Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x04: "The Long Way Home Part 4"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

General: “Sound off! Who’s hurt? Stay calm, damn it.”
Buffy: “No. Panic.”

Each issue so far has ended with enough hooks to keep pulling us back in for some more and when your last one ends with the sudden reappearance of a character that should be long dead, it’s safe to say that answers are needed and fast too.

Of all the people Willow would have the misfortune to be kidnapped by, a vengeful Amy was bad enough but discovering that her boyfriend is Warren, still in his skinless state of people, I can’t help but wonder – what the hell?

Strapped down to a table, Willow gets a brief synopsis on why her most significant kill is still alive. Well first off all, after yanking off his skin, Amy managed to pull a Houdini and get Warren out of there before she could finish the job. The only other question is why Amy would do that?

It turns out that I’ll assume after their spat in “Doublemeat Palace”, Amy took to stalking Willow and saved Warren’s ass in the very hopes of causing further misery down the line. Warren is also very quick to point out that he was in on Amy’s punishment scheme from “The Killer In Me” and more interestingly that Amy’s magic is his skin.

The whole involvement on Willow turning into her nemesis in Season Seven could be cool. I hate the idea of Willow actually feeling bad for doing Warren so her involuntary having to become him is now made tolerable as a result.

As for the whole “her magic is my skin”, what can I say – Amy is an incredibly smart girl. If she’s been stalking Willow for all the this time then obviously she must have some idea that Warren is an avowed misogynist and is completely untrustworthy individual as well.

Her using her magic as a substitute for actually regenerating Warren’s skin is probably Amy’s way of keeping Warren in line. As useful as he might be in her personal vendetta with Willow, having some form of control over him is smart. We’ve seen Amy advance in the magic field so it’s unlikely that she’s unable to regenerate Warren’s skin, she’s just not doing for her own benefit.

Bigger question then would be why isn’t Warren trying to find ways of doing it himself? Like I said the guy is an avowed misogynist and there’s no way, grateful for not being totally killed would he willingly want to be under someone else’s thrall.

Then again, Warren is more naturalistically happy to exact some of his own revenge on Willow as he goes after her with an exactor knife while Amy just looks on. The Master and Lucy Saxon this lot aren’t as despite my fear of any eye injuries, not much terror is being generated.

Briefly cutting away from Warren’s revenge, we get an almighty pissed off Dawn smashing her fists into the castle walls and generally being reminded that she is a super size she isn’t super strong. It also sucks for poor Dawnie (who’s assertive I’m liking) that she’s unable to fit through the portal the gang are working on to get Willow back.

Buffy isn’t that much in trying to calm Dawn down and her efforts for attempting only resulted in Dawn rather insensitively telling Buffy that Willow is like a mum to her. I guess that is a bit consistent as Willow and Tara did parent Dawn between Seasons Five and Six but Xander was right on the money when he noted sarcastically how much Buffy must have loved that particular comment.

Getting some mini-witches to help open a portal seems to be taking it’s sweet time and it’s moments like this when you really miss Giles, who is the only other magic expert the Scoobies really have. Xander however continues to impress by telling Buffy to find her fighting buddy and not to go all gung ho. This is only further proof as to why he is shaping up so excellently this season.

Back to the land of torture, Warren is not only goading Willow about how he would love her to go dark again but he’s also quick to jab her eye with the exactor knife and also tells her that the stronger her magic becomes the harder it is for her to break free out of her bonds.

That might also explain why Willow isn’t talking to. Perhaps the nifty spell on those bonds are stopping her from chanting any kind of magic that would free her but the severe lack of a two way exchange between them kinda sucks to be honest.

We’ve had interesting exchanges between Willow and Amy in the last issue but not once does Willow get a chance to convey disgust that Warren is still breathing when Tara is stone cold. I hope no-one holds it against me when I say I want Willow to finish what she started on Warren, those two and a half years ago.

After getting a brief look of Willow’s mind and five bizarre looking women who want to grant the tortured witch access, the plans to actually save Willow before Warren succeeds in dicing her are in play. Well just Buffy telling Satsu to load up but I can tell you I knew the outcome before witnessing it.

Meanwhile bored from seeing Willow squirm, Amy has to answer to General Voll who isn’t thrilled with Amy disabling their cameras. Geez, Voll do you really think Amy isn’t going to find some way of ensuring once she’s lived up to her end of the deal that she isn’t gonna find a way of making sure you aren’t a threat to her? This guy is every bit as stupid as those Initiative suits.

Getting past some boring bickering between Satsu, Leah and Rowena, Buffy and Satsu are then set to get Willow back and when Buffy borrows some lip gloss of her intern, the cinnamon thing is revealed. Was it Satsu who kissed Buffy awake last issue? Who knows? Joss is good at throwing us off the scent but in comic book form anything is possible, right?

More interesting is the trip into Willow’s state of mind where her weird new pals are telling her that her refuge is only temporary and even go as far as to show her images of people burning in the flames and it doesn’t take a genius to get that this particular imagery is representing the very real pain she’s being subjected to.

On screen something like this would look absolutely amazing and while Willow doesn’t really say much to the ladies in her mind, the sheer surrealism of what we’re seeing is enough dialogue in of it’s self. We know that Willow is in deep shit and this only emphasises it.

Fortunately though she isn’t the only about to get shafted as the idiotic soldiers are about to learn that some traps really aren’t as effective as they might appear to be. Then again, demons and gods can be smart; suits just can’t on this series.

With the mini-witches finally getting the portal opened and some delightfully cheeky dialogue exchanged between Buffy and Xander, the soldiers’ plan to take aim on Buffy and Satsu with a laser cannon is nicely deflected with the Scoobies nifty use of a mirror. See, soldiers on this show/comic book really are stupid.

It also doesn’t end there as Buffy and Satsu get through and start beating the ever holy crap out of the attacking soldiers so much that to a degree it almost beggars belief but while Buffy may be winning this fight without even really trying, it’s almost nice that she doesn’t actually derive any pleasure from the damage her and Satsu are being kinda forced to inflict.

So Buffy grabs one of the Generals and makes a reasonable request – she’ll get his men fixed up if he tells her where Willow is being kept and in all fairness he doesn’t really have much option to disagree with Buffy’s benign request.

As Buffy and Satsu whoop another soldier out of the way, Xander figures out that they are two miles south of Sunnydale and also is quick to warn them that Amy is waiting for them as well. Suffice to say, Amy is there all right but it seems that Buffy is more than prepared for her.

Willow mentions to one of the weird looking ladies in her mind that her and Buffy are a part of each other. I thought it was a rather weird way of saying that her and Buffy’s friendship is on the same ground as the first five seasons of the series but in actual fact it means that Willow is seemingly able to suffuse some of her mojo into Buffy who doesn’t waste much time using this to her advantage against Amy.

Once again Amy makes the speedy move of underestimating her opponent and while she might be right about Buffy’s sudden magical abilities being a lightshow, the slayer is easily able to distract her by pulling an image of Catherine Madison long enough for Satsu to throw a bomb in Amy’s direction.

Naturally it doesn’t actually kill Amy because obviously enough she is vital to this whole lengthy series arc but it’s effective enough for the gang to get to Willow and Buffy to seemingly recognise Warren before he and Amy make their not so great escape. Crap and I was hoping someone would nuke Warren, guess I’ll have to wait for that.

Even slightly more crap is that whatever damage Warren inflicted on Willow is gone by the time Buffy is able to free her friend. Not that I wanted Willow to be horrifically scarred but it does kind of kill the impact of her whole capture and makes a large chuck of this issue feel rather pointless as well.

Also rather pointless is Whedon’s decision to kill off Ethan Rayne when Buffy finds him dead in one of the cells thanks to General Voll. Without a reaction from Giles and with only the dream space hints of last week, Ethan’s demise should’ve been something far more stronger than this. Maybe it will help advance the arc but it feels so bloody anticlimactic.

Fortunately there’s an explanation for Voll’s vitriol Buffy and her band of slayers and despite Buffy’s annoying assumptions that Voll is another in a long line of dudes threatened by strong women, his reasons for wanting Buffy defeated is his fears that her and the slayers will become further corrupted but the inner demon and will want to reshape mankind.

You kind of have to wonder where Voll is generating this assumption from. Sure there are slayers will become corrupted and tread the wrong path and unlike Faith won’t be redeemed but Voll doesn’t exactly seem to be coming with some form of a compromise in the matter. It’s nice that there’s something more to go on with the Twilight thing but Buffy’s forlorn response doesn’t bode very well.

Also in “The Long Way Home Part 4”

Cover for this issue was Giant Dawn with Buffy in the palm of her hands. So far each cover star has played a big part in the issue but Dawn didn’t have a lot to do here.

Warren (to Willow): “I remember thinking and it comes up again in this situation, I just have to wonder – are you bored now?”

This issue opened up with a brief flashback to “Villains”. Is it me or is the lack of a mention of Tara from Willow a bit surprising?

Xander (re Dawn’s comment): “Oh I bet you loved hearing that.”
Buffy: “How much longer.”

Warren (to Willow): “All your power is siphoned into those bonds. The stronger you get. Try it, go dark. I wish you would. I think you might.”

The women in Willow’s mind were a mummy, blue smoke, painting, wolf and one of paper and equations. Abstract representations of Willow’s power/lives/lovers etc?

Amy (to General Voll): “But the witch belongs to my boyfriend. They have a history. She’s kind of a history major.”

I have to ask but when Amy refers to Warren as her boyfriend, is she actually screwing him because it can’t be pleasant if she is?

Buffy: “Yes sir, Mister Watcher sir.”
Xander: “I’ll watcher your butt.”
Buffy: “Your grammar is not so much.”
Xander: “Bring me back a witch.”

Buffy: “Where are we?”
Xander: “About two miles south of Sunnydale.”
Buffy: “Sunnydale, well I’m the one who wanted to go home.”

This is the second time in the series the Scythe has been used in battle. It seems that Buffy is keeping ownership on that thing.

Amy: “Time to go, Sweetie.”
Warren: “This isn’t over slayer.”
Amy: “I just do not get tired of saying that.”

General Voll: “We’re not waiting for that to happen, we will wipe you out. Not just monsters anymore. It’s you against the world. You’re at war with the human race.”
Buffy: “Oh. Kay.”

This issue ended with a BTVS logo at the end. Stack this entire arc together and you would have a complete episode.

What started off as a rather intriguing arc is marred by a final instalment that gives us only some answers but leaves you mostly unsatisfied. “The Long Way Home Part 4” has some interesting moments but there aren’t as many standout scenes or characters moments that the first three issues had and some of the dialogue is a bit clunky in comparison. It also stinks that we have to wait until August for standalone issue “The Chain”.

Rating: 6 out of 10.