StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

(Review) BtVS 8.05 'The Chain'

It's been a two-month wait, and I didn't even realise the new Buffy comic was out this week until I saw some other reviews appearing (although I deliberately didn't read any of them before writing my own comments here). And when I got to Forbidden Planet they'd already sold out! - thankfully I've got my copy reserved there.

So. My first reaction is that this was powerful, deep, emo, and rather weird. I'm not sure I can say I liked it, exactly; I can say that I read it through three times within the space of two hours; it was that compelling.

You know which episode it reminded me of the most?  'Passion'. It's got the voice-overs, the tragedy and the death. But at the same time it was strangely uplifting .... Thought-provoking, I think is the term.

Also, here's another of my compare-and-contrast pictures. What's the consensus? Two different people, or is the one on the right Rona after she's grown older, lost some puppy fat and matured into more of a leader? Me, I think the artist actually used this photo of Indigo as a base to draw her from...

Anyway, onto the detailed review. Incidentally, I'm writing *Buffy to indicate the protagonist of this story, since we never learn her real name.

Starting the episode with the death of *Buffy is certainly one way to let us know that this isn't going to be all hugs and puppies. I'm not entirely sure how she can still be narrating the story despite being dead. My first thought was that it's simply artistic licence. However, on close study, you can see that her eyes are open and staring in the scenes where the demon is holding her body aloft, and also when he tosses her aside. But on the very last page, her eyes are closed and she has a faint smile on her face. So, I currently think she was narrating the story to us as she lay there dying on the ground, made her peace, and died content.

Or alternatively, maybe the faerie eggs laid inside her skull somehow allowed her to survive death - perhaps her soul transmigrated into the eggs, and she hatched out as a fairy? :-)

A lot of people have said they found 'The Long Way Home' difficult to follow, because of the way it skipped between different scenes and locations. I hate to think what they'll make of this! We skip backwards and forwards between the day *Buffy becamse a Slayer, scenes from her training, the early part of her mission underground, and the fight where she is killed. It does make sense - at least, on thre second or third read-through. :-) And of course, if *Buffy is dying, what we have here is her life flashing in front of her eyes...

The fairies make an interesting addition to canon, as does the whole concept of the underground world with its varied denizens. Their reproductive habits are a classic Joss touch. I especially liked "It's not fatal"... The end of this scene, where the fairy says "I love you, Buffy", was quite powerful. On one level, we know this Slayer isn't 'really' Buffy, so this scene is based on a lie; but on a deeper level - as the episode's climax makes plain - names don't matter when set against what you actually do. In the end, *Buffy acted just as heroically as the real Buffy would have.

The school lunchtime scenes seemed very true-to-life and well-observed. I did think that the 'hazmat suit' comment was a case of Joss thinking of a witty line, then having second thoughts about whether a typical ~15-year old schoolgirl would know about such things, and covering himself by letting her add the disclaimer about "Is that what they're called?" *Buffy here gives a pretty good impersonation of being a bolshie teenager; she makes some cutting remarks to her friends, but the fact that they don't seem upset but carry straight on with their side of the conversation suggests this is just friendly banter. 

I assume the punchline is that Mike Billenger apparently wears girls' underwear himself? Or am I missing something? ;-)

The scene with the chain of Slayers has already attracted a lot of discussion. From left to right, #1 is obviously *Buffy; #2 is the First Slayer; #3 is unknown - my first thought was that it's Buffy herself (the real one) but Scott Allie does say in his editorial that she doesn't appear in this issue, so maybe it's just a blonde lookalike. Hey, maybe she's actually Rome!Buffy. #4 is unknown; her smock looks vaguely Chinese (or Peruvian) so maybe it's the first Slayer Spike killed; #5 is definitely Nikki Wood. The others I don't recognise.

Speaking of recognising people: the first time I looked at the cheesy commercial page, I thought it was an advert, not part of the story. After a couple of looks, I began to wonder if the guy with the gelled-up hair was Andrew in the same costume he wore in 'Storyteller' - then it hit me in a flash that not only is it definitely Andrew, but the woman was Vi - in fact looking at it now, I wonder how I could ever not see she looks exactly like Felicia Day. Once I realised this was an actual in-world video, not some sort of dream or hallucination, I first thought it was a spoof the two of them created to show at Slayer get-togethers; but now I'm inclined to think it was actually being shown on cable TV networks.  It sounds like exactly the sort of really stupid idea only Andrew could come up with...

Has anyone based in the US actually tried dialling 1-800-CHOSEN-1 and seeing who answers?

The induction and training scenes were a good Slayers-eye view of the process that we've already seen more of from Buffy's perspective in issues 1-4. I liked the way that *Buffy was rather cynical and suspicious at first, but became won over by the whole Slayer-sisterhood-duty thing. And even grudgingly admits that Giles' speech was "actually really articulate." (Nice cameo role for Giles there, incidentally.) The voice-over physically laid over Giles' speech balloon with some lines peeping through was very cleverly done.

In the alley fight scene, it did strike me that *Buffy could equally well have become *Faith instead, if Faith ever needed a stand-in. It's a tank top and dark hair thing, mostly. Also, judging by her purple hair with a tuft sticking up and her comment about guns, I'm confident in pronouncing that Simone in this scene is the 'Tank Girl' Slayer who was arguing with Andrew in 'The Long Way Home' #2

This scene actually bears some more detailed analysis. Names are a big deal in this episode. Apart from the school scene before *Buffy became a Slayer, there are only three names given in the entire comic: the demon lord Yamanh of Hoht, and the Slayer Buffy Summers.... and Simone here. Simone is clearly a good fighter; she defeated the big vampire with a sword, and two of the other Slayers are obviously awe-struck by her ability. But the Slayer *Buffy rescued sees straight through her pretensions; Simone only cares about herself. She wants to be a hero: she wants to make a name for herself. She might not even notice one of her fighting-companions getting her throat chewed on by a vampire. But *Buffy, whose real name we never even learn, proves to be the real hero in the end.

I'm slightly dubious about the idea of any other woman having to pad her bra to do a late-season-Buffy impersonation, but this is comics-reality (and perhaps Buffy's filled out more since leaving Sunnydale... less stress, better diet.) :-)  It's interesting that we learn the Buffy impersonation is purely a matter of clothes and hair bleach and so on, not a magical glamour - although as Rona (I'm going to assume it's Rona unless persuaded otherwise) says, she'll be dealing with people who've never actually seen the real Buffy.

As I said before, learning about the underworld with its slug-monsters and fairies and leaf-blower things was interesting. I wonder what the 'test' involved, other than getting naked and letting smelly slugs wriggle all over you; we're told the test can be fatal to those who fail it. And this is where we first see the true measure of *Buffy's heroic nature; she persuades two warring peoples to set aside their differences and fight side by side. The fact that they think she's real Buffy clinches the argument: we no she isn't , but she does what the real Buffy would probably have done anyway. (Except I can't see the real Buffy being willing to take her clothes off in public with so little concern, at least not if SMG was playing her...)

The scene with the runaway truck was clichéd but fun. It did suggest a new theory to me - that Potentials are Called not purely at random, but because a great danger is looming which a Slayer in that particular place and time would be in the best position to avert. When there was only one Slayer, they were Chosen to prevent apocalypses or fight vampire kings. With thousands of them now, they can be Chosen to save three schoolchildren from getting run over...

Then there's the final fight scene; *Buffy, the fairies and the slugs fighting the demon army. *Buffy dying. The fairy that went to get help coming back with an army of Slayers (led by Satsu, incidentally) - too late to save *Buffy, but (we assume) in time to defeat the weakened demons.

And the voice-over... the thing that really reminds me of 'Passion' or 'Becoming Part 1':

"In the moments that matter, even our own names are just sounds people make to tell us apart. What we are isn't that. 

"The real questions run deeper. Can I fight? Did I help?"

She may not think she needs to be remembered, but I think she will be.

Tags: buffy, meta, review, season 8, season 8 review
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