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(Review) BtVS S8 'Riley - Commitment through Distance, Virtue through Sin'

20th August 2010 (16:30)

I'm out of practice at this. It's been months. :-)

Unlike a lot of fandom, I've never disliked Riley as a character; I enjoyed his Season 4 arc especially. On the other hand I can't say he's a particular favourite either, and I must say I was underwhelmed when Dark Horse announced that he'd be the subject of their one-shot comic to fill the gap between the penultimate and final arcs of Season 8. But when it emerged that the story would be about his original recruitment into the Twilight organisation, and therefore give us more details about that, and perhaps about Angel's motives too, I got more excited. And it turns out, that is indeed what we got.

It doesn't hurt that this issue was written by Jane Espenson (there's a photo of her inside wearing a NOH8 stamp to protest against California Proposition 8) and she pays a lot of attention to characterisation and motivation and parallel-drawing and so forth.

So, the review.

 


The subtitle, "Commitment through Distance, Virtue through Sin" sounds very Orwellian, and suitable for a spy thriller about double agents and hidden agendas. Jo Chen's cover makes Riley look very suave and James Bond, while his wife Sam looks much like Lara Croft. Then in deliberate total contrast the title page takes us back to the bucolic Iowa countryside of Riley's childhood.

Except that as every 'Twilight Zone' fan knows, cornfields are sinister things...

Our first scene has Riley and Sam arguing about two simultaneous propositions Riley has received, one from Buffy and one from Twilight. He's being reluctant and avoidy, apparently because he's planning to settle down, raise corn and start a family and leave all that stuff behind. Sam is trying to persuade him to accept the mission on what, on the face of it, seem like principled and practical reasons. It would be the right thing to do, and also, starting a family is "easier with a planet under us". As we'll discover later, Sam also has rather more personal and complicated reasons for this argument.

This comic finally settles the question of whether Riley knew all along who Twilight was, and the answer is "No". From what I figure, the sequence of events is something like this:

  • Angel decides to recruit Riley into the Twilight organisation. In the 'Retreat' arc he's totally unsurprised by the revelation that Riley was loyal to Buffy all along, so it's possible that he knowingly recruited him to be a double agent and a secret conduit to feed information to Buffy. That's not confirmed here in this issue, however. Angel seems to think Riley can possibly be brought over to the Twilight anti-magic crusade for real, and it's implied it's all part of his plan to 'push' Buffy by isolating her. Making her think even Riley has betrayed her would be a huge blow. Of course, Angel wins either way.
     
  • Twilight contacts Riley, possibly through intermediaries, and offers to recruit him. Riley says he'll think about it.
     
  • Somehow, Buffy gets involved; the most obvious possibility is that Riley himself got in touch to warn her about the anti-magic organisation being formed. What is clear is that Buffy then asked Riley to join the organisation to act as a spy inside it, and he told her he'd have to think about it. This is the situation when the comic starts.

Was I the only one to think that Sam's reassurance "I'm into it. I am" was immediately undercut by her complaint that the Iowa countryside "All looks alike"? But her comment that she's happy to send Riley back to Buffy because it shows she's emotionally secure was very in-character. (Given that Sam's character has always been "annoyingly perfect". *g*)

The idea that there's a nuclear missile silo hidden beneath a cornfield in the mid-West again seems very Twilight Zone, though I do worry that the only security is apparently a broken-down chain mesh fence. Also that a general would be personally opening the door; don't they have underlings for that kind of thing?

And now we get the revelation of our surprise guest; Whistler. Apparently it was Jane's idea to bring him back, to give Angel a confidant that both he and we in the audience would have reason to trust. There's a plan, and Angel has been acting under Whistler's advice. This scene is important for the readers more than for the plot, I think - and makes me think that the brief for this issue was very much to patch things up in audience perception of the season.

The original idea was that Angel would pretend to be bwa-ha-ha evil as part of a deception plan, then it would be revealed that he was good all along. The problem was, too many fans bought into the bwa-ha-ha act to the point where they, not just the characters in the comic, genuinely believed that Angel had turned irredeemably evil. (Or that if not, he had to be under some sort of mind control.) What Jane's doing here is trying to salvage the plot and characterisation, by emphasising that it is all an act. She lets Angel express his hatred of having to go through with it so we'll sympathise with him again. It's the sort of script-doctoring that Joss himself used to be famous for. ;-)

He also hates having his hair flattened down by the mask, so it doesn't stick straight up anymore. That bit was funny.

I liked the scene with the missile, the idea that someone had hacked into its systems and was arming it remotely. I'm sure someone will be along to argue that it could never happen that way in real life because US Strategic Command has better computer security than this, and it ruined their suspension of disbelief; but for me it's exactly the kind of scenario you'd expect in a fictional spy thriller. Very sinister and tension-building.

To be honest, I assumed the missile was being prepared for an attack on Buffy's HQ, either without Angel's knowledge or he'd somehow manoeuvred Riley and Sam into position so they could stop it without him breaking his own cover. The truth turned out to be different... although it really was the Twilight organisation hacking the missile's controls. When General Voll talked about nuking Buffy in 'The Long Way Home', it seems he wasn't kidding about having the capability to do it.

It is a bit odd that Riley and Sam would be brought in to disarm a nuclear missile; they're commandoes, not technicians. Jane hangs a lantern on this by having Riley make the same point, but he's assured that they come personally recommended by the Pentagon (that's the reference to the "five-sided building", if anyone missed it). Really, though, as we'll learn, it's all a set-up anyway.

The quitting/quilting joke was funny but bizarre. The words don't actually sound the same at all, even if they're spelled almost identically. :-)

The scene in the aircraft is a perfect Buffyverse mixture of serious discussion about emotional issues mixed with domestic concern for getting your collar folded under, while the fact that the characters are also doing something insanely dangerous and dramatic - like, in this case, making a parachute jump in pitch darkness into the ocean - is simply taken for granted by them. This is also important background to the Twilight organisation. We learn that Angel's cover story to the humans he recruits is indeed, as suspected, that he's waging a war against magic. (Presumably his demon recruits are told a different story? Or simply promised "clemency from the coming purge" if they sign up.)

The misogyny angle is also brought up in an interesting way, if you remember General Voll's diatribe in 'The Long Way Home' where he dismisses Buffy's argument that this is "about power and about women". Sam implies that while feeling threatened by Buffy and her "gyno-army" may not be an explicit cause for the Twilight organisation, it certainly seems to be the subtext motivating many of its male recruits. I can buy that.

Then there's the key question of the entire issue - and the one I posted a poll about earlier today. Riley says that he must "hope that nothing I have to do to preserve the cover will cost my eternal soul", and then he gives a specific example - that Twilight will make him "shoot a witch in the head or something" as a gesture to prove his loyalty to the cause. That was a powerful, even brutal image to give us, but it's one which strikes to the moral core of Season 8. After all, Angel himself has had to do things repeatedly to "preserve his cover", like stand by and watch while Warren and Amy design a missile to kill all the Slayers in Scotland. Has it cost him his eternal soul? (Well, Angel's soul isn't so much 'eternal' as easily swapped out for repair and maintenance, but you know what I mean.) A lot of fans seem to have decided already that it has. My impresson is that Season 8 isn't intended to answer the question definitively one way or the other, but leave us to dscuss it and make our own minds up.

Part of the problem, I think, is a matter of genre convention. In a fairy-tale heroic fantasy, the champion on a white charger never has to murder an innocent person in order to bluff his way inside the evil sorceror's castle. In a noir spy thriller or hard-boiled crime drama, such a scenario wouldn't be out of place at all. If you believe 'Buffy' is the former, then you're never going to accept Angel's actions as Twilight. On the other hand, on Angel's own show we saw this exact scenario played out - when Angel was forced to murder his friend and fellow-champion of the Powers Drogyn as a test in order to infiltrate the Black Thorn and bring it down from the inside. In the darker and more noirish atmosphere of Ats, this scenario wouldn't be out of place at all (well, except to people who refuse to accept that Angel in Season 5 was in character, I suppose). It feels more uncomfortable shoved into a 'BtVs' storyline. Buffy's the person who doesn't believe in unwinnable scenarios, who always finds a way to beat them. She'd probably win the Kobayashi Maru exercise too, just like Kirk did.

But then again, it's not Buffy who's facing this particular test. If anything, it's her example which shows Angel how to extract himself from it as well, or at least once he comes face to face with her he decides to trust in her proven ability to find a third way.

Anyway, back to the plot, and we finally - finally! - get to see a less-than-perfect side to Sam Finn's personality. :-) She has an ulterior motive to pushing Riley into helping Buffy, and that's because it will help her justify it to herself if later on, she also wants to do something similar. I liked this; it felt kind of twisty but also the sort of motivation that really does happen. I was also pleasantly reminded that Riley isn't just a demon-fighting commando. He was also once a postgraduate psychology student and TA to one of the US's most renowned experts in the field. His easy insight into Sam's real motivation shows that he's actually pretty good at this.

Back to Whistler and Angel. The comment he makes, "She should be the most powerful player in the game, not a piece on the board. This is wrong" is once again Jane putting words in Angel's mouth in order to answer one of the criticisms levelled at the season. Buffy's the hero, or should be; and Angel is being a patronising patriarchal dickwad for manipulating her instead of letting her make her own choices. This scene says, yes he knows that, and he knows it's wrong; but he doesn't think he has any choice. "You can do what she'd want, or you can do the right thing."

The plan is to make Buffy "feel powerless in order to find the ultimate power". It's manipulative and deprotagonising, and that's fully acknowledged by the story as a bad thing - but it's also nothing we haven't seen before on the show. "So that's everything, huh? No weapons... No friends... No hope. Take all that away... and what's left?" Both Whistler and Angel know better than anyone what Buffy's answer to that would be - and that's another reason why it was a stroke of genius to make Whistler of all people the exposition character here.

The misappropriation and mangling of the famous 'Heroes' quote made me laugh out loud. "Torture the former cheerleader, save the world." Whistler looking at the bottle as he said it was a nice call-back to his raiding Giles's fridge in 'Becoming'. When he says "Working her ex? Her *other* ex?" I'm assuming 'other' means Angel himself as opposed to Riley. It could be a Spike reference instead, of course, but indications so far don't suggest that Spike was also being manipulated as part of Angel's plan.

Or maybe Parker Abrams is a key agent in Twilight's genocidal organisation of death. :-)

Angel seems to be letting his dislike of Riley (as seen in 'The Yoko Factor') influence his judgement. Riley isn't a huge fan of magic, true, but unlike Angel we in the audience were able to see him working through and at least partially overcoming those prejudices.

I'm not sure if the pattern on the front of the incoming missile was meant to be just shadows, or some sort of design. If the latter, I didn't recognise it. "Maybe it wasn't smart for us to come to the target coordinates" was, you have to admit, a funny line. :-)

Many real-life nuclear missiles do indeed have multiple small warheads inside the nose-cone, which can be directed to individual targets once the missile gets close. The pictures I've seen don't look much like this one. However, the fictional MIRV missiles used by the Cylons in new Battlestar Galactica do look quite a lot like this, so we can guess where Jane got the idea from. :-) In this case, though, it turns out that they're not really nuclear missiles, just ordinary ones, and the whole thing was a test. Twilight has used this method to lure Riley to him... presumably arranging the theatrics to convince Riley that it was all a test of his competence and dedication to see if he was worthy to join.

A final scene with Angel and Whistler. This time, it addresses the issue of why Angel didn't just tell Buffy what was going on. The answer here feels a bit too much like author fiat - "Because the prophecies say you can't" - but it does tie in with Angel's warning to Buffy in 'After These Messages...' that foreknowledge can "change their future into who knows what". Some interesting comments on Whistler's motivation here too, which don't exactly explain everything - presumably we have to wait for 'Last Gleaming' for that.

But the Powers That Be are definitely getting involved, and they're concerned about the Twilight prophecy as "the biggest one (they've) ever seen". Interestingly, that implies that the Powers aren't actually causing the Twilight; they're reacting to it. Whistler also makes clear that Angel's goal here is to "save the world". Presumably - although not for certain - he means that Angel should carry through the Twilight prophecy and make sure Buffy is a part of it, and that will ensure the world is saved. Which leads to some questions:

1. Do Whistler and the Powers That Be actually know that the world will end when the new one is born in the Twilight?

2. Do they take the long view, and assume that the world after Twilight will be the same one they're sworn to protect as the one before, even if it's had a radical change in the number of inhabitants?

3. Or do they think that Twilight is inevitable, but it will make a big difference whether it's someone worthy like Buffy or someone who isn't - Gigi, perhaps - who becomes the Ascended One?

4. Or is Angel being played, and they're lying to him? (Maybe this isn't actually Whistler at all, but someone taking his form?)

As a final comment, Whistler asks to know if Angel's loyalty lies "With the girl or with the world". It's an important question...

Riley and Sam's conversation in the tunnel is another Buffyverse-style dialogue about normal coupley things - worries about commitment and individuality when settling into a permanent relationship - while heading into deadly danger. It's interesting that they mention the mission for Buffy, which honestly is poor operational security on their part given that, as we learn, Angel was eavesdropping on them. He surely knows now, if he didn't before, that Riley is going to be a double agent for Buffy. Oops. Good thing he's secretly on their side too.

Twilight now does his big recruitment spiel, complete with an impressive show of armed force, to overawe the new recruit. I liked the remark about the army, undercutting the seriousness a little. Presumbly the soldiers went through a similar process, and we get confirmation that they see themselves as "fighting for humankind" against "the forces of magic". Angel's snide remark asking Riley if he really needs his wife's permission to join up also seems to reinforce the macho "We're not about misogyny here except actually we are" atmosphere I alluded to earlier. (And notice that he basically dismisses Sam by his actions: the invitation to join his gang doesn't extend to her, even though she's standing right next to Riley. Nor does he care about her enough to bother keeping the whole thing secret from her.)

Riley's comment on his relationship - "We're together even when we're not" echoes the first part of the episode title - "Commitment through distance"  - and of course stands as a compare-and-contrast to other relationships in the Buffyverse. (And not just romantic ones.)

Then comes the ominous moment, when just as Riley predicted, Twilight-Angel sets him a test of commitment. I wonder if anyone thought that his next words as you turned to the final page were going to be "Kill Sam"? Indeed, when Angel repeats Whister's words to him, "You have to decide where your loyalty lies... with the girl or with the world", one meaning is that he's asking Riley to give up being with his wife in order to dedicate his life to saving the world. (Which calls back Sam's words to him at the start of the comic.) Angel is obviously also reflecting on his own decision - note that the words are in text boxes, not speech balloons, implying he's thinking this rather than saying it out loud.

Angel, it seems, has decided to put the world before the girl. Riley's last whispered word in the issue - 'Buffy' - shows that for him, it's the opposite. Angel is the man in the shadows, willing to get blood on his own hands to spare those of others; Riley is a big noble doof who always tries to do the right thing. Which of them is right?

We know from 8.35 what Buffy's answer would be. But we can make up our own minds...
 

 


Comments

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 16:56 (UTC)

We can make up our own minds, and in case you don't already know I think ends justifies the means sorts of reasoning can't be a default mode and only comes into play if you really and truly are in an inescapable bind.

So the writerly fiat just doesn't do enough to me to convince me that Angel did enough to be morally entitled to the sort of bind that would allow him to even think about (let alone acutally decide to do) anything as awful as what he does as Twilight. Because make no mistake, this issue also took away a lot of the material the Angel apologists have been using. (More below).

Yes, Angel trusts Whistler. But if my most 100% trusted person in the world told me that I had to be a moral monster in order to save the world, with the flimsy evidence that he'd seen *some* of the timelines and they came out badly, I would feel morally obligated to challenge tht person. (a) Does he really know? (b) Is he really himself, or is he being manipulated himself? (c) Is he really right in his assessment that these are the only options.

It's possible that the writerly fiat is supposed to fix all that and just allow us to jump to the dilemma. But we in the audience are already aware that Whistler is wrong or at least not telling Angel everything -- because the Twilight event destroys the world. So everything Angel did to supposedly save the world was in fact instrumental in destroying the world. (Stress the word instrumental: it's not that the plan was ineffective. It worked. It was just aimed at destruction and not salvation). Angel's own reaction in #35 is also a huge problem, since if we're to see him as justified (or at least as justifiable to some persons of good will and good reason), because he ought to be outraged when he realizes that the world got destroyed and not saved. Instead he could care not less.

Perhaps we'll get more. But as it stands, the writing is terrible IF we are to go down the line of interpretation that says Angel had a terrible choice, and reasonable people can disagree about which of those two choices was right.

The issue suggests to me that we shouldn't get there. The plot about the missile is a parallel, and that whole situation is being manipulated for ends that neither Riley, Sam, nor the military are able to dope out. It was stupid for Riley and Sam to get out there in that boat (as they say). It's stupid for Angel to buy into Whistler's plan.

continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:17 (UTC)

in case you don't already know I think ends justifies the means sorts of reasoning can't be a default mode

I know. :-) But it seems to me you agree that it is a genuine moral debate, even if you've already firmly picked your side in it?


I would feel morally obligated to challenge that person.

Sure, but to me this is where the charaterisation comes in. This isn't happening to you, it isn't happening to me. It's happening to Angel, a man who for most of his existence has been the pawn of prophecy. Someone who's accustomed to having mysterious badly-dressed men come up to him out of nowhere and tell him to do this and that or the world will end. Questioning or subverting prophecy is Buffy's schtick, not Angel's.


Instead he could care not less

That's completely different to my reading of those scenes.

Angel at first is shocked - he didn't think the situation back on Earth would be so bad.

Then he goes into denial - he tries to convince himself that it's just business as usual, nothing the people Left Behind (TM) can't handle, that life goes on and people live and die. He's still guilty enough that he can't actually bear to watch it though.

He keeps trying to convince Buffy that the plan was a good one - remember, this is the plan he's made lots of sacrifices for and spent over a year following because he believed it was the right choice, and the only possible choice.

But Buffy refuses to cooperate with Destiny. Angel is shocked: he didn't think anybody could do such a thing. Then you get his rueful moment of realisation, when he remembers that if anyone would do it, it's Buffy. Then he grins, and agrees to follow her lead.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:23 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:55 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 19:01 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 22:22 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 21:51 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 09:05 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 11:38 (UTC)

Posted by: Barb (rahirah)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:55 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:57 (UTC)

Posted by: Barb (rahirah)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 18:01 (UTC)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 18:38 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:00 (UTC)
continued...

Back to the charges we now must lay at Angel's feet. He mustered this army. He organizes it. He's it's commander. He used that army to kill a bunch of slayers. Those deaths ARE his responsibility. His and Allie's and Meltzer's bit about Angel not killing anybody are weasel words. The general who aggressively pursues a war and orders his men into battle and, indeed, refuses to let them retreat when their deaths are inescapable is responsible for their deaths. We are told why Angel is doing this. It is NOT to save the lives of slayers (that may be a secondary motive, but it's not the primary motive). The primary motive is to defeat Buffy so she'll be powerles and then somehow potentially capable of being powered up. The intent, then, was to do all that killing (in Retreat), not to minimize killing.

The trade off is thus NOT "let a few people die while deflecting dangerous forces away from worse bloodbaths". It is now "cause a bunch of deaths in order to get Buffy powered up because somehow this prevents the destruction of the world." Since I am someone who would argue that you cannot become a mass murderer even if the further outcomes are worse, I wouldn't make Angel's choice even if that really were the absolute truth about the nature of the trade-off. But I can understand reasonable disagreement about that. However, I don't think it's reasonable to get there if the person making the choice has not really and truly tried with every fiber of his being to make sure that's really the trade off and to make sure that there really and truly is no other way. The writerly fiat doesn't work for me because the moral choice is too perilous to be so cavalierly treated. (Put yourself in Angel's shoes. Someone you really truly trust beyond a shadow of a doubt says "Stormwreath, old man, I hate to tell you but the only way you can prevent the planet from being destroyed is to take a machine gun and shoot five hundred people, while terrorizing and 100% demoralizing and defeating the love of your life, even though you know she would despise you for making that choice", would you really want to be seen as the sort of person who'd say "I hate that choice, but since you say so and since I trust you give me that gun and let's get going." Wouldn't you at least want to be on record as working your ass off to avoid the choice first?)

A plot twist on something like this isn't the way to go. If you don't take care to make sure the audience knows that the guy making this dreadful choice really felt his back was against a wall before making it, you don't deserve to keep the audience's sympathy for that character.

Even the show 24, which is very sympathetic to "ends justifies the means logic" depicts its hero, Mr. Dirty Hands to Save the World, as working VERY hard to avoid morally evil acts if he's got time to search for a work around. (And I'm talking about morally evil acts smaller in scale than proactively murdering hundreds of innocent people).

Sorry this is so long. I really like the issue, oddly. It works well on a lot of other issues. But if we're to take this as writerly fiat, I think this is a repugnant story. It would also shock me to the bottom of my toenails if Angel's vindication is that he just had to go behind Buffy's back and de-protagonize her in order to save the world. If he's to be Buffy's unironic true love we're together even when we're not guy, the story is not just morally repugnant, it's also flamingly anti-feminist.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 17:42 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Angel is organising the army, but I doubt he managed to persuade a bunch of high-ranking generals with access to nuclear missiles to merrily follow him just because he showed up in a gimp suit. I think they were already organising, and probably already knew about the Twilgiht prophecy. (Remember, Voll's chest scar is old and faded, not fresh and new. He's been involved in this for years.)

Angel's responsible for the deaths of the soldiers he refused to allow to retreat - absolutely. Nobody's denied that. They were soldiers who were dedicated to genocide, if you accept that Slayers are a race. And yes, I'm sure many members of the Waffen-SS loved their girlfriends and blindly accepted the propaganda their leaders told them as their motivation for committing atrocities.


The primary motive is to defeat Buffy

That's not what it says. The motive is to make her "feel powerless". Not be powerless, but feel powerless. Big difference, and an aim that does not make mass killing of Slayers necessary.

Also, "aggressively pursues a war"? We see here that before Season 8 ever even officially began, Angel had access to an entire army of soldiers with nuclear weapons. If he'd really been aggressively pursuing the death of Slayers, the last page of issue 1 would have shown a steaming crater where a Scottish castle used to be. Instead, Angel somehow managed to hold the soldiers back from their all-out assault for a full year.


If he's to be Buffy's unironic true love we're together even when we're not guy

Let's just say I'm reserving judgement on that very strongly - at least the 'unironic' bit. Also, Angel may have gone behind Buffy's back to save the world, but once she found out, her immediate reaction was, "No, jackass, we're going to do it my way instead." And call it a hunch, but I'm guessing Buffy's way will turn out to be better. ;-)






Edited at 2010-08-20 17:43 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 19:32 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:18 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 22:11 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 23:37 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 00:09 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 09:17 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 10:42 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 11:51 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:44 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 14:44 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 19:39 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 11:44 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 14:51 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 14:59 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 16:44 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 17:56 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 22nd August 2010 13:52 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 22nd August 2010 21:01 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 10:18 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 19:05 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:13 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:18 (UTC)
Re: continued...

Posted by: rapunzel215 (rapunzel215)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 18:42 (UTC)
Tie in with Angel and Spike

I can't remember if you said whether or not you're keeping up with the Angel series comics from IDW, but in issue #35 we see Spike in a room full of Hollywood screenwriters. He's hiring them to write prophecies about him. Ones that make him the save-the-world hero and the one who "gets the girl". Then when they ask about Angel, he gets the idea that they should include Angel, only make him the villain. And I wish I could give you an exact quote for what he says next, but I can't find the issue! Spike suggests they give him a poncy villain name like "Dusk" or "Twilight" or something like that.

Makes me go "Hm."

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:12 (UTC)
Re: Tie in with Angel and Spike

To be honest... I am reading the 'Angel' comics and I do remember that scene, but I'm not exactly "keeping up with them" in the sense that I could tell you anything about what's going on in them. ;-)

Posted by: rapunzel215 (rapunzel215)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 00:25 (UTC)
Re: Tie in with Angel and Spike

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:01 (UTC)
Re: Tie in with Angel and Spike

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 18:53 (UTC)

I agree with your take (I think) that this issue throws doubt on the bwa-ha-ha evil interpretations of what Angel's been doing. In a story where subtext and parallels carry more weight that the rather minimal plot I think it's worth noting that the missile turns out to be a diverting light show and the initiation ceremony is entirely ceremonial, no witches are harmed and no eternal souls are sacrificed. Also, as Sam points out, Twilight's recruits are people who already fear and hate Slayers but at this stage of proceedings those feelings are being satisfied by little more than empty rhetoric. of course it doesn't stay that way, as Angel gets drawn in he becomes party to more and more non-symbolic deaths (and Riley gets to stand by while they happen too). At this stage also there's no mention of any Brave New World being created from the ashes of the old, the straightforward implication of what Whistler says is that Buffy needs to be superpowered up to fight some world destroying evil not to break through the tantric reality barrier.

Did Angel get his superpowers in a moment of perfect powerlessness we haven't seen? If he did it would make it more understandable that he would believe it had to work that way for Buffy.


Angel, it seems, has decided to put the world before the girl. Riley's last whispered word in the issue - 'Buffy' - shows that for him, it's the opposite.

Does it? Buffy is Angel's girl but Riley's hero. Sam is his girl. Buffy, as Sam re-iterates until it bleeds, represents the world as far as Riley is concerned.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 19:07 (UTC)

Buffy, as Sam re-iterates until it bleeds, represents the world as far as Riley is concerned.

I think the issue is saying she's both. The girl and the world. The problem comes when people forget that.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 19:59 (UTC)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:00 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th August 2010 20:20 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 10:18 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:31 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:36 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 13:14 (UTC)

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 13:42 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 19:28 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 02:44 (UTC)
pic#85222149

Maggie's concerns are also mine, though I accept that we are still not getting the whole picture here... we've been misled 2 or 3 times already about who or what was behind all this, and I think we still don't know. We're told that Buffy and Twangel have to fight the same war, though separately and in the guise of enemies.

The big question is: Who is the enemy in this war? Who or what are they fighting?

If Angel's task in this was to save the world by goading Buffy into unlocking her powers, and then "ascending" with her, it looks an awful lot like they failed. It looks like doing that unleashed the Apocalypse instead of preventing it.

Which could mean that Whistler and the Powers were wrong... or that this was simply the course most likely to succeed, and didn't (oh well)... or that everything is, in fact, going exactly on schedule and Buffy and Angel are now going to go ahead and save the world.

I think this issue helped to set up the answers, but hasn't actually given any yet. Its main purpose was probably to make Angel a little bit more sympathetic going into the final arc... Joss and Scott may have been concerned that so many fans were writing Angel off as a lost cause, they wouldn't accept any outcome to the season that painted him as anything other than a villain, or at best a cruel, cold-hearted duty machine.

I agree that Whistler's say-so was a bit thin as a reason for Angel to agree to causing Buffy so much pain and kill so many heroes and innocents. And I'm even more worried that his concern at the beginning for the pain he's going to cause is not matched by any regret for it after he unmasks himself and no longer has to play his villain role. He seems far too quick to divest himself of responsibility, and seems to have no regrets at all. That leads me to believe that something happened to him between the time he put on the mask and the time he took it off. "The glow," perhaps? He seems to be shaking it off as of #35.

It's also strange how quickly Twilight seemed to amass tremendous amounts of power. His recruitment of Riley seems to be taking place very early in his career as Twilight, yet by then he's already got control of the army, or a large segment of it, and even the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile system. Now, why would the U.S. government hand all national security over to an unknown person who dresses like Darth Vader, in order to fight an enemy that hasn't even done anything aggressive yet except to blow up a Hellmouth that the government knew was there?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:19 (UTC)

I did just spot a line in 'Twiight' that I think is significant:

GILES: And this is the Universe's reward. The power that will let her reach the next step on the ladder - the power to survive the Twilight.

The implication is not that the plan is to cause the apocalypse; it sounds more like the apocalypse is coming regardless, but this is a way to make sure someone at least survives it. Remember also:

BUFFY: Apocalypses come because the world is trying to change. It has to. That means either chaos and the morons chaos inevitably employs... or it means moving forward. To something better.

Granted, it does seem like the moment Buffy ascended, everything was in place and the prophecy could begin unfolding. She and Angel struck the match, but the inflammable fumes had been filling the room for a long time already, and that wasn't their doing.


Now, why would the U.S. government hand all national security over to an unknown person who dresses like Darth Vader, in order to fight an enemy that hasn't even done anything aggressive yet except to blow up a Hellmouth

Their willingness to follow Angel so readily lends credence to the idea that they were already organising to go after Buffy and quite possibly already knew about the Twilight prophecy, so Angel didn't have much convincing to do to show them he was their prophesised messiah. On the other hand, i'm pretty sure this isn't the entire US government or army. It's a powerful faction, a secret society that includes top-ranking generals and politicians with access to major resources, but it's not the government itsekf. Remember, the Suit warns Voll that taking open action against Buffy's Slayers will get them "indicted then hung"; that wouldn't happen if this was all legal and above-board.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 14:32 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 22nd August 2010 13:30 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 22nd August 2010 14:16 (UTC)

Posted by: ubi4soft (ubi4soft)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 07:01 (UTC)

When he says "Working her ex? Her *other* ex?" I'm assuming 'other' means Angel himself as opposed to Riley. It could be a Spike reference instead, of course, but indications so far don't suggest that Spike was also being manipulated as part of Angel's plan.
I can see it as a Spike reference if the Big Bad in Vegas (Brian's Spike new series) is indeed set up by (Tw)Angel just to keep Spike occupied with other things, but we'll see.

I can't see it as an Angel reference (working yourself?, working Angelus?) so please would you give some more thoughts?

Or it's about Parker :(

Good to see you out of practice! Your review gets a 5/5 stars from me.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:23 (UTC)

I think it's just a linguistic slip by Whistler. He starts off saying "her ex", meaning Riley, but then remembers that Angel is also one of Buffy's exes, so he changes it to "her other ex".

Though it will be intresting to see what happens with Spike in Vegas, and at what point he got involved with the Twilight business.

And thanks! :-)

Posted by: ubi4soft (ubi4soft)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 20:54 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 10:18 (UTC)

Apparently it was Jane's idea to bring him back, to give Angel a confidant that both he and we in the audience would have reason to trust.


in an interview Allie said it was his idea.

Posted by: Mrs Darcy (elisi)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 10:53 (UTC)
dragonrider by maharet83

Did he use the royal 'we' by any chance? ;)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 14:41 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st August 2010 12:25 (UTC)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 3rd July 2011 16:36 (UTC)
Because I said so.

And now we get the revelation of our surprise guest; Whistler. Apparently it was Jane's idea to bring him back, to give Angel a confidant that both he and we in the audience would have reason to trust. There's a plan, and Angel has been acting under Whistler's advice. This scene is important for the readers more than for the plot, I think - and makes me think that the brief for this issue was very much to patch things up in audience perception of the season.

Except that lots of readers don't trust either Whistler or the Power-That-Be. And Jasmine only reinforced that image. It might have achieved the opposite of what they set out to do.

Although I can totally imagine Angel being convinced about this, despite his protests.

This is also important background to the Twilight organisation. We learn that Angel's cover story to the humans he recruits is indeed, as suspected, that he's waging a war against magic. (Presumably his demon recruits are told a different story? Or simply promised "clemency from the coming purge" if they sign up.) [...] The misogyny angle is also brought up in an interesting way, if you remember General Voll's diatribe in 'The Long Way Home' where he dismisses Buffy's argument that this is "about power and about women". Sam implies that while feeling threatened by Buffy and her "gyno-army" may not be an explicit cause for the Twilight organisation, it certainly seems to be the subtext motivating many of its male recruits. I can buy that.

Rather ironic then, that the End of Magic was ultimately achieved. *sighs*

And it still doesn't **really** explain why the US military wants to murder the slayers. All that stage magician stuff is getting annoying. What made them go from "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" to "the enemy of my enemy deserves genocide first". The mind boggles. (And yes, I can see the US Military do this, but...it still needs the WMD in Irak type of justification.)

Hmm, I see a comment that the US military (dominated by the Twilight Cult) might be guided by their own prophesy. That actually makes sense. It also makes me think that Simone should assassinate the whole lot of them. The girl is going to be busy.

Has it cost him his eternal soul? (Well, Angel's soul isn't so much 'eternal' as easily swapped out for repair and maintenance, but you know what I mean.) A lot of fans seem to have decided already that it has. My impression is that Season 8 isn't intended to answer the question definitively one way or the other, but leave us to discuss it and make our own minds up. [...] Part of the problem, I think, is a matter of genre convention. In a fairy-tale heroic fantasy, the champion on a white charger never has to murder an innocent person in order to bluff his way inside the evil sorcerer's castle. In a noire spy thriller or hard-boiled crime drama, such a scenario wouldn't be out of place at all.

It doesn't help matters that important characters seem to believe in the fairy-tale heroic fantasy conventions. Or use it to justify their actions. A reader has to decide if they're going to trust a character's explanation each and every time it happens.

(continues)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 3rd July 2011 16:39 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

I like your idea that there are multiple (different) versions of the Twilight prophesy. But I'm not just going to accept that nobody has more than one version.

The plan is to make Buffy "feel powerless in order to find the ultimate power". It's manipulative and deprotagonising, and that's fully acknowledged by the story as a bad thing - but it's also nothing we haven't seen before on the show. "So that's everything, huh? No weapons... No friends... No hope. Take all that away... and what's left?" Both Whistler and Angel know better than anyone what Buffy's answer to that would be - and that's another reason why it was a stroke of genius to make Whistler of all people the exposition character here.

But there's an important difference. Angelus wanted to defeat her. Whistler and TwAngel want to change her. It's more similar to "Beer bad" when Buffy turns into cavewoman. Except in season 8 she's made to feel powerless (drinking the polluted beer) and "forced" to change into superwoman (similar to cavewoman change), fucks TwAngel and gives birth to the apocalypse. And that brings back memories about Cordelia and Jasmine and how Cordelia's life has been manipulated.

Finally, when Whistler says: TOO BAD IT'S THE ONLY THING WITH A CHANCE OF WORKING THEN, HUH? ...is he implying that they're going for the low probability approach. Is he lying? Putting their faith in Buffy? I like your own answers to the PTB raised questions.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 12:58 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 14:04 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 14:47 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 17:42 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 12:51 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 13:50 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 17:30 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 4th July 2011 18:00 (UTC)
Re: Because I said so.

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