Another month, another Season 8 installment. Yay! I enjoyed this: I thought Faith's character was very well drawn, and the cameos of the other characters were fun. The idea behind the villain is rather clichéd, but the execution is still enjoyable. And most importantly, we got Joss himself confessing to a mistake! ;-)
Regarding why The First could appear as Warren in season 7:
"He was legally dead for like a second. Amy didn't tell him 'cause she didn't want to upset him.
I forgot, okay?!"
Anyway, on with the review!
I assume the big Art Deco goddess statue is a famous Cleveland landmark (Googling suggests it's the Hope Memorial Bridge), and Faith sat on top of it symbolises her current feeling of isolation. (Or possibly her close affinity with Angel and Captain Jack from Torchwood.) The cameo with Robin was the first bit of characterisation I liked; considering how little time he had to establish himself on the show, this appearance does seem consistent with it. And Faith's reaction to him was classic: she's actually being (fairly) polite to an ex rather than trying to strangle him, which is progress; but she still shuts him down and backs off as soon as he tries being friendly. Looks like Robin's promise to "surprise her" about the existence of decent men has only had a limited effect, then...
ETA: Re-reading that, it actually looks as if Faith is being genuinely friendly - and even flirtatious, in her sarcastic way - when Robin first calls. But when he tells her it's not a social call, that in fact he needs her to do a tough, dirty job that the other Slayers can't handle, it's THEN that she goes all cold and distant. Looks like another classic example of Faith tentatively reaching out to somebody, being rebuffed, and withdrawing into herself.
I'd already been spoiled for the vampire kids, but it was still a very powerful scene. Equally powerful was the 'after' shot, as Faith walks back into her home and angrily slams her stake into the wall - and we see the holes where she's obviously done this many times before.
Enter Giles... and what on Earth is he wearing? Did he buy that jumper back in 1969 - in which case it's impressive it still fits - or at a Beatles tribute band concert? :) His reaction to learning what Faith uses the teabags he's been drinking for was amusing. And Faith's comment on Sunnydale turning from an outie into an innie was hilarious; shame on Giles for not getting the joke. Faith's "You don't say" reaction to the idea of an evil Slayer was also on the mark.
A few words about the general set-up. Faith's clearly living in fairly crappy accommodation - again - but at least it's better than her motel room. It's spacious, and she has central heating, a microwave and a fridge-freezer as well as a TV. It does beg the question as to why Buffy's organisation can't provide her with better; but Faith's withdrawal as soon as Robin tries to show friendly interest in her welfare suggests one obvious reason: Faith's too proud, or too afraid of showing weakness, to accept help. Of course we don't know either how much money the Slayers have - that castle, and the helicopters and stuff, can't be cheap, and there may not be much left over.
Giles' talk about "For all intents and purposes I am the Watchers' Council" is fascinating, because it opens up a whole new can of worms. Where exactly does that leave Buffy? In their brief scene later on, Buffy and Xander refer to "our friend in the library" and say that he's been "incommunicado for a few weeks". Which suggests firstly that they see Giles as a source of research and information, not the head of their organisation; and second, that they obviously don't know what Giles is up to with Faith. Interesting. Giles taking on the dirty work without telling Buffy is a well-established pattern, of course; but it rarely ends well. I'm even speculating whether there are two rival organisations here: that Giles is constructing his own independent power base under Buffy's nose. Getting Faith on his side would be a major coup, if that turns out to be the case.
Sidenote: the depiction of Faith in this issue is variable; but in this scene I think the artist got her just right in several of the panels.
So, on to our first major new character of the arc, Lady Genevieve Savidge. Daughter of a duke, apparently. As I said at the start, I thought she was a little clichéd; the idea of a decadent aristocracy hunting humans has been done before. Mind you, Buffy is all about taking standard tropes and then subverting them, so that's not an automatic negative. The evil Svengali-like tutor was another interesting touch: it's clear that he has been luring Gigi into more and more evil acts with the promise of some reward. And he's a warlock, he summons demons... and he's got some sort of connection to Twilight. It's too early to tell what that connection is, although I can speculate. He could be proof that Twilight is simply evil and apocalyptic, which would be rather disappointing. He may actually be an enemy of Twilight, and the folder he's holding is intelligence information about them. However, my favourite idea is that he's setting up Genevieve as an Evil Slayer so he can later betray her, expose her, and so justify Twilight going public and wiping out all Slayers as a threat to humanity. To that extent, she's actually a manipulated victim.
I think her portrayal does show this. She's clearly arrogant, greedy, spoiled and shallow. However, she seems to show genuine remorse when she kills the Slayer: suggesting that she's not totally irredeemable (and lending weight to my guess as to why Faith, of all the Slayers, is the one being sent up against her.) The dialogue suggests that Roden has been arranging these hunts for Genevieve as part of her training; they've kidnapped several girls already, but this is the first time they've set her against another Slayer. Genevieve's shock at killing her opponent implies that the previous fights were not fatal... and Roden also calls this her "blooding", implying it's the first time she's killed someone.moscow_watcher wondered if the Slayer Genevieve killed had been sent there by Giles in an earlier attempt to assassinate her. I didn't get that impression myself; the dead Slayer seemed to believe she was kidnapped at random. Still, it's clear Giles knows she's well-protected, and possibly knows that at least one Slayer has disappeared.
Final note on Lady Genevieve's scene: Roden's final reference to "if you don't eat your meat"... is it: (a) Simply a common proverb with no deeper meaning? (b) A sexual reference, implying a rather sleazy-sounding relationship between Roden and Genevieve? (c) A reference to ritual cannibalism, with Roden having somehow convinced Genevieve that she can get more power by consuming the flesh of other Slayers?
If it's (b), I note that Genevieve is confirmed to be 18 years old, almost 19, at the time of this story. So she's legally an adult, and it's safe to post fanfic and manips about her here. :)
The hotel dining room scene gives us more exposition and continuity porn (although since Drew Goddard is apparently doing the next arc, I think we'll get even more of that next time...) Giles casually mentioning that he has no problems with personally assassinating people with a rifle is quite chilling.
Disappointingly, we learn that Faith considers herself to be no higher than a 2 on the Kinsey Scale. :) She seems to regard the possibility of seducing the other Slayer as nothing more than "kink" - and while she certainly isn't hostile to the idea in general ("I likes me some kink"), she's not willing to do it in this particular case. Then again, we can always convince ourselves that Faith simply has a problem with the idea of seducing then killing another woman, but has no qualms about doing that to a man...
Something else interesting: Faith apparently still gets her psychotic flashbacks - as seen in 'Who Are You' and 'Sanctuary'. This time, it's realistic enough for her to stab Giles thinking he's someone from her past: I can't tell who, though the figure looks to be drawn as a child. This is particularly notable because a lot of post-Chosen fics skim over the whole idea of Faith being mentally ill, or treat it as just a very temporary aberration. Vaughan seems to have taken a different approach: it's not enough to stop her functioning fairly normally, but psychosis is still part of her character.
The flashback serves to reveal Giles' Mark of Eyghon tattoo - another nice bit of continuity (and just maybe, a deliberate reminder of his involvement with Ethan?) - and trigger the bonding moment where Faith and Giles can share their mutual history of being a wild teenager who killed people. However, it also did something more subtle - it stopped Giles from revealing to us, the readers, why he chose Faith rather than one of the other Slayers for this mission. Fascinating. I can't help but wonder whether he feels that if Genevieve is worth saving after all, Faith is the one person who will have the motivation to disobey orders and try to redeem her - and that with her past, she's also the only Slayer someone like Genevieve would trust.
The interlude with Buffy and Xander is just, well, cute. Xander getting all self-conscious about being shirtless and sweaty in front of her was funny, and to my mind pretty clearly confirms that the two of them haven't been sleeping together anywhere outside Buffy's dreams... although his embarrassment, and references to checking out the pink-pyjama'd-and-skimpy-topped Buffy, maybe imply that the thought has occurred to him too. Buffy teasing him about Renee was another good moment - it's nice to see these people being friends again - and I wonder if Xander is playing it cool with Renee, or if he's actually oblivious? We also get our burst of exposition to catch up with the 'The Long Way Home' storyline, so we don't forget about it.
Then there's Buffy's dream. So far I've got no idea what it's referring to, unless the 'Queen' is a reference to Lady Genevieve. Or, just possibly, it's Ethan Rayne (Rayne = reign = queen) who is, of course, dead, and perhaps this is him returned to her dreamspace in a new, manticore-like form. On a side-note, it seems that Genevieve is also having nightmares, so maybe there's a connection there.
(Logically, if Slayers have prophetic dreams, wouldn't you expect all 2,000 of them to have the same dream simultaneously? I've used that idea in a couple of unfinished fanfics myself, but not seen it suggested previously elsewhere.)Final scene - and thanks to shapinglight for pointing out the Doctor and Rose walking down the street outside Giles' house in London, I saw them but didn't get the reference myself first time. The scene where Faith is getting dressed upstairs on the balcony, out of sight, but we can see various items of clothing flying through the air as she discards them is funny. (And there's a bra draped over a wardrobe in the later scene.) I was a little let down that the comic didn't make more of the My Fair Lady concept by showing Faith learning how to mingle in polite society, but there's always fanfic for that. It was funny that Giles' main aim was not so much to teach her precedence (and I assume the dowager would take precedence over the wife of a mere baronet, incidentally) but to teach her how to swear in British English. :)
It's now a rule that all stories featuring Faith have to have one of the other characters saying "five by five", while she doesn't say it herself.
What with the bonding over tattoos and killing people, and now Giles getting all hot and bothered over Faith in a dress, I wonder if we're setting up for romance between them?
Buffy would hate that idea with the passion of a thousand burning hell-dimensions. :)