I've been promising a review of one of my WATCHER cyber-friend's first fanfic for weeks..., well I finally completed it.
This is: Balloon Payments
by Charles Kelly
Before we start the review proper, this story is not mini-reviewed, but is a full review. This is due to the format that the story is written in. It should be read as you would read a WATCHERS episode... as if this is an aired episode. Due to this, I've used the same review format I would use for WATCHERS... scene by scene.
Foreward: This review is a fanfiction spin off story of a fanfiction series set in an alternate Buffyverse. Generally it is referred to as the WATCHERSverse. As such, if you don't read WATCHERS or review my reviews of said series, this will make little sense to you.
The story is set sometime in the latter half of S1 WATCHERS, sometime after "Lessons Learned". As such, Kennedy hasn't found out about Angel killing her mother, Jenny Calendar. Ro & Willow aren't an item, but are on their way to it and Kennedy is still dealing with the consequences of her actions in the wake of Willow dumping her.
BLURB: Warren Meers suddenly materializes in the Council lobby and shoots Rowena, kidnaps Willow and leaves behind evidence implicating Angel. Kennedy finds out that Angel was the vampire who killed her mom and goes amok in search of revenge. Meanwhile, Angel’s new girlfriend has been kidnapped and he finds evidence implicating Rupert Giles in her disappearance. Former allies start gearing up for war. Meanwhile, Willow finds herself in a cage with a pretty werewolf just before the first night of the lunar cycle. After that, things get rough for everybody....
Scene 01: Our teaser scene opens with a quote by Kipling, which refers to paying for sins of the past. Since we know this is going to involve Willow and Warren, it is perfect.
The scene continues into the Council lobby, where a chessboard has been set up. Willow and Rowena are in the midst of a game with some of their fellow Councilmen watching. Xan, confident in Willow, bets Andrew that she'll take the game. This causes a round of betting as Willow informs Ro that her leaving her Queen open isn't going to draw Willow into the trap that she's attempted to lay.
In the midst of the game, a vortex of light appears, revealing the sudden appearance of Warren.
As everyone is trying to adjust to this, and before they can properly react, Warren shoots Rowena. Willow, having gone black eyed again, threatens him, but there is another flash of brilliance another vortex causes Willow to vanish.
In the meantime, Andrew has tackled Warren. On Warren's hand is a tattoo of some sort and Andy bites his hand. When the tattoo is marred, Warren suddenly turns to mud, ending the attack.
Meanwhile, Xander has rushed to where Willow used to be and finds a sketch of Jenny Calendar... the same sort of sketch that he'd left behind for Giles in BTVS: Passion. He jumps to the conclusion that Angel is sending a message. Unfortunately, his shock also causes him to blurt out the details of the photo.
Kennedy reacts violently, turning on Giles that he claimed that Buffy killed the vampire who was responsible for her birth mother's death. She storms off, as Giles rushes after her.
Commentary: This teaser scene is good up to a point, but there is a problem with details that are being included from the wrong POV. This is going to be repeated, so let me give you the example, and then I'll explain why this is the wrong way to go about the scene: Warren Meers has very suddenly appeared in the midst of the Council and is holding a gun.
Nothing wrong with this from a story standpoint (and I like the call out to Willow and Ro's chess playing and the subtle nod to the Willow/Kennedy tension). But, when we get to the description of the scene, we get this: 'A man with a mysterious tattoo on his right hand, between his thumb and forefinger. But the Watchers and Slayers probably didn’t notice the tattoo—the pistol in his hand was more important.'
Here is the problem: The conceipt of the story is that it is following the WATCHERS model. That conceipt is dependent on WATCHERS being a TV Show. But here, we have a 3rd party omniscient narrator giving us details that we should only be able to see via others' reactions. It would be great if Andrew noticed the tattoo... for instance, "Andrew tackled Warren... or whatever it was... to the floor. He hesitated briefly, his gaze frozen on an odd tattoo between the thumb and forefinger of his opponent."
"Warren didn't HAVE tattoos," Andrew ground out through his clenched teeth. He quickly began slamming the imposter's hand against the floor hard, trying to dislodge his grip on the lethal looking pistol.
You see, in the story's case, we're being informed about an attribute that we couldn't know looking at the scene as if through a television screen - that Xander, Giles, etc. probably didn't notice the tattoo because of the gun. In fact, if no one noticed the tattoo (and Andrew does because he bites Warren there), then it isn't something that should be pointed out at all.
In the second example though, it is alright to point it out, because Andrew is making a direct observation. He's telling the camera that he, at least, noticed the tattoo and that something is off about it.
There is a third way to handle this, too, because of the 'TV Show format': A direction description along the lines of, "Cut TO: Close up of Warren's gun hand. We see a tattoo on the webbing between the forefinger and thumb. It is of an unusual design." Followed by "Cut To: Two person shot of Andrew wrestling with Warren"... and then continue the scene in which we're told what exactly Andrew and Warren are doing as we would see it. In this case, it is okay for the story to point out a detail that the audience may need, but that our characters may not be aware of or took note of. The camera view is giving us this information.
The difference here is in perspective. If the format is written as a camera view, then it is a limited third person perspective with us as the third person via the camera. There is a distance there between the observer and the participants in the scene. However, the way the details of this scene are written, we are being given access to the thoughts of the participants - this is excellent and necessary in a typical narration, but it isn't appropriate for this format.
There is another example in this same scene: "Andrew Wells—yes, that Andrew Wells—lunged at Warren Meers." Again, this would work in a narrative, but as a camera-viewpoint story, it is inappropriate. Who is making this judgement about Andrew [yes, the audience might be surprised at Andrew doing something so physically heroic, but the camera is impartial, it can't make a value judgement about Andrew's likelihood of tackling Warren]? Again, this could work if someone else had made an observation: "Jeff was staring in shock at Andrew as he watched him rolling around on the floor and struggling with Warren's wrist."
In this case, we are seeing something at the same time Jeff is - Andrew tackling Warren to the floor, but more importantly, we're also seeing Jeff be shocked by this and then left to decide what this means. The camera view isn't telling us what to be shocked at, only that there is shock on Jeff's face. Later, Jeff could say to Andrew, "Andy, that was a gutsy thing you did", thereby making it clear what he'd been shocked about.
There is also a general lack of descriptive details that hurt this scene. Willow is a good example here. She is suddenly telling Warren that he must enjoy dying to have come back to the Council for an attack. But this is a) an out of place reaction... she should be shocked that he's even there since the last time she saw him, he was being immolated and 2) this is extremely out of character for Willow, post-BTVS: Lessons without some sort of description explaining it: "Willow stood for a moment, ashen faced and shaking. Staring at the gun, her face suddenly went pale, except for the dark veins rising under her skin. She looked at Warren through eyes that had gone black."
You see, this is something that would both be understandable and would be something that we could imagine seeing on our TV screen. The line is just bad, though.
Scene 02: Meanwhile in Los Angeles, we see someone obviously running for their life through an alley. The man comes to a 10' high concrete wall, but is able to leap up to the top of it, indicating this is no mere man. Before he can scale over it, however, Illyria comes up from the other side. She punches the guy hard enough to crack bone and he falls back on his own side of the wall.
There, Angel is waiting. He picks up the now-clearly-a-vampire and dangles him above the ground. He asks where *they* are.
Commentary: This is also a good scene, but again, we're given information that we as an audience cannot know without dialog. It is mentioned that the vampire being chased likes Angel's outfit. It's cute, but it isn't something we can know given the storytelling format.
Scene 03: We cut to sometime later, at a warehouse. Angel is with the blonde vampire-guy and throws him into the warehouse. Chained to the wall, they see Ira and Sheila, Willow's parents. It is obvious that they have been snacked on..., but they're alive.
Spike is pissed and it causes the vampire lackey to reveal that he was paid by a Brit to hold the Rosenbergs. When Angel gets up in his face, he cracks further and reports that it was... Rupert Giles?!
Spike is immediately doubting of this information, as Angel finishes off the vampire-lackey.
Commentary: Only one thing here: It is mentioned that Illyria accompanies Angel into the warehouse, while FRED is outside with a crossbow. Say, wha?! Now, this is seriously wrong (I think he meant to place Lorne, here) or a previous story in this alternate-verse allowed Fred and Illyria to co-exist with their own bodies. We'll have to wait to see if she shows up anywhere else....
Scene 04: In another otherwise empty warehouse, Willow has been caged. With her is a blond woman. This woman introduces herself as Nina Ash, who we know is Angel's friend. Here she calls herself his 'girlfriend'. She also happens to be a werewolf. We met her in Angel's S5 and saw her again in "After the Fall".
Willow tries a teleport spell to move her and Nina out, but finds that she is, of course, blocked. It wouldn't have been much of an abduction plan, otherwise.
Insert WATCHERS, S1 Theme (http://www.thewatcherscouncil.net/opening.htm)
Scene 05: At Watchers HQ, Ro has been taken to surgery. Also hit by the bullet passing through Ro and into another room, little Slayer Marsha was also hit, but it was in the butt and she should make a complete recovery.
There is also some discussion about Willow now missing.
Xander (of course it would be Xan - I like this part) immediately claims Angel left his calling card.
Scene 06: At W & H, Angel has turned over the Rosenbergs to the LAPD that is a reliable contact for the firm.
Team Angel discuss the current situation with Wes & Spike insisting that Giles wouldn't act in this manner. Angel and Gunn are more ready to buy into Giles being corrupted by the power of the WATCHERS Council, although the focus on the Rosenbergs isn't something they can explain at this moment.
Commentary: I'm of two minds about this, I'll admit. I see that the focus is to bring about a conflict between Team Angel and the New Council. I also see a situation in which Angel might be worried about the Council's reach, and especially when it comes to that influence reaching into Angel's 'territory'. I'll even buy that Angel worries about the effects of power on those in Sunnydale. But, I have problems seeing Angel jumping to this conclusion whole-heartedly as here. This is a real problem, because of the way the situation was set up. The warehouse rental... such a small detail... really undermines this plot point.
It is too easily obvious that Giles might be the victim of a set up, because - as written - it took no effort for W & H's resources to discover that the warehouse was rented in Giles' name. If Gunn's dialog instead suggested that they'd had to really dig through a lot of shell corporations, and false identities to reach Giles' name, it would have been more acceptable that he, Lorne and maybe even Spike (after he's been on the receiving end of Giles' BTVS: S7 ruthlessness) may have had doubts about Giles' innocence. I am having trouble buying Angel's conviction of Rupert, here, though. He didn't see Giles in S7, and I don't see Spike having a long conversation about Giles attempting to help Wood kill him with Angel over a beer, so Angel's memories of Giles should still be relatively good. In addition, it is a mighty leap from Giles trying to act for the greater good by being more hard and pragmatic in his choices, and his hiring vampires to feed on Willow's parents! It also doesn't make sense from a simple motive standpoint. Why would Giles choose this course of action to control Willow?
The ease with which Angel buys into this alleged corruption of Giles rings false in order to reach the Team Angel vs. WATCHERS Council fight.
Scene 07: In the Warehouse of Entrapment, Willow has been trying to escape but there is some sort of anti-magic field set up keeping her from teleporting out. Warren Meers shows up to emotionally torture her a bit and then turns into a pile of mud when his fun has been played out.
Commentary: The focus on the gun is interesting, but possibly a bit overdone and repetitive as far as the sentence goes. But I do love Warren's "message" from Tara and Rowena... that was a hurtful bit of snark that I have no problem seeing Warren uttering... even fake Warren (c'mon, the guy is turning into puddles of mud).
Scene 08: A good scene follows Kennedy arriving in LAX, which again shows the reach of the new WATCHERS Council.
Commentary: My only issue here is again a viewpoint problem. This sentence:
He had a tattoo on one hand, just like the one "Warren" had. Perhaps Kennedy didn’t notice it. She’d had other things on her mind when Andrew bit "Warren."
We shouldn't be told this, due to the format of the story as an 'episode': What should happen in this sort of case is a stage direction, "Camera closes in on the security man's hand. We see that he has a tattoo like Warren's on his hand..."
Then go on with Kennedy's thanking him for his help and going on with the scene from there. It would be obvious to us that Kenn didn't notice the tattoo and that her mind is on Angel. "Perhaps Kennedy didn't notice" is fine for a fiction narration, where the 3rd person view is omnipotent and can make these observations. But, that isn't the viewpoint of this format.
Kennedy's muttering at the end of the scene is perfect, however. It tells us everything we need to know about where Kenn is and about her intentions using the limited camera view to pass this information to us.
Scene 09: After Kenn has left the airport, her contact meets with D'Hoffryn!
Commentary: Now, that is an interesting twist to the tale.... I also love D'Hoffryn's immediately considering Kennedy as a potential Vengeance Demon. That's awesome.
Scene 10: Back at WATCHERS HQ, Giles has retained the services of an art expert (who has had experience with the supernatural, so they can speak freely). He scrutinizes the drawing left behind and declares that only magic could have duplicated so precisely the drawings before him. A human, or vampire hand, could not have drawn both pictures of Jenny he is analyzing without any deviation whatsoever. And neither of the drawings suggest a mechanical hand at work. They were both drawn by the same hand, which as mentioned, simply isn't possible without a deviation between the two.
This causes Faith to basically side with Angel and suspect a huge set up. Giles is halfway to believing it as well, even though he still doesn't trust Angel's involvement with W & H. Their problem now is that Kennedy is on the way to L.A. without this information, and probably not in the mood to listen to the clear evidence that somebody wants badly for the Council to conclude that Angel arranged for the hit at the Council. After all, that doesn't really matter when Angelus did still kill Jenny and that is really what has sent Kenn off the deep end.
Commentary: I really like this scene. I love Faith being the one to immediately conclude Angel isn't their bad guy. I love Giles' being halfway convinced, even though it sort of appears that he really kinda wanted it to be Angel so that they'll have an excuse to raid W & H. And the discussion about Kennedy's fate at the Council due to her breaking Giles' arm when he tried to stop her from running of to L.A. in the first place is also excellent. And, our viewpoint is dialog, so we're not being fed information the camera would not have.
Scene 11: Back in the Warehouse of Caged Heat, Willow is still shook by watching Tara shot again... her duplicate's body being left behind to lie on the floor. Nina Ash though, is thinking and in asking questions of Willow realizes that 'Warren' can't actually be Warren, unless the other one was made of a mudpuddle, too.
Willow realizes that someone must be created Golems of Warren....
Nina puzzles over what could be the reason for her involvement, since she and Will don't have any other connection. Willow points out that they have relationships with Angel as a common denominator.
Another mud-Warren chooses this moment to appear. He has another Tara duplicate with him.
After giving a Willow access to a gun with silver bullets, he tells Willow he's giving her a choice: Kill Angel's girlfriend, or watch the re-enactment of Tara's death over and over and over....
Willow tries to shoot herself in the head, instead, but Warren makes it clear that won't be allowed. He also demonstrates that shooting him isn't going to do a lot of good either.
Nina tells Willow that if they're not rescued by moonrise, she'll have little choice but to shoot her to save herself....
Scene 12: Back at Council HQ, the gang are thinking through their current dilemma. Xander reports that he was able to talk to Riley and that Buffy, Dawn & Oz had been under near constant vampire attacks for the last few weeks. Buffy went to Riley for some backup, which causes Giles to wonder why she didn't come to them. There isn't an immediate answer for that one.
In addition, they find out about both the rescuing of the Rosenbergs and the kidnapping of Nina and Giles puts together that there was probably evidence left behind to point to the Council. He decides Faith and Andrew must be right that someone is trying to arrange for a deathmatch between Angel and the Council.
Commentary: I do love this scene as well. There is wonderful callbacks to continuity for both BTVS and AtS, without them dragging down the narration, or being allowed to go off on tangents in order to describe whole episode plots to us from the past. This is exactly the way for callouts to work. I also love the dialog here.
I'm not buying Becca being able to get information from the L.A. anti-terror squad about the Rosenbergs, though. That part seemed completely superfluous in order to include Becca.
I'm also intrigued with Xander's refusing to go through Dracula's diaries and Giles' implication that something in them could be used as a peace-offering/bargaining chip with Angel.
We don't know anything about why/what yet, as this is at the tale end of this scene, but I was immediately interested in the details.
Scene 13: In LAX, Robin is led to a security room by Marc Legion, the gentleman that helped Kenn get her hands on some heavy weaponry, despite being asked not to by the Council. D'Hoffryn is also there, again, and also offering Robin a job in Vengeance. But, mostly he's just there to make sure that Robin doesn't get to warn Angel that Kenn is coming for him.
Scene 14: Back in the Warehouse of Mental Torture, Nina becomes a werewolf. Willow's magic though, appears to work just fine, within the confines of the cage anyway. She's even able to hurl a bolt of lightning at 'Warren', though of course, it doesn't do much. Since Will won't hurt Nina, and since she's able to put up a forcefield to hold the werewolf at bay, Warren decides to shoot Nina himself. When he tries though, he finds that Willow's magic is able to protect her.
Stymied, he goes back to the standby of making 'Tara' suffer. And, despite Willow knowing that 'Tara' isn't, she suffers along with her.
Commentary: I love Willow's whispering 'Stalemate', a call back to the chess game with Ro as it relates to Willow's being able to protect both herself and Nina while 'Warren' is able to still emotionally batter Willow. I also really like the dialog throughout this scene between Willow and Warren.
Scene 15: At LAX, D'Hoffryn gives Robin a possible clue before teleporting out. Robin is left with the Legion-Golem and tries to make an escape. It's not entirely successful. Though Robin notes the tattoo and destroys it allowing him to dissipate the Golem into mud, he's also shot in the chest and goes down... how badly he's hit, we don't know yet.
Scene 16: At W & H, Kennedy sets up a scoped rifle and targets Angel. [I'm assuming that the idea is that the rifle's .300 Magnum ammunition would be more than enough to destroy Angel's head or heart, and ergo lead to dusting.] Before she can fire, however, D'Hoffryn appears to warn her that the bullet's speed would render the silencer inoperative giving ample warning that she's there and warning her that the Old Council wouldn't tolerate her acting on her own vendetta and would order her assassination, as they had attempted to kill Faith for going rogue.
Kennedy is at first skeptical about wanting to help her, but he explains that a) his client didn't pay up in full and b) he doesn't like the idea of Willow ending up dead when the Council vs. Angel fight is over, as he likes her a lot and still has hopes she'll turn to him in future and finally, that c) Angel already has enough information to avoid the planned warfare between the two groups, so not giving this information to her won't change anything.
Commentary: I like this scene, too. The dialog explaining D'Hoffryn's role in this is good and his reasons for turning on his client is certainly plausible.
Scene 17: We cut to later, at a demon bar. Kennedy storms the place, with the goal of recruitment. She states that her intention is to force Angel to undo what he allowed Willow to do, so that there is only one Slayer again. Supposedly, she wants to go back to being a 'normal girl'; she tells the demons that she's tired of the constant fighting for her life and she's ready to make a deal. Force Angel to undo the Slayer-creation spell, and let her live, and she'll help them storm W & H....
Commentary: My only real beef is that the demons seem so unaware that there is a Slayer army. It seems impractical that this wouldn't have already been known through the demon grapevine in such a huge city filled with demons. I also didn't buy that Kenn would be able to claim that there is an army of them now, so they should stop attacking her. She's still standing there... alone... whether she's THE Slayer or A Slayer shouldn't really make any difference. I do like that Kenn gave her name a Jenny Calendar, though. It's obvious that whatever else is going on against the WATCHERS Council, Kennedy is still focused on vengeance against Angel/Angelus and that gives a good reason for keeping D'Hoffryn interested in how things play out.
Scene 18: At the WATCHERS HQ, Xan and Giles are arguing about something, but we don't know what (though in a few minutes we can make a very good guess). From the doorway in the conference room, Marsha comes in on her crutches, already out of medical due to the Slayer healing, I would suppose. With her is a man of unusual bearing.
This Drogyn... Keeper of the Deep Well. Angel has sent the Keeper with a message to Giles and this is where it is confirmed for the Council that they were set up as much as Team Angel was. Drogyn, who is physically incapable of lying, has been dispatched with a message from Angel. He tells Giles that Angel knows they had nothing to do with either the fate of the Rosenbergs (the details of which are just becoming known to them) or the kidnapping of Nina. He also reports to Faith about Robin's injury and the sincere offer by Angel to transport Faith to L.A. to be at Robin's side.
No one, but Faith, completely trusts Angel, but with Robin so hurt she goes anyway.
Giles also offer to Drogyn a message to Angel. Rupert has located the spell that allowed Dracula to survive his dusting at Buffy's hands in BTVS. As a show of renewed trust, he's willing to give it to Angel in order to stop Kennedy from being able to kill him.
Commentary: It sounds contradictory that Giles would offer Angel this gift if he doesn't really trust the whole W & H involvement to Team Angel. It's hard to argue that this makes complete sense, but the way the scene plays out, I liked it anyway. Drogyn is well handled and I continue to like the ties that are being built between BTVS-history and AtS-history. Also such a good idea was Rupert playing a large part in Illyria's escape from the Deeper Well, because he vetoed Willow going to L.A. to help Angel in the first place. Giles' wanting to keep the Council seperated from Angel led to the God-King being set loose, as Giles admits that Willow may have been powerful enough to stop it. I love Giles' reaction and Drogyn's lack of condemnation regarding what's done is done. In general, I really like the way the guest stars are being handled and it really shows a commitment to the two shows' histories that Charles is reaching into their mythos to bring these minor characters into play. I love continuity, so I really like this part of the plot construction.
It's here that Xander again objects to offering Angel the anti-permanent-dusting spell to Angel, so we have a clue what his and Giles' argument was about (and I also love that it is Xan who objects to this strongly -- and considering the threat of another return by Angelus, I feel like I have to take his side, even though I don't want to).
Scene 19: At W & H, Team Angel is defending the HQ from the demonic invasion that Kennedy was able to arrange. There isn't any sign of the pissed off Slayer. The team are able to hold their own against overwhelming odds, as is the way with heroes. Even Harmony gets in on the act, by saving Lorne.
Angel warns that he wants some of their attackers saved in order to get intel from them....
Scene 20: At the Council HQ, Lorne shows the sort of sense that is in short supply around Angel and Spike. He calls the Council for some emergency assistance....
Scene 21: Meanwhile on a jet above the midwest, Faith and Drogyn are racing for L.A.
Faith also gets a call from Lorne....
Scene 22: At the Warehouse of Woe, Willow has had a complete emotional meltdown at hearing Tara's continued anguish at the hands of Warren all night. As Nina comes around, Warren decides that his work is done for the moment. He turns Tara into mud, before going the same way.
Nina holds Willow as she cries on the other woman's shoulder....
Scene 23: Back at WATCHERS HQ, Xander is in the medical wing sitting with Ro, when she comes around. They discuss the current situation and Ro has to agree with Giles' general assessment that Angel isn't behind things, even though Xander appears to almost desperately want him to be responsible.
She gives Xander the idea that this is someone who wants Willow to go to Team Evil, rather than Angel. Xan mentions that D'Hoffryn had tried to recruit Wills a few times but she turned him down every time. Ro wonders if he might not be their bad guy.
When Xander tells her that Willow is missing and the Devon Coven can't seem to trace her, Ro also offers that she may have been dimensionally relocated during her abduction. She almost slips up into revealing she feels a lot more for Willow than anyone else is currently aware of, but covers well enough.
Scene 24: In W & H's lobby, Faith and Drogyn arrive, but before they can do much damage, Spike has been able to restore the holy water sprinkler system....
Angel nearly gets himself burned extra cripsy, but he does a cool flip/leap out of the water's range. Illyria saves two vampires for interrogation.
Scene 25: In the Warehouse of Sobbing, Nina and Willow talk more and Nina's observations lead Willow to conclude that the golems have been cursed with souls... which means that Warren has really been killing Tara over and over... she breaks down again under this new information.
Commentary: Y'know, Charles has managed to make Nina more useful in a few short scenes than Angel: After the Fall did in however many issues they put her in. She's nearly *gasp* interesting! She at least has a well defined sense of personality. Good Show, Charles, on that.
Scene 26: Back in the hospital room, with Ro's help, Giles and Xander have a plan involving the use of Riley's access to spy satellites that may be pickup up a unique radiation pattern consistent with interdimensional travel....
Scene 27: Following the attack, Angel's team starts putting together the clues and comes to basically the same conclusions as the Council. But more, they also realize that Kennedy is probably the one responsible for the attack against W & H and that her target is, of course, Angel himself.
Illyria wants immediately to hunt down "the fugitive" Slayer and execute her. Angel tells Faith to contact Giles, but to not give him the details about what just occurred - only that they're trying to find Kenn and that she's definitely made it to L.A.
Commentary: Great job with Illyria; I loved her dialog and her whole characterization was spot-on accurate. I especially had fun with her interaction and threatening Faith.
Scene 28: Great Scene!
Kennedy is still on a building rooftop, watching her demon/vampire army utterly fail.
D'Hoffryn drops in on her to bait her. He points out that she'll be a hunted woman now, her arranged attack causing the deaths of 7 ordinary, if not particularly decent, human beings. Kennedy has the decency to be shocked at what she has wrought.
Unfortunately, she actually asks a Demon (and D'Hoffryn definitely should get a capital 'D' in demon) what she should do. He tells her he would be happy to offer her his protection, if she'd like to offer to sell her soul to him....
Commentary: How much do I love the writing for D'Hoffryn? He's often a funny character, but as the master of Vengeance Demons and the ruler of his own little dimension, you have to think he has some serious evil power going on. His scene here is humorous in a very dark way here, but that offer to Kenn is suddenly unfunny and quite chilling.
Scene 29: In the office of Angel, Illyria notes that they're being spied on. Drogyn is able to read D'Hoffryn's lips as he offers Kennedy the deal. Faith tells them that Kenn would never accept such a deal, and she proves her correct. They watch her slap D'Hoffryn and stomp away from him....
Angel comes up with a plan of action to take some of the heat off of them. He decides to implicate the First in the attack on W & H's law offices as a way to deflect attention from Kennedy's role, so that they won't target the Slayer before they can help her see that Angel isn't the enemy here, despite the things that Angelus did.
He also assigned Wes the task of coming up with a way for Giles to save face so he can accept Kennedy back into the fold once they've stopped her from continuing to self destruct in front of them. Finally, he comes up with a plan to include Dracula's anti-dusting spell without him actually knowing its details so that he won't have the means of using after it is removed should he become Angelus again.
Illyria is sent to follow and protect the newly very vulnerable Kennedy from all of the enemies she's been quickly making in L.A. until they can find her a way out of the mess she's created. Illyria states she should just be killed for safety's sake, but Angel argues her out of this course of action.
Commentary: Again, I really like the character writing in this scene. It draws on Angel's experiences in his own series, his access to W & H's resources and the rich history of the whole Buffyverse. I also really like the way Drogyn, D'Hoffryn and Illyria are being handled.
Scene 30: Back in the Council infirmary, our group also has a plan... this one involving finding Willow. Rowena offers to astral project so that she can travel interdimensionally much more quickly than searching each dimension one by one in an attempt to locate Willow. The risks are significant, and Giles nearly vetoes any such plan, but together Ro and Xan convince him. He offers to be Ro's anchor, instead.
They're interrupted by the Cleveland PD - Homicide. They've been given a tip about an unsolved murder in Sunnydale, CA and would like a word with Giles down at the station.
Scene 31: In the Warehouse of Tara-deaths, Warren demands that Willow bring him back to life in exchange for leaving Tara be.
In the meantime, Nina is once again transforming and Willow quickly takes steps to keep her on her own side of the cage.
Willow tries to tell Warren that there isn't a way to bring him back. We also find out from Tara, though, that their creator is a woman but then Warren shoots her before she can be asked anything else. Warren's new goal appears to be an attempt to get out of his own imprisonment and servitude by forcing Willow to transpossess Nina's body with Warren's soul and vice versa - she refuses.
Warren's not happy with that answer and it's relatively easy to replace shot Tara with new Tara so Warren gets another and starts kicking the crap out of her. Willow huddles in on herself.
Commentary: This is a strong scene, as well, with Warren's self interest suddenly manifesting as a way to get out of his own summoning/servitude/mudpuddling over and over.
Scene 32: In an alley, D'Hoffryn has turned his attention on some vengeance of his own against Kennedy. Since he can't really act for his own revenge though, he has recruited some of the vampires that managed to not get wiped out at W & H. Kennedy holds her own enough for most of the vampires to turn tale and run.
In the meantime, Illyria makes her presence known and she tells D'Hoffryn that Kenn is now under her protection at least until the feud between her and Angel is concluded. At first D'Hoffryn is less than impressed, but when he hears the name 'Illyria', he decides to take a quick exit.
She then punches Kennedy out, since the Slayer seems less than inclined to accept the 'protection'.
Scene 33: Over in the Cleveland PD, they're investigating the death of Ben as new evidence suggests that a fingerprint had been found on the body... a print matching Giles.
Using this evidence and some rather embarrassing and hurtful words of Giles' from the past, Angel - through Hamilton - bribes Rupert into agreeing to spare Kennedy and to concoct a cockamamie story about his ordering her to break his arm, so that the Council would have 'plausible deniability' on her mission to kill Angel, when the Council thought he was involved in the attack on them. It's unconvincing, but will probably work.
Giles isn't happy with this turn of events, but finally and reluctantly agrees.
Commentary: I like the way that Angel is pulling strings here. It's a hint to the darker places he goes to during his short tenure as head of W & H's L.A. firm prior to deciding to go out in a blaze of glory by destroying the Circle of the Black Thorn. I'm not completely buying Giles in this scene. There is something a little too ruthless when he speaks about Kennedy and how she must be punished for defying the Council's authority. It's much too much like Travers, which isn't the Rupert of WATCHERS S1, where this story takes place.
Scene 34: At the infirmary, without Giles available, it's decided to get on with Ro's search anyway. Andrew is tapped, again, to play anchor.
In the meantime, Xander orders the Slayers except for Rona & Marsha to head for the airport in case they have to go in to retrieve Giles from L.A. Xander tells Vi that he still thinks Angel is at fault for their whole mess and he intends on taking the war to him, if need be.
Vi expresses worry that he's wrong, but Xan is pig-headed when it comes to the subject of Angel being left alive so any excuse....
Scene 35: Back at the Warehouse of Sadism, Rowena appears in astral form. She clues Willow into the fact that she's trapped in a bubble of interdimensional space. Like a tiny world where only her cage, herself and Nina exist. That is why she hasn't been able to leave it, and yet her magic seems to work just find within it.
Ro promises Willow that they'll find a way to retrieve her and give Warren the 'justice' he so richly deserves. In the meantime, she asks Willow about enemies that could be targeting her. Willow expresses that she thinks D'Hoffryn is their culprit, but that there has to be one other... a human to make the wish against Willow for vengeance. We already know from what one of the Tara-golems stated, that it is a woman: My bet is Amy Madison.
But, in the meantime, Willow now has the tools within her limited sphere of influence to fight back as she can.
Scene 36: We join Team Angel waiting for Kennedy to come around. She's been locked in the cage at W & H used for Nina when she wolfs out.
There is discussion about what they're going to do next. Gunn has reported back that, through the conduit, he was able to convince the Senior Partners that The First has once again impersonated Jenny Calendar. They're also convinced that it was The First that ordered the attack on the W & H L.A. office. Everyone knows that The First had taken a interest in Angel/Angelus.
Meanwhile, Wes also shares that he had just spoken with Hamilton and that Giles has accepted the bargain, though not without being angry about it. Angel warns that he'll be a target of Giles, but that he won't act rashly, so they'll have some time.
Rowena Allister appears in her astral form. She's able to share that both Willow and Nina are alive. Team Angel already knows about the D'Hoffryn connection, and Rowena shares that Willow has a theory....
Commentary: There is an ongoing issue that I'll point out here: Tara's last name is misspelled throughout the story. It's "Maclay". There is also a continuity error... Giles is being listed as someone standing in front of the cage looking in on Kennedy. Until a few sentences later, when he is suddenly still at the police station in Cleveland agreeing to Angel's terms.
Scene 37: At Angel's HQ, they begin to put a plan in motion that calls for Kennedy to get over her own anger long enough to rescue Willow. She's to summon D'Hoffryn since she's being consumed right now with vengeance, but she's to kill him instead of asking for a wish. If she'll do this for Angel, Angel will allow her to dust him in exchange.
In the meantime, they find that a warehouse was rented by Warren's mother under her maiden name (hmmm... not Amy? How does Warren's mom know about what happened? And, is she the woman that Tara spoke about?). They figure that is where Willow is, though dimensionally shifted within her magic cage.
Finally, Angel has Lorne begin to evacuate W & H, on the theory that Xander will have his Slayers crashing the building as soon as they can get there. Angel knows of Xan's hatred enough to not have confidence that he'll back off if everything is explained to him.
Scene 38: In Cleveland, Xander is reacting just as Angel guessed. He has the jets full of Slayers take off for LAX with Vi playing lead.
Meanwhile, since he's ordered all available Slayers and Watchers off to do battle with Team Angel (and by extension W & H), he calls Riley for troops to keep the Hellmouth from boiling over....
Commentary: I love how Xander is handled here. He's going to send the Slayers into war against Angel, but he's also worrying... not about winning... just about still being the good guys after winning. I love that sentiment. It's a wonderful and subtle call back (purpose, or happy coincidence?) to Xan telling Buffy that he didn't want to lose her when she'd made the decision to go after Faith on Angel's behalf. Buffy took it there to mean that he was afraid Faith would kill her, but Xan tells her that isn't what he meant... this scene plays out very much like that one, with Xander realizing that he's treading that familiar ground.
Scene 39: In the jet, Rona and Vi have a nice scene...
Commentary: ... but it's another continuity error. Xander had mentioned already that Rona was staying behind to defend the HQ with him and presumably Andrew, once the anchoring of Ro is over. Now, she's suddenly sitting side by side with Vi awaiting travel to L.A.
Scene 40: At W & H, Faith checks on Kennedy and gets punched hard. Kenn throws an entire screaming fit over Faith helping Angel. Angel sends everyone out so that he and Faith can work out her issues with him....
Scene 41: In a warehouse, we meet the gypsies who are creating the golems to make Willow suffer. The crafter of the golems is Warren's mother. Obviously, she's also a witch of some talent. She is trying to force Tara-golem to beg Willow to bring back Warren for reals.
But, there is also another man there... her husband, and he's giving the old Kalderash "vengeance is a living thing" spiel to his wife. She tells him she isn't interested in such things, she only wants her son back.
Commentary: This part gets a bit confused to me... It seems like the husband is also interested in Willow resurrecting 'his brother', but the way that it is written, it sounds like they're referring to Warren, still. However, if Warren is the golem-creator's son and she's speaking to her husband, then I'm really hoping Warren and Husband aren't related!
I think the actual point is that she's doing it to resurrect Warren and he's helping her because he's her husband, but there is also the outside chance that Willow can bring back his brother/her brother-in-law at the same time. Since we're deeply into Kalderash territory, I'm going to guess that the brother in question is Uncle Enyos, whom Angelus murdered.
Scene 42: Back in the Warehouse-of-Fur-and-Spells, Rowena arrives back to tell Willow that they've had a change of plans. Willow guesses that Kenn is more interested in killing Angel than in helping them.
Scene 43: Meanwhile, Xander's teams have arrived at LAX. Homeland Security has various weaponry waiting for the Slayers' arrivals.
Scene 44: In the Cage-of-Grudge-Matches, Kennedy and Angel verbally spar. Both of them have battle wounds, but Kenn is definitely coming out the worse as Angel's experience is worth more than her bitterness.
Scene 45: In the W & H lobby, Xander's Slayers find only a huge, empty and quiet building. Rona issues orders to the assault. Their plans include killing Angel.
Commentary: Poor Angel. Everyone wants to kill him ... *snicker* ... What? It's darkly amusing. I also appreciate that Rona gets to do something.
Scene 46: In the Cage-of-Murderous-Intent, Angel is kicking the crap out of Kennedy. He tells her the only reason she isn't dead is because he promised Faith that he wouldn't if it wasn't absolutely necessary. He adds that the way she's fighting, it won't be.
Commentary: Yay, Angel! Give that deadpan snark.
Scene 47: At the Warehouse-of-Torture, the back up for Willow arrives. With her now knowing that her magic is all powerful within the mini-verse of her cage, she's easily able to make the escape. Warren-golem collapes in terror at the floating figure of a pissed of Willow.
Her rescuer is Spike.
He's brought her a little something too. A stylus that lets her write another symbol on Warren's other hand and to spear the symbol of his golem-making mother. This allows Willow control over Warren-golem. She directs him to take her to his former mistress. In the meanwhile, Nina and Tara-golem are left to Spike's care.
Scene 48: With Willow in lead, along with Rowena-Projection, Spike and Tara-golem following ... oh, and heavily armed W & H assault team specialists... they storm Warren's mom's lair.
It is relatively easy to defeat the Kalderash, but Willow isn't done with that. She also summons D'Hoffryn with Tara-golem and Rowena-projection and places curses on all of the Kalderash clan and on Warren himself.
D'Hoffryn even allows Wes to make a wish against Warren.
Commentary: I have two problems with this scene. One of these is minor ... that the wrap up is going much too quickly and seems anti-climactic. The major one, though, is again with how Willow is being portrayed. Yes, this is Warren and his family. Yes, her vengeance wish is actually poetic. But there is a real spite here to Willow that just doesn't jibe for me with the S7 Wills, who learned so much about the power of hate and rage to turn on its holder. It just doesn't feel like the Willow we know now should have taken things to this level.
What's more is that the wishes directed against Warren are also cruel and spiteful. I may see Rowena having not much of an issue with doing this, under the right circumstances and I could probably see Wes of AtS, S5 going this route as well, but it still sits wrong with me. The wishes are casually horrid and it bothers me that we're not seeing some sort of hesitation in these actions by any of our 'good guys'.
I'm also not sure, considering D'Hoffryn's agenda and his particular style that he would actually grant Wes' wish. After all, Wesley doesn't really have a particular reason that he would be filled with enough need for vengeance against Warren for such a wish to be granted. With Willow and Rowena, I can accept their level of vindictiveness would cross some sort of threshold, but Wesley? Against Warren? Why?
Scene 49: With the bad guys foiled, and Illyria beating up on D'Hoffryn, who can't teleport because of a spell of Willow's, Will and Tara share a goodbye.
Commentary: I really love Faith picking up the grieving Willow and carrying her out of the Warehouse-of-Monstrous-Plots.
Scene 50: Back and W & H's Cage-O'-Death, Angel and Kennedy get a resolution of sorts.
Angel, basically, cheats. Using Dracula's spell and the planned use of memory spell later, he give Kenn the closure she needs while also not going to the great beyond.
Commentary: I was actually surprised that Kennedy chose to dust Angel. I really expected her to 'find the light' and at least reach an accommodation with him, if not forgiveness. I think I prefer this way, though. Although, Angel's turning to the memory spell to wrap the whole thing up does bug me.
Scene 51: In Robin's hospital room, he and Faith have their reunion....
Scene 52: (LOL) We jump to the Deeper Well, where the Old Gods rest to join Drogyn and Kennedy. Kennedy is being punished for her actions against the Council....
Scene 53: Back with Illyria and D'Hoffryn... he's, uh, written out of the Buffyverse (*grin*).
Scene 54: In W & H's basement, Nina has werewolfed again and Angel sits with her. He's on the phone with Giles, discussing Xander's assault on W & H.
Commentary: Again, with the talk of punishments.... (*frown*)
Scene 55: At Council HQ, Xander is in a holding cell of his own for arranging an unauthorized Slayer assault against W & H.
Upstairs in his room, Giles lies with Becca. She and he have a tender scene, although it's about to be a bit of a downer, since Giles decides he has to tell her about his own actions that both make him more forgiving toward Angel and more understanding of what he lives with considering his actions as Angelus.
Commentary: I like this sort of insight being given to Giles. He'll never trust Angel. He'll never particularly like him. He'll never think that he doesn't deserve the burdens that he carries, even though at least intellectually, he must know that Angel isn't completely responsible for things he did unsouled. But, he does understand that burden and why he must be allowed to continue trying to make up for it.
Scene 56: In the WATCHERS clinic, Willow and Rowena share a scene as Will works on a healing spell. There is the super big hint of the Will/Ro relationship coming soon.
Scene 57: We end with Andrew delivering a special package for Willow... which Giles immediately opens instead... and which Angel already knew he would, so included a cover letter to him.
Angel reports that it appears that Willow has been forgiven at least for one sin....
The Good: The really odd plot was exceptionally well executed; I mean a Warren's-Mom/D'Hoffryn/Kalderash team up?! Where did THAT come from? But it just worked so well.
I also loved... really loved... the way that the very minor characters from Buffy and Angel were put to use. Nina was given a personality for one. Drogyn was wonderful. D'Hoffryn was also very well written.
I liked the shout outs to episodes past.
I loved the way that the WATCHERS in Cleveland and Team Angel in L.A. were brought together by the shared pasts of Willow and Angel, through Kennedy. That was pretty inspired. And the way that the threads ended up twined around one another into a single story was very well constructed.
Acts Two and Three were really great.
I like Angel as a manipulative broker in the story plot, without losing his basic good-guyness. I also really liked Faith and Illyria.
The Bad: The story got off to a really rough start. The teaser wasn't really well written and Act One had its share of troubles as well.
There were continuity issues with Rona, a mention of Fred - where she shouldn't even exist, the misspelling of Tara's last name and several moments that seemed OOC for where our characters should be for an early-season WATCHERS episode. This is especially true of Willow, who seemed to be stuck in BTVS: S6 territory, instead. There were also several moments for Angel where I was really on the fence about whether he was going too far for his character as we know him. Finally, Giles was a problem for me in some of his scenes, again, this was a harder Giles with all of his talk about 'punishment' and 'Council authority' ... he was just too Travers-like.
The ending was anti-climactic and the wrapping up everything scenes were dragged on. We didn't really need a wrap on every plot detail.
Finally, the Willow weeping in cage as Warren-golem tortures Tara-golem were repetitive.
Other Thoughts: I'll have to admit that when I first started reading the story, I thought "Oh, oh". When it comes to fanfic, if something is really poorly written then I wouldn't dream of actually reviewing it. I would just not include it anywhere... skip over it and move on.
But Charles wanted a review for good or ill, so I went with that and here you have this review. I'm very glad that I can say that the story drastically improves as it advances. If you can stay with it to Act II, I think you'll be happy. Yes, there are still those continuity and possible-character issues mentioned, but the plot is strong. The minor characters pulled from the whole of the Buffyverse are treated quite well.
So, can I issue a desperately wanted 'harsens-rob' seal of approval [you know you want one]: I don't think so. I would say that you'll enjoy reading Act II and Act III as the two teams start closing in on one another and the truth, but the set up is clumsy with characters jumping to conclusions on the most weak of evidence to bring them into conflict and there are those basic story structure and continuity errors that have pointed out in the review. It hampers my ability to put a recommend on the story.
The Score: I love the minor characters. I really liked the way the plot threads wove together. But, the 'wrap up the bad guys' plots' was weak and there was too much vindictiveness in the main characters across the board.
The plot point resolutions at the end were draggy as well, and Giles was too "everyone must be punished!" throughout...
3.25 out of 5