Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: Thoughts on the Major Death

Just as a warning, if you do not want Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 (the comic) spoiled for you, don't read on. I'm going to be talking about some major spoilers so I thought it would be fair to throw in a caution statement.

Seriously, if you don't want to know, stop looking.

Stop it!

If I've kept you this far, then you know we're about to talk about the (arguably) biggest thing that happens in Season 8 of Buffy and that is the death of a major television character. Now what I've always loved about Whedon's shows and movies is that he rarely takes the predictable route. Every time you think you have something pinned, he slams a fist in your face with something completely different and then you have to cry for 18,000,000 days while softly saying to yourself that you love it because it hurts so good.

For this reason, I found the killing of of Rupert Giles to be a little disappointing. It's not to say that my heart didn't ache when Angel's snapped his neck. These same hands also claimed the life of Giles' love Jenny Calendar in an earlier season and for me, that has a sort of ironic bitterness that made his death all the more painful. Even worse was that Angel was not his evil side Angelus at the time but rather driven by some outside force. I will not deny that seeing Giles lifeless body on the floor in at least six panels of the comic made me sick to my stomach and watching Buffy fall to the ground bailing her eyes out with Xander (who bailed his eye out if we are going to get correct) while Angel stands on looking dazed and confused made my eyes feel a little teary.

But what I will say is that I think Giles was an obvious choice and while I don't wish death on any of my lovelies, I do wish it was someone else. See, I always noticed and REALLY appreciated that Giles was never killed off because it made sense to kill him off. Most stories go through a part where the hero has to become independent and in order to do so the mentor/trainer has to die. That way the hero can truly come onto their own and have a real reason to go forth into the world and conquer. So in the Buffy show, I always waited for Giles to be killed in some awful way that would force Buffy and her friends to grow up. And then he didn't. And he didn't.

Season through season, Giles remained alive even though the odds were stacked against him by normal literary tropes since the beginning. Eventually, Giles does live the crew to go back to England to allow them to grow up, especially Buffy who relies way too much on him when she should be acting like an adult, but he is never killed off and always comes back when the day is truly desperate. 

I loved that Giles was Buffy's ace in the hole. When it looked like nothing could stop evil Willow, Giles barges in and puts up a damn good fight. Now, I had my problems with the route Giles character took in Season 7 because suddenly it seemed like he'd completely lost his faith in Buffy but I really felt like in Season 8, he was working on building that back.

Another thing that made me sort of angry was that Giles and Buffy weren't even in many scenes together. Especially after the crappy way Giles viewed Buffy in Season 7, I was hoping for one volume that would rekindle this mutual feeling of respect and closeness we had in previous seasons. We had a great Willow/Buffy bonding volume and an awesome Xander/Buffy bonding volume but Giles never really came around. I knew the writers were trying to rekindle that love a little when Giles follows Buffy and Spike out of that cave to stick with her but then lets her fly free but I just felt like we needed so much more to make his death have more impact. I don't think we should just have to rely on the things we knew they felt in the past to add the meaning when a short scene before the battle would have made all the difference. Hell, I'd have given up my adorable Spike and Buffy scene to get some Buffy/Giles bonding before his death.

I don't know, maybe that was something they were trying to comment on. A sort of, you never know when this day is going to be your last day, especially in the Buffy universe, but if that's the excuse than it sort of feels like a cop out. 

I just wish we hadn't finally gotten the trope I'd been expecting all along which was Giles' death. I do like that it sets up Angel to go back to some serious redemption work though and it gives him an unexpected ally. 

I appreciated the ambition of Season 8 and unlike a lot of fans, I did like the scale of the season but I am also glad that Whedon addresses that Buffy will always be best roaming around cemeteries doing her small part to save the world from a war that is much bigger than herself.

I guess the only thing I can say at this point is RIP Giles. We'll miss you and if you had to go, at least it was in some pointedly ironic way that causes interest for the next season. Not that it makes it any better but it's something. 

What do you guys think? Was it time for Giles to go or do you wish, like me, that it hadn't been him mainly for the reason of making the series different? Love to hear your thoughts.

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