Friday, May 27, 2011

REVIEW: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming

First of all, let me be clear - I love Willow, Angel, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Faith . . . generally, depending upon my mood, in that order. I was a huge fan of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel when they were on TV, passing up dates, missing appointments, and blowing off family gatherings to catch each new episode. I was a bit too old to have grown up on the Whedonverse, but it definitely shaped much of my teenage years.

I cried like a baby when both shows ended. Buffy, I thought, ended very well, wrapping up 7 years of television with an ending that was every bit as empowering as the show itself. Angel, I thought, ended even better (even if it was sadly before it's time), with a final few moments that still take my breath away.

So, you can imagine my insane delight when I first heard that not only would each show be getting another "official" season, but that Joss himself would be at the helm. It wasn't a new season of televised glory, and it wasn't the movie we all wanted, but it was something - and it was to be "canon" (rather than just somebody else playing in then Whedonverse).

Season 8 definitely had its moments but, sadly, they were in the first 3 volumes (Long Way Home, No Future For You, and Wolves at the Gate). From there, it's been an uneven ride that began going downhill with Twilight (Volume 7) and has mercifully ended with Last Gleaming (Volume 8).

Okay, if you haven't read Last Gleaming, then stop reading now because SPOILERS ABOUND!

Still here? You've been warned . . .

Let me sum up what was wrong with this final chapter:

  1. Superhero powers, for both Buffy and Angel. Nope, sorry, just too much.
  2. The failure to correct the mistake of revealing Angel as the Big Bad. Come on, really? It was an absolute cheat to have Twilight turn out to be Angel . . . with a twist that ridiculous, I'm sure another could have been manufactured to counter it.
  3. Faith being wasted. This girl has potential! If you're not going to exploit it, then at least give her a great exit . . . don't just leave her on the sidelines.
  4. The senseless death of Giles. Yeah, Xander and I both saw it coming, but it was still an unnecessary bit of drama. Giles is . . . well, Giles! If he had to die, then it should have meant something.
  5. On that note, Xander being wasted. He had his shot at being a hero. He could have stopped Giles, taken his place, and turned a senseless death into a noble sacrifice. Instead, he stands by and watches.
  6. Resurrecting The Master, only to neuter him by making him a pawn of some other force, and then giving him a quick death that accomplishes nothing.
  7. Buffy saving the world by destroying the magic in it. This was huge. This was the classic no-win situation she faced so many times on TV . . . except she always found a way to create a third choice, one that usually involved her own sacrifice. Here, she picks the easy out, betraying Willow in the process, and does it without a moment of thought. Where's the angst? Where's the internal debate? Where's sense of sorrow and helplessness that have always accompanied those choices? This was lazy and it was wrong (even if it does erase a lot of mistakes and set us up for a return to normalcy in season 9).
  8. Giles rewriting his will, leaving everything to Faith. Excuse me? WTF? Yeah, we know he's kind of taken Faith under his wing, but this reeks of just another betrayal. This whole season seemed to be about dividing him from his Slayer, and I don't like the implication that he's lost faith in Buffy.
As for what was right about it:

  1. Spike was awesome. He looked like Spike, he talked like Spike, and he acted like Spike. He played a significant role and, despite all the hints, never did betray Buffy.
  2. Um . . . really, that's about it.
At this point, I'm not really interested in a Season 9, but I suspect I'll give it a shot - if only because Joss himself owned up to some of the failings in Season 8, and admitted he has already changed his direction for Season 9 because of what we, the fans, have said.

All I can say is it better be good . . . at least Angel good, if not better.

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