So for those who've forgotten what was happening when I wrote the last review: Dawn had just mysteriously fallen ill, and Buffy, Illyria and Koh had been sent by a supernatural 'council' to take down Severin. Now read on!
The fight predictably goes badly for our heroes; Severin is now just too powerful for them. I know the plan here has been heavily criticised by others: when fighting someone whose special power is being able to suck the magical energy out of supernatural creatures, why would you send supernatural creatures to fight him? I agree with the point to an extent, although there is a counter- argument. Apparently Severin can only suck out people's power when they've been rendered helpless; until that point, he has to fight them the conventional way. Against three powerful warriors at once, including a Slayer and an elder god, there would be a hope that he would be defeated conventionally as well long before he got to the point of sucking anyone's powers.
Yes, in 'Freefall' Dowling defeated him with a normal pistol, but that was when he took him completely by surprise - and he didn't kill him despite several shots to the torso - and Severin is now much more powerful than he was back then. So there's no guarantee the "normal person with gun" strategy would have done anything other than get the normal person killed.
Meanwhile, Dawn is not dead after all. Yet. She's hooked up to a life support machine, however, in a coma, and the doctors don't have a clue what's wrong with her. Her body is "shutting down", that's all they know. Nice bit of continuity with Xander telling the doctor that Dawn's mother died of a brain aneurysm, and asking if that might be the problem here as well. It's not.
Xander talks to the unconscious Dawn, saying that he didn't feel guilty about "walking away from Buffy" earlier because he did it to keep Dawn safe. So much for that plan. He then moves quickly through Stage Two of the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief (anger) onto what seems kind of like Stage Three: bargaining. He's not going to let Dawn die, and he's going to try any desperate expedient he can think of to prevent it. What he has in mind isn't yet revealed...
Back to the battle, and Severin has won, unsurprisingly. He's about to drain Illyria's power for himself when she teleports away from him - something she's already been shown capable of. Severin tries to force Buffy to reveal where she's gone. He also tells her that he's doing this not for the power alone, but to "save her". Interesting parallel to Xander, there. Buffy realises he's talking about his girlfriend who got turned into a zompire, and figures out his plan. Then Koh stabs Severin in the back - only incapacitating him temporarily - while he's doing his supervillain act, and the two of them escape and join up with Illyria again.
And now we see Billy, who's gone back to investigate the zompire nest he, Dowling and Buffy had been attacking back at the start of this arc, before the Council summoned Buffy. As far as Billy is aware, Buffy just disappeared into thin air and he doesn’t have a clue where she went - so, to his credit, he's trying to find out. Surprisingly, Anaheed, Buffy's roommate, has followed him to the nest. Billy assumes she's a wannabe Slayer too, like him, and warns her off - setting up a plot twist I actually didn't expect and really liked. More of that in a moment.
Buffy tells the Council that she's worked out Severin's plan. He hopes that if he drains Illyria's power, he won't only receive raw magical energy, but actually absorb her ability to warp space and time. He'll go back in time to prevent his girlfriend from dying. The Council are horrified: altering the past in such a way could have disastrous consequences.
While Severin's motive - saving someone he loves - could make him sympathetic rather than an outright villain, Koh also points out that it means he'll be unwilling to listen to reason. Buffy is rather taken aback that Koh the mighty warrior has such insight into the feelings of someone in love, and I did like Koh's response that "The Nitobe are more complicated than you give us credit for."It took me a moment to get Buffy's pun in response, calling him Koh-meo (Romeo). It would probably have worked better spoken...
I also liked Buffy's deadpan "He will come after Illyria again. We need to be ready. " (He arrives) "I was hoping we'd have more time than that."
Back to Dawn's hospital bed, and it turns out Xander's desperate plan was to call Andrew, because he "used to be a master of the demonic arts". Andrew uses various magical talismans, but he can't diagnose Dawn's problem either. I smiled at his reference to wanting Hugh Laurie at his disposal, although I suspect having Dr Greg House would be more useful than having the actor who plays him.
Since he can't heal Dawn, Andrew decides that his only other option is to transfer her consciousness into a robot, like he did for Buffy earlier in the season. While this is kind of ridiculous - and Xander says so - it also makes perfect sense from a continuity perspective given the story we've already been told. So in a rather funny scene the two of them smuggle Dawn out of the hospital, with several references to Star Trek IV (but not the Firefly episode 'Ariel').
Meanwhile, Billy has broken into the security office of the warehouse where Buffy was attacked, and is watching the footage of when Buffy vanished. But then the zompires who were using the place as a nest come back, and attack him. Oops. But then he's saved by Anaheed, who dusts multiple zompires, drags him to safety, and reveals that she actually is a Slayer. Huh? This would be the revelation I mentioned earlier. It did take me by surprise, and its' the sort of plot twist that sends you rushing back to the previous comics in the season to see if there were any clues or hints earlier. Interesting.
When she was telling Dawn about her life back in issue 9.01, she did say that after grad school she spent four years writing the first twenty pages of the Great American Novel, before getting a job as a fact-checker on a website. So it's not unreasonable that what she was actually doing, in between writing 5 pages of novel per year, was being part of the Slayer Army. Though if she's 30 now, she must have already in her mid-20s when she was Called, which is a bit of a twist to the Slayer mythology.
In the final act, Buffy and Illyria decide quickly how to deal with Severin. Illyria volunteers to act as bait: she'll confront Severin alone, but when he tries to suck her power, she'll teleport Buffy and Koh in behind his back to deal with him once and for all. She claims to not be afraid of losing her power if things go wrong because she already knows what it's like to be small and insignificant, like a human - but says that Severin could not handle absorbing her power. Buffy is quite sympathetic to her, even reassuring.
The plan goes into effect - but there's a twist. Severin somehow managed to interfere with Illyria's teleportation ability: I'm not sure how, other than "He's become very powerful". But instead of Buffy and Koh materialising behind him, they materialise somewhere else entirely. Outside a theatre somewhere in the city, by the look of it. And with Illyria not having any help, Severin is able to suck her power after all.