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StephenT [userpic]

(Review) BtVS 8.24 'Safe'

2nd April 2009 (21:27)

Dear Mr Whedon,

The 6th episode of 'Firefly' was called 'Safe'. And now the 168th episode of 'Buffy' is also called 'Safe'. You're going to confuse people this way. Please stop it.

Signed,
Me. 

 "Remember who you were, Rupert. A Watcher. You've always sent Slayers to their deaths."


Something worthy of note about this particular episode called 'Safe' is that Buffy doesn't appear in it at all, not even in a cameo. There's only been one other episode of which that's true - and interestingly, in both 'Safe' and 'The Chain', while Buffy herself doesn't appear another character does get mistaken for her. However, in 'The Chain' Joss was making a serious point about heroism and fame, by contrasting the egotistical Simone with the self-sacrificial protagonist, who doesn't even tell us her name but is content to die knowing she's done her duty. In 'Safe' the question of identity is apparently thrown off as a joke, with no attempt at deep symbolism... but in fact, it sets the scene for an issue in which lies, deceit and fake identity are fundamental to the storyline. If there is a moral, it's that attempting to hide away from life's problems doesn't work, and in the end you have to face them head-on.

Another noticeable thing about this episode is that it's only tangentially related to the main season arc. We're shown another side to the story, and another insight into the place of Slayers in this world, but the story, its villains and its resolution are all remarkably self-contained. This is very much a standalone, monster-of-the-week episode - but having said that, it's a very good one, with a plot that is genuinely creepy and disturbing.

The opening scene starts with yet more proof that newbie Slayers have a tendency to miss the heart the first time they try to stake a vampire... Buffy did it, here Courtney does it, and we'll later learn that Faith did it too. The vampire chasing her does give us a small connection to the overall arc, as he claims that "Everybody wants to be a vampire now" (the "n-" then "-ow" of that last word as he's staked is a nice touch.)

Incidentally, someone on Whedonesque complained that the whole of Season 8 is now ruined for him because the poster in the background says "Octoberfest" instead of "Oktoberfest".

Courtney's words as she flees are significant in light of one of the recent debates in the fandom - whether the hundreds of women endowed with superpowers after 'Chosen' have the option of just ignoring them and leading a normal life. This page seems to imply not; Courtney cries that she "quits", that she "never even wanted to be chosen". However, we soon learn that this isn't accurate: Courtney actually left her Slayer squad because she got bored with training and wanted to dive straight into the vamp-slaying action. She's an over-enthusiastic Slayer who panicked when it wasn't as easy as she thought it would be, not someone who genuinely hates what happened to her.

The teaser for this issue ended on Courtney saying to Faith, "Oh my God, you're her! You're Buffy!" which was, of course, a real cliffhanger. Happily Faith is now mature enough to take such comments almost in her stride, with only a snide remark which is possibly the funniest line in the comic ("She's calling me names, G.") Mind you, Cliff Richards' art makes Faith look alternately sulky or miserable pretty much all through the comic; I'm not sure how deliberate that's supposed to be.

Faith and Giles have clearly established a decent working partnership - although there's no evidence they're sleeping together, which was a conclusion a few people leaped to after an incautiously-worded reference in the pre-publicity to them as "bedmates". Looks like it was just metaphorical - although mind you, Courtney does say they have an old-married-couple vibe at times. Also, Giles now shares with Buffy the honour of having Faith refer to him by his initial...

Now we get the reveal of the mysterious 'Slayer Sanctuary', a legendary place where Slayers who "don't want to be Chosen" can take shelter. However, Courtney explains that the rumour of its existence has spread among Slayers who already joined up with Buffy's Slayer Army, but now want to drop out of the battle and go somewhere with no vampires or demons at all. So there's still no conclusive evidence either way of whether Slayers who never got into the life in the first place can lead a normal routine.

My second favourite line of the issue is Faith's deadpan "Yay. Let's bond." when Courtney gets all gushy and enthusiastic because she's actually heard of Faith too. Courtney is quite an interesting character on paper, though I suspect she'd be quite wearing in real life. :-)

Amazingly enough, there apparently are some steam locomotives still in service in the wilder, more tourist-infested areas of Germany - so it's remotely possible the image of Faith, Giles and Courtney riding through the mountains in a steam train is accurate, rather than a kitsch and clichéd American view of Old Europe. The sight of the horde of vampires lurking in the forest outside the town, on the other hand, was genuinely atmospheric and scary. Though I wonder where they go in daytime...


Interesting character insight into Faith; she doesn't want to force the Slayers who've found sanctuary back into the fight, because it's "their call"; and she's rather taken aback when Courtney claims Faith inspired her. Also, I notice that Faith has now used the expression several people in fandom have been using to refer to the newbies: "baby Slayers".

And now we discover that another Watcher survived the First's slaughter of them, and is apparently now running the town. The meal in the town hall is suitably creepy and awkward, fitting the horror theme of the issue. Fillworthe's speech about the general public now hating and fearing Slayers is another example of us being told that every hand is lifted against them, rather than being shown it... but in the writers' defence, we'll soon learn that he's hardly a disinterested witness. More insight into Faith's backstory: she ran away from home "first chance she got"; and she also reveals that she no longer seethes with resentment at people who aren't suitably grateful for what Slayers do for them.

Even more creepiness: the lack of any children in the town. Faith remains as perceptive about potential traps as she was in 'Dirty Girls', but goes in anyway (just as she did then). And then we get Faith's flashback to the first time she met vampires, when she was still young and cocky... and even though one got away, she still equalled Buffy's first time score (two dusted). Apparently, the one who did escape has been preying on her conscience ever since, as she wonders how many people he killed, how many new vampires he sired... and his gloating also points to her fear that the new Slayers will be better at it than she ever was.

And then it's revealed that this is all an illusion in her head, and there's a demon feeding on the guilt and regret she's feeling. That's not a new idea for the Buffyverse: the "Hansel and Gretel" demon in 'Gingerbread' and the paranoia demon in 'Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...' did something very similar. (And note the name of this town.) Eventually, Faith imagines herself being bitten, and collapses unconscious. The demon then turns on Courtney, spinning her the illusion that her parents have reunited.

Meanwhile, Giles is telling Fillworthe that his sanctuary is a dead end. Its existence is known to the vampires, and by telling Slayers they can hide here from the world's problems Fillworthe is merely making them incapable of dealing with them. That, if anything, could be the moral of this episode. There's an interesting aside comparing vampires to children; they are both creatures of pure need unable to internalise their pains and hungers. Then Fillworthe reveals his evil master plan... presumably he thinks Giles will sympathise with it because they were both Watchers. Both trained to treat Slayers as a disposable asset to be expended in order to protect the rest of humanity... and that's what Fillworthe has been doing. It's quite ingenious, really: lure Slayers to the town with lies about a sanctuary, feed them to the demon because it finds children (and teenage Slayers) tastier than adults; and also preserve the town safe from vampires because the demon finds them just as delicious as children.

The really creepy bit is the revelation that the townsfolk fed their own children to the demon even before Fillworthe came along with his plan. I wonder how long it had been going on? Also, Fillworthe talks about vampires slaughtering the Watchers' Council, which seems like a continuity glitch - surely that was Caleb and the Bringers? Still, it can be reconciled if we either assume Caleb used vampires as his agents as well as Bringers, or (more likely) if Fillworthe is referring to a different event, in which those Watchers who survived Caleb's blowing up of their HQ were then hunted down by vampires who saw an opportunity for revenge on their age-old rivals. Certainly Fillworthe is seething with resentment against Slayers for their crime of abandoning the wise guidance and leadership of the Council, which suggests he's thinking of something that happened after 'Chosen'.

When Giles rejects Fillworthe's overture of friendship, it looks like the other Watcher switches to plan B: throw the most hurtful and vicious words he can at Giles in order to fill him with regret and thus turn him into a tasty demon snack. At first I thought that the line "Your Buffy! Think of what she's done to you!" was about to introduce an update on exactly why she and Giles are now estranged, but it turned out to be nothing of the sort; instead, Fillworthe was raking up events of seven years previously, of Buffy and Angel and Jenny's death. Giles certainly runs out of the room, but I think Fillworthe misjudged his man; Giles may still regret what happened to Jenny, but not to the extent of letting it overcome his judgement. He runs off to save Faith from the demon, and its lure apparently has no effect on him.

Courtney is apparently filled with regret because she thinks she was the cause of her parents splitting up; that she "ruined everything." It's not clear at first, but the demon not only has dozens of squirming tentacles but also a huge mouth lined with teeth. It's slowly dragging Courtney towards that mouth when Giles bursts in. What I assume is that it broadcasts the psychic illusions both Faith and Courtney experienced, and enjoys absorbing the regret and misery they experience as a result; but it also needs to feed on living flesh. Presumably it tried Faith first, but she didn't feel enough regret because she's all redeemed now; then it grabbed Courtney and found her guilt more tasty. As Giles arrives it's spinning out the process of eating her to make sure it extracts maximum yummy goodness from her angst first.

I'm guessing the demon is not meant to be a parody of one Mr Joss Whedon and his approach to storytelling, is it? :-)

Then in comes Fillworthe, hoping to make sure Giles gets eaten too. I did find the resulting fight scene a little too pat. Faith jumps up, back in the fight all too conveniently at the right moment. Maybe the demon can only concentrate on a limited number of victims at once, and had to release her from its illusions because of the new people present? (/fanwank) She knocks Fillworthe into the middle of the tentacles, and Giles gets Courtney free. The reversal as Fillworthe first says Je ne regrette rien "I regret nothing", but then as he's caught by the demon suddenly starts pleading for his life and saying "I'm sorry", before realising that his regret just doomed him, is clever but as I said, a little too pat. The demon promptly eats him, rather than spinning out the experience as it did with Courtney... this is another thing that's not obvious at first, but the panel with him saying "I'm not sorr... I..." depicts him about to disappear into the thing's mouth, rather than just being surrounded by tentacles.

Then Faith kills the demon, showing impressive lateral thinking by stabbing it with the metal arm of her crossbow. At first I was a little disappointed by this too - she just looked to be hitting a random tentacle, so why should that kill it? But then I realised she stabs it in its central node just over its mouth, presumably where its brain is located. So I'll forgive that one. :-)

Then the final scene, which is a pretty cool one for Faith, as the vampires see that the demon has died and come swarming in towards the town. Courtney is all in favour of letting the townspeople die - they did, after all, sacrifice their children to the demon then lure Slayers to the same ugly death. But Faith has come to appreciate human life rather more than she once did, and her line here is as good a summing up of her new philosophy as any I've heard:

"We're Slayers, and we don't let people die. Not even crappy ones. You people wanna live? Then you fight."

It's a huge horde of vampires that's about to attack the town... but that final shot of Faith, Courtney, Giles and the townspeople leaves me in no doubt about who will win...



On a separate note, I was amused to see that the letters column in this issue covered four whole pages, because Scott was publishing the correspondence related to issue 8.12 (the one where Buffy sleeps with Satsu for the first time). I was pretty pleased to see he printed the negative letters as well as the positive ones, although I shake my head at some of the sentiments expressed. I also wondered if one letter was a parody, when it said this:

"Xander deserves Buff just like every nice guy dreaming of his hot best friend deserves her love. Did Joss actually watch his own show? More than once Buffy made it clear that lesbian sex was icky to her. Stop slaughtering your characters for the sake of promoting alternate lifestyles."

Come on, Scott. That was an April Fool's Day wind-up, wasn't it?

(Oh, and I LOL'd at Scott's final sign-off comment, about the cover to next month's issue. ;-) )
 

Comments

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 2nd April 2009 22:07 (UTC)

You're going to confuse people this way.

Just wait until the next issue where we get a special guest appearance by Kaylee...

:-)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd April 2009 22:43 (UTC)
river

We can only hope...

:-)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 2nd April 2009 23:27 (UTC)

Well, I'm glad you were able to enjoy it. I remain deeply disappointed. But then, I was a big fan of NFFY. And this just wasn't there *at all*. Stuff like this makes me worry about the quality control at command central. I think your comment over at my LJ is more on the never-ending debate, so if we need to resume it, I'll resume it there.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd April 2009 23:44 (UTC)

I won't lie, it wasn't my favourite issue of the comic. I enjoyed it more on the second read-through once I started thinking of it as a stand-alone horror story rather than part of the big Season 8 arc.

And as I wrote the review, I did understand some things better and spotted some hidden depths I'd missed before -- I ended up re-writing two whole paragraphs after realising I'd completely misread the final fight scene, for instance. :-)

Edited at 2009-04-02 23:44 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 01:16 (UTC)
pic#85222149

I didn't like it as much as you did, but I didn't hate it as much as the majority of fans seemed to.

Considering how little face time we've gotten with Faith and Giles, I was hoping this issue would do more to advance the season storyline, or at least grow the characters more than it did. We should have at least been presented with an urgent reason for getting back to Buffy and trying to set her back on the right path.

I'm not entirely impressed by how the "tough time to be a Slayer" storyline has been depicted. I mean, I've been less popular than the Slayers seem to be right now. Since Harmony's debut, we've had:

#22: Slayers commandeer a sovereign nation's submarine (having killed the original crew, as far as anyone knows) and use it to blow up a freighter (crewed by innocent humans, again as far as anyone knows). Result: Larry King is miffed because the Slayers destroyed cute stuffed animals.

#23: Slayers take over an entire Italian town and send its whole population into exile. Result: None, apparently.

#24: Cranky old people trick Slayers into sacrificing themselves to a hentai tentacle monster. Result: monster is killed, townsfolk seem less than enthused about the prospect of soon meeting all those friendly vamps.

When the hammer really starts to come down in #26 (or the end of #25), it's going to seem inexplicably sudden.

Incidentally, someone on Whedonesque complained that the whole of Season 8 is now ruined for him because the poster in the background says "Octoberfest" instead of "Oktoberfest".

I was more amused by the three different ways in which they misspelled the German word for "bakery" (Backerei).

there's no evidence they're sleeping together, which was a conclusion a few people leaped to after an incautiously-worded reference in the pre-publicity to them as "bedmates".

It was "bedfellows," actually, which is why I never thought they'd wind up actually in bed. Would have been stupid if they did. Are there any two people in the world who are less each other's type?

Then Faith kills the demon, showing impressive lateral thinking by stabbing it with the metal arm of her crossbow. At first I was a little disappointed by this too - she just looked to be hitting a random tentacle, so why should that kill it? But then I realised she stabs it in its central node just over its mouth, presumably where its brain is located. So I'll forgive that one. :-)

This was the sequence that had me scratching my head. Faith stabs the thing in the head with her crossbow, and it promptly bursts into flame and explodes spectacularly enough to be seen as a fireball by the vampires well outside of town. Next we see Faith, totally unharmed by this, standing amidst a nice selection of tako sashimi.

Was that supposed to be just "demonic essence" rather than hurty flame? Must have been, I guess.

(Oh, and I LOL'd at Scott's final sign-off comment, about the cover to next month's issue. ;-) )

Dawn and her vagina-mouthed tentacle monster lover. Joss really is enjoying his freedom from network censors this season.

I also noted Scott seemed to casually write off any possibility of a Buffy/Xander hook-up. That will disappoint all the many fans who saw him as the best hope of redeeming Buffy from her latent gayness, so the Baby Jesus can smile once again.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 11:25 (UTC)

We should have at least been presented with an urgent reason for getting back to Buffy and trying to set her back on the right path

I think that's what the next arc is for. This arc is more "five stand-alone stories by five different writers each giving us a different insight into the Buffyverse as it is now." So "urgent" plot-related elements wouldn't really fit.


Slayers commandeer a sovereign nation's submarine (having killed the original crew, as far as anyone knows)

Not the impression I got at all. Vampires stole the submarine, and nobody knows what happened to it after that. (Well, the JMSDF does, if my own fic is accepted. :-) )


Joss really is enjoying his freedom from network censors this season

So do you think he gave detailed guidance to Jo Chen on what Kenny looks like? Or did he just say "He's a Japanese hentai tentacle monster. He should have three (or multiples of three) of each important organ. Otherwise, go nuts." ?
:-)


So the Baby Jesus can smile once again.

Hallelujah!

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 13:43 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 12:38 (UTC)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 01:45 (UTC)
comic Buffy

However, Courtney explains that the rumour of its existence has spread among Slayers who already joined up with Buffy's Slayer Army, but now want to drop out of the battle and go somewhere with no vampires or demons at all. So there's still no conclusive evidence either way of whether Slayers who never got into the life in the first place can lead a normal routine.

I don't really see how that would make a difference. If it were possible for Slayers to ignore their powers and live a normal life, wouldn't those who found the Slayer Army not to their liking simply go back to those normal lives? I don't see what's preventing them, other than the feeling that Buffy expresses in "Helpless" - now that they know what's out there, they can't turn their back on the fight. Except they already are turning their back, by going to the sanctuary. Which should really be another clue in itself - if Slayers, army dropouts or otherwise, feel that they need a sanctuary, that probably indicates they can't live normal lives.

she also reveals that she no longer seethes with resentment at people who aren't suitably grateful for what Slayers do for them.

Huh. Is that supposed to imply that during the TV series, she DID feel that way? I can't say I really got that impression. I got the sense that she was in it for the kicks - she slayed because she had fun doing it, not because she wanted gratitude.

We're Slayers, and we don't let people die. Not even crappy ones.

Well, except for Fillworthe... :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 11:47 (UTC)

I don't see what's preventing them, other than the feeling that Buffy expresses in "Helpless"

Exactly that, surely? If they've been trained, they know all about vampires and demons, and how seemingly quiet, peaceful towns can actually be teeming with the undead. So dropping out into normal life is no longer an option they want to consider - instead they look for a sanctuary which is guaranteed completely vampire-free; an idyllic shangri-la where they don't even have to face the everyday perils of normal life in the Buffverse.


she slayed because she had fun doing it, not because she wanted gratitude.

Not so much "wanted" gratitude as "thought she had a right to it, because of what she did for people."

FAITH: Anyway, how many people do you think we've saved by now, thousands? And didn't you stop the world from ending? Because in my book, that puts you and me in the plus column.
BUFFY: We help people! It doesn't mean we can do whatever we want.
FAITH: Why not?

FAITH: You know, I come to Sunnydale. I'm the Slayer. I do my job kicking ass better than anyone. What do I hear about everywhere I go? Buffy. So I slay, I behave, I do the good little girl routine. And who's everybody thank? Buffy.

Yes, a lot of Faith's resentment was targetted at Buffy for receiving all the praise and attention that Faith thought ought to be hers by right. But if Buffy was the proximate object of hate, it was Faith's anger at being rejected by the world despite all she tried to do for it that was the origin.

FAITH: Don't tell me you don't see it Joyce. You've served your purpose, squirted out the kids, raised her up, and now you might as
well be dead. Nobody cares, nobody remembers, especially not Buffy, fabulous superhero.

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 15:28 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 21:10 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 22:57 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 23:18 (UTC)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 03:58 (UTC)

I think you, Kingofcretins and patxshand are the last ones standing who have something positive to say about this issue.

I remain very underwhelmed and I've been singing Season 8's praises for oh-so-long. This was just not good.

I enjoyed it more on the second read-through once I started thinking of it as a stand-alone horror story rather than part of the big Season 8 arc.

That trick won't work for me unless I also think of Faith and Giles as OC's. The dialogue written for Giles in particular was very painful.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 11:51 (UTC)

I think you, Kingofcretins and patxshand are the last ones standing who have something positive to say about this issue.

From what I saw on Whedonesque there were rather more people who loved this issue than you're implying there. :-) But it does seem to be polarising; a lot of people really hated it, while KoC is saying it's the best one of the entire season!

I'm not going that far. Like I said above, as a Season 8 story I thought it wasn't so much (I'd even use the word 'mediocre'). As a standalone Gothic horror story with Lovecraftian overtones, it was great.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 17:14 (UTC)

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 07:16 (UTC)
season 8

You're far too kind to this issue IMO. Even if you can find some merit in the story, surely it's hard to ignore the appalling characterisation and dialogue.

The series would be better without this one.

Come on, Scott. That was an April Fool's Day wind-up, wasn't it?

Doubt it. That letter would have been written some time last year.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 11:54 (UTC)

I didn't really notice them (apart from the couple of lines I liked,. like Faith's "Yay. Let's bond.") So no, not especially hard to ignore. :-)


As for the letter I quoted, well, it wouldn't be a wind-up if it really was written some time last year. But if Scott wrote it himself a month ago and put it in the issue scheduled for publication on 1 April 2009, it would be...

Posted by: Shapinglight (shapinglight)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 13:22 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 09:31 (UTC)

I’ve been harsh on this issue, I think my root problem with it is the art, which managed to feel at once cluttered and empty. I liked how they brought Faith round to accepting Courtney even if they had her talking like Wolverine to do it “There’s only one lesson kid.” NFFY Faith was too cool for school disdainful about Robin’s noobs and although at the end of the story she and Giles were setting off to reach out to other Slayers her initial attitude to Courtney and her Slayer-in-Training questions was equally dismissive.

The monster of the week tried to be too many things. It’s kinderphagy seemed intended to link children and vampires and by extension cast Slayers looking for Sanctuary as wanting to return to a childlike state. The focus on regret worked well enough as a vehicle for showing Faith having not being good enough regrets to complement her usual “I’m bad” issues. But the two were very clumsily mushed together and are essentially quite unmixy things. Regret is an adult emotion.

Then there are the townsfolk issues. If they’d been sacrificing Slayers to protect their own children or the monster were feeding on their regret by extracting their capacity for it they might have been a credible (exaggerated for dramatic effect) representation of humanity’s ambivalence about Slayers but as written they were cardboard Hammer Horror villains and then victims, slaves to the plot requirements. That final scene didn't work for me (but I have Graduation Day issues too).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 3rd April 2009 11:58 (UTC)

But the two were very clumsily mushed together and are essentially quite unmixy things. Regret is an adult emotion.

Yes, that is a problem. It might work better if the demon just fed on any strong emotion, but couldn't hurt the tightly repressed, puritanical adults unless they broke down... but then that wouldn't work with giving Faith the nightmares of inadequacy. (Hey - maybe the reason the townsfolk couldn't run away would be because that would mean acknowledging something was wrong and that they were afraid of danger - and so the demon would promply eat them?)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 5th April 2009 12:47 (UTC)

One thing that occurs to me is that this is the only one of the four elements of the current arc that results in a clear victory for the Slayers.

Perhaps a foreshadowing of sorts.

Note that if the demon had lived in Hanselstadt for a long time, it would have had to have been keeping its feeding to a sustainable level until fairly recently because otherwise the town would have disappeared. So did something change? Perhaps some subtle nudging from Twilight?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th April 2009 18:00 (UTC)

I actually assumed that the demon only arrived there recently; but it might have been there all along and just stepped up its feeding - instead of one child now and then, it took them all.

Not sure how Twilight could have arranged that, but maybe. And maybe also he sent the army of vampires waiting outside the city, in order to increase the feeling of paranoia; or perhaps Fillworthe was in his pay.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 7th April 2009 17:34 (UTC)

I finally read the issue and can comment.

The teaser for this issue ended on Courtney saying to Faith, "Oh my God, you're her! You're Buffy!" which was, of course, a real cliffhanger.

This one made me snerk. So, Buffy is such a secret person even slayers don't know how she looks?

The really creepy bit is the revelation that the townsfolk fed their own children to the demon even before Fillworthe came along with his plan.

This one really exasperated me. I wonder if Mr. Writer has children of his own. Because this twist stinks of a plot necessity of the worst kind.

Courtney is apparently filled with regret because she thinks she was the cause of her parents splitting up; that she "ruined everything."

Krueger didn't even bother to come up with something of his own, he just took Buffy's issues and enhanced them a bit (Courtney's parents hate each other)

I'm guessing the demon is not meant to be a parody of one Mr Joss Whedon and his approach to storytelling, is it? :-)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 7th April 2009 17:57 (UTC)

Because this twist stinks of a plot necessity of the worst kind.

I've been having more thoughts on this... my original assumption was that the villagers were deliberately sacrificing their children to prolong their own life. Which, yes, is pretty unnatural (although plenty of ancient cultures practiced infanticide of unwanted children, and is abortion really so different?)

However, it's not actually in the text... and we do know that the demon could create hallucinations and make people see things that weren't there even as it ate them. So maybe the townsfolk didn't realise the demon was there... they just knew that anybody who expressed strong emotions, especially children, just vanished. So they learned to repress all their feelings, and keep quiet, and not talk about what was happening, and pretend nothing was wrong. Like the inhabitants of Sunnydale, in fact, but even more so.

And then Fillworthe came along, with his knowledge of demons and his cunning plan, and maybe he explained to the townsfolk what had been happening and how they could use it for their own benefit. And they went along with him.

Posted by: harsens_rob (harsens_rob)
Posted at: 14th July 2009 21:04 (UTC)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 20:35 (UTC)
(Review) BtVS 8.24 'Safe'

Interesting review. I especially like the theme you attached to the story.

If there is a moral, it's that attempting to hide away from life's problems doesn't work, and in the end you have to face them head-on.

Even on the second time I read it, I didn't notice that, but...I agree. This is equally true for the townspeople as it is for the slayers seeking safety. And the rogue watcher of course. And the slayer who thought she was ready, but wasn't. In many ways it reminds me of Buffy's struggle with slaying and her desire to have a normal life.

Another noticeable thing about this episode is that it's only tangentially related to the main season arc. We're shown another side to the story, and another insight into the place of Slayers in this world, but the story, its villains and its resolution are all remarkably self-contained. This is very much a standalone, monster-of-the-week episode - but having said that, it's a very good one, with a plot that is genuinely creepy and disturbing.

I'm not sure it's really self-contained. I think it's resolution ties into the role of the slayer into this world. I think what it tells about the position of slayers in this world is pretty damning. ((More on that below.))

Now we get the reveal of the mysterious 'Slayer Sanctuary', a legendary place where Slayers who "don't want to be Chosen" can take shelter. However, Courtney explains that the rumour of its existence has spread among Slayers who already joined up with Buffy's Slayer Army, but now want to drop out of the battle and go somewhere with no vampires or demons at all. So there's still no conclusive evidence either way of whether Slayers who never got into the life in the first place can lead a normal routine.

A slayer doesn't seem to have the choice of not fighting, or rather to *stop fighting*: they're "eaten" in this story because they seek safety. I'm not sure how that reflects on the Slayer Empowerment Spell as a whole, because the evidence is inconclusive, but it's the first solid clue about the negative side of that spell. (Which is balanced by the positive sides of the spell.) And as you remark, we have no evidence whatsoever on slayers that never choose to fight in the first place. (But we could see this as a clue.) Alternatively, we could see this as evidence that the home-life of a slayer is similar to that of mutants in the X-Men. Discrimination, racism, etc.

The sight of the horde of vampires lurking in the forest outside the town, on the other hand, was genuinely atmospheric and scary. Though I wonder where they go in daytime...

Not only that. Vampires are now known to exist. They are outside this town in massive numbers (probably). And there is no news report on it? More reality distortion, or bad story telling?

Interesting character insight into Faith; she doesn't want to force the Slayers who've found sanctuary back into the fight, because it's "their call"; and she's rather taken aback when Courtney claims Faith inspired her. Also, I notice that Faith has now used the expression several people in fandom have been using to refer to the newbies: "baby Slayers".

But...Faith also used the reason that those "baby slayers" wanted to sit out the worsening situation "out there". So...how bad is the situation out there?

Fillworthe's speech about the general public now hating and fearing Slayers is another example of us being told that every hand is lifted against them, rather than being shown it... but in the writers' defence, we'll soon learn that he's hardly a disinterested witness. More insight into Faith's backstory: she ran away from home "first chance she got"; and she also reveals that she no longer seethes with resentment at people who aren't suitably grateful for what Slayers do for them.

I agree that Fillworthe is a biased source of information. But he does raise an interesting ethical question which gets promptly ignored. ((More on that below.))

(continues)

Posted by: chianazhaan (chianazhaan)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 20:53 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.24 'Safe' (continues)

(continues)

Meanwhile, Giles is telling Fillworthe that his sanctuary is a dead end. Its existence is known to the vampires, and by telling Slayers they can hide here from the world's problems Fillworthe is merely making them incapable of dealing with them. That, if anything, could be the moral of this episode. There's an interesting aside comparing vampires to children; they are both creatures of pure need unable to internalise their pains and hungers.

Nah, the comparison between children and vampires is rather stupid. The story would have been better without it. But the stalemate assessment is accurate: it's ultimately a dead end.

Also, Fillworthe talks about vampires slaughtering the Watchers' Council, which seems like a continuity glitch - surely that was Caleb and the Bringers? Still, it can be reconciled if we either assume Caleb used vampires as his agents as well as Bringers, or (more likely) if Fillworthe is referring to a different event, in which those Watchers who survived Caleb's blowing up of their HQ were then hunted down by vampires who saw an opportunity for revenge on their age-old rivals. Certainly Fillworthe is seething with resentment against Slayers for their crime of abandoning the wise guidance and leadership of the Council, which suggests he's thinking of something that happened after 'Chosen'.

And this could have been an interesting story. Is it related to the estrangement between Buffy and Giles? I'm inclined to treat this as a continuity error, because he also mentions Buffy specifically later on.

I'm guessing the demon is not meant to be a parody of one Mr Joss Whedon and his approach [ANGST] to storytelling, is it? :-)

LOL

Then the final scene, which is a pretty cool one for Faith, as the vampires see that the demon has died and come swarming in towards the town. Courtney is all in favour of letting the townspeople die - they did, after all, sacrifice their children to the demon then lure Slayers to the same ugly death. But Faith has come to appreciate human life rather more than she once did, and her line here is as good a summing up of her new philosophy as any I've heard: "We're Slayers, and we don't let people die. Not even crappy ones. You people wanna live? Then you fight."

Sadly, I hated this part. Faith's message in itself is okay. But what kind of message is this sending out: "It doesn't matter how many slayers you murder, whenever you have a vampire problem, we'll help you."!? The only reason I can see of Giles, Faith and Courtney teaming up is to increase their own chances of survival.

Given all of it's theme's and metaphors, the Buffyverse continuously dodges some ethical questions:
(1) "What do you do with humans that are above the human laws and commit crimes via supernatural means?"
(2) "Why protect a humanity that now hates and fears you, and resents that you ever tried to save them from vampires and demons?" [Fillworthe]
The usual answer to (1) seems to be redemption, but that doesn't always work, or letting them run amok. The answer to (2) seems to be that slayers aren't allowed to quit being a protector and that ties directly into the "Retreat" arc.

Because including the option of quitting gives options. Like Willow using the Scythe to deactivate every slayer. Or having Willow open a portal to Pylea and have every slayer escape. I would have liked to see TwAngel's face at that point. Or General Voll's.

Thanks for you thoughts. They made me evaluate my own thought more clearly. I also realize that the theme might also be a message to Buffy and Co. to correct the public opinion about slayers.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th July 2011 19:22 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.24 'Safe' (continues)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 12th July 2011 19:18 (UTC)
Re: (Review) BtVS 8.24 'Safe'

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