Things are definitely feeling big as we head into the finale of Buffy season ten. D’Hoffryn has not only revealed himself as a big bad, but formed together a sort of council of wannabe vengeance demons—including Jonathan. There’s a lot of stuff going on here that I like. I think it’s great for D’Hoffryn to emerge as the antagonist of the season. It feels very organic. They made allegiances with him in season nine, even knowing that he was inherently a demon responsible for a lot of bad, with his own agenda. Even on the TV show, he was usually played as a comedic character, which kind of made us forget how really terrible he was most of the time.
Now it’s clear just how evil he is and it’s everyone’s problem. There’s also a strong sense of the gang coming back together because of this. While there’s been a core group for most of the season, the Scooby Gang have often found themselves at odds with each other.
Everyone is finally made aware of Ghost Anya at this point as well, which is a moment I kind of hoped would have an opportunity to breathe when it finally happened. Still, I do like the bit where Xander mentions that he didn’t tell Buffy he’d been seeing Ghost Anya because he assumed he was hallucinating her and was slowly going insane, and she points out that mental illness is not a better thing to not mention to his friends and loved ones.
Xander is front and center in this issue for reasons that I’m going to have to spoil to continue talking about in regards to his character. If you don’t want to know what happens in the issue, don’t keep reading, because it’s the only way to talk about it. Still here? Alright. You’ve been warned.
At the end of this issue, when D’Hoffryn presents Ghost Anya with the opportunity to take the revenge on Xander that real Anya once claimed to have wanted, as Xander struggles to appeal to her humanity, she kills him. It’s hard to tell what happens as it happens at the tail end of the issue, but she appears to vaporize him. Buffy is a series known for killing major characters, of course, usually supporting ones. It was a major deal back in 2011 when Giles was killed at the end of season eight because he was one of the founding figures of the show and had always been a constant. Of course, they brought him back for season ten in a very interesting and unexpected way.
Xander has always been a core figure of the series. The fourth season literally cemented him as the heart of the group. Throughout all of her heroic struggles and tumultuous relationships, all of the instabilities in her life, Xander has been Buffy’s rock. It’s been this way from the very beginning. It becomes a different series if he’s not there. Long before I ever reviewed the Buffy comics I actually verbally said aloud at one point that Xander was the only death that would lead to me dropping the series and walking away.
At this point, I have no plan to do that. For one thing, there’s only a single issue left and this issue clearly ended on something of a cliffhanger. More importantly, while the ending seems to have fans up in arms, nothing’s been spelled out just yet. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
Judging solely on the material in the issue itself, I am totally unconvinced that Xander is actually dead. I won’t believe it until it’s spelled out in the narrative itself. Because anything could have happened and we won’t know for sure until it’s made clear. When it comes to Buffy, we’re dealing with storytelling that’s practically limitless. In fact, this season it’s actually limitless. If Buffy and her friends get ahold of the rule book, all they have to do is say that Xander’s alive and it becomes true. But even beyond that, we’re not given much proof that he’s dead. We see a little pile of ashes after a big light show. He could have been transported, transfigured, etc. Anything could have happened.
I think the issue does exactly what it needs to by feeding that anxious desire to see what happens next. Everyone wants to know if Xander’s really okay, but at the same time we’re all bracing ourselves for the reveal that he’s not. Because, after all, this is Buffy.
WICKED RATING: [usr=7.5]