BTVS Season 8 #20: After These Messages… We’ll Be Right Back

“I just had the strangest dream. We were back in High School. And you were there. And you were there. And you were there.” – Buffy Summers


This issue opens with a montage of Buffy’s routine patrolling. We see her decapitate, stake and generally slice and dice an assortment of ghouls. It’s clearly been a busy week for our heroine and she’s exhausted.

Buffy: You want to know what the problem with saving the world is…? You never get any sleep. Not even nappy time. At this point I’d settle for twenty-eight of those forty winks everybody talks about. Was it always this hard? And if it was, why is it always this hard?

When she finally arrives home after another successful slay, she collapses on a bed. She’s covered in dirt. Xander barges in. She tells him not to wake her until there’s another apocalypse. But he wasn’t disturbing her to notify her of any impending doom. He was just trying to tell her that she was in his bed. Buffy is so out of it; she doesn’t realise or care. She’s out cold.

She wakes, or so she thinks, to an alarm clock buzzing. Joyce is yelling in the background, “Buffy! Get a move on! You’re going to be late for school! When Buffy finally manages to open her eyes, she realises she’s not in Scotland anymore. She’s back in Sunnydale! In her old room. And Joyce and Dawn are at her bedroom door.

Buffy: Okay, now we’re just being cruel. Dream, dream, go away. Come again another… never.

Unable to shake herself from this dream, Buffy begins to question reality. She runs to her mom and throws her arms around her. When she’s done squeezing Joyce, she drops to her knees and hugs a miniature Dawnster.

Dawn: Mom! Buffy’s on drugs. I learned about them in school.

Joyce orders Dawn to go finish her breakfast. She’s about to tell Buffy to get moving, but Buffy knows the drill, “Dress. Eat. Books. School. Got it.” She says. “I hope you do.” Joyce replies. Buffy tells her mom that she’s happy to see her. Joyce asks if she’s feeling alright.

Joyce: You don’t seem to have a fever. But you have been out almost every night this week.

Buffy: Tell me about it. A Slayer’s work is never done.

Joyce: A “Slayer”…?

Buffy realises that Joyce doesn’t know she’s the Slayer yet. She tells Buffy that she has no idea what goes on in that head of hers. But if she’s late for school again, she can kiss that party tonight goodbye. Buffy knows nothing about any party. Her time warp continues when she reaches Sunnydale High and bumps into her much-younger fellow scoobies.

Buffy: Okay, I admit that if you googled “Weird” there’d be a picture of this day. I mean, this could all be the handy work of some sleep demon – or maybe the ghost of Ethan Rayne has dragged me back into the dream space. Again. Whatever. I can do this.

In the school hallways, Queen C is gloating about her big party. She pokes fun of Willow in passing. Buffy tells Willow to pay no attention and that maybe someday Cordelia will be dead, and Willow will be a sorceress Supreme. Xander races down the hallway on his skateboard before crashing and falling. Snyder interrupts and confiscates his board. Buffy attempts to comfort him. She tells him that maybe one day Snyder will be eaten by a ginormous snake. Later that night, the gang catch up with Giles on patrol in the cemetery. Giles scoffs at the gang for discussing Cordelia’s party. He reminds them that there are much more pressing matters at hand. He’s concerned about a group of vamps known as the Disciples of Morgala.

Giles: I have reason to believe that the disciples are going to complete a ritual this evening that will, how shall I put this – shift the balance between good and evil beyond all hope and reckoning! Buffy. This is the exact sort of situation for which you were chosen.

Buffy tells Giles to chill. She assures him that she will find the disciples of Morgan Freeman (LOL), locate their nest and dust them. And dust, she does. We cut to Buffy slaying the disciples. With the threat seemingly averted, the gang decide they’ve earned the right to party. While impressed with Buffy’s slaying, Giles warns that danger may still be looming. He tells Buffy that the Disciples of Morgala appeared to have been worshipping an image of a dragon. With no evidence of any dragon in sight, Buffy ignores her Watcher’s cautioning and returns home to get ready for the party. While choosing an outfit, Buffy shares a sweet moment with her mom. Joyce tells Buffy that eventually she’ll graduate school, go to college and maybe meet a nice boy.

Joyce: You have your whole life ahead of you. But, yes. You can always come home again.

Buffy: Right. Sigh.

Given our knowledge of the future, this is a very poignant scene. On her way to the party, Buffy bumps into Angel. She tells him that she has plans this evening. He heard through the grapevine that Buffy took out the Five Disciples of Morgala. He tells her he’s impressed. Buffy thanks him for the compliment and bids him goodnight. He notices that she’s wearing the crucifix he gave her. She tells him she wore it because it went with her outfit and no other reason. Before she dashes off, she has a question for him.

Buffy: If you knew something about someone’s past and future… Would you tell them?

Angel: Probably not. You can’t change a person’s past. And just by telling them, you’ll change their future into who knows what.

Buffy: Yeah. Well I gotta run. I have that party thing. Thingy.

As Buffy arrives at the party, she begins to feel uneasy. Something about what Angel said is troubling her. Suddenly, it dawns on her… he said there were five disciples. But she’d only dusted three. Though tempted to follow the music and enter the party, she rushes back to the cemetery. She enters a mausoleum and dusts the final two disciples. But not before they shove a huge jewel into the wall and summon Morgala. The dragon bursts through the mausoleum. The jewel is glowing in the centre of its head. It flies towards Buffy and hurls her into the air with it.

Buffy: Hey! I can see my house! And… the house with the party that I’m missing!

Buffy loses a shoe. It hits Cordelia on the head on its way to the ground (Karma). Buffy surmises that the jewel is the key to the dragon’s defeat. She kicks the jewel out of the dragon’s head, and it disappears. Buffy plummets to the ground, falling through a tree on the way down. There’s a yellow flash. When she opens her eyes, she’s back in present day Scotland. Xander, Willow and Dawn are all present. Buffy is glad to see them and to be home. She realises that while much has changed, much is still the same. She decides Angel was right… You can’t change a person’s past. But for one brief shiny-shiny… it was great to go home again.

Buffy: All I kept thinking was how nice things we’re back then… When it wasn’t so complicated… and… yet… it was just the same as now. Only different. I guess it doesn’t really matter… Whatever it was, it’s over now and we’ve got a world to save.

That’s All, Folks!

The Watchers Files

After These Messages… We’ll Be Right Back was written by Jeph Loeb. It features artwork by Georges Jeanty, Eric Wight, Ethen Beavers, Dexter Vines, Michelle Madsen & Adam Van Wyk.

This issue was heavily influenced by the unaired Buffy the Animated Series pilot. (See Trivia.)

How nice was it to take a trip back to our old Hellmouth, Sunnydale High? Just like Buffy, many fans also long for those simpler times. But upon going back, we realise things were never simple for our heroin. That’s what makes her world so interesting and relatable. Still, it’s nice to go back and be nuzzled with nostalgia.

I loved how the artwork transitioned between the realistic style of reality to the cute cartoon style of Buffy’s dreamscape.

I love a good pop culture reference. And this issue was jam-packed with them, from The Wizard of Oz & Loony Toons, to Pleasantville & Spider-Man. I also loved when Buffy refers to the demon Morgala as Morgan Freeman. In the show she was forever forgetting terms in demonology and inserting her own hilarious substitutes.

Getting to see characters like Joyce and Snyder was a real treat. It was also interesting seeing Dawn incorporated into this timeline, as she’d been inserted into Buffy’s memory.

This was a powerful issue. Our knowledge of the future coated the shiny nostalgia of Buffy’s bubbly yesteryears in melancholy. This was particularly prevalent in her scenes with Angel and Joyce. We longed to go back just as much as Buffy. But like her, we knew we couldn’t stay.


Buffy the Cartoon Slayer

A lot of this issues style and plot derived from the unproduced Buffy animated series. The story was clearly adapted to fit in with Season Eight’s plot. But if you’ve seen the unaired pilot for the animated series, its influence is undeniable. The pilot was written by Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb. It was animated by Eric Wight, who also worked on pencilling this issue. The series was set to take place in the middle of Buffy’s first season, directly after episode 6, Angel. Unfortunately, the series was never picked up. The pilot promo was leaked in 2008 on Youtube. If you haven’t already stumbled upon it, it’s well worth checking out. It’s a real shame nothing ever came to fruition. It had a lot of potential. But, now that Disney owns the rights to Buffy, who knows what the future has in store? I wouldn’t be surprised if an animated series pops up on Disney+ in the next few years. When Disney owns a franchise, it doesn’t shy from capitalising on it. Let’s just hope they get the live action sequel series right first.

Buffy Speak of the Week

Buffy’s Dorothy moment at the end aside, I really enjoyed when she referred to her slayer-sense as her spider-sense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Buffy Summer’s is the female equivalent of Peter Parker. They are both young quippy bad asses carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Both characters are heavily relatable. They deal with real life problems, alongside their hero shenanigans, which are often metaphors for the struggles we all face anyway. Even though they have both suffered great tragedy, they remain bright and optimistic. They are my favourite superheroes of all time. When I have a bad day or I’m unsure what to do, I turn to them.

Buffy: On the way to the party, my spider-sense starts tingling…

Whoever or whatever you are out there, pick another night. I’m just going someplace, and one time it would be nice to get there without vamp dust all over my clothes.

Dammit. I don’t need spider-sense. I need Angel-sense. Look at him. All handsomey. Before I knew he was Angelus. And all handsomey. Buffy, get a hold of yourself!

Slayer Rating: 5 X 5