Friday, April 10, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x24: "Safe"

Written by Jim Krueger
Artwork by Cliff Richards

Duncan (to Giles): “Why protect a humanity that now hates and fears you and resents that you ever tried to save them from vampires and demons?”
Faith: “You know, you sound so much like I used to. I’m starting to feel at home … which I left the first chance I got.”

Has it really been sixteen months since our last encounter with Faith? Man, I think the only that might have kept the more serious lovers of the rogue slayer was relentless promotion for Dollhouse but after a seriously long absence, she’s back.

Keeping with the world thinks vampires are the best thing ever; we get a new slayer named Courtney. This blonde bundle of enthusiasm opened the issue up by nearly becoming the victim of a vampire.

The same vampire who gloated happily about his kind being the new in thing. Courtney’s aim with her stake is bad but at least the arrival of Faith and Giles ensured that the girl didn’t end up becoming vamp food and Faith also casually pointed out that vampires do have a tendency to be chatty at times.

Courtney mistaking Faith for Buffy is a funny moment, only because it’s intriguing to see how insulted Faith might be by the mistake. Faith’s clearly maintaining her need to atone and because Courtney ditched her squad, Faith had a decent reason to track the girl down.

Another mistake that Courtney made was keeping her mouth opened when she actually got to slay a vampire without help. We haven’t seen that happen in quite a while and it’s another that Faith is fine with pointing out. Funnily, Courtney’s not the easiest of people to annoy.

In fact her delight in seeing Giles and Faith has little to do with them providing rescue and more to do with them providing training of sorts. Courtney didn’t exactly waste time in trying to reach to Faith and she did let the other slayer know that she was aware of her past in a rather friendly manner.

Of course the most crucial part of Courtney’s presence in this issue is having Faith and Giles learn of a slayer sanctuary. If you’re one out of the 2000 or so young ladies whose destiny it’s become to slay demons, there’s a nice little place in a creepy village (and I don’t mean Royston Valley) where you can evade that responsibility to your heart’s content.

The idea of a slayer sanctuary does arguably make sense, thanks to Harmony’s TV stunt vilifying them but it also seems to be something that’s too good to be true. Even on the train, Faith seemed naturally suspicious of the location.

Giles on the other hand had hoped that seeing Faith would be enough to get the girls out of their shells and back into fighting. I can see where Giles is coming from because while these girls might not want to fight, there’s only so much skulking in the background that they can do either.

Faith herself seemed to believe that the girls should stay hidden if they wanted. I liked that her and Giles could respectfully disagree on something as serious as this without a sensing bitterness emerging from either one of them. I don’t necessarily agree with Faith’s solution but I can also see where she’s coming as well. I just happen to agree with Giles a bit more.

If ever there was a reason to love Giles in this comic, it’s for the simple that he won’t let Faith wallow in her own self-pity. Having her bemoan her former bad ways is good in showing the readers that she genuinely is atoning for past misdeeds but I love that Giles stops her from going too far with it as well.

Courtney’s comment on the two of them acting like her parents was strange. I know there were some rumours that Faith and Giles might have a more than professional relationship but there’s nothing in the rest of this comic that even remotely hints at that. Best not to go there, either. I mean Giles should get a girlfriend, just not Faith or any other slayer for that matter.

Speaking of Giles, it’s nice that we finally see more of the Watcher Council and clearly Duncan Fillworthe was someone who was lucky not to get blown up by Caleb in “Never Leave Me”. Unfortunately he maintains the traditions of a stuffy, oppressive watcher as well.

When he brought Giles, Faith and Courtney back to his own home; he’s quick to point out that he has his own methods of keeping the vampires out of Hanselstadt. However Giles just dismissed his idea as nothing more than a stalemate and seeing as Duncan isn’t written as sympathetic, I automatically had to agree with Giles.

Fillworthe’s motives for the town are very clear – he wants to protect it and he’s using his slayers to keep the vampires out. The thing is that when Giles questioned him further about the slayers, he did point out that there wasn’t a point in protecting a humanity that now shows nothing but contempt for slayers and watchers alike.

I often think this when I’m watching 24. Why does Jack Bauer bother his arse trying to save the government from various terrorists when all they ever do is antagonise him when they’re not trying to arrest or put him down themselves? It’s relevant here but the thing, if the slayers don’t protect civilians from supernatural threats, then who will?

Faith’s instant dismissal of the guy added a pithy moment to a serious issue. Fillworthe might be right to feel embittered by the way humanity has chosen to side with vampires over slayers but the debate ended up getting cut short when that ghastly looking old lady suggested that Faith and Courtney take a trip to the library.

Faith’s not exactly an avid bookworm so the idea of her going to a library with Courtney doesn’t exactly fill her with never ending joy. However she is perceptive enough to realise that there’s a serious lack of children on the streets and she’s savvy enough to figure out that she’s walking into a trap of sorts.

Then again, it did look like Courtney had picked up on the same vibe and even first time readers would’ve figured it out. The fun part however is Faith wondering if the oldies were going to throw something at her that she hasn’t seen, only for her to encounter a familiar vampire.

It seemed back in the days when Faith had just been called as a slayer, she let one vampire get away. Given that she got two out of three and kept with the ‘don’t die’ mentality, she should consider herself proud. Apart from the vampire looking a tad deformed, it was interesting that she saw this particular vampire.

Even before seeing Courtney trying to figure out what was wrong with Faith, I had guessed that the latter was merely seeing things. After all, it’s not like Fillworthe knew Faith was coming and purposely captured that old vampire so she could have another altercation with him in the library.

Playing on Faith’s guilt to kill this vampire is a strength to the issue. Maybe they should’ve gone there with Kakistos but I think that Faith has already exorcised those demons so this vampire worked. That being said, Courtney really should’ve made a bigger effort to get Faith to realise she was hallucinating.

As for the argument with Giles and Duncan, damn the latter knows how to hold a grudge. Not only does he hate the public but he even hates the disillusionment of slayers and used it as a means to justify sending them to their own deaths. Turns out there’s a demon in the library and it’s not Vashta Nerada.

And that’s disappointing because air piranhas/skeletons in space suits would be preferable to Octo-type creature we have to make do with here instead. I loved that Duncan made the foolish error of trying to use Buffy and Jenny Calendar in order to Giles onside.

However I do take issue with the vampire/children regret thing. To me, it did seem a bit far fetched and contradictory to the whole mythology that we’ve gotten in the series from the word go. Plus kids are also pretty good articulating some of their pain like any adult.

As for the beast, when it wasn’t knocking Faith out, it played on Courtney’s parental issues. If Satsu’s ‘gayness’ almost destroyed her parents, then I have a feeling that Courtney’s ‘slayerness’ might have done the same thing. There’s nothing especially original from this segment but I don’t think that’ll bother most viewers.

Fortunately though, Duncan’s stupidity makes him the last meal that the Octo-creature gets to munch on and Giles and Faith manage to be the ones to end the creature once and for all. It’s not exactly the most charismatic defeat (not compared to what Giles did to Roden back in “No Future For You Part 4”) but it works no less.

The ending more or less signalled that vampires would now be able to enter Hanselstadt without having to worry about a demon stopping them. However it’s Faith and Courtney’s little pep talk to the villagers that ends the comic on a more satisfying note. Maybe Courtney will be able to alter some of the attitudes that people have for slayers in this creepy village.

Also in “Safe”

The cover by Cliff Richards is excellent with Faith and a suave looking Giles in the library.

Courtney: “Oh my God. You’re her! You’re Buffy!”
Faith: “She’s calling me names, G.”
Giles: “She’s confused. That’s the point.”

Faith seemed to be rocking her leather pants look in this issue with a blue jacket and a dark shirt. A contradiction to what she looks like on the cover.

Courtney: “My name’s Courtney. Cort’s okay but don’t call me Coco. My sister does – I hate that. So you’re Faith? I’ve heard about you too.”
Faith: “Yay. Let’s bond.”

Courtney: “You’ve never heard of slayer sanctuary? Some of the chosen from a bunch of squads have gone.”
Giles: “We need to find this place.”
Faith: “That makes you guide dog.”
Courtney: “Awesome. Don’t call me dog.”

Unrelated note: UK viewers can watch Dollhouse, Tuesdays at 9pm on Sci-Fi UK from May 19th.

Giles: “You’re too hard on yourself, Faith.”
Faith: “Right, I’ll tell all the baby slayers about my first time. How I -”
Giles: “Enough, Faith.”
Courtney: “God, you guys are like my parents. Only talking to each other.”

Duncan: “Yes, Rupert but there are alternatives to running scared. Hanselstadt for one. The vampires know if they come in … we have an army of slayers to face them. Who’ll leave them alone if they stay out.”
Giles: “A stalemate’s not exactly a lasting solution.”

My condolences to Angel actor Andy Hallett who recently passed away and congratulations on Alexis Denisof and Alyson Hannigan who also recently became parents.

Faith: “This really obvious trap feels like a trap.”
Courtney: “So what do we do?”

Faith: “I’m tired of beating around the bush. Sides, these hokey old stiffs … they gonna come up with something I ain’t seen?”
Vampire: “No … something you have.”

The third sort of reminded me of the three from the Season One episode “Angel”.

Faith: “Keep away from me.”
Vampire 1: “She’s a slayer. New one. Still got the smell on her.”

Vampire 3 (re nearly being staked): “Doesn’t matter what people say … that ain’t the way to a man’s heart.”
Faith: “Well hell, two out of three ain’t bad.”

I take it the flashback is set in between “Becoming Part 1” and “Faith, Hope And Trick”.

Courtney: “What’s going on, Faith? Who are you screaming at?”
Faith: “I’ll answer all your slayer-in-training questions later. Got a vamp to snuff.”

Duncan (to Giles): “The vampire is regret personified. A hunger for life that’s been damned to never be satisfied.”

We learned the townspeople ran out their own children, which was when Duncan supplied them with slayers. There’s also an episode of Firefly called “Safe” as well.

Duncan (to his men): “Thoughts of Calendar and having let the girls go to the beast on their own … Rupert Giles may die of regret before the demon even gets to feed.”

Giles: “You’re going to regret this, Duncan.”
Duncan: “I regret nothing. That’s why I’m still alive.”

This issue featured no appearances from Buffy, Xander, Willow or Dawn and judging by spoilers, Giles and Faith will (thankfully) factor into the next arc.

Faith (to the demon): “That was your last meal, octobitch. Choke on it.”

Faith: “But we’re slayers and we don’t let people die, not even the crappy ones. You people wanna live? Then you fight.”
Courtney: “Faith, I’m just …I haven’t trained …”
Faith: “There’s only one lesson, kid. Aim for the heart.”

This issue dedicated four parts to discuss the Buffy/Satsu hook up in “Wolves At The Gate Part 1”and the next issue, “Living Doll” comes out on May 6th.

Okay while it may not have been as good as their first arc together or even gone a big way in advancing the overall arc, “Safe” is still one of the stronger issues from the season and the Faith/Giles dynamic does continue to work so superbly.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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