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(Review) BtVS 8.32 'Twilight' Part 1

5th February 2010 (15:34)

I know very little about traditional American comic books, other than what everybody picks up through cultural osmosis. I do know that Brad Meltzer is considered a big name in that field, and getting him to write an arc of 'Buffy' was a major coup for Dark Horse. Issue 8.32 is certainly powerfully written, with a real gut-punch of a twist near the end. The writing style is also very different to usual 'Buffy' - I liked the cute little captions introducing the main characters as they appeared, which I'm guessing is a comic book thing, and also the fact that many characters are given internal monologues.

On the other hand, this comic contains lots of in-jokes and references to comic books, which I'm sure would be very clever and funny to people who got the allusions. :-/ So instead, I spent the morning with Wikipedia researching what was being talked about.

Please note that as before, this review does not reveal Twilight's identity. I ask anyone commenting on the review to also respect that, for the benefit of anyone who is trying to remain unspoiled.


So we start with a close-up of a gun. People have already commented on the preview to this issue how ominous this is, and some wondered if the gun is Chekhov's. (Anton Chekhov the writer not Pavel Chekhov the Star Fleet officer). We also learn that Xander now carries this gun around with him regularly - something Buffy herself wasn't aware of and is not happy about. It's a nice bit of characterisation, part of the ongoing Wesleyfication of Xander and tying into Buffy's long-standing distaste for firearms, but made more pointed by the immediate relevance to the events of 'Retreat'.

Apparently this scene of Buffy and Xander joking and playing around a few days after a big battle where many of their allies and followers were killed has been controversial with many fans. For me, though, it's both perfectly in character and perfectly realistic. Remember the final scene of 'Chosen'? (Of course, that was controversial too.) But the fact is that black humour and joking in the face of danger are absolutely trademarks of front-line soldiers, paramedics, firefighters, nurses and other people who come into contact with violence and death on a daily basis. Buffy and the Scoobies have been watching their friends get killed, seeing people die, and in many cases killing people themselves since they were children; it's all they've known for over eight years. The only way they could possibly do that without going mad and curling up in a ball in the corner of the room forever is if they learn to disassociate and compartmentalise that part of their lives. It's a survival strategy many people in extreme circumstances have been forced to learn, and Buffy and Xander are no different.

Despite that, we see from Buffy's little moment of angst about the gun ("They keep killing my friends") that the recent deaths are weighing on her. For that matter, Dawn is also clearly unhappy with their casual approach to the situation - ironically, she'll spend the whole issue being dismissed as worrying about nothing, and turn out to be completely right. But for the moment, Buffy is loving her new powers and Xander is in geek heaven.

The whole set-up of them trying to find out whether Buffy is now faster than a speeding bullet was wonderfully funny. It seems like it's Xander's idea and Buffy is kind of doing it under protest, but still secretly enjoying herself immensely. I liked the way they showed time slowing down for Buffy, as Xander starts to say the word "fast", and Buffy runs after the bullet and catches it in between the "fa-" and the "-st" of that word. It took me a moment to realise that when Buffy says "Bugs in teeth. Not fun" she means she was running so fast that flying insects were unable to get out of her way quickly enough.

'Goonies never say die' is a quote from the 1985 film about a group of kids - the 'Goonies' - who go searching for pirate treasure to save their town from demolition.

In the next sequence, Buffy proves that not only is she faster than a speeding bullet, she is also more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. These, of course, are the powers traditionally attributed to Superman (the specific phrase being coined for a radio serial broadcast in the 1940s.) Xander's line "You've got me... who's got you?" is also from the Superman film - and, incidentally, was also quoted by Andrew to Willow back in 'Wolves At The Gate'.

Xander is taking Buffy's photograph with an iPhone, which I gather is deliberate artistic licence rather than a sign that this story takes place after 2007. Incidentally, I did like the way Jeanty drew Buffy stretching before she uses her new powers; very well-observed.

Dawn confesses her fears about Buffy's new powers to Willow, and her aggravation with the way neither of them seem worried that there might be a price to pay. She references 'The Monkey's Paw', a classic short story which was also an inspiration for the 'Buffy' episode 'Forever'. A man finds a magical artefact that will grant him three wishes. He asks for money... and his son promptly dies in an accident at work and he receives a large sum of money as compensation. The relevance to the current 'Buffy' storyline should be apparent. (For his second wish, he asks for his son to return to him... but realises after doing so that his son will be hideously mangled by the accident, not to mention undead, so his final wish is for his son to be dead again. That's the 'Forever' relevance.)

Willow's suggestion that Buffy received her powers as "the universe's reward for defeating the goddesses" doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering that Buffy needed the powers to defeat the goddesses in the first place. On the other hand, Willow received her own powers back in 'Turbulence' due to beforeshock from a cataclysmic mystical event in the future, so it seems like the laws of causality are already becoming strained around her and maybe this effect-before-cause thing seems logical now. Or maybe she means that the universe is letting her keep the powers as a reward. Or maybe she's too busy thinking about what she's doing, and only half paying attention to Dawn and not thinking through what she's saying.

At first I thought Willow was floating those candles just as practice now she has her powers back, but we later find she's setting up a spell. Some other interesting bits from this scene:

The caption box describes Willow as "Buffy's best friend", but so did Xander's caption box in the previous scene. So Buffy has two 'best' friends, it seems.

Dawn insists that not only was she a centaur rather than a horse, but specifically a girl centaur, because "there's a difference". One wonders what exactly she was getting up to on those frequent trips to visit her "woodland buddies" that Xander and Buffy talk about in 'Living Doll', for her gender to matter so much...

Dawn references her transformations as "a curse from a Thricewise", which confirms what both Buffy and Willow were saying back in 'The Long Way Home'; that sort of magical curse is an expected hazard when dealing with Thricewises.

At first I thought Willow was holding the phone between her ear and shoulder and the artist hadn't drawn it very well; then I realised he's drawn it perfectly, because it's actually floating in mid-air next to her head. Incidentally, a little later on Satsu addresses Willow as "Will", which seems to be a subtle sign she's now been adopted into the inner hierarchy.

Willow thinks Dawn is just getting upset because she's jealous of Xander spending so much time with Buffy instead of with her. That's a perfectly reasonable conclusion to reach given how 'BtVS'  storylines usually work, but Dawn gets frustrated because it's not why she's worried.

Shirley Hemphill was apparently an American comedian and actress, but I have no idea why Xander would be using her name in an exclamation. The magical lasso Andrew is painting for Buffy is a 'Wonder Woman' reference. "Every month on every Wednesday" is a shout-out to Buffy's line from 'OMWF', "Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday".

The scene with Xander adopting multiple poses as he asks Buffy if she has any other powers was cleverly done; a good use of the comics medium to do something a TV show couldn't do so well. Her reaction to the idea of being able to spin webs was a classic.

It was also funny how Dawn only just now realises that Buffy and Xander were specifically testing to see if Buffy has become Superman, with the "Faster than a speeding--- oh jeez" line. It's even funnier when Amy has the exact same reaction.

The next scene was one that I realised on first reading was clearly an in-joke, but since I don't read other comics I didn't get it. However, I did some online research and discovered that yes, it's an in-joke and actually a pretty funny one. The character Xander is describing who can phase through solid matter, and is cute and spunky and not afraid of anyone, is Kitty Pryde from the X-Men... and in an interview for Time magazine back in 2005 Joss confirmed that she was originally one of his biggest inspirations for developing the character of Buffy herself.

So what exactly are Amy, Warren and the General doing spying on the camp? They do offer an explanation later ("Twilight kicked us out"), but personally I think they were lying. Here they talk about Willow not knowing that "something's happened", just as Willow realises that, er, something's happened. It's not clear if they're referring to the kidnapping of Faith, Giles and Andrew or what's happened to the other Slayers outside Tibet. We do learn later that something else big is about to happen. Incidentally, I wonder why the General's name is "classified" - just a joke, a reference to the questions whether he's supposed to be General Voll even though he looks different, or something significant that will emerge later?

Willow exclaiming 'oy' in Yiddish when she realises something dangerous is happening is rather curious; maybe she learned the expression from her father? I felt sorry for Dawn having both Willow and Buffy simultaneously telling her to be quiet, and then Xander too oblivious to listen to her either. The next frame cuts away to Willow and Buffy, but we can still see Dawn in the background, arms folded, clearly still in mid-angry-conversation with Xander. I wonder what they're saying?

Buffy discovers she has yet another new power when she understands the language Willow casts her spell with. I wonder if that means she could also cast the spells, or if it's only a linguistic talent? It's interesting that Willow thinks Faith will be the easiest of the missing people to discover; we already know from 'Retreat' that Slayers broadcast a loud mystical signal that can be tracked through the right magic. Even more interesting that Willow - "not a fan" of Faith dating back to Season 3 - is now happy to go to her as "the Slayer who needs me most"; and Buffy feeling hurt that Willow doesn't think she is the Slayer who needs her most was cute. More Buffy/Willow subtext for those looking for it...

I'm not sure if Buffy's look of shock in the last scene is due to Willow's rather cavalier dismissal of her feelings ("Be serious"), or the possible implication that Willow doesn't number herself among Buffy's friends anymore (I don't read it that way myself, but it is a possible interpretation) or even the flat statement that Faith doesn't have friends (when based on 'Retreat', Buffy might be considering herself Faith's friend again now).

I liked Warren's cluelessness about what a 'klick' is, although he definitely loses geek points for not knowing. (A klick is a kilometre, 1000 metres - 'three klicks' is just under two miles; it's US military jargon since the US army, unlike US civilians, uses kilometres instead of miles to measure distances.)

Now we get to the big nasty revelation, though at first we don't know exactly what Willow finds... just an abandoned apartment building with blood on the walls and the chained-up corpse of a girl. The smell of old eggs - sulphur dioxide - is caused by bacterial decay of organic matter; urine is obvious and rusty pennies is the smell of blood. Though it's not spelled out yet, we can assume the girl is a Malaysian Slayer who was killed here, possibly along with many more Slayers. It sounds like they were imprisoned for some time, and maybe all killed at a precise moment.

What I assume is happening here is that Willow's spell was designed to take her to "the Slayer who needs me most"... but the Slayers who were imprisoned, possibly tortured and then killed need her more than Faith does, since Faith is alive and unharmed at present.

Buffy can now fly all around the world in seconds, but she doesn't know the difference between England and the UK, so is still clearly an American. :-D

The shipping container in Florida looks like it was also used to hold Slayers captive until they could all be killed at the right moment. I'm assuming a vampire wrote "Die Slayers!" on the inside of it, along with the 'V' symbol (which presumably stands for 'Vampires' rather than 'Victory'). We're not told what Willow finds inside the coffin; I'm guessing it's not just "a body" but something mystical which will be revealed in a later issue.

Now we discover what happened to Andrew, Faith and Giles. They were teleported to Twilight's secret lair, and are imprisoned in a room with a deathtrap which Warren apparently copied from a comicbook published in 1982.

We've already seen that Buffy herself was inspired by an X-Men character, Kitty Pryde. As for Willow, her Season 6 storyline was likewise inspired by another X-Men hero, Jean Grey who became Dark Phoenix. (Andrew compares her to that character in 'Two To Go', and in this issue of Season 8 there is another reference to Willow "going Dark Phoenix" in the future. The 'X-Men/Teen Titans crossover' Andrew talks about here involved both Kitty Pryde and Dark Phoenix, and an evil supervillain plotting to turn the world into Hell.

Since this seemed important to the plot, I researched exactly what happened in that story. People who are already knowledgeable about the X-Men universe can probably skip the next section of the review. (Or, feel free to correct me if I get any details wrong. As I said, I was only reading online synopses of the story to get an understanding of what happened.)

Jean Grey ('Phoenix') was one of the X-men, who had potentially unlimited mental powers. She was kidnapped by a bad guy hoping to exploit this, and when her friends came to rescue her she (mistakenly) thought her lover was killed in the battle. The shock drove her mad and released the full godlike powers of Dark Phoenix. She went on a genocidal rampage, destroying entire solar systems and billions of lives, until her allies managed to find a way to bring back the Jean Grey personality. (Spot the similarity to Willow in Season 6 yet?) However, when she realised her self-control was only temporary and Dark Phoenix would return, Jean killed herself to prevent that. (Unlike Willow, happily... although in 'Time Of Your Life' Future Dark Willow *does* commit suicide-by-Buffy, so maybe that will be her ultimate fate?)

In the sequel to this story, an evil god named Darkseid seeks to resurrect Dark Phoenix. He kidnaps the X-Men and uses a mysterious machine (the deathtrap Andrew talks about here) to suck out all their memories of Jean Grey, and uses these to summon back Dark Phoenix. She sets about destroying the Earth and converting it into Hell so Darkseid can rule there. However, the X-Men manage to escape the deathtrap and return to defend Earth. Although they're not powerful enough to defeat the bad guys, Jean Grey's former lover manages to break through to the traces of humanity still inside Dark Phoenix and convince her to help them. (I don't think he talks about yellow crayons, however.) She diverts her power away from destroying the Earth and instead uses it to banish Darkseid, but is herself killed (again) in the process.

So, the connection seem to be that in the Marvel comics story from 1982, the villain was draining memories out of the heroes and using them to empower a hero-turned-villain and give her the strength to destroy the world. Hmm.

Incidentally, Andrew's other geek reference - the Ceti eel - is to the cerebral parasites used by Khan to torture his victims in the second Star Trek movie.

Now we get the final revelation, as Willow discovers a killing field in a Louisiana swamp and a dozen or more dead Slayers... and one who's not quite dead. I'm not quite sure why Cori is so sure Willow can't cast a healing spell on her, although my earlier theory (told to angearia ) that Willow's most powerful healing magic only works inside the 'Golden Hour' after an injury is first sustained would fit perfectly.

Cori's last words are "Please don't tell Buffy we failed". To the very last, she doesn't want to let her leader down.

Until now, Twilight's killing of Slayers could be understood to be a simple act of war. His demons and soldiers and warlocks engaged the Slayers in fair fights, and casualties were suffered on both sides. However, what we're shown here goes far beyond that, into deliberate, systematic genocide. The imagery of containers - the modern version of cattle trucks - and bodies dumped in the swamp seems clearly chosen for maximum effect. I'm looking forward eagerly to finding out how the storyline will be twisted to make the person behind Twilight's mask a sympathetic character, if that's even possible...

I just want to touch on the argument that by empowering the Slayers back in 'Chosen', Buffy is now responsible for their deaths. On one level, it's perfectly true. However, I used the comparison to the killing fields earlier, and I think it's appropriate. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ordered the murder of anyone in their country with an education. If Cambodian women had never had the right to be educated, they would have been safe... But holding the people who passed laws and built schools for women responsible for their pupils' later deaths at the hands of a genocidal dictator seems... well, bizarre. Blaming the victim in its classic form.

Back to Buffy and co, still unaware of what's been going on. After spending the last two days explaining that she has no eye-related superpowers, Buffy suddenly acquires telescopic vision. Does this mean she's still gaining new powers, or that she's still discovering how to use the ones she has? Anyway, she notices the trio spying on her, and there's a confrontation. Amy claims that Twilight betrayed them, and now they want to help Buffy get back at him. Personally, I don't believe this; I think their presence there is all part of Twilight's master plan. But from her smile, Buffy does seem to believe it... or at least to believe that she can make use of the three of them even if she doesn't trust them.

I wonder what will happen when Willow comes face to lack-of-face with Warren again, though?

Given Andrew's comment later about Amy needing to teleport three people inside Willow's barrier in order to send another three people out of it, their presence could be as simple as that... though it doesn't really explain why Twilight wants Faith, Giles and Andrew at his HQ more than he wants Warren and Amy... No wait, any plan that gets rid of Warren and Amy is probably a good one. :-)

But now Willow has more important things on her mind... and finally, she agrees with Dawn and her monkey's paw reference. Just as in that story the protagonist gained wealth from the death of his son, Buffy's new powers come from the death of all those Slayers. Her reaction is, of course, utter and complete horror, made even worse by the fact that she's been enjoying herself so much through the issue.

It also explains why the power felt so natural to her... it's Slayer power, returned to her a thousandfold.

Of course, there are still many unanswered questions. I'm guessing that Twilight orchestrated the deaths of all those Slayers to happen simultaneously, which is why Buffy got the power-up when she did. It could be that any death of a Slayer empowers her, but given that Willow said that the killings were happening  in "odd places", and they clearly happened all at the same time, I'm thinking instead that it was a specific magical ritual that required multiple Slayer deaths to empower her. As for why, I'm guessing we'll find out sooner or later.

Another question left unanswered is whether the massacre sites Willow found mean that almost all the Slayers not with Buffy have been killed, or if these are isolated incidents. However, I did put the following question to Scott Allie in the SlayAlive Q&A:

"In Dr Horrible, Joss killed Felicia Day's character Penny. In Dollhouse, Joss crippled Felicia Day's character Mag. In Buffy, Felicia Day's character Vi hasn't been seen alive since 'Time Of Your Life'. Given the wholesale Slayer-slaughter revealed this month, should we be worried for her? Is Joss going for the hat-trick?"

-and his reply was "No" (followed by a joke that Joss is guest-writing an episode of 'The Guild', so Felicia's character Codex might need to start watching her back...) So hopefully Vi, at least, survived the purge.

And finally, our captured heroes come face to face with Twilight himself. And like any good supervillain, it sounds like he's about to explain his master plan. Also, I understand that next issue, he takes off his mask, and so I can stop pretending I don't know who he really is... ;-) 

 


Comments

Posted by: candleanfeather (candleanfeather)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 16:35 (UTC)

"On the other hand, this comic contains lots of in-jokes and references to comic books, which I'm sure would be very clever and funny to people who got the allusions. :-/ " Repeat after me, "J Whedon is a geek who loves working with other geeks" :-) Thank you for all the research, I didn't know about the "klicks" either (shows I've to work harder on my geek cred).

It seems like Whedon is really going for the darkest dark this season. But it's not really a surprise, because in spite of what many people say about ATS being the darker show, a recent rewatch of BTVS season 2 had me very sensitive to all the dark lurching under the quippy and light surface. All in all I tend to think the darkness of BTVS is just less evident.

Like you I'm asking myself how J Whedon is going to turn Twilight into someone for whom it'll be possible to feel some sympathy again. For now, the only solution I can see is for him to not be responsible of his acts. But it doesn't seem like a very "Whedonian" solution.

I'd add something but it would be too spoilerish.

Again thank you for the review, I always take pleasure in reading them, even if I don't comment.



Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 17:33 (UTC)

Well, 'klicks' is a specifically military term, not really in common use.

My impression was that as originally conceived, 'Angel' was supposed to be the darker show... but as time went by the writers pulled 'Buffy' further and further in that direction until it overtook it... building on themes that, as you say, were already there beneath the fluff.

My own suspicions on Twilight are either that (a) he's not in control of his actions (b) he honestly believes he's preventing an even worse evil through the regrettable deaths of 2000 innocent people (c) he's not as in control of the activities of his followers as we think, and the worst of the killing was done without his authority or even knowledge.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 17:02 (UTC)
pic#87400756

Comment Part 1...

Buffy and the Scoobies have been watching their friends get killed, seeing people die, and in many cases killing people themselves since they were children;

Their reaction just doesn't ring true to me, though. The whole "Retreat" arc was basically the Vineyard attack from last season, times 100. Buffy's questionable decisionmaking led to dozens, if not hundreds of her Slayers getting killed quite nastily (despite the lack of gore in this PG-rated comic), yet she ultimately shows about as much sorrow over it as if she'd just watched her favorite football team lose.

I think Dawn pretty much represents my feelings in this sequence.

Shirley Hemphill was apparently an American comedian and actress, but I have no idea why Xander would be using her name in an exclamation.

She was a rotund African-American actress who appeared in the 1970's sitcom "What's Happening." No, I don't understand the relevance to Xander's statement, and I especially don't know why the mention of masturbation would cause him to call this particular lady to mind...

Incidentally, I wonder why the General's name is "classified" - just a joke, a reference to the questions whether he's supposed to be General Voll even though he looks different, or something significant that will emerge later?

Just because Andrew (the one doing the narrating) doesn't know his name, I guess. (And how can Andrew be narrating things that are happening possibly thousands of miles away from him, anyway?)

I am interested in why the general is described as "also craving cheese."

The smell of old eggs - sulphur dioxide - is caused by bacterial decay of organic matter;

Rotting bodies don't really smell like rotten eggs though, do they? I was assuming the smell was the contents of the Slayer(s) bowels, a result either of having been disembowelled or having vacated them as a result of death, extreme terror, or immobility. (See also: urine).

Hey, it's nasty... but it's a lot more realistic than anything we saw in the bloodless battle scenes of the last arc.

What I assume is happening here is that Willow's spell was designed to take her to "the Slayer who needs me most"... but the Slayers who were imprisoned, possibly tortured and then killed need her more than Faith does, since Faith is alive and unharmed at present.

My question is, why would dead Slayers need her at all?

So, the connection seem to be that in the Marvel comics story from 1982, the villain was draining memories out of the heroes and using them to empower a hero-turned-villain and give her the strength to destroy the world. Hmm.

A hint, maybe... but I trust Joss isn't going to wind up the season by plagiarizing a 28-year-old comic, and I don't think Marvel's lawyers would be too sanguine with him doing that either. :-)

To be continued...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 17:42 (UTC)

The whole "Retreat" arc was basically the Vineyard attack from last season, times 100.

It reminded me more of 'Spiral'; they can't beat the enemy so they try running away instead. I'm not sure that the plan was any more questionable than "stand and fight and all get killed; oh, and let Willow turn into Dark Phoenix again through overuse of her powers." (Remember, it was her worry about Willow that was the most important reason Buffy came up with the plan to go to Oz for help.)


Regarding the commentaries: I took the comment about the general craving cheese as purely a joke. As for how Andrew can be narrating; maybe it's a clue that he survives, and tells the tale later? Not that I think we're supposed to take it all that seriously.


Rotting bodies don't really smell like rotten eggs though, do they?

My understanding is only if they suffer anaerobic decay, like if they've been submerged in water. Willow saying the smell "ain't eggs" as she finds the dead Slayer suggests it's specifically the dead Slayer she's smelling, although it could be her intestines as you suggest.


My question is, why would dead Slayers need her at all?


Just because a Slayer is dead doesn't mean that Willow, of all people, can no longer help her...

Posted by: arkeus (arkeus)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:25 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 17:03 (UTC)
pic#87400756

Comment part 2...

Cori's last words are "Please don't tell Buffy we failed". To the very last, she doesn't want to let her leader down.

And makes Buffy's current good mood even more grating... to her credit she reacts with horror at Willow's revelation, but by her own words it's more fear than grief.

The girls really are cannon fodder, I'm afraid.

Until now, Twilight's killing of Slayers could be understood to be a simple act of war. His demons and soldiers and warlocks engaged the Slayers in fair fights, and casualties were suffered on both sides. However, what we're shown here goes far beyond that, into deliberate, systematic genocide. The imagery of containers - the modern version of cattle trucks - and bodies dumped in the swamp seems clearly chosen for maximum effect. I'm looking forward eagerly to finding out how the storyline will be twisted to make the person behind Twilight's mask a sympathetic character, if that's even possible...

It's certainly one hell of a moral dilemma... for the readers as well as the characters. Even more so if Buffy somehow joins up with Twilight, as many are expecting she will.

It may be that we're incorrectly assuming that Twilight is the one responsible for all of this mayhem... or if it's caused by a certain mystical power trying to put itself back into its proper container. (Ask yourself where the Scythe is, and why Buffy herself now seems to be the central clearinghouse of Slayer power.)

Amy claims that Twilight betrayed them, and now they want to help Buffy get back at him. Personally, I don't believe this; I think their presence there is all part of Twilight's master plan.

Whether it's true or not (and I agree that it's not), Buffy would have to be missing about 150 IQ points to buy such a lame story without certain proof. (I do wonder where the general's true loyalties lie... or where they will lie if he gets a look at how Buffy has been treating his wounded men that Twilight abandoned.)

Nice review again. I think we've got a very fruitful and interesting 10 months ahead of us with this story.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 17:49 (UTC)

Ask yourself where the Scythe is

Last seen in issue 8.20... Buffy wasn't holding it when she boarded the submarine in the first episode of 'Retreat' (though she did have it on the cover), so it's possible Twilight captured it.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 18:03 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 18:13 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 18:26 (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 5th February 2010 18:30 (UTC)

Thanks for the review. As ever I'm waiting for you so I can record my thoughts.

Interesting historical side bar on the Dark Phoenix parallels: in the X-men 3 movie they turned the denouement into a replay of Becoming Part 2 with Dark Phoenix as Angelus, Jean Grey as Angel and Wolverine as Buffy.

Also I love the way Faith hits Andrew for speaking "nerd", when he is actually being serious.

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 20:24 (UTC)

Sorry that was me. For some reason my laptop wouldn't let me log in to LJ.

And in case the pun police are still looking for me:
"I think I'm kinda Jean Grey"

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:45 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 19:49 (UTC)

As ever a thorough and interesting review.

I really do love the twist here -- it is so very dark.

On the disputed topics:

1. The "callousness". I mostly think it's the way it's meant to play in light of the revelation at the end. Not as something that's oh so bad that they're so hard-hearted -- but rather a set up for the contrast. The contrast sheds a light on that behavior that's just not flattering.

I'd add I don't think it compares to Chosen, and can't be entirely erased on that basis. In Chosen we had a brief set of quips immediately after a battle they won in which they lost a few soldiers, one of whom died heroically. This is a lengthy, protracted Geek fest after a battle that was a defeat that came at the price of many, many dead. A defeat, moreover, that comes at the end of some questionable choices -- ones that were taken without any sense of Buffy doing her usual razzle-dazzle heroics of finding an impossible solution or even trying to. The observation that the reaction to the defeat is a bit glib does not entail a standard that Buffy should be curled up in a ball. There's some happy in-between where she gets on with things in a way that's commensurate with her situation. And since they hanged lanterns on it, I'm pretty sure it's meant to be a plot point.

2. I don't blame Buffy for the deaths of these girls. I am saying that the rousing feel-good empowerment montage of Chosen can no longer be read in the same light. The dramatic 'uplift' is gone now. If empowerment is a positive thing you don't dramatize it using a metaphor where the recipients end up brutally tortured and murdered and the noble gift giver ends up using their deaths as a giant battery for her own power-up. It'll be interesting to see how things look at the end of the day. But if I wanted to inspire my teenage daughter about girl power, I probably wouldn't choose this story as a vehicle for inspiring her.

It's all gotten very interesting, though, hasn't it? I love the macabre turn. Things are really at stake. And if he was being straight-up, Allie has just confirmed that people worried about whether Buffy will survive this as a heroic figure should be worried.

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 21:36 (UTC)

If empowerment is a positive thing you don't dramatize it using a metaphor where the recipients end up brutally tortured and murdered and the noble gift giver ends up using their deaths as a giant battery for her own power-up.

Don’t you? In Chosen itself Amanda and Anya were brutally cut down. So was Not!Buffy in The Chain, an issue written to celebrate the life of Janie Kleinman, a woman Joss regarded as an unsung hero. If that doesn’t work for you try “if redemption is a positive thing you don’t dramatise it using a metaphor where the redeemed person ends his unlife with their skin and muscle burning away from the bone, organs exploding in their chest and eyeballs melting in their sockets?”

I can’t speak for everyone who sees Chosen as a positive ending but I do think it’s a something of a straw man/woman argument to reduce that reading to an emotional response to a rousing, feel-good montage of girls reacting to a noble gift giver. In the commentary Joss says "Okay, it's great that you've worshipped this one iconic character: but find it in yourself." It wasn’t about elevating Buffy but empathsising with that trailer girl. It’s wasn't a fairy tale , not an “and they they got married and lived happily ever after” ending. It was the beginning of the beginning of a smile not a full cheese, shit eating grin.

I’d also take issue with the phrasing “using their deaths as a giant battery for her own power up.” Buffy being Buffy might agree with you but wouldn’t “being used as the unwitting/unwilling receptacle for their powers” be closer to what we’ve actually been shown.

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:26 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 09:13 (UTC)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:50 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 23:04 (UTC)

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 02:20 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 00:31 (UTC)

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 14:43 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:54 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 00:40 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 21:32 (UTC)

Interesting review, thank you for explaining all the geeky elements of the issue.

I wonder if I still miss something - because I don't understand how Willow comes to the conclusion that Buffy sucks her new powers from dead slayers. Is there anything - either in dialogs or in visuals - that points in that direction?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 23:14 (UTC)

Not specifically, but she clearly finds something more than just lots of dead girls in her teleportational jaunt around the world.

In Florida, she says "the light shows me what I'm looking for", and then finds something in that coffin that makes her stare in horror, and conclude that Giles and Faith and Andrew are screwed. I don't think it's just another body; she's already seen at least one of them. I think it's something mystical, something that tells her a spell has been cast here. Maybe some kind of artefact to channel power from the murdered girls into Buffy, or maybe the body has ritual marks on it, or something like that.

In Louisiana, she also comments that this is an "odd place". Maybe the Slayers had to be brought to a specific location before they were killed, because of ritual magic?

Then when she returns to Buffy, she starts to tell her "There were attacks all over, and I found..." but she never gets to say what she found because Buffy interrupts her.

So - my assumption is Willow found something mystical, and because she's such a powerful witch she was able to work out at least part of what happened. It might be something that's explained in the next issue, or it could well be that we're simply meant to accept that Willow just knows, because she's really, really good at this sort of thing now.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:30 (UTC)
Buffy (Sad) Live For Me

Buffy discovers she has yet another new power when she understands the language Willow casts her spell with. I wonder if that means she could also cast the spells, or if it's only a linguistic talent?

Could be or Buffy used her mindreading powers (that she does with Xander "So much masturbation") and thus understands what Willow is saying because Willow understands in her mind.

So, the connection seem to be that in the Marvel comics story from 1982, the villain was draining memories out of the heroes and using them to empower a hero-turned-villain and give her the strength to destroy the world. Hmm.

In this scenario then, Twilight is sucking all the powers out of the Slayers (heroes) to turn Buffy into a hero-turned-villain and give her the strength to destroy the world...

(Though I have to wonder at what the twist is there because it doesn't sound quite right.)

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ordered the murder of anyone in their country with an education. If Cambodian women had never had the right to be educated, they would have been safe... But holding the people who passed laws and built schools for women responsible for their pupils' later deaths at the hands of a genocidal dictator seems... well, bizarre. Blaming the victim in its classic form.

I like that comparison. Neat. (Also abhorrent, but the connection is interesting.)

I like the phrase Slayer power of a thousandfold because it makes sense. Buffy as the Slayer must have keener senses--better vision, better hearing, prophetic insight--but to increase it by a thousandfold truly would make her godlike in her powers.


but given that Willow said that the killings were happening in "odd places", and they clearly happened all at the same time, I'm thinking instead that it was a specific magical ritual that required multiple Slayer deaths to empower her.

What if Wolves at the Gate was merely the test-run for stripping Slayers of their powers? What if it was part one of the equation of stripping Slayers of their powers and channeling it into Buffy? Oh yeah, I've got a theory.

Edited at 2010-02-05 22:32 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 23:20 (UTC)

You know, I don't think Buffy was really reading Xander's mind there. I think she was just taking an educated guess about what would be on his mind. :-) (So does this really mean that women think about masturbation much less often than men do???)

Twilight is sucking all the powers out of the Slayers (heroes) to turn Buffy into a hero-turned-villain and give her the strength to destroy the world...

Something like that, although in this case I suspect it's more "destroy the world of magic, making the mundane world safe for ordinary people".


Buffy as the Slayer must have keener senses--better vision, better hearing, prophetic insight--but to increase it by a thousandfold truly would make her godlike in her powers.

True, although Slayers have never been able to fly before. It's been suggested that her powers are revealing themselves according to what she thinks she should be able to do; it's her willpower shaping the form they take. She thinks web-spinning is stupid, so she can't do it; she thinks flying is scary but cool, so she can.


I've got a theory

Does it involve bunnies?

I've thought for a while that Toru's scheme was Plan A ("Disempower the Slayers") and when it failed Twilight switched to Plan B ("Kill the Slayers").

Posted by: arkeus (arkeus)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 22:44 (UTC)

oh, wow.

Some nice spoiler pics out in comicbookresources on Buffy's reaction to Willow's reveal.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th February 2010 23:20 (UTC)

I saw that. She's taking it about as well as I thought she would, but it's interesting that that particular comparison is the one that occurs to her.

Posted by: arkeus (arkeus)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 00:22 (UTC)

Posted by: rapunzel215 (rapunzel215)
Posted at: 6th February 2010 05:09 (UTC)

What did you mean by "Chekov's gun"? I know who Anton Chekov was, but why would Xander have his gun? And did Chekov even own a gun?

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Posted at: 12th July 2011 16:00 (UTC)
(Review) BtVS 8.32 'Twilight' Part 1

I like your review, but I'm reminded of something you wrote in (Review) BtVS 8.30 'Retreat' Part 5:

At first I thought she died (again), and now she's a ghost. But after thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that the goddesses kept their part of the bargain after all. They've returned the power they were offered... but they've returned it ALL to Buffy. When Remati picked Buffy up and stared at her so closely, she presumably finally managed to recognise her as the mortal whose anger summoned her to this plane. So she gave Buffy back all the power the three goddesses had been offered since they were last summoned.

And so Buffy can now fly, because that was one of Willow's powers. Presumably Buffy is now the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere, as well as being a Slayer again. (Remember 'The Long Way Home', when Willow used magic through Buffy's eyes? Foreshadowing...) And possibly Buffy is also now a werewolf. It's an open question whether Slayer power is additive; does Buffy now have the cumulative strength of all the however-many dozens or hundreds of Slayers there were in the monastery? Or are we back to the situation of 'Welcome To The Hellmouth', with only one Slayer in all the world? Either way, it's looking like the people who wanted the spell in 'Chosen' to be reversed just got their wish. (As have the people who preferred it when Willow wasn't a witch, just a hacker...) Things just got really interesting...

This still seems like the best explanation. If you combine that with Twilight's comment:

TWILIGHT: Factor in the confusion spell my own wiccans tossed into the field and it will be hours before you are missed.

I'm not really sure how much we can trust about this issue.

So the confusion spell might influence Xander's and Buffy's geeky behaviour. It might influence Dawn's suspicion (fuelled by jealousy?). It might influence Willow's spellcasting abilities (which would explain why she got to the injured slayer last). It might explain why nobody seems to consider the possibility that Buffy got her power-up from the Blue Goddess. It might explain why they accepted Amy's and Warren's explanation so easily. It might explain why Willow comes to an obviously bogus conclusion.

There's are interesting bits of time references. "Yesterday I somehow got superpowers." [Buffy] "...those 48 hours we were out..." [Willow] Does Willow mean: "48 hours we were outside fighting the goddesses" or does she mean "48 hours we were unconscious". The later interpretation might explain how everyone is together in Tibet while Buffy saw slayers and Giles and Willow being deported by soldiers.

It turns the first issue of the "Twilight" arc into the Twilight Zone. I'm not sure how to interpret the ritual genocide of slayers though. Although the timing is suspicious, given Buffy's power-up, the confusion spell anf Twilight's intimate knowledge of Buffy's thoughts. Twilight has been a pretty good puppet master up till now. What I do find interesting is whether the confusion spell will eventually be lifted because I don't believe it will during this arc.

So...I got a radical interpretation of this issue. Thanks for the review. I missed a lot of the geeky references.

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