Friday, 16 September 2011

Buffy Season 9: Little Slayer in the Big City

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Clickable thumbnail for a page from BtVS: Season 9.1 'Freefall'

She’s back!

The Slayer returns for her ninth official season, though like the last one, in comic book form. Doesn’t matter. Season 9 (as with Season 8 before it) is canon. It is outlined/plotted, exec produced, and partly written by the god who be Joss. And Joss has written this here first issue – a short, funny, scene setting and character-building story called Freefall.

The story starts with Buffy waking up after the night before, a major hangover raging. She can’t remember what she got up to at the big housewarming party she threw the previous night; a party to which she invited all of her friends: Willow and her new squeeze, Xander and Dawn, Spike, Riley, and Andrew. She just knows something happened, that she likely made an ass of herself after ingesting copious amounts of alcohol. As her pained morning progresses, our girl slowly starts to remember in flashback bits and pieces of what went on the night before, until eventually she gets the full picture. It is then that Buffy’s new roomies confront her about what happened, and about her friends who came to the party. Yikes! Is it gonna be eviction time for the Buffster?

Uh uh, no spoilers here.

Freefall is a ton of fun. The story is told through Buffy’s tired, red tinged, alcohol dazed morning after eyes, her flashbacks a great device meaning that the reader is just as in the dark as Buffy about what she got up to, only learning what happened as she does. It’s true that Joss has such a firm grip on these characters that they live and breath on the page. As to be expected his dialogue is witty, snappy and clever, while at the same time the theme behind the story is strong. There is a forced jollity to Buffy here. But behind that jollity hides sadness and guilt. And yes, pain. Always pain. Wouldn’t be Buffy without the pain. Being the master Mr Whedon is, he can layer all of this stuff in to a very funny, perfectly constructed story about a girl suffering a bad hangover, just trying to get through her day.

So just what is the theme here? Because as we know, theme and metaphor is the bread and butter of Buffy.

Well, after the huge mystical, multi dimensional, world altering/shattering events of Season 8 the concept behind Season 9 is, we’re told, back to basics. Season 9 is supposed to bring Buffy and her friends back to dealing with the everyday, back to using the supernatural as metaphor for the kinds of trials and tribulations we all face in life: growing up, growing older, dealing with parents and family, dealing with relationships, taking on responsibility. Basically living life. This time, for Buff at least, the main theme appears to be about finding your place in the world and where you fit in when things around you have changed. It’s about building a life and trying to figure out what it is that defines you. Is it your job? Your family? Your friends? A lot of this has been touched on before in Buffy, but through the lens of adolescence, of growing up. This time it is through the lens of directionless adulthood. What happens when we are cast adrift from our old life? You can look at it perhaps like family break up, divorce, or losing a long-held job. Big adult life changes. To quote a song I know, “Where do we go from here?”

In Freefall, Buffy is in the beginnings of this adult life-adjustment phase. Things have changed. She’s trying to get a handle on her life now that her leader-of-a-slayer-army days are over. The remaining slayers are still around (many not happy about what Buffy did), but the army is disbanded, and no new slayers will ever be called again. Now, war over, former Slayer General Buffy Summers is in San Francisco working as a waitress, living in a shared apartment with some brand new roomies, trying to discover what she wants to do with the rest of her life. But despite her having cut the world off from magic and from all the mystical dimensions, there are still vampires around who need slaying. So most nights Buff keeps up her old habit of secret patrolling, of vamp slayage, but with no Big Bads, no major apocalypse’s to be averted. At least not yet. So with the rest of her life ahead of her, and its path not being dictated by any Watcher’s Council types anymore, what’s a young, free and single slayer to do? I guess that is the big question for Season 9.

All in all, Freefall is a perfect start to what promises to be a fun and intriguing new chapter in the lives of everyone’s favourite Sunnydale refugees. So thanks to Joss. I read. I laughed. I reread. I laughed some more. I got the nuances, the subtleties, and the not so subtleties.

Great stuff!

Long may the Buffster reign.

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