*Is out of breath from reading that*. A hell of a lot happens in 8.16. I think the word is 'rocketship'...
The opening sequence is a classic, in that it mirrors the opening of the original Fray - although it's curious that the words aren't identical:
FRAY #1: Bad day. Started bad, stayed that way.
BUFFY #16: Bad day. Started out bad, stayed that way.
Also, getting thrown off the top of tall buildings is definitely an occupational hazard for Slayers these days. Although in 'Fray', Mel actually survived the fall...
The scene of the Scoobie gang sitting around eating Chinese takeaway should warm the hearts of people complaining about the lack of ordinary scenes of everyday life in this season. Does this mean that the castle is close enough to civilisation for a takeaway to actually deliver, though? Or did they take the helicopter to collect it? I did like Willow's muttered comment about the best Chinese food possibly coming from China itself.
Look who's all embarrassed about her relationship with Saga Vasuki. :-) Interesting that Buffy immediately assumed that's who sent the message, purely based on being shown her with Willow in the vision in issue 10 - and, possibly, seeing Willow's embarrassment now and putting two and two together. Xander's reaction is classic vintage Xander, while it seems that Buffy has willingly embraced her bi-curious side if she's actually describing Saga Vasuki as 'really hot'. Looks like my guess was right that SV sent Willow a vision about the Scythe, New York and a possible apocalypse, and Willow is going there to investigate. It's also implied that SV is being helpful - possibly for reasons of her own, granted, but there's no indication yet that this is all an evil plot or a trap. Willow apparently trusts her.
Nice character moment with the various reactions to Renee's death.
And then there was Dawn - or as we need to call her now, My Little Dawnie. By rights all the people who were complaining about her being a giant and demanding that Joss "turn her back to normal size" should be pleased now, but somehow I suspect they won't be. The pun on yay/neigh was groanworthy. Also, sidebar, note that Willow travels the fastest (by flying), Buffy runs really quickly, and normal human Xander puffs up a long way behind.
Next: oh my god. Amy and Warren actually make an appearance again, after I thought they'd been forgotten about. They've also moved up to working directly for Twilight, it seems - wonder what happened to General Voll? Anyway, what I assume they've created here is a big missile covered in enchantments that will allow it to break through the mystical wards protecting Castle Slayer.
So who's Buffy's mysterious phonecall and meeting with? Also, I see that neither Buffy nor Xander are able to resist making horse jokes at Dawn's expense. Willow's also still making sarcastic comments about Buffy's new life of crime - although she admits she's only teasing: and I suspect she's more upset that Buffy lied to her about the source of funding rather than the actual robbery itself. Speaking of which, is it a coincidence that what Kennedy calls Buffy in the next scene - the boss of bosses - is the term for a Mafia family leader?
Yay! Kennedy! Her reunion with Willow was impossibly cute and perfectly in character. Buffy's childlike enthusiasm at being in New York (and in a limo) was equally adorable, not to mention Willow's long-suffering reaction to it. Anya's comment in Season 4 about loading Buffy up like a little pack mule because she has Slayer strength wasn't appreciated at the time, but it seems that when she's carrying outfits and shoes for herself to wear, Buffy has no problems doing just that. And yes, she really does have more to wear than just combat fatigues... Speaking of bags, I assume that's Willow's bag that Kennedy is carrying. Nice detail by the artist.
Interesting that Willow calls Vi 'Violet' here: maybe now she's leader of her own squad of Slayers and has apparently ditched the silly hats, she's also decided to go by her full name. She certainly seems sure of herself and a capable commander. Apparently also, Kennedy is in command of her own independent Slayer squad and isn't permanently based in New York, if Willow's comment about "sending an advance team" is taken at face value. She seems familiar enough with the place though - and her family's summer home when she was a child was on Long Island, so presumably she's been there a lot. Willow too, by the sound of it.
Seems that Buffy isn't the only person to be hero-worshipped by the other Slayers, going by the whispered comment "Can you even believe she's standing right here?" about Willow. I wonder if the symbol she draws on the whiteboard is going to be significant somehow? And Willow is still strict when she's in teacher mode.
Speaking of the other Slayers hero-worshipping Buffy: well, not Kennedy. Kennedy threatens to kill her like a chicken if she makes a move on Willow. :-) Hot-tempered, possessive and completely unafraid to speak her mind; she hasn't changed a bit. I'm not sure how Kennedy ever got the idea that Buffy was homophobic, but I'm going to guess it's because Willow spent all that time trying to keep them separate (as we learned in 8.10). Kennedy may have assumed it was because Buffy would react badly to their relationship, not because Willow was scared hanging around Buffy would get Kennedy killed.
A few people have commented on there being lots of coat-trailing about a possible Buffy/Willow relationship - just as they were flirting with Buffy/Xander earlier in the season. Which makes me think she'll end up with neither of them in the end... I'm not really seeing it, although the possibility is there. We've established that Buffy is mostly straight but at least capable of feeling some sexual attraction to the same gender; and from Willow's side, she seems to be equal parts fascinated and dumbfounded by this development. I don't believe for a second that Buffy isn't on her 'list', but she's always believed her friend was the straightest straight person in Straightonia, so there was no point thinking about it. (Except, y'know, now and then when she's alone.) Besides, it's obvious Willow is in love with Kennedy, even if she's not necessarily completely faithful to her. (Willow has always been good at compartmentalising her life and justifying her actions to herself).
Buffy, though, is completely taken aback when the possibility of her and Willow hooking up together is raised. She didn't even realise what Willow was talking about at first when she made her comment about experimentation in 8.15. And here, I'm almost certain that her "my Will" comment simply meant "My best friend I've known for nine years and gone through all sorts of things with" - because she seems so confused and bewildered at Kennedy's jealous reaction. I don't think even the possibility, let alone the idea of "putting the moves on Red" has ever crossed her mind until Kennedy warned her not to.
It would be ironic if now that the suggestion is out there, Buffy *does* start thinking about it...
Back to Dawn, and the logical idea that Thricewise magic will mean three transformations before she returns to normal. Lets hope it's not three to the power three - and I wonder what the next will be? A mermaid? I'd actually been thinking about the 'huge ass' element of the transformations, so it's nice to see Dawn herself spell it out here. Maybe that is actually the heart of Kenny's plan... And Xander uses the 'w' word in Dawn's hearing. Oops. Still, it probably saved her life.
On which note.. all those people who were fed up with the castle and wishing it weren't there anymore? Looks like you got your desire. (Although some of us were expecting that to happen at the end of the last arc, not the start of this one...) I assume about a hundred Slayers just got killed as well, possibly including Leah and Rowena. And did you notice what time of day the missile was fired at? Twilight.
And back to the unsuspecting people in New York. Willow's still keeping secrets from Kennedy - what are the odds there'll be trouble here before the end of the arc? All this talk of temporal rifts makes me wonder when Captain Jack will turn up... And we're left with an even bigger mystery. Who on earth did Buffy spend several hours with all dressed up like that? The obvious conclusion is "date" but I think it might actually be "business meeting." But we'll see. Possibly not for another 20 episodes, but we'll see.
"But I can change" and Kennedy's reaction was très amusant. She thinks quickly and decisively too - I assume 'contain' rather than 'kill' in case the demon is needed alive to get Buffy back, though that may be over-thinking it.
And we get the explanation for why Buffy is fighting Melaka Fray: Buffy and the demon swapped places, and Mel was fighting the demon, and assumed it just changed its shape into Buffy. Whom she recognises, incidentally, obviously from the historical Watchers' diaries she found in 'Tales of the Slayers'..
Translation, just in case anyone needs it:
This is toy! You think you can spin me with a half-coi glam of a Slayer been dust more than two cen? You're lower than a lurk.
This is stupid! You think you can fool me with a cheap illusion of a Slayer who's been dead for more than two centuries? You're more contemptible than a vampire.
Oh, and if anyone is interested I wrote a Guide to 'Fray' back in March, that can explain who she is and where Buffy's gone to, if you've not read the original comic.