BTVS Season 8 #26: Retreat, Part 1

“If we show our faces, we die here, and the world has a good-riddance party. Best we can do right now is disappear.” – Buffy Summers

Synopsis

As Slayer popularity plummets, and vampires rise to fame, Buffy and Co find themselves in hiding. This issue opens with a seagull talking to a fish. You’d be right in assuming magic is at play. Willow has used a transmogrify spell to hide their identity. As they touch down at Slayer HQ the spell begins to wear off. Mid-shapeshift, Willow makes a quip about Buffy being a reverse mermaid. A fish headed Buffy flails around until she finds her feet. When they’ve both returned to human form, they enter the castle for a team briefing. Now that Twilight has won over the entire demon population of Scotland, they’re constantly under attack. Willow has a team of wiccans working around the clock to hide the castle with magic. But there’s so much mystical energy at play they are practically warping the grid. Buffy begins to worry that all this magic will send Willow over the deep end again. Willow doesn’t know why Buffy is being so overprotective.

Buffy: Are you okay? It’s not… too much?

Willow: Okay, what’s up with you? You keep hovering, asking that. Why the cling?

Buffy assures her she’s just being vigilant. With the world against them, the last thing they wanna do is draw more attention to themselves. Meanwhile, Giles and Faith are hiding underground in Berlin. It’s not Faith’s favourite plan.

Faith: I’m just saying. Waiting for the end in a bunker under Berlin… Got a bad feel to it.

Unexpectedly, their party of two is gate-crashed by a pack of demons. Faith makes with the kicky-punchy and they escape.

In Rome, Andrew makes a startling discovery. While leading a team of Slayers through the catacombs, they happen upon creepy hieroglyphs and skull and bone sculptures, followed by skinless Warren. He tells Andrew that he’s dying, and that Amy is done with him.

Warren: She’s taking away the spell that replaced my skin, taking it away a little bit at a time. I’m in pain. I don’t have long. I wanted to see you again. I wanted to patch things up between us.

Andrew is insulted. He blames Warren for making him a killer. Warren continues to apologise, until they are ambushed by demons. It was all a trap. Warren is still in cahoots with Amy. Andrew and the Slayers begin fighting their way out. Meanwhile, Willow jumps out of bed. She tells Kennedy she has to find Buffy. She received a telepathic alert. They’ve been found.

Buffy: Who found us?

Willow: Everyone.

Buffy: Which everyone?

Willow: Giles, Faith, Andrew, Five Slayers from the Italian group, and every demon in Scotland.

Willow and her team of wiccans use magic to get Giles and the gang inside. There’s not a lot of time to enjoy the reunion, but Buffy gives Giles a tearful hug before reviewing their defences. Their mystical shields won’t hold forever. An army of demons and the military are already starting to break through. They head to the roof to take cover and get a good look at what they’re up against. The incoming army is endless. There’s tanks, medieval tech, and catapults. As flaming grenades are launched at the castle, their defences take a major hit. Girls are dying. Witches heads are frying trying to keep the shield up. Willow teleports and grabs a demon Satsu had taken hostage. She returns with intel. She knows how they were found.

Willow: A certain skinless demon just told me they’re homing in on all the magicks – It’s like a beacon.

Buffy realises there’s no way they can win this battle. They’re heavily outgunned and outnumbered. But they do have one large card up their sleeve.

Buffy: We gotta go! Everyone, head to the submarine!

Andrew: We have a submarine?

Inside the submarine, Giles and Buffy have a heart to heart. Giles is worried about Willow’s use of magic. He fears she’s losing control again. Buffy tells Giles about her encounter with Dark Willow during her trip to the future (See Buffy Speak of the Week). Giles concludes that Twilight tracked them by tracing their magic. The logical move is to stop using magic. But Buffy knows Willow will just find a way to use new layers of magic to hide the current magic. On top of that, it’s not just Willow and the wiccans giving off a magical signature, the Slayers themselves are magic. All this mojo grouped together is impossible to hide. But Buffy has an idea.

Buffy: We’re going to the one guy I know who makes a living being less magic. Willow has to do one last big spell, and then, that’s it. Forever.

We cut to the Tibetan mountains. Willow has teleported the Submarine. A lone figure is startled from his meditation by the commotion. It’s a familiar face.

Oz: Huh?

The Watchers Files

Retreat was written by Jane Espenson (Gush! BTVS royaly) and features art by Georges Jeanty and Jo Chen.

Solid issue, mostly set-up for this story arc. But it was well paced and built towards a satisfying reveal.

It also covered a lot of ground. From Scotland, to Berlin, to Rome, to Tibet, all in one issue. Buffy really has gone international.

My highlights were Giles and Faith re-joining the gang and the big Oz reveal at the end. It’s nice to have everyone back together. The Scoobies have been very disjointed for most of the Season. It’s been an entertaining ride, but I missed the group dynamic.

I loved Oz’s monosyllabic “Huh”. It was very true to form. They really captured Seth Green’s likeness and spirit in one panel.

A lot of the different story threads began interweaving in this issue, Twilight, the military, Dark Willow, Warren, Giles, and Faith. This was really the beginning of the season's third act. It’s all go from here. So, strap in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Trivia

Willow Rosenberg is one of my favourite characters of all time. I loved her evolution during all seven seasons of the show. From sweet relatable nerd, to vampire doppelganger, to powerful wiccan, she was nothing short of iconic. Aside from being a badass witch, she was also a trailblazer for queer representation in a time when that pool was painfully shallow. Willow’s legacy has continued to thrive and expand in the form of graphic novels. Her latest adventures can be enjoyed in Boom! Studios newly released, Willow #1, the first issue in an exciting five-part miniseries.




Buffy Speak of the Week

I loved this scene with Buffy and Giles. I missed their chemistry. I was also glad Buffy finally told someone about the dramatic revelation at the end of “Time of Your Life”. It was about time she addressed the dark phoenix in the room.

Buffy: Don’t start. Whatever she did – she got the information we needed. Don’t know what to do with it, but—

Giles: You’re going to lose her again. You know that.

Buffy: Oh. Giles. You don’t know the worst of it. You’re right. More than you know. I’m killing her. I mean, I have killed her. Did, am, and will.

Giles: What?

Buffy: I went to the future and evil Willow was there and I killed her and what I’m doing now could be how she got that way. Evil. And dead.

Slayer Rating: 3.5/5 Stakes

©2017 by Daniel Devenney.