So after Buffy's messages of 'we're still the same, just like the high school years' and 'we've got a world to save', we're right back to the main themes of Season 8: connection, power, perception and the subjectivity of reality. Harmonic Divergence does a great job of building on After These Messages by showing how out of touch Buffy is with the outside world ("Right? They can tell who's wearing the white hats") which goes to show that our mindtrip last issue with Buffy was one of self-delusion. Things are just the same as they've always been according to our titular slayer. Well, no. They really aren't, Buffy. Harmonic Divergence blows those messages out of the water.
Buffy changed the world and now it's all different. There's no longer one, but thousands. And unfortunately the ones in charge of recruiting aren't getting the job done. A Hispanic slayer comes into her power, the power that enables her to escape her gang ties and "changes stuff". Plus side. Downside? Andrew and Buffy bungle recruiting her. Actually, it's Buffy who bungles it. The new slayer is "in" after Andrew's speech about destiny and protecting the weak. Then comes the phone call to Buffy with the "crappy connection" (*cough*connection*cough*) where Buffy gives her spiel about "togetherness! unity! sisterhood!" and the new slayer doesn't want to drink the kool-aid. She's heard "those words" before when she joined the Las Cuchillas gang. Buffy's spiel, bad connection notwithstanding, probably didn't ring true for the Senorita Slayer because Buffy's admittedly having trouble feeling that connection herself ("Connection. Why can't I feel it?" - A Beautiful Sunset). How can she explain something empowering and enlightening that she's not a part of?
The consequences of the Chosen spell crystallize in this one slayer's origin tale. She comes into her power but slips the leash of Buffy's Slayer army. Goes rogue from the establishment. No mentors, no allies, no understanding of her duty beyond this: slayer + stake = dead vampire. The danger of power without understanding its gravity. Not realizing that the fight is conducted in the shadows, not in front of camera crews - all to keep humanity out of the crossfire and not on Anderson Cooper. A PR nightmare waiting to happen when the noob slayer attacks in front of the whole world, outting the slayers and making them "the enemy". The Slayer power is out of control and dividing the protectors (slayers) from those they would protect (humanity). Slayers are "the best villains since Nazis" and the equivalent of an LA gang. The allusions to fascism in The Chain are coming back to haunt us.
Espenson also clarifies one of the ways that potentials post-Chosen who come of age become slayers. Senorita Slayer turns sixteen in this issue and feels the fighty, glowy power. One week later, Andrew comes to recruit her and calls Buffy. This is, at minimum, a year and a half after Chosen and who knows how long into Season 8 but Dawn is a centaur when Buffy tries to welcome Senorita to her 'gang'. So we have a potential who wasn't a slayer til she turned sixteen. This means that there's something about age that matters and that "every girl who could have the power, will have the power" once she comes of age. Buffy became a slayer at 15 so perhaps it's more the case of when the girl is ready, when she's matured to the point of being ready for the power.
We also get our first glimpse of a non-Hell-A in this issue. Harmony's on a roll and the Hollywood system seems untouched in its superficial glory. There's also a none too subtle mocking of reality TV shows - they're all slaves to their impulses, mindless drones to Harmony's bite only looking to capitalize on the cache of her vampire stardom. No greater philosophical interest in good and evil beyond how they can spin it and make it sell. Reality TV star Harmony is sucking the life out of her fans and they foolishly clamor for more - it makes them "feel weaker, but...that's okay". So clearly, Hollywood is still the same. So what does this mean for the consequences of After the Fall? Has Harmony been in LA the entire time and only Angel's gang were sent to an alternate LA dimension? Is that why the one outside glimpse of LA by the Asylum crew showed it as being business as usual?
Coming back to Harmony, she appears to have been continuing her 'don't kill' policy learned at W&H. Although she's modified it to limiting herself to drinking human blood straight from the source, but from willing victims. As Giles' categorized it in Into the Woods, it's "ambiguous evil" that doesn't require a slayer's full focus. Bigger fish to fry, less ambiguous evil to slay. But Senorita Slayer doesn't know about the gray morality of the underworld. And she's the one who gets caught in the crossfire. Buffy handed her a weapon she wasn't prepared to use and it ended tragically. Hello consequences.