So read on fellow Whedonite, as we take a journey with Season 8 editor and Joss' co-writer of the final arc - Scott Allie - and try to make some sense of our pain.
Major Spoilers ahead! Seriously, don't read this if you can help it, spoiler fiend.
Buffyfest: Why in the hell did you guys kill Giles?
Scott Allie: You're gonna spoiler tag this, right?
Buffyfest: Heh. So, how did the conversation between you and Joss go about this major plot point? Was this something you’ve planned from the beginning?
SA: Revealing too much about this pulls the curtain back on the great and terrible Oz a bit too much. It was planned for a while, but not from the very beginning. I will say this. I've been involved now in killing two beloved characters—Giles, and Roger from Hellboy. And both times it had everything to do with the arc of the character, and in this case, the arc of the killer.
Buffyfest: Season 8 seems to be the adult version of Season 2. Was that the intention?
SA: No, not the intention, but I think I know what you mean. I love Season 2, and what you're saying wasn't the intention, never anything we specifically decided upon, but there's clear similarities. I think what was great about Season 2 appealed to us in the setup of Season 8, and we ran with those things. But the differences are interesting too. In Season 2, it was fairly easy to say that Angel was not Angelus, but there's more ambiguity here, in terms of how responsible Angel is for Twilight's actions. I like moral ambiguity. I find that more adult.
Buffyfest: Continuing with that thought, was the decision to have Angel snap Giles neck a shout-out to the murder of Jenny Calendar?
SA: Well, yes, that's one of the real concrete similarities. When we set that scene up, Joss said we should specifically reference Jenny's death, visually, distinctly.
Buffyfest: What would you tell fans who are now fully entrenched in the "I hate Angel" club?
SA: I'd tell 'em they've never had more in common with the characters. I could see Willow doing a hell of a lot more than turning him into a frog, if she didn't have her own problems right now. This low point that we've taken Angel to is gonna be good fodder for Season 9. People felt we let him off the hook too easily after Buffy #34, but he's not off the hook. This is interesting, to me, as someone involved in shaping his story. He's a hero, sometimes a romantic lead, who has a long, long trail of bodies behind him. Killing Giles might not be the worst thing he's ever done, but for the readers and for the characters, it's the act we're gonna be most upset about. Angel's crimes have never been brought home as sharply and as viscerally for the fans as they've been brought home this week.
Buffyfest: Where does his story go next?
SA: Season 9. There’s one more issue that will show you were people are at in the wake of all the horror, but I can’t tell you where it goes next, not just yet. We’ll spill some more info when #40 comes out. But for Angel, it is going to be about redemption—that’s sort of what his story has always been, and maybe now he needs it more than ever.
Buffyfest: As a fan, do you hate Angel for what he’s done? Or pity him for being taken over by Twilight and committing this horrible act?
SA: It's not pity, but the second option is closer to how I see him. Twilight didn't take hold of Xander. Angel was the appropriate vehicle for Twilight. So he bears responsibility for being that appropriate vehicle. I don't just mean appropriate because he's a vampire—but because he's a guy who'd sign up for a plan like this. There's a reason the talking dog went to him first, and not Buffy. I've read some interesting fan reactions to Season 8 centering on a wholly dualistic view of free will—either there is or there ain't. In fiction like this, you have to account for a certain amount of mysticism, fate, predestination, etc., because that's the genre. But you also have to allow for free will, for characters to be responsible for their actions. You can have both. You have to, or this stuff doesn't work as good fiction. Even though the gods manipulated the Greek heroes, the heroes' actions were still tragic. So even where fate is involved, predestination, and even possession, there has to be a level or personal responsibility. You can pity Regan in The Exorcist, but you can't simply pity Angel. He's a hero, not a victim. He bears responsibility for his actions, even if that responsibility is unclear and subject to debate. So I do feel sympathy that his own character—who he is, his characteristics—set him up to be in the spot to do this thing, though this specific action was not his choice. If he were another guy—if he were Spike—this would not have happened. Spike would not have accepted the Twilight mission in the first place. Buffy wouldn't have accepted the mission, didn't when presented with it. Ironically, Giles may have. Maybe, if it were framed the right way.
Buffyfest: Does that make Angel less of a hero or more of a human?
SA: I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive, by any means. If he is more human than he was before, he should be more relatable. But he’s certainly a flawed hero, a very challenged hero. That’s what’s so boring about Superman. Not enough flaw. No challenges. A weakness to an extremely rare mineral doesn’t humanize a character, and I like my heroes humanized.
Buffyfest: Buffy and Angel have been challenged since the beginning of the TV show. Will Angel killing Buffy's pseudo-dad be the final stake in the heart of that relationship?
SA: Nope. Buffy #40 is the wedding issue. Because readers unanimously demanded it!
Buffyfest: Georges Jeanty recently said, "Faith does something really remarkable" about forgiving Angel. Care to elaborate on this?
SA: Not yet.
Buffyfest: Is anyone else going to die in Issue #40?
Buffyfest: Wait, what? Say again?
SA: Oh, it’s not what you’re thinking. Next?
Buffyfest: OK, speaking of issue #40, will we see a conversation between Buffy and Angel about Giles’ death?
SA: You will not.
Buffyfest: What about Spike? Will we see him again in issue #40 or is he off to the unknown with bug crew?
SA: He gets a scene in #40.
Buffyfest: In this issue, Spike says about Angel “He finally picked a side.” What does Spike mean by this statement?
SA: Well, he says it after seeing Angel punch Buffy through a wall, right? Angel's agenda has been unclear, and he's drenched in moral ambiguity, especially from Spike's point of view. Seeing Angel deck Buffy while the big war is waging above draws the lines in such a way that Spike feels justified in trying to kill Angel, no reason to hold back.
Buffyfest: Willow’s agenda is back to magic being her main focus. Do you think she's learned anything from Season 6?
SA: Absolutely, but what she learned in Season 7 is that there are certain roads to great power that don't destroy you, that are truly good. Frankly, given my interests, what's going on with Willow in #38 and #39 is some of my favorite stuff. There was so much I wanted to do with it, but it's not what the story's about. In the Seed, Willow found a battery for the kind of power she channeled in the empowerment spell. The empowerment was the ultimate payoff of everything she'd learned over the course of the series. It was redemption after Season 6, and it was the ultimate expression of her relationship and partnership with Buffy after seven years. It was a good thing, and it was a contrast to how badly magic had gone for her in Season 6. And the Seed offered her another perspective on that sort of power. I think we'll have time and need to reflect on this in Season 9. But in response to your question, I think we can learn a lot from our experiences and remain subject to our own hubris, and Joss's characters explore that idea really nicely.
Buffyfest: Now that Buffy has destroyed the seed and ended magic, how will this affect Willow and Buffy's friendship?
SA: Not insignificantly.
Buffyfest: More on that, we’ve seen that Willow and Amy lose their abilities to use magic. What other consequences are there to the breaking of the seed?
SA: The events of Season 8 were largely the result of the empowerment spell, and a huge amount of what goes on in Season 9 will be the direct result of the breaking of the Seed.
Buffyfest: So, was the empowerment spell a bad idea in terms of the universe and was this the universe's way of balancing good and evil in the world again?
SA: Not a bad idea, no—the empowerment spell brought great things to the world, but everything comes with a price. The balance swings back and forth, like a pendulum. Things are not in balance at the end of Season 8, but they’ll keep swinging.
Buffyfest: Now that the seed is broken, is the Fray future a certainty? Will we be seeing more of that future in Season 9 (or maybe even in Buffy #40?)
SA: To some degree, the Fray future is here, right? Listen to poor Willow … But I don’t think we’ll be doing a lot more time travel soon. It’s hard. Between Terminator, Season 8, and Umbrella, our heads are spinning.
Buffyfest: We asked you this question two years ago at NYCC and then again at SDCC last year, and we hope we can finally get your answer. What is the theme of Season 8?
SA: Betrayal. And the reason I wanted to be cagey about that, even though a lot of the fans had identified it, is because of a little anecdote from Joss. Joss himself has this running theme about awesome women, right? Smart women? Well, wayyyyy back in the beginning of this thing, he was talking to Kai, his wife. He was talking the story up to her, building to the big finish, "the closest, most unexpected betrayal," and she cut to the chase and said, "Buffy betrays herself, right?" If your theme is betrayal, self-betrayal is the harshest place you can go. So I was afraid that if I confirmed that betrayal was the theme, if I singled betrayal out as where we'd be heading in the climax, and you looked at that panel from #10, you'd figure it out, it'd step on the ending. I've had a couple readers write to me with the theory that Buffy would bring an end to magic, that Buffy would betray herself, etc. And they threw those theories out into the universe, and there was no word from me or Joss or Georges to confirm it, so readers were free to do with it as they pleased, to prioritize it as they saw fit, based on what was presented in the story. To tip the scales, outside of the text of the story, in a way that would promote one theory over another would damage the story worse than the accidental spoilers we leaked over the years.
Buffyfest: You mentioned that you saw a lot of fans had figured out that the betrayal was Buffy betraying herself. Were there any fan theories along the way that you found interesting even though they wound up being incorrect?
SA: Oh yeah, absolutely. I heard some cool ideas that were very much based on an intimate understanding of the characters, and that’s always exciting. The fan speculation about where it was going was rewarding to see, because it showed a pretty sophisticated level of engagement with the story.
Buffyfest: Completely unrelated, but important, what’s your take on the Buffy reboot movie?
SA: They should cast Miley Cyrus. Is there any way we can make that happen? That would be amazing. Only way this idea could get any better.