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January 05 2009

(SPOILER) the TV addict reviews the first episode of Dollhouse. "There are a few missteps - and some even glaring mistakes .... but there is a lot of potential in the concept, in the characters and in the story."

I like how more and more reviews seem to applaud the more procedural approach of the show. Months ago my fear was that everyone will be annoyed by that and will be demanding more serialized storytelling. I think the show will have a great season-long arc that will reveal itself over the course of the 13 episodes. But good to see the episodic elements also getting some nods.
I'm glad to see that the darkness element of the show has stayed. Despite my ambivalent feelings about the show, that aspect interested me from the start.
I'm not one to be a grammar Nazi, but that was pretty poorly written. I love this sentence: "That human being has had their memories and personality removed so that a new personality or skill set can be imposed on them." Okay, it is singular or plural?

Anyway, I am not sure what the writer was really saying. But he does raise the one concern I have, when he says: "It also will be hard to emotionally invested in Echo or any of the other actives if all they do is constantly reset." To me, it is always about the character and whether I care for her (or him).
Using "their" and "them" as gender-neutral singulars isn't new.
Dana, that has been my concern about the show from the start. Whedon fans are heavily invested in their Willows, Kaylee and Mals, and the point of this show is the reset button, at least initally. The only way I care about the story is if I care about the characters.
I'm not that much concerned about the reset button, since it's only three dolls were talking about here. There are still four main characters (plus some recurring ones like Claire) that don't get wiped each week. Or at least so we're told.
Having recently read the original pilot script, I felt invested in "Echo." There were glimmers of a not-reset thing going on. But then again, that was just in the original script. I don't know about "Ghost."
Bix- which does not make it right, says the son of a high-school English teacher (and former editor himself, or themselves, or something or other...). :-)

I will certainly hold judgement until I can actually watch this, but I do worry about whom I will identify with. With Sara Sidle gone from CSI and Grissom leaving, I no longer have a point of entry. I find my interest waning, so that the show is no longer must-watch tv. I felt much the same after Tara was killed on BTVS; something was missing for me and it affected my enjoyment of Buffy. And even when In Treatment is renewed later this year, without Sophie I am not sure I will invest the time I did first time out. Even though it is a bit of a stretch, one reason I like the Sara Connors' Chronicle is Cameron- her "growth" has been interesting.
From interviews, it sounds like the main story arc is going to be about Echo malfunctioning. SO we will get to know the true character as well. Like in the recently canceled and similar "My Own Worst Enemy"(was it a rip off?), this allows us to feel bad for the "regular civilian" character when they are forced to do something they do not want to do.

So we will fall in love with Echo if they let the show proceed, and then Joss will probably kill her off or mind wipe her or something tragic and we will all cry.

BTW, I think the show will be the biggest hit for those who watch, and then also be the biggest flop when fox doesn't advertise for it, switches the airing times around, and then cancels it before even the filmed episodes are shown.

I will never forgive FOX for Firefly and will be tivoing and time shifting commercials just to spite them! :)
will be tivoing and time shifting commercials just to spite them

Yeah, that will show them...

...that they aren't getting any eyeballs on their ads and so they should just cancel the show.
Even with the reset, I think we'll see characters. I don't think Joss can write just procedurals. It's not in his blood. I'm even pretty sure he states this in his interviews.

But I think our character development will be sprinkled in instead of poured in like on Buffy & Angel. Glimmers, hints, and then there'll be a point when it all hits. The episode that makes the series.

Bones' Gravedigger episode comes to mind. Buffy's Season 2 finale & Season 5 finale. Angel's Season 2 arc with Darla. I don't know if I could pick one out for Firefly... I'll leave that to others to do.

Anyway, the point is that this episode exists in Dollhouse. And I can't wait to witness it.
korkster, I think I know what you mean. For me that Firefly-episode was "Out of Gas". There it all came together.

Do we know whether Joss writes the Dollhouse season finale? Or is this still in the realm of "most likely"? 'Cause that would be a good guess for some major character-payoff.

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-01-05 20:54 ]
I believe that gossi had a Twitter quiz recently that seemed to establish that Joss is writing Episode 13 (making the last three of the season Jane, Tim, Joss).
Oh man, I really wanted to avoid that Twitter thing for as long as I can. But that settles it. :)
Tim's doing 12, I'm not 100% on 13. Or even 50%. I think it's likely Joss will do it, though.

In unrelated news, I think it's today they restart shooting Dollhouse.

The whole point of Echo's character is that she beginning to not wipe fully between assignments, so - you know - I get the reset thing isn't 100%. But still - Dollhouse's strength is its premise, and it's also its weakness in terms of selling it to people, I feel. Which, let's face it: it's a Joss Whedon show, everybody must have known that would happen. He never makes things easy on himself. And thank fuck for that, that's why I like his work.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-01-05 21:02 ]
Ah, yes, wiesengrund. "Out of Gas" would fill that set nicely.

A second on gossi's thankfulness. That is why I love Joss.

[ edited by korkster on 2009-01-05 21:09 ]
I wasn't going to read anymore articles about Dollhouse, but since this was a review, I started reading. And stopped. Glaring mistakes? Does this person presume to know what Joss Whedon intended? Saying he knows Joss "is a better writer/director than that?"

Why doesn't this reviewer try getting a TV show up after interference and criticism from a network, and then I'll try getting through one of his reviews again. How insulting.
My head's exploding from the irony of people who haven't even seen the episode getting mad at reviewers who have seen the episode for the way they review it. How do you know there aren't glaring mistakes in the episode? You don't. None of us do.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-05 21:15 ]
I donít see any problem in regard to the emotional investment in the characters of Dollhouse. If you're not someone who is satisfied only when you feel invested in the main character, then thereís plenty of other interesting supporting characters that you can relate to or care for or like or hate or whatever.

The show hasnít even began and IĎm already quite intrigued by Topher and Adelle.

And besides, Iím sure that Joss will indeed eventually brake our hearts for Echo. In the meantime, we can enjoy the other characters. ;-)
But you know, it's because I sort of know what is coming that I am not all that willing to invest, even if it turns out there is a character who I feel I could invest in. I am honestly tired of Joss killing off the characters I care about; I could, and probably should, write a treatise about this. I have learned it is not worth investing in a Joss character, since the moment I do he kills them off, unrepentently and with some willingness to laugh about it. And it ois not just Tara here I refer to; there are too many others. You know someone will die on Dollhouse.
Indeed, if past Joss shows are any indication, the "main character" will be far from the only interesting or identifiable one. Seemingly secondary characters tend to step into the limelight all of the time in Joss's stuff.

For instance, I fully expect Topher or Adelle or some other "secondary" character to turn out to have been a former doll (unbeknownst to him or herself).
Well, psoitive enough; not a full Hee-wackitty-doo-doo-doo on the Zonker Scale,but definitely at least a Hee-wack.

Jaynes Hat: I don't think Joss will kill off the main character, especially since her performer has the production deal with Fox. But the others, yeah, if it lasts long enough for him to.

Dana5140: Maybe you should. While your position is a scientific rather than a humanistic one, at least it's an academic credential, which I don't have, since I never even finshed my Master's. Plus you own your own computer and I don't.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2009-01-05 23:11 ]
Dana, people die in our lives all the time. Invest in people; it's all there is.
Dana5140: Well, the constant killing of beloved characters is another thing. But itís all part of the good olí donít-give-them-what-they-want-but-what-they-need whedon medicine. :-)

However, it would be indeed nice if someone in the whedonverse actually got their happyendig.

[ edited by Anuris on 2009-01-05 21:49 ]
Nicely said, gossi. I agree completely.
Just a devil's advocate question. If the Whedonverse was a safe place, would it be as interesting? I understand the fear of character attachment/character expiring (politely put), but I don't think I'd be watching Joss' shows it that were the case.
Well, Dr. Horrible got to join the ELoE. Wasn't that happy?
Dana wrote:
However, it would be indeed nice if someone in the whedonverse actually got their happy ending,

Well, they do have massage tables as part of the main dollhouse set, but I don't think they would air someone getting a happy ending on one of those... Oh you meant "that" kind of a happy ending. Never mind.
I always think I ought to be able to remember that there will be pain coming, because this is Joss, but then the characters just suck me in (because this is Joss) and then Tara makes a goofy comment/Wash plays with dinosaurs/Penny is sweet and I forget all about logic and fall in way over my head. And it hurts, but it's so worth it.
In a very special Dollhouse...

Simon and Kaylee got their happy ending. Mal directly took a chunk out of the Alliance, after a war which left him hollow and faithless when we begun the series. And he got Inara back on board. I think it's fair to say Inara got Mal, should she want him. "Buffy" ended with "Buffy" smiling, not know what to do next... etc.
Life is pain. And joy. Usually not in equal measure. We still play.
Hey, Commentary! was overall happy-ish. And what about Mustard Man? He finally got the mustard out.
In a deleted scene he got run over by a truck, korkster. A truck driven by Joss.
A truck full of the bodies of all the people he's killed.
I seem to remember Tim wanted to have Eliza in Drive season two, driving a truck. Running over Mustard Man every episode. I made that last bit up.
If the Whedonverse was a safe place, would it be as interesting ?

No, because in the Whedon stories we love there are no safe corners, no safe characters, everything can happen and frequently will, there are other friendlier verses to visit if the price of admission to this one is to high.

I thought the mustard man lived happily mustard free for a while until he started making puppets and some demon puppets took him over and killed him.
You know that saying, it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? I think that applies to both shows you're afraid will be cancelled and characters that may or may not die. I'd rather be fully invested while it's there than not care at all to play it safe.

But I don't buy that the mustard man got run over. I saw him on the news and he looked perfectly fine.
Hello All: long time lurker, first time poster. I thought I'd add a couple of thoughts to this question of Joss's homicidal approach to his characters.

1) Reports of Jossverse deaths tend to be somewhat exaggerated. Of the characters we really cared about from S1 of _Buffy_, only Joyce and Cordelia had deaths that really "took"--and even Cordy's had a couple of curtain calls (assuming no one was tuning in to catch Principal Flutie's character arc). Although it never gets people angry in the same way as they get angry about Tara, Doyle's death in S1 Angel is really the only one that fully conforms to Joss's stated principle of killing off a major character early on to demonstrate the storyspace allows for real consequences and genuine vulnerability.

2) Personally, I'm more troubled by Joss's constant willingness to bring people back from the dead than by his willingness to kill people off. I mean, sure, "Hey, I've died twice" is a great line, but if death never lasts, then why should I care when a character is in peril? I've was amazed when I read that Joss had planned to bring Tara back, and doubly amazed when I read that it would have been a wish granted to Buffy (of all people!) that would have been the mechanism that did it. After everything she went through in S6? After "Well that / Depends / On if they let you go / Or if they know enough to know / That when you've bowed / You leave the crowd"?

I loved the character of Joyce, and Buffy's relationship with Joyce, but I'm incredibly glad that Joss never brought her back. It would just cheapen the grief I went through in "The Body"--making it a kind of playacting at death.

Anyway, all of this rambling is to say: I hope Dollhouse has characters--as every other Joss show has had--whose fates I care about passionately. If some of those characters are fated to die, then the extent to which those deaths distress me will be a measure of how successful the show has been at getting me to care about the stories it is telling.
I can't stand all this imaginary violence against the melodious Mustard Man.
snot monster from outer space, two things:

a) Great post.

b) Even better nickname.
Welcome, snot monster (can I shorten it to snot monster?) and well said. I completely agree.
Ah ha! Mustard Man lives! It's a good thing I invested all of my emotions into that character. Forget the story line and exploring the questions of life; as long as he lives, I'm happy. ;P (Nice try, gossi & bix.)

ETA: Welcome, snot monster! Great post (puts mine into the meager category). I heartily agree.

[ edited by korkster on 2009-01-05 22:34 ]
But, remember, Joss's penchant for bringing back the dead also allows him to toy with us even more. Consider: Dawn's ill-fated attempt to resurrect Joyce and the general weirdness around The First's early manifestations.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-01-05 22:34 ]
Anuris wrote:

However, it would be indeed nice if someone in the whedonverse actually got their happyendig.


I kinda agree with this (although "endings" in serial TV mean either leaving the show or death). But I do think that occasionally Joss has a kind of compulsion to pour on the misery in a way that seems almost mechanical. That is, if the odd major-character death is an excellent thing because it establishes uncertainty (we know that everyone--except, perhaps, the hero of the show--is vulnerable) it would add another dimension of uncertainty if, occasionally, people were allowed their moments of happiness without immediately having their hearts ripped out.

I always felt that Hell's Bells was a good example of a kind of mechanical approach to bringing the pain. There's really no good reason for Xander to back out of the marriage (not unless he's an ultra-devout Roman Catholic who refuses to countenance the possibility of divorce). You feel that Joss first visualized Anya being ditched at the altar, and then jerry-built the story to bring us to that point.
At last years Dragon Con someone put a video together of the top worst Wedonverse Deaths ever. I forget who was number one, but they all made me tear up. It was a current list though, and Penny was on it.

By worst deaths, they meant most heart wrenching and wonderfully dramatic deaths

[ edited by Jaynes Hat on 2009-01-05 22:41 ]
snot monster from outer space! Excellent first post. Great insights. Thank you for that. It might indeed have been an odd thing for Buffy of all people (after being brutally yanked back from the grave) to wish the same experience for Tara. Then again, maybe the scenario would have been that she didn't realize her wish was going to really come real? I can't remember what the plan was, if it was ever stated. Or, perhaps Tara wouldn't have felt the same peace as Buffy in the afterlife, considering her demise was not the result of a beautiful self-sacrifice but a random bullet shot off by that misogynist from hell, Warren. Hmmm. Interesting to ponder.

As for characters coming back to life, I did think that Buffy's resurrection in Season Six was gorgeous and troubling and if anything more emotionally tricky than her (end of Season Five) death. Aside from that instance, I'm also not so in favor of a resurrection here, a resurrection there.
I must be the only Joss fan that loves when he breaks my heart. It's painful but it's a good pain. It makes me more invested in the story and the characters. Not saying I rejoice in the deaths or anything, but I get the point of it. Joss says he gives us not what we want but what we need. Well, the deaths and the other heartbreaks feel like what I need. I love a good tragedy.

So what happens when what I want merges with what I need? Does the universe implode? Do I only get Law & Order episodes?

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2009-01-05 22:45 ]
There's really no good reason for Xander to back out of the marriage

I found that decision totally understandable. The demon didn't just show Xander a false future-- he showed him his deepest fear. That's enough to send anyone reeling, but for someone who feels as deeply as Xander, it's the nastiest blow he could take. It would be bizarre if he was able to regroup so quickly and walk down that aisle. The demon's gone but Xander's still terrified of his own potential to be an abusive husband to Anya. It wouldn't be the first time he's worried about it, just the first time we saw it and he saw it fully realized.
1. I did not say what Jayne's hat said I said: "However, it would be indeed nice if someone in the whedonverse actually got their happy ending." Nope, not me. At least not here today, anyway.

2. I get enough of death in my real life. I don't need it in my fictional one. Really.

3. Joss never gives me what I need. He does not know me and cannot possibly meet this criteria. This is not debatable. But I will say, I wish people would stop throwing this statement out there as if it explains everything and defends every decision Joss makes. He only gives us what he thinks we need, which is a vastly different proposition.

4. Snot monster, you have sort of a straw man argument there. You note that it is Joss' stated principle of killing someone off early to show they are not safe. But that is only one reason characters are killed off. Yes, Jesse dies in ep 1 to make that point, and Doyle as well. But there are tons of deaths in the Jossverse- and not just Tara, Joyce, Ms. Callendar, Wash, Buffy, Angel, Spike, Fred, Wesley, Penny and so on. There are others, all over the place- Motor Mouth in Fray, for example, characters in Alien Resurrection, and on and on.

5. Discussions of whether the Jossverse is better being unsafe are meaningless. We have no clue what kind of story we would have if some characters did not die. We only have what we have. It is hard to argue that something different would be better or worse, because we don't have something different. This may seem obvious but again, in terms of supporting the writing decisions, it is not an informative argument at all.

ETA: phlebotinin: your post does raise an interesting issue for me, regarding the potential for Tara's return. I note that the First Evil could not mimic her body- and he could do so for everyone who was dead. I have never quite understood what that might mean- and please read my comment only in terms of Buffyverse rules, not the fact that Amber Benson's decision to not return forced that writing decision. So, was Tara really really dead- or is she is some sort of purgatory setting? And therefore potentially able to return? Yes, hope springs eternal despite all of Scott Allie's comments to the contrary! :-)

I know these are longstanding debates, but obviously I feel pretty passionate about it.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-05 22:48 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-05 23:59 ]
For some weak points, Hell's Bells was still an excellent episode. And it made the pathway for Selfless in Season 7 (Anya's episode).

What would have been worse: leaving the story the way it is or having Anya & Xander get married and still having Anya die at the end of Season 7?

Besides, honestly, I'm not sure Cordelia or Anya were whom Xander really loved. Anya was a crutch for him, always pursuing him since Season 3. That's not to say that he didn't love them- just that they weren't his "one true love".
But itís all part of the good olí donít-give-them-what-they-want-but-what-they-need whedon medicine. :-)


At the risk of turning into a one-trick pony with the whole "oh let's kill someone else off to advance the plot". There was some notable eye-rolling going on at the end of Dr. Horrible. Though I will say Joss does the whole death thing very well.
Septimus wrote:

but, remember, Joss's penchant for bringing back the dead also allows him to toy with us even more. Consider: Dawn's ill-fated attempt to resurrect Joyce and the general weirdness around The First's early manifestations.


Oh absolutely: but what I love about Forever (or "The Monkey's Paw Does Sunnydale") is precisely the lesson that the dead should be left undisturbed. That we want the dead brought back to life is obvious (and achingly real). When you think about it, though, why is the idea of the return of the dead so uncanny, so terrifying? If we loved them, and they loved us, why should they scare us when they return? I think one answer to that is precisely that if death no longer "counts" then our lives cease to make sense at a very profound level. Death may be Buffy's gift, but it's also our gift. Death is what, ultimately, makes life precious (a cliche, I know, but nonetheless true for that).

As for "Conversations with Dead People"--was that Joyce? Do those events ever get a canonical explanation?
As for "Conversations with Dead People"--was that Joyce? Do those events ever get a canonical explanation?


It was The First. I think they said so in the episode commentary.
I note that the First Evil could not mimic her body- and he could so so for everyone who was dead.

We don't know that The First couldn't. We only know that the First didn't.
I must be the only Joss fan that loves when he breaks my heart.


No, you are not alone ElectricSpaceGirl. I think we all love the tragedy a bit. Otherwise we wouldn't keep watching his stuff. Personally I like a good cry for happy and for sad reasons. It reminds what being human is all about.

Some people just have a hard time realizing that they do love the tragedy, while other Joss viewers are confused when he throws comedy at them and then gives us tragedy so we are laughing and crying at the same time. That is why so many people hated the ending of Dr. Horrible. They just couldn't deal with all the emotions.

[ edited by Simon on 2009-01-05 22:59 ]
Dana5140, if Joss, as he originally planned to do, brings Tara back in S8 or S9 or beyond, I shall cheer a big cheer on your behalf. I myself am agnostic on the subject of Tara's return - all I would want should it happen is for it to be handled well. What that means I am not sure, but like that Supreme Court Justice (spacing name) said about pornography, I'll know it when I see it. (Then again, one person's lewd photo is another person's piece of art. So who knows, really.)

I wonder if Joss has different kinds of heartbreak and agony that have nothing to do with actual death in store for the characters of Dollhouse. It would be nice to see something different in the Jossverse, even though I've had no complaints so far with the 'verse deaths, at least in storytelling terms. It seems to me that the subjects of Dollhouse - memory, identity, sense of autonomous self and the loss of all of these things - are so rife with the possibility of great interpersonal pain that, well, death, schmeath.

Edited to add: Of course, Joss has put his characters through a lot of pain that wasn't only to do with death. But, keeping in mind that Dollhouse is clearly part of a dangerous universe where it seems it would be odd if death never happened, it would be gratifying to see things play out in ways that seem different from before, i.e., far fewer deaths and more other kinds of pain. If nothing else it would be gratifying to see the rolling eyes that started rolling at the end of "Horrible" Act 3 stop rolling.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-01-05 23:17 ]
It's worth bearing in mind that the characters Joss writes live in inherently dangerous universes. It is not surprising that some of them die or are injured. It's more surprising that so many of them survive.

Joss took away the safety net that in the old days made adventure series so predictable. This is not your father's Star Trek world where only the guys in the red shirts die and you know our favorite characters will not only be alive, but whole, hale and hearty by the final frame, no matter how dire things looked beforehand. This is what makes Joss' work so emotionally compelling, to me anyway.

On the other hand, I do wish he would let characters enjoy _some_ happiness for a while before smashing it. Whom Joss destroys, he first makes happy.
Dana5140 wrote:

2. I get enough of death in my real life. I don't need it in my fictional one. Really.


I guess I like well-handled death in my fictional lives because it helps me understand the deaths in my real life. Still, I've got nothing against escapist fiction (I love old Hollywood musicals, for example)--but it would be pointless to criticize non-escapist fiction for not being escapist, wouldn't it?

4. Snot monster, you have sort of a straw man argument there. You note that it is Joss' stated principle of killing someone off early to show they are not safe. But that is only one reason characters are killed off. Yes, Jesse dies in ep 1 to make that point, and Doyle as well. But there are tons of deaths in the Jossverse- and not just Tara, Joyce, Ms. Callendar, Wash, Buffy, Angel, Spike, Fred, Wesley, Penny and so on. There are others, all over the place- Motor Mouth in Fray, for example, characters in Alien Resurrection, and on and on.


I don't think it was a straw man argument. You had said that you didn't want to watch Dollhouse because Joss will kill off a character as soon as you've come to love him/her. I figured that that could hardly apply to characters who appear sometime in Season Four--if you hadn't come to love any of the other characters by then, it's not likely you'll be watching. The most pertinent deaths for your argument seemed likely to be the early ones.

I did actually write a whole paragraph about some of those later deaths (pointing out that many of them turn out to be impermanent, and that many of them Joss only felt empowered to do because the series were ending [Angel, Buffy]--or had already ended [Serenity)]), but deleted it. I have to say that I don't understand what the basis of complaint is if a show kills off (or sends away) a character who is not a founding one. If sad things aren't allowed to happen, then Tara never gets a chance to pair up with Willow, because she doesn't ever break up with Oz (or perhaps she never gets to pair up with Oz because her love for Xander isn't unrequited...and so on).

5. Discussions of whether the Jossverse is better being unsafe are meaningless. We have no clue what kind of story we would have if some characters did not die. We only have what we have. It is hard to argue that something different would be better or worse, because we don't have something different. This may seem obvious but again, in terms of supporting the writing decisions, it is not an informative argument at all.


You're right that we can't say for certain that you couldn't write a great show set in the Jossverse where nobody died (A Buffy sitcom, for example). But we can say, with considerable certainty, that it would be a radically different show from the one we know and love. More, we can say with certainty that there are profoundly rich and moving stories from the Jossverse that it would be impossible to tell (I think "The Body" is one of the most perceptive fictional accounts of the death of a parent that I know, for example). So we can say, as a certainty, that something many of us love dearly would not be possible under the rules that you suggest.

Nothing wrong with those rules, by the way, for some other genre (again, I like some sitcoms, and I think Joss could write a great one)--but they would make all the current Joss shows impossible.
I must be the only Joss fan that loves when he breaks my heart.

No, other people have mentioned it here many times.

We have no clue what kind of story we would have if some characters did not die.

It wouldn't be a horror show. You are ignoring the fundamental elements of the storylines you're criticizing as containing too many character deaths. Buffy and Angel were dramatic shows built on horror themes, with real death-delivering monsters, and Alien: Resurrection even more so had suspense and horrific death as two central themes. Death is part of that formula as much as relative safety is a part of most sitcoms, because the premise-- a hero fighting against monsters to preserve lives-- requires it. You could set up an alternative premise that doesn't require death-- a hero fighting against injustice-- but that's not horror. That doesn't get you Buffy or Ripley. Maybe it'd get you a lighter version of Angel, since guilt and redemption are his driving traits. But Buffy and Ripley really are locked in an often desperate fight against immediate death.

If no one notable died in Buffy, with its thematic structure ongoing and intact, things would get really bizarre. A town full of vampires and other nasties, out for blood, and the Slayer's circle of friends remains untouched? Her closest allies are never a victim of her badass enemies? It totally ruins the premise of what a Slayer is. The odds are stacked against her. Her friends take great risk by associating with her. Her power to defend them is unique, and it sets up a conflict between her duty to the greater good and her loyalty to specific people. The body count reflects the weight of that burden and the weight of her choices that sometimes determine who lives and who dies. It's the other, darker side to being a hero with a unique power to save people: not being able to save some of them, and having to make a choice. Not including main characters in the deaths robs the theme of a lot of its emotional resonance and immediacy, as well as several of the main conflicts we watch Buffy negotiate every week.

If you don't like death in your fictional world, don't watch shows with a premise that pretty much promises you that from day one. We all have boundaries. I can't stand victim-of-the-week triumphant-killer-catching shows, myself. I get that other people find them satisfying, just as some people like certain sitcoms that don't ever really change or grow.
Agreed that we don't know how Joss' shows would be without some of those deaths, Dana, but we do know plenty of other shows where nobody ever dies. To me, those shows are slightly less interesting because there is less peril.

The last moments of 'Serenity', for instance, were nerve wrecking, one of the most intense movie going experiences I've ever had. And why? Because Joss just killed of two major characters, including the one I'd invested in the most. I'd agree with Simon that it's bad to become a 'one trick pony' (which I don't think Joss is), but these deaths are not a bad thing perse. They're just an integral part of Joss' storytelling, but they are a part I happen to like.

I never invested in Tara as much as you did. The whedonverse deaths which hit hardest for me were Wash, Fred and Joyce. The first one made Serenity a better movie - in my opinion, at least. The second one made for one of the saddest, best acted episodes in any television series ever (Amy and Alexis did simply amazing jobs there), and the third one transcends mere television in its sheer briliance. These deaths made me very sad, but they also made me feel more, invest more in the respective universes. They actually tied me closer to those fictional universes, because we got to grieve with the other characters and this made for a stronger bond to them - because of "shared" experiences.

The only one I could've personally done without was Joyce's death - because watching 'The Body' is so painfull it's no longer mere entertainment to me. But would I really rather that episode did not exist? Not so much.
electricspacegirl: I do remember that they said that the Joyce was The First in the commentary (although I'm not sure if commentary counts as canon: there's a talmudic kind of question, for you). But if that was the First, what was doing all the poltergeisting? OR if The First was doing the poltergeisting, why didn't it ever use those (pretty nifty) powers again?

Sorry, these are probably old questions that have been discussed to death, and they're definitely off topic. But if someone has a pat answer, I'd love to know.
Gossi said:

Simon and Kaylee got their happy ending. Mal directly took a chunk out of the Alliance, after a war which left him hollow and faithless when we begun the series. And he got Inara back on board. I think it's fair to say Inara got Mal, should she want him.


Well yeah, but only because Joss didnít get to make the whole Serenity movie trilogy, which he initially planned. ;-)

Anyway, I really donít want to sound like if I was complaining about the killings and deaths of characters in whedonverse. From time to time, probably everybody wishes there was more of the happy and less of the sad and tragic in Jossí stories, but all in all I fully acknowledge that the pain and sadness is (mostly) making the stories stronger. Whether Joss isnít overusing this practice and becoming a one-trick pony is another issue, but personally, what concerns me way more is, like snot monster from outer space said, when subsequently everyone rises from the death - for the same reasons as stated in snot's post.
Oooh, I like what you said, Sunfire. (And what barboo said, too.) Yes. Death and personal danger are built into the very premises and DNA of these shows. Period. Hard to argue against that.

I must also comment on The Body: sheer genius. Like GVH, I find it too painful to watch very often. Because it reminds me too vividly of an experience in my own life I have to gird myself for it. But when I can unclench myself enough to watch it, I am blown away every time.
I'm not sure how much drama needs death. Death is certainly an important part of life (or rather, existence), but then so are more minor things such as sex/laughter/picnics, and some shows can get by without those things. I guess it depends what kind of story you are trying to tell, and it's true enough that Joss mostly seems to like stories where characters are pushed to their extremes. I have to say I also like the kind of drama that results from extremity, so perhaps that's why I'm not complaining. But there's plenty of opportunity for stories (and not just in sitcoms) which do not require that. I think viewers of Whedonverse shows tend to enjoy being pushed to the edge, peeping over the precipice and seeing who we'd be in extremity ourselves.

That said, I can get rather touchy about deaths that I perceive as unnecessary or overly manipulative. I particularly hate the type of death (not necessarily in Joss shows) where the person that dies spends the whole previous episode being the most perfectly sympathetic and wonderful character ever. That's not real, and it's too blatantly manipulative for me. I was annoyed about Penny for a few days, but then I sat back and balanced it against what I got out of Billy's journey and came to terms with it in my head.

There are other things that annoy me too - pretend deaths, non-permanent deaths (except for my favourite character), 'comic' deaths - but I don't think death as a whole should ever be avoided by any storyteller. It just shouldn't be relied on, either. Joss hasn't gone too far in either direction to lose me yet.

edit for bad html, oopsy.

[ edited by skittledog on 2009-01-05 23:25 ]

[ edited by skittledog on 2009-01-05 23:27 ]
I always imagined the end of season 3 of Dollhouse to a cliffhanger: After now-already-self-aware Echo took down the Dollhouse with Topher's help (by basically turning Alpha and Adelle against each other in a brutal imprintathon), she's waking up in a warm and comfy bed, going: "Did I fall asleep?". Which is not a death by definition, but accomplishes very much the same impact, I guess, after three years of struggle we hopefully invested in very much.

What I want to say is: Dollhouse has some pretty dangerous stuff already in it's premise, so that Joss maybe doesn't need to go down the killing road that much. Kinda like Brad Pitt in Seven. You know he's not dead at the end. But you know he's dead. That thought kind of frightens me: Joss taking character deaths to the next level: not killing them.
... because watching 'The Body' is so painfull it's no longer mere entertainment to me.

Exactly GVH, it's art. Representing the truth of the human condition is part of what makes art transcend "mere entertainment" IMO and part of the truth of the human condition is that "everything has its time and everything dies".

Also, What Sunfire Said ;).
Why is the bison red?

Because it's covered in blood from Joss killing it!
He painted it red so we'd feel unsettled during his next panel of blue flowers and yellow butterflies. Because panel #3 is killer butterflies.

Look out! They go for the eyes!
Oh god I want to go all all-caps again with more "hah!" but I'm afraid I've already exceeded a whedonesque quota. Very well done, Sunfire.
Skittledog writes:

I'm not sure how much drama needs death.


I think all drama needs loss, and without death, no loss need worry us unduly (that is, if I'm an eternal being and everyone I love is an eternal being, why should I care that today's picnic got ruined, or that someone else is in love with the girl I like etc. etc.--I've got an infinite amount of time in which to have more picnics, to keep wooing the girl, to wait for her to get bored with the current guy/gal etc. etc.). So even if no drama need feature an actual death occurring, I think all drama is premised upon the vulnerability of human lives to the depredations of mortality.
Well, let's play a speculation game for just a moment- knowing that there is no way to know the answer. Say that Mal and Inara actually do finally admit their love for each other, and they enter into a relationship that involves also physicality (ie, sex). What do you all think would happen down the road? How would this now play out?

BTW, if I had not predicted Wash's death in Serenity I might have been more affected by it. But it was so obvious, and then there it was. I actually predicted both deaths in the flic; one was a given- Book (since you needed Book's death to remove Mal's "mentor" in a sort of quasi-Hero Journey), which meant that his loss would not really hurt. There had to be one that did, and that meant it had to be Wash. In pasts posts I have explained why no one else was possible.

As to Tara's return, I know Joss has said it but I really have had a hard time actually believing that was the plan all along. I think that idea came much later, in response to viewer unhappiness and pain. Otherwise I firmly believe he'd have tied Amber up at the end of S6 contractually, since we know he loves the long plan.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 00:10 ]
I keep thinking about that writer's workshop DVD starring Joss that came out, what, a year ago? Two years ago? In it, Joss muses about how difficult it seems to be for Hollywood screenwriters to show a real marriage over time. Joss says how that seems odd to him, how marriages are such bizarre, complex relationships that they should be writers' gold. I believe he was referring to his original plans for Zoe and Wash before Firefly was shut down and before he ratcheted stuff up for Serenity.

So I'm not sure what Joss had planned for Zoe and Wash for down the road, but at least for the 14 hours they're on screen in Firefly, they (a) have very happy moments, (b) remain together, i.e., married, (c) have some conflict, but (d) don't die. So I don't buy this idea that as soon as happiness is achieved people lose it in Joss's shows. It is one of his big tropes, sure, but he doesn't use it every single time. And sure, down the road, all things wither and die. Even us, sadly. Everything ends one way or another. So I'm not sure things ending after six months, one year, five years on Buffy, Angel or Firefly is...wrong.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-01-06 00:23 ]
electricspacegirl: I do remember that they said that the Joyce was The First in the commentary (although I'm not sure if commentary counts as canon: there's a talmudic kind of question, for you).


It's the creators explaining their intentions. You don't have to agree with them.

But if that was the First, what was doing all the poltergeisting?


It was all The First, according to the commenaries and special features, but again, you might interpret something differently. I tend to go with the storytellers.
Say that Mal and Inara actually do finally admit their love for each other, and they enter into a relationship that involves also physicality (ie, sex). What do you all think would happen down the road? How would this now play out?

They get married? They get divorced? They stay together, but then one of them dies?

Ultimately, whatever would have made good television is the answer. Eventually, it would end in death for both characters, likely at different times in their lives. Because that's what will happen to every single person sat reading this.

I think this thread shows something very human in all of us, by the way. Before we've even met these characters, we're worried about them dying.
Phlebotnin writes:

In it, Joss muses about how both difficult it seems to be for Hollywood screenwriters to show a real marriage over time. Joss says how that seems odd to him, how marriages are such bizarre, complex relationships that they should be writers' gold.


Ah yes, the old Sam and Diane/Ross and Rachel problem (also the Xander and Anya problem--Joss similarly shied away from exploring a longer term relationship). I've always felt the same thing, that it should be possible to play both the courtship and the settled relationship for the full gamut of dramatic possibilities.

Which brings me to Dana5140's question:

Well, let's play a speculation game for just a moment- knowing that there is no way to know the answer. Say that Mal and Inara actually do finally admit their love for each other, and they enter into a relationship that involves also physicality (ie, sex). What do you all think would happen down the road? How would this now play out?


I think it could play out in an infinite number of ways. The obvious immediate story/conflict would be over Inara's job. Would she remain a Companion? That would clearly drive Mal nuts, so that wouldn't last long. But if she gives it up, isn't that terribly 1950s? She'll "be his Mrs!"--in Anya's words.

Being the kind of show Firefly was, of course, a Mal/Inara marriage would immediately mean that both Mal and Inara have a hostage to fortune. Clearly a major motor for the show's plots would have been threats to Mal'a or Inara's safety. The question played partly for laughs in "War Stories" would, I think, become a pressing one: "what ethical commitments / relationships are you willing to sacrifice for love?" (Remember when Zoe is given the choice between Mal's life and Wash's--in one form or another Mal would be frequently placed in the position of choosing between Inara's safety and some other thing he holds dear).

Of course, if the Jossverse operated by your preferred rules (no deaths of beloved characters allowed), those situations would only have a kind of hypothetical tension to them. We'd always know that Mal and Inara were safe--presumably both physically and in their core identities (Mal won't be forced to sacrifice Kaylee so that Inara can live, for example). In fact, under your rules, nothing really bad can happen to the married couple. I guess they can't lose a child, for example. Can they try for a child and discover that they're infertile, or is that too much like "real life" pain? Can they disagree over whether or not they want children (can you imagine Mal wanting to bring a child into this world? Can you imagine Inara not wanting to?)? Is that acceptably "safe"? If so, then, sure, we could pursue that sort of kitchen-sink drama (more A Dolls House than Dollhouse, if you know what I mean), but the genre of the show has been shifted pretty far.

Or, I guess, they could be a kind of Nick and Nora Charles of the Outer Planets--indulging in delightful witty banter back and forth, but facing no real challenges to their relationship or their safety while they zip about solving other peoples' mysteries. That, too, could be great fun, but would, again, mean a radical change of genre for the show as a whole.
They'd run a ranch on Shadow and raise a bunch of fat babies! If not for Mal's trust issues due to the war and the deaths and the shattering of a belief system and the constant criminal intentions of people around him. Also for Inara there's the whole part where being a Companion is her career and she seems pretty dedicated to carrying it on as she sees fit. Also Mal kinda holds that profession in very low regard, so even if she breaks that rule, it's gonna have bad consequences. Whether she keeps it or gives it up to be with Mal, I don't see that particular point resolving too well to both their satisfactions.

It'd be messy for sure. It seems doomed for true heartache and misunderstanding without considerable changes to both characters. I think that's why people want to see them together. It's an equation without a real solution, and there's nothing so enticing as that emotionally. What circumstances could get them together? Keep them together? Tear them apart? When they're so deeply incompatible to start. Might as well pair a goody two-shoes Slayer and a vampire who's famous for bloodshed. Oh WAIT.
I don't think my question is meaningless at all, Dana. The previous conversations preceding my question make it absolutely valid. If you fear death or unpleasantness in entertainment to the point that you or any other viewer are already cringing at the mere thought of becoming attached to a character, only to see him/her die, or put in peril, than you must want to watch a pretty dull show. I think by default, we already know what we're going to get with anything Joss conceives; and that is a world fraught with danger.

I want happy endings as much as anyone, when someone has deserved it. I remember when Joss answered my question on that radio show (last year?) that some of us tuned in to and posted comments as he was being interviewed. My question was, "Would Buffy find lasting happiness after everything she'd been put through, all the pain she suffered." And one of the hosts only asked the first part of the question about lasting happiness. Boy, did my cheeks burn. I could tell from Joss' voice as he was answering that he didn't think much of it, and rightly so. It sounded like a question from an immature teenager, rather than a woman who's been around the block a few times in the pain dept. But he's right, lasting happiness doesn't make for much continuing character growth or dramatic intent (or, whatever it was he said exactly, but it was along those lines).
Electricspacegirl writes:

It's the creators explaining their intentions. You don't have to agree with them.

It was all The First, according to the commenaries and special features, but again, you might interpret something differently. I tend to go with the storytellers


I guess what I meant by wondering if commentary amounted to "canon" is whether the writers feel at all bound, in the future, by what they've said in commentary. That is, imagine that Joss decides to revisit "Conversations with Dead People" in S8, and says "you know what, we never really said anything in the series about who the Poltergeist was during that episode: I think I'll revive that as a separate character, one who was simply piggybacking on the power of The First in order to mess with Dawn." I don't think that would mean that "canon" had been altered, would it? It would mean that a debatable aspect of canon had been cleared up--regardless of what the writers had in mind at the time of writing "CWDP."

That is to say that I "go with the storytellers" too, but only once they've actually told the story. What they say in commentary bears the same relationship to the story as, say, rough drafts of future episodes do. Interesting, but open to revision. Fair enough?
I think what writers say in commentaries, interviews and online goes until/if they contradict it in future stories, personally. Obviously, everything is fluid.
Gossi writes:

I think what writers say in commentaries, interviews and online goes until/if they contradict it in future stories, personally. Obviously, everything is fluid.


Sure. But that doesn't amount to saying that what the writers say in commentaries is "canon," does it? That is, if Tara suddenly showed up in S8 and nobody even mentioned that she'd ever been dead (assuming that this state of affairs continued--i.e., not like Dawn suddenly showing up in S5) and they all just carried on as if she'd always been around, we'd all say that the writers had made a horrible mistake and broken with established canon. If Joss brought in a character who is cursing Dawn (and, boy, is she cursed!) who turns out to have been the one inflicting the facial cuts, making the TV go without power, and smearing blood on the walls and so forth in CWDP, we'd all just say "yeah--that makes sense; more sense than The First having had these powers all along and just chosen never to use them ever again"--right?
I must be the only Joss fan that loves when he breaks my heart.


No, you're not alone. A tragedy requires an emotional investment from the viewer, making it a much more powerful experience than a happy ending.

Say that Mal and Inara actually do finally admit their love for each other, and they enter into a relationship that involves also physicality (ie, sex). What do you all think would happen down the road? How would this now play out?.


There's only one way it could play out in a TV show. The unfortunate thing about TV is that the viewers' interest drops the moment the lovers get together, sometimes to the point that it kills the show (some lessons to be learned from Moonlighting and Nanny). Subsequently, to keep the viewers interested, Joss would have to split Mal and Inara after they got together, Inara probably killed, abducted, etc.

It's not Joss. It's how TV works. A pair of lovers brought together is the payoff the audience craves. Once the craving's been satisfied, there is nothing more to for the viewer to want, and even if the adventures are as exciting as ever, removing the unrequited sexual tension between Mal and Inara would strip the show of one of its most powerful elements.

[ edited by Effulgent on 2009-01-06 01:45 ]
Joss frequently killing off his characters isn't something I see as a reason not to invest in the characters. On the contrary I think I get a huge pay-off for my emotional investment with the characters when Joss kills one of again.

For me death seems something of a necessity in a show like Buffy. That is, I've always been tremendiously frustrated by action oriented shows where the stories are built around supposedly lethal struggles, were the heroes never recieve any real harm. You can of course easily avoid this situation by not making a show centered around those life and death struggles, but if you are going that way and then don't ever let anything happen to you're main characters I'll get frustated. You get shows where you find the type of illogical behaviour by the villians Buffy (the series) joked about when Dawn was kidnapped by Harmony: where the villian never does any permanent harm, though it would be in line with their goals and they are in the perfect opportunity. The way Joss atleast sometimes breaks with this cliche, (killing Jesse and Anya, letting the hyena kids eat the principal) is one of the first things that attracted me to his work.

I'm not sure I would like to see Tara come to life again in the comics. I do kinda miss Anya though. Reading the comics while rewatching the series at the same time made me realize how much fun she and Spike were as characters to have around.

Never really liked the way Xanders and Anya's wedding was dealt with. Seemed like such a terrible tv cliche and it didn't really made a lot of sense to me character wise. Though I guess it was somehow in line with the equally strange way Xander and Anya hooked up.

So, I'll finally get on topic. I haven't read the whole reviews since I'm a bit afraid of spoilers, but what I've read, mainly the darkness part, really makes me all the more interested. I don't think lack of long storylines will mean a lack of character moments. It is Joss strong suit and we'll have the Dollhouse staff and ofcourse the people in the stand alone story's, which don't have to be all about the plot either. (There are more than enough character moments in Dr. Horrible too, even though it's only 40 minutes, right?) Anyway, I'm really looking forward to it now, imagine: in about one month will have a Whedon show on tv again! And we'll get (atleast) 13 hours of new Whedon TV!

ETA: removed atleast some my many mistakes (I hope all of them) my english is terrible, and it's getting a bit late.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-01-06 01:29 ]
Anaway, I'm really looking forward to it now, imagine: in about one month will have a Whedon show on tv again! And we'll get (atleast) 13 hours of new Whedon TV!

This.
Commentary is not canon; I agree with snonster (I'm going to shorten it further as I am a busy person who doesn't have time to write out snot monster in full, never mind snot monster from outer space).

And after reading this thread, I am actually a little disappointed that Joss didn't kill off anybody in Commentary! That would have been priceless. (Steve could have been strangled and asphyxiated by a slithering hissing snake)
I think every single one of Joss's commentaries kills, Al.
I think people are reading my comments too literally. I am not saying that there should be no death in anything Joss does. I am saying that it should be doled out more carefully and in smaller doses and be less predictable. Going back to my comments about the death of Book and Wash, when it is possible to predict what happens solely because you know the writer's conceits and tactics, there is a problem. Joss has become predictable. And to me that is a huge problem. And here is the rub- we are now offering thoughts about what works on TV- and this is supposedly where Joss excels, at breaking through the obvious and the banal and the "same old thing." He should be able to find ways out of the marriage TV trap that does not require the same tactics- kill someone, threaten them, etc. One of the great things about watching the development of the GSR on CSI was that it played out over 8 years- that is one long time to invest in. And the reveal was one that answered questions while raising them- we saw Grissom and Sara sharing a room, with her coming from the shower in a nightgown. We never saw them actually first get together. And now, at the very end, we will, no question, see something unusual. We will see Grissom leave, and end up with Sara in the end. January 15, be there. I guarantee it. How different from the norm. Which is why I ask about Mal and Inara. Their sources of tension have to come from her being a companion, him being one who will do what is necessary regardless of what that involves, etc. But of course, the real question I am asking is, will one of them end up dead? On the show, mind you, not in the real life of growing old and dying.

Effulgent nicely encapsulates the problems of televisual romances. What do you do with them? I know people offer up Wash and Zoe as people who were happy until Wash's death, but that's the story there. We began the show with them already married and happy. We did not watch their romance develop; it was already established. There was little strife in their marriage and Zoe made it clear who she stood for when she chose her husband over Mal when Niska gave her the choice. The only thing you could do there to shake it up would be to kill off one or the other. As always, it is the lovable innocent that dies, not the warrior; this is a standard Joss tactic. Tara, Fred, Motor Mouth, Wash, all innocents.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 01:37 ]
AlanD, that's why copy & paste was invented for things like typing snot monster from outer space. ;)

Thanks for making me crack up. Yes, killing Steve would have been hilarious. Especially since he promised us that he'd be back. :)
To be honest, I don't think Dollhouse is really the place for a TV marriage or loving relationship. Part of this reminds me of the Drive problem - everybody was talking online about how the show had a limited premise - they would have to reach the finish the line, could they have multiple races etc. A bigger problem was getting past the first season, before any of it mattered.
AlanD: "And after reading this thread, I am actually a little disappointed that Joss didn't kill off anybody in Commentary!"

Now that you say this, it seems so obvious. This is now my biggest disappointment of the year, displacing my sorrow about not being Evil enough for the League.

Viva la mort! I tend to keep out of most Dollhouse discussions, and probably will do so until it airs, for which I cannot wait, but in the words of the immortal and late Penny, "Everything happens."

Considering that death is almost the only predictable human experience, I'm happy with the predictable amount of death in Joss and Co.'s creations.

Welcome, snot monster from outer space - what a lovely name you have. ; >
Dana5140, I don't know if bringing two people together who have so much tension on television is survivable once done. I don't know if the audience would buy it. I'm having a hard time now trying to see Mal & Inara happy together.

Look at Booth & Bones. So different, but they work well together (emphasis on the word work). There is underlying tension of something more, definitely. But what happens if they bring them together? I don't believe the relationship could survive; it seems too unlike the characters. They come together, the show ends.

The audience wants them to be together, but they don't want to be bored with a lack of tension. I think secondary characters have the only chance of being together. Even then, tricky.
korkster writes:

The audience wants them to be together, but they don't want to be bored with a lack of tension. I think secondary characters have the only chance of being together. Even then, tricky.


I've never understood this, personally. It's always seemed to me that writers panic when they reach the conclusion of a long TV romance. In all the instances I can remember it never seemed to me that the situation was inherently drained of tension by the fact that the couple were now together. Rather, the writers seemed completely unable to shift gears so as to write about the problems of coupledom. I mean, it's not as if you don't have sitcoms or dramas with married couples in them, or that those relationships can't be full of rich and interesting tension, but for some reason if their marriage isn't the original premise of the series writers don't know what to do.

I think a paired-up Mal and Inara is a situation full of stories. They come from radically different worlds, after all, and simply working through some of that odd-couple baggage would be fascinating. These aren't necessarily very happy stories (although I don't see why happiness shouldn't be a rich thread in that tapestry--I'd imagine the make-up sex would be pretty spectacular [I'm shallow, alright--so sue me!]). I do think that Joss never quite figured out what he thought the status of a "Companion" was in the Firefly world. It's supposed to be an honored profession, and we're supposed to think that she is the most "respectable" of all the characters on the ship, but in fact Mal is disgusted by her job, and Inara herself is extremely touchy about it, and easily hurt by allusions to the nature of her work: so that's an immediate problem that a union between the two of them would face. Obviously in some ways the best story arc is if Inara continues as "Companion" while in a steady relationship with Mal, but that simply isn't believable with the Mal we have.

Oops, wandering too far into the hypothetical here. Suffice to say: I think it could be done. I don't think Dollhouse sounds like the kind of show that will give us sustained coupledom, however, and sometimes it is definitely the wrong move. I'm a Buffy/Angel 'shipper from way back, but I wouldn't change a moment of the end of S2, or the wonderful, heartbreaking, "I Will Remember You." Sometimes the point of doomed romance is precisely that it is doomed: which is also to say that the Mayor is right in "Choices."

ETA: a good example of a series that completely messed up the switch from "romance" to "coupledom" would be Lois and Clark (o.k., o.k., I know it's a bit "sublime/ridiculous" to bring it up re Joss, but L&C was a fun little show. Once they decided to marry them, though, the writers clearly lost all sense of direction. First they played with the "terrible troubles stop our lovebirds getting to the altar" thing until we all stopped caring, and then despite the fact that the only real difference marriage meant in their relationship was that they were permanently at the same address, they just couldn't get the couple back into their established personae. It was one of the most sudden and complete implosions of a TV series I've ever witnessed.

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-01-06 02:56 ]
There have been rumors, production stoppages, a couple of pilots, delays and a few eye brow-raising interviews.

What "eye brow-raising interviews" is the author referring to?
I think it's more specific to Joss than a generalized need for le dull; Joss has established it as part of his hosue style and so it's a point to consider.

And he didn't have to do it the way eh did; the main character was Buffy. Having Xander and Anya or Willow and Tara or even Giles and Olivia settled, happy , and together, could jhave been done in ways that didn't hinder story development. but there are always could haves. It wasn't crucial to the show to ahve them alone like James T. Kirk or Little Joe Cartwright. evena married Buffy could have been done, altho shed've ahd to be re-characterized in soem ways and that would have chanegd the course of the show. (Being in love with Buffy is like living inside a Baudelaire poem; I'm sure Angel, Riley, and Spike would all agree with me!)

And comaprison to Sam and Diane or MAddie and David miss the point. the bickering between the characters, the fact that on every elevel except the purely sexual these people didn't like each other, was pivotal to the establsihed plotlines of thsoe shows, and removing it led to pointless places. There really was no such of a fundamental disconnect as an essential part of BtVS or Angel, not even Buffy and Spike.

Which does make me wonder; what ways will he mess with our heads in this? Because we all know he will. Maybe I won't bother buying a converter box.

More to the

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2009-01-06 02:42 ]
Korkster- even on Bones they screwed up the romance between the secondary characters. Angela and Hodgins had a nice romance, which then ended, leading to Angela's dalliance with all and sundry, including the now obligatory lesbian coupling. I understand that there will be no Maddie and David with Booth and Bones, that the tension is a driver, but you know, it could happen, if done right. I think it was done right on CSI, for sure.

Like SMFOS, I cannot see Dollhouse investing Echo's character with a romance, since that cannot come to much initially due to the conceit of the show- if her memories are wiped, there can be no real romance. Therefore, I think if there is to be one, it will confined to the secondary characters. However, I can also see a storyline where someone from Echo's past life, perhaps a lover, runs into her, and she professes not to know him. And then begins to recover memories.

As to Malnara, I often wondered why, if being a companion is so honored and honorable, Mal found it so troubling. Just for Inara, or for all companions? Since he had no trouble sleeping with Nandi.
Mal gives up thieving in return for Inara giving up companioning & Serenity 2 turns into Revolutionary Road? Yeah, that would be bad.:)
Hi, long time reader, first time poster (taken ages..years to get myself sync'd to join) & quick side-Hi to DaddyCat (yes I'm that glori *lol*).

For me I've always seen Joss' motivations coming from what is required to move the character and their story. In anything fictional tension is the underlying necessity to keep things interesting. It can't be like real life with time frames - otherwise it gets a)boring/repetitive or b)it goes to a place where resetting occurs. This is even more so in visual media (I include graphic novels in this category with the reliance on image as much as words).

Which is why (for me) the premise of Dollhouse is going to prove interesting to see how it is handled (hopefully going beyond the initial commissioned eps).

I can look at the review and wonder what may or may not be happening but I'd prefer to wait and see for myself given how over the years it isn't unheard of for Joss work to be 'not got' initially. Redoing the pilot is a job of work but, it is a business not an altruistic world so hopefully a happy medium has been found & Dollhouse will live beyond its current lifeline.

Watching the writing path of the various Whedon shows over the years shows (to me) a constant of character evolution - that is, how a person(thing/demon/creature/sentient being) reacts and grows (or doesn't) when presented with situations.

Besides, at least (imho) there will be some decently written material on the small screen again. It's the only drawcard for me as a rule that a show has to be tight and put together with thought.
I think Inara's work being a respectable trade is perfectly consistent with Mal's attitude towards it. For one thing, even if it's generally respected in society, I don't believe it will ever be the case that all people treat it with respect. And more importantly, Mal is jealous. The woman he loves is sleeping with loads of other men. That jealousy doesn't mean he think what she does is wrong or immoral.

"That is why so many people hated the ending of Dr. Horrible. They just couldn't deal with all the emotions."

It seems to me that most of those who complained about her death said that it didn't hit them emotionally. That was my complaint. I just hadn't known Penny long enough. And when she died it was the first time I felt that Joss had forced his best trick into the story. (Renee's death was strike two).
With romance and Echo, I think I remember reading somewhere about the possibility of romantic tension between Echo and Paul Ballard, though I could be totally wrong.

On the death thing, I think death's like any other literary device -- it can be used in any number of ways for any number of reasons. I also think that what matters (and what can remain less predictable) isn't so much the death as what happens after, how the surviving characters react. What made Joyce's death so powerful (to me at least) was less my attachment to Joyce, and more how it affected every other character in the show, and helped take Buffy particularly to a new place, and a new level of responsibility -- it helped her grow up. Wesley's death in Angel forced Illyria to confront her own humanity. Penny's death killed Billy inside. It's the same basic device, but it means different things to different characters in different circumstances, so while I think it's safe to predict that Joss'll kill another character I care about in the future, I still don't think it's predictable, because we can't predict what that death means for the show.

Then again, I'm another of those fans that don't mind so much when the author kills a character, so long as it's done well. (On the other hand, a death scene that I don't buy can turn me away; which is why I never finished reading Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy). While I think he's had a couple of misses, in general, Joss's death scenes have been very well done, and do a very good job of moving the viewer. That's probably one of the reasons we're having this discussion: Joss makes us care when he kills off his characters. IMO, that means he's doing something right.

(Sorry if that wasn't particularly articulate -- I'm kinda sleepy at the moment.)
"And when she died it was the first time I felt that Joss had forced his best trick into the story. (Renee's death was strike two). "

Hmm just realised this comment made it sound as if if there's one more death I find a bit lame then I'll stop being a fan.


Someone above mentioned that Joss would make a brilliant sitcom. Hell yes! Although HIMYM feels to me like a sitcom that Joss Whedon would make.
Without meaning to fawn, I doubt there're many genres he couldn't make a brilliant show in (I was gonna say maybe except porn but you know what ? I'd pay folding money to see a Joss Whedon porno, partly cos I can barely even imagine how he'd approach it ;).

Tonya J: I want happy endings as much as anyone, when someone has deserved it.

That's an interesting point I reckon, mainly because it's one of the last asymmetries in storytelling IMO. We see - maybe especially in Joss' stuff - people being unhappy and even dying when they don't "deserve" it, when, in fact, they deserve peace and long life but we can't bring ourselves to enjoy watching bad characters have happy endings. I wonder if it's even possible to tell a satisfying story wherein an entirely undeserving character comes out on top or if that would violate our sense of stories bringing order to a disordered world, part of the old myth that bad people "get their comeuppance" ?

(off the top of my head I can only think of 'Blackadder III' but even then, Blackadder is a funny man - despite being a bit of a bastard - and I don't think we ever see funny people as totally undeserving because it's hard to dislike them)
Saje, regarding you saying this:

I wonder if it's even possible to tell a satisfying story wherein an entirely undeserving character comes out on top


I suppose that depends on what you think is a satisfying story, but straight off the top of my head I can think of Crimes and Misdemeanours and Match Point. In fiction you could try reading some Jim Thompson, some of which have been adapted into movies, such as The Kill-Off and The Grifters. Another possible example is The Last Seduction; no matter how deliciously evil we may find Linda Fiorentino's character I think it would be quite hard to persuasively argue that she deserved to get away with everything she did. It seems to me that there are plenty of example from film noir. James Ellroy seems to write wonderful novels entirely populated by unpleasant people, and if Thomas Hardy wrote a novel in which nice things happen to good people and bad things to bad people then I've never read it!
Yeah, good examples (not seen C&M or 'Match Point') though i'd say Ellroy writes layered characters but still sometimes "goodies" i.e. they're far from perfect (like e.g. Marlowe) but not always actually bad either (more like Sam Spade). Maybe "unsympathetic" would've been a better word ? I mean someone you don't in any way root for (rather than someone you might consider of moral worth). But that maybe answers itself.

(tried Thompson as a youngster and just couldn't get into his stuff, probably high-time I gave it another shot)
The House of Cards trilogy. Nuff said.
Heh, good one Simon, I'd totally forgotten House of Cards.

Saje, I cannot recommend Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours highly enough, it is a breathtakingly incredible film. It's horribly bleak and depressing, but a genuine masterpiece.
What "eye brow-raising interviews" is the author referring to?


My guess would be probably the infamous 'I would have put "Dollhouse" on Fridays too'-interview.
I'm not sure that one's even famous ;).

The House of Cards trilogy. Nuff said.

OK, but name two.

;-)

Seriously though, do they work only as welcome exceptions to the rule i.e. because they violate the "order from disorder" idea (they replace it with novelty) or could they work as the new rule ? Cos that seems to bear on the idea that Joss can overplay the "kill a major character" card. On the one hand, in reality people (deserving or otherwise) die all the time so that should be the norm, on the other, if they die all the time in fiction (especially when undeserving) it starts to feel unbalanced.

(and seems like I need to do some catching up on Woody Allen films)
Match Point is a great example (and a wonderful movie). And it's handy to compare with Joss's work given that it's modelled on tragedy like most of Joss's stuff. And because Woody Allen is also an existentialist.

One of the things that resonates with me most of all in Joss's work is the absolute lack of justice in the way he kills and inflicts pain on his characters. It's a philosophical statement that I think clearly stems from his existentialism and his love of tragedy, particularly Shakespeare. The whole point is that there is no meaning in existence and no higher power to watch over us or to dispense justice. Life just is. Jenny Calendar or Tara didn't deserve to die just like, say, Romeo and Juliet didn't deserve their fate. To me, this is far more chillingly powerful and memorable than a story where the good guys end up happy and where the bad guys get their come-uppance. Mostly that's because it better approximates reality and because it taps into the fact that everybody dies and death will be entirely undiscriminating when it comes.

It's a fun game to think of the countless examples of these kinds of ideas in Joss's stuff:
- Angelus says to Angel in Orpheus (named after a tragedy) that the human condition is to be born, suffer and die
- Mal's innermost thought: 'None of it means a damn thing'
- 'If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do'
Greatest episodes of Buffy, season 2 finale, the body and the gift. I think most agree.
Without death it would miss most of thoose greatest moments list and probably a lot of the greatest shows of all time lists. For me it would totally lack punch.

For Xander ditching Anya, he was shown his greatest fear, something like becoming what he hates, his mom and dad. Some of the underlying doubt was shown in once more with feeling.
Still not dealt with in the best way, there were not enough omens, his trackrecord of relationships is horrible but somehow i expected him to come through in the end (Even the third time seeing the show i felt he should).
Something about seeing things, good words spoken ...but probably felt let down by the character, he doubted the whole thing let it get that far,hurting Anya and generally looking like a schmuck.
It's a fun game to think of the countless examples of these kinds of ideas in Joss's stuff:

I dunno about fun necessarily (especially if you're stuck counting countless examples ;) but yeah, it's very clear how Joss feels about existence from his fiction (let alone his personal comments).

And yet, heroes generally die a heroes' death (or don't die at all), people change and grow and have arcs (when, as far as I can tell, most people in real life don't particularly), actions do have meaning (often on a global scale) and problems have resolutions even in Joss' fiction. In other words, in amongst the reality he still adheres to the rules about stories. My point is (sort of) how far can you deviate from that and still have a story ? Maybe in a good writers' hands anything can be a story, even when it's just one damn thing after another ?

(part of what makes 'The Body' so powerful is that Joyce just dies - IIRC hers is the only death that doesn't result from fighting the fight, or making the choice to at least - and not only that but everyone's response feels organic. Thing is, even in Joss' work, that's exceptional - we don't, for instance, see Jenny Calendar get knocked down or have an unexpected heart attack, she's killed by a/the Big Bad, as befits someone in a story)
If you're counting countless examples it just means the game won't finish too quickly (or maybe it won't ever start)

You make some really interesting points but I'd take issue with a few things. I'm not sure that it's true that Joss's characters die heroes' deaths and that most of them die choosing to fight the fight. Jenny Calendar and Tara weren't attempting anything brave when they died and in Tara's case her death was purely an accident. Cordelia happened to give birth to an evil godess and then was in a coma for a while before she died (neither heroic nor due to her fighting anything). Fred's death episode involved her lying in bed looking veiny while a demon liquified her insides, and again it wasn't because she'd chosen to fight anyone. Book was tracked down; he wasn't attempting heroics. Obviously there are counter-examples (eg. Doyle, Wesley) but I'm not convinced it's true that 'heroes generally die a heroes' death'

I do agree on your character arc point. I wouldn't say that people don't change or grow but the character changes of, say, Spike and Wesley are as implausible as they are compelling.(Or does anyone know adults who have changed that much in a short space of time?)

But I'm not sure that actions have meanings in Joss's stuff (and I'm not really sure what meaning 'on a global scale' means :)). Could you give an example?

"My point is (sort of) how far can you deviate from that and still have a story ? Maybe in a good writers' hands anything can be a story, even when it's just one damn thing after another ?"

Great question to which I have no answer
I always took one of my favorite Angel quotes as Joss's take on the question of meaning in a meaningless world:

"Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. That's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be."

That is to say, the world is meaningless (or harsh and cruel), and living as if it were not (which is not that different from writing TV shows...) is what gives it any meaning that it does have. So, Joss's penchant for character deaths is both a reflection of the cruel lack of meaning in a harsh world AND an attempt to give those deaths (and thus human life) a meaning.
Well, this is all very existentialist, right?

But there was a point made above, about how Joyce's death was the only one that occurred by natural causes in the Buffyverse canon. And, y'know, you need to think about that. Because it's true. And why is it so? No one else died from natural causes, which is what most people die from- disease, old age, etc. Not violence- though, in war, most involved will die from violence. But the body count in Buffy is very high; hell, we know even in the comic, Dark Willow was killed (though it carried almost no emotional weight at all, so far), as was Renee (entirely predictable), and Kennedy (though she is back to life). Enough already. It almost ceases to have meaning, which is what most people here are saying it does have. What I do know is that the core Scooby gang remains alive. As does most of the core Angel gang- though the loss of you-know-who last issue is yet another death, and not again one that carries much emotional weight. I challenge Joss to keep characters alive and write compelling stories, because it is all becoming boilerplate and less interesting as a result. To me, anyway.
Disease is the leading killer overall, but most people who die of natural causes are quite old. For people aged 15-34, the three leading causes of death in the US are accident, murder, and suicide, by a big margin.

I don't find the death rate in the Jossverse to be unrealistic, given the circumstances. What is unrealsitic is that we don't see people being put out of comission by being mamed and crippled. Spike spent some time in a wheelchair, and Xander lost an eye, but compared to what you find in a veteran's hospital, people get off very easy with injuries.

The person I would like to challenge to write compelling stories without killing people is Tarantino :-)
I kind of agree Dana5140 in that I think realistic deaths are now a frontier that Joss has tamed if you like and that it'd be interesting to see him stretch in other directions. For me that doesn't mean he has to avoid portraying realistic deaths though, just that it's not always as powerful now as it once was (because we know that's a part of his fiction).

Let Down: (and I'm not really sure what meaning 'on a global scale' means :)). Could you give an example?

She saved the world. A lot.

;-)

I'm not sure that it's true that Joss's characters die heroes' deaths and that most of them die choosing to fight the fight.

This is because i'm an idiot Let Down ;). I.e. I used a too literal turn of phrase which you, perfectly reasonably, interpreted literally. What I mean when I say "fighting the fight, or making the choice to" is that Tara and Jenny were both actively on the side of the goodies, they knew the dangers and chose to be where they were when they died (the actual manner of their deaths was passive but it could easily not have been and if they hadn't, in general terms, been "fighting the fight" they probably would've been safer).

(there was a discussion before - which I just stumbled on again - about how the female characters seem to die more passive deaths in Joss' stuff - particularly Angel - and I think that's a fair point. But it's also fair to say that apart from Joyce it's only actually Buffy - of the female deaths - that hasn't ultimately, if you go back to "first" causes, chosen to be where she is when she dies. Buffy, after all, had a destiny, everyone else made a conscious, informed choice)
Loving this talk, by the way.

Saje, Tara & Ms. Calendar may have chosen their side of the "fight", but what about the ballerina of the Puppet Show (S1), Marcy turning invisible, the pyro'd cheerleader, Jesse, and countless others that didn't choose?

By making the choice, those characters are no longer seen as VICTIMS but either as "heroes" or "villains". Example: Jonathan. He was the "victim" for several years on Buffy until Season 4/6 when he chose where he stood- a villain. Because of his choice, the audience came to view, understand, & place emotions on a character that had been there for several years but not much interest was previously invested.

They have to choose for us to care. Otherwise, they're just a victim of the week.

An exception may be the girl from "Help" (Season 7). Buffy & the gang chose to be involved with this girl's life, and she in turn had an effect on them, which in turn affected the audience.

Slayers may not have had a choice initially (girls in dreams just victims at the moment), but when they chose to be with Giles, ask Buffy for help, & join the fight... they became people that we accepted & invested in.

There has to be a choice in this television.
Jenny was actively working on restoring Angel's soul when she died. That was specifically why he went after her. So yes, she was in the middle of the fight, fighting with the weapons she had - computer expertise and knowledge of magic, not a random victim, and not just passively happening to be in the line of fire.

Saje, a work of literature in which the thoroughly vile, sleazy, selfish and immoral heroine comes out on top is Edith Wharton's "The Custom of the Country." I think it's one of her best, although not one of the better-known, a thoroughly, utterly cynical take on getting ahead in society. I kept thinking of the book during the past U.S. election, because the heroine reminded me so much of our own Sarah Palin - fortunately the latter wasn't as successful in real life in getting her own way.

One other thought on the happy endings subject - *all* happy endings are temporary.
Tonya J: I want happy endings as much as anyone, when someone has deserved it.

Saje, just to clarify that a bit since I wrote that post yesterday on the run. I think I asked Joss the question because Buffy's happiness was never lasting, even when she thought she had love or stability. So as a viewer, seeing her suffer in her isolation and then make choices that took love from her (although Angel leaving was ultimately his choice), gave me really no satisfaction. Because we all believe in the dream, don't we? If not of a fairytale life, of a life that has deepness and meaning, and that means happiness. So in asking Buffy's creator, maybe what I was asking really, was, will I be satisfied ... through her. And it seems obvious now the answer is, no.

These conversations remind me of some dialogue from the film Parenthood with Steve Martin. He can't stand the messiness of his life, his wife (Mary Steenburgen) has the attitude that life is naturally messy, so deal, and grandma likens life to being like a "thrilling, yet frightening rollercoaster ride," while others might prefer the sedateness of the merry-go-round. Gil, Martin's character, ends up adjusting to the rollercoaster ride. And as viewers, I guess we do too, even if we don't like it at times.
Slightly OT aside but I read Steve Martin's memoir 'Born Standing Up' a couple of weeks back (very good - touching and, as you'd expect, funny) and the bit in 'Parenthood' when he makes balloon "animals" was actually from his early stand-up set (dunno if it survived to his peak "superstar" years).

I think everyone wants to believe in the dream BTW but i'm not sure Joss actually does, not in the sense of happiness as a state you "arrive" at. Or maybe he thinks not having it is part of the burden heroes carry ?

They have to choose for us to care. Otherwise, they're just a victim of the week.

Hmm, not sure about this. I think how much we care could be as simple as how much screen time the character's given and how sympathetically they're portrayed (part of being a victim of the week is not really featuring that much in the actual episode). It's true though IMO that characters that choose to fight the fight when they could have done otherwise are seen as more heroic (Buffy may have had a destiny but she could still have walked away from it and left Sunnydale in the shit).

One other thought on the happy endings subject - *all* happy endings are temporary.

So are happy beginnings and middlings (cheery bunch ain't we ? ;).
Dana5140 writes:

Enough already. It almost ceases to have meaning, which is what most people here are saying it does have. What I do know is that the core Scooby gang remains alive. As does most of the core Angel gang- though the loss of you-know-who last issue is yet another death, and not again one that carries much emotional weight. I challenge Joss to keep characters alive and write compelling stories, because it is all becoming boilerplate and less interesting as a result. To me, anyway.


I agree with you about the relative lack of emotional resonance in the recent deaths in Angel S6 and Buffy S8. I don't agree, however, that the problem with this is that we're just used to the fact that Joss will kill characters and now feel blasť about their deaths. To me, the problem is really the opposite. We're now so used to death being a merely temporary setback that we're not sure if there really is a loss to mourn. Do either of the recent Angel deaths really "count"? Will any of those characters stay dead? Only time will tell--but, to me, it's a clear sign that Joss has been to the resurrection well one too many times that he can kill a character whose arc I'm deeply invested in and my response is "how will our hero escape from this predicament?"

On the "happy endings for bad people" front: Frank Capra used to say that the vast majority of the mail he received about It's A Wonderful Life had to do with the fact that Potter is never punished for his villainy. He had to battle the censors over that, too, because the Hollywood Code demanded that baddies receive their comeuppance. I've always thought it interesting that Capra is pilloried for his supposedly "corny," sugarcoated view of America, but in fact his films give a pretty bleak account of America's social and political realities. Yes, they record partial triumphs over a crushingly brutal world, but they offer no false hope that the brutality can be easily or permanently erased.
But no one got a happy ending. Not Buffy, not Willow, not Xander, not Giles, not Angel, not anyone. If S8 is canon, it puts paid to any comment about how, say, Willow ended S7 happy, with Kennedy- since that is not really how it has ended. They are still fighting, still dealing with death, Xander lost another potential love interest, Willow is "cheating" on Kennedy and her future self died, Buffy has gone all utilitarian and who knows what the heck is up with Giles. You'd expect just randomly alone that someone would have some happy time, but not here. All I know is, as soon as they do, someone dies.

(ETA this, since snonster posted while I was writing): Well, maybe for some the resurrection well has been tapped too often (thought not enough for Tara!), but that really was not my point though I agree with you. Your point is that death loses impact if you continually bring the characters back- that is a problem I have with comics in general and Marvel in particular. But I still hold here that even if you don't bring 'em back, so many deaths also loses real impact, because you expect it and then it happens. It is, as I say, a boilerplate tactic, used so often it loses impact. Joss does this, he knows it and admits it, and has joked it away way too often for my liking.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 18:37 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 18:37 ]
"All happy endings are temporary"? Well, Buffy S6 reveals the Good News that Heaven is real and offers a permanent reward to the worthy. I guess it's not all that surprising that the atheist Joss lost interest in that rather stunning Revelation, but if we take Buffy's account of her posthumous experience seriously, the Buffyverse is decidedly NOT an existentialist one.

More seriously, I think it's fair to say that the great wellspring of religious belief is precisely the desire to find a "happy ending" that really sticks. Religion gives a satisfying plot to life's messy "one damn thing after another."
I think it's pretty funny (nice addition to this conversation by the way - I've never understood why It's a Wonderful Life is considered a Christmas classic) that Potter didn't get his until a SNL parody decades later. If we had seen that in the actual film, it would have been a much different kind of ending, and I'm not sure for the better. We're probably supposed to think that he finally got the public censure he deserved (much like Madame de Mertueil in Dangerous Liaisons) and was driven out of town.
Dana5140 writes:

But I still hold here that even if you don't bring 'em back, so many deaths also loses real impact


I guess my answer to that would be that that isn't true in real life, so I don't see why it would be true in fiction.
Tonya J writes:

We're probably supposed to think that he finally got the public censure he deserved (much like Madame de Mertueil in Dangerous Liaisons) and was driven out of town.


I don't think Capra would have fought the Hays Office over leaving Potter unpunished if he just assumed that the audience would fill that blank in for him. No, he wanted Potter unpunished because he wanted us to know that George Bailey lives in a world of appalling injustice, the kind of world that will drive a good and honest man to the brink of suicide because he is "worth more dead than alive." His film is a call to fight on against injustice even though it appears hopeless. In many ways it's a film that is well summed up by one of Angel's greatest lines: "if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
Me: They have to choose for us to care. Otherwise, they're just a victim of the week.

Saje: Hmm, not sure about this. I think how much we care could be as simple as how much screen time the character's given and how sympathetically they're portrayed (part of being a victim of the week is not really featuring that much in the actual episode).

Exactly, Saje. That's why I said the exception to this is the girl from Season 7 in "Help" who died of a heart attack. She was in focus long enough to have an impact on our characters, which then had an impact on us. But, in this 'verse, we see through the eyes of our heroes & villains. If they don't have an impact on one another, then they get passed off as "victim of the week". That's not saying that's what those victims merely are, but that's the only exposure we're given. If we were given more exposure, it wouldn't be BtVS anymore, but Sunnydale instead. To paraphrase Buffy from "Earshot": people don't hear your pain because they're too involved with their own. If every cry was focused on in Sunnydale, our heroes' stories would fall by the wayside. From their perspective, they're just another body count.

Dana1540: But no one got a happy ending. Not Buffy, not Willow, not Xander, not Giles, not Angel, not anyone. If S8 is canon, it puts paid to any comment about how, say, Willow ended S7 happy, with Kennedy- since that is not really how it has ended.

To be fair, you're not comparing them fairly. You're comparing all 7 seasons of BtVS to 1/2 of Season 8. The point of the half-smile of the final Season 7 episode was that the story doesn't end; it's the beginning of something new. Almost in every Season Arc we've seen on BtVS they're at their most dire in the middle of the season. Season 8 holds no exceptions.

snot monster from outer space: "All happy endings are temporary"? Well, Buffy S6 reveals the Good News that Heaven is real and offers a permanent reward to the worthy. I guess it's not all that surprising that the atheist Joss lost interest in that rather stunning Revelation, but if we take Buffy's account of her posthumous experience seriously, the Buffyverse is decidedly NOT an existentialist one.

More seriously, I think it's fair to say that the great wellspring of religious belief is precisely the desire to find a "happy ending" that really sticks. Religion gives a satisfying plot to life's messy "one damn thing after another."


Buffy thinks it was heaven, but what one perceives to be Heaven is their own perception. It doesn't escape the existentialist rule of a "heaven" within; Buffy had completed her trials, found inner peace, and was then resurrected to continue on her journey of finding her "self". A desire of anything could produce a heaven-like moment, it just depends on what we are striving for, what we deem worthy. Religion could be viewed as a crutch to not just "end this walk on the mortal coil".
I am also not sure that Buffy was in heaven. I know she thought she was, but that does not make it so. And that begs the question: what is Heaven? Is it where you go to get your just reward for a good life? To be taken into Christ's glory? To have a party with people wearing white robes? Because, you know, if Heaven really is to have meaning, I would think that killing a deer to cast a spell to bring you back would be, you know, resisted, since you earned the right to be there, and would God be so fickle as to then deny you your hard-earned reward? I am not so sure that Buffy ever was in heaven. In my own reader-response way, that's where I see Tara, and that's why the First could not model her body (and yes, Saje offers that maybe he just chose not to, but boy, I think that would have hurt Willow so much more, and the First is all about the pain). :-)

Korkster- all I am really saying is, they never got a happy ending. No one ever does in this tale.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 19:21 ]
Yeah, the heaven/hell(s) stuff in the Buffyverse always leaves me feeling a little odd. I mostly just ignore it, I have to say...

Happy endings are temporary? Well, yes. But so is sadness (Buffy is pretty miserable at the end of s2/start of s3, and for pretty much all of s6, but given time she got past it and smiled again). Death itself is the only final thing (well, mostly) and that is true for everyone, fictional or not. I don't think it can be exactly described as a happy or sad event for the person who actually dies - depending on your beliefs, you either need to know where they went to make that call or else they have ceased to exist entirely and so have their emotions. It is only really sad for their friends or for the world which has lost them... that's an extreme way to view it, perhaps, but I think it's true. I know I never cry in Becoming II, or Shells, or Serenity, or even Not Fade Away, until I see the sad and terrible faces of those left behind.

I don't Joss has ever failed to bring us back from a death with sensitivity and a reasonable allowance for the passage of time. The only false note I can currently think of is Xander managing a half-smile at Anya's courage when he's only just found out about her death. And the only one I can think of where the bereaved (main character) has not made some sort of move back towards life, joy and friends by the time the story ended is Billy... *dies a little inside all over again*
I think we've debated before the relative levels of pain when it comes to the First not being Tara, but I don't remember where.

My own opinion has always been that the First's angle was that trying to make Willow believe that the rules of the universe forbid Willow from getting to see Tara because of what Willow had done would be additional pain for Willow, on top of the pain the First was trying to inflict through what Tara was supposedly there to tell Willow.

So, if pain is the point, the First deliberately choosing not to appear as Tara in order to convince Willow that she f*cked up so royally that now the universe won't allow her to see Tara... well, THAT'S pain.
Except it did not work at all, bix. She got it very quickly, and knew it to be a lie. I think it would have been worse if Tara had been there speaking. How much more a reminder of what had been!

"I don't Joss has ever failed to bring us back from a death with sensitivity and a reasonable allowance for the passage of time. The only false note I can currently think of is Xander managing a half-smile at Anya's courage when he's only just found out about her death." I think I am confused. When you say "bring us back" you then refer to Xander- who is not "us." But I could easily argue that he failed to bring us, or to be honest, me (since I should speak only for me, not us...), from Tara's death, no senstivity and no reasonable allowance for the passage of time with regard to Kennedy replacing Tara as Willow's lover. In fact, I think it fair to say that there remain a few who still have not been "brought back" from that loss, even now. Just to be fair.

PS. What is the code to set a quote off?
[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 19:54 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 19:54 ]
She didn't know it to be a lie until near the end. That's not "quickly". It took almost the entire scene. I mean, this started with you insisting we use only the text. We should probably at least agree at how long the text is. ;)

In the end, obviously, there's no determining this; it's all wank on both our parts. But in my head, had Willow been looking at Tara as she said these things, then she WOULD have glommed on to the First's main con almost immediately.

But as it transpired, the secondary con of not being allowed to even see Tara helped keep Willow off-balance, which helped the First string Willow along for as long as it did. (I am, quite seriously, flummoxed by the notion that Willow knew it was a lie "quickly". If she had, there would have been no more than like a page to the scene, and there most decidedly is more scene than that.)

Anyway, as I said. It's all wank. I just have no particular dog in the Tara hunt, so I'm not inherently wed to whatever explanation suits a preferred fate for Tara. Based upon what's actually in the text, my version is just as tenable as yours. It all comes down to whether or not we want one or the other. Heh.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-06 20:02 ]
Don't they mention multiple hell dimensions? Stands to reason there could be multiple "heavens" too. Heaven and hell are probably just descriptors people would use to describe them though, and they're really just different dimensions. Some are nicer than others. Some could differ depending on individual perceptions (ie: whether or not you like shrimp). So Buffy could just have been in a pleasant dimension. Then again, she did dive into a portal. That doesn't mean other people who die would go to other dimensions too.
I concur with bix.

So, what about the Joyce/First thing? I just don't know.

P.S.- Dana:
[div class="quote"]QUOTE[/div]
. Replace []'s with <>'s.
I think the fact that Amber Benson nixed returning as The-First-As-Tara is the only reason that The First didn't appear as Tara; on other words, Joss agrees with everyone who thinks that the most powerful story would have been having The First appear as Tara.

As for the existence of heaven: sure, we don't get anything other than Buffy's say-so, but it makes the mythology of S6 a lot less interesting if she actually wasn't pulled out of heaven. And even the existence of "heavenly dimensions" still allows for the possibility of permanent "happy endings."

To be honest, I think Joss fell in love with the idea of the "there's always a price" part of the "heaven" story (which, to me, was the highpoint of S6: that the very thing we fervently hope for--Bringing Back Buffy--is the cruelest and most foolish act) but then didn't know what to do with the fact that he'd added this big eschatological safety-net to his storyworld. In the end, it just gets swept under the rug and conveniently forgotten.

It always strikes me as a glaring absence, for example, that Buffy never says to Willow, after Tara's death, "Look, Willow, if Tara has ended up where I was, she is happier now than she ever was or could have been while she was alive, and she knows that one day you will join her."
I think the fact that Amber Benson nixed returning as The-First-As-Tara is the only reason that The First didn't appear as Tara

Yes, as stated earlier in the thread. But the discussion started with the request to examine just the text and ponder the reasons. Heh.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-06 20:35 ]
The One True b!X writes:

Yes, as stated earlier in the thread. But the discussion started with the request to examine just the text and ponder the reasons. Heh.


Sure. I just meant that even within the terms of the sacred text, we know that The First isn't bringing the biggest pain to Willow that it could. Or, perhaps more to the point, we know that Joss--as a reader of his own text--felt that the First's decision to appear as Cassie was less compelling than if it had chosen to appear as Tara.

It seems to me then that rather than finding ways to fanwank Cassie's appearance into being the Most Awful Thing Possible for Willow (which, to me, seems very improbable--just imagine how completely shattered she'd have been by seeing Tara urging her to commit suicide!) it would probably be more productive to think of ways to fanwank the Cassie appearance as more likely to succeed. I.e., might The First have reason to think that appearing as Tara--despite the gratifying distress it would cause Willow--would be counterproductive?

I can think of one or two: one is that The First might think that it couldn't really fake Tara convincingly enough. The First doesn't really try all that often to masquerade as someone that the victim has known very well (Angel's dead victims in Amends are people he hasn't seen for decades, or saw only transiently; Warren fools Andrew, but then much is made of Andrew's high capacity for self-delusion; a similar point could be made about the recently ensouled and quasi-delusional Spike). Think of Spike saying derisively "you're not her" when it appears as Drusilla; The First clearly has limitations as an impersonator, and it could have felt that trying to "do" Tara would just be too risky.
I think it being less likely to convince Willow is as good a fan-wank as anything, that's been a mainstay for a while (not necessarily because she'd see through the disguise quicker, more because she'd know straight away that Tara wouldn't tell her to kill herself). It's probably true that Joss thinks Tara would've been worse but (without getting into the whole "canon" thing) that doesn't make it so.

Re: "heaven", even Buffy says, she thinks she was in heaven but the place she describes is basically some amorphous "happy place", not a heaven as most of us think of it. The Buffyverse has the possibility of happy endings of course because it has gods and gods can give you a happy ending but, being capricious gods - more like Zeus than the New Testament God - they can also take your happy ending away at any time and for any reason or for none at all (so it's uncertainly permanent, which is arguably worse than certainly temporary).

Death itself is the only final thing (well, mostly) and that is true for everyone, fictional or not.

Except Ramirez. This is because Sean Connery is immune to the laws of physics.
Wasn't this a Dollhouse thread?
FWIW, I think that having it be Tara might have been worse for the viewer. I just don't agree it would have been worse for Willow.

So, from the perspective of inflicting emotion upon the viewer I'd agree with Joss that it would have been the way to go. But from the perspective of inflicting emotion upon Willow, I think where they went was the way to go. Heh.
Do we really want happy endings for the characters?

I'm not talking about at the end of a show. I'm talking about in the middle. Do we really want characters to get everything and be happy halfway through the show? Because, to me, that sounds like it'd kill the drama and the tension which makes the story so interesting in the first place. Without the tension, and the angst, and the uncertainty, do we even have a story?

I know that most of the endings of Joss's works (in particular, Dr Horrible) aren't happily ever afters, but most of the examples here -- Tara, Joyce, Jenny, Fred Xander leaving Anya at the altar, season 8's return to angst -- are from the middle of a story rather than the end. To me, the drama in, say, Becoming, The Body, A Hole in the World, etc, makes for a far more compelling show than watching a group of happy people be happy. That's one of the reasons I like Joss's work, because it does have that drama.

Some people have pointed out that it should be possible for characters to get married and still have romantic tensions. While probably true, the fact is that a large segment of the audience would IMO see characters getting married as a sign of them resolving their tensions. Hell, they would have to resolve their tensions to an extent in order to bring themselves to say their "I do"s. While married life would have its own tensions, they're different tensions, which would signal a change in direction in the show. And another thing: if marriage isn't portrayed as the 'happily ever after' that fairy tales have conditioned us to see it as, and if characters continue to be unhappy and angsty even after getting it together, then can we still hope they'll get it together in the future? If marriage continues to make characters unhappy, then, I think, it's a greater rather than lesser example of continuing to ruin the character's lives in the name of drama, cos it leaves less rather than more hope for a future happiness. And if characters are happily married, then where's the drama?

I guess, while I want characters to be happy, I get far more out of a story if they're not. And if that involves killing characters I like, or destroying relationships I'm invested in, then so be it. Because at least then I get more of that story that so engaged me in the first place.
Buffy's a Slayer. A happy ending isn't really in the cards. Now maybe she changes her cards, but that's not exactly going to be a happy process, either.

What's a happy ending for an Active? Life afterwards, unaware and rich? That seems to challenge the idea of a good ending being a happy one. Especially if they are not volunteers.
Wasn't this a Dollhouse thread?


It was, but that aspect of the thread got killed off.
Topics never really die. They just need CPR.
Warren fools Andrew, but then much is made of Andrew's high capacity for self-delusion

snot monster from outer space, in "Storyteller" (S7), Andrew confesses that he knew that the First wasn't Warren, but did the biddings anyway. Just to clarify. (And thanks for reminding me of Cassie's name.)

As for the existence of heaven: sure, we don't get anything other than Buffy's say-so, but it makes the mythology of S6 a lot less interesting if she actually wasn't pulled out of heaven. And even the existence of "heavenly dimensions" still allows for the possibility of permanent "happy endings."

I'm interested to see how Dollhouse tackles the "happy place". The Actives are in a blissful, heavenly state until they're called to their assignments (which they forget), and return to their heavenly state.

We, the audience, already start to pin that the Dollhouse isn't necessarily a good thing (i.e., that "Heaven" isn't necessarily a good thing) for these Actives. What is someone's "heaven" is another's "hell". Will the Actives (or just Echo) find flaws in the Heaven she's chosen? I want to know.

Agree with Saje's assessment of Tara fan-wank & Buffy's "heaven". (But not Ramirez. Connery won't live forever. ;)
All happy endings are temporary"? Well, Buffy S6 reveals the Good News that Heaven is real and offers a permanent reward to the worthy. I guess it's not all that surprising that the atheist Joss lost interest in that rather stunning Revelation, but if we take Buffy's account of her posthumous experience seriously, the Buffyverse is decidedly NOT an existentialist one.

and
To be honest, I think Joss fell in love with the idea of the "there's always a price" part of the "heaven" story (which, to me, was the highpoint of S6: that the very thing we fervently hope for--Bringing Back Buffy--is the cruelest and most foolish act) but then didn't know what to do with the fact that he'd added this big eschatological safety-net to his storyworld. In the end, it just gets swept under the rug and conveniently forgotten.

Ha! Lovely points. I'd not really thought about it before. And welcome snot monster (hee! so fun to write that!) - I'm really enjoying your posts. (Have I been here long enough to welcome somebody??)

So interested in this discussion (is it over? am I too late?) - I'm always fascinated by the wildly different reactions character-deaths provoke. I don't think it's fair, exactly, to call Death Joss's "trick" (though it's kind of funny... it's a trick we all master eventually, I guess). Loss is clearly one of his major obsessions as a writer, whether it's loss of love or loss of life, and he certainly hasn't finished with it, maybe never will. I don't see the point of "challenging" him to abandon the thing he wants to write about and explore, though of course we can critique how effectively he does it. I entirely agree with whoever above said that the point (when there is one) is the impact it has on the surviving characters and their story arcs, and while there have been a few deaths and breakups in the jossverse that fell a little flat for me, for the most part I've felt they served the story in crucial, powerful ways. At least, I'm far from saying "oh, enough death already!" ;)

The two complaints seem to be "this is too painful for me," in which case, sure, not the show or the writer for you. The other, "I'm bored of this," I find a little baffling, but fair enough. Me, though, oh I love the pain he dishes out. At its best, it's piping hot, delicious catharsis.

As for a "happy ending," I thought Buffy the TV show ended on as positive a note as most viewers could have swallowed... and the story isn't ended so where would the happy ending go? (or... what snowinhell said.)

And! How about Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair for scheming villainess who stomps all over the innocent on her way to success while the reader cheers her on?
Slightly OT aside but I read Steve Martin's memoir 'Born Standing Up' a couple of weeks back (very good - touching and, as you'd expect, funny) and the bit in 'Parenthood' when he makes balloon "animals" was actually from his early stand-up set (dunno if it survived to his peak "superstar" years).

Saje, thanks, dude! (going to have to look for that) I'd say mate, but I'm not British and it would be pretentious. I'm trying to think of a tangential link to Dollhouse (Steve Martin be a potential guest star?) Anyway, sorry for OT.
It was, but that aspect of the thread got killed off.


Maybe it's a sign.
And we're back (to topic)! Seriousfully, though. Dolls in a Dollhouse= Happy Ending?
No. That's why I think in season 2 or 3 we will see Echo go on the run.
Simon, maybe it's just that all roads eventually lead to Buffy? Why, I have no idea, except that it's the show of origin for any type of Whedonverse.
That seems early for the lead character to successfully escape. It'd be interesting to see a failed attempt in S2.
Snomster,
To be honest, I think Joss fell in love with the idea of the "there's always a price"... but then didn't know what to do with the fact that he'd added this big eschatological safety-net to his storyworld. In the end, it just gets swept under the rug and conveniently forgotten.

It always strikes me as a glaring absence, for example, that Buffy never says to Willow, after Tara's death, "Look, Willow, if Tara has ended up where I was, she is happier now than she ever was or could have been while she was alive, and she knows that one day you will join her."

I completely agree with this. It always strikes me that the idea of a happy hereafter undermines the terror of death and the
whole point of Buffy's existence. Why should it matter if vampires or other monsters are killing people, if they're just helping them to the happy place in the sky. And why should Buffy be fearful and fight so hard against death when she knows she will be going back to where she was happy. (Granted there's some possibility that not every good person ends up in the heaven space, but the idea that where one ends up after death is random strikes me as even more unsatisfying). Atheism is much more dramatically satisfying, if less reassuring in real life.

Saje, I don't think the gods in the Buffyverse necessarily have power over eternity. They can be defeated in battle, and even killed. They are indeed more like the gods of Greek or other mythology. If you look at the conception of gods in polytheistic thought, they are much more just really, really powerful, but still limited, beings, than the All-powerful entity that underlies Judeo/Christian/Moslem thought. The folks who came up with monotheism set themselves up a seriously difficult philosophical problem that has never been satisfactorily solved, which is that if there is only one all-powerful God, if everything that exists comes from God, and God is good, from where comes evil? Either God is not all-good, or God is not all-powerful. Not an issue if you conceive of your gods as having limitations.
Simon, your answer is "no", but if the person before Echo chose willingly to enter the Dollhouse on her perception that it would be "heaven", then why do we (the audience) immediately think the opposite? Can one achieve a negative view of their own personal heaven? And is it that it's not Echo's "heaven" (vs. her real world self)? Where do you go when heaven isn't enough?
And why should Buffy be fearful and fight so hard against death when she knows she will be going back to where she was happy.

While I am also not a huge fan of the implications of "Heaven" for the buffyverse, I never got the sense in seasons 6 or 7 that Buffy was afraid of death, exactly. But she always took her duty to others and to the world very seriously, and she was afraid of failing.
in season 2 or 3 we will see Echo go on the run.

She'll kill a man in Reno, and this discussion will happen all over again.

Just wanted to explain:

I think I am confused. When you say "bring us back" you then refer to Xander- who is not "us."

Sorry, I should have explained that I meant - as might have been evident in me saying I don't cry until I see other upset characters - is that I live through the characters. So however long it takes them to recover is however long it takes me to. When I say there is a false note, it's because I've lost the character and feel like they are acting weird - I cannot recover from Anya's death that fast, so it hurts me (and drops me out of the story) that Xander can.

Tara is a debatable case and I'm not the person to debate it because by season 6 I had lost my handle on Willow's character anyway (and never got it back) so couldn't really say whether I felt she reacted correctly or not. But Willow certainly goes through a lot between Tara's death and Kennedy's arrival (unlike Xander who just goes for a bus ride...)

Edited for this thread moving too fast for me.

[ edited by skittledog on 2009-01-06 21:59 ]

[ edited by skittledog on 2009-01-06 22:00 ]
I don't think the gods in the Buffyverse necessarily have power over eternity.

Well maybe not barboo, we don't really know what they have control over (they can turn back time for instance) but at the same time, since there's a pantheon we also don't know which gods we've seen in action - Glory for instance could be the sort of god all the other gods picked on in god-kindergarten ;). And yeah, that "problem of evil" is a real doozy ;).

That's why I think in season 2 or 3 we will see Echo go on the run.

There could be an all over body tattoo. Just sayin'.

... while the reader cheers her on?

Ah but that breaks the "root for them" condition. Likeable bastards/bitches that triumph are (relatively) commonplace.

It was, but that aspect of the thread got killed off.

Maybe it's a sign.


OK, who started to love that aspect of the thread ? Cos look what you've done !

Where do you go when heaven isn't enough?

The pub ?

(and no probs Tonya J ;)
Do we really want happy endings for the characters?

I'm not talking about at the end of a show. I'm talking about in the middle. ...Without the tension, and the angst, and the uncertainty, do we even have a story?

I think that's why there comes a time when it's right for a story come to an end. It's true without the pain and terror there's no story, certainly not a Buffyverse story, which also means that there has to be more of that drama and angst going on continually than would be in a real life. And sometimes you just want to say, give these characters a well-earned rest. And I'm not talking about fairy tale happy endings, but just sort of ordinary reasonably happy, happy endings. Having someone you come home to at the end of the day that you care about and enjoy being with, even if sometimes you're going to fight over who's responsible for cleaning out the cat's litter box. Having friends in your life, knowing that chances are good that you'll be alive for the foreseeable future, even if it's not guaranteed.

So, yeah, there's another tension that can never be fully resolved - the tension between wanting a story to go on and wanting the characters to have a break from the drama - and call that a "happy ending."
Then hell would be an empty glass?
Maybe it's a sign.

Does that mean an M. Night Shyamalan discussion is about to ensue?
There could be an all over body tattoo. Just sayin'.

Hmm. Actually, would something like that be possible? They do mind wipes, but do they search them physically to make sure nothing stays behind? I guess between not having their own clothes and open showers, hiding anything would be pretty difficult.
Not if she did it in invisible ink.

Then hell would be an empty glass?

To me the glass is 100% unfull.

the tension between wanting a story to go on and wanting the characters to have a break from the drama

I dunno, I like endings too so that's not a huge tension for me (it's just premature endings that are a problem, especially when they're just stops rather than ends).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-01-06 22:15 ]
Glory for instance could be the sort of god all the other gods picked on in god-kindergarten ;)

So now you're trying to pull the unhappy childgodhood excuse for her anti-social behavior? You know where that kind of woolly-headed, liberal thinking gets you, pal?
Wasn't this a Dollhouse thread?

It got imprinted with the character of a Buffy thread.

Re: Dollhouse-as-Heaven:

In my memory, every second episode of the original Star Trek series is about this: the old "lotus-eaters" problem. Is an unexamined (and unexaminable) bliss "real" happiness. Can we only be happy if we have the self-consciousness that entails the risk of suffering etc. etc. etc.

It's not that it's a bad question (I like some of those Star Trek episodes), but it's hard to imagine wringing a lot more juice out of it. I hope that this doesn't become a major part of Dollhouse's story-engine. Or, perhaps what I really mean to say is that I hope (and confidently expect) that Joss will find some mind-blowing new insight into this age-old dilemma.
catherine wrote:

I don't think it's fair, exactly, to call Death Joss's "trick" (though it's kind of funny... it's a trick we all master eventually, I guess).


That made me think so strongly of Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" ("The art of losing isn't hard to master")--one of the single greatest lyric poems in the English language, and one that seems so utterly a propos to the Whedonverse.
Snomster, really enjoying your contributions to the thread.
Indeed, snomster wins the internet ;).

Surely if you're a master of something you can't be a complete loser ? This is why the art of not quite mastering losing takes a rare lack of talent.

You know where that kind of woolly-headed, liberal thinking gets you, pal?

A job with social services ? Or eaten. [/semantics].

It got imprinted with the character of a Buffy thread.

Heh, nice one ;).
Barboo wrote:

The folks who came up with monotheism set themselves up a seriously difficult philosophical problem that has never been satisfactorily solved, which is that if there is only one all-powerful God, if everything that exists comes from God, and God is good, from where comes evil? Either God is not all-good, or God is not all-powerful. Not an issue if you conceive of your gods as having limitations.


Nicely put. It's interesting to think about in narratological terms. As I said, I think that providing narrative coherence to a world that notably lacks it is one of the major drives that leads to the creation of religious myth. It is, then, a fascinating paradox that monotheistic religion--which provides in some ways the most thorough and cohesive narrative ("there is one big storyteller in the sky, and he'll make sure that all the good guys get rewarded and all the bad guys get punished") also renders the story transparently artificial (before doling out the punishments/rewards, the big storyteller in the sky also dressed up some of the dolls as baddies and some of them as goodies--making the whole thing an empty show).

To bring this down from theology to Jossology--I think that one of the really interesting things about all the Jossverse shows is the way in which they are in part meditations upon the nature of storytelling: the "dolls" of the dollhouse are perhaps the most blatant example of this ("what story do I tell with my dolls/characters this week"), but it's true of Buffy, Angel and Firefly as well: the ironic awareness of the limitations/conventions of genre narrative that haunts both universes.
Well, how do Willow and Tara resolve their tension, their relation. Unlike Xander and Anya, there is no option for them to get married (a whole 'nother issue for another day), so all they have, really, is each other and the relation they have, which cannot be legally recognized. I say this only to point out that marriage, say, for Xander and Anya changes little, really; they already have their relationship, and all marriage is is a public recognition of it, with legal rights. They could not get married as much as get married, and they still have each other. So the simple fact of marriage is not really the driver. It is the commitment. And if a couple commits to each other, why does Joss see the need to end it all the time? Why can't someone just be okay in their relation? So many people are. Yes, it is not dramatic, but it is realistic.

"The point (when there is one) is the impact it has on the surviving characters and their story arcs." Well, snonster, this seems obvious. The one who died ain't there no longer, so the only ones left are the only ones left. So to say! :-)

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-06 22:35 ]
Surely if you're a master of something you can't be a complete loser ?

Though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

(P.S. here's a link to the poem, if anyone doesn't know it.)
maybe it's just that all roads eventually lead to Buffy?


I wonder if that depresses Joss. Depresses me.

Simon, your answer is "no"


It is?
And your question is "It is ?". Think i'm getting the hang of this.

maybe it's just that all roads eventually lead to Buffy?

I wonder if that depresses Joss.


Or makes him irrationally afraid of visigoths ?
Well is Buffy always going to be an albatross around his neck? Six years later and we're still talking about characters that croaked it purely cause it made good drama and hopefully boosted the ratings. At the other end of the scale it's interesting to see that discussion about Firefly/Serenity seems to be on the downward spiral.
Hey Dana5140, I think you're attributing catherine's comment to me.

As for your point about Xander's and Anya's marriage--I couldn't agree more; that's why I find "Hell's Bells" so unsatisfying: in order for the story to work you have to believe that marriage changes everything (or, at least, that Xander believes this). You have to view marriage in the way that it was viewed in C19th fiction, really. Xander, after all, isn't deciding that he wants to end his relationship with Anya (although just to make the story work at all he has to be ridiculously inexplicit about that; I hate stories that rely simply on people not saying obvious things). Why not get married and resolve to take advantage of California's no-fault divorce if he suddenly finds himself inclined to take a swing an Anya?

But I'm not seeing how any of this doesn't really apply to Willow and Tara? That is, I get that they probably couldn't have actually married (although there are a lot of married gay Californians right now, and Prop 8 or no I don't see the Supreme Court ruling those marriages invalid), but then we're agreeing that marriage isn't really an "end" of any kind. So all you're really asking is "why couldn't Joss have left this couple together for longer"? Well...sure. And why does Angel have to turn into Angelus on the very night that he first sleeps with Buffy? And why (oh Joss you bastard WHY????) does Wesley have to lose Fred as SOON as he learns that she loves him?

Willow and Tara got a couple of years of happy (well, give or take a few brain-suckings) coupledom. They really beat the Whedonverse averages by quite a bit. We have no real reason to believe that they were destined to perfect bliss as a couple in the absence of death either: Willow betrayed Tara pretty comprehensively, after all; we don't have any reason to be sure that the reunion would have lasted.
Simon writes:

Well is Buffy always going to be an albatross around his neck?


Um...somehow I think the fact that he produced a dazzlingly brilliant work of art that inspires passionate argument and discussion years after it first appeared is poorly described as "an albatross around his neck."

Sure, there'll be a few people who make snap judgments about Dollhouse because "it's no Buffy (or Angel or Firefly or Fray or whatever), but the vast majority of people who loved Buffy will be tuning in as soon as Dollhouse airs. I think most people bringing out a new TV show would kill for such a built-in audience.
"In my memory, every second episode of the original Star Trek series is about this: the old "lotus-eaters" problem. Is an unexamined (and unexaminable) bliss "real" happiness. Can we only be happy if we have the self-consciousness that entails the risk of suffering etc. etc. etc."

-snot monster from wherever

"Rich people aren't happy. From the day they're born to the day they die, they think they're happy, but trust me...they ain't."
- Moe Syzlak

(Can we still quote TV characters, or is it all poets now?)
"The point (when there is one) is the impact it has on the surviving characters and their story arcs." Well, snonster, this seems obvious. The one who died ain't there no longer, so the only ones left are the only ones left. So to say! :-)

Yeah, it was me being obvious, not snot monster. I have a blackbelt in obviousness. Or is that obliviousness?

... while the reader cheers her on?

Ah but that breaks the "root for them" condition. Likeable bastards/bitches that triumph are (relatively) commonplace.

Oh right. How about the end of Chinatown? That was very annoying!

And I gots to think Joss or any artist would be thrilled to have something they created inspire such passion and discussion for years and years and years.
, but the vast majority of people who loved Buffy will be tuning in as soon as Dollhouse airs.


They didn't for Firefly. There was not a huge crossover when the show aired. It's still a bit early to tell for Dollhouse. There's the "I have issues with Joss so I'm not watching Dollhouse" comments from the usual suspects but asides from that, it's hard to tell if there's a lot of enthusiasm or just a "maybe I'll watch" attitude when it comes to the online Buffy fandom and Dollhouse.

poorly described as "an albatross around his neck."


It is if you want to focus people on new exciting projects. Buffy is one of the most wonderful shows ever created and it will resonate through the ages but I don't want Joss to be labelled just as "the Buffy guy". Would be people quite happily ditch Dollhouse for a new Buffy movie? There's the rub.

Anyhow I think this might be our longest Dollhouse thread in a while. So all good really.
At the other end of the scale it's interesting to see that discussion about Firefly/Serenity seems to be on the downward spiral.


Part of that is, one assumes, 144 eps vs. 14 :) (plus an ongoing comic that continues Buffy vs. two 3 issue minis for Serenifly). Its also true that there are people still getting into both of these shows to this day (as I and my borrowed discs are well aware).
Well Buffy had seven years of baggage to pick apart.

Way I remember it, albatross was a ship's good luck, 'til some idiot killed it. ;)
Part of that is, one assumes, 144 eps vs. 14 :)


Though it did seem at one stage that the Firefly fandom would overtake the Buffyverse fandom. It was huge. And the passion? My god, it was wonderful.
Buffy is one of the most wonderful shows ever created and it will resonate through the ages but I don't want Joss to be labelled just as "the Buffy guy". Would be people quite happily ditch Dollhouse for a new Buffy movie? There's the rub.

Anyhow I think this might be our longest Dollhouse thread in a while. So all good really.

Even if we're only occasionally talking about Dollhouse? ;)

I have no idea what the relative size of the fanbases for Buffy, Angel and Firefly are, or how much (I assume a lot) crossover there is. I personally know a number of Firefly fans who remain lukewarm about Buffy, but I suppose that doesn't count as a scientific survey, does it? I've loved all of the shows, and Buffy most of all, but I'd rather see something new from Joss than any fiddling around with the old stuff. Unless it was going to be a continuation of Firefly *sniffle*.
My god, it was wonderful.


And a might bit scary ;). I mean, I can say that, right? I saw the BDM like half a dozen times before it came out, including driving to Chicago, which makes me one of the scary people!
I suppose that doesn't count as a scientific survey, does it?


It'd be nice to have a proper survey done for the fandom. We get a slightly eschewed view here cause we focus on news and not on fanfic and manips (which does seem to make up the majority of fan interest).

I saw the BDM like half a dozen times before it came out, including driving to Chicago, which makes me one of the scary people!


Be interesting to see what people will do for Dollhouse.
They didn't for Firefly.

Anyone seen any good research on that? I mean, how many of the people who tuned in for the first eps of Firefly were Buffy fans?

To the best of my knowledge, the audience for Firefly was about the same size as the audience for Buffy (and larger than Buffy S1's audience)--it's just that Buffy was a big fish in a small pond while Firefly was a small fish in a big pond.
I wonder what percentage of the confused Ibsen fans who tune in for the pilot Dollhouse will be able to keep.
'Firefly' premiered to less than Buffy's peak and quickly fell to less than Buffy's average IIRC. I doubt anyone really knows how many Buffy fans followed Joss to 'Firefly' though, as Simon says it's hard to separate signal from noise when you're inside the goldfish bowl (if everyone on here very vocally and vehemently swore off Dollhouse that's still less than 8000 people, a drop in the ratings ocean).

Be interesting to see what people will do for Dollhouse.

I've already wiped my mind 3 times and i'm hoping to squeeze in another 4 before it premieres.

Of the people I introduced to Firefly only one is a Buffy/Angel fan and she was beforehand. I don't think the rest are anti Buffy/Angel, they're just not pro either (and i'd swap a narratively closed season of 'Dollhouse' for a Buffy movie any day of the week and twice on Sunday. A cancelled, half-told season is another matter).

Way I remember it, albatross was a ship's good luck, 'til some idiot killed it. ;)

Even then though, it wasn't customary to wear them around your neck - I mean lucky or not, that's just asking for back trouble in later life.

How about the end of Chinatown? That was very annoying!

Ah but that's noir catherine, unalloyed victories in noir are rare and almost no-one gets out unscathed, s'part and parcel of the genre. Not wholly positive endings are totally in keeping with some kinds of story. That said, people have provided enough counter examples (though I haven't seen/read them all to judge myself) that it seems like we at least enjoy the novelty of nastiness rewarded. Still doubt we'd like it to become the default though, I think a lot of people might claim that was bad storytelling even though baddies not getting their comeuppance isn't necessarily less realistic than goodies getting a happy ending.
I'd be curious, too, to know how much the audiences for both shows grew post-cancellation. I discovered both of them after they were off the air (Firefly through whedonesque), and most of the fans I know did too. Do you think that Joss's shows have more "growth" than most after they're over? And if so, do things like expected DVD sales factor in at all into a network thinking, "this is a long-term investment"?

I wonder what percentage of the confused Ibsen fans who tune in for the pilot Dollhouse will be able to keep.

hee hee!

Ah but that's noir catherine

Damn. I got nothin'.
I wonder what percentage of the confused Ibsen fans who tune in for the pilot Dollhouse will be able to keep.


And with that quote, I heartily welcome you aboard, snot monster. A phrase I never would've imagined using outside of Firefly fanfic that I will never write.

'Firefly' premiered to less than Buffy's peak and quickly fell to less than Buffy's average IIRC.


Really? That's surprising given that it was pre-empted randomly and aired several times at three a.m. Can't imagine why the ratings went down... ;). Sarcasm; you sir, are soaking in it. Now go make me some tea, we have songs to write!

"That's Noir, Catherine" seems like a catchy title.

I would like to wipe the minds of everyone critic who heard about the Save Dollhouse campaign started over at that site that I will not mention :).
catherine writes:

do things like expected DVD sales factor in at all into a network thinking


Networks seem incapable of thinking beyond the next week. It amazes me how shortsighted network execs are. Some of the greatest money-spinners of TV started out slow (Seinfeld's first season was a ratings disaster; absolutely no one was watching "Cheers" for a few years) and in every case they survived more by good luck than good planning. Even if all you care about is the bottom line, you should be willing to nurture some low-rating projects.
A phrase I never would've imagined using outside of Firefly fanfic that I will never write.

Inara/Queller-demon slash fic? "Quelling Me Softly: She was a whore with a heart of gold, he was a killer snot monster from outer space..."

No. Perhap snot.
hums "Quelling me softly with his snot..." abruptly stops humming. Hmm, no. I see you've thought way too much about this :). Welcome to the madhouse!
Snonster, I offer up In Treatment, the greatest show that no one has ever seen- but I also offer up that HBO will do an S2 for it despite its terrible ratings. Because it was so very, very good. Buffy seems to excite the masses like no other show- I just finished reading yet another, new, Buffy academic book, and there are more in planning and I already have 3 full bookshelves full now. How many Serenity books are there in comparison? (I know, if it had 144 eps it might have more- agreed, but it does not).

I guess I am asking why he could not have left them alone longer. They had a hard road. Tara was mindwiped for a while, then they had strife, then they were apart, and then they were gone. In 3 years, maybe half were happy eps. But as to Fred/Wesley, that just never moved me because I saw it coming; it just had to as soon as they admitted how they felt. Because it is what always happens.

I recommend the new Newsweek, which has an article on anti-heros in it, but which makes several points germane to this discussion, about morally gray programs, and how it might be nice to once again focus on folks who simply need to get through a day, rather than stop nuclear annihilation or kill serial killers who have escaped justice.
... do things like expected DVD sales factor in at all into a network thinking ...

Well, strictly it's the studio that makes money off the DVD sales though i've no real idea how much e.g. Fox TV will profit from 20th Century Fox TV making money hand over fist on DVDs since they've obviously got the same parent company (i.e. on paper they're separate companies, in reality they may be more like "separate" companies ;).

"That's Noir, Catherine" seems like a catchy title.

How's your Jack Nicholson impression ? Failing that, how's your Christian Slater ?
I will just say that I watched the first week of In Treatment and have yet to get back to it. Which is to say you can see its well done, but its hard for me to care about any of the characters so I may not realize that its the best thing since (un)sliced Buffy (pretty much the same way I feel about a number of the 'best show ever' shows that have been recommended to me - The Wire, Deadwood, etc.). There are at least a half dozen Serenifly academic books out there. Again, there is a time gap and the smaller amount of material to account for. I mean, I've heard that Tara's death alone can cause lots of discussion. Not that I would ever know. Are you getting that I'm joking or should I push it further over the top :)?

Hee, I typed that before I'd read your second paragraph, Dana - I knew I should've bet myself $5 Tara would be in the second one. I knew it! If you were unmoved by Fred/Wes you do not actually have a heart, sir. Please turn it in at your local hospital so that some poor transplant patient can warm it up.

ETA:

How's your Jack Nicholson impression ? Failing that, how's your Christian Slater ?


Both are passable, but where I really shine is my impression of Christian Slater doing a Jack Nicholson impression.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2009-01-07 00:17 ]
Transplant scheduled, ZG. My lack of heart has been noted by my wife, who loves Wesley.

I wish it were possible to get you to go back and reconsider In Treatment. It is an investment in time, and the character of Sophie is so wonderful, and so poignant, as to hurt the heart I do not have. In all the positive comments, the awards for Diane Wiest and Blair Underwood, and all, she was killer. Mia Wasikowska. I cannot tell you how much that show captured me, enough to get me to watch, every day of the working week, for 9 straight weeks. And I hurt so much for Sophie, like I did for Tara. But, and I know this is really OT, I thought the writing was on par with Joss- that little clues in Sophie's first episode, so little you never notice it, pays off so big in a later episode, how nothing is ever as it seems- the seeming anorexia and abuse and all- it subverts everything and yet is so phenomenally moving in the end. Just like Joss is, most of the time. :-) But the idiots at HBO were to release it on DVD this last October but set the release back a year. Since I do not believe in illegal downloads, I won't bittorrent it, but lord, I wish I had recorded it when it was on, because I really, really miss it. Like I do Buffy.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-01-07 00:28 ]
I don't see why my ... all roads lead to Buffy is taken as a negative. I don't see any reason the show can't be thought of as a touchstone to refer to. Yes, people go off on tangents; it's probably inevitable. But I have to believe what Joss wrote as part of his intro to The Chosen collection (anyone have the exact words?) means it will always be a part of him, and hardly an albatross. It was something like "you hold in your hands a living ..." hmmm, I'm screwing it up, but basically that the collection, the seven seasons were now a living, vital force. And I think that's important.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-01-07 00:41 ]
:) Nice. I didn't mean to make it sound like I wouldn't revisit any of those (I have the whole first season of In Treatment sitting there waiting, for example). Just a little riff on what grabs right away and what doesn't and probably sketched too vaguely. I haven't had as much time to really dive into the discussions as I normally do, so there is a lot of tangent and rarely the full rundown. Rest assured, however, that I will likely get back to In Treatment more quickly than the others mentioned. It piqued my interest more.


As for all roads to Buffy being seen as negative, its probably just that to so many unenlightened folk its that "90210 with Vampires" or something similarly horrific (no Peach Pit on Buffy for one - yes, I am joking) so there are people who will avoid (sacrilege!) a new Joss show because its "the Buffy guy" and while I'd like to say "screw 'em, we don't need 'em!" its just not the case. Plus if we write them off they may never become enlightened and its our vow as Buffysattvas to enlighten them ;).
Simon, is it possible that we lean towards Buffy because it's been on the longest? And, THEREFORE, we can attempt to grasp at what inspires Joss to write, his character development styles, etc... in a hopes to prepare for Dollhouse? Or would you rather the thread take the turn where everyone panics not picnics about the fate of a show that they haven't seen so can base no real opinion on? I, for one, will be tuning in. I keep checking the date to see how much longer I have to wait.

Color me extremely excited.

Re: fans. I was a post-aired/ended person for all three shows. And I've been hard at work converting others. But, because I was post, I don't really identify within a certain camp. I got to enjoy all of Joss at one moment, and continued to do so with Dr. Horrible. When I refer to my "obsession" (as my therapist says), I refer to Joss the man because he embodies all of my works. (I don't stalk him or anything, but his head holds all that entertain me.)

Also, I don't know if you know, but Comic-Con was HUGE last year. GINORMOUS, in fact. And Sir Whedon played a major part in that. As well as Dr. Horrible's release date in time for CC (VERY smooth move, BTW). He picked up a lot more fans there, spread the word, and the fandom grew (check out Amazon).

It would be very hard to tell who's more of what. The trend seems to roll them into one man, Joss himself. At least, that's how they booked Ballroom 20 last year. ;)
Dana5140
I recommend the new Newsweek, which has an article on anti-heros in it, but which makes several points germane to this discussion, about morally gray programs, and how it might be nice to once again focus on folks who simply need to get through a day

Personally, I wasn't much interested in those kinds of programs when they were the in thing the first time around. Pass on "The Waltons", go miles out of my way to avoid "Little House", and spork my eyes out rather than watch "Brady Bunch"...
I took Firefly to be all about simply needing to get through a day much of the time. It's just that their more interesting days were really criminal. But that is a life of small-scale crime, in a nutshell: surviving by crook when for some reason the other options don't work out.
Yup, and those more interesting days (and what it took for them to get through a day most of the time) was what made the show interesting. Watching the day-to-day life on board your basic everyday legit tramp freighter? Not so much.
RH- well, they were really referring to current shows like Brothers and Sisters. Not older, more pablum-like shows like The Waltons. And this was as opposed to 24 or Dexter (though I have to admit to liking Dexter, though I abhor 24 vehemently).

I don't think Joss has any problem being identified with Buffy- for one, it will give him a built-in audience who will hang with him, and for two, it is a show with as much cultural cred as any in existence. Joss has an ouvre, if you will, like JJ Abrams and a few others.
I don't watch "Brothers and Sisters", either. You mention having enough death in Real Life that you don't need it in your fiction? Well, I have enough day-to-day life in my day-to-day life that I generally avoid that type of fiction like the plague (although, I don't watch "24", either. There's not a whole lot of TV that i do watch, actually; all the stuff that I OD'd on, I quit watching.)
This is Joss' message from The Chosen collection. I may have posted it here in years past, but it never hurts to see it again. I would love to see him have another project that he writes something like this about again (emphasis mine):

Well, here you have it. All of it. Seven years of painstaking work, of pain and creation, of wit, confusion, strength, compromise and achievement... of me, dreaming of nightmares.

To say that Buffy has been the greatest, most difficult and rewarding experience of my career thus far would actually be to undersell its significance. It represents the best work (again, so far) of so many talented people I can't possibly name them all here. David Greenwalt and Marti Noxon, who ran the show with me and are more responsible for its shape and terrible beauty than I ever intend to give them credit for, do spring to mind. But so many great writers, actors and crew labored beyond the beyond to make this show happen that it extended, as true art does, beyond my reach. This show ran me, not the other way around. It told me what to say, what to show, when to give comfort and when to draw blood. This show, seven years of it, is a living thing. Put it on your shelf, and go to bed. It'll whisper to you in your sleep.


[ edited by zeitgeist on 2009-01-07 05:25 ]
Networks seem incapable of thinking beyond the next week. It amazes me how shortsighted network execs are.


There was a fabulous rant on slashdot a year or two ago from somebody claiming to be a network insider, about how shows and movie projects lived and died not by ratings or revenue projections, but by politics, back-scratching, back-stabbing, personality conflicts, and who was sleeping with whom. It was followed by one or two others in the biz, who said how on-the-money it was.
Never saw Brothers and Sisters. But truth is, as I have aged, I have become quite the watcher: CSI (Las Vegas only), House, Sarah Connors' Chronicles, Criminal Minds, Eleventh Hour now, Dexter, In Treatment, Bones (on and off), Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, oy! Now, none of these rise to Buffy-like heights, though In Treatment is superb and I am in love with the departed Sarah Sidle on CSI- GSR breaths its last next week... But CSI went 9 years before it killed a main character, and still kept its drama and its arc betwen the lines of weekly procedurals. Which I think was smart- you can watch just for the weekly story, or for the longer character arcs, something that with Buffy (and more problematically with Angel) you cannot really do.
[S]hows and movie projects lived and died not by ratings or revenue projections, but by politics, back-scratching, back-stabbing, personality conflicts, and who was sleeping with whom.


I may or may not have been at a party recently where an actor who may or may not have been featured in a number of shows regularly discussed here echoed this statement, with particular reference to The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the desire of one network individual to keep it on the air for no better reason than to piss off the competing Bionic Woman network/creative team/someone's mother. Not being an insider, I couldn't possibly address the veracity of the statement, but it was pretty funny - and slightly disturbing.
If those are indeed the critical networking skills of the insiders, here's hoping Whedon et al. are schmoozing and/or maliciously conspiring against the right people. ;)
Frankly, I don't care too much about the twisted motives for keeping Sarah Connor Chronicles on the air, just so long as it stays on the air - don't concentrate on the finger, cos then you miss all the heavenly glory ;).

(and in fairness to network execs, has anyone here ever worked somewhere that "politics, back-scratching, back-stabbing, personality conflicts, and who was sleeping with whom" didn't matter at all ? Reckon we tend to think that because network execs throw around tens of millions of dollars they must be somehow immune to the vagaries of human nature but that's surely not the case. If you think about it in a certain way, it actually makes it easier to accept some of their apparently insane decisions ;).

(no Peach Pit on Buffy for one - yes, I am joking)

You mean, there was a Peach Pit on Buffy ? ;)
I do find it interesting that SCC's ratings went downhill after they were told to make it more stand-alone than the first season had been. And now that the ratings have poofed, they're being allowed to go back to serialized.
I had to leave yesterday in the thick of this fascinating discussion. I'm not sure how much longer this thread will keep going, but I'd like to address a couple of points, even though it means harking back a ways.

Dana1540--it seems to me that most of what you are doing is complaining about Buffy's genre. Of course a show like In Treatment has a lower body-count. It's not a fantasy genre show in which vampires and other demons are stalking the earth and being fought back by a vampire slayer and her friends. I have an unusually catholic approach to genre, myself (I can't think of any genre I simply can't enjoy other than reality TV), but I quite understand that some people simply can't get interested in SciFi or fantasy. I proselytize the Buffy word all the time, but I have close friends and family I just never bother to raise it with, because I know they simply couldn't get past the genre issues.

If you want a TV series that focuses more on "real life" problems, more power to you. I think Mad Men is another contender for "excellent contemporary TV drama" in which I fully expect the body-count to be very, very low. On the other hand, I think the deaths in the Buffyverse are crucially important to the show's purpose. To have had seven years of "life and death" drama in which no one died would have made the show false at its core: like those old TV westerns in which the Hero is perpetually involved in gunfights, but the worst injury he ever suffers is a punch to the jaw, and nobody ever dies but the bad-guy of the week.

You make a more serious point, I think, when you complain that Joss's punitive use of death had become mechanical, so that we were not moved by it because we saw it as motivated solely by a kind of abstract authorial program: "happiness must be punished by death." But, really, the evidence to support that argument is painfully thin. Sure, nobody could have expected Wesley and Fred to "live happily ever after." This is serial TV--until the show is canned, nobody gets the "happily ever after." We all knew that at some point something would go wrong. But if you really did predict that she would immediately die (let alone the awful manner of her death) then you made a lucky guess, no more. Tara didn't die "immediately" upon her and Willow becoming a couple. Neither Gunn nor Fred died immediately upon their becoming a couple, neither Anya nor Xander died immediately upon their becoming a couple--etc. etc. etc. Fred's death had only a couple of precedents in the Buffyverse; for all the deep fan affection for Tara, she was always a secondary character (only featured in the opening credits in the episode in which she died), as was Joyce. Neither was ever a major protagonist except in the odd one-off episode. The only other central characters who featured in every episode of the show that Joss had killed in either Buffy or Angel were Doyle and Cordelia--and neither of them died immediately upon gaining "true love." I hardly think the deaths of three "opening credits" characters in 8 years of TV counts as a "mechanical" approach to killing off the core cast (I'm ignoring the deaths at the very end of Angel because they seem to be especially licensed by the fact that the series is closing down--plus, they didn't "take").

Or, in other words: please do watch Dollhouse. Sure, he might kill someone you've fallen in love with. But isn't it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
I can't speak for Dana5140, just from my somewhat similar attitude; the circumstances under which Joss takes out characters are not consistent, but the fact of his doing so is established. And it doesn't necessarily mean the impact at the time is lessened; it's more that afterwards it's sort of "Oh, yeah, he's doing that to us/me again." A reaction like that, by its very nature, has some annoyance and even boredom in it. (I'm trying to do this objectively and leave out that the characters killed off are the ones I liked and for the most part the ones left are no longer favorites of mine. And it seems to be establsihed in "After the Fall" that Cordelia is still active and not "gone-gone" like some others.)

And it's e perfectly possible to have stable and e permanent couples in an on-going series; the stories aren't in the most fundamental analysis "about that."

As to no FirstTara, once you conceptually accept that Amber 's motives don't exist inside the Buffyverse, there are any number of different wanks that can be made.
As to no FirstTara, once you conceptually accept that Amber 's motives don't exist inside the Buffyverse, there are any number of different wanks that can be made.

Indeed. Ultimately, for my part, my main point was what I started with: Didn't doesn't inherently mean couldn't. It only means that if we choose to want it to mean that. Heh.
... it's more that afterwards it's sort of "Oh, yeah, he's doing that to us/me again."

The thing is (no offence to Joss) but you can say that about any number of types of event in his (or anyone else's) fiction - how many times has Buffy won for instance ? Is that kinda old now, should he break out of that pattern ?

I think the difference is, when you see it as manipulation (an unwilling one I mean, since all fiction is manipulative) and you only do that because you're hurt by it (or you think you're meant to be because you have been in the past). But if it truly is just another tool in his box, shouldn't you see it the same way you see Buffy coming out on top ?

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