Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Master is Back


What Is It?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Issue #11: A Beautiful Sunset (written by Joss Whedon)

Timing: BtVS Season Eight, short while after "Anywhere But Here"

REVIEW: He's back. He's really back.

Joss, that is.

There was a mixed response to his work on "The Long Way Home," which was understandable because it was a season premiere. Joss never did well with season premieres. I rated the overall arc a 9/10 because, when put against the first episodes of Season One-Seven, there was no comparison. "The Long Way Home" was probably the best season-opener in BtVS. However, there were some things that weren't so shiny about that arc. Issue #4 wasn't as good as I would have hoped, and the "Warren never died" blunder was really egrh. Then, Joss put out the first one-shot, "The Chain." People either loved it or really disliked it and, in retrospect, I'm in the latter category. It was, in my opinion, a badly executed non-linear story. Then, we got some more Joss Whedon work through his little Sugar Shock mini-series, which is by far the worst thing he's ever written. Well, "least great" is a better term, because nothing Joss touches is bad, but... yeah, actually, Sugar Shock was pretty bad.

People were getting worried. Some weren't, but hey, I was a little iffy, especially when Brian K. Vaughan came on board and blew Joss's arc out of the water with "No Future For You." Then, Joss came back and finally hit a home run with "Anywhere But Here." Was it a fluke?

Nah. Joss scores another 100 points for this one-shot comic, "A Beautiful Sunset," which has a lot of stuff we've been waiting a long time for. Buffy fights the Big Bad of the season for the first time, we get a lot of development on the "Satsu Loves Buffy" storyline, and a lot of cool character moments in the beginning and the end (the eye-weller of a scene where the injured Buffy and Satsu lean against a grave after the climactic fight). Also, there's some vamp slayage, something the series has been sorely missing.

Overall, this is what you've come to expect from Joss, the man who brought us episodes like "Becoming," "The Gift," "Chosen," etc. While the issue may not be as BIG as those ones I just mentioned, it succeeds brilliantly in what it is trying to be. It's big on character development, plot-set up, drama, and humor, all of which Joss is the master of. If this is only the fifth episode of the season (figure it out), this is looking to be by far the strongest since Season Five.

Art: Great stuff. Jeanty nails every character, as usual. I've noticed that he is better than many, many comic artists in 'long-shots,' to use a television term. He--unlike any Buffyverse artist we've seen so far--keeps the details and proportions of faces and bodies perfectly in tact, even when we are seeing them from a distance. I couldn't be happier with him as the series artist, because after Cliff Richard's average work in "Anywhere But Here," I found myself genuinely missing Jeanty's wonderful art.

Characters We Know: Buffy, Xander, Dawn, a few unnamed slayers seen during "Chosen" (such as softball girl!), Rona, Caleb

Season Eight Recurring Characters We Know: Satsu, Twilight, Simone, Leah, Renee, Lieutenant Molter

Speculation (highlight to read): I so thought Twilight was about to be revealed, unmasked. Tricksy, sneaky, Whedonses! But yeah, this pretty much tells us that Twilight is someone I know. The most popular choice seems to be Riley, who would make sense, considering the whole government thing. Other people have said Caleb, based on the fact that Twilight recognized the move Buffy tried to make with the scythe, which was the same move that killed Caleb in "Chosen." Other people are throwing down the idea that it is Angel, but that theory doesn't even deserve to be mentioned, so forget I said it. We will speak of it no more! Spit! Who do I think Twilight is? Could be Ethan Rayne, carrying out an elaborate scheme, but it wouldn't make sense for his character. Could be Riley, but I don't know if I'd like that. Joss would have to sell the story HARD. I hope it's not any of the previous Big Bads, because villains should only get one chance at being a Big Bad. It's not something you get to do twice. Another alright idea is that it is Graham, but that would sorta be anti-climatic.... Well, we'll see. ALSO, looks like Buffy/Xander as a couple is down the tubes. *Mouths: yesssss*

Rating: 10/10

36 comments:

Thomas said...

I hope Twilight isn't someone we've met before. But mainly I think, wow, what a great episode.

I love some of the bits of body language that Joss and Jeanty use to tell the story. Xander and Buffy's movements with the teacup in the first few pages. Buffy's acrobatic aerial moves. Buffy clearing mud off Satsu's face. Xander's smile on the second-last page. This issue really raised my opinion of Jeanty.

I find it interesting that Twilight's mask reminds me of Rorschach from "Watchmen." And I felt a bit of similarity in their way of speaking. People with a twisted but sincere and uncompromising moral outlook, who see everyone else as abstractions -- "girl," "the witch." If I'm at all on the right track about Twilight's motivations, then I don't think he's anyone we've met before. I can't think of anyone else in the Buffyverse who thinks like that, with the exception of Holtz. And it wouldn't make much sense for Joss to resurrect Holtz and bring him into Buffy's life -- she doesn't know or care about him.

loki-of-aesir said...

I found it to be an excellent issue. However, while I agree that Joss' first arc was decent-but-not-that-great, to say it's better than all the season premieres rings false to me. I'd rank both "Anne" and especially "Bargaining" a sizeable chunk over "The Long Way Home". I also felt like "The Chain" was okay. Not great that one either, but okay. And I'm actually kinda liking Sugarshock, despite the initial weirdness.

Those are, however, asides. The point is, Joss' writing is awesome, but maybe isn't quite as slam-dunk in the comic-medium as on TV. Dialogue-wise he's the Unfailing God, but when it comes to plots, he's not that infalliable. He does some really awesome stuff (Fray, this issue) and some great stuff ("Anywhere But Here", his stuff in the Tales-volumes) and a good bit of "good-but-nothing-that-special"-stuff. Sadly, so far, Season 8 has landed mostly in the latter category. But training makes perfect, as these last two issues really do suggest, and I'm hopeful.

And honestly? The way he writes these characters and their lines, the actual plot is just the icing anyway.

PatShand said...

I think that "Anne" was actually the worst season premiere. Especially following "Becoming Part II." I'd put "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Freshman" as best premieres... after "The Long Way Home" though. "Lessons" wasn't really bad either, but the other three just.... egh.

loki-of-aesir said...

Huh, for some reason, I'd forgot to consider "Welcome to the Hellmouth". I'd rate them like this, then, from best to worst:

"Welcome to the Hellmouth"/"The Harvest
"Bargaining"
"Anne"
"The Long Way Home"
"Lessons"
"The Freshman"
"When She Was Bad"
"Buffy Vs. Dracula"

Which ironically means that season 1, which is one of the weakest (maybe _the_ weakest) seasons have the best opening, and season 5, the best season in my eyes, have the worst one. It's been a while since I saw "Lessons", by the way, might be I'd tweak the list a little if that one was fresher in mind.

loki-of-aesir said...

Oh, and I should probably have replied to your view on "Anne":

I quite enjoy that episode. Aside from being well done, I find it to be a refreshing, different episode from the at the time rather formula-driven show, and an interesting and good look into Buffy's psyche and a quite brilliant way of dealing with her loss at the end of season 2. Interestingly, this, only with an inverted scenario where the Scoobies make due without Buffy, is why "Bargaining" strikes me as so good as well.

PatShand said...

Bargaining would be first on my list if not for having the worst demons in BtVS history. The Buffy/Dawn stuff in the end is great, but the cheesiness of the biker demons takes away from it so badly. Anne, I just didn't really like the metaphor that much. Overall, not a bad episode, but I think I didn't like it because I expected the quality to be a bit higher coming off of the perfect "Becoming Part II." In retrospect, this is my rating for the premieres.

#1: The Long Way Home. Not a perfect episode, but it's epic and sets up the season more quickly than any first episode has in the series. It's got big comedy, big drama, big fights, new characters, and Ethan Rayne.

#2: Welcome to the Hellmouth. Introduces all the characters perfectly, automatically shows that no one is safe, and already shows some of the depth that would come out in later seasons. Plus, the Big Bad is already a player in the first episode (only happened in this season and season seven) so the action starts right away.

#3. The Freshman. When I first saw it, I really didn't like it. That was because everything was so different. But now, when I see how much character stuff was in there (plus Sunday, which... come on), I just really, really like it. Also, it's one of the last times that vampires are taken as a serious threat.

#4. Lessons: Not bad. We get a lot of Dawn stuff, as we were promised from the scenes in "Grave." This episode, unlike the episodes when Willow returns, doesn't shy away from what happened in Season Six, and how APART everyone is. Plus, the scenes with CrazySpike and the closing scene with The First is goosebump-inducing.

#5. When She Was Bad: Buffy's attitude in this episode is out of character, and was a cheap way of dealing with the psychological shock of her own death in the previous season. However, the stuff with the Master's bones and the Annointed One is very interesting. The bone smashing scene was iconic, and allowed for us to move on to the next villain.

#6. Buffy vs. Dracula: It's campy. It's really campy. But it had so many great characters at play, and it really starts the cohesive 'novel' that was Season Five.

#7. Bargaining: Explained above.

#8. Anne: Explained above. The last three are all more of a tie for 6th, 7th, and 8th place than anything else.

loki-of-aesir said...

Actually, _technically_, season 6's Big Bad was in play in the season opening, too... seeing as the entire episode is basically about Willow abusing magic...

I guess I should give some explanations too:

"Welcome to the Hellmouth"/"The Harvest"
Honestly a beautiful pilot. I'm not crazy about season 1 - the dialogue is brilliant, but the characters are yet rather simplistic and with some (very good!) exceptions, the plots leave something to be desired. But the season opening starts off the premise, the cast and the world in a brilliant way.

"Bargaining"
I love this episode - and the biker demons really don't bug me that much. In my mind, if there are demons in humanoid shapes who'd like to travel quickly, why would they not get motorcycles? Cheesy, hell yes, but I don't mind the cheesy as long as it doesn't take up the central points of the episode. It's when it gets the focus of the episode, like in "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" or indeed "Buffy Vs. Dracula" it gets too heavy for me.

"Anne"
I mentioned this one sufficiently in the last post, I think. The episode just adds so much to Buffy's character and the character's general arc - having seen "Anne" still feels relevant to getting her character four years later. That's good TV. Also, I love Carlos Jacott almost as much as Joss seems to.

"The Long Way Home"
My main problem with this? It feels more like a season ending than a season opener. It's flashy, it's loaded with action-scenes and big splashy effects, it jumps back and forth between dream-reality and real-reality where tons of magics are going on increasingly rapidly - in general, to me, the story has too quick a pace for a season opener. It feels like the final third of a season ending, not the very first story of a new season. Which would be okay if it did it well - but sadly, I feel like it only does it adequately. A lot of this comes from a season ending building on what comes before, putting the viewer (or reader) at ease with the ongoing plot and characters and allowing him or her to focus exclusively on the new stuff every scene brings. When you start up a season with this, and try to get back into the story after having lost an unknown amount of time with the characters, all the flashy action-stuff adds confusion where you expect a calm, careful buildup and tying together of threads to set up a new season. To my mind, there's no single thing in TLWH that is outright bad, but the story tries to do too much, too fast.
All that being said, it DOES have Ethan Rayne.

"Lessons"
A very good episode, from what little I remember of it. (I seriously need to rewatch the entire show, it's been way too long) The fact that I can't remember it too well, though, feels sufficient to not rate it too high on the ladder - it obviously hasn't impressed me THAT much. So, I suspect, I found it very good and entertaining, but not particularily special and memorable. I will not say anything for sure before I rewatch it again though.

"The Freshman"
Unlike a lot of people (but in common with you, I see) I like Sunday. I like this episode, I feel it does what it tries to do very well, I get what's going on the entire way, and it's enjoyable to watch. And maybe that's just it - it's the opposite of TLWH, it's TOO straightforward and simple to my tastes, almost verging on boring during certain parts on rewatches.

"When She Was Bad"
This episode is basically a failed "Anne". It tries to do more or less the same thing - having Buffy coping poorly with big trauma from the previous season and then move on - but it doesn't get anywhere near as good at it. As anything Joss ever touches, it has a lot of good qualities, but as a whole, among my least liked stuff not only in the season openers but in the series as a whole.

"Buffy Vs. Dracula"
Urgh. I get it. They want to embrace their campyness every once in a while. But this just, this just takes it too far. I was fine with it - not liking it, but fine with it - up 'til the utterly meaningless "seen your movies"-bit where she stakes him again. It doesn't even make sense in the story - if he'll come back anyway, then what's the point in the second staking?
The episode does have a lot of good, funny stuff. But the basic execution is just not to my tastes. Not 'cause they did a poor job - they did exactly what they set out to do, as we can see from the title. But because they did a good job at a kind of episode I never warmed to. (Luckily, there is almost no episodes with this obvious a focus on campyness. There's the Mexican wrestlers on "Angel" but that is the spin-off. On "Buffy" proper, the only other ones that spring to mind is the "Doublemeat Palace" and "Beer Bad" - both of which are less campy than BvD)

Thomas said...

After thinking it over, I agree with both of you about When She Was Bad. But I totally disagree about Buffy vs. Dracula. Okay, cheesy premise, but I think it has some things going for it. The interaction between Buffy and Dracula works because it reveals something real about her. I like how clearly it sets out the emotional dynamics of Buffy and Riley's relationship. I like watching Giles decide not to leave Sunnydale. And Xander and Dracula are hilarious together: "You are strange and off-putting. Go now."

I also like Numero Cinco, which I find emotionally moving as well as cheesily hilarious. I think episodes like Beer Bad and Doublemeat Palace are in a whole other category -- poorly executed as well as cheesy.

For me, Welcome to the Hellmouth is obviously the greatest, and Bargaining is the next best. I love the tension between Willow, Tara, Anya and Xander as they prepare to resurrect Buffy. The biker demons are okay with me, but obviously I have a greater cheese-tolerance...

After that, Anne and then Buffy vs. Dracula.

The Freshman and Lessons are kind of dull, though I like Sunday. And When She Was Bad... well, I love the ice-cream-nose-moment, and the Cibo Matto song, but overall it doesn't quite work.

I would need to read The Long Way Home another half-dozen times to really decide how it compares to the others. I think it's tough to compare comics to TV episodes, when so many of my favorite bits of the TV episodes involved great dramatic or comedic acting, in addition to great writing.

loki-of-aesir said...

I agree on the difficulty in comparison between the two media - it's bound to be a little haphazard and highly subjective, even for comparison based on taste which is pretty darned subjective to begin with.

As far as the Dracula-episode goes - I agree with you, it has its strong points. As does Numero Cinco. I agree and consent that they're both very well made, and do exactly what they set out to do. I still can't bring myself to properly enjoy them. I feel that when a show decides to be cheesy like that, it is a very small comfort that they do it as extraordinarily well as they did just about everything else - it still undermines the suspension of disbelief I feel sitting down to watch the episodes coming after it. When a show is so clearly trying to be cheesy that it becomes part of an episode's basic premise instead of a throw-in-gag that lasts a few seconds or minutes, it becomes a problem for my ability to buy the world, buy the story - and, most importantly, buy the characters. So I get annoyed when they get too cheesy on purpose. I ironically have less of a problem with Girl in Question, Beer Bad and Doublemeat Palace, and episodes like that. Their premises are, while somewhat cheesy, relatively serious and in the vain of your average Buffy- or Angel-episode, but their execution is rather poor, compared to the shows' usual standards. (TGIQ is actually pretty good, just horribly malplaced in the season. An episode that silly should never have been towards the end of such a serious season. Had it been ten episodes earlier, I would have liked it a lot better.) In other words, they tried hard and made some mistakes, which I can deal with. It's in some ways harder to take an excellent episode that's purposefully focusing on qualities I don't like...

Aside from that, yay, we seem to have a pretty similar ranking of the episodes. (Except that you're obviously one of the people they were targeting with the purposefully campy episodes - and I'm not. Envy you the ability to enjoy them properly - because I can clearly see the quality and the workmanship put into them.)

PatShand said...

Glad to see a lot of discussion on the board!

loki-of-aesir said...

I think I should clarify; I don't dislike purposefully cheesy/campy episodes like BvD and tCToNC not because they're bad in themselves - they're really not - but because I feel they cheapen the world and thus the characters in it. Every time they make an episode like that, I feel they lessen the potential impact of episodes like "The Body", "The Gift", "Lullaby", "Lineage" and "A Hole in the World" - episodes where everything depends on your buying absolutely everything about this world, episodes that could not be without building on the world that's been carefully built up over the course of season after season. This is why such episodes bug me - they tear down more for the shows as wholes than what enjoyment and self-ironic fun the episodes themselves manage to contribute with. They cheapen the world. I'm fine with them poking fun at themselves - for instance, I never had issues with the Loan Shark - but when it gets the all-consuming purpose of an entire episode, I feel like it instead of being a funny little thing becomes a big thing trivializing the ongoing stories as a grand whole.

*hope this was clearer than the gibberish I spewed earlier, but have my doubts*

PatShand said...

There is cheesy and campy. A lot of season one falls into that category, along with "Buffy vs. Dracula" and some individual demons (the bikers, the Loan Shark, etc).

However, there is a level that shouldn't be cross. When it is crossed, those episodes become RED ZONE EPISODES. There are five of those in the 'verse.

1. Beer Bad
2. Superstar
3. Doublemeat Palace (wasn't horrible, but the end takes it over the line)
4. The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco
5. Smile Time (The Fred/Wesley stuff almost pushes it back, but it's a hard task)

"I Fall to Pieces" is borderline. Those five can't really be excused, though.

loki-of-aesir said...

While I'm not crazy about "Superstar", I think it's okay, and it never struck me as among the show must cheesy stuff. I actually _like_ "I fall to pieces" a good bit, and never got how it apparently was so cheesy to everybody. How is anything in that episode more campy than, say, the basic notion of a vampire in the Slayerverse? "Smile Time" could very easily be cheesy, but the execution is so good that I buy it completely while watching it - and that's all it takes, really. The only element there that's really outrageous is the living puppets - and that's really not that far-fetched in a fantasy-universe like the Slayerverse. It's a rather ancient idea, human-like forms taking on a life of their own. So, since the episode takes ITSELF seriously, internally, *I* take it seriously. As for "Doublemeat Palace" and "Beer Bad" - I don't think those episodes had to be too cheesy in their basic premise. I think they just ended up that way in the actual execution. To me, BvD and Numero Cinco is in another category altogether. They poke fun at themselves while they go on. "Smile Time" might joke about the outrageousness of Angel being a puppet - but it doesn't joke about the basic premise of a world where this could happen. When it gets that removed and self-mocking, it starts to remove me from the world it takes place in and remind me I'm just watching a show. Which is not a good thing to do in the middle of an ongoing story.

I don't mind obvious meta-humour. But if you suddenly insert it in one episode of an otherwise plain, on-going story that's dependent on the world being real to have emotional impact on the viewer, and then expect to go on as usual in the next episode, then I really dislike it.

Thomas said...

Smile Time?? You're putting SMILE TIME in your category of inexcusable episodes?! Dude, honestly, I like your reviews, you're a smart guy, but in this instance you're crazy.

I guess I'm not going to try to write an essay here on why Smile Time is a great episode, but obviously a lot of people think it is, and, well, I'm with them.

In general, I really doubt you can draw a line in a principled way between "cheesy" and "inexcusably cheesy." It's just a matter of what works for you and what doesn't. To me, Doublemeat Palace is easily the most poorly executed episode of Buffy or Angel, and that's why it comes off as horrible rather than hilarious. Same for Beer Bad. I can't think of any other episodes that attain that level of awfulness, but maybe Killed by Death, Go Fish, Some Assembly Required, Beauty and the Beasts, and Life Serial strike me as sufficiently lacking in execution that they feel cheesy and lame to me.

The whole "suspension of disbelief" thing -- I lose my ability to suspend disbelief not when the writers go for cheesiness and it works, but when whatever they're going for just fails to work. So I'm in partial agreement with Loki in that I don't like it when episodes come along and mess with my ability to suspend disbelief and take the world seriously. But when that happens, I don't blame meta-humor; I blame poor execution.

I'm with Loki in not finding Superstar problematic. I mean, it's hard to believe Jonathan was able to cast such a massively world-altering spell, but starting from the assumption that he just stumbled across some sort of extraordinarily powerful scroll or whatever, the portrayal of the world as he made it does make sense to me. He's suave and admired and good at everything and has a couple of blonde twins to keep the bed warm -- and nobody in that world finds it surprising, which is part of what's so hilarious to us as we watch from our vantage points outside that world (we are outside of Jonathan's fictional world in a way that we do not generally feel that we are outside of Buffy's world).

Of course, once I start going in this direction I inevitably trip over Normal Again, which is just strange and unique and problematic and I've never been able to figure out what I think of it. But anyway, I've had more than enough to drink tonight and I'm going to bed now.

Love the blog, Pat. Glad to be getting into a bit of conversation in the comments.

loki-of-aesir said...

Ditto on a lot of that, especially the last part. Some discussion is always nice.

And "Smile Time" is great fun. Self-esteem is for everybody.

loki-of-aesir said...

"Normal Again" is great. I don't like it.



I'd have liked it if they could've helped themselves from making the extra little final "what if she's still imagining everything after all?"-poke in the end. Every fantasy or sci-fi-show has at some point had an episode like this, and obviously, the difference is that Buffy did it really well. But I feel like the final little "what if..." is unnecessary for the exact same reasons the corny-with-intent-stuff in "Buffy Vs. Dracula" is - it makes that particular episode better, yes, but it cheapens the rest of the show. Putting a question point behind the credibility of an entire series to make one single episode inside of it a little better is not ever worth it, in my opinion.

emmanuelpancra said...

Hi Patshand, I was wondering : How can I contact you ? I didn't find your email anywere ?

PatShand said...

pshand05@molloy.edu

Matt said...

I think we're meant to believe that Twilight is someone we've met before, because it seems as though the the mask bit is really inconsequential (and a little stupid) otherwise. If it IS someone we know, I'm betting it's somebody that everyone will instantly recognize upon the big reveal, otherwise there's no point to the build-up. Graham was little more than "Riley's Buddy #1," so I doubt it would be him. I could see it being Riley with the military connection, but I think I, too, would have a hard time swallowing it unless it was pulled off really well. More likely, I think it's someone who we may know but without such a personal connection as someone like Riley or Angel, because it didn't seem like Twilight was terribly familiar with Buffy during his assault.

"Smile Time?? You're putting SMILE TIME in your category of inexcusable episodes?! Dude, honestly, I like your reviews, you're a smart guy, but in this instance you're crazy."

I like Smile Time as well, but I think that it's only good for so long before the sheen starts to wear off. Each time I've watched the episode since it's original airing, I've liked it just a little bit less. Sure, there are the classic bits, like the Spike/Angel fight, but it really is a gimmick episode, pure and simple (and not one that ends up being a classic, like Once More, With Feeling).

On another note, Buffy vs. Dracula is one of the episodes I hate most from the entire 144-episode run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It certainly has it's moments, but overall I consider it little more than continuity-bending filler. While episodes like Beer Bad were good in a so-cheesy-how-can-you-not-love-it sort of way, Buffy vs. Dracula doesn't really have any of that, so it starts to fall apart under far less scrutiny than Beer Bad.

I think my favorite premiere has been Lessons. Not for any particular reason, but because the first time I saw the ending, I flipped the heck out at both the awesomeness of the scene and the potential (no pun intended) it laid out for the season (which would later be horribly, horribly squandered).

I also prefer not to look at Season 8 in an episodic format. Certainly "The Long Way Home" was written with the four-act TV structure, but I think that trying to figure out each individual "episode" is a little troublesome. A comic book series is a different animal than a television show in a few ways.

And on a much smaller note, I still hold to my belief that Amy was lying about some of the details of Warren's situation, because that's the only way I can rationalize it without completely derailing what happened in Season 7.

WOW that was long.

-M

loki-of-aesir said...

Yeah, Amy was lying. That's Joss' own cover-up-story about those continuity-issues, too, and the only one that makes sense.

As for calling the Season 8-stuff episodes - I really feel like it is applicable. Normally I'd agree about the media being too different, but Joss et Co is making a huge effort at making this be "the TV-show, just not on TV". They call it "season 8", first and foremost. He's additionally explicitly giving it a TV-season-like structure, with episode-plots, a season-villain, a big season opening and (we've been promised) a big season finale. In lieu of this, I feel that calling the stories episodes make complete sense, despite being shorter. I mean, if they made a Buffy web-series with 15-minute-episodes, we'd call those episodes, and these stories, especially the 4-issue-ones, could easily fill a quarter of an on-screen-hour. The point isn't the lenght, the point is the function within the season. And both the one-shots and the four-issue-arcs serve the same functions as episodes and double-episodes did on the tv-show, inside a story-format very much the same.

That doesn't mean we should delude ourselves into thinking they're the same thing. But Dark Horse and Whedon are making strong efforts at keeping it as close as possible, and ignoring that in debating and considering it doesn't really work for me. This comic book is explicitly meant to be seen as a season after the previous one, and builds on expectations, rythms and conventions based on being a season like the other ones. Thus calling the individual pieces of it "episodes" make perfect sense. To me, at least.

"After the Fall", in comparison, is something quite different. It's not trying to be a season. In an on-screen-world it'd probably be a tv-movie or two, or possibly a miniseries. It'd not be a season 6. True, there is some precedent for this kind of a season on Angel, with season 4, but even season 4 followed a lot of season conventions that "After the Fall" isn't really going for. They're not going for the slow-paced intermission-episodes, they're not going for the tangent-storylines (except for with "First Night", I guess), what they're going for is one long tight story. Which is why I'm happy they themselves use the term "chapters" in the book, 'cause that's what it is. On "After the Fall", I'd completely agree with you. On "Season 8", while I see and agree to your basic point, I think it's enough of an exception to the rule that the "episode"-term is useful when discussing it.

I just re-read that Dracula-story in "Tales of the Vampires", by the way, seeing as I'm expecting it to be once and for all canonized soon based on the front pages we've seen of the upcoming S8-arc, and wow, it wasn't really quite as cheesy as I remembered. If you accept that the BvD-episode was canon, which is painful but true, it was actually quite beautiful in its own way. Though I'm having issues with the "one year"-stay Xander's supposed to have had with Drac - that'll really push the timeframe of when Season 8 takes place back, won't it? I mean, Xander seems so comfortable running things, he needs to have been out of the hex and at it for a few months by "The Long Way Home".

PatShand said...

I agree. I remember Joss saying something along the lines of this. "If you need to squeeze it into TV terms, an issue is an act of an episode." I've been taking each arc and one-shot as an episode. Like "Long Way Home" is 8.01, "The Chain" is 8.02, "No Future for You" is 8.03, "Anywhere But Here" is 8.04, "A Beautiful Sunset" is 8.05, "Wolves at the Gate" is 8.06, and the Joss Whedon/Karl Moline "Buffy meets Fray" arc is 8.07.

*sly wink*

Loki said... ""After the Fall", in comparison, is something quite different. It's not trying to be a season. In an on-screen-world it'd probably be a tv-movie or two, or possibly a miniseries. It'd not be a season 6. "

I agree again. Brian stopped calling in "Season Six" early in the game because it's very, very "miniseries/movie" ish.

Loki said... "I just re-read that Dracula-story in "Tales of the Vampires", by the way, seeing as I'm expecting it to be once and for all canonized soon based on the front pages we've seen of the upcoming S8-arc, and wow, it wasn't really quite as cheesy as I remembered."

Once and for all? Well, "Tales of the Vampires" and "Tales of the Slayers" always have been canon.

Loki said... "If you accept that the BvD-episode was canon, which is painful but true, it was actually quite beautiful in its own way. Though I'm having issues with the "one year"-stay Xander's supposed to have had with Drac - that'll really push the timeframe of when Season 8 takes place back, won't it?"

Nope. Dracula said "this past year." That doesn't imply that he spent a year with Xander. It implies that being with Xander (in a non gay way, methinks) contributed to the good year he had. Like I could, for instance, meet a girl in June. In October, I could be like, "Random Girl, this past year with you has been great" without having spent an entire year with her.

They'll either do that or go the "Well, ANDREW was the narrator of 'Antique' so thats why he exaggerated!" route lol.

loki-of-aesir said...

I guess it could be explained like that... wouldn't be crazy about either explanation, especially not the latter (gods I'm sick of Andrew), but yeah.

The Tales... being canon, yes, I agree they've always been considered so, but I don't think Joss has ever explicitly stated that they are? Which was what I meant.

By the way, "Long Night's Journey", that's considered canon as well, right?

PatShand said...

Ummmmmmm.... good question. It has Joss's name on it and all, but in the Fray introduction, he said that "Fray" was the first comic he ever wrote.... and "Long Night's Journey" came out before Fray.

But since it has his name on it and he likely provided at the very least an outline, I think the rule is that it's canon if it doesn't contradict the series. I'll be able to tell in a few days, as the book is being shipped to my house as we speak!

loki-of-aesir said...

While the story in and of itself doesn't really Impress me - as is to be expected from a story limited to keep the status quo of the show from the get go to the finish-line - I quite like some minor points in it and really would not mind seeing it officially recognized as canon. Or at least the kind of pseudo-canon "The Origin" has gotten from Joss. Then again, with Joss' name on it, I guess it doesn't really need the official recognition, it's canon by default until he states otherwise. In my head, anyway.

Looking forward to seeing you review it - I'm assuming there'll be a review? I've not re-read it in ages, and will make a point of doing just that now so I can comment on it if I feel the desire to. ^^

PatShand said...

Loki said... "While the story in and of itself doesn't really Impress me - as is to be expected from a story limited to keep the status quo of the show from the get go to the finish-line - I quite like some minor points in it and really would not mind seeing it officially recognized as canon."

How about the characters and the dialogue? Does all that ring true?

Loki said... "Or at least the kind of pseudo-canon "The Origin" has gotten from Joss. Then again, with Joss' name on it, I guess it doesn't really need the official recognition, it's canon by default until he states otherwise. In my head, anyway."

Mine too. Only thing is, I think about 87.5% of the fandom would disagree with us. Some fans don't even recognize "Tales..." and "Fray" as canon, even though they blatantly are. I'd put "Long Night's Journey" in the same category as "Ring of Fire," "Haunted," "Asylum," and "Shadow Puppets." They're by, or at least supervised by a person of authority within the 'verse. To ME they're canon, but their status as such is so debatable that I'd have no quarrel with someone who stated that they were NOT canon. With most things, "canon" isn't open to interpretation, but I think it has to be with the items that I mentioned because of the following reasons:

a. While they aren't vital to the story, they add a layer of context (particularly Asylum and Shadow Puppets) that increases the impact of other canonical works.

b. They're, as I said, written by or outlined by an authority within the 'verse.

c. They don't contradict canon.

Loki said... "Looking forward to seeing you review it - I'm assuming there'll be a review? I've not re-read it in ages, and will make a point of doing just that now so I can comment on it if I feel the desire to. ^^"

There indeed will be. I'll be posting reviews from some old stuff here pretty soon. When I get that TPB (and the ultra rare "Haunted" which I won for $2.27!!!! on EBay), I'll post reviews for them.

loki-of-aesir said...

It's been too long, I can't recall how well the characters are nailed. But seeing as Joss was going to be more involved on the writing side and then figured it wasn't necessary because the other guy did a great job, I'm assuming that means it has his stamp of approval, at least.

I would rank "Long Night's Journey" as canon in the same way "Tales" are. It has Joss' name on it. That puts it above "Ring of Fire", "Reunion", "Haunted", etc, which just have names of other Slayerverse writers. To me, that's where the line goes. If it has Joss name on it, or if Joss has publicly said it is canon, then it's canon. I wouldn't mind to see Haunted canonized, and my only problem with Ring of Fire is that it really didn't get Drusilla at all, otherwise it was a smart story with a plot that felt like it probably would've happened.

I don't care one fig what fans consider canon. Canon is what the CREATOR considers canon. Canon is what won't be contradicted when new stuff is made by the person behind the story/stories - that's the only relevant way of defining it. That is canon, and it's got absolutely nothing to do with what individuals decide they like or not.

Put simply, if something potentially can have an impact on later stories, then it's canon. That means that only stories Joss considers canon are canon. Not stuff by other writers, just stuff by him. Of course, there are stories which we can't KNOW if are considered canon by Joss or not, and these are the problems. Lynch's earlier Spike-stuff would be a good example of this kind of thing.

Naturally, fans are free to not take into account anything they'd like not to take into account when enjoying the stories. You can buy the first five seasons of Buffy and ignore the existance of the rest if you'd like, and that could work fine for you. That doesn't change what's canon, 'cause that's not a personal thing. Canon is what defines what can effect future events with these characters in this world. Which is, really, purely dependent on Joss, and nothing else. So I find that his name being on the cover of something is the closest you get to a what's canon-stamp up till the day where he publishes a List Of Canon Stuff or something.

PatShand said...

I agree for the most part. I think the only REAL example of a somewhat debatable canonical status is, as you mentioned, Brian Lynch's "Spike" stuff. While one could argue for "Haunted" or "Ring of Fire," its impossible to prove unless you have Joss in the room.

But "Asylum" and "Shadow Puppets" are different. Betta George originated in those comics and, in "After the Fall," he says he's chilled with a good vampire before. So either he knows Angel, or "Asylum" and "Shadow Puppets" happened. Also, on Brian's myspace, after going back and forth on it, he said we might as well accept them as canon. "Shadow Puppets" breaks some of the fourth wall, but not enough that it wouldn't deserve canonical status. It gives us great character development on Spike and gives us context for Betta George.

loki-of-aesir said...

I will retain my judgement on that until I've read a scene in After the Fall where Spike and George meet, and they can be inferred to know each other, but yeah, I think you could probably think of those as canon.

I hesitate to accept RoF and Haunted for personal reasons, too, in addition to the (much more important) logical ones - because if I do, I have to accept anything that's been written by the shows' writers, and quite frankly, parts of it isn't all that... But I certainly wouldn't mind hearing a statement of Joss' along the lines of what he said about Origin on those two.

I hope Asylum and Shadow Puppets (the latter of which I haven't read, by the way) get canonized, because then I'll have an excuse to buy them. (I only buy the canon stuff. I'm still torn by "Origin", haven't bought it, kind of want to, but there are those damned stupidly drawn vampires...)

PatShand said...

Couldn't agree more about the vampires. I roasted them for that in my review, but I don't know if it's posted here. I have way more at my Amazon account. But yeah, about Shadow Puppets...

Even if it is never officially recognized as canon, get it. It's better than some of the stuff that made it onto the air. IMO, "Asylum" is better, but "Shadow Puppets" is one of the best examples of a story working better as a comic than as a television show. "Smile Time" is one of my least favorite episodes ever, but I really like "Shadow Puppets." It's hilarious, has huge character moments for Spike and Lorne, as well as Beck and Tok. It's really centered around a theme and (even though the fourth issue had a decrease in quality) its a more focused work than anything we've got since.

loki-of-aesir said...

To be honest, the concept initially put me off - the puppet thing was fun once (I love Smile Time, it's probably among my top fifteen episodes) but when you repeat it it just gets old and gimmick'y. Which is why I never found someone to borrow it to me.

However, I'll make a point of getting my hands on it now, as well as Asylum. I'll put them in my shelf and try not to be too obsessed with whether or not it is canon. (See, this is why I can't buy non-canon-stuff. My organizing freak-tendencies FORCE me to put things related to each other together. But they also FORCE me to not have stuff that's canon near stuff that's not. If I owned both, my brain would thus implode.) After all, I have had "Long Night's Journey" there without short-circuting for quite som time now. I quite liked Asylum, but I only read it once, and rather quickly-like, so I think I should give that another chance too as it didn't strike me as quite as awesome as everybody seems to think it is.

loki-of-aesir said...

Also, I haven't seen a review of "Origin" here, but I'd be interested in reading yours. I've always quite wanted someone to re-draw it so it could form part of a proper, official canon, whilte it's not the best of reads I love how it incorporates Joss' moviescript into what little we know from the show of Buffy's pre-Sunnydale years. (I'm an inane completist) Could you link me your amazon-reviews?

PatShand said...

Even more so than Joss's, Lynch's comic writing takes time to read. Every panel--especially with Urru as the artist--overflows with meaning, little gags, and things you might not catch until the third or fourth read. It's a main reason, IMO, why the commentary features in his TPBs are so great. There is just so much to comment on.

PatShand said...

Yeah, I'll link those up in a second. Hell, I'll make a new post of it! (lol) Check the front page in a moment.

loki-of-aesir said...

Okay, you've sold me, I'll buy'em, both of them.

Now, if Joss could only make that list of what's canon and what's not once and for all... Grr!

PatShand said...

Hahaha yes I am a living commercial. I agree about the canonical list, though. It would be helpful.

loki-of-aesir said...

It would be very helpful. Especially as the man's explicitly stated he considers canon to be "key", and that he wants people to be able to know for sure what's happened before and what's not.

And I'd say knowing if "Ring of Fire" took place or not is pretty darn essential for the character of Giles, for instance.


From all I can gather, though, "Long Night's Journey" seems to be assumed to be canon on the same logic as "Tales" is, so, unless he states otherwise, I'm going to keep thinking of it as such. Not that he's likely to ever reference it, but... it'd be nifty if he ever did.