Buffy Season Eight Vol. 1: The Long Way Home
“The Long Way Home” picks up approximately one year after the events of Season Seven and effectively reintroduces the characters as well as establishes their roles in the New World Order of the Buffyverse. “The thing about changing the world, once you do it, the world’s all different,” Buffy Summers herself offers in the opening pages. The Vampire Slayer has come a long way since her days of patrolling the cemeteries of Sunnydale, however, as she has now set-up camp in a Scottish castle equipped with the latest high-tech gadgets and parachutes out of helicopters to more effectively infiltrate the lair of her prey. Buffy is the indisputable leader of the thousands of other vampire slayers that were activated at the end of the television series and in turn recruited by the ever-expanding Scooby Gang.
Despite her rank, she is still the same Buffy Summers with the same difficulty of truly opening up to her friends and comrades-in-arms. This is most evident in her relationship with younger sister Dawn, who suddenly finds herself over 50-feet tall. Buffy speculates that Dawn’s boyfriend at Berkeley was a thricewise demon—apparently having sex with the supernatural being produces such a physical change—but Dawn is unwilling to discuss the matter with her big sister. Dawn has abandonment issues after all, and from her rather large perspective Buffy is more interested in her newfound slayer sisters than she is with Dawn.
The core group of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer family is also present within the pages of Season Eight, including Xander Harris, Rupert Giles and Willow Rosenberg. Xander, for instance, is in charge of the various operations executed by Team Buffy, barking out orders in the command center while insisting that his subordinates call him either Xander or Sergeant Fury, the later in deference to both his new status and the eye-patch that he now permanently wears. As the last remaining member of the Watchers Council, meanwhile, Giles oversees the training of the newly chosen slayers and continues to serve in an advisory role to Buffy herself even if his hands-on role is not as obvious or direct as in the past. Then there’s Willow—she’s still a witch but one who has embraced the inherent “goodness” of her abilities and has apparently found a sense of independence despite being best friend to the legendary Buffy Summers.
With the “good guys” having been reestablished, “The Long Way Home” next lays the groundwork in regards to who—or what—are the “bad guys” of Season Eight. First and foremost on the list is the US military. “They got power, they got resources, and they got a hard-line ideology that does not jibe with American interests,” a general tells a “mystical” bureaucrat. “Worst of all, they got a leader. Charismatic, uncompromising, and completely destructive.” While the general believes a nuclear strike is the most effective way to deal with Buffy and her army of slayers, an unexpected alternative is unearthed deep within the crater formerly known as Sunnydale—Amy Madison, the previous witch-turned-rat-turned-witch again, and Warren Mears, part of the Evil Troika from Season Six who was last seen flayed alive by Dark Willow Rosenberg. It turns out that Amy has been able to keep the skinless Warren alive through the use of magick, and both are more than willing to assist the military in their campaign to bring down Buffy Summers.
Amy uses an effective combination of love spell and zombies in a smoke-and-mirror attempt at hiding her real agenda of taking Willow Rosenberg captive. Willow, meanwhile, seeks mental refuge in an alternative dimension while her physical self is subjected to Warren’s tortuous revenge. “Did I ever tell you about my best friend?” Willow replies to her mystical protectors when asked if she feared death. Sure enough, Buffy returns to Sunnydale in order to rescue her friend with the help of some Xander-inspired smoke-and-mirrors of her own.
“Do you really think we were going to sit by and let you create a master race?” the general asks Buffy afterwards. “You’ve been to war with the demons, with the First, but believe me you picked the wrong side. If you win then you’ll decide the world still isn’t the way you want it and the demon in you will say just one thing: ‘Slay.’ We’re not waiting for that to happen. You’re at war with the human race.”
While the US military obviously considers itself at odds with Buffy Summers and her newly chosen slayer clan, there are hints throughout the pages of “The Long Way Home” that they are merely part of a much larger threat. In the opening sequence, for instance, Buffy and a small group of slayers attack a den of demons only to find the bodies of dead humans with an unknown symbol etched upon their chests. It later turns out that the same symbol is likewise engraved on the chest of the general intent on bringing down Buffy—and in affect alluding to the possibility that the general’s allegiance is to someone other than the United States Government, a someone known as Twilight.
As the screen turned to black on the series finale of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, a smile slowly appeared on the lips of Buffy Summers. In her mind, the defeat of the First and the empowerment of thousands of formerly “potential” slayers created a New World Order in which the demons of the world had no chance of surviving. In reality, however, her actions created numerous unexpected enemies, including two former foes intent on revenge. Every action has consequences and even the best of intentions can lead to unexpected results—something Buffy Summers inevitably discovers in “The Long Way Home.”