Sunday, 23 January 2011

The End of Season 8 and Beyond...



Okay, so, with Buffy: Season 8 having ended this last week (on the Bufster’s birthday no less), here’s my final thoughts on the season just gone and on life in the Buffyverse afterwards.

Overall I've really enjoyed it, even if some parts have been better than others. At times the plotting did become so big, so convoluted, and just so plain bizarre, that I would on occasion struggle to keep up and to remember what was what. A few rereads had to be done, which was no bad thing. But for the most part it has been a logical, weird, and always entertaining continuation of the post-Chosen story made all the better by bringing back some of the very best writers from the show's seven year run. And Joss himself plotted the season and wrote and rewrote lots of it, just as with the TV series. It's been controversial at times, even making headlines around the world when Buffy had a little fling with fellow slayer Satsu, and then again when the identity of the seaason's big bad was released prematurely. Sales have been big. Critical acclaim mostly strong. Awards have been given. Fans ire has been stoked on occasion. So all in all some good work by Joss and co.

Highlights? Of the individual Season 8 arcs my own personal favourite was Drew Goddard's 'Wolves at the Gate', where Buffy and the gang teamed up with Dracula and headed to Japan to recover the stolen Slayer Scythe. Amongst other coolness, this gave us the hilarious and truly bizarre sight of Giant Dawn going all Godzilla in down town Tokyo. Plus a giant Mecha-Dawn to do battle with. Sounds insane, I know. But when magic is involved then all things are possible. So you just go with it and stay on that crazy train. I also really enjoyed Brian K. Vaughan's Faith-centric 'No Future For You' in which she teams up with Giles to take down a rogue slayer within the British aristocracy. And it goes without saying that Joss's stories were, of course, all excellent, with his wonderful one-shot 'The Chain' being extra shiny. His season finale, 'Last Gleaming - Part 5', was also great and a fine season epilogue and a fine prologue to the next lot of adventures to come.

Which brings me neatly to life post-Season 8...

Like the gang sings in OMWF, where do we go from here?

Well, after the huge globe trotting, new universe creating epicness of Season 8, it sounds as if Joss wants to bring things right back down to basics, to pull Buffy back to a simpler, grittier, more human base, concentrating more on the lives of the remaining core characters. And judging by the Season 8 finale that certainly looks to be the case. By the end of Season 8 Buffy has changed the world. Yet again. And, as always, there will be a major price to pay. A price beyond what she and the Scoobies have already paid in blood and great personal loss.

So how have things been left?

After destroying the Seed, magic is now gone from the world, though vamps and other nasties still remain. The slayer line has been ended leaving only the last remaining slayers active with no new ones ever to be called. Giles is dead at the hands of Angel/Twilight. Angel is in England staying with Faith and is a total wreck. Xander and Dawn are together and want out of the slaying life. Willow is forlorn at the magic she has lost, believing that the entire world has lost it's heart. Spike is flitting around in his insect-piloted airship fighting the good fight and trying to offer sound advice and encouragement to Buffy. And Buffy herself is no longer a leader or in control of anything. She is camping out on Dawn and Xander’s couch in San Francisco, working as a waitress by day and prowling rooftops and alleyways by night, alone, slaying vamps and also fending off attacks from gangs of furious ex-slayers (they still have power but have renounced the title) and furious magic-less ex-wiccans who believe she betrayed them. And even though the Bufster's approaching all of this with her usual grit and determination, getting on with the simple mission of slaying vamps and saving people in dark alleyways, it’s not an especially happy place for her to be at. So nothing new there then.

One of the more intriguing future plot threads highlighted in Joss’s excellent season finale is about Angel and how he and the others will deal with his being Twilight and the awful fact that, as Twilight, he murdered Giles. In the finale he appears a broken, catatonic mess, with Faith taking care of him…just as he did for her when she needed help. Buffy can’t even be in the same room as him let alone look at him. This whole outcome and Angel’s actions (albeit under the Twilight influence) have led some fans to decry the way the story developed and to threaten to abandon the Buffyverse for good, saying that Angel has now been ruined as a character and has no more reason to exist.

I say they are dead wrong.

Angel's not ruined. He's just continuing down the very, very bumpy road of his ongoing story. And here’s why:

From the very first time Angel ever laid eyes on Buffy his entire existence has been about her, whether he realised it or not. Everything Angel thinks and feels and does ultimately comes down to Buffy, to his love for her, his need for her. This has always been there – even in the latter stages of his own show. The main reason why he took on the Twilight persona was to push Buffy to evolve so that they could be together, finally. It was all about her. And about him being with her. Angel is a deeply flawed character. Always has been. And that’s partly what makes him a great character. A tragic character. He wasn’t some good and virtuous man before he became a vampire. Quite the opposite. He was an arrogant, selfish, unpleasant fool. And as fans know, in the Buffyverse a vampire still retains aspects of its previous human personality - hence Angelus the vampire was quite the monster. And even after getting his soul back, Angel could still be selfish, unpleasant and foolish from time to time. This latest gig has been just another (albeit huge) example. But then that's the beauty of the characters in the Buffyverse. They are all flawed and will indeed do highly questionable things that can have huge consequences. Even the non-humans are very human. Don’t forget folks, this is life painted large on a huge supernatural fantasy canvas. It is metaphor and allegory for how things really are.

Personally, I think it made perfect sense in the grand scheme of things for Angel to have done what he did in Season 8, although as it turns out he was rather deceived. Lets not forget that Angel's story is all about striving for redemption and making amends. It’s what defines the character. That and his eternal love and need for Buffy. Redemption and amends is a journey on a road that will have many, many bumps along the way. It’s also a journey that doesn’t necessarily have its own end, being that the journey itself is what truly counts. This point has been made before in both series and should not be overlooked by upset fans.

I’d simply implore anyone who says they love Angel not to abandon the character now. This Twilight thing has been yet another huge bump in the road along which Angel is journeying. But the journey will go on. That’s his story. It’s what he does. I can’t wait to see what happens in Season 9, to all of the remaining characters. And whatever does happen to them, I’m sure it won’t be nice and comfy and happy. Because since when has anything ever been nice and comfy and happy in Mr Whedon, The King of Pain’s little myth.

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