Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine: Freefall, Part II
The second issue picks up where the last one left. It’s somehow appropriate. As much as it’s kind of surreal that Buffy has to face off against a Debt Collector Demon, it’s still a demon after all and it’s still Buffy. So, of course, Buffy’s gonna kill the demon.
But as is becoming apparent, Buffy is gonna have to rethink some things and her place in them. After all, it may be a demon but it’s just doing its job. Nothing personal. Nothing malicious. So like any of us, Buffy is just gonna have to deal with it.
Jeanty did a really good job with making the poor guy pathetic. I almost wanted Buffy to pay him just so he could go back with something. And eventually she did, so props for that. I suppose if I were younger I’d sympathize with her situation right now. But it’s like I tell my younger friends, eventually it all comes down to getting the bills paid and getting the debts taken care of. That’s just life.
Still for every regression in Freefall, Part Deus there was also progress. But it’s also to-and-fro the growing doth go. Step forward. Step back. Step forward. And so on and so forth.
Step forward: She is not overreacting to Spike’s overtures. I flashed back to a similar moment in “Life Serial” where Spike is gently leading Buffy away from the demon poker table and she bats her hand off. This time she lets Spike lead her away from the demon to counsel her.
I think it’s for two reasons. One is that before she was highly aware of the physical attraction between the two of them so any touching would be considered permissible and she wanted to make it clear to him that it was not. And the other is because he was soulless, unclean, and disgustingly evil so naturally she doesn’t want to be touched by him.
This time , at least from each other’s perspective, there are no romantic overtures, and Spike is all clean and soulful now. So Buffy takes this as it was probably intended. Spike offering friendly, sage words of advice. And eventually she takes his advice.
With an assist from Willow, of course. Though there is very definitely a significant step back when the Seed comes up again.
I didn’t side with Buffy over Willow here or vice versa. I think they’re each coming from the destruction of the Seed from two different perspectives. Willow thinks Buffy had time to think about what she was doing, while Buffy knows that it was just emotional instinct. But Buffy doesn’t want to revisit that traumatizing moment. But she eventually came to grips with sending Angel to Hell, so I’m thinking that it won’t stay bottled up for long.
After all, when you have demons left loose thanks to your actions, you tend to focus on these things whether you want to or not.
I thought that this would be spearheaded by the death of Tumble because--as cruel as this sounds--I thought that Buffy needed one more death on her head to get her head back in the Slay. Turns out it’s a lot simpler than that and kind of appropriate for being on the streets of San Francisco.
Some readers had a problem with Buffy’s calm and collected attitude with the police, considering this is her first time in the box, as it were. But this isn’t the first time Buffy’s had a run-in with the authorities and, of course, we Buffy fans love how much she doesn’t let authority figures faze her. If she can handle Principal Snyder, the Initiative, the Watchers’ Council, and anti-terrorism forces to boot, she can certainly handle the SFPD. Lest we forget she was pretty dismissive of Giles at first in the beginning, too. Bureaucratic institutions who continually just get in her way and are way over their heads.
At one time that might have been true. But it no longer applies. The human brain is remarkably resilient in the face of reality altering events. The human race has gotten kind of used to vampiric existence now that when a rookie cop pitches a Mulderesque idea of victim vampires to his more Scully partner, it’s at least within the realm of plausibility.
Buffy is under the impression that the police can’t help her. That they will just get in her way like every other institution has failed her. But frankly they know more about this vampire-as-common-knowledge world than she does. She’s been isolated in Scottish castles with her Slayer army all this time.
So Buffy takes a huge step back when she falls back on her isolationist Slayer crap at the most inopportune time when she’s wanted for murder. But, you know, been there done that, I guess. The next bit is a bit more ambiguous.
Like Buffy’s chat with Willow, I can see where both sides are coming from. Buffy needs a place to crash but she’s failing to take being a wanted fugitive seriously. She also fails to notice that Xander and Dawn are having relationship issues and need to sort them out. Sounds kind of small potatoes next to the police hunting you, but to paraphrase Buffy a bit if love makes you do the wacky then falling out of love makes you desperate. Maybe the sitch is a bit more serious then it appears. Maybe it’s just a lover’s spat. Who knows? But sometimes love comes before family.
Besides they’re trying for the normal. In some cases, probably not as successfully as when the abnormal was the norm, but, you know, you do what you can when you love someone.
Even when it appears all you do isn’t appreciated very much.
Here’s the thing to remember about Buffy and her past lovers. She’s gonna have a different dynamic with each of them. So whatever dynamic she has with Angel she won’t have with Riley. With those two it’s probably a bit more on the sincere side (with some reassuring words for insecure Riley.)
Spike and Buffy on the other hand love to snark and get their sarcasm on. That’s just how they do. Within this, though, is Buffy lamenting about not losing her powers with the Seed’s destruction. The more she tried to change things, the more everything remained the same. She’s still the Slayer. There are still vampires.
But Spike is not Angel. This isn’t a case of Buffy feeling despair beyond despair lying in a fetal position in an abandoned house. This is Buffy, frankly, whining about what she always does. O cruel life! How I wish the Slayer cup would pass from me and that I may be a normal coffeehouse girl, but alas I must do battle with the forces of darkness yet again. O Cruel Life!
But Spike won’t even give her the luxury of lamenting along with her. He reminds her, not unkindly, that he’d be dead also---”Hello? Vampire?”--- and jokes that she wouldn’t be as fun. In essence he deflates her Woe-is-me bit. Cry me a river and sing me a new song. Yeah, Slayer?
Because now Buffy gets back in snarky mode. She’s matching him. Giving just as good as she’s getting. She returns the volley and adds cheekily that she’d probably miss him, too. Both of them are teasing each other. That’s just how they do. She doesn’t literally mean she might miss him or might not. I kind of saw it in my mind as Buffy adding “But I’d probably miss you.” in a slightly lower tone. Similar to her “Sometimes” in Dead Things. But with a small smile of affection.
This is why, for me, it helps to read the comic out loud. Because in that action I can try to duplicate how the characters would sound. It provides context. There is nothing in the story thus far giving me reason to believe that Buffy would be ambivalent at best if she were to lose Spike.
Which leads me to this. Unless given a reason to believe otherwise, the relationships between the characters must be taken at face value. It’s understood that Buffy loves the Scoobs. It’s understood that she loves Dawn. It’s understood that she loves (loved) Angel. It’s understood that she holds firm to alliances unless those alliances are severed. It’s the reader’s prerogative how to personally feel about the relationship, but if there is no reason given by the story, you don’t automatically assume that it‘s false or that it is meant to be portrayed in the negative.
So I think in this dialogue it’s pretty clearly understood that Buffy and Spike hold each other in pretty high regard. They respect each other. They care about each other. They tease and cajole and try to get a rise out of each other because they’re both competitors. They both like to believe that they’re the shit when it comes to the fight and in their badass ’tude.
The only thing about the exchange that I was ambivalent about was Spike’s “Bloody hell, you would.” I took it as nervousness creeping up because of the slight intimacy going on. Slightly breaching the buddy zone they’ve established so far. But maybe also more of his insecurity creeping up as well. Except maybe a bit pissier. I think we might get Smashed Round Two somewhere down the line. Both of them have a lot to get off their chest.
But, yeah, I would have preferred “Bloody right you would.”
He covers it up, though, when he tells her that he’s going after whatever’s looking for her. And maybe she thanks him for that or maybe, just maybe, for kind of getting her self-involved head out of her ass. But stop the presses, readers! Buffy actually thanked Spike!
Honestly, it’s this back-and-forth banter that makes me miss the show and Ringer Michelle Gellar and Heavy Metal Marsters.
I think her whole rejuvenation could either be read as being influenced by this, or more likely that she needs to remove her name from the suspect list, but I don’t know, call me romantic but I kind of like that Buffy goes hunting for her hunter because Spike is so determined to finding out what’s stalking her. It’s like because he is doing so much, she can do no less. She can’t give up being the Slayer because he hasn’t given up on her. Step forward, regardless of reason.
Anywho, so Buffy finally finds out who’s taking the demon out of the vampire. Stakes are strictly optional now as might her role as the Chosen One. Sigh, same old song and dance.
Ordinarily, this would bug me to no end as it just seems to be this albatross that won’t go away. But, you know, I’ve been watching Breaking Bad and its creator Vince Gilligan has stated how much he likes tragic flaws. For protagonist anti (and I do mean anti) hero, Walter White, his tragic flaw is his pride. It leads to him making stupid, boneheaded mistakes that seen from the outside by the viewer would be a complete no-brainer. But that’s just it. Walter’s not running on his logical, scientific brain when he makes these bad decisions. He’s running on his emotional, illogical ego. He has to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room. Lex Luthor as meth mastermind.
I think for me it helps to see Buffy in the same regard. The young lady has been through all kinds of emotional hell with Giles’s death being her latest trauma. It seems only natural that her desire to be normal would only increase, even if she’s shown in the past how much that whole world would no longer be attainable. She knows too much. But maybe I should see this as less of a trope and more as a tragic flaw. Or perhaps a pathology. Actually, for Mr. White, a pathology is probably the last thing he needs.
And speaking of themes and so forth, I dunno. As wonderfully Patton Oswalt as the whole ethical quandaries about killing vampires without dusting them equals murder is, it’s just a bit too Vampire Ethics 101 for me. There’s nothing compellingly immediate about it. We could have seen an episode like this in Season Four or prior to that for example. And besides, I think anytime you boil down a vampire to its essence it’s a walking undead id who sucks human blood. They’re evil. End of story. That’s probably what we’re going to learn this season. I’m glad the plot is moving forward I just wish I cared about it more.
For my money I think Angel and Faith has the more intriguing storyline. It’s directly involved with what Angel did and how he’s trying to atone. And how through those very actions he’s actually making it that much worse, and he’s shrinking away from confronting those impulses that made him become Twilight in the first place. In that, both Buffy and Angel are disturbingly similar. It’s just that one plot is direct about it while Buffy is indirectly connected. My heart (and dough) will always belong to Buffy, though.
For both characters, though, they are taking a most definite Step. Back.