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(Meta) Some S8 foreshadowing

20th February 2010 (21:21)

I was just re-reading some of the Season 8 comics and this rather interesting bit of foreshadowing came up...

Spoilers for Twilight's identity.

Okay. In 8.11 'A Beautiful Sunset', Buffy and Twilight come face-to-face for the first time:

TWILIGHT: Do you know that I actually came here to talk? But there you were, going on about how hard it is for you, and, well... I just hate to see you cry.

So: Twilight "came here to talk", but instead of actually talking to Buffy, he decided to first beat up Satsu, and then Buffy herself instead.

And this is what happens the next time Twilight and Buffy come face to face, in 8.20 'After These Messages...We'll Be Right Back':

BUFFY: We were never really good at this. Lots of the other stuff, but not so much the talking stuff.

Looks like you're right, Buffy. Angel really isn't good at 'the talking stuff' when he's with you, is he? :-)

Incidentally, in 8.11 Twilight says he decided to attack Buffy instead of talking to her when he saw her crying... but I wonder if there's another interpretation? Maybe he saw her getting into a really close, intimate and emotional conversation with Satsu, and became overcome with jealousy? After all, it's not like pettiness is something Angel is totally immune to... :-)

The other thing of note in this scene in 8.20 has been commented on by plenty of other people, i'm sure, but it's probably worth putting it up here as well:

BUFFY: If you knew something about someone's past...and...future...would you tell them?
ANGEL: Probably not. You can't change a person's past. And just by telling them, you'll change their future into who knows what.

At the time, we all assumed Buffy was just talking about Willow here. But given that Angel is Twilight, is he also telling Buffy his own motivation? Assuming he's been informed that the 'Chosen' empowerment spell will bring disaster to the world - should he tell Buffy? He can't change her past; he can't make it that the spell never happened. And if he tells her about the forthcoming disaster, he'll "change her future into who knows what"... and perhaps make things worse instead of better. So he doesn't tell her.

(Of course, this isn't 'real' Angel: Buffy is dreaming. But Buffy's dreams have a habit of showing her the truth.)

There's another point to take away from this. Buffy takes dream-Angel's advice and doesn't tell Willow about how she went dark again and lived for 200 years until Buffy killed her. Instead, she comes up with the idea of running away to Tibet and getting everyone to strip away their power. That plan has been much-criticised; but I think it make a lot more sense if you think of it in terms of Buffy's guilt and worry about Willow. Divesting the Slayers of their power is a side-effect, or even a cover story: Buffy's real hope is that Willow will also give up her power, and not become Future Dark Willow, and not die at the hands of her best friend.

But in the end, when Willow does eventually find out the story - her reaction is not at all what Buffy feared. She takes it perfectly calmly. Like Sarah Connor, her watchword is clearly "No fate but what we make" rather than the idea that destiny cannot be cheated or escaped. So by following Angel's bad advice, Buffy nearly got all her friends killed. There's probably a lesson there. :-)

And on that note, I'll leave you with two contradictory bits of wisdom from Willow:

WILLOW: Vampires gain strength from each other. Slayers, ultimately, don't.

WILLOW: You're getting it from the girls, Buffy. Our girls. That's where all the power's coming from...you're sucking it from every Slayer who dies.

Questions? Comments?


Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 20th February 2010 23:21 (UTC)

Good stuff. I liked ladyofthelog's meta and yours here about how #20 is now not just throwaway filler. And my favorite thing about Joss is how lines take on extra meanings as the story unfolds.

Your thought that Operation Sitting Duck as a reaction to Buffy's fears about Willow's power is the best explanation I've heard to date. The only hesitation I'd have is it didn't sound as a theme in #23 or #25, which intervene. Though that doesn't mean it can't have been a subterranean fear that resurfaces. And, Retreat does start with a trigger for the fear -- the combination of Willow's cavalier flaying and the news that Twilight is pursuing power.

I'd toss in Buffy's dream in #3 about being afraid that she is dark. She's been worried about it all season. And Twilight is totally going to prey on it. (My favorite panel from #20 -- which ladyofthelog pointed out) is Buffy standing dwarfed in Angel's shadow. I'd personally love it if Angel's central darkness (i.e. Angelus) literally dwarfs whatever darkness Buffy fears in herself. I've made much of the bank robbing, but that's not looming black. But it's too soon to know what to make of Twilight or what's going on with him.

Your last juxtaposition could go away with further exposition -- i.e. that Buffy doesn't keep the power. But I'd say that there's not a contradiction now even taking the story as it stands. Gaining strength from each other is a mutual building up. What's going on with Buffy now is not any sort of mutual building up. Quite the contrary.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th February 2010 23:39 (UTC)

Thanks! I had to re-read ladyofthelog's meta before posting this to make sure I wasn't just repeating things she'd said. :-)

I'm not really concerned about Buffy's Willow-worries not coming to the fore in 'Predators and Prey', because that arc felt more like 'isolated incidents from her life' than a coherent story; basically, it was an interlude.

The main season arc starts up again with 'Retreat', and practically the first thing we see is Willow flaying someone alive, and Buffy and Giles having a worried discussion about it...

Gaining strength from each other is a mutual building up. What's going on with Buffy now is not any sort of mutual building up.

In fact - as we saw being hinted at in the preview of the next issue - Buffy is acting in the way Willow said that vampires do, rather than Slayers; drawing strength from her victims fellow-Slayers. La Révolution dévore ses propres enfants.

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Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st February 2010 02:54 (UTC)

I like your list of questions. I agree that something has happened at Retreat to cause this. Maybe the goddesses did it. And maybe they did it to Twilight before -- only having him suck up the power of dead vampires. And he's already got a Tibetan connection -- maybe post NFA Angel went to Tibet for more meditation and then poof. I do tend to think Twilight orchestrated this.

As for whether it's a bad thing that the powers are being sucked up by Buffy -- my own reaction is that it's squicky much the way cannibalism is squicky. You've been to a great banquet. You're feeling full of power. And then it's revealed to you that you've been feasting on the flesh of your murdered comrades. It's not your fault. But... ugh. That's pretty much what's happened to Buffy. I don't think it's her fault, or that she's guilty of anything. But the metaphor is playing off one of the central taboos of our culture. The one page we've seen says she's taking it hard, and I'd expect her to take it hard. Throw in the fact that they are dead because they are slayers and Buffy is the one who's made them slayers and I'd say Twilight's found a pretty darned good way of undermining Buffy's sense of confidence. It's a dark twist. Joss keeps wanting to bring the pain and then he outdoes himself.

What does Twilight gain? Buffy mired in horror at what's happening, for one. Slayer power concentrated in one person, for another. A match for his own power, for a third. It's overdetermined. I'm not sure which angle matters. I'd guess more than one.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 21st February 2010 05:56 (UTC)

I am a Roman Catholic, FWIW. Eucharist inverts things. We don't take Christ into us and transform him into us (which is what happens when we eat ordinary things). We take him into us and are transformed into him (or into his body). From our POV, of course, this transformation of ordinary human rituals represents taking human impulses and transposing them into the 'right' key -- though obviously it would look differently to non-believers. (I'll spare you the lecture on metaphysics that would explain why it would be difficult for non-Catholics to really understand what Catholics mean by the Eucharist.)

Not sure what to say about our different moral sensibilities. But I would venture to say that since Joss is writing for a western culture, he meant to invoke a sense of revulsion at the idea of cannibalism. Apparently you are an exception, but most people in the west regard cannibalism with horror... especially if it involves family members... which is what the slayers are to Buffy in a manner of speaking. I don't know if you know the whole man who ate an albatross riddle, but it and others like it play off the sense that it would be awful to eat someone, even if it were by accident. See also the Life of Pi. And, of course, the horror/fascination with the Donner party.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st February 2010 17:22 (UTC)

It's not like a spider sucks blood or a vampire pulls it out. It's more like Willow really.

I'd argue that what Willow was doing in S6 was very much like a vampire, though...
No, Buffy isn't deliberately draining that power. Emotionally, though, I'm sure it feels like she is.

I haven't seen anyone write about that.

I'm sure I suggested a theory or two in my review... Willow mentions that the dead Slayers were found in unusual places, so I'm wondering if they were deliberately killed simultaneously as part of a mystical ritual. Presumably by Twilight, or possibly the mysterious powers who lie behind Twilight.

What does Twilight gain by having Buffy suck up the power of the dead slayers?

Here's one theory: Twilight thinks he has to kill all the additional Slayers or the world will end. But what will happen to their power if he does? Either (a) unless someone (Buffy) reabsorbs the power, it will go loose and destroy the world or (b) Since the power is going spare anyway, why not direct it into Buffy and make her better at her job?

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 21st February 2010 21:33 (UTC)

I do agree that the Buffy/Angel conversation in #20 was likely both a subtle hint at Twilight's identity, and foreshadowing as to the reasons why he's been keeping his identity secret from her... because for some reason, "if Buffy finds out before the right moment, all will be lost."

I still can't visualize any scenario under which Twangel's actions could be seen as heroic, regardless of his motives. The things we've seen already preclude that, regardless of what may be revealed in the future. I believe there are some things not even the salvation of the world can justify, although I'm not sure Joss would agree with me on that.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st February 2010 22:55 (UTC)

I believe there are some things not even the salvation of the world can justify, although I'm not sure Joss would agree with me on that.

But would you be prepared to go around all 6 billion people in the world and tell them "Sorry, you're going to die, and so is every person you love. I could prevent it, but my moral scruples forbid me"?

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 22nd February 2010 03:06 (UTC)

Nope... better if they don't see it coming. :-/

Actually, what bothers me even more than Twangel's actions is the utter lack of regret he's shown at doing these things. That more than anything tells me that he (or at least, this version of Angel) is beyond redemption... or at least, beyond me *wanting* to see him redeemed as opposed to dusted.

It might be a plausible story to have Angel do these things for the "greater good," but it certainly wouldn't be a heroic story... and a heroic story is what I signed up for, rightly or wrongly.

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