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January 24 2011

NPR's Pop Culture blog discusses Buffy Season 8. NPR's comics guy looks over Buffy Season 8, especially in light of the challenge of pacing a comic book series that was formerly a television show. Redacted spoilers but avoid if you are very sensitive.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2011-01-24 18:51 ]

I found it to be a pretty fair assessment of Season 8, and after all, things did get a bit silly there for a while, before Giles' death sobered everyone up and issue #40 kept everything from devolving into farce.
I also agree pretty much with all the complaints about this series.

The later arcs were a mess imo and didn't feel like they made any sense let alone feel true to the verse and It's characters, which is surreal when you consider Joss was meant to be the driving force behind this.
I may very well be the only one who enjoyed season 8.

There were some issues in trying to create a "season" of comic book issues, and there was a lack of exposition in some instances, and some choices were made that many fans didn't like at the time, or still possibly don't like.

But I like where season 8 took us, and I like where season 9 seems to be headed.

It all made sense to me, and it felt like a natural continuation of the show -- more natural than Buffy actually dating some guy named The Immortal while partying it up in Rome, at any rate. (I'm so happy that Joss turned that into nothing more than a joke.)

Also, without season 8, we would've never gotten "The Chain," which I think is my single favorite individual comic book issue of all time.
Waterkeeper511, you're not the only one who enjoyed season 8. I thought it was magnificent. As for its faults... well, is anything ever really perfect? The issue here is that when people are happy, they are less inclined to share their opinions. On the other hand, everyone likes to complain (myself included) when something bothers us.

I am very much looking forward to season 9!
I enjoyed season 8 too, despite its faults.

The fact is that people disliked many seasons of the actual show when they were on the air, until eventually deciding that they liked the seasons later. (Except that there are still quite a few people who hate seasons 6 and 7, but there are much less of those people than there used to be.)

I think that in a few years fan opinion of S8 will be a lot more balanced. A little less focused on its faults and a little more focused on its good qualities (which there are many).
I don't know that there's been a major reassessment of the show, it's more that conversations move on from going over again and again why people dislike season X. Then again there are certain forums (eg tvwop) where you can still find the dislike thick on teh ground with no real evidence of a shift in feeling.
Sheaves and sheaves of Buffy spin-off titles have been produced over the years

Apart from the breezy tone, I think I pretty much agree with this assessment of season 8. I used to say 'I reserve judgement on all this until we're done', but now that we are done, I think judgement can be served on this season.

I feel things started out fine. We had some fun stories, the character's voices were spot on and it was simply great to be back in Buffy's world. Yes, things stretched out a bit and things got a bit silly here and there; in some cases I liked the silliness (I loved Giant!Dawn and Mecha!Dawn) and in some cases, not so much (could have done without the huge Godesses or the insect-spaceship-creatures and Spaceship Spike brought back, because they didn't feel very 'Buffyverse' to me).

But apart from some of these minor complaints about scope and size, I was pretty happy and we got some good to great issues in return. I loved the Faith stuff, I loved The Chain and I loved the Buffy/Xander intermezzo before the Twilight arc kicked off. This was all good.

Then came the Twilight arc. Which I honestly liked at first. The Buffy becomes Superman issues were breezy fun and were fair enough for comic book Buffy. But then the silliness got out of hand and headed for a whole new level.

I really did not like how Angel turned out to be Twilight. In all honesty: it could have been a great idea, if we'd ever truly understood why he did it and what was going on. But we only got small hints as to his reasoning. This sucked, because his decission to do this - and Buffy facing Angel again, as a Big Bag, but this time not as Angelus, had the potential to be one heck of a great story. Heck, the fact that Angel kills Giles alone, should've been a massive dramatic highlight (which it isn't). The stories always resonate most when they're connected to Buffy's personal live. And this, right here, was. Unfortunately, we only got a lot of hand waving and not a whole lot of explanation. Angel's actions didn't make much sense. I'm sure season 9 will shed more light on these issues - which I welcome - but they won't make season 8 retroactively better. The reader needed to know what the heck was going one while reading, or at least have the reasonable expectation he'd get to learn the what and why soonish. We never got a satisfactory answer.

Yes, we had a why - Angel had to bring Buffy into her power, by forcing her through a 'low', just like he had gone through a 'low' and found his power - but apart from throwing us a few bones (in the Riley one-shot, for crying out loud :)) to hint as to why this character we all know intimately and who had starred on his own show, would do this, we never got anything approaching a convincing reason.

And as if that weren't bad enough, then Buffy's actions stopped making sense. We got the space frakking - which doesn't so much bother me in itself; heck I can imagine these two having repressed feelings and needing a good boink and doing that while having superpowers seems as good a way to vent those feelings as any. It's just that, at that point in time, it didn't make much sense for them. We're never told or shown why these characters behaved this way. We have some drug-metaphor (never Buffy's strong suit ;)) with the glowy Twilight-powers influencing them, but this never gets explicit and it made for us not knowing who we were dealing with from one moment to the next.

Buffy switched from boinking the Big Bad without even one comment on what he'd done, to leaving the Twilight created galaxy behind (where she seemed more like herself), to 'bestest, weirderst, bestest day of my life'-Buffy, to herself again - albeit a version of herself seemingly unaffected by her not being herself for a while there. It was a mess.

And then there was that Twilight story line, which involved a huge last-minute infodump of outright silly mythology - this might have been acceptable (if barely) if it had been drip fed to us throughout the season, but it came in all at once, was used as an 'explanation' for the confusing behavior of two of the main character of this universe and resulted in the extremely silly Miss Kitty Twilight character.

I do guess it sort of made sense in the end, but the myriad of sub-factions made for one heck of a confusing/divided loyalties endfight - some wanted to end our world and use the power of the seed to do so (including Twilight-infested Angel), some wanted to save it but protect the seed, others wanted to save it but destroy the seed, and yet others didn't care what happened to the seed, as long as the Twilight business ended. I certainly lost track while reading who belonged in which faction (I think some characters didn't know themselves) - and I never, not once, knew who I agreed with. And then there was seed-infected Willow, who apparently didn't much care for equaly seed-infected The Master (creating sub-sub-factions) and we still had Twilight-infected Angel running around.

Seems to me like the writers made the same kind of mistake George Lucas made in Episode I; the story arc and motivations of all these factions made for a less comprehensive - and ultimately - less involving story. I found myself not caring what the heck happened to Twilight or the seed, as long as someone ended this mess and we could get back to business as usual. Heck, it even made the impact of Giles - Giles - dying less; a character I've loved since season one.

So in the end, I think season 8 started out fine, but in the end it just became a mess. Thankfully #40 offers a return to the show I've known and loved for quite a while and with that and Joss' letter, I'm sure season 9 will not make the same mistakes again.

As for season 8, I don't hate it with the passion that some do. But for a while at the end there, it was pretty far removed from the best this property has had to offer.

ETR typos

[ edited by GVH on 2011-01-25 14:51 ]
Great review GVH and very fair I believe.

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