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(Review) BtVS 8.19 'Time Of Your Life' Part 4

27th November 2008 (21:15)

Some of you may remember that there used to be a monthly comic called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8". That was almost a quarter of a year ago. But now, they've actually printed another issue! \o/ So was it worth waiting for?

I have to say, I had to read the rest of the 'Time Of Your Life' arc through again, to remind myself what had happened, before writing this review.


Knowing how the story ends, it's quite powerful to see how Willow has carefully manipulated everyone - including her own past self, Saga Vasuki, Buffy, the Fray sisters and Harth - to reach her desired goal. Which is her own death at Buffy's hands. Why did she do it? I've got my theories, which I'll go into at the end. For the moment, let's just say that her monologue at the start is very touching. Visually, this is Dark Willow, and by her own admission she's no longer quite human... but she's not evil, just deeply sad and lonely and withdrawn. Yet there's still a faint memory in there of the old Willow, who was nerdy and naively romantic and loved her schoolwork.

I enjoyed the little homage to Sellars and Yeatman and the most memorable history book ever written. :-)

As for Buffy's reaction to seeing her best friend again, it's classic BtVS dialogue. She starts out with "oh my God!" as if she's utterly horrified... then immediately undercuts it in classic Jossian fashion, scolding Willow for going dark as if she were an eight-year old. Then she remembers that the last time Willow went evil it was because of Tara's death, and she's immediately full of concern about Kennedy. Willow's reply, and the bitter loneliness it conveys in a few simple words, is horrifying.

Then we get the face-off with Harth, and the reveal that Willow has been manipulating everyone by lying to them, in order to engineer the confrontation. "Yes, well, I'm dark that way." And meanwhile, the demon monkey Gates is secretly freeing Buffy. Why? One theory is that he just likes Slayers - any Slayer - and doesn't want Buffy to be tied up. The other is that it's all part of Willow's plan, and she asked him to free Buffy at the crucial moment in order to provoke a fight between her and Mel.

Willow's line here is crucial to the story, although at first it's a misdirect. "The most important thing about death isn't who dies... it's who kills them." Both Buffy and Mel assume at first that she means she wants them to fight each other, for her amusement. They're wrong.

Harth's "solution" to the problem is just classic vampire logic. Kill them all and don't bother sorting them out. And then comes the big reveal from the cliffhanger last issue. Turns out Gunther didn't die after all... (yay!) and now he's back, and he's pissed. And he's got a squadron of grav tanks, apparently. :-)  The implication is that Willow orchestrated all of this... she's certainly not surprised when Gunther and his men turn up. Was Harth now a liability, or did Willow plan to have him and his army destroyed all along when she had no further need of him?

We don't actually see Harth die, mind you - he's diving for cover in his last frame - so I'm sure he'll be available as a villain in future 'Fray' comics. And I loved Gunther's substitution of "my surf" instead of "my turf."

We see a little more of Buffy's worrying slide into solipsism (as featured in previous issues of this arc). She still believes she's doing the right thing, saving the world, but she cares less and less about other people while she does it. "I don't care about your world. I have to save mine." And she clearly resented being referred to as "Puffy" in the last issue. :-)

As Buffy makes her dramatic exit, Willow tells her she's "not done here."  (Is Buffy breaking through a wall - my first assumption - or has Willow used magic on her to make her fall?) Incidentally, because the last speech bubble has no "tail" to it, I'm guessing that symbolises that Willow is speaking telepathically to Buffy. The story now cuts away to Xander and Dawn and when we next see Buffy she's alone again and on the roof. I assume that in the intervening time, Willow told Buffy where the temporal rift would open again and what she would have to do there - that's the only way to make sense of their conversation during their final meeting.

So - back to Scotland, which apparently now resembles something from a Pixar movie, or maybe Monty Python with better CGI.

Xander is doing what he does best: making funny comments in the face of certain death, and also teasing Dawn, who gives as good as she gets. I liked his reference to the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief, although he missed out "depression" and got "denial" and "anger" the wrong way round. (It's worth remembering that Xander himself is currently in mourning.)

Incidentally, he's holding a tiny dagger while Dawn holds a huge two-handed sword that must be about six feet long. Possible phallic symbolism aside, I'm guessing that to be able to even lift that thing Dawn must now be, um, as strong as a horse.

Rowena redeems herself for her emotional meltdown a couple of issues ago, and leads her Slayers to the rescue. Out of the original four newbie Slayers introduced in 8.01, Satsu has already established herself pretty firmly as a major player, Renee did too until she died, and Leah is mostly notable for her sarcastic comments and big hair. Now Rowena has done something important and heroic, and I'm thinking it's Leah's turn to step up. Mind you, Leah was wounded and having to be carried two issues ago, and now she's shown (in long shot) right in the thick of this battle, so she's not doing too badly. Slayer rapid healing powers for the win, evidently.

And we're back to Buffy - presumably, as I said, having just had an interesting conversation with Willow. She's also apparently managed to lose her fear of heights thanks to all the jumping around on flying cars she's been doing in the past few days. I liked the little touch that she's using the Scythe to hack out hand- and foot-holds in the wall of the building so she can climb up it. (And, memo for future fic-writers: the Scythe can clearly cut holes in solid brickwork even when Buffy is swinging it one-handed over her head while clinging precariously to the side of a building hundreds of feet above the ground.)

Then we get the big face-off. Slayer versus Slayer, each fighting for the fate of her world. It's a huge, epic fight, easily as dramatic as Buffy versus Faith in 'Graduation Day 1'. Melaka is convinced that if Buffy returns to her own time, her foreknowledge will change the past and so Mel will never have existed. Buffy wants to return home so she can save her own world and her finest creation, the Slayer Army.

And Willow watches them fight. Note that she's biting her bottom lip as she says "So close..." - which is exactly what she was doing as Kennedy brought her to orgasm so she could visit Saga Vasuki in the previous issue. I think, though, that this version of Willow hasn't been capable of anything so uncontrolled and wild and connected to another person as making love for a long, long time.

Though I do wonder if Willow is actually reaching out through time and contacting Saga Vasuki as she says "So close..."? So she can give her the vision of New York in flames and the Scythe, which SV will then give to Willow's on past self and start this whole thing rolling...

I liked the contrasting inner dialogues of Buffy and Melaka as they fight. Interesting that Mel is apparently stronger than Buffy - and Mel refers to Buffy as "tiny, whiney". The artist hasn't been consistent about drawing them to scale with each other (I checked) but I'm assuming this is supposed to mean that Mel is taller and stronger than Buffy. She's also more determined, which of course in the Buffyverse always makes you a better fighter. 

Buffy, on the other hand, has apparently "dreamed every battle a Slayer's ever fought". That's been hinted at before in the series, more so in the movie (and more to the point, the comics adaptation of it which Joss accepts as canon, unlike the movie itself) and the comics and even on 'Angel' (with Dana in 'Damage') rather than on the 'Buffy' TV show itself. Now, though, it's stated in black and white.

Both Slayers get to make some cool moves in the fight. Buffy, as ever, makes clever use of the environment by using her Scythe to slice open the water pipe and knock Mel off the roof. Mel, in turn, shows off her superior athletic skills by hooking her own Scythe into the car and using her momentum to swing back up onto the roof.

Mount Walmore = Mount Rushmore, now owned and re-branded by Wal-mart??

And then the little interlude with Twilight and his posse which has apparently caused much kerfuffle. Looks like Amy and Warren's plan was much less successful than they'd hoped, but since Twilight didn't expect much of it anyway he's not bothered. I can't be sure from just reading the dialogue without hearing the tone of voice, but I think their argument here is an actual, serious fight rather than a playful pretend-squabble like the one Willow and Kennedy were having in the earlier issue (with all that "Didn't miss you." "Who are you again?" interchange). Does Amy actually think of Warren as her love-slave, then? Ew.

One criticism of the Warren/Amy relationship I've heard occasionally is that "he's a misogynist, so why does he have a girlfriend?" Here we see some of his misogyny surfacing again ("self-actualizing womyn-jargon", "a robot you with no mouth"); but we have to remember that while he has little respect for women on the whole, Warren still enjoys their company. And he has other reasons to respect Amy despite her femaleness, like the fact that she saved his life (and can end it again with five little words.) As for what Amy herself gets out of it... who knows? She's clearly stark raving mad, but then that was obvious from the start of the season.

Oh yeah, we get the other big reveal of the issue: Buffy's secret meeting in New York was with Riley, and Riley is on Twilight's side. Ooooh. I'd act surprised, but there have been so many people speculating that he was Twilight for so long that the only big surprise here is that actually, he isn't Twilight himself but just his ally. (Although I actually wasn't one of the people saying Twilight was Riley, incidentally, only because it seemed too much like pandering to the Rileyphobes).

Of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions here all the same.

I'm guessing Buffy got in touch with Riley after the encounter with General Voll, to ask him if he knew anything about this secret demon-fighting organisation within the US army. Riley, evidently, claimed he did and that he could feed Buffy information on them. In fact, he's a double-agent and keeping Twilight informed. This certainly helps to explain how Twilight knows so much about Buffy's personality and even her fighting style.

What's Riley's motivation? We don't know. I'm guessing it could be any one of:

1) Embittered by Sam's death at the hands of a demon, he's grown to hate the entire world of magic and the supernatural. Twilight's promise to end it all would fall on fertile soil. Twilight may even have promised Riley that he won't kill Buffy, just remove her Slayer powers... and I'm sure a deep, dark part of Riley would welcome that.

2) Somehow, Twilight has brainwashed Riley. It wouldn't be the first time someone did that to him - and we don't know how Twilight has otherwise managed to amass such a huge and disparate powerbase.

3) Riley isn't a double agent - he's a triple agent. His dialogue sounded a bit "off" to me here; more like what one of the other Initiative soldiers like Forrest or Graham would have said about Buffy rather than his own words. Maybe he's playing a role? (Or maybe Joss has just forgotten how to do his voice...)

Still, I'm quite sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this plotline.

Back to the main plot. Kennedy only gets two brief appearances in this issue and both of them are adorable. I loved her immediate connection between blindfolding Willow and a knife-thrower's act.Willow, meanwhile, has clearly decided to heed Saga Vasuki's warning about not looking through the portal. She's also apparently still true enough to her Jewish heritage to celebrate Hannukah even though she's now a Wiccan.

And the final fight. One thing I'm still not clear on is how exactly Buffy managed to shatter Melaka's Scythe with her bare fist. My best guess is that it had something to do with the portal opening and the two timelines merging. While two possible worlds existed together, there could also be two Scythes; but with the time portal open, there could be only one. (Or possibly, the reference I'm looking for here is "Saruman, your Scythe is broken.")

Then Willow appears and tells Buffy that the only way she will get through the portal is through her. In other words, Buffy has to kill Willow. And Buffy knows that Willow has engineered this whole thing to lead up to this. Why? She doesn't explain.

 "The most important thing about death isn't who dies... it's who kills them."

Buffy has to kill her best friend with her own hands. That's going to stay with her forever. I think Willow has been waiting for her death for almost two centuries now, and she accepts it. It's not her dying that's important; what's important is that it's Buffy who kills her.

And Buffy, who once stabbed Angel through the heart, now does the same thing to Willow. We see the first tear starting to form in her eye, as the veins fade away from Willow's face and her eyes turn hazel again for a moment before she dies. There's also a massive discharge of energy... what does it do? My suspicion is that this is the cause of the temporal disturbance that caused the whole problem in the first place... 21st century Willow persuaded Buffy to come to New York to investigate, unknowingly, her own death there in 200 years' time.

Incidentally, Willow says "20th century" in her speech to Buffy here. Either this is a mistake by the writer, or it's a sign that after two hundred years of solitude Willow has lost track of the years... or it's a subtle clue that this version of Willow actually belongs to a different timeline in which Sunnydale blew up in 1999 instead of 2003...

And we have two happy endings. Buffy, in floods of tears after killing Willow, clings desperately to the living younger version of her best friend. And Kennedy gets her second cute line of the episode as she warns them not to get any ideas. :-)  (I note that the arc ended with Willow and Kennedy still together, despite earlier speculation that they would quarrel over Saga Vasuki and split up. Still, it may yet happen.)

Meanwhile, Mel and Erin both still exist... although presumably Mel's Scythe is now gone. (Unless it re-forms in their dimension once Buffy has gone, or they repair it somehow). For them, it's a happy ending - or at least they're back to normal. Notice how Erin's comment, the last line of the arc, is "Means it's a good day" - a deliberate mirror of the first line of the arc (and the Fray comic itself before that), which was "Bad day. Started out bad, stayed that way."

I'm guessing - especially from the fade-to white which then fades back into colour - that the Frayverse is now a parallel dimension rather than the actual future of the Buffyverse. But I'm not holding my breath for that to be clarified in writing anywhere. :-)

***

So what was Willow's plan?

From what I can see, the timeline is roughly like this:

  • All magic and demons are banished from the world. Willow survives, although her power is seriously limited. (Or possibly, she puts all her power into staying alive).
  • Willow lives on for 200 years, seeing the deaths of everyone she loves. She becomes known as the "madwoman", and ceases to be fully human.
  • Willow allies with Harth, the vampire leader. She recruits his help to open the time portal and bring Buffy through to the future.
  • She hires a demon to attack Melaka and so make sure she's at the right place at the right time when the portal opens.
  • The portal opens; Buffy and the demon exchange places in time. Buffy and Melaka confront each other.
  • Willow sends a vision back through time to Saga Vasuki, showing New York in flames with the Scythe hovering in front of it. She asks SV to pass this vision on to her past self, but not tell her where it comes from. She also asks SV to warn her past self not to look into the future.
  • Buffy suffers future shock, and is traumatised by seeing how badly the future turns out - vampires running rampant, only one lone Slayer again, crime and poverty everywhere.
  • (Back in 21st century New York) Willow interrogates the demon, talks to Saga Vasuki, and works out how to bring Buffy back through the portal.
  • Having no further use for Harth, Willow engineers a conflict between him and Gunther and wipes out the vampire army.
  • Meanwhile, Willow convinces Mel that she has to fight Buffy or Buffy will change the past and wipe her out of existence.
  • The two Slayers fight, and Buffy wins and breaks Melaka's Scythe.
  • Willow now confronts Buffy herself, and forces Buffy to kill her with the Scythe.
  • Buffy, helped by past-Willow, returns to the 21st century, carrying with her the trauma of having just killed her best friend.

Why did Willow do it? It's possible we'll never know, that this will be a plot-element left hanging. Or it might be that this is the overriding driving force of the entire second half of the season.

What I think, though, is this:

In 'Anywhere But Here', Buffy and Willow learned that Twilight's plan is to end all magic and all demons... which would also put an end to Willow's power. She didn't look particularly happy at that idea, but their demonic informant implied that it was Buffy's life goal. That immediately sets up a possible conflict between the two of them.

My speculation is that Buffy will eventually decide to let Twilight win. She comes to agree with his aims, that ending the supernatural will be a good thing for the world. Willow disagrees, and they end up on opposite sides in the war. Willow's side loses, and the Buffy-Twilight Alliance wins.

When the magic ends, Willow somehow manages to survive and retain some of her power. She has a long-term plan to reverse everything, to change the past so it never happened that way.

So, she engineers things to bring Buffy to the future. She confronts Buffy with just how horrible the world will be after two centuries with no Slayer,  if the supernatural does return eventually anyway. (And maybe it was Willow that did that, too? The original 'Fray' comic never said how the demons managed to return.) She sets Buffy and Melaka to fighting, to emphasise the lesson.

And finally, she ensures that Buffy will have to live with the memory of killing Willow with her own two hands.

What will Buffy be like when she returns to the 21st century? We've already seen part of it; she's clinging to Willow, tearfully babbling about how much she loves her. This Buffy will definitely think twice now before she lets herself get estranged from Willow in the future. And she's seen how bad a future without magic and Slayers would be... so she'll definitely not be inclined to listen to Twilight's plan to banish all the demons.

Buffy will now fight Twilight to her last breath alongside Willow, rather than going over to his point of view and opposing her former-best-friend. The world will stay supernatural, Fray is now an alternate universe, and Future!Willow has successfully changed history and, by her death, deleted her entire timeline from existence.

I wonder if Buffy will explain to Willow now what she had to do?
 

Comments

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 22:04 (UTC)

Interesting review, great food for thought. I have the impression that both scythes disappeared at the same time - but I may be wrong.

she asked Gates to free Buffy at the crucial moment in order to provoke a fight between her and Mel.

I still can't understand if Gates is an intelligent species or, you know, just a monkey

the Scythe can clearly cut holes in solid brickwork

... while Gigi's axe could cut marble :)

Or maybe Joss has just forgotten how to do his voice...

He definitely forgotten Willow's. Her attitude to history was quite different in, say, Pangs. OTOH, after two centuries she could change a lot...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 22:57 (UTC)

I have the impression that both scythes disappeared at the same time

Buffy breaks Melaka's Scythe and punches her to the ground - Mel is holding the shattered haft of her Scythe. Then there's the final confrontation with Willow.

Buffy actually kills Willow with her Scythe. She's still holding it when the other Willow reaches out of the portal to grab her.

We don't see the Scythe back in the present day scene, but it's possible it's lying on the ground just off the edge of the picture.


I still can't understand if Gates is an intelligent species or, you know, just a monkey

He manages to pick the lock on Buffy's chains, which is a bit more than I'd expect an animal to be capable of. And his phrases like "Mek mek! Mekrin-sippah!" sound like language rather than animal noises. I think he's maybe not as intelligent as a human, but more than just an animal.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 23:05 (UTC)

We don't see the Scythe back in the present day scene, but it's possible it's lying on the ground just off the edge of the picture

I've got the impression that Buffy's pose upon arrival (both hands on the ground) is composed specifically to highlight that she came back sans The Scythe. But I may be wrong.

The only thing we know for sure is that after the portal closed neither the present nor the future panel features the Scythe.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 12:02 (UTC)

Scrap that. Scott Allie says she returned with the Scythe

http://community.livejournal.com/newly_legion/90043.html

Obviously they just forgot to draw it.

Posted by: lusciousxander (lusciousxander)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 10:36 (UTC)

He definitely forgotten Willow's. Her attitude to history was quite different in, say, Pangs. OTOH, after two centuries she could change a lot...

For a character that's known to change a lot and fast over seven years, it'll be out of character if she's still the same after 200 years. :)

I mean, she was against killing horses to escape in S5 and then suddenly in the beginning of S6 she kills a deer. That's how fast Willow's values change.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 10:44 (UTC)
Scoobies

Touché. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 13:59 (UTC)
willow

Remember as well that in 'Pangs' Willow was a first-year university student, who in her first day at college collected leaflets from a dozen different protest groups and immediately became angry about every one of their causes. (Or so she said to Buffy).

I think Willow still had a naive, romantic view of history; but at school she was presumably taught lessons about American heroes and the triumph of democracy, then at college she was exposed to classes about patriarchy and colonialism and whatever. She was still romantic, but now it was the struggle against oppression that she romanticised.

Posted by: The Mezzanine (deird1)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:40 (UTC)

then at college she was exposed to classes about patriarchy and colonialism and whatever

Given her mother, I'd say she was exposed to opinions about patriarchy and colonialism a lot earlier than college...

Posted by: fangfaceandrea (fangfaceandrea)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 22:10 (UTC)
delighted

huh, not only did i like your theory but I'm amazed at how you actually made sense of the whole thing, specially seeing that I have no theories of my own, I'm a big mass of What?!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 22:58 (UTC)

It took several read-throughs to really understand it, but writing it all down helped me get it all clearer in my own head too. :-)

Posted by: Two legs good, four legs okay (nothorse)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 22:13 (UTC)

(I note that the arc ended with Willow and Kennedy still together, despite earlier speculation that they would quarrel over Saga Vasuki and split up. Still, it may yet happen.)

I still think Kennedy knows exactly what's up with Saga Vasuki and is OK with it (and maybe a little proud, it's her who can get Willow to that other place).

Incidentally, Willow says "20th century" in her speech to Buffy here. Either this is a mistake by the writer, or it's a sign that after two hundred years of solitude Willow has lost track of the years...

Or it's a sign that "21st century" still hasn't sunk in. (At least for the writers) I catch myself doing the 20th century thing. (But I'm older than Willow and 21st century always meant the far away future for me.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 23:02 (UTC)
willow-snake

Oh, I agree that Kennedy knows that Willow can get in touch with her magical contact by having an orgasm, and thinks this is one magical ritual she's very happy to help Willow out with. I don't, however, think she knows that Saga Vasuki is female, attractive and very sensual, and I do think she'd be jealous if she found out.

Posted by: satsux (satsux)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 23:10 (UTC)

I like your theory and your review, as always, but I'm not fully convinced that Dark Willow's plot had anything to do with changing the future, since I don't think that Fray's an alternative future, but still the Buffyverse's future. And I think it not changing, meant that it won't matter, a line we were continually submitted to on Angel. Which may for all intends in purposes be its own Alternative Universe now, but in reality there's still the same verse.

I think that Willow will end up like that after whatever happens in season 8 or perhabs 9 and it's just something that's meant to freak Buffy into thinking she might lose. Also, it's too early to say it won't end like that, since we don't know why Fray's world came to be in the first place. 200 year gap and Buffy may not be the last slayer that stood. There's too many vague references. Hell, this vision of the future could be why Willow was the one that will betray Buffy. It will make her weak and too worried about consequences to make the right choices. I mean, what better way to scar a leader than have them think a possible future created by their choices will come to where she's force to kill her best friend?

it's all too early, so we might not even know for a while, what true effect if any Buffy's actions will have on altering Fray's future. Sicne really, Willow was just lying to everyone. Maybe she was cursed with living till dying on the hands of Buffy. lots of possible reasons for this story, probably not going to get any answers.

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 27th November 2008 23:48 (UTC)
[buffy] willow | the dark inside of me

I haven't read Fray in a while, but I do remember that they said the last slayer, "with help from magical allies," destroyed the existence of the supernatural. This always seemed weird to me, because I had always assumed that the last slayer was Buffy, and that one of her magical allies would be Willow -- but why would Willow be okay without magic? I can't see Willow being okay with it, but I also can't see her starting a war against Buffy (unless she goes Dark, in which case I could).

In any case, what I'm really curious is why Willow was not allowed to see the future. Would it be because she would see herself being killed by Buffy (and thus cause a rift between them)? Would it be because by seeing her possible future self she would fulfill that destiny? Or maybe future!Willow just wanted to spare present!Willow the burden of knowing what she was to become? Ah, it's really too complicated to say, I think, and although I really want to know, I doubt we'll ever find out. :|

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 00:56 (UTC)
willow-nothingonearth

why Willow was not allowed to see the future

I think any of your reasons could be the right one. Personally, I think Future!Willow deliberately set up that scene to be as traumatic as possible for Buffy, and didn't want her own past self to be traumatised too. Plus, if her aim was to manipulate Buffy into staying on good terms with Willow, then showing Present!Willow a vision of Buffy killing her in cold blood would have the opposite effect, and make Present!Willow scared to be around Buffy...

I can imagine circumstances in which Willow would end up on the opposite side to Buffy in a war, if she really, honestly believed in her heart that she was right and Buffy was wrong. I think she'd really, really hate it; I think it would come close to destroying her as a person. In fact, I could argue that Future!Willow in this comic arc is pretty much how Willow would look after she was forced to turn against Buffy: completely empty and no longer caring. But she'd do it. Willow can be ruthless when she needs to be; and she doesn't have Buffy's knack for always finding the get-out clause and twisting the rules.

Posted by: filmtx (filmtx)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 02:08 (UTC)
bffangst

Awesome post. This story arc makes much more sense now. I still have a ton of questions, but at least I have an idea of how this little trip to Frayverse relates to the current Buffyverse. Thank you.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 18:56 (UTC)

Glad to help. :-) (I noticed in a recent Q&A Scott Allie saying that we're not supposed to understand everything just yet...)

Posted by: filmtx (filmtx)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 22:20 (UTC)

I wasn't expecting to get all the answers. But I thought we would get a few. I didn't get any(except who the mystery meeting was with.). All I got were more questions. My brain is mush at this point.

Edited at 2008-11-28 22:22 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 09:31 (UTC)

Your scenario is plausible. Still I’m not convinced Future Willow was quite as in control of events as you have her:-


  • It’s not clear that the blindfold was Future Willow’s instructions or Saga Vasuki’s own idea once she realized she’d been played. If Future Willow hoped to alert her past self about what's to become of her then she's been thwarted.

  • Future Willow, even at the end, seems to believe that she needs to manipulate Buffy into killing her by persuading her that she really does think the past would be better off if she (Buffy) doesn’t go back. Buffy , however, sees through that ruse. If Future Willow was aiming for a particular psychological reaction (eg guilt) to drive Buffy’s actions on her return she may have miscalculated.

  • Gunther’s calvary act was precipitated by Harth’s attack on him, which in turn was in reaction to Gunther passing information on to Melaka and Buffy about the uppers. I can see Willow being aware of thse events but none of them specifically require her intervention Harth and Gunther as rival gang bosses were bound to come into conflict sooner or later.


I very much agree about Riley and on reading Fray’s comment about when there was only one world as hinting at the possibility of two parallel timelines being created rather than one Slayer being the natural order of things.


We see a little more of Buffy's worrying slide into solipsism (as featured in previous issues of this arc). She still believes she's doing the right thing, saving the world, but she cares less and less about other people while she does it. "I don't care about your world. I have to save mine."

Is this any more solipsistic than Melaka not being concerned about Buffy’s world? I’m not saying that there aren’t problems with Buffy’s focus on her Slayers but I don’t see this as an example of that. Here she seems perfectly aware that she’s choosing between her world and Fray’s but in the situation where you can’t have both (unless you can).


I assume that in the intervening time, Willow told Buffy where the temporal rift would open again and what she would have to do there - that's the only way to make sense of their conversation during their final meeting.

Willow give away the time and place Buffy needs to get to in her conversation with Melaka when, in response to the “It’s who kills who that’s important” Fray re-iterates that she won’t kill a Slayer.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:12 (UTC)

Still I’m not convinced Future Willow was quite as in control of events as you have her

Perhaps you're right... although that leaves me baffled as to why Future!Willow wanted Present!Willow to see herself being killed in cold blood by Buffy... Unless F!W just didn't care, and it was Saga Vasuki's own idea to add that part.

When F!W says "Maybe I think..." I got the impression she's not really expecting Buffy to believe her, but she's giving it a go. And I took Buffy's "You dragged me her and then told me exactly how to get out" implies, to me at least, that Willow actually said, explicitly, "The portal will only open if you kill me with the Scythe."

in the situation where you can’t have both (unless you can).

Sure. But having her cake and still finding a way to eat it too is practically Buffy's signature. Here, she doesn't even bother to try.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 20:53 (UTC)

Well I’m not really suggesting an alternative scenario as exploring a few possibilities and variants. I think it’s still possible that FDW rather than seeking to bring Buffy and her present counterpart closer together is hoping to drive them apart. In the Fray timeline maybe Buffy persuades Willow to help her destroy magic or to follow some tactic that inadvertently leads to Twilight’s victory.

Possible but it doesn’t quite ring true. Like I said in my review I think that final conversation between Buffy and Future Willow is the heart of the story and the thing that most strikes me about it is how these are two people who right then right there understand one another completely. Willow gets Buffy’s attention with “Failing?” More about that anon but the response

“You know I’ll go through you”

is a threat , statement and an epiphany all in one. Willow’s

“And you know you’ll have to”

shows that both know what’s in the other’s mind. Buffy asks why and I agree with you that Willow’s “Maybe I think …” isn’t a serous attemot to mislead but it forces Buffy to point out that Willow just there, just then has told what she has to do (‘go through’ Willow) and her “Why” was really more of a “What?” (happened) with a side order of "Why me?" Willow doesn’t offer any real explanation but Buffy understands there’s no arguing, she takes her friend at her word and does the deed.

Where we differ perhaps is that I don’t get the impression that Willow planned it to go this way but rather was content with how it went as it happened. It’s been a long time and she may have forgotten other things besides the excellent nose. I also find the idea of Buffy being persuaded by Twilight’s agenda, I don’t know unlikely? Given how he’s treated her so far. Forcing a deal maybe or some falling out between Buffy and Willow allowing him to divide and conquer?


But having her cake and still finding a way to eat it too is practically Buffy's signature. Here, she doesn't even bother to try.

Where her people are at stake yes but I think she does see limits to her jurisdiction – Warren’s crimes were covered by human laws for example. Also to return to Willow’s “Failing,” my take was that referred to the same failure FDW talked about Buffy beginning to feel at the end of part two – the failure to stop Fray’s magic and Slayerfree world rather than some better one from coming to pass. So I don’t think she’s completely indifferent to it.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 10:38 (UTC)
Willow - playing god by bogwitch

I read your post with great interest. Then I read this one, which comes up with a theory pretty much the exact opposite to yours for Willow's motives. I'm afraid I like the other one better, since your Willow comes across as a somewhat petulant brat - 'I want to keep my magic, I do, I do! I'm speshul!' I just want to tell her to get over it already and learn to live like a normal person. She coped just fine in S6! Sorry.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 11:41 (UTC)

Stephen - regarding that all white panel, what if it's merely used for dramatic purposes. To make the audience think that Fray's reality had vanished, changed or been altered. Then we discover they're "still here" and it's "a good day." Cue a great big sigh as Mel and Erin embrace.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 13:42 (UTC)

That's possible, certainly - although it would work better on TV than in a comic where you can just look down the page and see them there. ;-) In fact, thinking about it - I think if that had been Joss's intention then the white-out would be at the bottom of a right-hand page, then you'd have to turn over to see the reveal on the last page.

But picking up on what you said on Whedonesque, I do like your idea that there are two competing theories - Fray is the real future, or Fray is now an AU - and Joss will leave us in suspense until the end of the season.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 13:59 (UTC)

That's *just* what I was thinking. That the dramatic suspense would have played out better on TV. Regarding the placement on the page - Jane Espenson blogged about that recently saying that in comic writing the bottom right is the goal for the best, riveting panel but she doesn't let that get in the way of telling the story. So perhaps the placement of the white panel in the bottom right just didn't work out for Joss. *shrugs*

Agreed - I'm very happy that we have two competing theories. I felt this nice sense of accomplishment once I thought I'd figured it out, then was slightly disappointed that I *had* figured it out. Let the mystery play on.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 13:52 (UTC)
willow-dune1

Well, the magic is pretty fundamental to Willow's sense of self-identity: we learned that in seasons 6 and 7. I don't think she's just being bratty.

Then again, she has been going out with Kennedy for the last two years; maybe it's rubbed off on her. ;-)

But I think there are other reasons for preferring a world in which the supernatural is still allowed to exist. One of the big series-long reveals on 'Buffy' and 'Angel' was that demons are not just a faceless mass of enemies to be slayed without compunction or remorse; some of them are people. Twilight's plan to banish or destroy *all* demons regardless is the kind of black-and-white morality that the Initiative specialised in. It would also amount to genocide.

She coped just fine in S6

If by "just fine" you mean "struggled along for a while denying part of herself, then at the first major crisis went into meltdown and tried to blow up the world", then yes, of course. ;-)

Actually, you've given me an idea that I might expand on later. In S4, magic was a metaphor for gay sex. In S6, it was supposedly a metaphor for drugs... but what if it wasn't? What if Willow viewing magic as an addiction and trying to stop using it by sheer willpower was meant to be read as a metaphor for people who try to "stop being gay" by going to those American Christian fundamentalist brainwashing camps?

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 13:59 (UTC)
Xacula by beer_good_foamy

Twilight's plan to banish or destroy *all* demons regardless is the kind of black-and-white morality that the Initiative specialised in. It would also amount to genocide.
Explain to me again how they're not the bad guys...

What if Willow viewing magic as an addiction and trying to stop using it by sheer willpower was meant to be read as a metaphor for people who try to "stop being gay" by going to those American Christian fundamentalist brainwashing camps?
I love it! :) As I just said to BGF, I bet comic-Riley voted yes on Prop 8! Twilight = [hardcore] mormonism. Ay-men! (No offense to Mormons intended, but Twilight (the books) are as full of Mormonism as Narnia is of Christianity.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:21 (UTC)

Explain to me again how they're not the bad guys...

Angel? Spike? Clem? Lorne? They're all demons, but I don't think they're bad guys. And if Twilight's purge also includes all people with inherent supernatural powers, you can add Buffy, Dawn, Kennedy, Faith and Connor to that list for starters.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:24 (UTC)
OTP of evil by buttersideup

Wait - you know what? The closest comparison might be Jasmine. Trying to achieve something 'good' through pretty unpleasant means, which is what Twilight is apparently doing. And Jasmine was a Big Bad and no mistake.



Edited at 2008-11-28 19:37 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:56 (UTC)

Did you mean "explain why Twilight are not the bad guys?" (Because for me Twilight is the name of a unique individual... is not, not are not.)

Jasmine is exactly right as a comparison. Or even the old-school Watchers' Council, as founded by the Shadowmen.

Remember General Voll's speech from the first arc - they believe they're protecting humanity from the vampires, the demons, the Slayers and the forces of darkness.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 20:16 (UTC)
Obama balloon by omgangiepants

You know, I have an even better idea - Twilight is Dubya, fighting a 'war against terror' that is totally misdirected.

ETA: Then at the last minute Obama Groo can come riding in on a white stallion black mare and get all the forces to work together to *actually* make a better world. The End.

(This is the closest I have to a political icon, so it'll have to do... *g*)

Edited at 2008-11-28 20:19 (UTC)

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 14:45 (UTC)

I feel brain dead, and very glad I have your insightful comments on these matters.

I'll reserve judgment until the season is over as to how well this all works as a big-picture arc. So far we've had plenty of great moments, but there haven't been that many great issues (individual episodes). And the flaws feel a lot like S7 -- too many ideas, not enough time spent fleshing out the little details in everyone's relationships. I still think the time jump forward from 7 to 8 was a misstep that furthered an emotional disconnect between characters and audience. At least in my case :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 19:18 (UTC)

I think it's undeniable that it was a misstep from a practical perspective, because so many people have complained about it. I'm less convinced it was artistically wrong. Brian Lynch tried the opposite approach in 'After The Fall', starting every issue with a step-by-step exposition of everything that had just happened to get them to that point; and to me it fell flat because there was no mystery. Noting to intrigue the readers or get them discussing and arguing.

You know what S8 reminds me of? The title credits to 'Alien'. A blank screen, then a few random dots appear, then lines start to connect the dots, then more lines appear... and you suddenly realise that there are letters forming in front of you. Gradually the missing pieces are all filled in and you can read the title in full.

Then a Xenomorph bites your head off.

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 28th November 2008 21:25 (UTC)

The title credits to 'Alien'

Which I *just* rewatched last week. Booyah.

To me, the huge jump makes S8 feel less like canon continuation, and more like what I called it before: "Official fanfic".

I just think there's gotta be a happy medium. Hopefully Joss and crew will adapt, find their sea legs, and be able to more fully exploit the new format without ditching what made the old so successful.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th December 2008 06:06 (UTC)

The linear story-telling in AtF is one of many places where Lynch goes wrong. I don't understand why Joss tapped him for the "canonical" continuation... cause the only way to see this as canon is to flatten AtS. Very puzzled.

Agree strongly with what Joss is up to with season 8, and I still think there's a good chance that at the end of the series, it will turn out to have been a great ride. He does have to pay off by providing backward continuity. But he's made some downpayments on that, so I'm willing to believe we're going to get there. Am pretty sure he swiped this mode of storytelling from Battlestar Galactica, and in this arc we had Willow saying "frak".

But it has been costly in practical terms. BSG payed it all off in a season. Joss is expecting us to wait at least two, if not four. And unfortunately a lot of the most interesting people in the fandom have tuned out, so there's a dearth of intersting reviews/meta on B8. .

Which is why it's great that you're still in there pitching. Another great review. I don't think you've got Willow's reasons right though. First, I don't see Buffy as being remotely on track at this juncture to undo the slayer spell. On the contrary -- I think the drama is going to be her failure to see the dark side of the spell. Already has been. She's robbing banks, etc. etc. Second, it wouldn't fit this style of storytelling for us to be able to track in any linear way from what we know to what's really going on. There will be revelations that put what Willow's up to in a totally unexpected light.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th December 2008 20:55 (UTC)

Thanks!

To be fair to him, I've enjoyed most of Lynch's other work - especially Asylum and Spike:After the Fall. It's just with Angel:AtF that he's pretty much lost me.

I know what you mean about the lack of meta any more - most of the intresting discussion on S8 these days seems to be on Buffyforums or Whedonesque or Slayalive rather than on LJ. All we get here instead seems to be one person picking out something from the latest issue out of context to mock it, and a dozen other people chiming in to say "I'm glad I'm not reading the comics because that's ridiculous!" Sigh.

You could be right about Buffy... although I was thinking in terms of what the demon said to her in 'Anywhere But Here', that destroying all demons is her life's goal. Would she be willing to sacrifice her Slayerhood in order to achieve that? I think she might. (And of course right now she'd be willing to make that decision on behalf of all the other Slayers as well, wouldn't she?)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th December 2008 21:23 (UTC)

Lynch's (glaring) weakness is that he doesn't see the big picture at all, and as a result he doesn't do arc (at least not in any interesting way). But he's good and sometimes even very good with standalones. Which is a long way of saying that I enjoyed Asylum and S:AtF also. But I don't think I'll ever forgive him for thinking that Lorne could just get his groove back. Not how the 'verse works. At all. That he's weak at the point where classic canon is strongest is the reason why I can't figure out why Joss picked him to do canon. Can't help but think that either (a) he just made a mistake and because of institutional stuff couldn'g get control back or (b) he's giving the finger to fans -- basically by saying that if you didn't see that the alley way was the ending then he's going to stick you with the kind of writer who would also fail to see that the alley way was the ending (and who therefore couldn't find a meaningful way to continue the series). It's on my list of mysteries along with who shot JFK and the like.

Haven't been to Slayalive. The other forums are OK. The frustration is that it's the LJ folks who usually are more interesting to read, and they gave up on this long ago. Joss even lost Nata (Mrs. Underhill). That's criminal. Of course, Nata is still on board with AtF, and I just can't make out why.

Do we trust the demon in ABH? Buffy has never had destroying all demons as her life's goal. She's never gone after them in any kind of systematic way. And she's let tons of them off the hook. And in any case, haven't we well-learned the lesson by now that demonhood is not isomorphic with evil?

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 00:17 (UTC)

Great review as always!

Mel refers to Buffy as "tiny, whiney"

..."wibbly wobbly." :-)

(Or possibly, the reference I'm looking for here is "Saruman, your Scythe is broken.")

I flashed back to Army of Darkness on that one. "Good... bad... I'm the guy with the gun."

Notice how Erin's comment, the last line of the arc, is "Means it's a good day" - a deliberate mirror of the first line of the arc

I believe it was Bob Dylan who said "any day above ground is a good day." And it is a good scene - echoing Mal's line at the end of "Serenity" (the episode): "We're still flying. It's enough." Fray and Erin aren't too used to winning; at least they didn't lose.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 12:15 (UTC)

at least they didn't lose

Hopefully Mel's Scythe will re-form, or be repairable, or whatever. But yeah, she saved her world.

Thanks!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 13th January 2009 22:13 (UTC)
Alternate Universe?

So is it just speculation that Fray's world is now alternate, or is it solid? I didn't quite understand the whole fazing out thing. I thought it was just Willow dying.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 8th July 2011 18:31 (UTC)
(Review) BtVS 8.19 'Time Of Your Life' Part 4

These last 4 reviews make me nostalgic about this arc. It was a "crossover" with Fray! And as a standalone arc "Time of Your Life" works well. But reading it again with the knowledge how season 8 ends, makes me sad.

Knowing how the story ends, it's quite powerful to see how Willow has carefully manipulated everyone - including her own past self, Saga Vasuki, Buffy, the Fray sisters and Harth - to reach her desired goal. Which is her own death at Buffy's hands. Why did she do it? I've got my theories, which I'll go into at the end.

And it seems that's all it was. Suicide by proxy.

We see a little more of Buffy's worrying slide into solipsism (as featured in previous issues of this arc). She still believes she's doing the right thing, saving the world, but she cares less and less about other people while she does it. "I don't care about your world. I have to save mine." And she clearly resented being referred to as "Puffy" in the last issue. :-)

Hmm, that's one way to interpret it. I think it's less extreme than you say. Her conversation with Melaka:
MELAKA: CAN YOU SWEAR MY WORLD WON'T MIST OUT IF YOU LEAVE?
MELAKA: MY BEST BONDS? MY SISTER?
BUFFY: YOU KNOW I CAN'T.
MELAKA: THE BIG PICTURE.
BUFFY: IT'S CALLED THE FATE OF THE WORLD, SHORT VIEW.
MELAKA: "FATE OF THE WORLD." MADE SENSE...WHEN THERE WAS ONLY ONE.
captures the problem nicely. Buffy just refuses to believe that returning home is a "bad thing". Can't say I blame her for that.

Incidentally, he's holding a tiny dagger while Dawn holds a huge two-handed sword that must be about six feet long. Possible phallic symbolism aside, I'm guessing that to be able to even lift that thing Dawn must now be, um, as strong as a horse.

About that. Giant Dawn was *not* proportionally stronger. I think the only way to interpret this is to say that Giant Dawn was stronger, just not as strong as a real giant should be. Similarly, Centaur Dawn is stronger --- hence the two handed long sword --- but not as strong as a real centaur. You only have to butcher the mathematical concept of proportionality for it, which seems fairly common.

Buffy, on the other hand, has apparently "dreamed every battle a Slayer's ever fought". That's been hinted at before in the series, more so in the movie (and more to the point, the comics adaptation of it which Joss accepts as canon, unlike the movie itself) and the comics and even on 'Angel' (with Dana in 'Damage') rather than on the 'Buffy' TV show itself. Now, though, it's stated in black and white.

LOL
For 7 years the dreams of a slayer had primarily prophetic meaning. But suddenly she has dreamed about every battle a slayer has ever thought. That gives new meaning to the Buffy-Spike relationship doesn't it? And it gives the Buffy-Angel relation also new meaning. *sigh*

(continues)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 8th July 2011 19:13 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.19 'Time Of Your Life' Part 4

(continues)

Oh yeah, we get the other big reveal of the issue: Buffy's secret meeting in New York was with Riley, and Riley is on Twilight's side.

Which is why I loved Riley's comment about the way she dressed. Is she missing the sex so soon already?

I'm guessing - especially from the fade-to white which then fades back into colour - that the Frayverse is now a parallel dimension rather than the actual future of the Buffyverse. But I'm not holding my breath for that to be clarified in writing anywhere. :-)

I wish. It seems pretty clear now that the Fray-verse is the future of the Buffy-verse. And that has nasty implications for the whole season 8. Consider the timeline you wrote. Willow lives on for 200 years ---in a world without magic--- and brings Buffy to the future to...essentially help Twilight get rid of Buffy's moral certainty and therefore helps bring about the End of Magic. It's tragic that the Willow in issue 40 ---who is distraught by the end of magic--- will go mad and help bring about the age of magic after living for 200 years.

What will Buffy be like when she returns to the 21st century? We've already seen part of it; she's clinging to Willow, tearfully babbling about how much she loves her. This Buffy will definitely think twice now before she lets herself get estranged from Willow in the future. And she's seen how bad a future without magic and Slayers would be... so she'll definitely not be inclined to listen to Twilight's plan to banish all the demons.

And doesn't *that* put a whole new light on the scene where Buffy smashes the Seed of Wonder. Does this mean that Sephrilian was right all along?

As I read that passage again, I can't help notice that the phrase "The Death of Magic" is on a panel of its own, suggesting a pause. It seems that the demon is saying that Buffy's life goal is: "The end, of course. Of the struggle, of the Hellmouths...The final triumph of the base humans over the demons." And then the demon adds: "The Death of Magic". And Buffy refuses to believe that magic is included in her life goal, because for her it doesn't. Buffy sees the end of the struggle separate from magic, while Sephrilian warns her that they're *not* separate. And in her grief (and anger) she does the one thing she was sure she wouldn't do.

Yikes, I'm suddenly making sense of the Seed of Wonder smashing. And it's the betrayal that you've been talking about. Sacrificing magic to achieve her life goal. But *that* doesn't put Buffy in a good light, because looking at the wood folk and the fairies and other magical beings... Is the only reason we're seeing these magical creatures...to make a point? So we know that Buffy has created an extinction level event that will destroy all magical lifeforms!?!

Thanks for your thoughts on this issue. I'm not sure if what I concluded is brilliant story telling, or the destruction of the Buffyverse by virtue of destroying Buffy-the-hero.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th July 2011 01:03 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.19 'Time Of Your Life' Part 4

I once asked Scott Allie if he could sum up on one word or phrase the theme of Season 8. He declined to answer at the time, pleading spoilers... but after the season was over he came back and said the theme was Betrayal. Buffy betrays her ideals, she betrays Willow, and she betrays herself.

Even so, I'm not seeing it as the "destruction of Buffy-the-hero". Her motives for the betrayals were all understandable ones, and perfect heroes are boring anyway. The interesting story is often how they fix their mistake and repair the damage they've done.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th July 2011 00:58 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.19 'Time Of Your Life' Part 4

And it seems that's all it was. Suicide by proxy.

Maybe. I still want to now what the giant energy release was about. And if it's significant that Willow wanted to be killed by the Scythe, that weapon that draws its power from the Seed of Wonder.

About Dawn, it's possible that she was as strong as a giant and as strong as a centaur in both cases - but in the Buffyverse, a giant ten times taller than a human is not ten times stronger but only, say, three times... but a centaur really is as strong as a horse.


Given I saw the movie before I'd seen all episode of the TV show, the idea that Buffy dreams about the lives of Slayers past isn't strange to me. I do think Melaka's exaggerating when she says every battle though. Buffy wouldn't need to interrogate Spike in 'Fool For Love' if she already knew about Nikki Wood and the Chinese Slayer.

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