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January 12 2011

Word Balloon podcast speaks with Brad Meltzer about his work on Buffy Season 8. The relevant section starts around 50" of the interview, he talks about planning and writing his arc and it includes a quote that might strengthen season 8 detractors.

* he knew that Angel was the big bad from the beginning, knew how it started and how was about to end, didn't knew about the middle;
* it was his idea with the Universe with a bigger plan for slayers;
* didn't expect to do so much geek stuff with Andrew (wanted to do this stuff with Xander but he realized that Xander had matured during S8);
* he would like to work on S9 if the schedule permitted;
* he realized that he's the one who's been f@#$-up in the issue, not Buffy (Brad Meltzer's words not mine)
Great info with lots of interesting behind the scenes stuff.
Just to clarify that last summary point - Brad Meltzer jokingly says, in relation to having to write the sex scene, "Then I realised that I'm the one who's getting fucked here, not Buffy". Because Joss said to show the sex scene and Brad had the difficulty of trying to write it without being exploitive.

In regards to Brad being the one who came up with the universe stuff, frankly I'm glad to learn that it didn't come from Joss. It's an awful idea and it sounds like Brad doesn't know the origin story of the first slayer. Not that he should know every bit of the Buffy story, but I wish Joss had blocked it. As it wasn't part of the plans for S8, it was just unnecessary and bizarre.
How could "the universe" not be necessary to S8 when in the end it ended up being the big bad.
Twilight was the big bad, not our universe.

Ignoring what actually happened and going with Brad's interpretation that the universe was smart enough to create slayers, then it's clear that he's talking about our universe, not a universe that didn't exist yet.

[ edited by NotaViking on 2011-01-12 16:46 ]
Brad, listen to me. The ecosystem does not work that way. Evolution absolutely does not work that way. There is no reason whatsoever that the creation of vampires and Slayers would mean that the universe is smart and/or has a plan for them, because the ecosystem does not work that way.

Other than that, great interview. He sounds like lots of fun, and I like what he says about wanting to use Xander but then realizing that it would be a disservice to the character's S8 development.

@NumfarPTB, what quote do you refer to?
How do you know how the ecosystem works in a fictional universe with magic, demons, vampires, slayers, et cetera?
My guess is that Kairos means that in the series as it was presented to us during the time it was on TV, but I could be way off the mark here.
Wow, does this guy need a good class in evolutionary biology.

I'm kinda glad to read that so much of this was Meltzer's input. I still find it a bit sad that Joss didn't see fit to just reject this and ask for a good story but I guess he has moved on to other things.
The evolution references in the exposition of that arc are pretty deeply flawed, yeah. Unfortunately it's a very common misconception that evolution is working toward some kind of endpoint, and another is the idea that ecosystems strive to balance themselves. I don't find the idea that slayers and vampires arose purposefully to be problematic since a major point of the arc, and a recurring theme within the Buffyverse, is that a very magical universe has plans for such beings. It did break my heart to see all that mistakenly paralleled to ecology and evolution in the nature that we know though. I've never been so disappointed in Giles.
Great Interview - aside from all the Buffyverse part - I still don't like his vision of "The Universe" being the originator for Slayers and Vampire's - and this "Plan" theme. Are we to now understand that Whistler and "The Plan" are the truth and forces that are controlling everything? What about all the moral and ethical issues introduced in Season 8, does none of that matter, is it all irrelevant? Are people reduced to nothing more that Willow's "little things that crawl on the outside of the earth--" after all? The universal forces, as we understand them today, don't relate to humans at all. Human Beings are of no concern to universal forces.

This is such a huge change now -
It is deeply problematic, yes.

It is my understanding that Whistler and the PtBs had nothing to do with Twilight and were not themselves in any way pushing for the world destruction. Meltzer's take on the evolution is laughable - but I also got the vibe that his semi-conscious 'Universe' is an entity ala Pandora's collective ecosystem (Avatar) while Whedon's original PtB's are supernatural entities that came from outside (as per Angel's series) and simply watch over this world, rather than impersonate it. The Twilight Universe was also an outsider - but it never had anything to do with the PtB's or Whistler. Whistler though, is a local demon, so hopefully he stayed behind when the Seed was broken and will shed some light on the meaning of his message in S9.

[ edited by dorotea on 2011-01-12 23:06 ]
I got the impression that when Meltzer talked about the universe being responsible for creating Slayers, he was referring to how we have generations of "potentials" to continue the line. That was never actually explained as having anything to do with the Shadowmen and remained a mystery. I donít think we ever found out why certain girls were picked or how the power was passed through the generations.

Nevertheless, when all the mythology started that's where Meltzer lost me in his arc. I don't think he was great at exposition and it suffocated his last few issues of 'Twilight.' By the sounds of it Joss is going for a much simpler mythology next season. I hope he doesn't give his writers as much freedom, either. From memory he said he wouldn't and I think that'd be much better if you want to make S9 feel more cohesive and shorter, which seems to be the plan.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2011-01-12 23:34 ]
I've never been so disappointed in Giles.

That's the worst part, really. It made Giles look stupid to be delivering such exposition and he's anything but. And when I think about how the season ends for Giles, it makes me even more disappointed that his characterization was done so poorly in the penultimate arc.

[ edited by Emmie on 2011-01-12 23:45 ]
I found Meltzer's arc to be the weakest link in Season 8, and I think a lot of that is because Joss gave him free rein with the universe stuff instead of dialing it down to something reasonable. I found the decision to go explicit in the sex scenes to be problematic because it came across as bad porn instead of whatever he was going for, and I am glad he recognized it could have been exploitative, because it was.
I think Meltzer's ideas about the mythos didn't jive with the established 'verse and his exposition was a bit clunky and heavyhanded. I think he did all right with the humor and I remember enjoying his first issue, Twilight Part I. He seemed to manage the comedy and the lighter character moments well enough, plus his voices were pretty good, but when it came to grounding the drama later in the arc, he lost me. When I think back to Goddard's emotional finish for Wolves at the Gate Part IV or Whedon's Time of Your Life Part IV, there's really no comparison. High stakes, epic finish, and heartbreaking emotion--it all struck a chord and kept on strumming.

Abstracting the mythos was a poor idea--it didn't fit the 'verse and it didn't translate well in-story because there was nothing to ground the drama.
I am still trying to figure out how "the best of their kind" from Giles goes with the fundamental concept of Angel being a cursed Angelus. What makes that "the best of their kind?"
Well, Angel was the worst vampire on record... He's also the SPs and the PTBs golden boy. For better or worse (I think he'd often say worse) Angel has always been the "Alpha Vamp." The one who could end the apocalypse, or start it.
you are correct - the best can go several ways -
Well for all the hype Angel got, he never struck me as the worst evil that ever was. And i think he and Spike(nr2) were only the worst vamps from recent recorded history. I'm sure there were plenty of more evil vamps 1000 or 2000years back. Sorry but nailing a puppy to the wall or killing off a secondary character that is the love intrest of a main-character hardly makes you number 1. What he did to Dru and Holtz's family, that's legit. Even so for all the hype he was getting i expected him to rape and kill Joyce in front of Buffy.

Nmcil, i think Angel was only chosen because he was the perfect puppet and had a deep connection to Buffy that could be exploited. We know Buffy was chosen because of her past actions(being revived,creating the slayer-army). They exploited Angel to get her do to do what they wanted which was bringing forth Twilight.
I don't for a second buy that the world being destroyed/saved all depends on Angel, if so then we are already doomed. And as was shown in season8, even if that were to happen there would still be real heroes that would stop him. Buffy,Xander,Spike,Willow,ect.

About the topic at hand, i agree with some of the others. Meltzer's arc was for me the worst of s8. It had the lowest Buffy moment for me, her helping destroying the world by screwing Angel. And then ofcourse there's that whole wtf new mythology that made no sense what so ever. A massive retcon from what we had gotten from the shows.
The Brad Meltzer arc, and especially after listening to this interview, has made a definite separation for me. The Buffyverse is now the TV Era and Comic Book Era post Meltzer Arc.
Thanks, Sunfire, that's exactly what I meant. Joss's fictional universe can work however he wants it to, but if it has its own rules for evolution, we kinda need them laid out for us first. Or just use different words.

It was the illustration with the bat that really got to me. Yes, if one side feeds too much, the system collapses. That's why mass extinctions happen. That's why mass extinctions are part of evolution. The universe doesn't lift a finger to stop that business.

Also, the 'afterbirth' analogy? The mother of the new creature is now expendable, so the placenta attacks and devours her? Giles is on crack. Someone take the crack away from Giles. :(

Okay sorry I'll stop now. Everyone's got a pet Season 8 grudge, right?
Someone take the crack away from Giles.

Angel kinda did.
Aw. Okay, someone put the crack back into Giles.
but I also got the vibe that his semi-conscious 'Universe' is an entity ala Pandora's collective ecosystem (Avatar) dorotea | January 12, 23:01 CET

Big difference there. The Avatar universe wasn't evil (unleashing demons on an existing reality, trying to destroy it). I'll take Pandora, thank you.

You are comparing apples to oranges here. 'Our' local Universe is what I referred to as 'Pandora'-like. Twilight newborn Universe is a separate entity - hungry young one , lacking soul, wanting to steal the Seed, trying to speed the evolution. Overall the relationship between the Universes ( as in plural) seem to be pretty competitive. Pandoran Uni , by the way, was also doing its best while trying to survive and protecting itself from the outside invaders ( which makes the analogy between 'our' Universe and Pandora one even closer). What bugs me most in this entire storyline though, is that the process set in motion 'inside' our local Universe causes eventually the Twilight Universe to be born 'outside' and start hungrily attacking the 'old Queen'. Kind of suicidal strategy - exactly as if the intelligent ecosystem strives to achieve its own demise at the peak of its evolution. I pointed this to Scott Allie at some point and got some none-committal noises :) in reply.
I"m tempted to listen to this interview, but I'm afraid I'll end up smashing my laptop against the wall or defenestrating myself. The whole 'The Universe has a Plan' schtick was offensively literal-minded and cowardly - Joss usually handles such things more subtly (cf. the 'Earth is our HQ' Wolfram & Hart moment on AtS, or the lovely 'Amends'). I hated Meltzer's stupid pseudobiology stuff when I read it, and the series never returned to plot coherence (nor conceptual coherence, nor character coherence...) thereafter. Ugh.

Meltzer's jokey Comics History Is Neat issues weren't worth it, in the end. I hope Joss knows what the hell he's doing for S9. But the more the creators of S8 talk, the dumber the whole thing sounds. And that's not easy: 'the Universe has a Plan' is pretty dumb to start out with.

Somebody also should have pointed out to BM that a single planet (aka Earth) does not the Universe make. Sigh. And it is not carried on the backs of so many elephants standing on a giant turtle.
The universe doesn't lift a finger to stop that business.

See also, invasive species without natural predators. This kind of hand-waving is not entirely new territory for Buffy though, nor is misuse of nature as a metaphor. The scene in "Lessons" where Willow is talking about connection while she brings a tropical plant through the planet to die in the English climate always annoys me. She clearly has not learned anything from S6 there and it's all so hokey there's no redeeming it. But the larger mythology has never been a strength of the show, and neither has any of the science used to further the plot. The metaphors built on those have always been the real strength. When one occasionally misses the connection it's surprising. I do find the idea that Buffy's ongoing romantic interest in the more human vampires and theirs in her is part of a larger Slayer-vampire history to be pretty compelling. It adds more meaning and depth to a lot of things. The explanation as to why wasn't so satisfying though.
Yeah, I was really excited hoping that they were going to do more with the "yin-yang" idea and demonstrate how Slayers and vampires are complementary opposites. Buffy's tearful explanation to Xander that sucking the power out of Slayers makes her a vampire was truly compelling. And I'm still wondering if Angel's vampire source of power made Twilight affect him differently than Buffy's Slayer source did her.

Doesn't look like that will be going anywhere though.

My personal favorite Buffyverse science fail is the entirety of "The Pack". Nobody on the team actually knew quite what a hyena is, did they?

And it is not carried on the backs of so many elephants standing on a giant turtle.

Hey! I demand some respect for my religious beliefs!

I'm still waiting for the Great Fan Fiction, hell even the comic books, to make the Slayers & Vampires are natural "mates or reproductive partners" -

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