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StephenT [userpic]

(Review) BtVS 8.22 'Swell'

5th February 2009 (20:39)

'Swell' is in many ways a classic monster of the week episode of 'Buffy'. There's an 'A' plot and a 'B' plot: a threat that needs to be first researched and then defeated, while the characters resolve their personal issues. There's also plenty of symbolism and thematic elements which relate to the overall season arc and move it forward. Not bad for an issue of the comic which concentrates, for once, on two of the minor characters of the Buffyverse and shows us what life's like from their point of view instead of always focussing on the main heroes.


 

If I have a complaint, it's that this was very much Satsu's issue; Kennedy wasn't precisely a nonentity, but she was pretty much there solely to act as a foil for Satsu's character development. None of her own issues - such as the status of her relationship with Willow and the Saga Vasuki question - got addressed. Which could, of course, mean that actually there is no problem and her relationship with Willow is perfectly fine. :-) But we don't learn much more about her than we did before, and I think that's a shame.

The opening teaser confirms one thing to us - Satsu does speak Japanese. (This was, you may recall, a subject of some debate earlier in the season). However, her translation of the man's words isn't exact. According to swanjun on Whedonesque, he does indeed say "Wah! A monster!" but there's no swearing - Satsu adds that herself. And she doesn't translate his last sentence: "Dareka tasukete!' means "Somebody help!". Of course, it could be that we're only seeing the last part of his speech. The woman she's talking to is, I assume, Malita - the same wavy-haired Slayer who's later shown twice looking things up on computers. She evidently is not Japanese herself as she doesn't speak the language, so the Tokyo squad is clearly multi-national just like the Scotland one.

Satsu is shown here as a decisive leader who can think on her feet and come up with effective tactics - steering the monster towards the river and away from the crowds. She's also clearly enthusiastic about fighting. I've seen her being criticised for not stopping to help the man trapped in the armoured car, and you could argue that this is another example of Slayers not caring about ordinary folk. On the other hand, stopping the monster rampaging through downtown Tokyo is probably slightly more urgent, the man is in no immediate danger, and it's not as if there isn't a crowd of people gathered around who could help him. People who, incidentally, show no sign of panic at the idea of a monster on the loose. The citizens of downtown Tokyo are presumably used to that sort of thing.

Satsu's sword has a very reflective blade, doesn't it? This is the second time we've seen someone's expression reflected in it. (8.04 before.)

It puzzled me at first, but the pink voice-over boxes ("Oh crap...") are presumably the demon itself talking. As we later learn, it was paid to steal the prototype Vampy Cat from the armoured car we saw in the first scene, with the intention of luring the Slayers into chasing it to recapture the cat - but it didn't anticipate getting one of its arms chopped off in the process.

Kennedy "just dropping in" by parasail is a little over the top and campy, but it's the kind of humour I appreciate - though I'm sure the feeling isn't universal. It's not the only such moment this episode, either. Presumably there's an aircraft or helicopter that dropped her off. Incidentally, in a nice touch of continuity, the gun she's holding is drawn identically to the one Buffy used to zap the forcefield in 8.01. It clearly also works as a taser, stunning demons with a blast of electricity (not unlike the Initiative's weaponry). Satsu and Kennedy simultaneously kicking the demon once it revives, and its puzzled "...Grrrrr...Grr?" was amusing too.

Now we get to the 'B' plot, and things get interesting. The reference to the 'Korean incident' is left vague here, although it will pay off pretty well at the end of the episode. Satsu's line about Buffy "reviewing her ass" was funny: it shows that she's sarcastic and quick-thinking but also, perhaps, trading on her sexual relationship with the big boss rather more than she should be. The affair is clearly common knowledge among all the Slayers; as Kennedy says, "Yeah, yeah, everybody knows the story." There's clearly an active gossip hotline where Buffy is concerned.

Then there's Satsu's angry remark about Buffy sending "the other lesbian Slayer" to check up on her. From a practical perspective, I doubt that only two out of those 500 women are gay... although this comment does at least put to rest the tongue-in-cheek suggestion some people have made that the Slayer Empowerment Spell turned all the Potentials into lesbians as well as into Slayers. :-)

More to the point, however, Satsu's comment hangs a lantern on a rather significant issue. To be frank, I'm pretty sure that Joss and Steven S de Knight did choose Kennedy as the other character for this issue because she's the other prominent lesbian who is also a Slayer. However, the very fact that they were able to do that says something about the show itself. Generally, if there's a gay character in a story and another gay character appears, it's taken for granted that they'll pair up... that that's the only reason why Gay Character #2 was written into the show at all. But 'Buffy' has clearly now achieved a Sapphic critical mass, where the writers have enough lesbian characters with their own roles and backstories as unique individuals, that they can put two of them together for an entire episode without the expectation that they'll end the story in bed together (or arguing jealously, or dead).

Of course, there certainly was plenty of speculation even so when 'Swell' was announced that either Kennedy or Satsu or both would wind up dead, or they'd pair off together. I'm very pleased that nothing of the sort happened. And Willow/Kennedy are still an item. :-)

Anyway, on with the plot. If you've not seen it, there's a short story about the Vampy Cats on Dark Horse's website; they're being marketed as cute and cuddly vampires for children that will protect their owners by, um, disembowelling anyone who's mean to them. The 'Santorio Corporation' that makes them is a parody of the Sanrio Corporation that makes Hello Kitty dolls.  Meanwhile, our poor demon Gunyarr from the opening scene is being betrayed and killed by a shadowy form which we'll see more clearly later. You have to feel sorry for the guy. After all, he's 'armless.

At night, Vampy Cat comes to life. Given the red eyes and fangs I thought he was going to kill Satsu, and when she appeared in the next scene I was confused - thinking perhaps she'd been turned into a vampire herself... although the sunlight pouring in through the open walls would, with hindsight, make that unlikely. Is that Kennedy talking to Ayumi while Satsu is asleep, incidentally? Or just one of the other Slayers?  Also, note that Satsu now has an Easter Island moai to hang her jewellery on. I'm not positive, but I think that's probably a newspaper clipping with a picture of Buffy she's got stuck on the wall next to it.

Satsu in her kimono (or furisode, I suppose, if you want to be accurate) was quite puzzling until I worked out what was going on. Incidentally, she says here that her parents bought it for her, but later on once she recovers she asks "What the hell am I wearing?" I'm going to assume she's shocked that she unpacked it and put it on, since she wouldn't normally be seen dead in it, rather than that she literally has never seen it before. She must have got it from somewhere, after all. Also, if we assume she's telling the truth, we can also assume that she's not lying when she says her parents reacted really badly to discovering she was gay. That also implies that she was still living with her parents at the time, rather than with a Watcher, so she was probably one of the Undiscovered Potentials.

She's holding a map of Scotland, and we soon learn she's used it to point out where Buffy's new base is. The map shows dots at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee (slightly off-position) and Aberdeen, but also four other dots - two in the Cairngorms, one near the Isle of Skye and one in Caithness - and presumably one of these is Slayer HQ. (And another might be the Big Ruined Ex-Castle).

Now we have Stepford Satsu going into her misogynistic and homophobic rant about Slayers. I assume this is actually the Vampy Cat inspiring her words; though we have to wonder if this is their own thoughts - or if Twilight programmed them this way, and we're learning his true opinions. Or possibly, he was hoping for a few possessed Slayers to go on TV and make similar speeches to Satsu's, but in public, to discredit them?

What is really interesting is that many of Possessed!Satsu's criticisms of the Slayers are, in fact, things that many of the fans have been raising as problems about them:

"I mean, why are Slayers so aggro? With the hacking and the chopping and the staking! We should be ashamed of ourselves, bringing so much misery into the world! We're nothing but a bunch of self-righteous little ovaries! We march around playing soldier, deciding who's evil and who's not. We're the evil ones! And we're going to get what we deserve!"

Well, the argument is now out there on the page; but given the context, I think the messenger was specifically chosen to discredit it in our eyes. After all, Satsu is basically saying that it's not up to a bunch of women to make important decisions about good and evil or to take action to change the world, when they ought to be staying at home and making babies. I've never heard 'ovaries' used as an insult for women before, but given the context I suspect deKnight used it because he knew he wouldn't be able to get away with writing 'cunts', which is what he probably meant Satsu to be saying here.

Sadly, there were probably a few people in the readership who cheered when Kennedy got punched across the room - though probably not as many as would have done if it happened in Season 7. But she gets her revenge on Satsu; we get yet another scene of a Slayer throwing up on the floor (Satsu and Buffy have something else in common now) and the true nature of the Vampy Cat is revealed in all its really, really gross glory.

Oh, and Satsu's Slayer instincts have absolutely nothing wrong with them if she managed to grab that sword from somewhere or other and cut the kitty attacking Kennedy in half before even noticing her clothing.

Back in my review of 8.01 I wondered if the Slayers flew their helicopters themselves or if they hired pilots. Looks like the answer is (a) - or if they have hired pilots, they're by pure coincidence all young women in the same age-group as the Slayers. :-) Given their supernatural hand-eye coordination and lightning-fast reflexes I'm sure Slayers make excellent pilots, although I'm not sure I'd trust Buffy specifically behind the control stick...  

It wasn't clear at first, but when Satsu groans "Oh, my stomach" it must be because the pilot just put the helicopter through some aerobatics that made her nauseous again... because it's the pilot who apologises. Minor point - Kennedy is in normal clothing, but the other Slayers are all in their combat armour. And Satsu's armour appears standard; none of the teddy bear heads or other extreme customisation of old (though her bright pink fingerless gloves aren't regulation). I'm thinking that post-Buffy and as a squad leader now, she has less need to assert her unique snowflake status quite so much?

The dead sarariman in the Santorio offices looks like the one who arranged for the death of Gunyarr the demon, so presumably he was simply possessed then rather than being in on the plot - and once drained dry he was abandoned. Notice that Kennedy's reaction to the news of the ship heading for Scotland is "They're going after home base!" and Satsu's is "They're going after Buffy!" Still her #1 priority...

The name of the ship - Daikaijū - means "Great Big Monster" in Japanese. This is clearly foreshadowing...  This time Kennedy has changed into proper armour - and "What's Plan B?" "Same as Plan A. You die." is some classic Buffyverse bad guy dialogue.

We get a second mention of ovaries, showing that the first wasn't accidental; these Vampy Cats are clearly obsessed with the things. And there's a disturbing rape metaphor in the attack, as the monster tries to climb into Kennedy's mouth with its friends shouting "Get in her--" (last word cut off, twice.) The idea that the people opposed to the Slayers - or at least these particular people - are motivated by misogyny seems to be laid on with a trowel by deKnight.

The multiple small monsters combining into one huge one is a classic staple of Japanese anime. The really cheesy dialogue may also be, although it's also a Buffyverse standard as well.

And my laugh out loud moment of the episode was when Satsu tosses the flare into the sky, and we discover the Slayers not only have an Army, but a Navy too. A Navy with attack submarines. :-) It's ridiculous in its way, but it's actually explained pretty well as Satsu gives us the pay-off on the 'Korean incident' line from the start of the episode. Incidentally, I assume it's North Korea she's talking about, since the international repercussions of stealing one of their subs would be rather less than taking one from a US ally. For the record, a Sang-O class diesel/electric submarine is armed with two torpedo tubes and has a crew of 15. How Satsu trained her Slayers to use it and where they keep it is left as an exercise for the reader. (Though I do wonder if the Japanese government is complicit - the squad run by Aiko and now Satsu does seem to operate more openly than the ones elsewhere in the world, and of course Japan has a long history of having to fight huge monsters...)

The idea that Kennedy puts smiley faces on favourable evaluations is a cute touch - striking a nice balance between the Slayer Army as a hierarchical organisation and a loose, informal activist network. :-)

And back to the season arc. I laughed again at Xander's "Big buts come with the Slayer territory" and his immediate back-tracking when he realised what he just said. Harmony is now a national TV celebrity and 'vampire rights spokeswoman', apparently, and Satsu asks the question quite a few fans have also asked; why hasn't she been staked yet? Buffy's answer seems reasonable enough, and shows that she has been thinking carefully about a response to the new situation. However, her inspirational speech at the end does strike rather a discordant note:

"We need to stop being whatever we've been and focus. Be more than human, or the less-than is going to win."

From one angle, a fairly standard bit of motivational rhetoric: don't be content with mediocrity, strive to excel, you can be better than you are. But on the other hand, Buffy is quite literally preaching the superman, and dismissing her opponents as Untermenschen. (Or she would be if she spoke German). She's spelling out more explicitly than ever before that she believes her Slayers are better than normal people.

Season Three Faith would be saying "Preach it, sister!" right about now. I suspect Season 8 Faith would be appalled. I wonder if we're supposed to be too?

Oh, and Satsu finally decides to move on with her life and put Buffy behind her, symbolised by throwing her cinnamon lip gloss in the bin. Good for her.

Comments

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 21:31 (UTC)
buffy: b/s ; time to say goodbye

Gah, I want to read this so badly right now, you have no idea. But I can't pick up my issue until the weekend and it hasn't been put up online anywhere yet, sadly.

Of course, there certainly was plenty of speculation even so when 'Swell' was announced that either Kennedy or Satsu or both would wind up dead, or they'd pair off together.

While I could certainly never see them an actual item, I have this amusing idea in my head of Kennedy sleeping with Satsu, completely casually and maybe even somewhat hilariously, in an attempt to get Satsu to stop obsessing over her night with Buffy. I can see her being all, Well, you're cured now! I don't know; I have an odd sense of humor. :D

Sadly, there were probably a few people in the readership who cheered when Kennedy got punched across the room - though probably not as many as would have done if it happened in Season 7.

Isn't it odd how Kennedy, who was really unlikable in S7, is suddenly so much more likable in S8? I admit, I was full of Kennedy hate before S8 came along, but now I'm actually starting to like her. I still like Tara better than her (and still want Tara back, dammit), I'm beginning to appreciate her character much more. Maybe it's because she's being written better, maybe it's because we actually don't have to listen to her (xD!), I don't know.

She's spelling out more explicitly than ever before that she believes her Slayers are better than normal people.

Is it wrong that I find myself almost agreeing with Buffy here? To me, at least, Slayers always have been just slightly better than normal people, because (most) Slayers are granted all that power and they use it not for themselves, but to help others as well. And it's not a calling that they chose, but they (eventually) accept their fates and do what's best for the world. And before all of this, Slayers were virtually unknown, and so basically, they were putting their lives on the line every single day and no one appreciated it, but they didn't go seeking appreciation. It's like the girl in The Chain -- she sacrificed herself to make the world a better place and we don't even know her name. How many 'normal' people would do this?

Maybe it's just me.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 22:52 (UTC)
kennedy

it hasn't been put up online anywhere yet

Are you a memberof newly_legion?


I have this amusing idea in my head of Kennedy sleeping with Satsu, completely casually

Well to be fair, the issue does end with Satsu saying to Kennedy "Let's go shopping". So who knows what would happen when they arrive home later that evening laden down with bags?


Kennedy, who was really unlikable in S7

Hey! I liked her then too! Sure, she could be obnoxious, but she was also bubbly and enthusiastic and witty, and I think a lot of the hate is from people who are scandalised that a woman would dare to speak her mind so openly in public. Which, no.


Is it wrong that I find myself almost agreeing with Buffy here?

Well, the way you phrase it, no. Being willing to put yourself on the line for what you believe in is an entirely praiseworthy thing. (Well, usually. The SS were willing to put themselves on the line to defend Hitler, and that wasn't quite as praiseworthy.) and maybe Buffy meant it that way, but the way it came aross to me, she was saying that Slayers are simply better than humans. (And to be fair, the second part of her message was "And so we should act like it.")

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:34 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:50 (UTC)

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:31 (UTC)

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:32 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 12:52 (UTC)

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:45 (UTC)

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:37 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:24 (UTC)

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:33 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:47 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 21:50 (UTC)

Very helpful review!

**
"I mean, why are Slayers so aggro? With the hacking and the chopping and the staking! We should be ashamed of ourselves, bringing so much misery into the world! We're nothing but a bunch of self-righteous little ovaries! We march around playing soldier, deciding who's evil and who's not. We're the evil ones! And we're going to get what we deserve!"

Well, the argument is now out there on the page; but given the context, I think the messenger was specifically chosen to discredit it in our eyes. After all, Satsu is basically saying that it's not up to a bunch of women to make important decisions about good and evil or to take action to change the world, when they ought to be staying at home and making babies. I've never heard 'ovaries' used as an insult for women before, but given the context I suspect deKnight used it because he knew he wouldn't be able to get away with writing 'cunts', which is what he probably meant Satsu to be saying here.
***

This is part of what's bothering me about the raging misogyny of Swell. If you are right that giving these vile creatures this message discredits the message, there's still a problem for those of us who think that at least part of the message is right on. In particular, the slayers are running around deciding who is or isn't evil. They really are a law unto themselves. If demons are metaphors for ids pace Aycheb in her review, that's not a problem. But if they are persons, as Harmony undoubtedly is, the metaphor is substantially more tricky.

But does ME really want to discredit the message? As you say, these issues come back up in Buffy's chilling statement. It does reek of ubermensch/untermensch rhetoric.

Sue has argued that the misogyny comes from Warren who maybe designed these little creatures. Another possibility is that Twilight knows that Buffy thinks this is about girl power, and by throwing in a big heap of misogynist stuff, he'd get her to resist the claim that maybe they need to think harder about judging evil and all the rest. Since as you say, to reject the messenger is to be tempted to reject the message.

If that's the strategy, it's working. Buffy is seeing this as good/evil, uber/unter. And is therefore blind to how this might look to the mensch's in between.

Jane Espenson's interview sure seems to suggest she's well aware of the complexities here. I'm hoping they're intentional. We'll see.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:23 (UTC)

Thanks. :-)

If you are right that giving these vile creatures this message discredits the message, there's still a problem for those of us who think that at least part of the message is right on.

No argument here; I'm one of those people, and it did seem heavy-handed. On the other hand, I think there may be a better way of looking at it: sure, it's okay to criticise a group of people for their activities, if you disagree with them. But if your criticisms happen to sound almost identical to those used by bigots who are prejudiced against that entire group on basic principles - well, you need to (a) analyse your motives to make sure you're not unconsciously supporting the same prejudice (b) be very careful how you word your criticisms, so you don't make other people think you're buying into the same prejudice.

Or in this case - it's all very well to criticise the way Buffy's Slayers are using the power they have, but there's a big moral difference bwtween "And therefore they should learn how to use it better" and "And that proves they should never have been given it in the first place."


Sue has argued that the misogyny comes from Warren who maybe designed these little creatures.

It's possible. Another alternative - which I thought of while reading, but forgot again before I wrote the review - is that these monsters are cartoony, artificial and child-like. Therefore, you could expect their views to be equally simplistic. It's the same reason why they use stilted fake-dubbed dialogue; to heighten the artificiality.


Jane Espenson's interview sure seems to suggest she's well aware of the complexities here. I'm hoping they're intentional.

I've never doubted for a moment tha the complexities are intentional; it was nice to see Jane confirm it in writing. :-) On the other hand, I'm less sanguine than you that there's a single coherent master plan behind it all, as opposed to Joss throwing in a hundred different themes to suit his gut feelings as to what will work and create the emotional impact he wants to achieve.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 01:13 (UTC)

Posted by: itsmrgordotoyou (itsmrgordotoyou)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 03:48 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 13:11 (UTC)

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:39 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 16:58 (UTC)

Posted by: joe_sweden (joe_sweden)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 20:38 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 13:09 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 16:47 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:25 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 00:44 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 12:47 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 17:27 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 18:33 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 22:46 (UTC)
pic#82327614

Oh, and Satsu finally decides to move on with her life and put Buffy behind her, symbolised by throwing her cinnamon lip gloss in the bin. Good for her.

Twice, the season 8 comics have brought tears to my eyes. The first time was when Renee died. The second time was this.

Now, I know Buffy/Satsu shippers are about as rare as Buffy/Parker ones, but I am one of them. I held out hope that these two might find a way to get together... probably not as a romantic couple (Joss wouldn't have it), but as a pair who could really energize each other.

My working assumption has been:

A) That Buffy loves Satsu. Whether she's "in love" with her depends on your definition, but it was very clear to me from their interaction in "A Beautiful Sunset" and "Wolves at the Gate" that there was much more there than Buffy simply making her sacrifice to Great Muppety Odin and relieving her sexual tension. There was respect, concern, compatibility, protectiveness, and tenderness there in addition to the sexual attraction.

B) That Satsu was Buffy's lifeline out of the tailspin she's in now. And Buffy missed. Yes, I know this had to happen for the story to progress.

And I know Satsu went to Tokyo in order to fall out of love with Buffy. And Buffy knew that.

But when the realization came to Satsu that she had to move on, she showed it not by putting it down, or putting it away... but by putting it in the trash.

She put her love for Buffy in the trash.

I've been told I'm reading too much into that symbolism, but frankly I don't think I am.

True Love spurned becomes True Hate? Sounds Joss-like to me.

This is going to end very, very badly. And that makes me very, very sad.

I had other problems with the issue. I don't know when Kennedy and Satsu would have had the chance to become such close friends that Ken would volunteer to go to Japan to help Satsu with romantic problems. Or how she would know that Satsu was still carrying the torch for Buffy. I guess they must have met somewhere before.

I thought Kennedy's constant insistence on Buffy's heterosexuality was her way of trying to convince herself that Buffy wasn't a rival for Willow... and trying to convince Satsu not to tempt Buffy any further down the gayness road. Don't know if I'm right about that.

I assume if Kennedy had found out about Saga Vasuki, we would have been clued in. I get the feeling that revelation may happen just in time for Oz to arrive on the scene.

And I still don't buy that the world can know about vampires but conveniently ignore the fact that they're killers. Just doesn't compute.

I knew they wouldn't be trying to pair Kennedy and Satsu up with the deeply offensive "all lesbians must sleep together" cliche, as soon as I saw the preview pages with Satsu angrily going on about how they sent "the other lesbian Slayer." (I guess she must have meant "the other one in our inner circle").

Didn't like the Vampy Cats. Another ineffectual and silly move by an ineffectual and silly Big Bad. If Twilight turns out to be the real threat this season, I will be surprised and disappointed.

Did like Satsu's displays of competence and brilliant leadership, her scenes with Kennedy, and the action scenes. I am happily willing to overlook the question of how a bunch of teenaged girls learned to pilot a submarine in a few weeks' time.

I didn't see the menace in Buffy's "more than human" speech. The Slayers are, objectively, more than human. If she were becoming a megalomaniac I don't think she would be talking about laying low, waiting to show the world they're the good guys, and not creating martyrs. She'd be off with Simone waving guns around. (Which she may be, by the end of next issue, but I didn't see any problem with what she said here.)

And most importantly, I didn't catch what it was in her (rightly businesslike) video conversation with Satsu that would cause such a harsh reaction in her. And I don't get why Kennedy thought Buffy would be talking about her relationship and sexuality in these circumstances.

I liked a lot of this issue. But I disliked more, I'm afraid.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:41 (UTC)

I was a fan of Buffy/Satsu ever since 'The Long Way Home' (I wouldn't say "shipper" because I don't really do that) but I honestly think a clean break is the best for the two of them. Buffy in a relationship with Satsu would be like, well, Willow trying to get back together with Oz. :-)

I read tossing the lipgloss away as a decisive break with her old self, rather than "tossing her love in the trash". The old Satsu was in love with Buffy, yes, but she was also timid and klutzy and a self-conscious outsider; a far cry from the dynamic squad leader we saw here.

It seemed obvious to me that Kennedy and Satsu have met before, but I didn't see it as such a big deal. Willow also clearly knows Satsu reasonably well (from 'Wolves At The Gate'), at least enough to recognise her on sight. Plus Kennedy is apparently a roving troubleshooter, so likely to show up at odd times and places.


I thought Kennedy's constant insistence on Buffy's heterosexuality was her way of trying to convince herself that Buffy wasn't a rival for Willow.

That wasn't my reading - I can't see Kennedy ever being that insecure. I think she was just being blunt and laying it on the line for Satsu.

I didn't think that Kennedy "thought Buffy would be talking about [Satsu's] relationship and sexuality in these circumstances" at the end. I think she came to the conclusion that Satsu was still carrying a torch for Buffy, and clinging against all hope and reason to the fantasy that Buffy would one day realise she was gay after all and beg Satsu to come back.

So Kennedy's comment was meant as a pointed but sympathetic "You know it's never going to happen". And Satsu's response wasn't harsh, to my eyes; she simply thought about it for a long moment, then decided that Kennedy was right and she did need to move on.


I still don't buy that the world can know about vampires but conveniently ignore the fact that they're killers.

Well, only the *bad* vamps are killers. The good ones drink pigs' blood, or just take a sip from willing donors. And they're glamorous and powerful and lonely and forever beautiful, and they can give you eternal life as well if they choose...

I didn't see the menace in Buffy's "more than human" speech

I think the speech was deliberately pitched at two different levels. You can read it as sinister fascist propaganda, or as a perfectly genuine inspirational speech; and I'm pretty sure Buffy would be utterly horrified at the first implication. She doesn't see herself as the bad guy here. That's the problem.


Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 01:46 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:52 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 13:01 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 13:30 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:32 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:53 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:01 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 7th February 2009 11:45 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 7th February 2009 14:00 (UTC)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 13:07 (UTC)
RE: Buffy-Satsu

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th July 2011 17:51 (UTC)
Re: Buffy-Satsu

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:23 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 01:47 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 12:28 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:53 (UTC)

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:52 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 00:15 (UTC)

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 00:18 (UTC)

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 14:30 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:06 (UTC)

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 5th February 2009 23:59 (UTC)

the tongue-in-cheek suggestion some people have made that the Slayer Empowerment Spell turned all the Potentials into lesbians as well as into Slayers. :-)

Presumably all except Renee?

My theory was that Slayers have some sort of special pheromone that makes them sexually attracted to each other.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 00:15 (UTC)

Xander's an honorary girl.

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 00:19 (UTC)

Posted by: fix me, motherfucker! i'm standing right here. (immortality)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:33 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 15:53 (UTC)

Posted by: itsmrgordotoyou (itsmrgordotoyou)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 03:30 (UTC)

I'm new to LJ, and your always-thoughtful reviews are one of the reasons I finally joined up. (We've occasionally conversed before on atbvs.)

Maybe we did learn something about Kennedy that we didn't know before. When she tells Satsu "you're not the only fool to ever wrinkle the sheets with a straight girl," was she speaking from personal experience?

The amount of space devoted to telling Satsu to get over Buffy makes me suspect that Satsu is making the transition to main cast member. Otherwise, we wouldn't need much beyond what was already said in WatG. I just hope that Satsu will not become a major cast member who's an enemy of Buffy's....

My quote button doesn't seem to be working, but I like what you say about Buffy's final speech. She probably intended "more than human" to mean "more heroic, more self-sacrificing, more dedicated to the cause than normal people" (as well as "superpowered," of course). But it wouldn't sound that way to any outsiders who hear her -- I wonder how secure their link is? And more importantly, "more heroic, etc." could gradually morph into the Ubermensch thing, in impressionable young Slayers' minds and even in Buffy's own.

Harmony is being interviewed by that irritating parody of a journalist Larry King, brown-noser to the stars on CNN.

Nice details:
-the repetition of "try ducking," said first by Satsu and then by Kennedy to Satsu
-the Vampy Cat advertisement saying "Grrr! Argh!"
-Satsu's "@$$holes." Not quite as obscure as "Big #%&@ing monster."

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:35 (UTC)

Hi!

Good point re Kennedy's past; I think you're right. I suspect Willow is her first serious, long term relationship; but Kennedy didn't exactly come across as shy and retiring in 'The Killer In Me' when she tried to seduce Willow, so I think she had fairly eventful teenage years. :-)

Scott Allie has confirmed that Satsu will appear in future editions of the comic. And yes, giving her an entire issue about her life is a pretty clear sign she's important.

I'm pretty sure Buffy's motives were entirely praiseworthy in her speech; it's all about how it can be misinterpreted by others.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 18:19 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 10:49 (UTC)

Interesting review. There are things I haven't noticed during reading - the location of Buffy's new base, jewellery items etc.

Sapphic critical mass

Hee!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 11:35 (UTC)

Thanks!

You know that after you attain critical mass you get an explosion...
:-)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 6th February 2009 18:19 (UTC)

You have to feel sorry for the guy. After all, he's 'armless.

Hey, he's got three more. :)

I'm thinking that post-Buffy and as a squad leader now, she has less need to assert her unique snowflake status quite so much?

Or like Buffy in an authoritative position, she's wearing the gear she wants all her subordinates to wear. She sets the example herself. Just like Buffy doesn't slay in a halter top anymore. Though I imagine sometimes she wants to. ;)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th February 2009 00:29 (UTC)
satsu

Good point. Although you'll notice that in 8.01, Buffy may be wearing combat boots, webbing and kneepads, but she's left the body armour at home and is wearing a 'Serenity' t-shirt instead. :-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 7th February 2009 13:44 (UTC)

Oh, I forgot to reply to this. Great review as always - and I agree with your analysis for the most part, if not always with the conclusions. ;-)

nd she doesn't translate his last sentence: "Dareka tasukete!' means "Somebody help!".

Thanks for pointing that out; it certainly fits with the disturbing ambiguity in what the Slayers' role is - to kill monsters, or to help those attacked by them?

Also, note that Satsu now has an Easter Island moai to hang her jewellery on.

If I wanted to over-interpret things, I'd point out that when Easter Island was "discovered" by the Europeans, many of the moai were half-buried - only the head showed above ground, like humanoid icebergs on land. We don't see the whole story. (Also, in a slightly snarkier mode, nobody really knows how or why they got to where they were, and the official story - that they walked there by themselves - made little sense until Heyerdahl fanwanked it. ;-) ) BTW, if you haven't read it, Jeanette Winterson's novel The Stone Gods uses the moai in a great way - plus, it's got a female sexbot named Spike. :-)

I assume it's North Korea she's talking about, since the international repercussions of stealing one of their subs would be rather less than taking one from a US ally.

Kim Jong Il is Twilight? (Then again, they're already "at war" with at least part of the US armed forces...)

Sapphic critical mass

Seconding the "heee!"

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 8th February 2009 00:08 (UTC)

like humanoid icebergs on land

Like a shark?
(I've just gone into the possible background of the submarine incident in my last post, by the way)

Thanks!

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 14:23 (UTC)
(Review) BtVS 8.22 'Swell'

A detailed review. Again. *smiles* I hated this issue initially for what it did to the Buffy-Satsu possibility. Currently, I like this issue for the Satsu-Kennedy interaction and its focus on Satsu herself.

If I have a complaint, it's that this was very much Satsu's issue; Kennedy wasn't precisely a nonentity, but she was pretty much there solely to act as a foil for Satsu's character development. [...] But we don't learn much more about her than we did before, and I think that's a shame.

We learn that Kennedy had "similar" problems with a "straight" girl as Satsu has. :-) And I rather like what we get to know about Satsu.

The opening teaser confirms one thing to us - Satsu does speak Japanese. [...] Satsu is shown here as a decisive leader who can think on her feet and come up with effective tactics - steering the monster towards the river and away from the crowds. She's also clearly enthusiastic about fighting. I've seen her being criticised for not stopping to help the man trapped in the armoured car, and you could argue that this is another example of Slayers not caring about ordinary folk. On the other hand, stopping the monster rampaging through downtown Tokyo is probably slightly more urgent, the man is in no immediate danger, and it's not as if there isn't a crowd of people gathered around who could help him. People who, incidentally, show no sign of panic at the idea of a monster on the loose. The citizens of downtown Tokyo are presumably used to that sort of thing.

Yeah, I don't really see a problem with that decision. Besides, the other slayer stayed behind. More importantly, the citizens of Tokyo don't appear to see the slayers as the evil ones. Or believe the slayers were the ones responsible. Satsu herself seems to live up to Aiko's legacy, which is good for her. I also think it's confirmed that Satsu is ambidextrous give the way she holds her sword at Santorio Corp.

Also, note that Satsu now has an Easter Island moai to hang her jewellery on. I'm not positive, but I think that's probably a newspaper clipping with a picture of Buffy she's got stuck on the wall next to it.

Good eye! Cute detail. :-)

What is really interesting is that many of Possessed!Satsu's criticisms of the Slayers are, in fact, things that many of the fans have been raising as problems about them: [...] Well, the argument is now out there on the page; but given the context, I think the messenger was specifically chosen to discredit it in our eyes. After all, Satsu is basically saying that it's not up to a bunch of women to make important decisions about good and evil or to take action to change the world, when they ought to be staying at home and making babies. I've never heard 'ovaries' used as an insult for women before, but given the context I suspect deKnight used it because he knew he wouldn't be able to get away with writing 'cunts', which is what he probably meant Satsu to be saying here.

Hmmm, personally I think those "fans" are taking the idea of some metaphors a bit to far. I could understand the moral dilemma if I'm seeing slayers murder demons like Clem, but so far we're seeing slayer get rid of murdering demons. Murdering demons who, for the most part, seem to be dominated by their animal instincts, and are being put down. Also, the only vegan-vampires we've seen are: a vampire cursed with a soul, and a vampire merged with a soul. Harmony is just too incompetent to be a murderer, so she uses her feminine charms. It's an alternative strategy, not a change in diet!

(continues)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 14:27 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.22 'Swell' (continues)

(continues)

Back in my review of 8.01 I wondered if the Slayers flew their helicopters themselves or if they hired pilots. Looks like the answer is (a) - or if they have hired pilots, they're by pure coincidence all young women in the same age-group as the Slayers. :-) Given their supernatural hand-eye coordination and lightning-fast reflexes I'm sure Slayers make excellent pilots, although I'm not sure I'd trust Buffy specifically behind the control stick...

I'm confused. Are Buffy's poor driving skills supposed to be a running gag? Because if you take it more serious, it becomes odd. If *I* take a serious look at it, I see her as an accident prone learner; Buffy's skill at jumping of tall buildings seems to have improved enormously.

For the record, a Sang-O class diesel/electric submarine is armed with two torpedo tubes and has a crew of 15. How Satsu trained her Slayers to use it and where they keep it is left as an exercise for the reader. (Though I do wonder if the Japanese government is complicit - the squad run by Aiko and now Satsu does seem to operate more openly than the ones elsewhere in the world, and of course Japan has a long history of having to fight huge monsters...)

All those helicopters and aircraft flying around aren't exactly low profile either. They require a flight plan. So I wouldn't be surprised if the other governments are complicit too. Which makes it so odd that in "Retreat" the slayers escape to Tibet. And I don't understand how the public opinion is so predominantly against the slayers.

However, her inspirational speech at the end does strike rather a discordant note: "We need to stop being whatever we've been and focus. Be more than human. Or the less-than is going to win." From one angle, a fairly standard bit of motivational rhetoric: don't be content with mediocrity, strive to excel, you can be better than you are. But on the other hand, Buffy is quite literally preaching the superman, and dismissing her opponents as Untermenschen. (Or she would be if she spoke German). She's spelling out more explicitly than ever before that she believes her Slayers are better than normal people.

I interpret that as: "Or the less-than (i.e. vampires, evil demons etc.) is going to win." Seemed pretty straight forward. The other part is so ambiguous that it's meaningless. Or just maybe, I've become immune to the Nazi rhetoric bullshit.

Anyway, did you notice the fight scene on the ship. Satsu and Kennedy are switching places magically: frame by frame. It's hilarious. (Although I don't understand how such errors pass quality control. *head hits desk*)

So a silly monster of the week, but some "screen time" for interesting characters like Kennedy and Satsu. Not the worse issue, not the best, but interesting.

Thanks.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th July 2011 17:45 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.22 'Swell' (continues)

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