SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8" #40, in stores now.
Sometimes, a series can go out with a bang and a whimper. Over the course of Dark Horse's canonical "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8," series creator Joss Whedon and his creative cohorts have made more than a few explosive changes to the world of Buffy Summers, but in the classic Slayer style, those changes have been followed by some emotionally intense character work.
Which brings us to the hit series' finale as CBR is back with the final installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 8, our monthly column featuring interviews with the creators and staff behind the creation of Buffy's last two stories, highlighting the questions being answered, the characters thrown into crisis and the future of the entire Buffy franchise. This week, "Buffy" editor extraordinaire Scott Allie stops by to dig into issue #40 -- the fith and final part of the "Last Gleaming" arc -- discussing Buffy's new life in San Francisco, the status of the still-powered Slayer girls, the ways everyone from Willow to Spike view the series heroine and how all of this will factor in to the Fall's "Season 9" launch!
CBR News: Scott, we've talked in the past about the origins of this final arc, so when you got to the point where there was one issue left for Joss to handle things solo, was there much you needed to do as the editor, aside from get out of the way and let him work his characters in the classic Buffy sense?
Scott Allie: No, for the most part. With this one, it's a little bit different because when we did our get together in May and blocked out the last arc, we weren't really thinking of issue #40 as a stand-alone. We thought of this as a five-issue arc rather than four-plus-one. We didn't know then that I'd be writing anything, so we thought we were just working together to lay it out, and then he'd go write the whole thing. Back then, we had an idea of what issue #40 needed to be, but because of the changes, this is the first time I've ever had to front load my editing with Joss since we broke it together. Then the decision was made that I'd co-write the final arc and he'd write this issue himself.
But yeah, when he turned in a script for "Season 8," for the most part Sierra [Hahn, my assistant] and I had a really light touch. Joss would break the story with another writer, and then that writer would do a first draft that only Joss saw. By the time I got my hands on any script, whether Joss wrote it or not, it'd already been through the Joss process of approval. Every so often, I would come back to him with a note, but generally a script he wrote I'd have nothing to say about and ones he didn't write I'd have very little on. There wasn't much script editing, and I'd imagine "Season 9" will continue in a similar vein.
Speaking of "Season 9," you'd told us that this issue felt like the first issue in that run as much as it did the end of "Season 8." There was an awful lot here that was forward looking, but the first big emotional scene between Buffy and Willow felt much more like a coda to what had happened. Did you guys talk about wrapping up some of those character threads as being a priority?
That's funny that you just used the word coda -- in our notes back and forth, we referred to this issue as "Coda." That was because as we were breaking the last five issues together, we weren't sure where the death from part four would fall, and we weren't sure where Buffy was going to break the Seed or when magic was going to get sucked out of the world. At various points along that journey of breaking the last five issues, this coda was only five or six pages because all the action was going to span #39 and 40. I think at one point we thought the character would die on the last page of #39 and then most of 40 would be the fallout. That was a terrible idea that was never going to work, but in terms of the bigness we needed to accomplish for the action part of the story, we thought we'd need more space.
But as we started to cover what we wanted in the coda -- Buffy's in San Francisco with Willow, we know where Angel and Faith are, there's going to be a funeral to some degree without doing it -- we realized we needed a lot of space to do that stuff. That's the stuff the series has been missing, and we didn't want to just jam it into the last five pages. While this is a setup for "Season 9," it's also a necessary coda to 8. I think it would have been dreadful if this season would have ended with a dead body on the floor, Angel just starting to realize what he's done and then us going, "Oh crap...curtain!" Then people have to wait eight months? We couldn't have done that the way some seasons of the show ended on that kind of a moment. We really needed to get to everybody because we'd taken them to this crazy place with a battle in a giant crater that used to be Sunnydale. We needed that room.
So this is a coda and an epilogue, but we couldn't have waited to do it in August or September even though it's definitely a part of "Season 9."
And Willow's realization about how she feels for Aluwyn. Is that the end of her story for "Season 8" or more something we'll be seeing grow into next season?
That's definitely going to factor into "Season 9."
Later, we get an element that's obviously going to loom much larger in the next season starting with the murder of the general. How will this feed into the incoming status quo?
Partly, this is here because we set Simone up from the very beginning of "Season 8." Simone was in the first arc and since around then or the second, she's been a problem hanging out there. They way it worked out, our story didn't really go there in "Season 8." We returned to her a few times and kept her out there, but we just couldn't turn our attention to her plot. Every time we made the decision not to go there, we went, "Well, there's always 'Season 9.'" So we wanted her here to tie up this loose end but also to touch base with the character and show we haven't forgot her. She would have been a distraction from the main story of this season, but we know she's still out there.
With the growing story later in this issue about the entirety of the Slayer population turning against Buffy, this feels like more of a piece with what's to come after Twilight than anything else this season.
Yeah. In "Season 8," the Slayers were all together, and Simone was the wild card. In "Season 9," as you can see, the Slayers have no solidarity, and Simone is maybe the worst example of that.
The final panel here is probably one of Georges most powerful character moments in the series.
The bloodshot eyes! [Laughter] Man, poor Buffy. That poor girl cannot catch a break.
Speaking of terrified looks, two pages later we find out where Angel is. We know "Angel" as a series is on its way to Dark Horse again. Will that pick up in the past timeline of that show, or will he be this messed up the next time we see him?
Everything moves forward. We're not going back, so we will be picking up from here. The one thing I can promise you is that he will have washed that shit off his face by the next time you see him. [Laughter] I don't know why he hasn't got the blood off yet, so he'll have a clean face next, but he'll still be dealing with a lot of what's happened.
And the other element from a ways back that's returning to the Buffy-verse soon is this book bequeathed to her. What kind of significance of that object moving forward?
The book's not just here to insult her. It's not just "All you get is a book, stupid!" [Laughter] The book will come up again.
In this scene, Spike is the one person giving Buffy a little credit and seeing her side of things in a sympathetic light, and it's almost like she can't even deal with that...
[Laughs] Yeah. That's her!
Is a factor in that her history with Spike, or if Willow or someone was saying these things to Buffy, would it really make any difference in how she feels about herself?
That's a really interesting point. I think depending on who's saying it, that can really make a difference. But where we're at right now, Spike is the only one who can say it. Spike's the only one who can back her without holding back. He has unconditional support, and I think there is a place for your friends to call you on your bullshit, and Spike will do that for Buffy. He will point out where she's being psychotic, but he's always going to have her back. As good as her other friends are -- and ultimately they want the best for her -- they're not above bad feelings. Spike's maybe the only one who can be completely behind her and completely ready to move to the next chapter. That's what you're seeing here. He just wants to face stuff, and that's partly because he wasn't stuck in the middle of "Season 8" and dealing with these things. He wants to move forward, and she completely cannot.
We get a hint here, as he's not invited in, that the rules we know of how vampires and magic work will still apply even after the destruction of the Seed?
Yeah. I did another Q&A with one of the fan sites, and that question came up. It's magic and vampires and witches and demons, and whenever you're playing with that stuff, you've got to make up your own rules. JK Rowling made up her own rules for magic and came up with interesting stuff. Joss had his own ground rules for magic before, but now that we've changed everything, there needs to be new rules. One of the rules Aluwyn spelled out to Willow was that the Slayers get to keep their powers because those powers are integral to them. A witch draws on powers that she has access to, but a Slayer taps within herself. So vampires are not allowed to go in without an invitation? That's carried within them. And the vampires left behind and the demons inside them are here, so certain aspects of those rules remain in this world even though magic has shut off.
We've talked about different demons or magical creatures in the Buffy world and how their powers are going to work or not work in this new situation. As we've worked out the stories for Buffy and Angel in "Season 9," some of those questions have come up, and the way a storyteller handles those questions is to ask what's best for the story. If you start with what makes the most sense...well, it's magic anyway. It's all made up stuff. So we look to what works best for the story.
Like I said, the status of the current Slayers -- even the one who won't be called that anymore -- is the big hook for "Season 9" that we've seen so far. But I can't imagine that's the only group we'll be dealing with coming up. Is part of the story moving forward going to be about the fractioning of the Slayer army?
All of that is true, but most of all it's not just a fractioning, it's all fractured. The Slayer army is no more, but there are all these girls out there. They've got to decide who they are and what to do with their power. The one thing that's certain is that there's no central organization or hub holding them all together. You've got all these girls with these abilities, and some of them are really mad about all that went down. But some of them have some different feelings.
This scene seems to be the "let's throw as many teasers as possible out" page. Did you and Joss have these key players in mind before this issue was written, or did they all come out of the most recent talks around "Season 9"?
That's exactly what it is. As for what we had worked out going in, some of it we had, totally. There are a couple of panels that we've known forever were going to be part of "Season 9" and some of it is more recent things we've found out. This page and the next page is really all about "Coming Up Next!"
And is San Francisco the backdrop for this new direction?
I can't answer for sure because that kind of stuff is totally subject to change, but right now, the mission statement for "Season 9" is, "Get it small and keep it personal." And right now, that seems like we don't want to do a lot of moving around. Moving around makes it global and big, but in the show they never left Sunnydale. I don't know if we'll be that limited, because there are no practical considerations except what the story needs. But the feeling now is that what the story needs is a focus on the characters. I imagine we're really going to milk this San Francisco setting. San Francisco is a gorgeous place to draw, and there's a lot there. I don't know that Buffy will have to leave. There's been some stuff we've been talking around that might have Buffy go around California, but there won't be any, "In this arc...we're in Japan!" I don't think there'll be much of that.
That's a wrap for CBR's BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 8! Check back in the months ahead for all the news leading up to "Season 9!"