SPOILER WARNING: This interview features extensive discussion of major plot points from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #24
Things have gotten a little out of hand for Buffy and her crew. As the Slayer and her team dive into the depths of the Deeper Well in search of some means to restore magic to the world and save Dawn from disappearing completely, they've suddenly found themselves up against adversity, from within and without. Severin is losing his mind as he attempts to hold on to the power he's absorbed, Xander has lost Buffy's trust for his double-agent fiasco and Doffler has unleashed Maloker, turning herself into the first ever Slayer-vampire in the process.
The battle in the core of the Deeper Well rages on in issue #24 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In this installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9, CBR News takes an in depth look at the issue with series writer Andrew Chambliss, giving readers a look at the writing process and some hints at what might be in store for Buffy and the Scoobies as the Dark Horse Comics title draws to a close.
CBR News: So, Doffler turned herself. Has this ever been done before, in the history of Slayer-dom? What sort of crazy vamp has she turned into?
Andrew Chambliss: This is the first time, at least that we've seen, that a Slayer has turned into a vampire. I remember being on the phone with Joss, brainstorming exactly what would happen to Simone by the end of the season, and when we struck upon the idea of her turn into a vampire he said something along the lines of, "Whoa -- how have we never done that before?" So we decided to do it.
You have a Slayer turning into the very thing that she's supposed to, with every fiber of her being, want to slay. Not that she was a balanced person to begin with, but this internal conflict certainly isn't going to make her any nicer. When a regular human turns into a vampire, it tends to amplify the worst parts of themselves -- so what happens when you're pretty bad to begin with, have a major chip on your shoulder and already have superhuman strength? It's not pretty.
Aside from whatever effect the change has had on her strength, Doffler has retained her intelligence -- she's not just a blubbering blood-fiend. Is this just because they're in the Deeper Well, or is it something else?
She's not a zompire. That's for sure. Simone sought Maloker in the Deeper Well for a reason. His blood is the blood that started all of vampdom on earth. It's a lot more potent than the blood that's been watered down over the centuries. The reason that zompires are mindless blood fiends is because, without the seed, it's been impossible for their bodies to form a strong connection, if any, with the demons that would normally make them intelligent vampires. When Maloker sired Simone, his blood was strong enough, even without the seed, to make that connection. So we get Simone Doffler as vampire instead of slobbering Simone. Simone would probably be a lot easier for Buffy to face if she had just turned into a Slayer-zompire. But that wouldn't be nearly as much fun for us.
On page 6, as Doffler and Buffy are duking it out, Doffler raises an interesting point: She claims that without Buffy's fear of the end of the world, perhaps things would have taken some other path. Is this accurate?
From Simone's point of view, it's certainly accurate. If Buffy hadn't done what she did at the end of Season 8, Simone certainly wouldn't be a vampire-Slayer hybrid, who right now is probably one of the more powerful creatures on earth at this point. And she's probably right. But I don't think Simone's thinking it through entirely -- if Buffy hadn't destroyed the Seed, who knows what kind of demonic power would have made it into our world. Simone, like most humans, probably would have ended up as demon chow at some point.
Are the anxieties of Buffy, or of Xander or Willow or anyone, really, what actually lead them to this point? Has a fear of some small doom lead to something exponentially bigger and doomier?
Buffy, Xander and Willow came to the Deeper Well to save Dawn. I don't think they ever expected to be facing a Slayer-Vampire hybrid, battling an Old One and having to worry about Severin going nuclear. I think that's definitely bigger and doomier than they ever expected.
Ultimately, things went this route because our core group of characters weren't able to trust each other -- if Xander hadn't made his side deal with Severin and Simone, our heroes wouldn't be facing such an uphill battle. But then, again, if Severin is the key to jumpstarting the Seed, then our heroes wouldn't have a solution to that problem. Even though the stakes are so big, I do think the desire to save Dawn is still what's driving everyone at their very core.
Meanwhile, Willow has followed her spell to the depths of the Well, where, as she said, she was brought to birth a new seed of magic. Is this seed, then, the magic she carried with her from her "Wonderland" journey?
The seed that she gives birth to is the very same magic that she carried with her from the Wonderland journey. That's why, when it's no longer in her body, she doesn't have access to magic anymore. It's the thing that allowed her to have magic in a seedless world. And until she figures out how to jumpstart it, she's going to find herself unable to use magic.
If things go according to plan, and this seed does in fact renew the magic of the world, how will Willow's relationship to that magic be affected? As it came, essentially, from her aura or presence, I imagine her having a pretty intense link.
Yeah, if Willow's plan is successful and Severin is in fact able to jumpstart the seed, she's definitely going to have a pretty tight connection to magic. This seed is something that she carried back with her, across dimensions, inside her body. If Severin is able to jumpstart the seed, I think she's probably going to be a lot more comfortable with this magic because it was a part of her.
The question that remains, however, is whether or not Severin really can jumpstart the seed. And even if he can, Willow may have an intrinsic connection to the seed -- but what about the rest of the magic-using world? Will they be able to access magic in the same way they were before? Will there be differences? What role will Willow have to take in a world where she is so closely connected to the new seed?
Willow takes the seed to find Severin and Illyria. Illyria has, it seems, managed to calm Severin just enough to keep him from exploding, and Willow hopes to use his power to -- to do what, exactly? Is his store of power somehow enough to jump-start the seed?
Severin has spent most of the Season collecting power from all the beings who retained their magical powers after the destruction of the Seed. He started with zompires, then worked his way up to more powerful beings like Illyria. So he's definitely got a lot of magic inside him. More than even he can control right now. But whether or not it's enough, or whether or not a seed can even be "jumpstarted," is a very good question. I don't know how certain Willow is that her plan will work. But she doesn't have many options. Maybe Severin will destroy the Seed. Maybe releasing all his energy will destroy the world. Who knows?
Right now, Willow's desperate to figure out a way to get the seed working quickly enough to save Dawn. She doesn't know the consequences, but it's a risk she's willing to take because not taking that risk means losing Dawn forever. It's interesting: She blamed Buffy for destroying the Seed and for all the consequences that came with that choice, and now she's taking a similar risk. Hopefully it will work out better for her this time.
Illyria, in trying to talk Severin down, tells him that he still doesn't "Know what power is." What sort of power is she referring to?
What Illyria means is that Severin may have the physical/magical power, but he doesn't have the control or knowledge on how to use it properly. He lacks restraint. If he goes through with his plan to try to jump back in time, he threatens the fabric of the universe.
We see a brief flashback to Illyria's former life as Fred, and a moment of tenderness out of sorts with, as Willow points out, one known as "The Merciless." What is it that stirs this sacrifice on Illyria's part?
That's a very good question, and I think there are several possible explanations, at least right now. Maybe Illyria's experience watching Wesley die softened her and that's why she's trying to connect to Severin in this moment. Or maybe some part of Fred actually survived when Illyria burned away her soul and that's why she's telling Severin about Wesley's sacrifice. Or maybe this is just a tactic Illyria is using to get Severin to do that right thing. Remember, she was always very good at using Fred's persona to push people's buttons and manipulate them into doing what she wanted. She is trying to save the world, here, and restore magic to the realm -- so I wouldn't put anything past her.
Willow leaves the seed in Illyria and Severin's hands, and finds Xander and the Council waging a losing battle with the vampire sire-beast. As they try to evacuate the Well, Doffler appears, with Buffy skewered on the scythe. Whoa.
So, as Doffler says through that horrific grin, who's next?
Telling you that would be no fun. Our heroes do have a huge battle in store for them next issue -- can they defeat Simone and get out of the Well before Severin goes nuclear? Will Severin even be able to jumpstart the Seed? Will Dawn disappear before that happens?