Monday, May 18, 2009

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x25: "Living Doll"

Written by Douglas Petrie
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Dawn: “How long are you going to keep doing this to me?”
Doll Maker: “I told you. Until you’re safe.”

In case, that could be the longest time. Dawn and safety aren’t exactly the best of bedfellows and something tells that even if she didn’t grow up with supernatural stuff happening around and to her all the time, she’d still be a walking accident prone.

In space of twenty five issues, Dawn’s spent about fifteen of them as a giant, five of them as centaur and has been missing for the last four without anyone so much as blinking. Nice to know that she’s well loved then, huh?

The title itself made me think of Dollhouse but the idea of Dawn being imprinted with various personalities and sent on countless missions (both dangerous and inane) is obviously one that the writers didn’t consider for this conclusion to the latest arc.

Instead we catch up on Dawnie in her most interesting transformation as well – a porcelain doll. One of my friends has an aversion to the likes so it’s not an issue that he’d read happily. I on the other hand, do no suffer from the same affliction so reading this issue wasn’t exactly the most taxing of things I’ve done in the last month.

The opening pages of this issue are a delight, beautifully teasing the idea of unabashed horror with Dawn clearly begging not to have a knife aimed at her in such a way. Even when her current transformation is revealed, it still doesn’t undermine the potential danger she’s in.

After all, she’s a doll and being held captive by some form of a doll maker/puppet master and he is more than adamant to keep her. It seems that in spite of his alarming creepiness, his intentions are to protect rather than to harm Dawn. Too bad that that isn’t the most comforting of thoughts.

As for Buffy, she’s finally developing a clue about Dawn being missing. The fact that we’ve gone through 25 issues where everyone (including Dawn herself) has been lax about the series of transformations does sort of leave a bad taste if you think about it too much.

I remember in the letter page back in “The Long Way Home Part 4” how someone naturally pointed out that if Buffy had been going through all the transformations that Dawn was suffering, the Scoobies certainly would’ve been working their backsides off to fix things. With Dawn, not so much.

Buffy’s actually taken note that she’s missing and although I love Xander, I kind of hated that he was blasé about the whole thing too. Without sounding like a broken record but Dawn’s transforming and taking off all of a sudden are something to worry about. Plus she’s an adult but that still doesn’t merit being forgotten about either.

Of course Dawn did have to go missing at a time when Buffy and the gang were preparing for another attack on the slayer haven. To be fair, we’ve been international spats for the last three issues so in a weird way, an attack on home turf has to be a given at this point.

Xander himself deserves credit for quickly thinking of a man to look out for Dawn. Buffy was more happy for him to send a recon of slayers to fetch her little sister but it’s Xander who came up with the ace here. Who could possibly be the guy that would help find Dawn?

It had to be Andrew of course. He’s a regular in this season (he’s even been in more comics than Giles or as good as) and he’s young looking enough to pass off as a college student at Berkeley, which unsurprisingly enough is where he goes to play roommate with Kenny.

We’ve had to wait 25 issues to meet the bloke and Xander’s description of him isn’t totally off the mark. In fact, him and Andrew could probably pass as twins as there’s a glaring similarity in looks between them. That being said, Kenny does look immediately suspicious of Andrew, so no points there.

Dawn on the other hand might not have control over what she gets turned into but at least she tried to make the effort to escape from the doll house of doom. It’s just too bad for her that the rest of the dolls put a stop to her antics before she got close to the door.

As for the army, we’ve had zombies and shape shifting vampires and green fire and Warren’s bomb so the big fight here is a let down. Six piss poor vampires against dozens of slayers. Not much of a fight there but the odds being in her favour does give Buffy something to smile about.

The better part is that because of this easy victory, it also meant that Buffy could go with Xander to find Dawn herself without relying on her slayer squad to do the work. Her conversations with Xander about Dawn are hardly original. There’s been enough stuff said in the past about Buffy wanting to keep her safe.

Xander made the point that unlike Dawn, Buffy had a lot of people she could actually talk to, even if she withdrew from them at times. Dawn doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends and in the show; she rarely interacted with people outside the Scoobies despite the likes of Janice, Kit and Carlos.

During their little conversation both of them also realised that Dawn had undergone another change. Actually Xander could be the one credited with that and he also revealed that Dawn had slept with Kenny’s roommate as well. Xander really shouldn’t have cursed himself for it. In fact, he really should’ve told Buffy about it earlier in the same way that this plot should’ve been resolved as early.

Dawn definitely didn’t fare well with escape and trying to reason with a doll maker was also something she didn’t fare with. The guy might not be outright evil but even when Dawn explained that she had a soul, he still refused to release her. In fact he made some allusions of what was going to happen to her soul.

As for Andrew, well I wouldn’t wish him on anyone as a roommate and Kenny certainly seemed more than uncomfortable around him. Still when Andrew was lining up totems and discussing magic, it was becoming more clear why he was sent to see Kenny.

Making a brief appearance in this issue, Willow and a few slayers showed up at Kenny’s dorm. Now, I shouldn’t side with Kenny but I did love when he morphed into his true form and fled without very little effort on his part. Even now, Buffy’s slayers are going to let a demon slip through their fingers.

As Buffy and Xander, there was a brief encounter with one of the forest creatures. Buffy’s method of resolving a break in rules involved hurling the thing like a brick into the bush. To be fair, it was a little too brutal on her part but the creature in question did smash a window to a certain cottage.

Finding the cottage was a good thing but poor Xander got shot with a load of poison arrow by the other dolls. And here I was hoping that Xander would get the chance to slay some dolls but I guess not. At least Dawn used the distraction to try and escape for a second time.

However once again, she got caught by the creepy doll maker but with Buffy so close, it wasn’t like Dawn was going to meet an untimely fate here. Plus, Kenny in his thricewise guise was also on hand, even pushing Buffy out of the way to help save Dawn. I guess he really does care about her.

There were plenty of ways that Dawn’s transformation back to a real girl could’ve gone and given how long this plot was dragged out, it was unlikely it was going to be something that would satisfy readers but I bought it.

Having something simple as a heartfelt apology to Kenny be the thing that lifted his spell from her made a lot of sense. I seriously don’t condone what Kenny did to her, regardless of the circumstances but he did seem genuinely remorseful that the spell had escalated so far.

As for the doll maker, well technically he wasn’t that much of a bad guy and given that his doll creations told Buffy that he kept them safe, I don’t think she had a choice other than to let him go. It certainly raised an interesting dilemma but shouldn’t the guy have some kind of a punishment for holding Dawn against her will?

The last few pages had some nice bittersweet moments with Dawn, Kenny and Buffy that other issues have done well prior to this. Dawn and Kenny parted on good ways with decent explanations on the issue of sex for them.

Dawn and Buffy on the other way talked about the distance between them with Dawn reminding Buffy yet again that she can’t keep her safe. With Dawn finally back to her human self, that should hopefully mean that she gets a more active role to play in this comic season.

Also in “Living Doll”

The cover for this issue had Dawn (as human) in the same dress she wore as a doll making out with Kenny in his thricewise form.

Dawn: “Not the knife. Not again.”
Doll Maker: “Yes. Again.”

Given her exchange with the doll maker, I have a feeling that Dawn’s transformation into a doll had been for a while.

Buffy: “I’m generally okay with most of the things Dawn’s not. She’s not punctual, not tidy, she’s not very good about returning the Veronica Mars DVDs I finally got my stupid Scottish player …”
Xander: “So awesome. End of Season Two, they -”
Buffy: “Don’t tell me.”

Buffy: “I want to get my sister to safety too. Can’t. Not now. The threat outside’s too big for every slayer I’ve got here. I mean, look at me. Who dresses like Wolverine for fun?”
Xander: “Certainly not me. Any proof you’ve seen to the contrary could have easily been photo shopped and besides, I was drunk.”

Um, Buffy, there is a thing called a multi-region player. It should help with imported DVDs. I’m just saying.

Dawn: “I had a spell put on me.”
Doll 1: “You’re different.”
Doll 2: “You can’t leave. You can never leave.”

Buffy: “This spell took work. How dangerous is this Kenny?”
Xander: “Hard to say. You don’t usually get this strong a spell from the thricewise community. Apparently he’s a nice guy who just snapped after Dawn boinked his roommate.”
Buffy: “How can I not know this?”
Xander: “It cannot be because I just told you because I would never do that. Bugger. Hey, check me out, now I can hate myself in British.”

Some good ads for the likes of Halo Wars, The Cleaners and You Are So Undead To Me, which clearly looks like it’s being aimed at Buffy fans.

Dawn: “If you know I have a soul, then you have to let me go.”
Doll Maker: “Why? You could get hurt. That’s what I’m keeping you safe from. Cracking open that porcelain and phht! Your spirit will scatter like atoms, blasting apart. I understand it’s quite painful.”

Kenny (to Andrew/Willow/Slayers): “Can I just say one thing? ‘Oh crap, he got away.’ No wait. You say that.”

Those of you eagerly anticipating Dollhouse only have to wait for May 19th on Sci-Fi UK to watch it. And it got renewed for a second season.

Kenny: “I thought you liked me, like that.”
Dawn: “I had, have very intense feelings for you. Sex would have been at least equally intense. And I wasn’t ready. Not then.”
Kenny: “I get it. I’m sorry too.”

Dawn: “I might have scratched your Veronica Mars disc.”
Buffy: “And I will kill you.”

“Retreat Part 2” won’t be appearing until July but we’ve got a one-shot called “Tales Of The Vampires” coming out on June 3rd.

Rounding this arc off, “Living Doll” is a decent enough story but for an arc that started so ambitious, it’s disappointing that we’ve had very little pay off or serious consequences for Buffy and the gang.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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