'Suffocate, suffocate, you 're gonna suffocate.' Ahem, sorry for bringing this one up - and 50 points to your respective house if you got it at once. That little chant is by Muffitt, from Willow one-shot a.k.a. S8 issue # 31.5 - which happens to be one of my personal favorites of S8. Why bringing it up ? Well, because self-suggestion, or if you like it better, self-induced conditioning seems to be very big part of the conclusion of this current arc. It plays entirely on the main characters susceptibility to their deepest personal fears - that of their darker side taking over -as well as on their ability to overcome that fear and trust each other - be it only partially and conditionally . The characters were threatened with their darker sides taking over from the beginning of their trip to Quor'Toth, and in this issue they had to face the threat and deal with it - or threaten the whole of creation.
While the writing of this current issue was not perfect , and the characters continue to exhibit excessive sensitivity - sometimes to the detriment of common sense - the overall result is not terribly bad. We have got to see the return of Dark Willow - this time she is not fuelled by overwhelming desire to wipe out the world so its sorrows can be erased together with its existence, but by magically-induced power-hunger. A glimpse of practically cynical, 'goddess' Dark Willow that wants to rule Quor'Toth - and then expand to the neighboring realms - is less psychotic , but also more believable. This version of Dark Willow felt more like 'softer side of Glory' , but maybe because it was not brought up by raw grief, it was not completely off-center that it turned out to be more manageable.
I am not sure how I feel about Willow's choices in the long run - but one has to always keep it in mind when discussing her character that on some level Willow has become a Force of Nature rather than young woman of exceptional intellect. Her character is more of a volcano waiting to erupt or an earthquake waiting to happen - and she had been written this way consistently for the last few seasons. I am not sure she can or should be contained by the plot, but kudos for Christos Gage for inserting a solid portion of humor in handling this situation. I mean the sarcastic exchange between Angel and Willow about her being able to handle Quor'Toth the Hell God. In this sense the vampire-bait-induced-euphoria that Angel utilizes to 'bring Willow down to Earth' from her lightning-encased flight, also feels more like authors chuckle at both characters overly dramatic personalities than a plot device. Well, at least these two can handle each other's dark sides - which is way more than anybody else can achieve with either of them. Dark Willow's smirk at Angel - the old Big Bad wannabe - is also greatly appreciated.
My most prominent nod though, is to their pointed exchange that happens right after the two of them hug - in the wake of Willow awakening from her faint and Angel overcoming his vampiric self and switching back to human face.
Willow - Sometimes there's no good option. You did what you had to.
Angel - That's what I've always--
Followed by Willow stopping him and refusing to forgive - but admitting she does not hate him anymore. I am not sure how much of this is a premonition of what's to come - but I won't be surprised if this particular bit is pointing forward - at the future TOYL arc plot and what Willow would have to do - because there will be no good option. (If my deciphering of the TOYL plot if anywhere close to the mark - Willow would have to trigger Twilight in order to save the future - and she accomplishes it by committing suicide by Buffy.)
But that's still a sheer speculation. Still, this arc leaves us with two characters (Angel and Willow) out of entire cast of S9 engaged in 'something big' - to quote Willow. Nothing else that is going on in either of the two books so far approached the importance of these two quests - and the fact that they were so closely entangled in this arc and that the arc is over, leaves me with a feeling of sadness. Hopefully the first installment of Willow miniseries won't disappoint - especially taking into account that the floating rocks landscape - that is her probable destination point after she exits dimension of Quar'Toth - resembles both Twilight paradise and Saga Vasuki dream realm. I hope that Willow's story is linked to the resolution of the mystery of Twilight - that is if we are ever going to see it happen.
Willow vs Faith
Is cute - perhaps a little too much. I do appreciate Faith's continuous perkiness and sense of humor, as well as her having a handy sword at the ready - if vamped out Angel needs to be killed quickly. I was grateful however, that it was Willow who stopped Faith from hasty action and managed to get through to Angel. What I find eyebrow rising is Willow being so over complimentary in praising Faith's maturity and personal growth. (True, Willow was not around during the Lorophague demon fiasco.) So, Faith is reaffirmed in her vigilante position - but at the same time brought to realization that what Angel is doing in regard to collecting parts of Giles soul is quite real - and big.
Willow and Connor
Is a bit too melodramatic. But Willow always has a soft spot for young and vulnerable - and she always was a bit indulgent of Connor. The fact that the boy was the one who believed her 'increase in suicides' and loss of creativity theory helped too. I am glad we did not lose Connor to pursuit of happiness for his demony dogs - his parting speech was funny and closes that plot properly. I only wish we had more Connor - Faith banter - because her view of the cult of Connor was one of my favorite pieces in this arc.
Angel gets to be a bit of a commander again. I wonder if Gage is aware that he is consistently writing him as a bit of GI Joe - down to calling the rescued doggy demons 'civilians'. It might be a bit of an overkill - but cute. He also gets yet another part of Giles soul - and it hits him somewhat hard - which should not be surprising considering that the Scythe contains the memory of Giles' death - meaning that Angel gets to experience it firsthand. Since Willow senses Giles, and Angel nearly collapses after getting this memory - I assume it was quite realistic.
From that perspective , I think the lowest panel on the page before last of this issue deserves a very special attention. After soothing Connor and agreeing to stay in LA for entire week - Angel turns to Faith and reassures her that 'I am almost there. It's almost over.' Somehow, the quiet finality of his expression does not reassure me at all. If what I was suspecting from the start is correct - he is indeed planning to kill himself somehow while bringing Giles' back - that would be exactly what he would say. Mind that he needs to keep that part from Faith so she does not stop him before it is too late, yet there is certain finality to his 'I understand. It won't be on your shoulders much longer.'
And yes, Angel and Connor conversation was once again overly nice - but that's what Angel would do if he was preparing to finish it once and for all. Not overly dramatic - but he decides to stay in LA for a bit - his quest is important but he allows himself a week.
I guess this part was written with Dru's mini in mind - the fire in the church and the riot of Dru's followers that was followed by Drusilla's flight into insanity was supposed to fit into the Nadira plot. We shall see how this plays out soon enough.