A Review Of Buffy #39: The End of the Road

 
Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie recently stated that betrayal is the over-arcing theme of Season Eight, and it’s certainly present in the penultimate issue! Here’s a quick synopsis:
 
“Angel,” now under the full control of “Twilight,” arrives in Sunnydale and attacks “Buffy” and her allies in an attempt to acquire the Seed of Wonder. 
 
While “Giles” and “Faith” lead slayers and demons into battle against the “else world” demons seeking the Seed, “Willow” forms a connection with the heart of the Earth through the glowing red orb, empowering her to Goddess status once more. “Willow” rises to the battle on the surface to put her new earthly powers to good use just as “Angel” and “Buffy” come crashing into the Seed’s room.
 
While “Giles” and “Xander” watch nearby, “Angel” destroys “The Master” in a single blow and continues to battle “Buffy.” “Giles” makes a move to destroy the Seed with the slayer’s scythe, but, in the blink of an eye, “Angel” snaps his neck and lets the dead watcher fall to the floor. “Buffy,” completely devastated, shatters the Seed with the scythe, ending all magic in her world. We are left with our hero, crumpled on the floor in tears next to "Xander,"  her dead mentor, and the now unpossessed vampire lover who killed him.
 
 
The Good:
 
 
– There are so many great character moments in this issue. Much like Chosen, I was amazed with what could be accomplished with a few sentences of dialogue and a handful of art panels. Stand outs include watching our favorite watcher lead an army of demons into battle, “Willow” becoming the anti- “Dark Willow” and releasing Mother Earth’s fury on its invaders, “Warren’s” tragic and gruesome end, and an understated yet touching final scene between “Giles” and “Faith.” They have been so tied together this season, and his last words to her to lead the girls while asking her to hand over the scythe for "Buffy" carry both the tenderness and bitterness of their relationship.
 
 
 
 
 
– As a good friend of mine stated, “Angel” pulls a “Connor” on “The Master.” Watching “Angel” destroy the powerful vampire in one blow was both exhilarating and terrifying. (No word yet on how this was possible. The Seed is supposed to drain “Buffy” and “Angel” of their superpowers, but, perhaps, it needs a moment to take effect.
 
 
– Not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way, but "Spike’s" ship continues to be so VERY cool!  Maybe I’m just sniffing the peroxide a little too heavily, but the idea of "Spike" spending his time post-Season Eight traveling through dimensions with his loyal bug crew as some sort of swashbuckling, portal hopping, vampire pirate-type brings joy to my little, fanboy heart.
 
– The betrayal. Even though some guessed it was “Buffy” who would betray herself and end the slayer line, I appreciate that, until issue #39, we were still debating who would do the deed and who would bite it. Both Allie and Whedon did a great drop of dropping red herrings for “Willow,” “Xander,” “Giles,” and “Spike.” In any other tale, we would’ve guessed who the betrayer was five months ago and we would’ve been right.
 
 
– The death of “Rupert Giles!”  Now, there are many reasons why the death of “Giles” is a bad thing. The shock, the pain, the fact that we may never see the extremely talented Tony Head portray the character on screen again. But, in many ways from a storytelling perspective, this is one of the best things that could have happened for the series. The actual event was quick and brutal. The decision to mirror “Jenny Calendar’s” death at the hands of “Angelus” just adds some extra salt to the wound. Every character will be effected massively by the murder of the watcher. Will “Xander” or “Andrew” be forced to take his place as lead watcher? Will there even be watchers now that magic is no longer present on Earth? How will “Faith” react? Both “Giles” and “Angel” have played huge roles in her life. Artist Georges Jeanty has mentioned that “Faith” will do something amazingly forgiving in regards to “Angel.” Will she be the only one who won’t turn her back on him? “Willow” is sure to be a mess in regards to losing her connecting with the mystical. Will the loss of “Giles” push her over the edge, towards the dark figure we saw confront “Buffy” in the Fray universe? Will she blame “Buffy?” Will “Dawn?” How will “Angel” deal with this? Whedon has stated that when “Angel” killed “Jenny,” he was deliberately in vamp face; he was worried that the audience would never want to see “Buffy” and “Angel” as lovers if he brutally murdered “Jenny” while wearing his human face. This was not the case with “Giles,” which leads me to believe that this is a much more serious and permanent transgression. Scott Allie states that there is no final conversation between “Angel” and “Buffy” in issue #40, and one can only assume that he is at one of the lowest points ever after this “Twilight” fiasco. Redemption, it seems, will be the focus of “Angel’s” life again in Season Nine, but who is to say that he will find it or deserve it. Given the glimpse of “Angel’s” future that we received in Brian Lynch’s Angel: After The Fall, we may one day have to accept that not every hero gets a happy ending, even ones who try extremely hard.
  And, lastly, poor “Buff.” This will be the most painful for her, given that “Giles” was the closest example of a father that she ever had. Sadly, his loss is also necessary for her. Every child must eventually stand on their own. Every hero must eventually lose their mentor. It’s happened over and over again from “Kenobi” to “Gandalf.” This event and its aftermath, as hurtful as it is, will push “Buffy” forward to accept new responsibilities and leadership that she never would have taken had “Giles” still been there.  We’ve seen “Buffy” deal with the loss of her mother, and, as many of us must do, it’s time for “Buffy” to bury her father and face the world without her parents.
 
– The end of magic on Earth. This is another event that may be bad in the context of the Buffyverse, but will be wonderful from a storytelling perspective. First, much like “Faith’s” hint at “Dawn” and “Ethan Rayne’s” nod to “The First” in Buffy: Chaos Bleeds, Joss has formed another solid link in the Buffy-verse timeline. While there are still many things to explain, Fray and Buffy are connected canon, and that is an accomplishment! We can expect issue #40 and Season Nine to answer a number of lingering mysteries, such as whether “Dawn,” as the key, is affected by the breaking of the Seed. We know from previous issues and Allie that the current vampires and slayers will remain, but will “Xander” lose his love once more? We’ll also need to know how “Fray” acquires the slayer scythe when it appears to have been destroyed when “Buffy” eradicated the Seed.
 
 
The Bad:
 
– “Twilight.” While we have a basic understanding of what “Twilight” is, there’s a lot that remains convoluted and unexplained. What exactly was “Twilight” and why did it exist? I always assumed that “Twilight” was something close to “Jasmine” and was just another powerful entity trying to enforce its will.  But why now? Why “Angel” and “Buffy?” And, how did “Buffy’s” empowerment spell cause it? Why was “Whistler” in on it? Scott Allie mentioned in a recent interview that “Angel” (and maybe “Giles”) were the only characters who would have accepted this mission. So, was “Angel” duped? How did he come to terms with the possible deaths of “Buffy’s” friends or “Connor” for that matter? While I do think “Angel’s” actions as “Twilight” set up a number of great story conditions for Season Nine, there are certainly some major holes that need to be addressed.
 
The Ugly:
 
This issue caused the obvious split one would expect. While some of this was just backlash at "Giles’" death, much debate centered on 1) where his death would take the other characters in the next season, and 2) how the eventual outcome of “Twilight” either made sense or didn’t make sense.
 
– Many claimed to predict the death of “Giles” due to Jeanty’s cover, which featured the late watcher, alone.
 
– Scott Allie stated, in one of his many interviews, that someone else dies in issue #40, but it’s not what you think. Let the speculation begin!
 
– A large number of “Angel” fans expressed that they were fairly unhappy with his current position in the Buffy-verse. I can’t say that I blame them. While “Angel” will have plenty of meaty story material for Season Nine, it really feels like he’s taken a whooping in the last arc of this season. It’s hard not to feel bad for the guy.
 
Well, we have one more issue to button up Season Eight. Start gathering those trades for the great Buffy re-read of this past season! See you in thirty!
 
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
 
 
 

 

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