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'The Long Way Home' - what does it mean?

6th May 2007 (14:19)
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I've been wondering about the title 'The Long Way Home', and what it might refer to. I suppose we'll find out in a month's time, but in the meantime, here are three ideas.

1) It's literal. After travelling around the world, in the next issue Buffy and Xander will return to Sunnydale. Willow may already be there, depending on where Amy's taken her. I assume that's the military base where the Twilight Cult was holding her prisoner, but I don't know if that's near the ruins of Sunnydale, or elsewhere. Perhaps Nevada, based on Riley's line in 'A New Man' :

"They'll take Mr. Rayne to a secret detention facility in the Nevada desert. I'm sure he'll be rehabilitated in no time."

That, of course, assumes that Ethan's being held prisoner in the same base as Amy.

2) A character who was gone from the show (and the world) long ago will return. Well, obviously Warren already has, but I doubt that he's who the title is about. So perhaps someone else will return from the dead? Maybe Joyce, or Jenny, or Tara? All of whom have been the subject of speculation, because of the image of Buffy's dreamspace. (And because of wishful thinking too, probably. :) )

For some reason the idea of it being Tara keeps recurring to me: mostly, I think, because Joss has already brought back Warren, thus reminding us of the events at the end of season 6. Also, whatever power brought Warren back could perhaps bring Tara back too? Or maybe the fact of him being alive and walking around after what happened to him has disturbed the balance of the universe, and made the resurrection of Tara possible when it couldn't be done earlier. Other clues would be the fact that Kennedy is conveniently off-camera, and the persistent rumours that Joss wanted to bring back Tara in season 7 but was unable to for whatever reason.

Of course, this being the Whedonverse, if Tara did come back Willow would realise she's not in love with her anymore (maybe because she's in love with Buffy now!), or something equally angsty... :)

Other possibilities might be Spike or Angel, if they did die at the end of 'Not Fade Away'. Of course, that would assume that Joss was lying when he said that contractural obligations mean he can't use either of them as main characters in season 8. And Joss never lies to us!

But if this is the explanation for the story title, I'm going to predict that the last line of issue #4 is some variation on "You're back, sweetie! Welcome home!"

3) Something will turn full circle and bring us back to where we were at the very start of the show. In this context, I'm thinking of the Buffy/Xander romance, which was a big feature of season 1. Except perhaps this time it will be reciprocal.

Or perhaps it will be reversed. Buffy will realise that she's in love with Xander - her subconscious is already hinting at this - but this time it'll be Xander who falls in love with someone else. Probably Renee. Thus, we still get lots of relationship angst (a necessary component of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer story), but in the opposite direction to season 1.

I know I've been assuming - along with most other people - that the B/X elements we're being given are so obvious that they must be a misdirect... but perhaps we're actually over-thinking things and being too clever. After all, if Joss's aim was to set up a relationship between the two of them, I can't see what he would do differently to the story we're already being given... so maybe the simple explanation is the true one? There's a lot of references to both of them feeling lonely (and/or sexually deprived), and perhaps the punchline to the story will be someone like Willow (or Dawn?) getting them both to recognise what's right under their noses... 


Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th May 2007 16:15 (UTC)

I think that bringing back Tara (or anyone else) would only cheapen her death if it pressed the big Reset Button, and everything went back to the way it was before and she and Willow lived happily ever after.

Obviously, I doubt that would happen even if she did return.

One thing Joss talks about a lot in his commentaries is the concept of 'earning something back'. If the writers intervene with a deus ex machina to give the characters something they want, then they've got to pay for the good karma with a whole lot of misery and plot complications. Ressurecting Buffy in S6 is the classic (and highly relevant) example - instead of saying "Oops! She was dead, now she's alive again, let's carry on exactly as before" we got a whole season of misery, depression, existential doubt and kinky sex with Spike. Everything has consequences.

I don't think a romantic relationship should automatically ruin a friendship, but maybe that's just me... :) My only big hesitation with the "Buffy loves Xander but Xander loves Renee" storyline I posited would be that it deprotagonises Buffy, makes her look weak and an object of pity rather than the star of her own show. Which would be bad, and alienate a lot of readers.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 6th May 2007 16:31 (UTC)

One thing Joss talks about a lot in his commentaries is the concept of 'earning something back'. If the writers intervene with a deus ex machina to give the characters something they want, then they've got to pay for the good karma with a whole lot of misery and plot complications.

True. But they already did the back-from-death depression in s6, and frankly, both Ethan turning up and Warren being back has a faint aroma of deus ex machina and lazy fanfic to me. Of course we haven't seen the plot line all the way through yet, but... as much as I like most things about the comics (and I really do) I'm not yet completely convinced that Joss is still as much on the "inside" of these characters as he used to be. Bringing Tara back would be exactly what a lot of squeeing fans would like, and... actually, considering his snarky treatment of the Spuffy/Bangel thing, it's one of the things that keeps me hoping he won't do it: simply to spite us. ;-)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th May 2007 17:22 (UTC)

Ethan was always a recurring character who'd disappear for a season or two then pop up again, though - it's entirely possible for him to do so now. As for Warren, I'll suspend judgement until I've seen another episode or two and know what Joss plans for him. (And, for that matter, how he's back at all).

I'm not suggesting that the plotline for a returned character (such as Tara) would be a repeat of Buffy's story in S6. However, there are other things they could do with it. After all, getting Tara back would once have been the single, absolute, dearest wish of Willow's life. A world without Tara was a world she felt had no right to continued existence. So imagine just how scary it would be for her if Tara did come back, and Willow realised she no longer felt that way? That Tara's presence was, if anything, rather awkward now?

I'm not saying that's a story Joss is likely to give us, but it would certainly be fascinating. And probably lead to him receiving death threats.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 6th May 2007 18:54 (UTC)

Ethan was always a recurring character who'd disappear for a season or two then pop up again, though

Oh, naturally. And normally I'd be happy to see him back; love the guy to bits, and he's great in #3. It's just that... well, so far it all seems a bit rushed to me. Throwing Ethan, Amy and Warren in there is like the first thing people do when they write their first post-s7 fanfic; it's been done.

I guess most of my still-nagging doubts can boil down to this: why is Joss doing s8? There was always a point to BtVS beyond "let's see what happens to these characters next". As with any good writer, Joss always had a purpose, something he wanted to say using certain characters and certain plot lines. And using the same old villains, revisiting the same old themes, makes it all feel a bit bass-ackwards to me; creating a story for the same characters rather than creating or re-using characters that fit a new story. I guess that's part of what makes it difficult for me to give a crap about the whole canon-not-canon debate; I'll adress that once I see whether Joss really has something up his sleeve rather than, to quote many a fanfic disclaimer, playing with his own toys until he needs them again.

But hey, it's early days yet. I guess that's what's so frustrating about the slow release tempo... We're only 30 minutes into 8.01. And the season premiere was NEVER the strongest episode of the season.

(BTW, there are actually a few fanfics like the one you outline around - though not many, obviously, considering the fanaticisim of most W/T-shippers. Wolfkin's Coma, for instance.)

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