BTVS: S8, Issue 28
"Retreat, PIII" (of V)
Script: Jane Espenson, Pencils: Georges Jeanty, Inks: Andy Owens, Colors: Michelle Madsen,
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Cover: Another Gorgeous Cover by the incomparable Jo Chen (Seriously, I already admire artist who can draw more than stick figures, but her likenesses are dead on)
Blurb: Despite Willow's best magical efforts, Buffy and the Slayer army are on the run as Twilight and his closest allies - Amy, Warren, and Buffy's former main squeeze, Riley Finn - continue to monitor their every move. Vampires and humans have found a way to live side by side while Slayers - the chose protectors of humanity - are forced further and further into hiding. Over the course of just a few months, the Scotland castle - high-tech base of Slayer operations - was destroyed, and their musty cabin in the woods discovered and abandoned. The most powerful Wiccans and Slayers are unable to defend themselves against the forces of evil, and Buffy must lead her troops to safety. But at what cost?
My Blurbage: Alas, when you're actually reading the issues of S8 -- it is no where as coherent as this. In fact, with a bit of distance, now that S9 is in swing, I have to say that this reminds me a lot of the main myth of the X-Files. The 'monsters of the week' actually tended to be the stronger episodes after awhile, because the main mythic arc of the series was so convoluted that it had just stopped making sense. And this is because it was stretched out beyond the capacity to keep it going as new season after new season was approved. I hate to say this about my beloved David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, but it would have been better if the alien conspiracy had simply died when he left the show... i.e., he died stopping or at least exposing the conspirators to someone who could take decisive action to stop what was coming. It would have been a last, heroic effort and left Scully both relieved that they had stopped the invasion plans, while also grieving for his loss... nothing is better in drama then bittersweet.
Buffy S8 was a lot like that, but a bit different. It wasn't that I wanted any of the main characters to die (and one does *sob*), but it is that the explanation of Twilight's identity and plan is so convoluted, it is hard to understand in retrospect (especially why so many Slayers had to die). His actions don't make sense. Whereas the X-Files' mythos didn't make sense because it was so dragged out, so they had to keep adding elements to keep the thing from resolving too early, in BTVS: S8, I THINK it may have been because there were so many writers jumping in to advance the main arc. I don't know. Maybe the whole plan was just crap to begin with... maybe it is exactly the same in that if there had been less issues making up S8 -- say, 30? Maybe, it would have worked out okay. But, I tend to think what this really needed was more oversight. In this way, S8 actually reminds me of S6. Sure, Joss is still in charge, but he's not there day to day and so things kind of wandered badly and the main point was lost along the way. Like, I say - I don't know. It's hard to go into too much detail because we're still not to Twilight's identity, but you all know what I'm talking about. So I have a simple question -- without revealing Twilight's identity in comments... would this whole thing have hung together better and made more of an emotional impact (I'm not counting frustration with the creative staff) if one person had really had an iron hand on this arc, or was it just plain doomed?)
Page 01: We open with a fist rapping on a door. The person's VO informs us that they're knocking with determination... which immediately makes me think Andrew - it sounds very nerdy narrator to me.
Page 02: Hah! Yay, me.
Andrew is knocking on Giles' door. It is apparently quite late, as Giles is less than pleased to be disturbed. But Andrew is on a mission... he is there to inform Buffy's former-Watcher-and-now-Faith's-partner that he believes there is a spy in their midst!
Commentary: Please, don't be Oz... or Bay because of Oz' heartache... please.
Page 03: In his room, Giles tells Andrew that speaking of spies will only engender distrust and division where they need to be united. Andrew tries to convince him that this would be just like at least Warren, but Giles won't hear of it.
Proving there is a spy and who it is becomes Andrew's new mission, despite this.
Commentary: I have mixed feelings about this page. One, it is obviously meant to evoke "Storyteller" which I have mixed feelings of all by itself. It feels like their trying to evoke one of S7's better episodes, because like that season, this one has had a lot of smack talk toward it. On the other hand, it is continuity for Andrew's ability and habit of documenting with a video camera... and y'all should know by now how much I loves The Continuity.
But, also, I find it difficult to believe Giles wouldn't dismiss Andrew and then look into it on his own. Maybe he will... I can't remember exactly what happens in this issue and I didn't want to do a re-read before typing up this review. I want things to come to me as I'm reading. But, even if that is his intent, I'd find it difficult to see where Giles wouldn't just swear him to silence while telling Andy that he was investigating a similar theory.
Unless, he's the spy?! Oh. Oh, no. No, that wouldn't make sense because he's been spending too much time and attention with Faith... although, that would be a good cover. Damn.
Okay, please don't be an Original Scooby or Oz or Bay because of Oz' heartache.
Scene 04: We get a full page of Andrew in his "Storyteller" dressing robe and pipe, but it isn't exactly a flashback as his dialog simply tells us he has a history of this sort of thing.
Commentary: Okay, this totally alleviated my concerns for going back to S7 to reference this. I love this page. I love Andrew in this moment, looking suave yet geeky and they managed to flashback, without simply repeating a key scene in dialog of the episode. I'm totally behind this sort of semi-flashback.
Scene 05: Our first suspect is the stranger in their midst, of course. Andrew 'interviews' Oz' wife to find out more about giving up magic, which Bay insists isn't what the Slayers are doing, and then states that they are.
Commentary: Nice writing, there... NOT. At least make Bay sure of what she's advocating, even if the writers themselves aren't sure it is the right approach.
We see the Slayers focusing on menial tasks, rather than the Slayer-arts.
Commentary: Another thing? And this is common in TV-land, too, but it really irritates me when we see lines running through our POV to let us know we're seeing through a camera lens. Now, I'm not sure when exactly this takes place... I think S8 is supposed to be happening 2 years after S7, right? So we're still in the past, so maybe video lines are still an issue with recording, but it so bugs me anyway... we can tell this is a 'camera view' by the little corner lines suggesting a square, fer goodness sakes! We're not dumb (well, most of us).
Scene 06: Bay tells Andrew what the Slayers and the Wiccas are learning so they can still fight, but without the mystical assist that will only draw their enemies to them.
Commentary: Willow's attitude makes me laugh. I also like seeing Leah and Rowena again.
Scene 07: We continue to cut between Andrew-in-house-robe and his team members while listening to his voiceover. He's looking into malcontents as a source of the spy, but there is no shortage because nobody is really liking this 'losing their powers' plan. His suspects include, but certainly aren't limited to, Kennedy, Willow, Satsu and Faith.
Commentary: Okay, now you're definitely overusing the Andrew-S7 "Storyteller" device. Stop it.
Scene 08: Andrew next records Buffy and Faith, but then our POV swaps out of camera-mode and into objective.
Faith and Buffy talk about their current circumstance and Faith admits that she's kind of digging not being superpowered -- not having the responsibility it entails. Buffy is less sanguine. But Andrew concludes it isn't Faith who is the possible spy.
Commentary: I'm looking at the cat though. Was there a cat before? Oz and Bay have a Pug... I don't remember a kitty.... I'm watching you, Cat.
Scene 09: Having ruled out Faith, Andrew moves on to looking at those a bit closer to Buffy: her own sister and one of her oldest and dearest friends.
Xan and Dawn are looking at old Chinese mines as a possible defensive measure. Andrew espies their conversation which... disturbing. No, not because one of them could actually be working for Twilight.
Commentary: OMG. No. No, no, no, no. Dawn. Xander. Dawn & Xander? A-are we seeing... is this setup... are we... no. Please, don't. Please. No.
Scene 10: Next we see Andrew spying... hah, see what I did there... because he's looking for a spy while he's... oh, forget it.
Anyway, he sees Xander inquiring of Buffy if she's told Willow her "big secret", which peaks Andrew's interest, but surely isn't related to a Twilight informant.
Scene 11: Hmmm. We in object viewpoint again.
Xander apparently eavesdropped on Buffy and Giles' talk aboard the sub, so he's hip to the Current!Buffy killing Future!DarkWillow in Fray's time period. He thinks maybe admitting it to her will help her avoid it, but Buffy worries that telling Willow will nudge her along on the path.
There is the "hmmm" moment, as well, where Buffy questions if she can feel things more because of a hurt from a splinter and Xan provocatively tells her that she should tell him.
Commentary: Okay. So, we need to deal with the relationshippy between Xan/Dawn and Xan/Buffy here. Back in "The Long Way Home", I suggested that I was kind of okay - with the distance from BTVS: The TV Series - if Buffy and Xander hooked up. After that interlude with Xander, I am suddenly SO on board with this!
[Yes, yes, I've been reading -- damn it, play along with me like I'm reading this fresh... it is the way that these reviews work... we'll talk about the, uh, future from this perspective, past from my present... when we get to it. OH PLEASE, THAT TOTALLY MADE SENSE.]
Scene 12: Xander and Buffy lie in the grass of Tibet. Buffy talks about how there are so few people that she loves. She tells Xander that she has to "tell her". Xan agrees with this and tells her to find him afterward and they'll talk more. I'm presuming she's speaking of telling Willow that she loves her in a non-lesbian way (Oh, I'm totally channeling my very-missed Anya, there).
Scene 13: Well, with this new information, Andrew goes directly to Giles and confronts him with the knowledge that Willow would turn dark again.
Commentary: And again, I'm seeing Anya's amusing 'bad cop' in Andy when Giles doesn't immediately want to admit to it. I love you, Andy [but I think that is more to do with my nerd-crush on Tom Lenk], but I still miss Anya's blunt statements. She'd be more humorous in this situation... *sigh*
Y'know, in the interest of my continuing semi-obsession with smooshing BTVS/SPN series, Supernatural should totally give Tom a part where he gets to openly crush on either Sam, Dean, or both. OOH! Maybe a fight with Becky over another scheme involving winning Sam's affection in which they start out as partners and end up competing? A comedy ep, 'natch.
Yeah... I'd like to see Andrew Wells [name changed, of course] vs. Becky.
Scene 14: Andrew tells Giles that he wants to focus his attention on Willow as the mole. Giles at first looks like he's going to object, but then tells Andy that he's had a good idea and should follow her.
We get the impression that he's doing this to keep Andy out of the damned way.
Commentary: YIKES. I'm renewing my request... no core Scoobies as Twilight's spy, please. You've done quite enough already, S8, to tarnish our gang.
Scene 15: Andrew films a segment of himself and his famous white board (seen most memorably in "Wolves at the Gate"). He brings up Dark!Willow and his past, including a written reference to Jonathon (and note, he doesn't include Warren anymore - which seems significant to me, since he spent all of S7 obviously crushing on that prick).
He also tells us that he does love "real"!Willow. But, he loves his duty to Buffy, more.
Commentary: Oh, man. I'm suddenly wondering if he's the mole... maybe under a spell. Or, there is no mole. I'd rather the latter, actually, even though it would once again cast Andrew as the comedic fool. I'm just kind of tired of everything piling on Buffy Summers at this point. [Oh, and Buffy's last name always makes me think of Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers... I wish they'd had fitted a cameo by her into BTVS, the TV series... maybe as Hank's half-sister?]
Scene 16: While Andrew is resolving to investigate Willow, she's with Oz.
She is ranting because the Slayers seem to be able to give up their heritage for the greater good, but she's having a lot of trouble with letting go of her magic. Oz tries to tell her she can do this, but it is obvious that Will feels like she'll be less without her magic [Which completely ties into her effing lesson in S6 that was so horrendously botched by the magic=crack bullshit! Where the fuck was this character development, when we needed it?!].
Commentary: And, WTH is that cat doing there, again? It better be a shapeshifting spy, because we haven't see the puppy at all. Oh! They could have a Slayer find the puppy's body and then have her remember that Oz and Bay didn't have a kitty-cat... maybe Leah or Rowena, both of which have gotten gipped on the panel time...!
Scene 17: Oh, Will ... *sob, a little*
So, Willow turns on Oz and he wonders why she's so angry at him. She admits it's because he escaped from "the life". He built a family and went on with a normal life, in a way that she can't ... not even now.
She tells him she'll never have a wife and a child with the things that she has to do.
Commentary: Okay, that statement bothers me. Not a Twilight spy among the core, okay?!
Scene 18: Oz insists she can let go of the magic. He proves it by trusting his baby to her care.
Commentary: Oh, Oz. I love you, Seth Green! [Yes, my love is a big thing and it includes many... shut up.]
Scene 19: Andrew had lost Willow, but he's found her again with Buffy. She seems happy playing with the baby and tells Buffy that for a long while now, she's thought of herself more as a force than a person. But, she suddenly realizes she might have this... a baby... a non-fighty, non-spell life....
But, Buffy herself has been building toward a confession and finally can't contain it anymore. She tells Willow that she kills her in the future.
Scene 20: [Love.]
Buffy's big, dramatic, reveal is immediately undercut by Willow who totally blows it off, even apologizing to Buffy for getting in the way of her big, dramatic moment....
Commentary: OMG. If that isn't classic Jane, not to mention Joss [at least of the Buffy-years], I don't know what is. The big build up, the big reveal, the handwave. *sigh of content*
Buffy ditches Willow, holding Oz' son, whose name I should have memorized and didn't in order to keep her promise to update Xander. Her and Wills are smiles and Willow tells Buffy that they can all have a life for real, even her, by following Oz and Bay's suggestions.
Scene 21: Buffy goes to find Xander, and realizes that Andrew has been following her. She tells him to go away, but then she freezes as she spots something that bothers her.
Andrew, still filming, positions himself to see what has stopped her short.
"Oh, my." He says.
"Oh, GOD! MY EYES! MY DEAR EYES!" I screech.
Dawn and Xander are totally lip-locking in that "we're not just friends and family" way.
Buffy, still looking shell-shocked, tells Andrew to go away. I'm just begging him to stop filming at least, as long as we stay with his camera's POV.
Scene 22: Andrew thinks it is sad that Xan and Buffy now don't have a chance. But, he's also happy that things are out in the open. It inspires him to make a confession of his own to everyone. He tells Willow that he thought she may have been a mole for Twilight, which she's appalled by.
But, before it can go any further into an argument and recriminations, the cat - on Leah's lap - vanishes in a magical flash.
Commentary: HAH!! YAY! Now... where is the puppy?!
Buffy tells Xan and Dawn that she hopes their defenses are ready as clearly they've been found... again....
The Good: Well, the cover, which recalls S7's ending of "Same Time, Same Place"... but covers don't affect scoring.
I really like Buffy, Willow, Faith, Xander and Andrew's characterization in this issue.
I like the kitty-kitty as spy... and the fact that I was suspicious of that little feline, so a point for me. I'm usually only this all knowing in dreamland.
The Bad: Mostly, it is just the arc itself. I really want the whole Twilight thing to be over already.
Also, Xander and Dawn?! Oh, Christity-Crickey cakes.
Other Thoughts: I'll admit that the Andrew as Storyteller device and the heavy referencing of S6 & S7 did seem much too heavy-handed, but it wasn't enough to put it in The Bad.
The Score: The issue is actually nice as far as "middle of the arc" issues go, but I really wish they'd move along and wrap this up. I like most of the characterizations, with the exception of Giles' possibly OOC moment at the very beginning. I'm also kind of getting weary of the whole "let us pile crap on Buffy" tone of this season.
But I like the dialog a lot, and I like the characterization moments throughout.
3.50 out of 5
Just a note, too -- I am nearly done with the "She Creature" review. I want to next get through the last two issues of the "Retreat" arc in BTVS, probably do another "Best of/Worst of Character Moments" post and then a Supernatural, Buck Rogers and X-Files episode review ...