I've been thinking about how BKV's arc of season 8 compares to the ones written by Joss. The individual issues of the Faith arc seem both faster moving, but also shorter and with less going on. As far as I can work out, the difference is that Joss's issues contain an awful lot of parallel plotlines. We skip from Buffy's dream to Willow fighting Amy to Renee talking to her friend to General Voll discussing strategy to Andrew playing strip poker, all in rapid succession. That makes the story quite difficult to follow, but also gives us a lot of information crammed into a short space of time. The perspective of Brian's story is more straightforward: we follow Faith almost exclusively, with only a few short cut-aways to Giles or to Castle Slayer. Reading it is less hard work, but it also means it's over too quickly. :-) 'No Future For You' part 3 definitely feels like act three of a single TV episode; we have plot revelations, rising action, a showdown between the main characters - and end on a cliffhanger with the action unresolved. Having to wait a month to see what happens next isn't going to be easy...
Also, I note that the preview cover shown online for episode 8.08 said "Part II" on the bottom. Fortunately, the printed cover says 'Part III' as it should, so they obviously caught the mistake in time... (speaking as someone whose job sometimes involves proofreading things for print, I feel for the Dark Horse people here...)
Now for the detailed review.
I note that the beginning blurb now describes Buffy's organisation as "European-based". Interesting.
Faith's reaction to learning that Gigi's evil plan is to kill Buffy seems spot on - of course, for Faith, it really *is* always about Buffy... It's also significant that she immediately jumps to the conclusion that Giles was lying to her when he said this mission was about saving the entire world. Faith has a history of being lied to by authority figures, after all, so it's perhaps natural for her to think this. This development also confirms my opinion - despite the doubts some other reviewers raised - that Faith took this mission originally because she accepted its premise. Kill the debutante, save the world. The assassination of Gigi would avert the Apocalypse and therefore was absolutely the right thing for her to do, despite whatever personal qualms she might have about killing someone again.
Now, though, she's put in a position where she thinks Giles just wanted Gigi dead to suit his own personal motives. As we'll see later, she doesn't actually want Gigi to kill Buffy (wanting to kill her herself is a slightly more complex issue) but she no longer seems to think that Gigi has to die to save the world. Whether she's actually right to think so is another matter, of course...
Sidenote: the map on the wall is interesting. The photos of women don't seem to be all of Buffy, so I assume they're either sightings of other Slayers, or the birthplace of Slayers. Which leads to some interesting speculation: only one from London (which has about 13% of the UK population) but one from Cornwall, one from North Wales, one from the Outer Hebrides (I wonder if that's where Castle Slayer is?), one from southern Ireland, and apparently one who was born on Rockall... Or maybe [London-]Derry. Also, we have no fewer than two Norwegian Slayers and one from Sweden. According to the figures, there are 2,000 Slayers out of a world population of 6 billion - so one per 3 million people. On that basis, you'd expect 20 British Slayers, one Irish, one Norwegian and three Swedish. And 350 or so Chinese...
Gigi thinks Buffy's hair is 'increasingly awful'. Personally I think she hit her low spot in late season 4, and has got much better since then...
Now, some people have commented that the bubblebath scene is kinda gay. I'm not convinced... but the scene where Gigi leans in, hands around Faith's neck and shoulders, and offers to rule with her, side by side? That's more lesbian than the Wimbledon Ladies' Doubles. It's practically a proposal of
marriagecivil partnership. (Compare also the parallel scene later in the comic where Faith puts her own hands around Buffy's neck, in a slightly less intimate fashion). Although I am open to the possibility that the instant bond between Faith and Gigi is purely sisterly (perhaps literally so...) rather than sexual.
Then, of course, we have a classic BtVS scene break, where Faith says "dear old Dad" could give a toss if she lived and died - and we cut to Giles, who clearly cares very much about whether she lives or dies. His concern for her here does indicate that he didn't deliberately set her up on a suicide mission; he's genuinely worried about her. Also, he apparently told Trafalgar the Dwarf that this mission was about averting the Apocalypse; so either he's being really consistent in his lying, or he was telling Faith the truth after all and she's jumped to a false conclusion. As she tends to do. Also, Giles' description of Faith as "born for this mission" might turn out to have a rather more literal meaning than you'd think, depending on who exactly Faith's mysterious never-mentioned father really was...
And now the notorious bathroom scene, which caused lots of comments when it was released in the preview. My thoughts on the controversy are:
1) "It's out of character for two women who've just met to jump in a bath together".
OK. Faith getting naked with someone she's just met? 'Out of character'?? It's what she does. She was built to do that. She's the 'do that' girl. Remember also this scene from 'Who Are You?':
RILEY: Uh, the door's open.
RILEY: So, my fantasies don't tend to include a bunch of Marines looking in on me.
FAITH: They might learn something.
Faith either has no nudity taboo (or sense of shame), or she's a massive exhibitionist. Or both.
As for Gigi, we don't know her that well... but we do learn here that she's never had a friend of her own age before. It's possible that she has an over-romanticised idea of the sort of things bestest girl friends are supposed to do together, based on novels, magazine articles and daytime soap operas rather than real life. Or possibly she just fancies the pants off Faith, as suggested here by that whole "I knew it from the very moment I looked into your eyes" thing.
2) "It's based on a distorted American stereotype of the British aristocracy".
Huh? I mean seriously, huh? I've only met a couple of British aristocrats in my time, but the only thing they had in common was that they were all individuals. To my mind, Gigi is no more supposed to be somehow representative of the British than General Voll is supposed to be representative of Americans. Having said that, it is true that nudity taboos vary from culture to culture... in the US, a brief flash of nipple during a sporting event causes a national crisis, while in Finland you can walk past posters for breast cancer awareness featuring topless women on every bus shelter. In my experience Britain is somewhere between America and Scandinavia in this spectrum... not to mention that as a rule, the more puritanical attitudes to the human body tend to get less common the higher* on the social scale you go. So this scene seems unusual, but not exceptional, to me.
3) "It's shameless pandering to fanboys"
I suspect most (straight) fanboys who want to be pandered to shamelessly would rather download a picture of actual naked women in a bath rather than look at drawings of soap bubbles. But maybe I'm strange. Also, there's a not insignificant number of fangirls who are equally interested in Naked Faith, y'know... And why wasn't Sweaty Naked Xander in the previous issue so controversial, hmm?
Also, the bath scene does serve a genuine plot point - it's a place the two women can talk together without Roden eavesdropping - as well as showing just how comfortable/intimate with each other they've become so quickly.
Changing the subject, Faith's interest in Amy Winehouse from last issue is now reinforced by an apparent liking for The Clash, The Stone Roses and Arctic Monkeys. Assuming this takes place in 2004 or 2005, Faith would have to have discovered Arctic Monkeys online, since although they formed in 2003 their first record wasn't officially released until October 2005... which is an interesting picture of how she spends her leisure time when she's not sitting on top of bridges in Cleveland. Surfing the Web isn't really the sort of thing I associate with Faith - although she did spend a lot of time watching TV back in season 3, and if she can afford/steal/be given a computer, I can sort of imagine her making use of it that way. Or maybe she hangs out a lot in internet cafés.
Of course, this revelation about her musical tastes inspired a vid. Faith and "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" are a match made in heaven...
Heaven, incidentally, being a place Faith thinks 'only chumps' believe in. That's quite ironic given that Buffy has actually been there - although it's likely Faith never found out about that.
Gigi has been having Slayer dreams since puberty, apparently. Going by the film rather than the TV show, it seems that the same can be said for Buffy - while Harth Fray had them since early infancy. It seems there's no hard and fast rule as to when you get them, if you do. Gigi seems to have them worse than most, though - perhaps the Slayer Spirit/First Slayer/Powers-That-Be/whatever sends them is trying to warn her against something? Faith claims that she also suffers from nightmares every single night - but in her case, I've a suspicion they're not all Slayer-related.
As they're getting dressed, notice the paired mirrors casting infinite reflections of them. Considering all the parallels this story is drawing between Faith and Buffy and Faith and Gigi, it's an appropriate image. Also a sinister one, as Granny Weatherwax would tell you. Faith seems to have accepted now that Mayor Wilkins used and exploited her by telling her what she wanted to hear; and she's also trying her hardest to persuade Gigi not to go through with her plan. Interesting that Gigi completely misinterprets her reason (and that she calls her 'love').
Back to Castle Slayer for our regularly scheduled update on what Buffy's doing. As anyone who's read my fanfic will know, I'm a big fan of Buffy-Willow conversations with their mixture of friendly teasing and addressing some serious issues, and this is no exception. "Our castle is kind of landlocked, Buff" is very funny and in character, as is Buffy's wordplay elaboration on the idea of either frogmen or man-frogs in the moat. Typical Willow being a fan of Linux rather than Windows (but not OSX?), and we even get more news on where the money to pay for all the stuff they have comes from! Proving that this question (which perplexed many fans) is something the storyline will address, rather than being something the writers didn't even bother to think about. Who is Buffy's mysterious sponsor? And why won't she even tell Willow, of all people? Mysterious...
The question of killing humans is addressed in an interesting fashion - remember my mention of mirrors before? Here it's Willow who says that killing humans is just wrong - which was always Buffy's position before. And it's Buffy who says that they're different from the bad guys simply because they're not bad, rather than because of their actions - which was always Willow's argument. (And why she assumed that because she was one of the good guys, anything she did - stealing, hacking, wiping her girlfriend's memory - was therefore not evil). It's fascinating and slightly worrying to see Buffy hesitating on the start of the ethical path that eventually led Willow to almost blow up the world... although she has genuine moral doubts about the situation. (It's also refreshing to see a hero admitting she doesn't know the best thing to do in a situation like this) On the other hand, it could be argued that Buffy's previous position on not killing humans was heroic but misguided - Angel, for one, has absolutely no problem about killing humans if he has to, and nor does Giles. Interesting to see where this goes...
Willow's "Did I do that?" when Buffy vanishes is adorable.
Roden calls himself "a loyal servant of the magic hour". Assuming that's not just poetic gibberish, I assume the 'magic hour' is twilight (or Twilight) - and as we'll soon see, he is actually casting the spell at the hour of twilight. (So Buffy either had a late lunch or an early tea). So despite General Voll's personal suspicion of magic, it does seem that Twilight is itself a magical organisation. Also, Roden calls Buffy "the first of the last" - compare the invocation of the First Slayer in 'Primeval' where Buffy was called "daughter of Sineya, First of the Ones". If Buffy is the "first of the last", does that mean that the Slayers currently active will be the last ones ever to be called? (Buffy, of course, is the 'first' of them because she's been active longer than any other). That does suggest a tie-in to 'Fray', which for those who haven't read it is set several hundred years in the future, and the heroine is the first Slayer to be called in centuries.
In 'Two To Go', Willow explained that teleporting feels rough on anybody who isn't her. Poor Buffy seems particularly susceptible to the after-effects - unless it's just that the chicken caesar wrap she ate was a dodgy one... I also rather liked the scene where she confronts Roden, thus proving that either he's really tall or Buffy is really, really short.
She may be short, but she's also a superhero. This fight scene is very impressive: she's taken completely by surprise, feeling nauseous, and unarmed; facing a Slayer who's armed, presumably as strong and fast as her, and has trained specifically for this fight. And she demolishes Gigi in seconds and makes it look easy. Of course, being angry helps... Is Buffy more furious about Gigi killing "innocent girls" or "other Slayers", though? The answer could be significant. Also, for all her doubts about killing other humans moments earlier, she certainly looks ready enough to kill Gigi here - although we don't know if she'd have gone through with it if Faith hadn't intervened.
Trivia note: Gigi is left handed. She's holding the sword in her left hand, and when she takes a two-handed grip, her left hand is above the right. Buffy's two-handed grip is the other way around. Also, I checked the previous issue, and now noticed that when Faith and Gigi are on the balcony smoking, Faith holds her cigarette in her right hand, Gigi holds hers in her left.
Another note - notice that as Buffy brandishes the sword over Gigi, Roden is in the background casting a spell. We don't know what it would have done... but it's not impossible that when Faith pushes Buffy through the window, she's not only saving Gigi's life, but also Buffy's. Probably not by design, though.
Now that we're privileged to hear Faith's internal monologue, we also learn as she plummets to the ground that she knows there's a pool there, and is hoping desperately that it'll be deep water. Which sheds new light on the similar diving-through-a-window scene in 'Salvage', where I now suspect she may have had similar thoughts. Also, this isn't the first time Buffy and Faith have crashed through a window together during a big fight.
Interesting that the cover of this issue is quite literal this time. The idea that Buffy and Faith would end up fighting because Buffy assumes Faith's turned evil again isn't exactly a surprise, although the specific way it's done is still interesting. Buffy, of course, was wary and suspicious of Faith all through their time together in season 7; she was grudgingly willing to accept Faith's assurances that she fought for the good guys again now, and they had a brief moment of connection and truthfulness; but I'm not one of those who think that as a result of that all was forgiven and they were suddenly best friends again. Buffy is leaping to conclusions here, of course, and she'd probably admit herself later that she was wrong to do so - indeed, by the end of the scene she's having a fairly civil (if brief) conversation with Faith. Still, when someone just tried to kill you and Faith is apparently on her side, it's an easy conclusion to jump to (Or take a tiny step to). It's also apparent that Giles hasn't told Buffy anything about this mission. Hmm.
If Faith's undercover, she probably shouldn't shout that fact out at the top of her voice during the fight. Just sayin'.
Also, is Faith really on Buffy's team? Or does she play for the other team? (Sorry...)
It's interesting that the thing that gets Faith really mad is the idea that Giles never trusted her. Which I don't think is true, of course - these are Buffy's own issues surfacing here. The implication is that Buffy is herself feeling just a little betrayed by the idea Giles sent Faith on a mission without telling her about it. Maybe she's jealous on a personal level - and maybe she's angry that Giles is acting like a loose cannon when she's supposed to be the one in charge. Her final words of this issue - "Get me Giles" - are ominous.
Remember what I said about what a skilled fighter Buffy is, and how she beat Gigi so easily? This fight, Faith wins. I think it's actually the first time Faith has won a fight against Buffy... and she would have killed her if she'd not had second thoughts. Her internal monologue is incredible to read... "never forget how deep she cut you" indeed - and equally fascinating is her reaction to it. "Shut up. Please shut up. I wish you'd just go away." Pretty sure she's talking to herself here, or to the voice in her head. The same voice that in Part 1 called her "a worthless whore". I'm not sure if we're meant to believe that Faith is actually schizophrenic and the voice she hears is literal - the possibility that she's genuinely mentally ill has been referred to often enough through the series - or if it's just a symbolic representation of her self-loathing, anger and guilt. Either way, major kudos to her for refusing to listen and letting Buffy up from under the water.
And then a black-eyed and dangerous looking Willow brings Buffy back, as the assembled Slayers look worried and distressed. It's amusing to hear that Buffy's astral signature is apparently almost indistinguishable from that of a Norwegian truck driver or a pair of marmosets. :-) (And I wonder if the marmosets will appear in later episodes? Or how long it will be before somebody writes fic about their adventures?)
And then the final scene. Poor abandoned lost Faith... and poor heartbroken betrayed Gigi about to kill her. I assume that's supposed to be a mixture of tears and smeared mascara around her eyes, unless she's actually weeping blood or something due to a magic spell Roden cast on her (compare 'Destiny' in Angel S5). Either way, I really want to know what happens next and don't want to wait another month to find out...