"A Beautiful Sunset"
Plot: Hey, finally it's an all "I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer!" issue, and she's all the big boss-woman, and she's all consider-y about what she's done (the good and the bad of being the ax-wielder and ender of the whole one per generation rule) and what it all means. Big picture time, which generally also means Big Bad, oops!
Comments: Joss has this thing he does, that so far he's conceived masterfully for this series. If only Runaways and Astonishing X-Men could have had an ongoing stable of writers familiar enough with his style to emulate it but talented enough to put their own twists in. Then those series might have come out on time, like this one for Dark Horse is miraculously doing.
Here he's running like a TV show, turf he’s quite familiar with. And this is the point in the season where a lot of Buffy 101 things happen. We've seen the major players. We've checked in with old friends. We've taken note of new power sets, and disposed of a few minor threats.
So what's the next step, while Buffy cheerily heads off to rout a nest of garden variety vamps, while also delivering that dreaded "I know you're in love with me, but I don't feel the same way" speech to her heretofore secret admirer (one of the many minor threads already established this season)? Easy: this is the episode where Buffy gets her ass handed to her by the finally revealed Big Bad, only not yet so much revealed, because then Buffy would know his weakness, and have already come up with one of those strategic plans of hers.
Rather than feeling trite, the familiarity of this development is reassuring proof that this "season" is as real as any of the others. The new characters have come alive and the old ones are all acting like themselves. On the soap opera level, we've learned that Xander has a crush he hasn't acted on, that Willow is still with Kennedy but dealing with her usual array of scabby old wounds, and that while Buffy deeply respects Satsu and thinks she's cool, it's never going to happen.
The flow of dialogue is very nice his issue. The level of trust between Xander and Buffy is heartfelt and beautiful, and the ironies of Buffy's life continue right on cue. Just as she's warning Satsu away because of her dismal record with the whole love thing, Twilight strikes. He's quite erudite himself and seems to know that the way to defeat Buffy is not to kill her, but to demoralize her and make her doubt herself.
Whoever Twilight is (and the merciless teasing about his identity continues apace, good one, Joss!), he's not as clever as he thinks. Because if Buffy didn't doubt, she wouldn't still be human. But she doesn't just doubt, she learns. And she'll get her foe's information yet, though I'm sure the price will be as high as ever. As Buffy says to ruefully conclude the excellently paced issue, "Yay me."
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