StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

(Review) BtVS 8.10 'Anywhere But Here'

So: was I the only person who looked at the cover of 'Anywhere But Here' and started singing to myself, in a painfully high-pitched voice,
We're walking in the air,
We're floating in the moonlit sky.
The people far below
               are sleeping as we fly. 

Oh, so it was just me then...
(It's possible that if you're not British, you won't understand that reference. In which case, rejoice.)

Speaking of rejoicing, hear that clicking sound? It's all the pieces of the jigsaw falling into place as we finally learn:
  • Why Dawn is a giant, and why she was so reluctant to talk about it.
  • What happened to Willow during the time she was away, and why she was so reluctant to talk about it.
  • Where all the money comes from, and why Buffy was so reluctant to talk about it.
  • What Twilight's secret plan really is.
Of course, the answers raise even more questions, as all good answers should... 

Anyway, this episode begins, coincidentally enough, the same way as the first one-shot in season 8, 'The Chain': with the words "Buffy Summers". Although this time, we're getting an input into Buffy's rich sexual fantasy life. With more proof - if it were needed - that she's thoroughly straight. Also note that even in her dreams she's reading books about vampires - and specifically, one about a sexy, bad-boy male vampire who was born in Europe over a hundred years ago. 

If Season 8 is really set in autumn 2004, then Buffy presumably knows of Daniel Craig from his parts in 'Tomb Raider', 'Road to Perdition' and 'Layer Cake'. The fact that in her fantasy he's even wearing the same swimming trunks he will be wearing in a scene in the 2006 film 'Casino Royale' is clearly a coincidence - or perhaps it's due to the timewarping effect of the demon Buffy will meet later this issue, giving her insights into the future...

It's been said before, but I like the double entendre of Willow's reaction to Buffy's fantasy:
"You don't like Daniel Craig?"
"No, he's got a thing."

We know from 'Him' that Willow is willing to work around the possession of a thing if she has to, but she'd rather not... 

In fact, I loved the banter between Willow and Buffy full stop. (As you might guess if you've read my fanfic). Willow seems to be taking such simple joy in her new ability to fly, and Buffy's ill-concealed terror is adorable. Though I notice that later on she overcomes it enough to sit cross-legged on Willow's back without holding on at all... 

Willow's own 'anywhere but here' fantasy was probably a big disappointment to those people who, on the strength of her agreement that Daniel Craig 'has a thing' in the preview, decided that she'd clearly gone back to Boys' Town and is destined to reunite with Oz any day now. Oh well. I did have to look up who "television's Tina Fey' was (head writer for 'Saturday Night Live', creator and star of '30 Rock') but she's definitely female. And ten years older than Willow. And they have hot cocoa together. :-) 

And the first hint of awkwardness as Buffy tries to push about Kennedy, and Willow avoids the subject. We saw way back in 'The Long Way Home' that Buffy wasn't even sure if Willow and Kennedy were still together, and Willow was quite evasive then. Here we get the first confirmation that they're still definitely a couple, but Willow isn't answering any of Buffy's other questions. I wonder if the rough landing she gave Buffy was accidental, or because she was annoyed at the line of questioning? Or upset and losing her concentration? 

Sephrilian's lair is bigger on the inside than on the outside. Fortunately, it's not in the shape of a blue police box from the 1960s. And the introduction of Robin Balzer is nicely done, I thought... I did wonder how Joss would handle a character who in real life is schizophrenic, and this way seemed to work for me well enough - but I'd be interested to hear reactions from people who might have experience with the illness in real life. Incidentally, Robin's role in life seems similar to that of Drogyn; guarding a dangerous flaw in reality. Hopefully Robin will not end up the same way Drogyn did, though... 

So Giles and Buffy are still working on the same side: he helped them with information on this mission. Although it seems Buffy didn't pay much attention to his briefing - which is par for the course for her anyway, but may have been because she didn't want to spend a moment longer in his company than she had to. 

I wonder if the reference to 'rescuing the prince' and 'it follows you' will mean anything? For some reason I thought of Ethan as the prince needing rescuing, but it could be anyone, or no-one. 

And I liked Buffy thinking of a better witty comeback after the event, and deciding to use it if she gets caught in a timeloop - something, of course, she has personal experience of. And she still sucks at French. Mind you, so does Willow, since that phrase should have been "esprit de l'escalier", not "esprit d'escolier"... (Willow is an all-round genius, of course, but science rather than languages was always her strong suite). Still, "spirit of the staircase" is an appropriate expression considering where they are. 

In fact, this sequence is laden with references. Buffy not understanding Willow because she's speaking French is a call-back to Xander's dream in 'Restless'; Willow referencing Buffy's fear of the dark is a reference to Buffy's dream in 'The Long Way Home'. I'm not sure that Buffy has ever shown fear of the dark before - she spends enough time in midnight graveyards, after all - but I sense metaphor here. Also, the only previous occasion I can remember Willow calling anyone 'cutie' is when she was Evil and threatening Dawn, which may or may not be significant now. Still, she tells Buffy she's got her back here... which may be ironic in the light of coming revelations, but I think Willow really means it. 

Buffy clearly hasn't had a heart-to-heart with Faith since 'No Future For You', and is still thinking that she tried to kill her. (Which she did, of course, but there were circumstances). And Faith's name is the one thing Willow picked out of Buffy's ramble to agree with her on... 

I've not been talking about the intercut Dawn-Xander scenes, because there's not a lot to say so far: they're cute and funny, especially Xander's reaction to falling into Dawn's underwear (and her own tolerant amusement at his reaction). For what it's worth, the vibe I'm getting from them is definitely big brother/little sister. Of course, things are about to get a little more serious here soon, with Xander's discovery of a (framed!) photo of Dawn with Kenny. 

Oh, and apparently Buffy is a fan of Christian Bale as well as Daniel Craig. The films she references came out in 1994 and 2002 respectively, so our timeline remains happily intact. :-) Notice that Buffy seems to have a thing for threesomes, hmm? (Even if it's with two copies of the same guy). 

And more awkwardness over Kennedy and Willow. I did think it was interesting that Buffy says 'I like Kennedy, you know". They had their rough moments and outright confrontations in Season 7 - but I also remember that when Buffy was desperately trying to push Willow, Spike, and all the Potentials into doing something - anything! - for themselves instead of putting all the burden on her, Kennedy was the one person who was taking the initiative, pushing back, and trying to get things done herself. While that could make her difficult to be around sometimes, I suspect Buffy was also grateful that there was one person she didn't need to light a fire under... 

Buffy being happy to be rescued from an awkward conversation by the attack by a huge scary demon is so typical of her. Sephrilian is "one of the demon elite" - I wonder if that makes him a true demon, like the Mayor? - and the TV screen like thing with his faces is an interestingly bizarre touch. And then we get exposition. It's already been hinted at, but this confirms it: Twilight is about a war between demons and humans which will end with the closing of the hellmouths (plural, you notice), the final triumph of humans, and the death of magic. Just like in Fray. 

Of course, the idea of the 'death of magic' is not something Willow is happy about at all. And notice how the demon says that the destruction of everything Willow believes makes her special is Buffy's life's goal? Whoa. If we were looking for a reason for Buffy and Willow to end up on opposite sides, there we have it. Personally I suspect it's a red herring rather than foreshadowing, but the rest of the issue certainly milks the idea for all it's worth. 

And now we learn why Dawn's a giant. It's because she is, to quote her sister in 'Welcome to the Hellmouth', "an enormous slut". :-) Or at least she thinks she is, which is why she doesn't blame Kenny for taking his revenge on her this way: she thinks she deserved everything that was coming to her. And then we cut back to Buffy on the word "Lies". That seems to be the theme of this issue, doesn't it? 

The reference to the human brain being incapable of comprehending the totality of the universe is very Lovecraftian. So's the demon, for that matter. 

And now we learn how Buffy paid for the castle, the radar systems, the helicopters... hee! Back in the day, I wrote a story about Willow acquiring the funding for the Slayer Army by robbing a Swiss bank - because I thought she had the flexible morality and the means to do that. But in a typical Jossian twist, it's Buffy the righteous who actually turned to crime for a supposedly good end. And Willow who immediately sees why this is not a good thing for her to have done - thus completing the reversal that began with their conversation on the morality of killing humans back in 'No Future For You'. So Team Slayer is not being secretly funded by Twilight or Wolfram & Hart after all... but instead they've been doing exactly what General Voll accused them of. Oh, Buffy... 

Trivia: the Slayers looting the vault include Leah and Satsu, and I think the one nearest the door is Renee. I can't see Rowena there, but she might be off-camera. (So Buffy has also implicated her followers in her crime). Buffy is still easily distracted by shiny objects - and the diamond looks similar to the one the Trio stole from the Sunnydale Museum. (Is she turning into the new Warren?) And her comment that it's a victimless crime because the bank is insured reminded me of the Stainless Steel Rat, who also uses that excuse, though this may not be a deliberate reference. 

Oh, and Buffy's glee at seeing "a you bad thing" is cute... as is her shock (and envy) when she realises what Willow has been up to. I assume this is a scene from Willow's "six month mystical walkabout", and suspect that Kennedy might not be too happy if she knew Willow has, we assume, been having sex with giant female demonic snakes in return for knowledge.

And for some reason I now feel the need to quote this: "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3 iv-v)

Also, yay for gratuitous nudity! (I'm not hypocritical, I'm invoking the Cute Jewish Wiccan Redhead exception clause). And now both Buffy and Willow have slept with demons. :-)

Back to Dawn's dirty little secret... spot a theme here?... and Xander at his most understanding and mature. I loved "And for the big money... did he in any way play in a band?" and "You are hereby found guilty of being a cliché." Also, interesting that Dawn never knew about Parker; though perhaps it's not surprising that Buffy would never want to share that little episode with her sister... (or that the monks would choose not to construct a memory of her sharing that episode... but you know what I mean). 

I'm not sure what happened in that last Dawn-Xander panel. It looked as if Dawn suddenly saw something outside the window, but we're not told what. I wonder if finally telling the truth about what happened has some effect on the spell? Hypothetically, Kenny could have worked the magic so the only way to break it would be for Dawn to admit to somebody else what she did... though I suspect Dawn needs to remain giant-sized for a while longer to suit the story arc. 

I wonder what the broken red egg thing is? Willow implies that this is a vision of the future ("has this happened yet?") so it could well turn out to be really important. Plus a scratched-up Buffy crying her eyes out because she's been betrayed by "the closest, the most unexpected." Uh-oh. I don't think there's much point speculating on who it's going to be until we have more information - although my first thought is to wonder if Xander knows where Buffy got the money for the castle from, and if he approves? 

And now we get our first sight of Kennedy in season 8, and the reveal as to why Willow's avoided talking about her. (I didn't immediately recognise Kennedy, but the large picture is a spot-on likeness of Iyari). The two of them seem to have a very nice apartment in the heart of a major modern city - I wonder how they afford it? Did Kennedy's parents buy it for their daughter? Also, it would be a nice touch if the city in question were either Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro, just so that Andrew wasn't totally lying in 'Damage', but I don't recognise any of the buildings. 

I suspect this scene will generate vast quantities of hate, but as a fan of the Willow/Kennedy relationship, I'm pleased that they're still in love - I'd say 'happy and in love', but that's not entirely appropriate to this scene... still, the fact that Kennedy is utterly devoted to Willow ("You know I'd die for you... oh wait-- I did!") fits what we saw in season 7. Also, nice that Kennedy is apparently not threatened by Tara, but her first instinct is to comfort Willow. As for Willow, she's still being secretive in her relationships - like I said, I'm not sure she's ever told Kennedy about the hot girl-on-demonic-snake action she's been having - and keeping her girlfriend away from Buffy, just like she did with Tara back in season 4 (except that Ken is, predictably, not quite so complaisant in this). But feeling guilty about it, and doing it for what she sees as her own good. Fortunately, though, Willow is now mature enough to talk to her lover about this sort of thing instead of hiding it forever or casting 'forget' spells... 

Also: yay! to the follow-up on Willow's encounter with Warren in 'The Long Way Home'. I'm glad there were consequences to that, and even happier that they're not the predictable ones. Willow still hates Warren, clearly - in fact, she now enters the ranks of "Buffyverse characters who swear for real" alongside Faith and Dawn: but given Willow's basic niceness, it must take strong emotions indeed for her to refer to someone as "Warren fucking Mears". (Oh, and we now have canon confirmation of how to spell his last name!) If she's feeling guilty, it's not because she killed him, but because she's remembered that she was responsible for him being a threat in the first place. 

The fact that the Scoobies were unable to move on after Buffy's death in 'The Gift' is a commonplace, but it's still powerful to see Willow admit it and lay it out so clearly here. That she and Tara could have adopted Dawn - notice the payout here on "Willow's like a mom to me"? - moved away from Sunnydale, lived a normal life. But instead she chose to resurrect Buffy, start up the misery and violence again, and set in motion the train of events that led to Warren killing Tara. I don't think Willow blames Buffy for Tara's death - she blames herself (and Warren, obviously); but that's why she's reluctant to go near Buffy. She associates her company with the deaths of people she loves. 

And of course she feels guilty about that, and gets avoidy when Buffy presses her about it. She also feels guilty about valuing Buffy over Tara, and doesn't want to do the same with Kennedy. And that's no surprise to me at least - Willow has always been All About Buffy, ever since she met her. Not sexually (well, not entirely :-)) but because Buffy and fighting evil gave her life the meaning it lacked; made her special. 

Incidentally, I'd argue that Willow is being too hard on herself here: settling down to domestic bliss with a wife, daughter and white picket fence might have been tempting, but it would also have meant giving up the fight against evil. Although granted, since Willow herself was the cause of the apocalypses in both seasons 6 and 7, it might have not been such a bad thing if she had retired... :-) But it wasn't only selfish motives that impelled her to bring back Buffy. 

I wonder if this is the first time that Willow has talked to Buffy honestly about ressurrecting her and bringing her out of heaven? The intercut nature of this scene is a little tricky to follow, but I'm assuming that Willow had this conversation with Kennedy at some point after 'The Long Way Home', during which time she must have teleported back from the castle in Scotland to wherever Kennedy lives. And now the demon is replaying it for Buffy, and Willow is commenting on it. 

And once again, Buffy takes refuge from emotional pain in violence. The demon makes a fatal mistake in telling her that it's not going to be on her side in the coming war, just when Buffy is aching for some Slayer comfort food.... and I liked its misunderstanding of her 'Hail Mary' comment. 

What's exceptionally significant is that even though Buffy and Willow have just been through a really uncomfortable moment, when it comes to the fight they work together in perfect synchonisation. Buffy does the kind of wire-fu stunt that on TV only 'Angel' had the SFX budget for, and raises her arms to swing at the precise moment that Willow's magic invokes a weapon into her hands. Just like she did in 'The Long Way Home', incidentally. Despite the current rift between them, Buffy and Willow still trust each other implicitly when it comes down to the wire. Scratch one snake-like True Demon, and this time they didn't even need a school full of explosives to kill it. 

And now Robin does a really impressive bit of magic of her own, even enough to impress Willow. I hope "the field's stable now, you guys bought me some time off" is prophetic. 

And Buffy and Willow walk off into the setting sun - Twilight - heads bowed, not talking, and as far apart as possible. I wonder if Buffy has really accepted what she's learned - her comment "It was demons. Playing games." and the close-up of Willow's dubious expression makes me wonder if Buffy is going to go into denial about the revelations, and Willow is deeply worried about this. 

Powerful stuff. And now we're one quarter of the way through the arc... 

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