Vamp!Simone grabs Buffy by the throat while they argue about vampire vs. Slayers and call each other by their last names; Simone also takes a second to knock Xander out. Willow gets to where the magic is leading her, and then light explodes from her chest. Illyria exits the battle with Maloker to go after Severin, who's just screamin' along. Koh tells her if she tries to stop him on her own she'll die, but then Maloker grabs him as she's rappelling down and that's that. Simone keeps beating on Buffy and elucidating her master plan, which was essentially "be a vampire". Xander pops back up again, swings a rock at her, gets dropped down the cavern saying Dawn's name as he falls. Buffy tries to go rescue him but Simone grabs her.
Willow discovers she's given birth to a new Seed, but it's not radiating magic. A voice tells her she's saved the world but it will be a few millennia before there's magic to be had. Willow has an idea. Andrew and Spike can't seem to find Dawn in Andrew's apartment, though they believe she hasn't evaporated. Xander lands on Koh, knocking him out of Maloker's hand and giving himself cushioning for the rest of the fall, so they both survive. Simone grabs the Scythe from Buffy and tosses it into the abyss. Illyria finds Severin and tries to make him focus; Willow shows up with a smile and the Seedling in her hands. Buffy manages to loosen the sarcophagus that Simone is standing on so it breaks and they both go tumbling down. They land on a couple more tablets; Buffy's bloody, but she won't give up, and they both see the Scythe nearby. Simone jumps for it.
Willow explains to Illyria her plan to have Severin jump-start the Seed by pouring his power into it. She admits it will kill him, but Illyria talks him out of his fixation on bringing his girlfriend back by telling him about Wesley's sacrifice. Willow volunteers to stay until the job is done, but Illyria insists it should be her, since Willow needs to save Dawn (they both remark on how odd this is for a being like Illyria). Willow climbs up to where Xander and Koh are fighting Maloker and tells them they need to get out before the Well blows. Koh says he'll distract Maloker for them, but then Simone interrupts: she's got Buffy impaled through the shoulder on the Scythe, alive but seemingly unconscious. Illyria's telling Severin to hold it in until everyone escapes; the rest of them (Maloker, Willow, Xander, Koh, Simone with Buffy, and what's left of the Council) are all in one place, but Simone's not about to let anyone get out.
The way I felt about this issue was just about the opposite of how I felt about the last Angel and Faith which I reviewed the other day: the tension was unfolding at an appropriate pace and I'm getting a strong sense that all the loose ends will be tied up neatly by the end, so from that angle it should have been a fully satisfying chapter in the 'verse, but on the other hand it's capping a weak season and I haven't been driven to care too much about what happens next even if it's a masterpiece. Honestly though, I'm just glad I have positive things to say about it (in addition to whatever else).
Just for the sake of starting with one of the positive things, I'm increasingly curious about the demon who imprisoned Koh. I don't think I've even heard any speculation on that since we found out it wasn't Illyria, and it would be great if the next issue revealed that it was someone completely unexpected, like Lorne or Eyghon. Even if it just clues us into some larger situation or odd connection, it's going to be worth the relative drag of his arc. Of course, there's also the possibility that he'll never find out, or that the answer is just some random demon and Koh kills him and moves on, but do you realize Eldre Koh has been with us from the first issue of the season? Seems like the kind of opportunity that no comic writer would waste. Also, the new friendship he's apparently forged with Illyria might have significance of its own.
Speaking of Illyria, is there anything left of the character she was in AtS5 and AtF? When we heard that Joss specifically had plans for her in Buffy's comic, I was so hopeful for awesomeness, but it looks like she was only needed for the way her abilities fit into the plot. I won't say I didn't like the flashback to one of the most gut-wrenching moments in AtS, but I liked it because I'm always grateful for references to dead characters. As a comparison to Severin's need to bring back Clare, it really doesn't work at all. If you look at what's happening from his point of view, some random mystical woman is telling him she knew someone who did the right thing once, so he should too, and it's happening while he's demonstrably unable to think clearly. There's no reason whatsoever that he should take her advice. I'm sure the point was much more about showing us how Illyria has changed, but that was already fairly obvious (see: unrecognizable character). Severin's a lackluster villain who's about to meet a lackluster end. I wish he had been written as older.
Reaching into the bag for another positive remark, if I had to describe this issue's action in one word it would be "vertical". Plausibility aside (and we can all agree there isn't much plausibility in this without putting a sizable fanwank to work), the Deeper Well's set-up is a really nifty setting for an epic struggle. The way everyone was falling was at times humorous, and the way the background looked the same for everyone could get confusing, but those were both benefits in my opinion. I liked seeing multiple people and objects bouncing through an unfortunate fall. I liked the way we had no sense of distance until one character met up with another, and I liked how carefully I had to study the page to figure out exactly how Buffy made Simone tumble off her platform. All the spelunking wasn't just visually cool, it was a real way to increase the intensity.
And here comes the balance of a negative observation: the dialogue was uniformly mediocre. Simone hasn't gained a scrap of intrigue since her makeover, Illyria's wooden, Buffy's up a creek without a pun, Xander's going the minimalist route, and Willow's weighed down by the need to narrate her own actions - come to think of it, that's a problem she's seen a lot this season. The bickering between Buffy and Simone I could forgive, because one thing that's always intrigued me about the Buffyverse is the question of the natural enmity between Slayers and vampires. Is there something deep within Buffy that makes her want to kill them, all other things being equal? Does Simone's desire to become one mean that she's fundamentally unbalanced, on top of being a megalomaniac? These can't be answered, but at least someone's thinking about them.
I don't know what to take from the panel with Spike and Andrew. What did Spike say that makes Andrew question if Dawn has evaporated? And if she hasn't, where is she?
Not much has happened here for Xander after all (hey, there's still time), but I thought he was fairly admirable in this issue, consequences of his betrayal notwithstanding. I wanted to give him a high-falling-five when he showed that he was the only one who remembered Dawn's name.
The biggest thing that's happened here is, it appears, Willow giving birth to the new Seed. I'm pretty sure we all saw something of the sort coming, but....okay, did they actually use the words "giving birth"? That is like so weird to me. It's not just handing us the fantasy fictional event with permission to metaphor, it's telling us that Willow is the literal mother of magic on Earth and now I have to figure out how that itself is a metaphor and I'm not sure I'm up to it. All I really want from this situation in the final issue is for the cause of Willow's immortality and future darkness to be painstakingly spelled out. We don't particularly need her character around as she is anymore, and I'd love to see at least one subplot permanently wrapped. Anyway, using Severin to power up the Seedling and save Dawn is a pretty cool idea and I am rooting for it to work.
Other than that, what's next? I'm not afraid for Buffy, but I hope she has time to wake up, finish the job, get home, see her sister, and, uh, have a sister. It's looking like someone's going to cease to exist, which is a little more interesting than it was in Season 8, because we haven't spent the entire season talking about who it's going to be. Votes?
And the art. Ah, the art. There's one panel where, for the first time, Jeanty has drawn an Illyria who looks like Amy Acker. And it's beautiful, masterfully, cleanly, Winifredly beautiful. It even comes at a moment in which she's indicating that Fred's soul might well be taking her over, which gives a nice meta-style weight to the idea. But emphasis on one panel. Emphasis on the first time. Kind of maddening to see what this art could have been, if he'd drawn like this consistently. There are also a few gorgeous shots of Buffy, and a lot of the usual fun busy shots. All in all it's pretty solid work, but you can't notice the greatest panels without noticing the weaker ones all that much more.
Yes, I put on the song with that title on purpose. I have a lame sense of humor.