Monday, January 12, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x21: "Harmonic Divergence"

Written by Jane Espenson
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Harmony (to herself): “Here’s the thing about fame. It’s good to touch.”

If someone had to escape LA before it became Hell on Earth as well as the crappiness that is “After The Fall”, then Harmony is surely one of the more surprising of candidates.

I’ve never really been a big fan of Harmony and she really didn’t do much to fill that Cordelia shaped void in Angel’s fifth season, even if she did have some good moments in episodes such as “You’re Welcome” and “Shells”.

The Harmony we see now however is far from living in hell. In fact, her only problem seems to be getting into Elite the nightclub due to their policy of not letting dogs in the premise. Surprisingly enough Harmony decides not to throw a hissy and leaves rather discretely. For Harmony, this has got to be a first of sorts.

However her hunger for fame (which as far as I’m concerned is hardly a character stretch – she is after all Cordelia without the life lessons) does lead her into meeting up with Andy Dick of all people. Sadly for Andy, their encounter in a dark alley pretty much winds up with him being dead by the end of it.

Of course Harmony being the self centred madam she is thinks she’s nabbed a rather cute headshot of herself when we’re not being treated to a description of her eyes, hair and lips. Yeah, I’ve never thought of Harmony in that way before and this certainly isn’t going to make me start now.

The biggest reveal however is that Harmony’s killing of Andy Dick is that vampires are now known in the public. However instead of being feared, which is what you normally expect they’ve managed to become something of a zeitgeist.

Harmony’s more than thrilled to take such credit for her innovation and wastes no time in wrangling herself an agent. Most would be starlets would prostitute themselves. Harmony doesn’t bother with such old fashioned techniques but why would you when it’s so much easier to just vamp them on sight?

By doing that, Harmony gets an agent and also manages to get herself a bloody show for MTV. Yeah, these are the same people who’ve given such dreck as The Hills, so even if I still want to stake Harmony, her series can’t be as dire as that, right? Plus, she does make a convincing argument when she pitches herself as the hero and villain of the series, Harmony Bites.

From the look of it, Harmony Bites isn’t exactly something to jump up and down about in excitement. Mostly, it’s just Harmony being her dippy self and endearing herself to a public who should really know better by now when it comes to these kinds of shows.

Naturally because she manages to become a household name in such a short space of time, Buffy and Willow become very worried. My problem here is that while conveying concern is good and all, neither of them actually do anything to immediately stop Harmony in her tracks.

Instead the focus seems to be on yet another recently activated slayer. Like the poor girl in “The Chain”, this one also doesn’t warrant a name, so immediately you feel that she’s going to be a dead Slayer by the end of the story. More than that, she comes from a dangerous gang who are not happy that she’s eager to leave them.

In fact they decide to beat her to a pulp and it’s only when the slayer stuff kicks in does the girl successfully fight them off. The one thing that it’s interesting about this girl is her joy of being liberated from one gang, only to realise that another one will only be too eager to take her in sooner rather than later.

The other gang is obviously a reference to Buffy and her band of slayers and our nameless girl decides that she can’t be bothered looking for them. Unfortunately for her, they send Andrew of all people to find her and like the general audience, she’s not pleased to see him.

My hatred for Andrew has softened a bit with these comics. He’s not quite as annoying as he was in Season Seven of the series and the writers have been wise in only using him sparingly but when it comes to meeting slayers, he really does lack certain finesse with getting them on side.

He might have some essential points about certain slayers becoming corrupted without a stable influence to guide them but he did come across as rather condescending as well and to be fair, Buffy herself wasn’t any much better on the phone to the girl as well.

If the girl was unconvinced by Andrew, then she should’ve been convinced by what Buffy had to say. I know with so many slayers getting activated out there that it’s got to be hard to keep sounding sincere when recruit them but I just got the impression that Buffy wasn’t making the effort here.

In other words, I don’t blame the other girl for throwing the phone back at Andrew and storming off. Plus given that she just got out of a vicious gang without being seriously injured, her reticence to become a part of any other family is understandable to put it mildly.

There’s further celebrations of this girl having her freedom when she gets a new tattoo over the gang one she had but it’s the arrival of Harmony and her entourage at this parlour that nicely sets up some good moments. Of course, Harmony’s going to be dumb enough to talk about the place being so “grubby and authentic”.

More importantly, though is the return of Clem. With so many characters reappearing in this series, I knew that at some point we would’ve seen Clem but I wasn’t him to be acting like Harmony’s gay best friend for her crappy reality show. Plus he was totally pestering her to get a tattoo as well and she didn’t seem all that interested.

A bigger dilemma however was having our unnamed slayer discover that Harmony was a vampire. Given that this girl was vowing to stake the undead without joining Team Buffy, I have to admit that Harmony is slightly a high brow target – which totally means she’s going to get killed a collector of unicorn paraphernalia.

Scoring an invite to a party to do the deed however is easy when you’re hot. Security on the other hand are less easy to pull the wool over so our nameless girl needs to be careful of slaying Harmony. You just know that she’s going to fail and leafing through the pages is a car crash waiting to happen as a result.

For the most part, the girl just tries to blend in and even manages to tolerate one of those sad cases who seems to get off on vampires draining them. These are probably the same people who’d find the Twilight novels complicated as well but at least filming on the latest episode of Harmony Bites takes place.

Storyline wise, it’s not gripping but it fits Harmony’s profile. Some deluded lad wants her to sire him so they can be together forever but she’d rather play the field. Maybe Harmony has a point. Most of the men in her life do end wanting to kill her but that’s more to do with her being a general annoyance rather than the danger she poses to society.

Nameless slayer on the other hand is less patient to see if Harmony is going to sire herself a soul mate and decides to simply just kill with the handy stake she made on the spot. Seeing Harmony drop her puppies before tussling with the girl raised an immature giggle but that’s not a bad thing people.

As fights go, this girlie one isn’t the best we’ve seen but newbie slayer’s heart is at least in the right place. She wants to protect people from the likes of Harmony but she handled this badly and not only does Harmony use her stake against her but she also drains her in front of a captive audience.

When you’ve got even Andrew realising that murder isn’t entertainment, you just know that Harmony’s crossed a further. By rights, this should’ve earned her a good staking but given that her murder of slayer caused ratings gold for her show, the position of slayers is put in a bad light.

For this however I do have to blame Buffy. She didn’t act soon enough and thanks to Harmony’s media manipulation, she’s practically shot her band of slayers in the bloody foot. The only question is, does Harmony’s glorification of vampires benefit Twilight’s anti-slayer/magic cause or not? Undoubtedly, we should find out sooner rather than later.

Also in “Harmonic Divergence”

The main cover for this issue included Harmony with her two dogs on each arm.

Harmony (re her dogs): “Oh, can you really say no to this perky pair?”
Bouncer: “No animals in the club.”

You gotta love Jane Espenson for managing to cheekily get in the headline – Hot Vamp Gets Tastes Of A. Dick. Just priceless!

Producer: “Hmm … I dunno. Seems like it needs a villain.”
Harmony: “No, see, that’s the hook! With me, you’ve got a hero … with a villain built in.”

Buffy (upon realising Harmony’s famous): “What the hell?”
Willow: “Pffft. She’s no Tina Fey.”

Harmony Bites can be viewed weeknights at 7pm on MTV. Funny that she bemoans the billboard approach a little.

Unnamed Slayer: “I feel totally free. But I figure it won’t last. If I know anything about good luck, it’s that something always shows up to take it away.”

Andrew: “Hi. Can we talk about your destiny?”
Unnamed Slayer: “Oh, crap.”

Andrew and Vi’s commercial from “The Chain” is briefly seen again in this issue beside another TV screen showing a gorilla.

Buffy: “We’ll protect you. We’ll train you. You’ll be part of a family … togetherness! Unity! Sisterhood!”
Unnamed Slayer: “I understand those words. I’ve hear ‘em before. I’ll slay the hell out of vampires but I ain’t joining no other bunch of girls. I’m doing this alone.”

Unnamed Slayer: “What the pink hell is this?”
Cameraman: “It’s Harmony. You know her show, Harmony Bites, right?”
Unnamed Slayer: “Um … no.”
Cameraman: “That’s okay. It’s probably not gonna make it. Reality show about a vampire, only nothing much ever happens.”

Some of the tattoo designs included a Buffy and a Fantastic Four logo as well as a five by five one.

Random Girl (to Unnamed Slayer): “Oh maybe you’ll get lucky tonight, though. It’s fun when it happens. It’s like you feel weaker but you feel like that’s okay.”

Harmony: “It’s my party and I can have more than one date if I want to!”
Guy: “But I want to be something special to you! Come on; turn me into a vampire like you and we can be together forever.”
Harmony: “I don’t know if you deserve that.”

One of the other celebrities we got in this story was Anderson Cooper and Andrew’s a fan of Spiceworld of all movies to be into.

Harmony (re Unnamed Slayer): “I’m terrified. This girl is clearly a slayer. People are gonna like slayers, right? This could really hurt my show.”

Willow: “Buffy, it seems like the world doesn’t know we’re the good guys.”
Buffy: “No. They do. They have to. Right? They can tell who’s wearing the white hats?”

The second part of this arc is called “Swell” and it’s released on February 4th.

As a start to the first part of a new arc and plot inconsistencies aside (would the general public be that accepting of vampires so quickly?), “Harmonic Divergence” is a mostly fun issue to read. Jane Espenson’s writing is on good form and I’m looking forward to seeing where this further progresses as a story.

Rating: 8 out of 10.