'The Long Way Home' - what does it mean?
I've been wondering about the title 'The Long Way Home', and what it might refer to. I suppose we'll find out in a month's time, but in the meantime, here are three ideas.
1) It's literal. After travelling around the world, in the next issue Buffy and Xander will return to Sunnydale. Willow may already be there, depending on where Amy's taken her. I assume that's the military base where the Twilight Cult was holding her prisoner, but I don't know if that's near the ruins of Sunnydale, or elsewhere. Perhaps Nevada, based on Riley's line in 'A New Man' :
"They'll take Mr. Rayne to a secret detention facility in the Nevada desert. I'm sure he'll be rehabilitated in no time."
That, of course, assumes that Ethan's being held prisoner in the same base as Amy.
2) A character who was gone from the show (and the world) long ago will return. Well, obviously Warren already has, but I doubt that he's who the title is about. So perhaps someone else will return from the dead? Maybe Joyce, or Jenny, or Tara? All of whom have been the subject of speculation, because of the image of Buffy's dreamspace. (And because of wishful thinking too, probably. :) )
For some reason the idea of it being Tara keeps recurring to me: mostly, I think, because Joss has already brought back Warren, thus reminding us of the events at the end of season 6. Also, whatever power brought Warren back could perhaps bring Tara back too? Or maybe the fact of him being alive and walking around after what happened to him has disturbed the balance of the universe, and made the resurrection of Tara possible when it couldn't be done earlier. Other clues would be the fact that Kennedy is conveniently off-camera, and the persistent rumours that Joss wanted to bring back Tara in season 7 but was unable to for whatever reason.
Of course, this being the Whedonverse, if Tara did come back Willow would realise she's not in love with her anymore (maybe because she's in love with Buffy now!), or something equally angsty... :)
Other possibilities might be Spike or Angel, if they did die at the end of 'Not Fade Away'. Of course, that would assume that Joss was lying when he said that contractural obligations mean he can't use either of them as main characters in season 8. And Joss never lies to us!
But if this is the explanation for the story title, I'm going to predict that the last line of issue #4 is some variation on "You're back, sweetie! Welcome home!"
3) Something will turn full circle and bring us back to where we were at the very start of the show. In this context, I'm thinking of the Buffy/Xander romance, which was a big feature of season 1. Except perhaps this time it will be reciprocal.
Or perhaps it will be reversed. Buffy will realise that she's in love with Xander - her subconscious is already hinting at this - but this time it'll be Xander who falls in love with someone else. Probably Renee. Thus, we still get lots of relationship angst (a necessary component of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer story), but in the opposite direction to season 1.
I know I've been assuming - along with most other people - that the B/X elements we're being given are so obvious that they must be a misdirect... but perhaps we're actually over-thinking things and being too clever. After all, if Joss's aim was to set up a relationship between the two of them, I can't see what he would do differently to the story we're already being given... so maybe the simple explanation is the true one? There's a lot of references to both of them feeling lonely (and/or sexually deprived), and perhaps the punchline to the story will be someone like Willow (or Dawn?) getting them both to recognise what's right under their noses...