Emmie (angearia) wrote,

Meta: Season 8 is an Epic Fairytale


There are no new stories.  There are only old stories with new twists.

Season 8 is an Epic Fairytale


Season 8 is an epic fairytale that is more than just a canon continuation of BtVS.  It is a canon continuation of AtS also.  Season 8 is global in the sense that it’s united the Buffyverse leading roles in a story again.  This isn’t the TV show set in Sunnydale.  This is Buffy the Vampire Slayer gone global.  This is the epic fairytale of the Buffyverse.


Season 8 is an Epic


What does it mean to be epic?


An epic is often depicted as a journey or quest where the hero must face obstacles.  Epics around the world share some common themes – searching for immortality, fighting with the Gods. 


But what kind of journey does Buffy follow in Season 8?  Journeys can be simply physical in nature or journeys of the self.  Journeys can be physical, spiritual, mental (enlightenment) and/or moral. 


I think to understand Buffy’s journey, you need only go back to the first panel of the Long Way Home.  “The thing about changing the world.  The world’s all different.”  Buffy’s journey is about finding her place (and the place of her followers) in this new global landscape.  She’s working to understand and even create her role in this new world order.  She wants to feel a connection to this new world.  This goal has a negative effect on her – it compromises her morality (e.g. robbing banks, fighting and even killing humans, becoming so Big Picture that she’d let innocents die while trying to follow her plan). 


Epics are tales where the larger-than-life protagonists face obstacles on their journey.  Whether the journey is physical, moral, emotional, social, and/or spiritual, the key is how the character changes along the way, what lessons are learned and how they grow.


The Obstacles of Season 8:



-        Complacency/Ignorance/Prejudice:  humanity’s embracing vampires has made Buffy’s determination to find her place in the world difficult.

-         Disconnection from Humanity:  humanity doesn’t want Slayers in their world.  It leaves her disconnected from humanity.  This weakens her resolve as a warrior of the people.  If the people don’t want her anymore, if they’re seeking her blood, what can she do?  Humanity is against Slayers.  Buffy also faces distance her human support system – Xander, Willow, Giles and Dawn.

-         Time – The past (Chosen, After These Messages…) and the future (Time of Your Life):  The “end of magic” is nigh and Fray’s future looms asking the question: Is the future inevitable?  Will the Slayer spell in Chosen be reversed?  Will the past choices be upheld or reversed?

-         Moral Quandaries:  Power – what’s the right way to use it?  Is Buffy right?  Is she just?  Are slayers evil?  A superior race?  In order to run her organization and fight the forces of evil, Buffy made the questionable decision to rob a bank (insured!  It’s a victimless crime! :-/).  She also has reached a place where she’s okay with killing people if they’re “bad guys” – or at least, she’ll argue that they’re justified because Slayers are good and if someone is attacking them, then they’re bad.  Again, her Big Picture mentality that includes sacrificing innocents for the cause and even sacrificing another Slayer’s world (Fray) to go back to her own, thinking her return to the past could possibly destroy Fray’s world – her world over Fray’s. 

-         Transitive Power:  Slayer power (and every other Slayer’s power) is something that Buffy’s foes attempt to steal from her and the other Slayers.  The problem with the Slayer activation spell of Chosen is that others can remove Slayer powers by using the Scythe.  This obstacle – the uncertainty of her possession of her powers – is exacerbated by her vulnerability at humanity’s rejection and her doubting her decisions.  When she finally feels at her lowest and with nowhere else to turn, she voluntarily surrenders her power in order to hide.

-         Villains/Foes:  Symbolic manifestations of the other obstacles.

o       Angel as Twilight

o       Amy and Warren

o       General Voll’s army

o       Rogue Slayers (Gigi and Simone)

o       Roden (another evil magic-figure)

o       The Swell

o       Fray

o       Harth

o       Future Willow

o       Sephrilian demon from Anywhere But Here – Herald of Time & Space

o       Harmony

o       The Goddesses in Retreat



Season 8 is a Fairytale


Fairytales often occur in unspecified locations and unspecified times.  Season 8 occurs some time in the future post-Chosen and post-After the Fall and while the countries are identified, most of the specific locations aren’t given beyond a vague location bubble (Scotland, England, Tibet, Italy).  The exceptions being New York, London, Tokyo and Rome – but still lots of vague territory for the setting.  Fairytales are also known for the presence of magic and the magical transformations of the characters.  Fairytales in the literary sense are read as cautionary tales – Red Riding Hood is eaten by the Big Bad (heh) Wolf, the Little Mermaid doesn’t win her prince and dies.  These cautionary tales demonstrate the characters failure to learn from the evils they face and how to triumph.  In fairytales, the protagonists often suffer – they never learn until its too late.  Compare this to the epic tale where the protagonist’s journey is about changing and learning as they go.  So here’s the twist – Season 8 is a fairytale in the motifs it uses and that its story appears to be a cautionary tale (the consequences of changing the world, of robbing banks, of having and using power), but will the end of Season 8 be a true cautionary tale or more hopeful?  Will Season 8 be a fairytale with a twist?



Personification of Inner Turmoil, Conflict & Growth


One of the hallmark motifs of fairytales is personification, more specifically, the representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form.  Personification in Season 8 takes two forms – magical transformations and the embodiment of Buffy’s inner self through Angel (as Twilight) and (speculatively) Spike.


Magical transformations:


-         Dawn’s transformations.  The hex that turned her into a Giant (Dawn defeats Mecha Dawn and defeats her need for attention), then a Centaur (accepts her self-image and her sexuality, no longer self-conscious) and finally a Doll.  In her doll state she is reduced to a play thing, fragile and forgotten.  She works to save herself and escape on her own, becoming sure in the knowledge that she’s special and that she can save herself.  Buffy and Kenny show up, but finally acknowledging her guilt set her free.  The Hex was wrong in its vengeance, but it taught Dawn how to accept herself and be honest with how she feels.


-         Buffy’s transformation by touching the Goddesses in Retreat (flight and greater superpowers)


-         The vampires in Wolves at the Gate transformations. 


-         The magic (WatG and Retreat) that can remove a Slayer’s power transforming her back into “just a girl.”


-         The werewolves transformation in Retreat.  (Note all the characters who have an internal duality manifest in their physical powers.)


-         Kenny the Thricewise transforming between demon form and human form.


-         Teleportation: body being torn apart and put back together across space and time


-         Other transformations: Faith from Boston street to London elite.



Buffy’s Inner Demons – The Personification of Angel and Spike:

One of Buffy's first lines is that she “still got [her] demons."  Future Willow says to Buffy (and Fray) that "vampires are the most important men your lives."  Joss says that both Angel and Spike are incredibly important to Buffy.  Angel and Spike continue to appear in Buffy's dreams and they're always together.  What if Angel and Spike are representative of Buffy's inner demons and her inner self? 

Think about it as a spectrum of influence:


Angel                                      Buffy                                       Spike

Angel is fate’s bitch – he’s also a figure of Order (of prophecy, predicted).  Spike is love’s bitch and a figure of Chaos (Spike is unpredictable except in matters of the heart; but don’t count on him unless he’s head over heels in love with you and even then…).  Buffy is both Order (prophecy) and Chaos – she is Order because she’s the Slayer (“Into each generation a Chosen One is born”) and she is Chaos by virtue of her personality (she’ll do it her own way, she’ll upend tradition and upset prophecy).  Buffy stands between the two vampires, connecting them, a balance of their extreme roles.

Buffy is the balance of the influences of Angel and Spike.  Angel and Spike are two sides of the same coin, but they're opposing forces.
(Clarification:  My discussion of Angel and Spike's symbolic characterization focuses on Angel as he is in AtS Season 5 and Season 8.  For Spike, it's mostly the latter half of Season 6 and 7.)

Angel is doom.  Spike is hope.  Angel is cryptic in communicating with Buffy.  Spike is candid, even too forthright.  Angel is manipulating Buffy to make her change.  Spike works to inspire Buffy to make her change (Touched).  Angel is working through negative reinforcement.  Spike works with Buffy through positive reinforcement (as Buffy does with Spike once he has a soul).  Angel is seeking to restore the old status quo of only one slayer.  Spike is a figure who upsets the status quo.  Angel is a figure influenced by outward forces - The Powers that Be, his gypsy curse, W&H, the Shanshu prophecy - things are done to him.  Spike is a figure influenced by inward forces - his heart and will inspire him to fight for his soul, to change himself.  Angel is ruled by the mind.  Spike is ruled by the heart.  Angel is more institutional.  Spike is more rogue.  Angel is more calculating.  Spike is more spontaneous.  Angel is global and "big picture".  Spike is personal and "intimate connection".  Angel closed Buffy's heart.  Spike helped to heal her heart - "I want the fire back" juxtaposed with the flaming hands of Chosen.  Angel's greatest act of love: sacrificing his friends well-being to give Connor a happy life in Home (he’s willing to sacrifice himself too, but he goes even further in sacrificing others in the name of love, or should I say regresses…).  Spike's greatest acts of love: sacrificing himself in Chosen (arguably also fighting to earn back his soul was one of his greatest acts of love). 

They're opposing forces that are personified in how they influence Buffy.  Because she can go either way.  She is both like Angel and like Spike.  Only, in the early part of Season 8 she's most like Angel.  She's institutional, she's big picture, she's cryptic and secretive (doesn’t this sound like Angel in AtS Season 5?).  Spike's influence is absent from Buffy.  She's out of balance with only Angel as her inner demon influencing her.  Remember how people said Buffy was OOC in Season 8?  I think it's because she's gone overboard into the institutional side of her self - she's missing the balance Spike brings.  She's got too much Angel in her.  Joss Whedon instructed Season 8 artist Georges Jeanty to draw Buffy leaning towards Angel in the dream panel in Long Way Home – what if this isn’t indicative of a greater love, but of Angel’s great influence?  The way a tormented man turns his head towards the devil on his shoulder and doesn’t heed the angel (or other devil demon) on the other side?


Angel as Twilight

Who is Angel?


Angel is a pawn in the fight between the arbitrary forces of Good (The Powers that Be) and the Forces of Evil (Wolfram & Hart).  While Angel wishes to be on the side of Good, it is Evil that works tirelessly to recruit him, to ensure that the Shanshu prophecy of a vampire with a soul (Note: It is not Angelus that will fulfill the prophecy, but souled Angel) will be playing for their team in The Apocalypse (“the”, not “a”).  It isn’t until Connor is introduced that Wolfram & Hart find Angel’s true Achilles’ heel – his son.  In Home, Angel signs a contract with Wolfram & Hart to become their CEO, simultaneously mindwiping his friends of Connor’s existence while giving Connor a “normal” upbringing with a “normal” family.  The contract is eternally binding as Lilah says of her own contract in Home, “Flames wouldn’t be eternal if they actually burned anything.”  Though Lilah is dead, she is still a servant of the Senior Partners. 


A similar legal contract now binds Angel to the Senior Partners, but it doesn’t fully control him.  His fate is in their hands, but it’s still legal jargon.  He can defy them and does so assassinating the members Circle of the Black Thorn who are working to bring about the ‘Capital A’ Apocalypse, thus upsetting the Senior Partners for world domination.  But this battle also leads to a confrontation with Hamilton, the Senior Partners’ superpowered liaison.  Angel is nearly defeated until Hamilton utters, “Let me say this as clearly as I can. You cannot beat me. I am a part of them. The Wolf, Ram, and Hart. Their strength flows through my veins. My blood is filled with their ancient power.”  Angel realizes he must even the playing field – “Can you pick out the one word there you probably shouldn't have said?” – by drinking Hamilton’s blood. 


By drinking Hamilton’s blood, Angel has invited the Senior Partners into his body.  Angel is now “a part of them.  The Wolf, Ram, and Hart.  Their strength flows through [Angel’s] veins.  [Angel’s] blood is filled with their ancient power.”  How long does this hold last?  That remains unclear, but W&H are ever tightening their grip on Angel.

Fate and the Shanshu Prophecy




Deities Manipulating Angel        


Wolfram & Hart                                                                Powers That Be


These are the epic “gods” who are set on manipulating Angel.  Because though he’s the villain of Season 8 (though is he?  Yeah, he is but…), Angel is the hero of AtS.  Or should I say antihero?  And Season 8 is about bringing Angel back into the fold of Buffy’s world on a global scale.  Now, this is speculation on my part, but the license IDW holds doesn’t allow any writers working for IDW to tell the story of Angel’s Shanshu.  The license even limited IDW from telling any post-Not Fade Away tales because Joss had reserved that right for himself.  What if Season 8 is about Joss telling that story now?  The story of Angel fallen into villainy.  And here’s where I make my literary comparison of Angel’s character.  Remember how there are no new stories?  So if all stories are old and Season 8 is an epic, what figure is Angel most like?  I say Angel is Oedipus.  A towering figure of prophecy, a “King” who is important to the Gods and who in trying to avoid disaster instead brings it upon him and his city.  (What’s funny is how the Oedipal relationship of Connor/Cordelia was already acknowledged by Angel in the series.  But still, it’s really Angel who is Oedipus – does having sex with Darla count as having sex with his mom because technically she was his reborn mother, his sire…) 



Shanshu Prophecy


Angel signed away the Shanshu Prophecy in Not Fade Away (which begs the question, can that even be done?).  It was defined in To Shanshu in LA and also in Season 2 and in Destiny – the souled vampire will play a pivotal role in the Apocalypse and will be rewarded humanity – he will die in order to live.  The prophecy is a game to be used to manipulate Angel – a carrot dangled by the PTB, a threat wielded by W&H – it could go either way.  All that is known is that Angel, while in possession of his soul, will play a pivotal role in the Apocalypse.  Both deities want control of Angel so that they may control the ultimate fate of the world.


After the Fall


What did the time in Hell-A and the reset accomplish?  It gave Angel memories of him damning humanity (a city of humanity) to hell – his son also died –  and it pushed him to the ultimate test – sacrificing himself.  What is Angel now willing to do to avoid being the damnation of humanity again (the vision Wesley shows him of the bloody battlefield – isn’t this how Wesley is the key to it all, the key to W&H’s plan was to show Angel the vision and then have Wes convince Angel to sacrifice himself)?  Would he be willing to kill 1800 Slayers to save billions of human beings?  Who convinced him this was necessary?  Answer:  One of the deities – most likely Wolfram & Hart.



Angel in Season 8 


Angel has been in Season 8 the entire time.  The same Angel who lost most of his friends in AtS Season 5 (Cordy died, Fred died, Wes died… are we sensing a pattern?).  The only ones left standing are Connor, Gunn, Illyria and Spike.  Well, Spike is also coming over to Season 8.  So that only means that Connor is left behind (or is he?  *ponders*).  But if the only family Angel’s ditching is Connor (who he’d never truly leave but perhaps distance himself), well that’s hardly something to write home about is it?  This is all to point out that Angel has no more close ties outside of his connection to his son (arguably the most important tie of all, more important than Buffy in some ways) now that both Cordelia and Wes are dead – they were his family that grounded him in his humanity.  They’re dead and so is the reinforcement of his human connection, the people who make him care about this sorry world and push him to try to fit in by acting human himself.  So Angel, stripped of his supportive human ties and convinced of his being the end of the world now feels the need to avert disaster.  And he’s been manipulating Buffy to bring this about because he doesn’t trust her to do it.  He can’t tell her of the future because (as he says in After These Messages...) if you tell someone what their future self will do, you can no longer predict or control their reaction. 




So there it is as I see it.  This is what’s been shown of Season 8 and what can be known of the story that has come before (in BtVS, AtS and After the Fall).  The big questions still remain:


-         How will Buffy face the “end of magic” and reconcile the revolutionary change of Chosen with Fray’s future?  Will the Slayers get their powers restored?

-         What exactly is Angel’s motivation and what happened between After the Fall and Season 8 that made him become Twilight?  Where did he get his powers from?

-         How does Spike fit into the mix?  Will his arrival restore the balance that helps Buffy rise above the limited and doomed institutional view of Twilight’s prophecy?


Tags: meta, season 8

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