BTVS Season 8 #5: The Chain

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

 

 

“Here’s how it works. You don’t get a choice. So it’s different, I guess, for different people. Some, it’s a tickle. They don’t even know. Or a rush. Fun. But for me, becoming a Slayer was like Mike Tyson in your face – and not punching-you Mike Tyson, ripping-your-ear-off-with-his-teeth Mike Tyson.” – Buffy-Decoy

 

Synopsis

 

The Chain is a single issue, standalone story, which focuses on one of Buffy’s decoys. As mentioned in the first issue, Buffy has two decoys to throw her opponents off. We encountered one of these decoys in Rome (Angel, Season 5, Episode 20, The Girl in Question.) This story is narrated by the other, the anonymous and ill-fated underground decoy.  

 

The issue opens with a demon, Yamanh of Hoht, holding the body of the Buffy-Decoy in the air as he proclaims “Buffy Summers is DEAD!” After this dramatic proclamation, we cut to a pre-battle scene between our Buffy-Decoy and a Faerie friend. The Slayers Faerie friend is trying to convince her to leave, because taking on Yamanh alone is suicide. The Slayer explains that she can’t run from this. If she leaves, Yamanh will lead his army above ground and that’s what she’s been sent here to stop. The Faerie kisses the Slayer on the forehead and tells her that she loves her, before heading to the surface to warn our Scooby gang of the imminent danger.

 

Then, the story takes us back even further, to when this Slayer was activated. One minute, she’s eating lunch and gossiping with friends, and the next, she’s hurtling towards the ground in agony. She explains that being chosen is different for everyone. For her, it was no tickle. It was more like going head to head with Mike Tyson.

 

Not understanding what’s happened to her, she responds to a commercial she sees on TV. The advertisement features Andrew and Vi, as they try to discreetly recruit new Slayers…

 

Andrew: Something wrong honey?

 

Vi: I can’t control my strength! And I’m having dreams that are strange and disturb me.

 

Andrew: Dreams of being another girl, in another time?

 

Vi: That’s amazing! How did you know?

 

Andrew: This pamphlet came in the mails! It explains how many modern women and girls are suffering from this unnamed condition.

 

Vi: There’s a support group?

 

Andrew: That’s right! Just dial 1-800-CHOSEN-1 to meet girls who have this alarming yet fun condition.

 

The commercial leads our newbie Slayer to Giles and Rona and others like her. They teach her about the chain, her power, and how to fight. She finds sisterhood, community and a sense of purpose. When she’s ready, Rona explains the details of her mission.

 

Buffy-Decoy: You want me to be Buffy.

 

Rona: Sounds a lot more glam than it is. We’d be sending you underground. Under actual ground. No one up here can know you’re her, No one down there can know you’re not. It’s deep cover and it’s unbelievably dangerous. We know next to nothing about the under-community, except they’re strong and they might be headed up. Yamanh’s the name down there.

 

Buffy-Decoy: If you know his name…

 

Rona: Then he probably knows hers, so yeah, a decoy might keep him occupied, might do some internal damage.

 

When the Buffy-Decoy first goes underground, she tries to convince the Slimefolk, Ravenclan, Faeries and other Leaf-Blower-Looking creatures that they need to band together in order to stop Yamanh. But, they are scared. It looks like she’ll have to face this alone.

 

Once again, we cut back to the moment of her activation. A truck veers off the road and is headed straight for her friends. She knocks them out of the way and gets hit by the truck herself. When they realise that she’s okay, one asks “Who the hell are you?”

 

Over a montage of the Buff-Decoy being killed in battle, she beautifully explains that who she is, is not the point.

 

“There’s always a name. Lincoln, Hitler, Gandhi. The name can inspire terror, awe…sometimes great things. But there’s millions of people go into making a name. People facing things they couldn’t imagine they would. In the moments that matter, even our names are just sounds people make to tell us apart. What we are isn’t that.” – Buffy-Decoy

 

The Faeries and Slayer army burst though in time to stop Yamanh, but unfortunately not in time to save the Buffy-Decoy. She died fighting, bravely. The world may not have known who she was, but she did. She knew exactly who she was and what she was fighting for. She had a purpose and she died happy, knowing that she made a difference.

 

The Watchers Files

 

The Chain was written by Joss Whedon and features artwork by Paul Lee and Jo Chen.

 

Surprisingly, the first issue to receive a 5x5 doesn’t feature Buffy or the Scooby gang at all.

 

Aside from very brief appearances from Giles, Andrew, Rona and Vi, the issue is centred entirely on this newly introduced Slayer.

 

It was written beautifully and packed an emotional punch. I felt like if this were an episode of the show, it would have been one of the biggies. Like Hush or Once More With Feeling, it offered something new, something we hadn’t seen before. It took us out of our comfort zone and it really paid off.

 

Comic editor Scott Allie said that if the issue were an episode of the show, Joss would have directed it himself. I couldn’t agree more. It felt special. You could feel the love and creativity Joss put into this story.

 

To conclude, The Chain was fresh, exciting, heart-breaking and one of the best of the entire Season.

 

Trivia

 

Whose Line is it Anyway?

 

There’s been a lot of debate in the fandom over how the Slayer Line operated, particularly after Buffy’s death in Season 5. So, let’s settle this once and for all by taking a comprehensive look at how the chain ran from 1996 - 2003.

 

1996 - Buffy Summers is activated.

 

While attending Hemery High School in Los Angeles, Buffy is informed by Merrick Jamison-Smythe (Her first Watcher) that she is the latest to be chosen in a long line of Slayers.

 

1997 - It is prophesised that Buffy Summers will die at the hands of the Master.

 

The prophecy comes to pass and the Master drowns Buffy after feeding from her.

 

Even though Buffy is quickly resuscitated by Xander, she was still technically dead; therefore a new Slayer was called.

 

Kendra Young is activated.

 

For the first time in History there are now two active Slayers.

 

1998 – Kendra Young is sadly killed by Drusilla approximately one year after her activation.

 

A new Slayer is called to take her place.

 

Faith Lehane is activated.

 

2001 – Buffy Summers dies a second time.

 

When Glory opens a portal which threatens to unleash Hell on earth, Buffy sacrifices herself in order to save her sister and the world.

 

No Slayer is called when Buffy dies for a second time. The reason for this is simple. When Buffy died in 1996 she passed the line to Kendra, who consequently passed it to Faith upon her demise.

 

Faith now holds the line.

 

This was confirmed by the show’s executive producer, Marti Noxon, in an interview with TV Guide Online. When asked why there was no new Slayer after Buffy died in Season 5, Marti responded as follows:

 

“We actually have an answer for that. It’s a technicality. The reason is that when Buffy died the first time, a Slayer was called, so she’s already had her replacement Slayer. It doesn’t happen twice. You only get one, and Buffy already did.”

 

Also in 2001, Buffy Summers is resurrected.

 

2003 – Beljoxa’s Eye informs Giles that the Slayer Line has been compromised.

 

By resurrecting Buffy, Willow interfered with the mystical forces surrounding the Slayer Line. This interference upset the balance between good and evil. To counteract this imbalance, the First was made more powerful.

 

Weakened and unstable the Slayer Line was now vulnerable.

 

The First Evil seizes this as an opportunity to try and eradicate the Slayer Line by killing off all of the potential Slayers and destroying the Watchers Council.

 

With the help of Willow Rosenberg, Buffy Summers thwarts the Firsts plan. She uses the Scythe (A powerful weapon which embodies the essence of the Slayer) to obliterate the chain and activate every potential Slayer at once. 

 

Pretty simple, right?

 

So, here’s where a lot of the confusion stemmed from; in the shows seventh season, Buffy made a few comments about how her death could result in one of the potential Slayers being activated.

 

Here’s an example:

 

“Death is what a Slayer breathes, what a Slayer dreams about when she sleeps. Death is what a Slayer lives. My death could make you the next Slayer.” – Buffy, Potential, Season 7, Episode 12

 

This can be perceived in one of three ways.

 

#1. Maybe, Buffy was simply trying to prepare the potentials without bogging them down with technicalities. 

 

#2. It’s perhaps more likely that Buffy doesn’t actually know that Faith holds the Line. As viewers, we are sometimes privy to information that the characters are not. Not every character in the Buffyverse has access to all of the information we do. That’s sorta how TV works folks.

 

#3. If you’re not satisfied with either of the above explanations, just take it a writer’s mistake. Personally, my understanding has always been that of option number 2.

 

So, there you have it. I hope this has helped clear things up. Feel free to let me know your take on it in the comment section below.  

 

Buffy Speak of the Week

 

Buffy-Decoy: In the moments that matter, even our own names are just sounds people make to tell us apart. What we are isn’t that. The real questions run deeper. Can I fight? Did I help? Did I do for my sisters? My comrades, children, slimy slug-clan… There is a chain, between each and every one of us. And like the man said, you either feel its tug or ignore it. I tried to feel it. I tried to face the darkness like a woman and I don’t need any more than that. You don’t have to remember me. You don’t even know who I am. But I do.

 

*Sobs* somebody pass the tissues. This closing dialogue as the Buffy-Decoy meets her fate is superb. It is poignant and beautiful and true… we will remember you Buffy-Decoy *Sobs some more*

 

Slayer Rating: 5 X 5

 

 

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