Well, it’s finally finished. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 has been a long strange road with more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan movie and (unfortunately) more bumps along the way than you’d expect from something carrying the Buffy moniker and part of the official canon of the franchise. While Buffy the TV show was always (at least after Season 1) as occupied with character growth and deeply personal storytelling as it was in epic fantasy adventures. If it weren’t for how incredibly detailed every single person in the main cast felt, this would have just been another conventional supernatural show like The X-Files or Night Stalker. Buffy set its self apart from the crowd with its unique sense of humor and instantly endearing cast. The comics allowed the franchise to no longer be constrained by the special effects budget that so obviously hampered the program (especially in its early days), but this was also the comic’s greatest curse, as the series became far too involved with an epic and sprawling fantasy plot and not enough focus on the characters we loved. The season’s final collection, Last Gleaming, brought it all to close in spectacular (and tragic) fashion but yet again failed to make me as emotionally invested in the story (one major death excluded) as the best moments from the show did, though it did set in place events that will make the next season considerably more personal.

After their super-sex created the paradisaical realm they were meant to live in (but abandoned to save Earth), Buffy and Angel continue their fight against the demon’s flooding into Earth just as Spike shows up to also help save the day (in his space ship run by bug creatures… don’t ask). Buffy and Angel separate so they can take down as many demons worldwide as they can, and then Angel is finally introduced to a corporeal form of the being known as Twilight who had been controlling his actions previously. After losing a fight with this being, Angel is possessed by Twilight again and begins to attack Buffy and the Slayers once again. The story takes the Scoobies back to Sunnydale where a mysterious object known as “the seed” lies and is protected by the Master (who is alive again). The seed is the key to the Earth’s connection to the magical world and the only way to save humanity from the demon floods is to destroy the seed. Buffy is wary to destroy the seed because it means no new Slayers were born, and it takes a possessed Angel killing Giles to cause Buffy to break it which removes everyone’s magical powers except for the remaining Slayers and remaining vampires. Thus, Willow is no longer a witch. The season ends four months after the battle in a magic-less world with Buffy as a waitress in San Francisco back to her more simple days of hunting down isolated monsters.

As compared to the other Joss Whedon collections from this season, Last Gleaming was actually comprehensible and well-organized as opposed to the confusing and rambling arcs he had written before. At no point during any of this did I not know what was happening, though I’ll admit I’m still confused as to why the remaining Slayers still have their powers if there is no magic left in the world. I guess I’d chalk that up to the demon essence that powers them that was revealed in season 7. Also, Giles’ death was completely shocking and unexpected. None of the founding members of the Scoobies ever died in the TV show, and I figured their immunity would extend to the comics. It looks like I was wrong. Possessed Angel killed Giles the same way Angelus killed Jenny Calendar back in Season 2 so there was some tragic parallel there. Honestly, even though I know it wasn’t really Angel that killed Giles, I loved Giles so much that this action is probably going to color my future viewings of Angel the show in a completely different light now that I know he’s going to kill such a beloved figure in the future.

I pontificated on my primary problem with the comic series in my opening paragraph so I won’t expound on that any more here since that problem mostly still remained in the final collection. However, it was nice to see that Joss realized how overblown his story had become and that it may be time to take things back to basics. The season ended with enough resolution of its primary plot threads to be satisfying but it also set the stage for what should be some significant conflict between Buffy and the pissed-off Slayer population, Buffy and the pissed-off Wicca population, Buffy and Willow, and Buffy and the vampires to make season 9 full of lots of possible intrigue. I’m definitely going to pick up issues #1 & 2 at my local comic book store so I can’t get right into season 9 as quickly as possible. I have a Buffy addiction, and I’m glad it hasn’t completely gone away yet.

Final Score: B+

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