A&F #16 Review
Interestingly enough, this is the first issue of S9 A&F where I finally accept Faith as prominent and indispensable part of the story , and also the first one where she feels 'right' and in character. Also the one where I start to understand and appreciate her as a character - exactly because she is finally her Dark Slayer self, insecure and incapable of maintaining any kind of stable relationship. But later about it, as for now I want to concentrate on the two most important personages of the story - Giles and Angel.
Giles and Angel in Death and Consequences arc
By now everybody most likely has read an outline or two of the issue, so I shall jump straight to the meat of the current arc and the heart of the big mystery of the season - Giles is indeed still dead but his body is/was stolen by demon Eyhgon, who attended the funeral disguised as late Ethan Rayne, or, rather, wearing the dead body of Ethan Rayne. There are two very important points to be made on the matter - and I did not notice the more important one until the third reread.
- Giles and his friends were once possessed by an all-powerful entity Eyghon - in almost exact analogy of Angel's possession by Twilight last season.
- Angel knew very early in the season - if not exactly from the start of his quest to resurrect Giles - that Giles' soul was not at peace and that was why he was so certain that Giles not only could but should be resurrected.
To make things clear on the first point let me jump to the opening scene of this issue - in which we are first introduced to young Giles as Ripper and his merry gang of demon summoners.
One of the first things that young Ethan Rayne says in that first flashback is literally :
'We 're breaking down the old barriers, making the occult serve us, not the other way around. I've done it myself. We all have. Actually being possessed... By a being who was old when the world was young... It's the most incredible high.'
I mean, if there can be more direct reference to Twilight and the God-like empowerment - I have yet to invent one.
By the end of the second Eyghon related flashback when the group covers in dread around one of them possessed by Eyghon the demon says something no less direct and important.
'You all wanted me inside you. And that is what you will have. What your entire world will have!'
Which is doubly important, both as a counterpoint to Angel's possession - he never actually wanted the Twilight Astral Lion thing inside him, literally possessing him; and as a confirmation of the similarity - Angel still allowed Twilight to enter him by virtue of trusting that he needed its power to save the world. One can argue that the stakes were quite different - the Eyghon summoners and Giles in particular were testing the limits of their respective tethers and getting high on power just because power was giving them incredible high. Angel was at the lowest of his low points - being just dragged through dimensional wormhole from an alternative future and convinced they've lost the war to demons, convinced the world would die if he did not do what he was bid, and accept the power that was offered. Still, he eventually got high on power too , proving once again that Whedon and Co are adept at beating dead horses in and beyond the grave.
I kind of suspect now that the rest of this arc is going to didactically tell us how one can redeem themselves from such a dreadful downfall - highlighting Giles path of 'redemption' - from Eyhgon plaything to the Last Great Watcher. I am still not sure how to feel about this, so I suppose I am going to let it play itself out before making a final call. It can be interesting - or it can be dreadful. So far I expect dreadful, but fascinating
The less important implication of that last line by Eyghon , is that the demon could not be completely banished and the link to it could not have been destroyed - even with the destruction of the Seed. I also assume that Eyghon somehow was planning to possess our entire world - or at least as many of the intelligent beings as possible. And that the Seed destruction now unleashed it by trapping it in this plane.( Way to go with rules-bending writers.)
So, my second important point in this analysis is to draw attention to the fact that Angel from the start of his quest had first-hand knowledge of Eyghon - his own demon fought and expelled Eyghon from Jenny's unconscious body in BtVS S2. His entire plan of resurrecting Giles is therefore based on his personal (and likely -horrified) understanding of Giles situation. Giles soul is not at rest. It has not passed on to heaven. It is not only trapped here on Terra Firma - it is also in pieces and at least one of these pieces is bound to one the most atrocious demons on Earth, which is likely also extremely painful. Which makes the entire notion of the pure selfishness of Angel's current quest quite wrong.
I always assumed that the final stage of Angel's plan was suicidal - I am still not convinced that it is not - his jumping in and confirming to Faith that he would either bring Giles back or die trying was rather convincing. Yet I now think that he never told her the details of his plan because he wanted to spare her the knowledge of the awfulness of Giles' situation. And because he is greatly ashamed and blames himself for it. It is bad enough to be the cause of death of somebody you greatly admire and respect - it is quite another level of dread to know that this person is not only dead but is also owned by something as horrible as Eyghon. I assume Angel guessed about Eyghon holding part of Giles' soul right after hearing the journal entry about another part of Giles soul being used to bind the demon possessing the little girl. Myself, I thought about Eyghon from that first scene on - but never assumed that was more than writers 'borrowing' elements of verse lore.
Eyhgon's personality in Giles body
Going back to digging through the plot of issue #17
Quite a few pages of the issue are dedicated to exploring Eyghon in possession of Giles body and his cunning treatment of Nadira and her Slayers. Even though the element of surprise was lost on me - I guessed it would be Eyghon in Giles body because of all of the above - it was nevertheless an impressive show of ruthlessness and cunning. It also makes me speculate that the possessed girls are not lost , since the dead zombies mostly attack them with lead pipes and stun them - so that they can be taken over while unconscious. The whole point of selling them into resurrecting the 'undead' Marianne was to make them take her in , so the demon can take the girls over while they were sleeping - likely in Marianne's own little apartment that she turned into the despondent Slayer's sanctuary.
So, likely the 'innocent zombies' that stand between Angel and Eyghon in the next issue's blurb are still alive and can be saved. It feels good. I am in fact starting to like Nadira for the first time since she was introduced. She is cheeky, intuitive and passionate in this issue.
I also want to note that since Eyghon now can possess multiple bodies at once, both dead and alive - the abandoned corpses are not being destroyed by demon's energy. It does not mean that Giles' body won't turn into blue slime in the end - but at least it is not certain. It seems that dead Ethan Rayne is walking around with a bullet hole in his forehead, same as Giles dead body can turn its head 180 degrees - because its neck is broken.
Angel is having more Giles traits that he is not hiding that well
As already pointed out Angel is once again wearing reading glasses a lot in this issue - right to the point when Sophie ( or was it Vinnie ?) jokingly called him 'old man' while helping him read Ethan's name from the funeral guest book. He is also apparently now listening to music - on a quite an old fashioned player that was propped next to the unfinished cup of tea that he was enjoying while doing his research into Giles' body disappearance. There was also a box of Honey B's candy that I cannot quite place. Although certainly, Giles and candy goes well together. One has to wonder what will happen when /if all Giles' pieces are in place in the same body with Angel and Angelus.
By the way, I really liked Angel at his detective work. It seems that having parts of Giles soul is helping him a lot, since he is managing to be both his own research guy ( for the first time since Wesley's gone) and the team lead. Faith is left playing the muscle and the driver, which historically was Gunn's job before getting W&H upgrade.
Yay for Ethan Rayne and Giles' aunts connection - so Eyghon managed to fool Vinnie ( or was it Sophie?) into wanting him to make a pass at her.
I also feel that the Giles funeral part retrospective was treated with enough respect and at the same time enough levity. The crying Cyclops reminded me of Buffy's wedding-to-skinless-Warren dream from S8.
Now to the Faith vs Angel falling apart friendship part.
I feel like I said enough on the issue - so I will copy paste my own thoughts from my first reading. Skip this if you read my first impressions review.
Faith needs, craves, wants the father figure. Since Angel cannot provide her one in his current state ( he was able to be sort of a surrogate family back in his own series but for now he is the one needing support) she lost patience with him. She can no longer pretend to playing the leader to the Slayers as well - they rejected her and Faith does not have enough patience to try and overcome the rejection. It is pretty natural for her to jump at the 'quick fix' solution like she did with Mohra blood and Lorophague demon - let Angel bring back Giles even if he dies in the process. Giles would be the much needed 'support system' for her, until of course something goes wrong etc. It is pretty much a pattern with Faith since S3 of Buffy. She finds reasons to abandon any relationship that needs effort to maintain or needs any sort of spine power.
So Faith just did a face-heel-turn on the resurrection issue after she realized she cannot make either of her existing surrogate families work - Angel kept secrets from her and basically took over the lead role and at the same time stonewalled her into supporting role - tis natural for him but was not very nice to her. The Slayer girls gave her a finger - after she neglected them all season - turned out Marianne whoever she is was more of the support system to them than Faith ever was ( 'Queen of avoidance strikes again'.) So yeah, she now wants Giles back because he is wise, he forgave her and he never needed her to take care of him. It might be subconscious - but it is there on the open.
I just want to add here that this turn of events actually made me feel more interested and invested in Faith as a character. She just stopped being a cardboard cutout bad-girl-turned-good-girl, and became a real person with a lot of personal issues who can and would screw up a lot and really needs support system. Hopefully she will remain herself and won't turn back into the talking walking plot point with wonderfully flowing hair.