My response to what people are calling the WTF moment was "Oh, my god that's brilliant! And why didn't I see that coming?"
Buffy is hit by a huge amount of magic from a powerful goddess. When she wakes up, she begins to float into the sky. Buffy flying and it's absolutely brilliant. Because Buffy's eventual ability to fly has been foreshadowed by Whedon this entire season. First, when she flies with Willow in Anywhere But Here and is too afraid to open her eyes. Next with Twilight in A Beautiful Sunset where she grits her teeth, bearing it because she must. Then we have her jumping off of flying cars in Time of Your Life. She's been progressing to this point of being able to deal with this power the entire season and I just didn't see it coming!
It's moments like these where I'm struck with why I love Whedon so much. Because it was all right there, laid out in front of us - the story had been building up to this point for a long time, but it still came as a complete shock to me.
And yes, I do believe this is part of how Buffy will be able to face Twilight. And it's such an awesome metaphor that only in giving away power, can one truly know power. It's like that saying, if you love someone, set them free. If they return to you, then your love is true. You cannot be caged by your love or your power - through being open, you can be connected to true power.
There were definitely some iffy moments in this issue, but the ending is so gobsmackingly brilliant in how it was laid out that I don't care. It's moments like this where Whedon just reminds me "This - this is why I love Buffy."
There's a thread of transitive power underneath this entire season and I'm only now just understanding how to tease it out. That perhaps the message after you've been given power isn't that you clutch at it so tightly (that you steal for it, you sacrifice innocents for it, you kill for it, you destroy worlds for it), but that you set it free so it may choose to return to you. If it's truly yours, it will return to you.
And isn't that very Tibetan-style, only in letting go of everything can you truly know yourself and fully actualize. The Buddhist prayer of "letting go, always letting go" that will lead you to enlightenment.
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Hughes cover makes so much sense to me now. When Buffy was Chosen, Excalibur was forced into her hand. It was a burden to carry the sword or in Buffy's case, the shining stake. But in Retreat, after an entire season of robbing, cheating, stealing and killing to keep her power, in finally learning to let it go she takes an even firmer hold on what's truly hers.
This is just really beautiful to me. There are some technical moments in the issue that I find were poorly executed, but as is always the case with Buffy - the meaning has just blown me away. Wow.
I've also gotta say that this new power is something I'm not sure will be unwelcome or perhaps gladly received. Buffy's been saying this arc how she's tired of standing over people. Well, now she's flying over them. It's an ever greater price to pay for great power, the disconnect between her and humanity. I initially thought Buffy would hate flying, but we've seen her gradually building up to it. And in the circumstances she hated, it was her clutching for dear life to Willow. And also another instance of her flying was as a fish at the beginning of Retreat. Flying in past was shown to leave her as a helpless pawn. Now, instead of her in another's power, she has her own power returned.
And this gives Buffy something she's always wanted - freedom. That's what flying symbolizes to me. Physical strength symbolizes to me power. But flying has always seemed to strongly represent freedom. And this is what Buffy's wanted ever since her character was first introduced.
Buffy enjoys having power, but she's always wanted freedom. Being able to fly is perhaps a way for her to have a more balanced give and take with her powers. Because while flying does involve distance, there's also the joy of this perspective and the freedom and thrill of it.
***And wow, if anyone here has been reading "Thought You Should Know," I actually wrote a chapter that has Buffy musing about flying and how she's both loved it and hated it depending on her emotional state at the time.