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Buffy — Season Eight: Riley

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poor Riley.  Can’t get no respect.

Third in line in Buffy’s heart, and now even a two-bit player in what is ostensibly his own book.  Where does he find the energy?

The Riley one-shot came along at just the right time in this long, long summer of no Season 8 to remind me that it (Season 8) still existed; there’s just enough here to make me eager for said season to get back up and running again, although the reason has nothing to do with Riley, and only with the actual important stuff in this issue which is what pushes Riley onto the backburner, the same thing that always pushed Riley onto the backburner — namely, Angel.

Yes, the most intriguing, and wonderfully unexpected, scenes in this book are of course the ones featuring Angel and the return of Whistler.  We actually get what was probably expected at some point — an out for Angel, a reason why him doing what he’s doing might be considered okay; it was, as always, about Buffy, about giving her hardship enough to empower her all the more, or something (I’m sure we’ll find out the exact specific specifics in the upcoming, final arc).  Sure, Angel had to do some bad things, but it was all for her own good — tough love, so to speak (which then, conveniently for both of them, turned into hot sweaty love — much more fun, in general).  And what’s important about Riley in all this?  Nothing, really.

I get the feeling this issue came when it did because they realized they needed 41 issues to tell the whole story, they needed to give us that Angel/Whistler scene before moving forward, but since you can’t have a 41-issue run of a comic (too messy a number) they created a one-shot which could serve the purpose, and decided to have something (Riley’s story) to simply fill in the blanks around the important bits; now, as we approach the home stretch, they can say they’ve got all the bases covered and that we’re all now prepped for the final onslaught of awesomeness.  I’m going to re-read the whole run again before reading the final arc, just to refresh my memory and make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Forcing myself to re-read comic books — what a toilsome life I lead.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Monday, August 30, 2010 7:33 am

    Agree. Riley’s story is utterly non-sensical. I love Espenson’s writing, but here she even didn’t bother with a plot, let alone character development. The last panels, where Riley and Sam, in the enemy’s headquarters, apparently, under surveillance, talk about their plans in total darkness, is ridiculous. I get that it’s intended as a visual gag, that the audience is supposed to suspense the disbelief, but – seriously? If Buffy’s allies talk about their plans in the enemy’s lair, no wonder she found herself defeated.

    Whistler’s arguments are disturbing – they turn Buffy/Angel into Debbie/Pete from 3.04 “Beauty and the Beasts”. (The boy thinks he hurts the girl for her own good, and the girl accepts and forgives him). Hopefully it’s not the story Joss is telling.

    I’m afraid I lose objectivity – yesterday I spent several hours reading debates on my friend’s LJ, and now I’m even more confused.

  2. Monday, August 30, 2010 10:52 am

    Whoa . . . was glancing through, and by spoilers you’re not kidding — you’ve got solicitation spoilers! That’s too much for me — I like to linger here in ignorance land and only find stuff out two weeks after it’s released :)

    I really like Espenson’s writing as well, but more for the verbal titillation, I find, than the actual plots she composes. ‘Harmonic Divergence,’ for example (although maybe that wasn’t specifically her idea — could have come from someone else on the creative team). ‘Retreat’ was also not so great. But her wit mostly makes up for that shortcoming.

  3. Monday, August 30, 2010 5:57 pm

    Hee, I admit, I’m a BtVS spoiler whore for 10 years already. I don’t hunt spoilers for other shows or movies, unless I need them professionally, I love being surprised, but BtVS is so personal… it’s like results of medical tests, the sooner you have them, the better, even if they terrify you.

    I think that all the ideas for season 8 were generated by Joss who then invited writers to develop them into arcs. “Vampires are in, slayers are out” could be a joking response to Meyer’s popularity – but I don’t think that it was Espenson’s idea. Only Joss could introduce such a radical shift in canonical mythology. (although ficwriters did it several times.)

    • Monday, August 30, 2010 10:29 pm

      I only belatedly realized that the whole ‘vampires are awesome’ stuff was probably a tongue-in-cheek response to Meyer, as you say; the only problem is that it just does not work in the ‘Buffy world’ because of all the actual carnage and destruction vampires and demons et al. had actually wreaked in that world, and I just could see no way that it would be feasible (discounting Angel’s newfound fame in L.A., because of course that’s a different situation). You’re right, it could easily have been Joss’s idea, but it still galls me that he (they) did that.

  4. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 8:01 am

    Apparently, Joss and his writers think that it works.

    I think the season 8 is similar to season 4 that also introduced a paradigm shift: demons became less threatening (hey, one of them was Buffy’s roommate!), vampires suddenly became funny and domesticated (Spike and Harmony), demon hunters became Buffy’s enemy (The Initiative) and two members of the regular cast (Anya and Spike) were from the demon community.

    There is a possibility that season 8 is a transitional one, a season that paves the way to a new Buffyverse, with a structure similar to Marvelverse, with a different set of rules. I’m not sure I’ll like those new rules, but, hopefully, I’ll learn to accept them after rereading The Vegemite Effect one more time.

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:47 am

      I read your post on the Vegemite Effect, and I understand what you mean — but I just want to clarify that I’m not against paradigm-shifts for the sake of being against paradigm-shifts. As long as the shift makes sense within the context of the overall narrative — even if it means characters acting differently — that’s fine with me, and even encouraged if done well.

      For example, I never had a problem with Dawn — I got what Joss was trying to do there. And, you might be shocked to learn (many are), I actually really like Season 6; it’s in my top three seasons. I laughed at all the anguished wailing that went on from some of the fans decrying that Buffy had ‘lost her moral centre’ or something by being with Spike, and that Willow was forever ruined, because I found it so silly that they couldn’t realize that fictional characters — just like real people — can and probably should go through ‘dark’ journeys of self-discovery to find out where they’re at in something like a long-running serial story. Otherwise, as you say, you end up with Friends or The Simpsons, fine in their own right, but not exactly wonders of narrative accomplishment.

      The switch to ‘everyone knows about and now loves vampires,’ though, is different, I think. I explain it all in this post.

      • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:57 pm

        I read and commented on your “Predator and Prey” review – it was a very interesting read, food for thought. (Some comments made me smile, because they perfectly illustrated the Vegemite effect in Buffyverse.)

        But, if you don’t mind, I’ll reply here on your main complain on turning Buffy into “something akin to a Tom Clancy novel; which, however you want to swing it, is not Buffy.”

        Actually, I saw this twist (vampires becoming media darlings) as something opposite. To me, the first issues of season 8 looked like a Clancy novel. While this twist got BtVS back to its initial set-up: a story about outcasts. Scoobies were positioned as outcasts during the first three seasons. Then they turned into a clique (of sort). Maybe now they’ll get back to the beginning.

        • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:36 pm

          It’s true that from the outset of S8 they had gone all techy, and yeah, that’s already geo-political thriller-ish, but I was okay with that as long as it was all still ‘under wraps.’ Even if it’s just them against the government, that’s fine, I can live with that, because there’s a new wealth of material there to work with.

          It’s when you bring the notion of the media and public opinion into it that it kills it for me, because then, even if you’re trying to comment on how shallow the media and pop culture are in general, you’re taking time away from where I like to go to escape from the media and pop culture in general — you’re bring Buffy back to the ordinary, ‘Jersey Shore’ world, which is not where I want her to be. I want epic narrative, not Harmonic Divergence.

          I know it’s just something I have to get used to, because it’s already been done, and I’m obviously not going to abandon the series because of it. But it does still cause me a bit of lamentation.

          Thanks for continuing to read my posts — if you want to go over all of Season 8 and also After the Fall, there are links to the archives in the right sideboard column. :)

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