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Buffy — Season Eight: Retreat

Monday, November 30, 2009

This arc was pivotal to the entire success or failure of Season Eight.  Coming off of what I felt was a letdown in Predators and Prey, Retreat needed not only to bring the ongoing plot to the precipice of crescendo, it needed to do it well.  Very well.  Did it?  No.

Although, I’m admitting here that this could be more subjective than objective on my part; one of the reasons I didn’t like P&P, and therefore not this one so much either since it stems from P&P, is that it completely warped and altered the Buffyverse in one quick fell swoop.  I think I’m feeling the same way now that a lot of fans did during Season 6, where the show went really dark and a lot of people felt it had lost its way; I happened to like that turn, so I thought it was fine, but I’m wondering if my not liking this turn is simply a similar sort of thing.  That being said, I do think there are some basic plotting and scripting weaknesses here, which might help to validate my argument — you’ll just have to decide on which side of the argument you fall.

The biggest thing is believability.  I just really can’t buy the whole premise that the world has sided with the demons and vampires against the Slayers.  I see how they’ve tried to build the whole idea — Buffy’s ‘army’ being ‘renegade’ and therefore ‘terrorist-like and dangerous’; the bank robberies; Harmony’s stupid show.  But I just can’t get on board for some reason.  Maybe because there wasn’t enough building; maybe because, like I said, this ‘societal turn’ really did happen in only one issue — it was just way too quick.  And of course, when you do things too quickly in a long, ongoing story, it always comes off as poorly conceived and contrived.

But anyway, it’s all brought us to Retreat, where the central premise is that they now, because of being the bad guys, and because of being outnumbered and easily tracked, have to — ahem — retreat.  To do so they go find Oz in Tibet, willingly drain themselves of their magical ability in order to stay ‘under the Twilight radar,’ and try to live like Buddhist hippies.  Okaaay.  Sure.  It’s not a bad idea, and it’s a good weakness metaphor, and I do like how it turns out the ‘new age-y’ stuff was all just smoke and mirrors and it was old-school goddesses absorbing their magic after all; but then, you very suddenly have an entire battalion’s worth of military equipment, up in the middle of the Himalayas, which you brought there by not using the magic and simply ‘selling the submarine’ in Lhasa?  I know this is supposed to be fantastical fiction, but still — that’s just asking me to suspend my disbelief way too far.  It’s Jane Espenson, so of course the dialogue is good, but the story overall is disappointing, and just throwing random details like that, seemingly on a whim, leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.  On top of that, what was really the point with including Monroe and all those other werewolves?  They weren’t relevant at all.

Another thing I’m sure getting everyone riled up is Xander and Dawn getting it on.  They’re probably saying things like ‘but it’s incestuous.’  That would be silly of course.  It actually makes perfect sense — they’ve always been close.  And emotional closeness very commonly leads to lovey closeness.  And there really isn’t that much of an age gap between them.  So I think it’s fine.  Now will Buffy and Dawn start fighting over him?  Interesting.

I had figured out the Riley thing.  I’m awesome.

Now all that’s really left is Twilight’s identity and the unfolding of Willow’s story.  And it’s ten issues left, which means almost another year to make it happen.

Stamina, chaps and chapettes.  Stamina.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, December 3, 2009 12:51 am

    I’m going to take my final stand here and say that, based on all the evidence, Harth is Twilight. I hope I’m right because it would also make the most sense and be good story-telling.

    Anyone else, I think, would be a bad move. Except maybe Ethan Rayne. But anyone else — no.

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, December 3, 2009 1:20 am

    Again I’m totally with you. I’ve sort of detached myself from the whole Buffy story line to just enjoy it despite its disappointments. There were some good moments in this series, sure, but a lot of stuff really did seem thrown together. Is there a plan? Was this the plan? I don’t like the plan.

    I did like how it all sort of came together in Issue #30. Sort of. I don’t know. I’ve resolved not to be disappointed and just enjoy it. One out every 3 or so issues has something that blows me away.

    • Thursday, December 3, 2009 2:11 am

      Yes, it does all seem to finally be coming together now, although, isn’t it a bit annoying that they way it’s doing that is to ‘have everyone captured and now it’s up to Buffy to save them?’ I mean, it’s classic ‘friends in trouble, good-guy to the rescue’ stuff. Although, with Buffy getting these powers and all, maybe that’s the intention — to do a play on the good ‘ole fashioned super-hero story.

      If the series ends strongly then I think, overall, it can be considered a success, but I really hope that Season 9 will be it — I don’t want them to unnaturally drag it out any more than they possibly are now. And I really, really need the Buffy-verse and the Angel-verse to come back together. If it doesn’t I’m going to be super, super pissed.

  3. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, December 3, 2009 1:23 am

    I’ve been waiting for the Xander/Dawn thing for a long, long time. It seemed like a natural evolution of their relationship. Hopefully it won’t be dismissed in the next issue… I’m very worried it will be stupidly handled.

    • Thursday, December 3, 2009 2:14 am

      I don’t think it will be diminished — I think it’s going to be quite important. But it also begs the question: is Xander really into Dawn or is he just doing this because he can’t get Buffy? And when he finds out that maybe he now can get Buffy, because of Buffy’s little change of heart . . .

      Or maybe this would be too soap-opera-y. Actually, I think leaving Xander with Dawn, and then having Buffy go back to the Angel/Spike thing, is probably the way to go.

      I really don’t want to see her with Riley again. Boring.

  4. Friday, December 4, 2009 1:02 pm

    Retreat is a disaster. It’s the cultural suicide ending of BSG all over again.

    Didn’t we get past Buffy trying to solve her problems by running away from them back in Season 3?

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