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April 10 2013

(SPOILER) Discuss Buffy Season 9 #20. It's the Xander issue.

It sounds like a good one too.
I liked this issue. But did it seem a bit short to anyone else?

A minor nitpick, that...all in all, some nice development and forward momentum for the story.

ETA I liked the use of the seductive idea that the time-loop plan would (putativeley) result in Xander not even knowing what he had done...betrayal is so much easier when you don't have to live with the guilt.

[ edited by Alex_Jamieson on 2013-04-10 17:23 ]
Really enjoyed the issue, although I still don't like Moline on Buffy.Loved his work on Fray, I just don't think his style fits this title.

I liked seeing what happened with Xander in the seed chamber, and I'm actually pretty happy that he kicked Angel 's ass. I was a little unsure as to what Buffy meant by losing Xander he killed Angel, it's not like he would be killing an innocent or a human. . Perhaps it was the fact that it was still Angel and that would damage their relationship regardless of what he had done? I kind of wish that he had staked him then and there, but then I wouldn't have the fantastic Angel and Faith to read.
Good issue. I also think it seemed shorter than usual.
This was a really good issue from a storytelling perspective. I was glad to have some more filler on the Season 8 items -- and it explains Angel's unwashed Face in 8.40. I could hear Xander saying those things for sure -- I'm just not sure of how I feel about the motives of our big bad yet. Guess I'll have to keep reading to find out :-)
@Jelly: Angel has a soul, therefore killing him would be considered a murder. It's the same reason that Buffy named when she wanted to stop Willow from killing Warren.
I like where this is heading. It is known that Simone wants to be a vampire, but the real kind. I still stand skeptical... Wiping S9 and the S8 issues 33 and up off the grid would definitely affect the dynamics of the entire saga post seed breakage.

This would erase the need for the lovable A&F series since Giles' death would not have occurred, therefore, Faith would never have tended a Twilight riddled Angel.

Taking all above into consideration. I would like to see some aspects of this plan work out, although my guess is it won't happen the way Severin expects it to.

[ edited by Mr.Savath_Bunny on 2013-04-10 18:37 ]
I really, really loved this issue! It felt like watching an episode of Buffy. One important thing that I noticed is that I prefer much more Karl Moline`s art than Georges Jeanty`s. Karl Moline draws everyone and everything more beautiful, more visually appealing, more real. Look at Willow, she looks so beautiful. Severin feels so much more real and leaves more impression. Jeanty`s art seems to me uninteresting, monotonous and stale. I wish Moline would draw more for Season 10! And let us have more Fray, too! :)
Yeah, i like the comics, but this felt more like the series itself, i think, cause the core is there, things happen to the core and between them. Its by issues like this that i remember it was the characters, they inner world and their relationships wich made me a fan the first time around.

But i still love the comics; they just feel usually diferent than the tv series. I think plot and metaphors take more time than pure drama, whereas in the tv series this was more equilibrated. To me at least.

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-04-10 18:55 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-04-10 18:56 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2013-04-10 18:56 ]
I have my copy of Buffy S9 # 20."The Watcher."

Very strong issue.Probably the strongest all season.Finally getting into Xander's head space now makes sense.I have a lot of problems with season 9,the Buffy side but in retrospect,Xander's storyline works for me now with this issue.You can sort of see the build up all season.What's happened to Dawn is the powder keg that sets it off.

I thought the flashback was perfection.If anybody was going to lose it with Angel in the aftermath of S8 # 39,it would be Xander.And Buffy stopping him plays perfect along with it.

I also thought the thing with using Andrew to relay message was the nice touch of humor this issue needed and when.Still not a fan of Andrew but thought he was used well here.

The Buffy and Willow reunion was excellent.Just loved it.

The plot with Severin and Simone and Xander going along with it.

First of all,I would be shocked if Severin and Simone aren't playing Xander in someway.But the idea of preventing Twilight.I can see why Xander would help them especially how they played on his emotions.But I also see the the Angel/Twilight parallels and how this is probably a bad move on Xander's part.

Severin and Simone I still think are weak big bads(although I do like Severin's new blue hair from draining Illyria) but if Xander does join them by helping them get the Vampr book,it atleast adds a little more emotional weight to their threat.

I just can't see the climax of the season being a repeat of the climax of Angel:After The Fall.I had problems with that ending then and would be disappointed if they repeat it here.

So I'm very happy overall with this issue.Buffy's side of season 9 has been mostly a disappointment but the recent issues keep improving IMO which I'm glad to see.
@Buffyfanatic: I appreciated your comments.

"I just can't see the climax of the season being a repeat of the climax of Angel: After The Fall.I had problems with that ending then and would be disappointed if they repeat it here."

The connection you made to Angel: After the Fall was exactly the same one I made with the current situation, and your thoughts mirrored mine as well -- namely, they can't repeat such an epic retcon, can they?

It is interesting thought, though, because it almost plays into the hands of all the Twilight and season 8 haters: What if the whole thing could just be wiped out in the blink of an eye? What if Severin gets his girlfriend back and simply lives happily ever after?

It would be particularly interesting if Angel and Faith succeeded in bringing Giles back to life, and, just before he is about to reveal something of great importance which he learned while being "dead," poof!, the whole thing never happens.

Where would the "switch" take place? They said something about before Twilight? When exactly? How far do they want to go back? If I were Xander, I think I'd want to know this information...

Im not convinced Xander actually is truly agreeing with them; wouldnt be surprised if its a bit of a red herring. Wouldnt be the first time. WeŽll see.
He could end up erasing his entire relationship with Dawn, if things don't go right.

Plus, I have the feeling that it isn't just a red herring. I think Xander will try to go through with it. He is one of the only Scoobies who hasn't "gone dark," etc., as yet, and I think it would be interesting if he became a kinda Judas figure here...

[ edited by DocBenway on 2013-04-10 22:07 ]
A very fine issue indeed.
...Wait, I thought those of us who are critical were just `never happy`? ;)
I really enjoyed this issue. One thing that really excites me about the final issues of 'Buffy: S9' is the fact that I have no idea where the writers will take these characters. It seems like things could go one of several ways, but the story isn't really leaning one way or the other, and the feeling that the wrap up isn't obvious right now is notable in my opinion.

My review is up over at Fanboy Comics if any one is interested in taking a look.
Am I too late to make a ruining Xander's character joke?

I actually really liked this issue. To me it felt almost like The Zeppo in that it was about Xander's frustration and what he does because of that. I totally didn't see the end coming and am interested in seeing where they're going to take it in the rest of the season.
It's quite possible Xander has decided to play them. I consider this very likely. Yes, he's angry with Buffy, but over the years I've come to realize he's not just the guy "who watches." He's the guy who SEES. He gets people. He gets the bigger picture. The forest doesn't escape him for the trees.

Why do I still have faith in him? Xander had a clenched fist when last talking with Buffy. If he had actually tried to hit her, I might be swayed by the "Xander has turned" idea. The fact that he didn't, even though he really wanted to, shows his mind is not completely clouded. He can still see.

Also, Xander doesn't always run on emotion. He likes to vent, he needs to vent, but he's also got some sense to him, and that sense usually wins out in the end, even when the lives of people he loves is on the line.

Deep down I think Xander still loves Buffy. He's more furious at his own perceived worthlessness right now. This turn of events gives him an opportunity to do something he hasn't been able to do in a long time, which is make a difference.

I think Xander is akin to Samwise Gamgee in a lot of ways.

[ edited by quantumac on 2013-04-11 01:46 ]
I'm glad they are being very conscientious about going into this without making Xander look like an idiot or just an honorless man. He is making this choice without knowing that Willow is back in the game, and he may bring his end to completion without ever finding out. I don't think it would be in character for him to know Willow is going to try to save Dawn and still helping them instead. But acting because he thinks its the only chance? Or because Willow has tried and failed? Yeah, that's who Xander is.

As I said it on another forum, I would find it more in character for Xander to kill/injure Anaheed and Tumble and even Billy if it's what it took to get that book to save Dawn (much like a particular episode of "Lost" the idea reminds me of), than I would find it for him to just bet against Willow being able to save the day. Not sure if anyone else understands where I'm coming from with that, but it's who I think Xander is.
I don't know, I feel like all I've seen from Xander this entire season (which as we know is years in real life) is him yelling, punching, and throwing things. This is not interesting to me. This is not good writing. It's lazy writing to have a character perpetually show one emotion. We haven't seen enough moments from him for this to stick, nor have we seen enough moments with his relationship with Dawn to be invested. This isn't the character I know and love and I'm a little surprised people have been so happy with his arc this year. How is any of this entertaining to watch? It's actually irritating to me to have him just yell page after page at anyone in sight (remember going off on Billy randomly?) Why do I want a Xander with a clenched fist talking to Buffy? There hasn't been enough moment of them together, or Xander in general, for this to work for me.
I agree with everything you said mark214.

This issue wasn't bad, but it felt like it should have been issue 3 or 4, setting up the entire season, instead of one issue before the last arc. Not enough groundwork has gone into this for it to feel genuine. It kinda reads like the Twilight reveal in that regard.
while Xander's violent outburts towards Buffy and Dawn are completely alien to me and something I just can't relate to, his inner monologue in this issue about the growing, mounting pain and anger of helplessness as those around him suffer beyond his reach hit me like a tonne of bricks in the chest. I thought that was exceptional writing, as was the flashback scene interaction with Buffy and Xander. Maybe it's just down to my experiences/attitudes in real life but I thought both those things were spot-on.

I'm loving the core chemistry and excited to see where it leads. Buffy I think is at it's best when it's dishing out the heavy emotional punches but especially so with core characters.
I have a "I wish somebody dropped an anvil on Xander's head" moment in almost every season, save for #4 and #8, and it looks like I'm heading that way for Season 9 too. This time, however, I'm prepared to cut him a LOT of slack. Still, I'm hoping for a twist because trusting Severin *and* Simone seems so very stupid, no matter how desperate he is. It feels very tempting from a narrator/reader's perspective, though: Xander helps change the past and makes things worse just when Willow is about to save the day. It could be deliciously painful. *evilgrin*

Anyway, I really enjoyed this issue and eventually look forward to yell "ANVIL NOW, PLEASE!!!" once again :D
I think Xander is akin to Samwise Gamgee in a lot of ways

That's not my impression so much. If the writers had ever bothered to give him Willow/Buffy ish type powers even if they were to a far lesser degree I might get that. But Gamgee for the better part of three books comes across as someone supporting Frodo who is perfectly capable of the same task.

Xander begins to strain credibility that a person just signs up for these tribulations but really has no ability to fight, isn't providing strategy, is less effective at research than two of the other characters, and is just there because they're friends. Granted, they've established him as a Watcher now, but I don't think in the realm of Scoobies they've established him as better than the other two at anything you could work the plot around. The ACTUAL Zeppo eventually stopped performing. That was always my problem with the character. I knew why the writers kept him at the status they did and how they could make us ok with just giving him some drama with Anya and save him for the funny lines and heartfelt moments. Generally the writers have done a good job of defining all the roles in a series that could be actively used in the plot. That happened in Firefly. It was true in Angel. Buffy always had this weird tendency to keep Xander specifically without any real effect on the plot. It's what makes S6 ending gratifying on some level, but it was a trick that required one of the other scoobies to make possible.

On some level, watching him have some level of self-direction in the plot is refreshing. Something needs to validate why he's part of the original three when he is so obviously overshadowed by the other two. The audience has to be given continued reason to care as much for him as they would someone more powerful like Spike for example.
Can I just list the reasons for why this issue is so great?

1) It deals with character relationships, a character-study and moves the plot forward. Three important elements to make any story compelling and interesting.

2) Continuity! Buffy not wanting to lose Xander echoes Xander not wanting to lose Buffy in Graduation Part One, not to mention Xander's list of the people he died while he just watched. And then there's a big chunk of S8 issues to deal with.

3) Having someone else's POV for a change.

4) Willow's return.

5) Xander/Simone! I've always wanted to see Xander interacting with the former slayers and seeing Xander and Simone talking to each other like two people who knew each other and trained together was something I was looking forward to and I've asked Scott Allie about before. Those slayers shouldn't just resent Buffy, they should also resent Xander for leaving the fight and giving up on them.

I really loved how so much of this issue echos previous seasons. Xander listing the people he helplessly watched dying - I don't mind him not mentioning Jesse because this isn't about the people he cared about dying, it's about the people who Xander couldn't prevent their deaths. Even though it was an accident, Xander was the one who dusted Jesse, it was his doing.

This issue does remind me of Xander's guilt and self-disgust in S6 after Tara was killed:

ANYA: You know, none of this would be happening if it weren't for you.
XANDER: You think I don't know that? You think I'm the hero of this piece? (upset) I saw the gun. Before Warren raised it, I ... I saw it, and I couldn't move. He shot two of my friends ... before I could even.... You want me to know how useless I am? That it's my fault? Thanks. Already got the memo.

The first scene was really the highlight of the issue, and it's been the turning point for Xander, Buffy and Angel throughout S9. They always remember it and it did change them drastically. What happened there made Xander finally snap after years of bottling up pain, especially in S8 where he faithfully followed Buffy without a second pause and never really dealt with Renee's death properly.

It's very telling why Angel let Xander beat him to a bloody pulp and just lay there as Xander was about to stake him, his excuses - while true in a sense, he was possessed when he killed Giles - were just a weak defense he didn't believe anymore. IMO, it was that moment when he began to take responsibility over his actions. Next time we see him after this was his shell shocked state in #40 as it finally sinks how much he had screwed up.

As for Buffy, that moment of Giles' death was when she realized how far she'd ruined everything. The decisions she'd made caused Giles to die. It was then when she took a more passive role, starting from standing there passively as Xander beat Angel around, only to stop him when he was about to do something he'd regret. Her stopping Xander was about Xander, not defending Angel, if it were she'd have stopped Xander from beating him, not to mention her choice of words it's all about Xander and nothing about Angel.
That was a pretty good issue, especially loved the flashback. But I didn't get why Severin & Simone need Xander to get the book? Getting into Buffy's room shouldn't be that big of a deal for someone with Severin's power.
The Doylist reason is because they need a plot hook for setting up some sort of central conflict between Xander and Buffy. The Watsonian fanwank I can give you is that Severin and Simone may be assuming that -- were they to take the book by force, they'd be chancing that anybody who realized it was missing and might be familiar with it would know why, and anticipate their next move. If Xander takes it covertly/discreetly, as one might assume they expect he can, maybe they stay a step ahead.

As long as you're willing to accept at face value that Severin and Simone are willing to hedge against the chance that Buffy can foil their plan given the chance, it makes sense.
(Way back when in the writing room...)
"You know that moment when Xander puts his fist through the wall in The Body."
"Sure, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"We should make a whole season out of that."
"Absolutely, and not explain why Xander is punching walls until like issue #20 or something."
"But we can't have him just punching walls..."
"Well, we can have him yell and throw things too... and just generally be an ass."
"That'll work. So Xander's done, what are we doing with Willow?"
"I dunno... let's just have her disappear for most of the season. Go find magic or something."
"Also disappear."
"Literally disappear."
"Already disappeared."
"We'll find some miscellaneous situations for her to be angsty about. She's pregnant, but actually a robot - that sort of thing."

I really hope Team Smurf Punk pulls this off and 86's the whole season. Reset Buffy and let A&F continue in a separate timeline.
@BringItOn5x5: Officially my favorite depiction of Season 9.
Bear in mind if you have problems with the comics per se, we would invite you to talk about it elsewhere.
Interesting reveal with Xander, can't say it's really that hard to believe at this point. The scooby gang have been so disconnected. Hoping the events of this arc lead to some serious rebonding moments.

I enjoyed the issue and in particular, learning how Angel ended up all bloody and who saved him.
It was very much to Angel's benefit that Buffy was concerned about losing Xander as he was about losing her, when it comes to killing in anger.
On reread, Buffy sort of struck me with something. It was the line:

... But if I don't fix it -- because he doesn't have my back -- he's just as much to blame.

And maybe that's why this arc was perhaps a little overdue. That phrasing, which only gives Xander the choice to provide emotional support or else is slightly emotional blackmail, but more often than not it seems to speak to his actual role in these stories. And the thing is, would we expect a living breathing human being to be OK with that role long term? Are there people who are nothing more than walking emotional support?
I'm trying to connect the Seed Chamber scenes from beginning to end, let's start from #39 in S8:

Xander watches the fight between Buffy and Angel with horror in his eye and decides he needs to do something about it. He follows Buffy and Angel to the Seed Chamber and just watches them helplessly as they beat the crap out of each other until Giles arrives with the scythe.

Giles: What are you doing down here? - ( that pointed "you" defines the Xander/Giles relationship from Giles' POV. And it just makes me sad. Especially seeing how Giles' death was the last straw that broke Xander. )

Xander: I... I was...
Giles: Xander, there's nothing you can do. Their power fades in proximity to the seed but the seed fuels the scythe.
Xander: So throw it to her. - ( Still believes in Buffy after everything. )

Giles: Xander, it's Angel. At the very least she... she'll hesitate. She wants to stop him, not kill him.
Xander: No. Do not go in there.
Giles: I can end this.
Xander: Giles, I'm all for rash acts of nobility but you can't get between those two.
Giles: Xander, that's exactly where she needs me.

There's so much meat in the last conversation between Xander and Giles and I think it does play on Xander's resentment of Buffy and his insecurity and self-hate, but I can't find the words to express myself right now.

Angel kills Giles. Xander watches. Shocked. Horrified. He watches Buffy take action and breaks the seed. It's over. Except Buffy collapses on the floor, bloodied, broken, crying. Xander's first instinct is to comfort her, even though he's as shocked and upset about Giles' death.

Angel isn't possessed anymore, tries to talk to Xander, but Xander ignores him, heads straight to Buffy. She's his priority.

Next panel is from the Angel and Faith series, Xander is still comforting Buffy, but this time he's glaring at Angel.

But then Xander can't take it anymore, he can't offer Buffy the comfort she needs when he himself needs it as well. Giles is dead. Giles wasn't just important to Buffy. He was important to Xander, too. So important that Xander broke to tears himself, hearing Angel's confused voice asking, "Buffy, what happened? Did we... did we win?" (#40)

And then we reach The Watcher.

Xander: [thoughts] I went down there to make a difference. But I didn't. I've watched a lot of people die. Tara. Anya. Renee. Giles. But that's what I do. Watch. And watch. And watch. It builds up in you. Hides in you. Becomes a part of you. You don't even know it's there. Until it finally makes you do something besides watch.

This incident reminds me of Angelus in S2. Despite Xander's feelings for Angel, he kept all his negative thoughts to himself, choosing to be supportive to Buffy and believing in her. Until one of them died. Jenny Calender, and that's when Xander couldn't keep it in anymore. This is exactly what's happening here. Xander hated Buffy losing herself to Angel again but never said a thing about that, kept it inside, until one of them died. Giles, and that's when Xander couldn't keep it in anymore.

Someone has to die for Xander to snap.
What a fantastic issue! Xander should remember that he's done A LOT... and he's seen as many people die as Buffy and he chose the life he has unlike Buffy. He walked away from it but stayed attached by being with Dawn so... boo hoo. Anyway.

WTF was up with the artwork. I couldn't believe that a special guest artist would draw the worst issue of the both season combined, but he did. I didn't recognize Andrew at all and i watched Storytelling last night! So... lets hope this is his last issue with Buffy!

I mean... Willow didn't resemble Willow at ALL!!! Buffy looked anorexic and tall and was that supposed to be Giles in the seed chamber... hard to tell since it looks nothing LIKE Giles...

rant over. Great issue minus the art! Seriously
@azzers.... I think Buffy was trying to tell him that he's needed. He's always been needed. He was feeling useless... and now it's a time where he can be useful but instead... he's whining and complaining about how he just watches everything?

Where Buffy was in the wrong was not letting Xander slay Angel! After EVERYTHING.... he deserves to be slain... by Xander! I just think he's strayed too far from 'home'. Which is with Buffy and Willow saving the world!

Kudos to him for trying to slay a vampire who should've been slain a long time ago!!!
It's interesting richied because we don't necessarily disagree that Xander is always needed in an emotional "plug" sense. But where I part ways quite often with the writing, has been the necessary conceit of Xander as emotional third to Buffy and Willow. Who would want that life? As I said before, who wants their existence as the emotional pole to two others when those two consistently put you in a position to be hurt severely? It's fun to watch, but I don't know I'd want to live that way.

I'm sure the writers notice it (this arc seems to be a good indication of that), but I think they're boxed in. It could be fixed by making him more useful in some way. But you can't make Xander the strategy and tactics guy because they haven't established that, it kills Buffy (the character's) autonomy, and it unhinges the whole political "not needing Watchers" angle. He's out shined in research by Willow and that was before she even got her powers. And he has no strength to rival a Spike or an Angel. Now might be a good time to mention the following characters have had named one shots or multi issue solo arcs: Buffy, Willow, Spike, Angel, and Riley. That's right, in the Buffyverse Xander is less compelling as a solo character than Riley (obvious exaggeration.)

So despite being a very loved and central scoobie to us as an audience, in a world that continually gets more "powerful" characters in it he becomes less and less useful. What's the difference between Xander and Andrew? Near as I can tell, Andrew can fix robots. I love Xander for nostalgia reasons. He's not going to love himself for that reason. He needs his Wesley arc already so that as an audience he's not behind six characters, all of whom have more reason to be talking than he does. He can't exist exclusively for hugs an relationship advice.

As for Angel? Obviously more than a few would disagree vehemently with that position. Probably not worth getting into.

[ edited by azzers on 2013-04-12 14:51 ]
Thank you, Sosa Lola. I love that recap.
Great recap Sosa

Someone has to die for Xander to snap.

But the lay-ground was setup back in S8 by Dracula handing over the sword to Xander. Then he calmly killed for vengeance a defenseless creature and Buffy did/said nothing
There was absolutely no morally dubious component to executing Toru. It was the most awesome thing Dracula does in that whole arc, handing him that sword. I only wish Xander had had an occasion to do some of the softening up himself.

Renee had her role to play in getting him to this place, it's even name-checked in the issue, but that wasn't him snapping, that was just righteous.

Buffy saying the Theme Word, "useless", in the flashback was one of the few discordant notes. Just too on the nose. Trust the audience there. Ditto Severin referring to his dead girlfriend by the glib pop culture term "zompire" and not something more... traumatically non-specific, like "that thing". It's too... expository for him to say "zompire". Both moments are like Dark Helmet turning into the camera and saying "everyone getting this so far?"

Azzers, I've usually tried to embrace the argument against Xander took a level in Badass Normal, but honestly I think in the comics medium, it really isn't working too well. Especially since they hand that status out so casually now -- two new Badass Normals just in Season 9, of varying degrees of absurd contrivance. There has been an inflationary effect, clearly. As soon as they decided that the continuations were not, in fact, going to be "Strangers in Paradise", all the players need to have some sort of niche. In the Justice League -o- Buffyverse, if he isn't the Batman, in the Avengers -o- Buffyverse, if he isn't -- if not Cap than certainly Hawkeye or Widow... what is he? They either have to bring the scale of the story setting to him (doubtful as... not his name on the door) or bring him to the scale of the story.
Are there people who are nothing more than walking emotional support?
azzers | April 11, 20:46 CET

Yes, but they are generally women. Although made from magic, Dawn is a normal human with no special skills other than an ability to support her sister and friends. Outside the Whedonverses, it's typical for female characters to provide emotional support to the hero.

With the exception of Renee, Xander has chosen romantic partners to whom he could feel superior: He put down Cordelia and Anya all the time, and he hooked up with Dawn, the younger sister of his former crush. This season, he was angry and controlling with Dawn to the point that I wondered if he had crossed the line to abuse. We never saw Dawn act any way but emotionally supportive of him.
To be honest, I don't think that reading of the character is accurate to either the events of the series or to Joss' own comments about his origin and purpose.

He's had five romances, as it were, over the course of the series. One of these was a one night stand that he most certainly was not the "chooser" of, let alone the dominant or aggressive partner. Another was "the fluke", which he no more or less chose than did his partner, and certainly didn't put down, dominate, feel or act superior to, etc.

That leaves Cordy, Anya, and Dawn. And on the point of "choosing" any of them so that he could "feel superior"... oh for three. He didn't particularly "choose" Cordy and Anya at all. He didn't get either of them off the a la carte menu. Anya demonstrably chose him, like he was Pikachu. He and Cordy fell into a relationship against both their better angels. As for them being people he could "feel superior" to... the queen of his high school? A woman a millennium old? His old crush on Buffy? His immediate infatuation with Faith? His whole fascination was with women of power, women to whom not only could he not feel superior, but to whom he was in most ways objectively inferior.

Here's what Joss said about Xander's place in the proceedings, conceptually -- "I had a two-fold intent, which was to create a role model in the idea of a girl who's a genuine leader and the role model in a man who is not only comfortable, but turned on by that." Does this sound like a character designed as one that will go choosing romances with people he can push around?

As for "choosing" Dawn; she might be the only one we can say he did "choose", in the sense that he didn't choose her as a convenient substitute for his crush on Buffy -- he chose her over Buffy. Even if one doesn't view the events of 8.28 that way (I do; I think the reason he bolts from his yak-side conversation with Buffy is because he realized where it was going and realized he knew the answer to Dawn's question), the events of 8.31 are definitive. Buffy put it out there, that there was an opportunity with her, and he took a pass, because he was in love with Dawn.

Who, incidentally, we might actually choose to take guidance from before deeming Xander a domestic abuser in Season 9 -- namely, that Dawn's reaction should be our guiding star. It's a story, it isn't trying to evade the audience. If the point was for Dawn to come across a battered girlfriend rationalizing for him, we'd have gotten a lot of Debbie (was it?) from "Beauty and the Beasts", private moments of trauma and apprehension.

Another curious not on choosing romances he can feel superior to, it's just peculiar to me you cite Renee as someone he couldn't -- Renee was the least appropriate of all his romantic options, probably, for exactly the reason that he was her superior in their chain of command.
I don't see a one-night stand as a "romance." Xander "chose" whether or not he wanted to have a relationship with Cordy, Anya or Dawn. No matter how impressive you find the first two, he belittled them all the time. (I didn't say that he pushed them around; those are your words.) His friends (Willow & Buffy) looked down upon Cordy as stupid and shallow. In that sense, he could look down on her. Anya was the classic fish out of water, and Xander corrected her all the time.

I didn't say Xander was a domestic abuser or Dawn was a battered girlfriend. Instead, I wondered if a line was being crossed. You say no because Dawn never indicated she was abused. But that's not a good indicator because we've learned little about their relationship this season. Also, it's common for women to put up with a lot from a man they love who has PTSD (if that is, indeed, what's wrong with Xander.)
Outside the Whedonverses, it's typical for female characters to provide emotional support to the hero.

Yup. And how beloved are they by both sexes? Those characters are generally savaged for being unrealistic portrayals these days or at the very least, not particularly compelling characters. I think they can be written well, but tying to them to the plot is tricky. I can point to threads from Angel discussions where people had problems with Fred for that reason. Joss killed Fred and created Illyria.

As for Joss, I totally buy the original Xander conception. This:
I had a two-fold intent, which was to create a role model in the idea of a girl who's a genuine leader and the role model in a man who is not only comfortable, but turned on by that."

is perfectly compatible with the original conception of the series and it was a genuine pleasure to watch. Buffy the hero and her non-powered friends. Willow, Xander, and Giles all brought something unique but human to the table. For the powerful ally, there was Angel. Eventually, Willow took over a lot of Giles research. Then she got super-powers. Then they added Spike and dropped Angel.

As the series progressed though, Xander could have always been given more plot central skills but he never really was. He could still be weaker than Buffy and Willow, but I think powerless/skillless was a writing mistake. It marginalized him as they added more powerful bit players. Why wouldn't you replace Xander with Spike in a scene? They're both funny but Spike can actually do something. I like the idea of this arc not because I want to see him bad, not because Buffy has it coming (she doesn't), not because he needs the plot to go through him, but because on some level as a viewer I stopped viewing Xander as anything but a cipher character a while ago. And if the writers want me to view Xander as someone that belongs at the table with Buffy and Willow, I need something better than "well he's always been there." Real people get over that. Sometimes the weak link is too weak. And in real life, most people aren't going to accept constant danger when they can't really help and at best can quip. S1-S3 it really makes sense. S4-S7 it starts to make less sense. S8 through S9, the seams are REALLY showing.

That's what I hope I get from this arc. Either he gains skills or demonstrates faculties that have grown enough to be "at the table" or he just goes away so we can concentrate on Spike, Illyria, or any of the other characters from the series that can take his place and be useful. It's like the deleted "human perspective" scenes from the Avengers. It's nice to think how a regular Joe/Jane would respond to this world. It just makes less sense when you need most of the real estate for the plot.

[ edited by azzers on 2013-04-17 02:26 ]
^ Well even though I don't agree that being powerless = useless to the story, I do agree with you on the whole "Xander needs an arc." Xander fans have been wanting and complaining about that for forever.

The sad thing is that it seemed like they were staring to go in that kind of direction at the beginning of season 8. He was becoming a Watcher, running a squad of Slayers, in charge of pretty much the whole operation, realizing where he was of best use when surrounded by all these superpowered people. But it's all been thrown out in S9 since they've decided to regress these characters so much and just rehash things done in past seasons.

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