“Let us show these abominations the forest’s rage!” – Lorelahn, to the Forest Souls
“Followed quickly by the forest’s denial, bargaining, and then short, painful acceptance.” – Xander
“She’s just a tiny whiney, long-dead slayer … in a damn unpractical frock.” – Fray, about Buffy
First of all, how awesome is that cover? I’ve been extremely happy with the artwork on the inside of Buffy Season 8 throughout the run (something I can’t say about Angel: ATF), but Jo Chen’s painted covers have really been the icing on the cake. Click here to see a full view of the cover if you don’t own the book yourself, because you don’t want to miss the detail in the eye. I have to figure that Alyson Hannigan has this framed in her house somewhere, right?
Anyway, it’s been three months since the last installment, but Joss Whedon’s four-part “Time of Your Life” arc has finally come to an end. Did we get some answers? Yes. Did we get all the answers we wanted? Probably not. Was this deliberate on Joss’s part? Most definitely. Especially since he raises a few more questions before he brings the arc to an end. He’s a rat bastard like that, and those of us who enjoy his storytelling style appreciate him for it.
Okay, so … previously on Buffy … Buffy is in Melaka Fray’s future, Willow’s in our time trying to get her back, Dark Willow is in the future working some agenda that involves Buffy, Melaka, and her twin vampire brother Harth, and Melaka has just zapped Buffy with a ray gun, presumable because Dark Willow told her that Buffy’s actions in the past would wipe the Fray future out of existence. And now …
Buffy is chained in a chair, held prisoner by the Fray sisters and Dark Willow. Apparently, DW is just holding on to Buffy until the next temporal rift opens, at which time, present day Willow will attempt to grab her. Then Harth shows up, and points out that DW is giving a different story to everybody about her intentions in bringing Buffy to their time … and DW admits that she has been lying to somebody, but doesn’t say who. All she reveals is that her goal is death. But she doesn’t say whose, instead cryptically offering, “You see what I’ve seen, you come and go as I have … you realize the most important thing about death isn’t who dies … it’s who kills them.”
Harth and his vampire crew are about to start killing when Gunther (the fish guy) shows up with some heavy firepower to break things up, and in the ruckus, Gates (the spider/monkey demon) helps Buffy get loose. She takes out the Fray sisters, then heads into the night, presumably hoping to find the temporal rift in time. Before she can reach it, Melaka finds her, and the Slayer Fight is on. Melaka is stronger, and this is her turf, but Buffy has the full memory of past slayers in her head, which Melaka doesn’t (because Harth does). In the end, brains win out over brawn, and Buffy is able to use her surroundings — in this case, an old water tower — to take Melaka out again, and buy her time to get up to the roof.
The temporal rift opens, and Melaka makes one last attempt to stop Buffy by coming at her with her scythe … which Buffy smashes down the middle, then punches Melaka out. The last thing in Buffy’s way now is Dark Willow herself. “You know I’ll go through you,” Buffy says. “And you know you’ll have to,” DW replies. At which point, Buffy points out, “You dragged me here and then told me exactly how to get out. Everything, every lie to get us here. Why? What happened? Why does it have to be me?” To which DW cryptically replies, “It’s a long story.” A story that we won’t be getting today.
Then Buffy runs Dark Willow through with the scythe. It’s a scene so eerily reminiscent of the Season 2 finale that it can’t possibly be a coincidence. Back then, Buffy ran Angel/Angelus through with a sword, and pushed him through the Acathla vortex into Hell. This time, it’s Willow, and this time, present day Willow is there to pull her through the vortex, back to her own time, where Buffy immediately falls to her knees, sobbing, and tells Willow that she loves her. In both cases, there’s a vortex, a loved one being sacrificed, and the fate of the world in the balance.
But as Melaka has clarified while talking to Buffy in the previous scene: “‘Fate of the world.’ Made sense … when there was only one.” — an unqualified line that resonates in a few different ways. It can mean “only one world” if we’re talking about the fate of the Fray Universe. Or “only one Slayer” if we’re talking about Buffy and Melaka. Or even “only one slayer” if we’re talking about Twilight’s complaint in Buffy’s time about the dozens of Slayers running around endangering the world. Which is kind of an issue that Willow has too, isn’t it? Which brings me to my take on what Willow / Dark Willow’s agenda might have been in orchestrating this whole temporal rift thing …
We’ve seen signs that Willow isn’t happy with the way Buffy has used Slayers to do things like rob banks for operating money. We’ve seen several incidents of Slayers going rogue. So what if that trend spirals out of control? What if the Scoobies defeat Twilight, and Slayer behavior gets worse and worse? Or what if they don’t defeat Twilight because of issues caused by Slayer redundancy? (Remember, the premise of the Fray Universe is that there wasn’t any magic or Slayers for a long time before Fray.) I won’t try to guess at the exact scenario, but the bottom line would be that Future Willow is motivated to: A) show Buffy that the current course of action is not only historically irrelevant, but results in a dystopian future; and B) remind Buffy of the power of One Slayer with strong convictions, namely Melaka.
In other words, maybe Twilight is right, kind of, and whatever happens in the near future makes Willow see that, but not soon enough. So she keeps herself alive for centuries, resorting to dark forces to do it, all so she can create this time loop/fold/whatever and teach Buffy a lesson. And once she has completed that task, primarily for Buffy’s benefit, it is only fitting that Buffy — using the power of the Scythe that Willow herself used to create the Slayer redundancy — should be the one to put her out of her dark misery. “The most important thing about death isn’t who dies … it’s who kills them.” Buffy did it for Angel, and now she’s doing it for Willow. Or something like that. How Buffy applies that lesson remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, back in the present day, Xander and Dawn and the Forest Souls are battling Amy’s lizard army, which keeps healing itself magically, until the Slayer/Witch Cavalry arrives, nullifies Amy’s healing spell, and takes them down. But over at Twilight Headquarters, as Amy and Warren point fingers at each other, Twilight himself doesn’t seem too worried about it. He’s busy talking to the newest player on his team, which appears to be … wait for it … Riley. Not sure what’s going on there yet, but it sounds like Buffy secretly hooked up with him in New York City at some point, probably during the time she was supposed to be shopping. So now there’s all new questions …
What happened to Riley’s wife? Is he really working with Twilight, or is he a double-agent? Is he acting of his own free will, or does the scar thing on his chest indicate that he’s under a spell? Is Buffy sleeping with him, or just meeting him? And why hasn’t Buffy mentioned it to the others?
Tune in next issue (releasing next week I think) to see if we get any answers.
Edited to add: Oops, forgot to talk about what happened to the Fray Universe. Apparently, nothing. Whether this means things are still going to play out the same way or that the Frays now live in an alternate universe is uncertain for now. But it does at least mean we might seen new Fray stories in the future.