We start with Buffy (her mind, in the bot), still tied up and being questioned by her body. She points out that Buffybody isn't kidnapped, and when the answer is a snooty paean to freedom, she reacts with all the disdain it deserves, considering the comparison of the Buffy Dream House to the smelly basement they're in now. The Buffybody goes on to bemoan the "gilded yuppie cage" and how stupid and cowardly the plan - which she assumes was Buffy's - was to put her there. She says she doesn't deserve to be a Slayer anymore, and we get a one-panel flashback to the dream in which the First Slayer says "You are not the Slayer."
"You were the Chosen One," says
She gestures at the Buffybody and calls it/her "the greatest concentration of Slayer power anywhere." She seized on it as a shot at the real power when Buffy vacated it. She was afraid to attack her directly, but studying the enemy revealed that her power wasn't mystical. This is clearly a reference to Severin, but Buffy, not knowing about their partnership, interrupts Simone's rant (which is getting repetitive) to ask how she knew. Simone whacks her one, and Buffy turns her attention to the Buffybody, who's been watching quietly, to point out how she isn't like Simone.
Simone, laughing, dumps out a toolbox (basic stuff, screwdrivers and pliers) that she found upstairs. Her words "We have work to do" segue to the next scene; Andrew creeping around the island around sunrise, narrating as usual. He describes his current role as "former villain currently friendless, the witty comic-relief character", which aside from the witty part is actually pretty accurate. Spike says his name and startles him. He's sheltering from the sun, just inside a shack, and after they discuss not finding Buffy, he shows Andrew a crate of guns that he found. Then he lights a cigarette, because he's always subverting our expectations.
The ship comes to pick them up (we don't see it, but its bright lights blind Andrew, who clings to Spike, who looks massively irritated), and we move to Dowling, sitting on the curb while emergency vehicles, officers, bystanders, and Xander and Dawn mill about. The sergeant is talking to him, but there's no confusion about what happened - he knows that zompires are a big problem, and he says that the mayor is finally talking about forming a force to deal with them. He seems to think Dowling should be in charge, but all we see from him is the stress and trauma on his face. Meanwhile, Dawn tries to call Buffy and gets no answer.
We're back to the Buffys and Simone in the basement. Simone and the Buffybody are trying to "isolate the essence of Buffy Summers" with some kind of narrow metal tool that apparently goes into her ear. An alarm goes off, interrupting Simone before she starts. She orders the Buffybody to stay and not to listen to Buffy, but as soon as she's gone, Buffy knocks the metal arm with her chin and dismantles it, allowing her to squirm out of the ropes and release herself.
This brings us to the preview pages - Buffy and Buffybody fight while the alarm screams, while Spike, Andrew, and the bugs bust through walls and then get hit by bullets. Simone has found them. She kicks Spike in the face, talking about how she forgot about Buffy hanging with the fangy crowd or she would have brought wood. Indeed, Spike doesn't seem that injured. He and Andrew take shelter behind some hard bug shells, and he tells Andrew to find Buffy before he comes out and hits Simone with a bug (who is only too pleased to serve).
Andrew runs through dark corridors, finds Buffybody and Buffy fighting, and tries to "help" by swinging a stick at the Buffybody. He doesn't connect, but Buffy pins the Buffybody, scolds Andrew, and says they should just make her listen to reason.
Simone's kicking some bug ass; she seems to have killed a couple. Spike's furious, and all too willingly takes Simone's suggestion to go back to tradition: Slayer vs. vampire. She breaks off a splinter of wood and stabs him, missing the heart (by a lot) just as Andrew and the Buffys rush in. Buffy's conversion of her body seems to have worked, as she's now cussing Simone out for being a liar. Simone lets loose with a machine gun, but doesn't connect with any human bodies. Spike runs to check on her, and she tells him he's in worse shape than she is. Simone is gone. The Buffybody says she had a plan to tap Buffy's power, but there was a backup plan. Whatever it is, it seems to have taken her back to San Francisco.
Dowling enters the police station in his civvies. Everybody is staring at him, but the sergeant takes him aside and whispers that they only can't look him in an eye because they don't know if they could've done what he did. Dowling says he understands, but he's resigning. That's what he came to say - now that he's seen Buffy and her crew in action, he knows he needs to be doing the same thing. "Of course we know about the Slayer, Dowling," says the sergeant. "That's what I need to talk to you about." That's all we see of them this issue.
The bug ship is parked on a roof. Andrew and a bug wearing a cast are escorting the Buffybody into the building as she waves at Spike, who waves back. "I'm going to be here fighting alone," says Buffy to Spike. (I assume this is a response to him telling her he's leaving.) He clarifies that it'll be the Buffybody, not her, since Andrew's going to put her mind back where it belongs. He says that she can take some time to figure out what she needs, and that him being there doesn't help.
"Don't tell me what I need," she retorts, and he says, "Withdrawn," his hands up. He then reminds her of the moment that she said she was thinking about running off with him, and emphasizes that she needs to tell him what she needs. There's a pause while they contemplate each other, some space between them, and then he says, "Come with me now."
He talks about how the town doesn't have anything to offer her beyond serving coffee and having an awkward conversation with Dawn (Buffy cuts in here to say she keeps forgetting about Dawn). Spike doesn't want to go back to lurking around the edge of her life, waiting for her to be desperate for someone she can count on. Buffy brings up Simone, who could be an excuse for Spike to stay, and he agrees that that's what he'd usually do. They turn away from each other; we see Buffy's face, calm but remorseful. One more blank panel follows, in which she touches her belly and he turns to look at her.
He comes up behind her and touches her arm. "You know what. Forget it, Slayer. And I don't mean to sound snappish. I love you. You know this. But I can't get jerked around no more. I'm not even saying I blame you. I can never tell for sure where your heart's at, so I'm not gonna stand here under a romantic, albeit deadly, sunset lecturing you. I believe in you, Buffy. And I know you'll do right. That's how I have your back." Through the course of this monologue, we see Buffy's sad but tearless reaction to losing him, and finally she holds his arm before he gets in the ship and it zooms off, Buffy watching from the roof.
Inside Andrew's lab, Buffy and the Buffybody lie next to each other on cots; Andrew's on a computer nearby. Buffy is wondering if this is a mistake - the Buffybody had her act together, and maybe she should keep the life he gave her, while Buffy's mind stays in the robot and Andrew fixes it up. The Buffybody is the one who dissuades her, saying that although she was brainwashed by Simone, not everything she learned from her was a lie. The life in the Dream House was fake - it was comfortable, but she knew something was wrong, because she hadn't earned it. Simone awakened a drive within her which had really been there all along, because it belonged to Buffy. Now she wants to get her mind right again, which means getting all of Buffy back into it.
Buffy sighs, saying she'll never have a life like that. "Buffy," says the Buffybody, "You will have it someday. But it won't mean anything unless you get it for yourself. On your own terms."
The final page is at the coffee shop. Root compliments Buffy's new streaks in her hair (the ones Simone gave to her body), and then talks to her about disappearing when she was supposed to be working. He was able to cover her, though, and asks if he should get her back on the schedule. Before she answers, he remembers a note that Kennedy left for her. We don't see the note, but Buffy reads it and says, "Root...you said you don't have me on the schedule, right?" He agrees, and they shake hands as Buffy says, smiling, "Consider this my resignation."
And, back with edit....
Sorry for the delay - again, I guess it is. This pattern will probably continue until someone gets me an iPad so I can get my issues the night before and review them then.
Anyway. This issue wasn't what I expected, by which I mostly mean that I hadn't been enjoying this arc and now I kind of am. You know, now that it's ending. That's fine though, it still retroactively improves the past issues, to an extent.
There are three specific parts I want to talk about, though I'll try to scrape together some other thoughts as well: the Buffybody's "self", Buffy's aspirations, and Spike's departure.
Now, the Buffybody doesn't make any sense and never made any sense. Now that we've seen Simone brainwash her (how?) and Buffy regain her allegiance (how?), both within an extraordinarily short span of time, she makes a little less sense. But she's also more interesting. After the last issue we all had questions about who she was and what was going to happen to her after Buffy got back into her body, and now we know, and we don't.
It's not plausible that she independently developed enough of a personality to blend in (apparently seamlessly) with ordinary humans, but clearly, there was no 'independently' here. Andrew's programming must have allowed her to absorb mannerisms from what she saw around her; i.e., she was very impressionable, which helps with the whole brainwashing dilemma. According to her own testimony, she was also building on a spark she kept from Buffy - now, did she duplicate that, or was a piece missing from Buffy's mind the whole time that she was a robot? Either way, we see that the Buffybody didn't value herself as a unique entity; she knew she was part of something greater, and she wanted to be unified.
She also started talking more like Buffy near the end, which I thought was neat. Up until they were in the lab together, I really hadn't felt like there were ever two Buffys in this story, but right at the end, she finally got a chance to talk to herself. Also to fight herself - did anyone else find it fascinating that Buffy's brain, even in a robotic body missing one arm, can beat Buffy's body and without that much apparent difficulty? Sure, the robot's been competent as a Slayer since it appeared, but I wouldn't have placed it at a higher strength or ability than Buffy had in her own body. It looks like it's not muscle memory that aids Buffy as a fighter; it really has more to do with the Slayer dream heritage, like Buffy said when she fought Fray. Anyway, I was talking about Buffy talking to Buffy. It's good to know that some part of her, whatever it is that echoes in her body, believes in herself. She even understands something that Buffy doesn't, or didn't - that it's not about getting the life you want, it's about making the life you want.
With the two of them incorporated back into the original model (and the bot dismantled for good I PRAY LET IT BE SO), I'm curious to find out if the Buffybody's experiences stick with Buffy. I don't think her memories will, and I'm sure the lesson she learned will be there in one way or another, but the rest is cloudy.
That brings me to the one thing that all of Buffy's parts seem to agree about: the life in the suburbs is desirable. Simple enough, but really, what's so great about it? There's no one but Buffy in the picture, so it just boils down to wealth, a career, and not slaying. The big draw seems to be the potential for a family in the future, which ties into the pregnancy scare. I'm still angry about the way that was played - Buffy making her choice based on what she 'should' do rather than what she wanted to do was an insult to women everywhere - but I'm glad to see that her yearning for children and stability was sustained. The comics have been true to the theme of "I want a normal life", but while it was originally always followed by "but I can't have one because of my duties", gradually it's evolved into "but I'm not ready for that kind of duty".
As I've said before, I don't think that statement is outright true, since Buffy is (or should be) an extremely capable woman who more than deserves whatever love and happiness comes to her. But Buffy believes it, and it's good that she's begun to think in terms of becoming who she wants to be, and considering the concept of "normality" with respect for its implicit responsibilities. This issue caught me at a good time, when "get it for yourself on your own terms" is meaningful to my own life and maybe even a little uplifting. I wouldn't say it's actually helped me out since I read it yesterday, but at least this time I won't have to get angry if I try to summarize the message.
Also I just really want Buffy to have that life, particularly the children part. I accept that it will probably never happen, but there's reason to hope that the series ends with an opening for it. So tying into that last thing I want to talk about, there's one panel that particularly intrigued me, and it might not mean anything, but what if it does?
In the middle of her talk with Spike, Buffy touches her belly. We don't see her face, and there's no dialogue, but we do see Spike watching her. It's an unusual pose to take, especially (I guess) for a one-armed woman. The last time we saw her do it was when she was thinking about her upcoming abortion. This conversation has nothing to do with that, on the surface. The last thing that they were talking about was using the threat of Simone as an excuse for Spike to stay, and clearly that's not oh crap maybe it is.
Spike is nice and honest about his habitual search for excuses to stay near Buffy. She's no stranger to it either. This is the first time either of them have ever been direct about it - they know it's time to drop the charade. Buffy can't offer Spike a real reason to stay, so she gives him an excuse and leaves off the gift wrap. If he were to take it, he'd have to keep working alongside Buffy without getting any benefit from it except proximity to her, only he could no longer pretend that he was needed, or that there was any hope for them as a couple. Calling it an excuse means it can't be used an excuse: they both dismantled that option by invoking it, and they know that this is the end. What does Buffy think of then? Her baby. The one that never existed, but could have been a reason to run away with Spike. The second-to-last excuse for Spuffy to happen.
I haven't seen a lot of reaction to this scene yet, but there's already been some criticism of Buffy staying mostly silent as Spike explains why he's leaving, and I expect there will be a lot more. I think she's doing exactly the right thing. There's nothing she can say to him at this point to make it better - asking him to stay for her own sake would be selfish and wrong, unless she really loved him. Telling him she really loved him would keep him there and keep him happy, but it would be a lie (and she really couldn't fool him at this point anyway). Telling him she wants him to go, or even expressing a fond farewell, would also be a lie. She already gave him the answer he needed. The rest is up to him, and he knows it.
Spike's voice is indeed off during his monologue (and the rest of the issue too, I think), but he hits all the right points, and I think that's more important. Darkplace doesn't want to be the dark place, okay, we've gotten that before, but it bears a little repetition, since he never does get an answer for it. The crucial thing here is that unrequited love always cuts off the potential for real love, mutual love, the kind that gives you a future. Nobody can just turn their feelings off, but when you're caught in a relationship that's all give and no take, the best thing you can do, for everyone, is just get away from it. Spike's life doesn't necessarily have a lot of potential, which I feel is largely ignored when it comes to his character - like Angel, he's a vampire, meaning he can't be part of human society for reasons way beyond Buffy's problems, but unlike Angel, he has no personal goal to offset that dream of a happy ending and keep him occupied. If the Spike miniseries (A DARK PLACE) is any good, it will give us a sense of how he's dealing with his little inner paradox, courtesy of soul-searching in space. He can have a highly meaningful purpose in life, but he's going to have to choose it himself, and it can't be Buffy.
At the end, Spike delivers a great line, repairing something that's always been questionable about his feelings toward Buffy. We know now that he's trusting her to take care of herself and do the right thing, with or without him. This much isn't about him and how he copes with his feels; it's about her, and why she doesn't need his help. He isn't abandoning her any more than Buffy's other loved ones who have exited her life. All Buffy really needs is Buffy, and she can work on that by herself.
This is an issue about dropping excuses. Even Dowling has to deal with reality on a level he hadn't expected: he knows now that he's capable of fighting greater evil than human criminals, and to go back to ordinary detective work would be a fake comfort. Even Andrew - no, wait. Andrew didn't learn anything.
Well, I never said it was perfect.