“Once upon a time… I did something good. I didn’t do it alone, of course – But that’s the point. I found a way to share my power. Girls all over the world were given power – Not just strength, though that does come in handy – But purpose. Meaning. Connection.” - Buffy Summers
This issue has a powerful opening. Buffy is reflecting on the biggest decision of her life. Her decision to share her power with every potential Slayer. We are presented with a montage of iconic moments, from the little girl playing baseball in ‘Chosen’ being activated as a Slayer, to Willow unlocking the power of the scythe, Rona and Vi being activated, Satsu being activated, Buffy’s final battle with Caleb, and finally, Buffy training her new army of Slayers.
She’s proud of what she's accomplished. But she’s also aware that all actions have consequences. In this case, they haven't all been positive. Not every Slayer that has been activated is using their power for the greater good. A rogue Slayer, Simone Dolfer, is making a name for herself for all the wrong reasons. Xander and Buffy are watching a security tape of Simone stealing ammunition with a team of Slayers. The bodies of two human guards lay bloodied on the floor.
Xander: This is bad for us Buffy. Andrew’s wiccans wiped the Guards’ memories, but anybody finds out a Slayer’s packing boom-sticks – forget about what she’s planning to use them for – your Twilight bunch is gonna go ape-feces.
Buffy: Yeah, the good folk who think we’re not human. They’re gonna love it when we start acting exactly like we are.
Xander tries to reassure Buffy. He says they can find Simone and stop her before she starts a war. But Buffy knows it’s not that simple. The war has already been waged. And she feels responsible.
Buffy: Don’t give her so much credit, Xan. I started it. Willow says my little Thomas Crown affair was what got people so riled up in the first place.
Buffy knows she crossed a line. When she stole from a bank to fund her Slayer HQ, she put herself above the law. This was the first domino. Xander offers a distraction to cheer her up.
Xander: Well, I was saving this for your birthday, but… we did locate a vamp nest.
Buffy: Oh goody! It’s been ages. Just for me, or do I need a squad?
He suggests that she bring a date. She decides to bring Satsu. She’s one of her best fighters and she’s been meaning to talk to her. As Buffy gears up for battle, she walks in on giant Dawn and the other Slayers having a party. Xander encourages Buffy to join in. He says she spends too much time alone. But she’s too busy. She has work to do.
As Buffy prepares Satsu for battle, the newbie Slayer slips in the dirt. Her face is covered in mud. Buffy says she looks like her in a dream she once had. This was a reference to ‘Restless’ (Season 4, Episode 22.) Buffy tells Satsu that she’s her best fighter and she could lead the crew someday. But she’s got to learn a few key rules first. Number one: Don’t land on your face. Number two: You’re in terrible danger. When Satsu asks why she’s in danger, Buffy kicks her into a vamp nest and tells her it’s because she’s in love with her. Satsu replies, “Stupid lip gloss.” (See Trivia for more info.)
As Satsu and Buffy take on the nest, Buffy tells her that it wasn’t just the lip gloss. She would have figured it out anyway, and she’s pretty sure other people have too. Satsu tells her that it’s more than some dumb crush. Buffy understands. The kiss couldn’t have broken the spell if it were. Buffy tells her that she’s flattered. But aside from the fact that she’s not gay, loving her is a bad idea. She says that people who love her tend to die (See Buffy Speak of the Week.) Once they’ve taken out the vamp nest, Buffy breaks into tears. But before the dust has a chance to settle, Twilight attacks.
Twilight: The Chosen One. Always in pain… and always complaining. Just like a girl.
Twilight knocks Satsu out and grabs Buffy. He tells her that she cannot fight him. She retorts in true Buffy fashion,“Understand this, Ass-Clown: I probably will anyway.” Twilight says that he expected nothing less. He’s been watching her. He saw her recent flying adventure with Willow and noted her discomfort. He flies into the air with Buffy, smashing though rooftops and eventually sending her crashing to the ground. He definitely has the upper hand in combat. He snaps the steeple from a church and hurls it towards Buffy. She dodges most of the impact. Buffy informs him that there’s plenty more where she came from. He tells her that’s the problem.
Twilight: Well, that’s the issue. Isn’t it? One Slayer was all right. But all these girls… the world can’t contain them. And they will suffer for that. I’ll not kill you now. My first gift is my last. I know that you meant well. But you have brought about disaster. And it falls to me to advert it.
Buffy spots the symbol on his chest and realizes that her masked adversary is Twilight. Before he disappears, he leaves her with two questions. Has she made a difference? Has her army of Slayers changed the world? Buffy returns to Satsu. She’s crying. She feels like she let Buffy down. Buffy comforts her.
At an undisclosed location. Twilight’s allies question his methods. They don’t understand why he let Buffy live. He tells them that killing her was not his intent. His mission was to strip her of her greatest armor… her moral integrity.
Meanwhile, Buffy has taken Satsu back to Slayer HQ, which apparently has its own infirmary. Buffy is sitting at her bedside. They are both badly beaten and bandaged up.
Satsu: You were explaining how people who love you get hurt. Should I look out for that then?
Buffy: So I can skip the power point presentation, huh?
Satsu: Are you Okay? That creep did a number on you…
Buffy: I’ll heal. We’ll heal.
Afterwards, Buffy retreats to the balcony with Xander. She fills him in on her showdown with Twilight. He’s succeeded in his mission. She’s starting to question whether her army of Slayers are making a difference. Yes, they're fighting more demons, but it seems as though there are more demons to fight. She wonders whether she caused this by creating more Slayers. Xander gives her one of his famous pep talks. He tells her that they’re just getting started and that they’re more than just monster fighters. He points to the army of Slayers fighting below them. They're more than an army. They’re a community. Every one of them is connected to something larger. But Buffy still feels cut off.
Buffy: Why can’t I feel it. (Connected)
Xander: Maybe you don’t get to. Maybe the leader, the girl who brings it all together, is the one that has to give that up.
Buffy: Yeah. Yay me.
To be continued…
The Watcher’s Files
A Beautiful Sunset was written by Joss Whedon and features artwork by Georges Jeanty and Jon Foster.
This was one of those issues that I appreciated much more upon dissection. I enjoyed it the first time around. Every issue Joss penned was strong. But I didn’t realise how good it was until I studied it and broke it down for this review.
It really delves into Buffy’s psychology. It put me in mind of episodes like Conversations with Dead People (Season 7, Episode 7) and Restless (Season 4, Episode 22.) It examines Buffy’s insecurities about being a Slayer. She’s still struggling to understand what it means. She feels disconnected and alone. She questions whether this is necessary in order to lead. It was no coincidence that Restless was referenced in this issue. The same themes it examines in Buffy's dream are at the forefront of this story.
I love that it was Satsu who gave Buffy true loves kiss. I also loved that Buffy figured it out and how she dealt with it. It felt honest, tender and real.
It was very satisfying when Buffy and Twilight finally met and went head to head. He certainly proved himself to be a formidable opponent. I enjoyed the mystery of trying to figure out his identity. It’s interesting rereading it with the knowledge of who’s behind the mask.
As for Xander’s pep talk, it wasn’t his best. But I like that he’s still Buffy’s rock. Willow and Giles have been absent a lot this Season. I like my Scoobies best when they’re all together.
In the first story arc of the Season, Amy put Buffy in a mystical coma. The spell could only be broken by true loves kiss. When the Buffster woke from her mojo-induced-slumber she yelled, “CINNAMON BUNS!” Upon first reading it seemed like just another quirky Buffy quip. Later, we discover it wasn’t random. It was a strategically placed clue. In ‘The Long Way Home, Part 4’ Buffy enlists the Help of Satsu to take-down Warren and Amy and save Willow. Before they go into battle Buffy borrows Satsu’s lip gloss. She notes that the flavour is Cinnamon. Mystery solved! Did you pick up on this when you first read it? In retrospect, I suspect Buffy may have already had an inkling. It certainly implies so in this issue.
Buffy Speak of the Week
Buffy’s response to Satsu’s feelings gives us a real insight into her insecurities about relationships. Buffy has always had a deep-seated fear that being the Slayer means being alone. Cut off from the rest of the world. It’s a theme that played heavily throughout the series and has continued into the comics.
Buffy: Honestly, I think it’s kind of awesome. You’re hot, you have great taste, you’re a hell of a Slayer and you smell good.
Satsu: But you’re not gay.
Buffy: Not so you’d notice. The fact is, knowing someone, you know, that someone really cool feels that way about me, it makes me less… little bit less lonely.
Satsu: Then what’s wrong with –
Buffy: It’s fine for me. It’s bad for you. People who love me tend to… Oh, die… Maybe go to a hell dimension, or burn up, or they start letting vamps suck on `em and they leave, even my friends, sooner or later everybody realizes there’s something wrong with me, or… Wow. Did not mean to end up there.
Slayer Rating: 4/5