When facing down a rogue Slayer turned vampire, a huge bat-demon from the beginning of time and a Chernobyl of magic power about to melt down, apparently the best plan is to point one at the others and get out of the way.
Dark Horse Comics' "Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 9" writer Andrew Chambliss and artist Georges Jeanty have wrapped their long-running story arc with issue #25, bringing the late-season threats to a head in the depths of the Deeper Well. With Buffy's sister, Dawn, fading from existence, Buffy and her crew are racing to restore magic to the world and, hopefully, stop the vanishing act. Meanwhile, through a perfect storm of circumstances, Buffy is also forced into a showdown with Slayer-vamp Simone Doffler, the sire of all vampires Maloker and Severin the Siphon.
While the dust continued to settle, CBR News spoke with Chambliss about the conclusion of "Season 9," and the writer shared his thoughts on the events of its final chapter while hinting at stories yet to come. Despite managing to restore magic and save Dawn, nothing is quite as it was, and Chambliss fittingly leaves readers with more questions than answers as "Buffy" moves forward.
CBR News: As the Season Finale issue opens, Illyria is deep in the Well with Severin and the Seed as Sev struggles to delay his cataclysm. Now, it seems the fate of the world is in Severin's hands, though this probably isn't as he imagined it, is it?
Andrew Chambliss: Sev thought he was going down into the Well to get enough power so he could rewind the clock and be with his girlfriend again. It was a selfish reason for sure, but not necessarily an evil one. But now he's got to make the unselfish choice and sacrifice his life to restore magic to the world. All season long, he's been a victim of circumstance -- first when his girlfriend turned and he accidentally siphoned the vampire out of her, then when Simone manipulated him into helping her get into the Well so she could achieve her agenda. But now circumstance has given him a chance to make up for everything and actually be the hero.
Above them, what remains of the demon council and the Scoobies are facing down Doffler and Maloker. Buffy is skewered on the Scythe -- what sort of state is she in, mentally and physically? How far can she push before hitting her limit?
Buffy has certainly been put through the wringer, both physically and emotionally. Even though she's been skewered and is about to pass out, her mental state is in a much more fragile place. She thinks she failed. She thinks that her sister is going to fade from existence because she couldn't defeat Simone. But, ironically, this ends up being the very same thing that allows her to dig down deep and keep fighting. She's not going to let her sister die and she's also not going to let her friends -- Xander, Willow and even Koh -- die in the Well just because she has a scythe though her chest.
Koh and D'Hoffryn confront Doffler, calling her "an aberration" and stating, "a creature like you cannot be allowed to survive." What does Doffler represent to the Demon Council?
Simone has become a very scary thing for the Council. As we learned in the "Welcome to the Team" arc, the Council's main concern was policing what little magic was left in this world after the destruction of the Seed. At the time, their focus was on Severin because he was collecting and consolidating the world's magic for himself. He was becoming too powerful for any one being. Simone is an aberration to D'Hoffryn for this same reason. She's got the power of a Slayer and a vampire -- two forces that were never meant to be together in one being.
Koh realizes Illyria has been left behind. As the seed explodes, it appears she and Severin are vaporized. What lead Illyria to make this sacrifice? As a character, she's changed quite a bit from her first appearance.
Illyria definitely changed since we first saw her in Season 9. The reason is pretty simple: she lost her magic. But the internal journey that loss sent her on is a bit more complicated. If Severin siphoned all of Illyria's mystical energy from her, she should have died like all the zompires we saw Severin kill this season. But she didn't. Did Severin not get every bit of magic? Or did part of Fred's soul actually survive when Illyria took over her body? Is that what was keeping her alive now? I'm not even sure Illyria knew the truth when she decided to stay with Severin in the Well. Was that a bit of Fred's soul exerting influence on her behavior? Or has Illyria actually grown a bit as a character? I think it's fun to leave as an open question, and I'd love to be able to find a way to answer it in the future. Who knows -- Illyria was vaporized with Severin, but this wasn't the first time she was entombed down in the Deeper Well.
As Willow pilots the gang's escape up the Well shaft, Doffler grabs Buffy, knocking them both back into the Well for a final showdown. They wrestle over the Scythe -- Buffy, in this moment, seems to take hold of her given role again, as she asserts her ownership of the Scythe. Is this is a weapon that really can only ever belong to Buffy? It seems, in some sense, representative of her power.
In this moment, I definitely think the scythe is representative of Buffy's power. She used it to share her power with all the Potential Slayers, including Simone, and as Buffy reclaims the scythe from Simone -- and slays her with it! -- She's definitely reclaiming that bit of Slayer power she gave to Simone at the end of "Season 7." I think Buffy realizes that she's just a steward of this weapon -- other Slayers will certainly wield it in the future -- but she's sure of one thing: vampire Simone certainly has no rights to it.
Eventually, we're back in San Francisco, Doff dusted and everyone more or less ok, while Willow is struggling to make Dawn manifest again. Willow eventually stumbles upon the idea of using Buffy's blood as a catalyst or binder. Often, depictions of "blood magic" have a sinister, dark bent, or are considered risky territory at best. Would this fall into that category?
Blood magic is often used in a sinister context, but I don't think that's the case here. I think Willow coming up with the idea of using Buffy's blood as a catalyst just serves to highlight the relationship Buffy and Dawn share. Even though Dawn was created with magic, that doesn't mean Dawn and Buffy are any less siblings than if Dawn had been born in the traditional sense. They both still have Summers blood in their veins, and in this case, that blood was able to give something for Dawn's essence to form around.
There will definitely be repercussions from what Dawn's been through. At the very least, she's now going to deal with the fallout from what just happened -- on a supernatural and personal level. What does it really mean to still be the key? And how is she going to deal with all the personal betrayals that happened because she started to fade from existence.
Willow succeeds, and Dawn returns, seemingly with a full memory of her life before and during her fade-out. Everyone is happy, but Xander is left struggling with his betrayal of Buffy and the gang. Despite Buffy's assertion that she forgives him, he has lingering doubts and guilt. Where does Xander go from here? What does he see as his role within the group moving forward?
Xander's really going to have to figure out how he feels about his actions and how he can deal with his friends going forward. Buffy's forgiven him, but we've yet to see exactly how deep that forgiveness runs. Dawn's definitely going to have a reaction when she learns exactly what happened while he was trying to save her. Is she going to blame Xander? Is she going to blame herself, since he was just trying to save her? But at the end of the day, I think Xander's going to be his [own] biggest enemy -- will he be able to forgive himself? Will he think he deserves Dawn's love? Buffy and Willow's friendship? Will he trust himself to be part of the gang going forward? Especially when they face their next danger? This is what Xander's going to have to carry forward into Season 10.
A couple lingering questions arise as repercussions of the return of magic: as Buffy and Willow leaf through "Vampyr," they find all of the pages to be blank. At the issue's conclusion, we see a newly turned vampire who is unaffected by sunlight and able to turn into a bat! What?! How has the reintroduction of magic affected the world? It would seem that the rules have been rewritten!
Yep, the rulebook that Buffy knows has literally been tossed out. The newly-sired vampire who steps into sunlight and turns into a bat is just a taste of the way magic is going to work with the new seed. Buffy fought to get magic back so she could save her sister, but there are definitely going to be repercussions to those actions.
Looking back, what were some of your favorite moments of the Season? Were there character arcs or subplots you wanted to explore but weren't able to this time around?
The first arc was a lot of fun to write because it was my first time dipping my toes into the Buffyverse. I also really enjoyed writing the "On Your Own" arc. Tying Buffy's decision about what to do when she thought she was pregnant to a Nikki Wood flashback provided a lot of cool, little moments. I really love Spike and Buffy's poolside chat at the end of "On Your Own: Part 1" -- it turned out to be a small, emotional scene between Buffy and Spike, and I thought Georges did an excellent job capturing the emotion on the page. Later in the season, I really loved getting the chance to go inside Xander's head in "The Watcher" and truly understand what he had been feeling all season long. That last page was so much fun because I got to take Xander to a place that was so unexpected -- his decision to betray Buffy. I also really loved the challenge of writing the last few pages of issue #25 -- it was fun to find a little, self-contained scene that demonstrated exactly what it meant now that the new seed erased all the old magic rules.
By the end of the season, we ended up with such a large cast and such a big finale that there are definitely some characters I would have loved to have had more page space to explore. Dowling, for instance, is one character I would have loved to have had a chance to spend a bit more time with. When we last saw him, there was promise of romance between Dowling and Buffy -- and I'd definitely be interested to see where that goes, especially now that Dowling's "vampire unit" of the SFPD is probably going to have their hands full now that magic has returned. Maybe he and Buffy will have the opportunity to patrol with each other again. I'd also like to have had time to get a little deeper into the mystery of who betrayed and imprisoned Koh thousands of years ago -- I think that's definitely something that we'll continue into Season 10. And speaking of Season 10 --
Will you be returning for Season 10? What might readers be able to look forward to as the story progresses from here?
Yeah, I'll be involved in Season 10. We've already had our writer's summit with Joss and have mapped out where the story is going to go. Without giving away too much, Season 10 is going to deliver on the promise of the last couple pages of #25 -- Buffy and the gang are going to have their hands full dealing with the new Seed and the way it turned all the magical rules on their head!