Her review had questions at the end that I suddenly feel I have the answers to. It now feels like the entire story of Season 8 has been unlocked.
shadowkat67 : "But why drop all pretense and go there [by showing the ugly within the characters and manifesting it]? Actually rip the characters and that relationship [Buffy/Angel] apart, make [Buffy and Angel] so loathsome that it's hard to take them seriously or even care if they live or die?"
I believe Whedon is taking Buffy back to the beginning so she'll face that moment that damaged her. I'm appreciate the return of the Master more and more because he's the only villian to succeed in defeating Buffy--he killed her twice (in Prophecy Girl and in The Wish)--and he likewise has reason to hold a personal grudge as she killed him, but also destroyed his line by either killing them (Darla) or recruiting them to Good (Angel, Spike). It's a personal battle with fear and anger and revenge at its heart (the best kind of tension). Plus, the Master is the one who set off Buffy's death wish and was a precursor to Angel--Buffy's got to defeat the enemy that she never really buried. Sure, she smashed his bones, but his defeat of her stayed with her always (like how Darla says to Angelus when he kills his father--that death was too easy and now his father will always hold power over him). Buffy might've killed the Master, but the Master still got inside her and he's never really left.
Ideally, Buffy may finally let go of Angel and be fully healed (not that Angel has to stop being important to her, per se, just letting go of the trauma and romantic illusions that she's attached to him and the story of their romance). It's therapy by being forced to relive it. I never thought Whedon would do it--actually let Buffy heal--but that's what I think is happening. It's Restless and Once More With Feeling wrapped up into one great big story where Buffy is out of control and acting upon her deepseated psychological issues. She's out of control and made monstrous as her id is forced to the surface and her subconscious manifests.
As shadowkat67 noted this all stems from Buffy's Daddy Issues. But I say it's more than just Daddy Issues, but extends through her fear of abandonment, death, and her destiny to be alone. In Prophecy Girl, Buffy goes to meet the Master in virginal white (her wedding day), leaving the land of innocence in order to become a woman, but it goes horribly wrong. Buffy never got the chance to grow up properly because when she tried to step across the threshold (first with the Master, then with Angel), she was horribly traumatized each time.
Many months ago, Scott Allie said something about Buffy that really upset fans, but I now think it's the central premise of Season 8: "That girl ain't never been right."
Buffy has never gotten the chance to fully heal--look at how brittle she was in Season 7. Spike dying for her wasn't enough--Spike dying just added onto the pile of Buffy's issues. But in Season 8, Whedon is healing Buffy. And I think it's more than just healing her. Whedon recently said at one of his talks in Australia that "Buffy is me", so I have to wonder if he's not doing so because he wants to heal himself. As a writer, I think this is true. Whedon also recently said all stories are born from a place of pain. I believe writing is a way for us to work through our issues, to exorcise our demons (that's how it is for me when I write), and that's what's happening in Season 8. Buffy is being forced to confront her past.
shadowkat67: Why risk alienating your readers? Don't you want them to keep reading?
Because this isn't a story written to give the readers what they want (though it is if you love psychology and characters growing by facing their fears). It's a story for Whedon and for Buffy. I've been saying this again and again whenever someone says Whedon is doing the comics to milk them for cash (I run across this belief all the time in fandom)--uh, no. Whedon is Hollywood. He knows where the money is and it's not in comics.
This is a story of pure artistic vision. It's a high concept tale not for a single episode, but for an ENTIRE season. We've been watching Restless the entire time in Season 8 and nobody noticed. Actually, everyone did notice it was WTF, but nobody wondered if it was deliberate. Whedon's taken the wacky of the Hellmouth and made the entire world wacky and overblown with power, all because the Seed of Wonder, the source of magic, is making the world go wacky (Giant Dawn, fairytale motifs, vampires are loved by humanity, magic EVERYWHERE and no normal in sight--the entire world is out of balance). It's 40 issues of global Once More, With Feeling/Restless because "the thing about changing the world...once you do it, the world's all different." It's psychological puppeteering that's forcing the characters to look in the mirror and see their ugly inner psyche. Buffy has to confront that and heal.
Last Gleaming is taking Buffy and her world back to the beginning, back to the Hellmouth, to the Seed of Wonder, to restore the balance both inside Buffy and restore the balance of the world.
Damn, Season 8 is the riskiest story I think Whedon's ever done. WOW.
Go back and look at my icon. Look at this cover at full size and let the image sink in.
Whedon is reaching inside and looking at Buffy, at the part of himself that Buffy represents, and saying to her, "I want you to be strong." Not merely in sharing power, not merely in physical strength. He wants her to be strong from WITHIN. He wants the scared little girl that still lives inside Buffy (and maybe the scared part inside himself and inside all of us) to go out and face her fears. To seek them out and kill them dead.
Read this speech again from "Bring on the Night" and then think about what's happening in Season 8.
This? This right here? I needed this. And I think it's the craziest, most insane story to tell over four years. But it's worth it to me. Buffy ain't never been right because she's never gotten the chance to heal. Until now.
Some of my friends who've read my Season 8 fic Thought You Should Know have said it feels more like the show than Season 8--that it's better than Season 8. As the author of that fic, I'm saying right now that my story is not better. It is NOT better than this (and it's almost embarrassing to imagine that to be true). Because I've only managed to write a story that delves into the heart of Buffy, into her mind and issues. Whedon has done this not only for Buffy, but for EVERY character in Season 8. There is a structure to Season 8, a rhyme and reason, a beginning and an end, that brings all the characters through this journey and gives every character growth to explore (even Andrew grows).
I think what's being done in Season 8 is brilliant. I think all the moments that I disliked for being OTT were meant to be OTT because the world is askew and has been ever since the Hellmouth was destroyed. Because if you destroy the center of mystical convergence, where does all the magic go? It doesn't just disappear--it spreads because there's no gravitational force keeping it all in one place. Magic is out of whack now that the Hellmouth is closed. The balance is off because of what was done in Chosen. For everyone who thought Buffy was free of the Hellmouth when it closed and that she'd be happy and okay--no, because closing the Hellmouth didn't defeat her issues or magic, but instead let all the issues spread through Buffy and through the world. She's not done yet. And I think it's because Spike was the one who closed the Hellmouth. Buffy didn't actually defeat the Hellmouth and the source of all her pain--Spike did. Buffy has to do it this time. Only you can save yourself from within the belly of the beast. For anyone who thought that Chosen wasn't a very feminist ending because Spike was the one who really won the battle and defeated the Hellmouth, that it was Spike and not Buffy--I think Whedon agrees. Buffy has to go back and defeat the Hellmouth and all it represents herself.
Season 8 makes sense. Damn. I get it now. I totally get it now. I need to go reread every single issue of Season 8 now.