This was a great issue for two reasons:
1. Spike is so utterly and unbelievably brilliantly in character that I need more adverbs to fully describe him. The trope of Spike announcing his presence by crashing into landmarks doesn't get better than him seeing Big Ben, saying, "Turn! Just turn! [pause] On the other hand... funny..." and then we see Big Ben smoking in the distance as Spike's lounging in a cafe reading the news with a pint of beer on the table.
2. Spike says you can't trust Angel. Buffy says she doesn't trust Angel. And yet he has "[her] heart"? This is not the same Buffy of Season 6 and 7 who said, "I could never trust you enough for it to be love." This is not the same heroic Buffy who sacrificed her happiness for years so that others could be safe because she couldn't be happy if those she loved were suffering--this Buffy calls birthing a new universe that is destroying the world "the weirdest, bestest, weirdest, best day of my life." Really, Buffy? Because last time I checked, people are dead from what you did on "the best day of your life."
Buffy is acting out of character. Why? Because she is missing the one quality that has defined her identity for so long that it's become an overriding factor: guilt (and please everyone note how this is even more true for Angel--this nameless power that can possess people apparently can override and numb guilt). Buffy feels guilty for things that aren't even her fault--she has done this for years. But now that she actually is directly responsible for the end of the world, she's making googly eyes at Angel and calling it the best day ever. Okay, I can see why being directly responsible for world-wide disasters and the apocalypse is super nifty! Right? Am I right? *crickets* I'm thinking there's a struggle for control going on inside Buffy between the influence of Twilight and her true character, and it's only because she feels love for her friends so strongly that she was able to override this influence and abandon her baby universe so she could save the world.
When I look back at #35 entitled the "The Power of Love", I can only think of that moment when Xander calls for Buffy and she hears him. The power of love is what brings you home, brings you back to who you truly are.
I loved Willow turning Angel into a frog 'accidentally'. I loved Spike focusing on the mission while still snarking at Buffy because the snark "comes with the sizeable package."
And the final page drives home that we're really going back to the begininng. The "Seed of Wonder" is the egg we saw in Anywhere But Here as many predicted, the Master is in possession of it deep inside the Hellmouth, and everyone but Angel are headed there to save their world from the new world the superpowered god sex birthed when the great "space-hymen" broke.
Because Spike is so completely 100% in character (and AWESOME, Spike fans remember worrying about that? Well have no fear), I have to believe that the oddities in Buffy's behavior are deliberate. She's just off and I think the way everyone keeps harping on not being able to trust anyone is significant. Can Buffy even trust herself right now?
I also think Whedon is hanging a hat on Angel's OOC behavior, telling us it is real with this bit: "Since when do I say 'ma'am'?" and the nameless Power replies "Since you got all super, stupid." The superpowers have changed Angel's character.
There are so many ways this isn't Buffy to me, and no not all because of Spike. Buffy has NEVER been a person who puts her personal happiness above all else. Buffy is a person who feels the weight of the world and feels guilt for not being able to save everyone. She has sacrificed her personal happiness for over seven years, she's sacrificed her life twice--this is not Buffy. What's more, this isn't even Buffy in Season 8. Look at her guilt over just one single Slayer, Aiko, dying in WatG and compare this to how many Slayers and innocent people died just because she frakked Angel to a new dimension. She doesn't even show ANY guilt over this and guilt is something Buffy feels so strongly that she wears it like a sarape.
Whedon too perfectly characterized Spike for me to think he somehow forgot how to write Buffy. And while I won't entertain the notion that the IDW writers can write OOC moments that are supposed to be plot significant, I 100% believe that Whedon can and that is what he's doing.
This isn't the power of love Whedon talked about in the Chosen commentary:
|What I basically told them was "Play the romance. Be proud of him. Love him when you say you love him. Love her when you say she doesn't love you. Forget about the crumbling world. For that period of time it doesn't exist."|
The ending of Chosen was profound and while I think Whedon might fake-out that he's undercutting it, that is his message. That is the what he felt was ultimately at the heart of Buffy, both show and character.
What I mean is whatever speaks through the dog has the trick of possessing things, why not Angel himself on occasion. And he is the Master's heir, Darla was old fruitpunch's chosen favourite and he was hers. The prodigal son returns to the fold, possibly without realising it.
Ding ding ding! We're being shown again and again the nameless Power is capable of possessing people to do what it wants. Though not completely in control, as the way the Power drives the car (so to speak) is determined by whether it's a Ferrari or a Volvo. "Hey balls!" indeed.
Thinking about all the times Buffy's ever done something selfish, it's always, always, always been deliberately self-destructive. Like in When She Was Bad or for most of Season 6. Buffy doesn't just not feel people dying around her and skip down the street with a smile. She had to make herself go numb and cut herself off in Season 7 just at the thought of the Potentials dying. Note how she broke down in tears again just at the news from Willow (not even seeing it firsthand and not even having known these Slayers) that 206 Slayers had died. So no, I don't think Buffy is somehow magically free from the guilt she feels 24/7.
And again please note how Angel is free of guilt. Um, what? This removal of guilt does not compute with either character. Buffy and Angel are both OOC here, only Angel more so as he can't apparently remember Connor enough to care, while at least Buffy can still hear her loved ones calling her for help in #35.
Seriously, how does a story where Buffy just sucks work out dramatically? And why is Joss dropping such HUGE hints about this Power possessing people and showing Angel and Buffy OOC if they aren't significant. There isn't time for Joss to pull a fast one in this finale. He's laying down the groundwork right before our eyes. The pieces go together.
Pointman, there is actually a line that to me is pretty terrible and confirms what you noticed about Buffy only caring when it affected her friends (aka, her).
She says this to Angel -- "What we did... it released these demons. All over. They're gonna target Slayers".
I hate to say this, but a lot of the people I'm seeing quick to judge Buffy are the ones who I often argue with who are quick to condemn and judge her. Considering the way the story has been framed, Buffy deserves the benefit of the doubt here. I truly believe she's being lost in this story of the influence of FAME and this is meant to contrast the nameless decoy dying in The Chain and the nameless soldier dying in Turbulence. What's more, she's not choosing fame. Recall how in LWH Buffy says, "Everyone calls me 'ma'am' these days" (and hey, look! Angel is now saying 'ma'am') and how embarrassed Buffy was by Aiko's hero worship. Buffy doesn't want to be famous, but now she's a god. She's not choosing this, it's something that's happening to her against her will and it's changing how she thinks, feels and behaves.
Buffy needs to be saved, not called names and abused by the friends she needs to save her. Or we can go jump on Spike's steampunk ship, go back in time and stab possessed!Cordy in the gut for being a bitca, too.
Season 8 is finally adding up to me now in the final hour. I'm really happy to see it. The decoy dying in The Chain without anyone ever knowing her name, the nameless soldier dying in Turbulence with regrets for an unfulfilled love and thinking he died for a good cause--these are heroes. In the soldier's case, her perceives himself a hero. As does the decoy. What matters is what they know inside. With Buffy, it's her name. A lot goes into creating a name. Hitler, Stalin... She's the contrast to Harmony who's been embraced by humanity. Buffy's been embraced as the villain, but she's also the ultimate source of fame in the eyes of Slayers and she's literally become a god and the famous ruler of a whole new dimension. Would Buffy ever choose this? The Buffy every fan got to know for over seven years? No. She's lost and needs to find herself again. I hope she can save herself or that the "power of love" saves her.
If Buffy's known Spike is back all along, which this issue seems to confirm resoundingly, then I don't read it as her not caring earlier in the season. She's been repressing her emotions and feeling rejected--that's my interpretation. Remember Always Darkest when Angel and Spike ignored her? She feels that they don't want her anymore--and Spike gave her reason to feel that way.
Spike didn't go out of his way to see her for a very long time. So when Buffy found out he'd been back for months and didn't tell her, her natural response would be to feel abandoned by him. It all stems back from her father. And all it takes is Buffy learning from Andrew that Spike is back and he doesn't want Buffy to know--seriously imagine how Andrew let that slip that the last thing Spike wanted was for Buffy to know. And then ponder how rejected she must feel that she told him she loved him, he said "no you don't" and then he doesn't even want her to know he's alive. She doesn't know about him going to Rome (confirmed by her vagueness about the decoy there in LWH), so that doesn't factor into the way she feels.
Her breakdown in A Beautiful Sunset shows that she feels something is wrong with her, something that is unloveable and leads to people dying or leaving town--all essentially leaving her. Her relationship with Spike was one she never talked about with other people as she's become a very emotionally guarded person. But that breakdown is significant and shows Buffy in Season 8 has cared about Spike and she certainly didn't act like his death wasn't a big deal the way she does in this issue.
The Buffy in this issue is not consistent with the Buffy in A Beautiful Sunset. Is not consistent with Buffy prior to her superpowers and glow-me-up, baby. One could say she was growing more and more increasingly numb to her own humanity, but these feelings are still at the heart of her (that's why she came back in #35, the power of love from Xander's call, the love for her friends). This callousness she's exhibiting, this bright and shiny happiness is creepy and again reminds me of Jasmine's followers: shiny, happy people, anyone?
Remember that disturbing evil look on Buffy's face when she said "do it again" in #34? Yeah, Buffy ain't (completely) home.
Buffy is not soulless though (as others have been suggesting she's been this entire season). She had a whole lot of soul in Retreat when she interacted wtih Xander. And like I outlined above, the reasons she would be cold to Spike are probably entirely based upon how she discovered he was back from the dead. From Andrew who let it slip and told her Spike had made him swear not to tell her.
Imagine Buffy's POV. She finds out the man she said "I love you" to in Chosen (a declaration that was incredibly hard for her because she's been struggling to get "the fire back" for a long time) who then died has now been resurrected, only he doesn't even want her to know he exists. I've been saying for forever that from Buffy's POV, she'd be hurt by this and feel rejected. She has abandonment issues from her father. Spike's behavior just pushed her buttons.
Frankly, if not for all the other OOC behavior (Buffy's lack of guilt), I'd venture a guess that Buffy is close to IC with her treatment of Spike. She's had time to get over the initial hurt of rejection and moved on to PISSED.
Frankly, I think this is great. It's so much better than a tearful, happy cliched reunion. As always, there's tension and misunderstandings between Buffy and Spike. I wish it were October already. I've read enough Spuffy reunions to know that Buffy-pissed-at-Spike is a good way to start. TENSION is YES.
I imagine it like this: Buffy crosses her arms and gets defensive. "Sorry about not getting in touch, but I was too busy" having a life that has nothing to do with you, Spike. I've moved on. You can't hurt me because I don't care. Check out how much you don't matter to me. Yep. I'm good.
It reminds me of Buffy dressing up to go meet Riley in ToYL. She's being defensive. Think about how she rejected Angel in When She Was Bad--again, being defensive.
I'm tempted to say Buffy acts most OOC when Angel is around--the glow becomes evident when they're close--and that when he goes away, Buffy's able to think more clearly. The overly effusive lovey dovey declarations only happen when Angel is right near her and she gets all googly eyed. Because I can totally see how a hurt and defensive Buffy would put up a front and be mean to Spike, especially if she felt rejected by him trying to keep his existence a secret from her (especially especially if she'd been privately mourning him since Chosen). That's a slap in the face and Buffy's got too much pride to be tearfully kind to him if she thinks he doesn't care about her.
Buffy not even having respect for Spike as a friend is why I think she's OOC. You don't go from Chosen to this. Buffy doesn't just stop caring about people like the feelings have been excised from her heart. That's why she still cares so much about Angel to this day.
Maybe in a couple days I'll do a Buffy characterization meta. But I'm kinda tired of typing all this out (also, composing the interview took a lot of focus and I'm drained), so I'll just borrow your wait-and-see sign since it's my turn to hold it up. I feel pretty confident.
ETA: I think I'm quite happy about this because I love Buffy/Spike in Season 5--the antagonism and the banter is so entertaining. I don't really care if they're together as long as they're in the same room sniping at each other. Though I think Spike did let it slip that Buffy being with Angel does bother him, but he did it with snark and ego which was perfect. I love how Buffy seems to have to gird herself to confront him and they go back and forth with lists: "One, two, snark snark"/"One, two, snark, snark."
For anyone who thinks Buffy is soulless, please look at the panel of Buffy hunched over with guilt and grief with Willow comforting her as Spike says "This is the Captain speaking." Buffy is acting OOC around Angel--she acts shiny happy around him and then griefstricken and snarky for the rest of the issue. This story is going meta, haha. Buffy and Angel always act OOC around each other (Angel has acted like he's forgotten Connor twice now, first in Chosen and now in Twilight).
Buffy isn't even acting consistent in this single issue. Seriously. When she's around Angel, she's all LALALA and when she's not, she's back to business and feeling guilty and sad.
This line from Spike was very interesting: "I'm talking about a universe ditched at birth. You think we've got trouble now? We do, so go ahead and think it, but, pet... you better pray that higher reality doesn't come looking for mummy."
I was very caught up in that line. Also, can I just say again how much I loved how Spike was written. THIS IS SPIKE'S VOICE. <3
On the flip side, I wonder if Buffy has some latent maternal feelings for the world she helped birth.
I also wanted to note that after Xander/Dawn being seemingly forgotten by Meltzer, Whedon manages to make me find them adorable again with this moment:
|Dawn: The crew is bugs, the crew is bugs, the bugs are large... |
Xander (hugging her): Deep breath...
Dawn: The air is bugs, I'm breathing bugs...
|Faith: Where's the man-bitch formerly known as Angel?|
"Ditched at birth."
Huh, I used that word above when talking about how Buffy and Spike feel about each other right now. I'm speculating they both feel like the other person ditched them. It's ex-lovers who have very different feelings about how it ended.
Also, one could say Buffy's love for Spike was "ditched at birth" first by Spike who verbally (and kindly) rejected it, but also later on now if Buffy's acting like she never actually cared about him.
Hayes, I think I'm reading the lines flatly because Buffy has the most googly eyed, sincere OTT look on her face when she makes her declarations. It's not even her "in love" look from Season 2. I think it's kinda creepy.
Also, "That's beneath you, baby"--Oh my god, Buffy has never, ever used pet names before (except for calling Dawn "Dawnie" or Willow "Will" or Xander "Xan"). In fact, the way she expresses her love for Angel is in how she says his name. "Angel" and a look of longing. Angel then says "Buffy" and a look of longing. Pet names? *STABBITTY* I hated it when Willow said it all the time to Tara, but at least that's part of her character. Buffy's never been a person to use pet names. Just as Angel is using words that are OOC for him (and he's aware of it), Buffy is using words that are OOC. I think Whedon's too good at Voice to not be doing this deliberately. Say what you will about his plotting, but his voices and dialogue are some of the best out there.