Fans and readers have been looking forward to this issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a while now, eager to see what happens when Giles—who returned from death in the form of a child and was stuck that way—is restored to his older body for a single day. It’s an interesting variation on the typical wish-driven “If you only had one day” trope, because all Giles finds is that he doesn’t really have anything to do. The gang are all adults now. They don’t need another adult now, at least not one to instruct them and give them guidance. They’re all capable of doing that for each other now.
This is juxtaposed really well with the return of Hank Summers. I was nervous going into this as to how Hank would be treated and, naturally, how he would treat Buffy and Dawn. Mostly, I was worried that he would be forgiven of his past transgressions and that Buffy and Dawn would welcome him back into their life. Luckily, that’s not the case. When Hank shows up and talks to them, he’s just as bad as he’s ever been, maybe even worse. He oozes sincerity. Christos Gage clearly took a good look at the few episodes in which Hank appeared in and emulated the personality he displayed very well.This is the first time that the siblings have seen their father since before Joyce’s death. He didn’t come back for the funeral, or even when she was sick, not even just to see the kids. Technically, this is Dawn’s first scene with Hank ever. It’s interesting, in that context, that he caters to Dawn and is much more focused on her, almost as if he sees Buffy as a lost cause. Which is probably true. Hank’s appearance in “Nightmares” in the first season is something fans are still talking about, because in Buffy’s nightmare he tells her that he left because of her. Obviously, much of that is Buffy’s projection, but it does lead into my next point.
Mainly, I think Buffy’s going to get a lot of undeserved flack in this issue. She’s quick to almost side with her father and almost immediately starts suggesting she does much more harm than good and even says Hank is more of Dawn’s family than she is. It’s extreme. But it’s clearly in there and I used “Nightmares” to point out that it’s not something new and it’s understandable that she would go to that place. When you’re around someone like that, someone who was supposed to be a role model and a positive, guiding influence on your life and turned out to be anything but, it can absolutely do things to your self-perception and especially your self-worth.
It drives the issue to a point that’s sweet, but nothing we haven’t known for years, and that’s the fact that Giles is Buffy’s real father. Gage treats this as though it’s not common sense at this point, which is a little weird, but I think the larger point is that she gets to have that moment of fatherhood with Giles before he reverts back to child form. The overall point there seems to be that Giles was her father, but circumstances are different now. And they’re both crying when they share their average paternal hug because he’s not going to be an adult again for a long time. This is the last time they’ll ever have that moment.
Naturally, that ends the issue on a bittersweet note. There are some fun moments in the issue, to be sure, especially Giles’ reunion with Olivia. Now that he’s an adult and their relationship was (from what we’ve seen) mostly sex-based, it goes a lot better this time. It’s also interesting that Spike appears nowhere in the issue, and I’m really looking forward to finding out what he was doing during this time.
WICKED RATING: [usr 7]