BTVS Season 8 #1: The Long Way Home, Part 1


“The thing about changing the world… once you do it, the world’s all different.” – Buffy Summers

Synopsis

Season Eight opens with a bang, as Buffy and three other Slayers (Satsu, Rowena & Leah) jump out of a Helicopter and break through a mystical force field to investigate an old church containing demonic activity. The Scooby gang has expanded vastly since our days in Sunnydale, as Buffy explains "There used to be one Slayer in all the world. Eighteen hundred now, that we’ve counted. Almost five hundred working with us, in ten separate squads" It’s safe to say that things have changed a lot. Buffy is now leading her very own Slayer army and apparently everyone calls her ma’am these days. However, some things have stayed the same. She still has her demons and she still has her friends, even if they’ve changed somewhat too.

Buffy refers to Xander as her Watcher. He seems reluctant to wear the title, but he’s certainly fulfilling the role of one. Xander and his task team (which includes a pair of psychics) are helping to navigate Buffy and her squad on their mission via satellite communication. He’s now like the Nick Fury of the Buffyverse. He even refers to himself as such at one point, while working alongside another Slayer named Renee. There appears to be some chemistry between the pair. The Scooby base has certainly come a long way since the humble days of the library, they now operate from a huge castle in Scotland, which is decked out with tech, weapons, mystics, Watchers and Slayers a plenty.

Using satellite and the psychic’s abilities, Xander pinpoints the demons exact location. They are clustered around an altar, with two victims lying dead at their feet. There are three hulking demons in total. They are mean, green and have way too many teeth, not to mention large tusks growing out of their cheeks. Buffy charges one of them and drives a huge crucifix through its brain, resourceful as ever. Three extra slayers burst through the stain glass windows and send arrows through the jugulars of the other two demons. With the threat removed, Buffy inspects the bodies. They both have a weird symbol carved into their chests (It looks like a sun setting with a little star to the left of it.) Buffy thinks the wounds look self-inflicted “I don’t think these are random victims. I think these boys were looking for a fight.” Rowena finds evidence that the force field around the church was created by the victims. Things just don’t quite add up. To add further intrigue, unbeknownst to our slayers, there’s a mysterious figure hovering above the church. Buffy hopes the symbol may provide answers and returns home to their new Slayer Headquarters.

While Buffy and Xander speculate over the meaning of the symbol, Xander suggests that Buffy should talk to her sister. It appears Buffy and Dawns relationship has been strained since Buffy changed the world. This is possibly due to all of Buffy’s extra responsibilities. When Buffy reluctantly meets with Dawn, we find out that she’s now, wait for it… a giant. And no, not just a giant pain in the ass, an actual giant. It turns out a Thricewise named Kenny, which she lost her virginity to, put the whammy on her. A Thricewise is a species of demon. They have a reputation for being mischievous tricksters. They specialise in magic and have the ability to take human form. Buffy is pissed that Dawn didn’t talk to her about her relationship with Kenny. Apparently, everyone knew he was a Thricewise, including Giles who only ever spoke with him over the phone. Buffy is jealous that Dawn would rather talk to Willow about her problems. She retreats to one of the castle balconies for some respite and contemplates how much her life has changed.

Meanwhile, the American Army are now hell-bent on bringing the Slayers down. They view them as terrorists. While flying above what’s left of Sunnydale, General Voll makes his feelings clear They got power, they got resources, and they got a hard line ideology that does not jibe with American interests. Worst of all, they got a leader, charismatic, uncompromising, and completely destructive. I mean for the love of God look what she did to her hometown.” They are investigating the crater and former Hellmouth for bodies and mystical readings. Suddenly, one of the investigators is attacked by a woman covered in debris. They take the woman back to their base for interrogation. But before she speaks, she has her own demands. She wants access to all their magical hardware, a weapons lab for her boyfriend (who isn’t revealed this issue.) and lots of cheese… Dun Dun Duuuun!!! It’s Amy Madison. And that little cliff hanger wraps up the first issue.

The Watchers Files

The Long Way Home #1 was written by Joss Whedon and features artwork by Georges Jeanty (Ink) and Jo Chen (Cover).

So, here’s my thoughts…

I’ll start with what I loved:

The artwork by Jo Chen and Georges Jeanty is absolutely stunning. It blows me away every time.

The dialogue is on point and chalked full of that famous Whedon wit we all know and love. I could hear the lines coming out of the characters mouths. It felt true to both them and the series.

I got a kick out of going back to Sunnydale (what’s left of it at least) and Amy’s return was a real highlight for me. I always felt that character was a tad underutilised and wondered what became of her when Sunnydale went Boom!

The cryptic symbol and shadowy figure added a touch of mystery and intrigue. It gave us our first hint, that like the show, this season would feature an overarching Big Bad.

I appreciate the fact that even though Buffy is a big shot Slayer boss lady now, she still has insecurities and vulnerabilities that keep her grounded and relatable.

Here’s what didn’t work as much for me:

Without the restrictions of a TV budget, Joss went big this season. A lot of fans, myself included, felt he went a little too big. Scottish castles, a giant Dawn and too many Slayers to count, it was a little overwhelming. This was this season’s major struggle. Joss did, however, listen to the fans and come to this conclusion himself. He rectifies this issue in season 9 by bringing our beloved characters back to a more relatable setting. Yes, the show has always been ambitious and fantasy based. But never to the extent that we couldn’t relate it to our own everyday lives. It is an understandable error, who wouldn’t go a little crazy without any monetary limitations? It’s actually kind of sweet that we got to show Joss that we never cared about huge budgets or special effects, what truly mattered, has always been his amazing characters and writing.

Trivia

The Girl In Question

At the beginning of this issue, Buffy informs us that there is now three of her. Two decoys have been deployed to throw enemies off.

“The guys figured I was a target, set up two other slayers to be me. One’s underground, literally. One’s in Rome, partying very publicly – And supposedly dating some guy called the immortal. That part was Andrew’s idea.”

This reference cracked me up. Hard core fans will know that we’ve encountered one of these fake Buffy’s before. In Angel season 5 episode 20: The Girl In Question, Angel receives a phone call from a source he has keeping tabs on Buffy. Fearing she may be in trouble, Spike and Angel travel to Rome to protect Buffy from an old nemesis known as the Immortal. They are also there to pick up a demon’s head for one of their demonic Wolfram & Hart clients. Upon their arrival they meet Andrew, who informs them that Buffy is not in peril and is in fact dating the Immortal. We never actually see the Immortal or the Slayer; aside from a brief glimpse of them dancing in a club (We don’t actually see their faces.) This really frustrated me during my first viewing. But with the expectation of getting to see the Buffster removed, I can now enjoy the episode for its comedic value. The banter and bickering between Spike and Angel is immensely enjoyable and very funny indeed. This reference adds a whole new layer to that episode and makes for a fun rewatch, especially now that we know the girl in question isn’t Buffy at all.

Sidebar: We’ll also get to meet the other decoy in Issue #5

Buffy Speak of the Week

Buffy: I miss my home. I miss my mom. I miss the gang, and churos, and sex. Great muppety Odin, I miss that sex. Oh I just know Dawn had sex with that Kenny and won’t say anything to me—But she’ll tell Willow. Fine, her first time and it all goes wrong which I’m totally well versed in and anyhow Willow’s the expert on boys since when now? Outstanding, I can’t even feel sorry for myself in a linear fashion. Suck it up Summers. You’re a big girl now.

I think I liked this dialogue so much because it was the first time Buffy was vulnerable in this issue. She also expressed a sense of longing for a lot of the same things I missed as a fan. Even though the scope is much bigger now and she’s the leader of this vast slayer army, I felt this scene helped keep her relatable.

Slayer Rating: 3/5 Stakes

©2017 by Daniel Devenney.