unusual mediaeval weaponry, and even collecting it.

The grenades are the only really odd touch, but I think it's just a jokey easter egg by Georges. Mind you, we saw Riley using a grenade to kill vampires in Season 5 - maybe he left a couple behind in Buffy's drawers when he left her, and she's kept them ever since? :)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:20 (UTC)

A grenade as a nostalgic item - poor Buffster! :)

(But you're most likely right).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:04 (UTC)

Also - having seen your comment on SlayAlive now - I think the reason why Buffy's arsenal is laid out on her bed like that is because Anaheed did it. She was snooping around through Buffy's stuff, found her weapons chest, was shocked, and started lifting things out of it and laying them on the bed until she'd emptied it.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 18:23 (UTC)

Maybe.

All I can say - *I* would never touch a thing that looks like a grenade. Maybe it's because every time I use metro I hear announcements "do not touch suspicious objects..." etc. every 5 minutes.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 15th December 2011 19:01 (UTC)
pic#87400756

I'm one of the people who was perfectly happy with the big scale of season 8... but I'm also satisfied with the lower-budget approach of season 9. I'm unusually adaptable with Joss's stuff, apparently. Normally I'm much more anal-retentive and change-resistant.

I think it's interesting that Buffy was so quick to trust Severin, but then also quick to readjust when he revealed himself to be an enemy. She seemed much more surprised by his power level than by his sudden about-face. Considering how her Spidey-sense activated when he tried to touch her back at his apartment, I think she's been subconsciously suspicious of him the whole time... though not enough to avoid walking around in her underwear in front of him. Split-second danger sense has been part of Buffy's package ever since Merrick threw that knife at her.

The Scooby Gang: Classic Edition is apparently going on hiatus. Giles is dead; Willow is going on sabbatical and her own miniseries probably; Xander and Dawn have grown distant, and only Spike and possibly Andrew are ready and willing to answer the call. It makes me wonder if they're assembling a new gang here. Anaheed is kind of a cross between Willow and Dawn, Tumble is Xander + Oz, and Koh seems to be a Giles-like source of exposition, with a generous helping of Illyria and a dash of Cordelia thrown in.

I was very happy with this first arc, though a little disappointed that it's so straightforward and there's less to talk about. I will quickly grow less enthusiastic if they go forward with the "pregnant Buffy" storyline that many people are anticipating.

And this story definitely needs more fairies.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 17th December 2011 11:47 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure that the next issue will have fairies... (or a fairy at least).

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with all you said.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 23rd December 2011 02:57 (UTC)
This is a subject heading
liberty

And this is a test comment.

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