Skip directly to content

Buffy Season Eight Vol. 8: Last Gleaming

on Wed, 03/02/2011 - 00:00

At the end of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, Buffy Summers embarked on the radical path of sharing her powers with the thousands of potential slayers around the world. Using the mystical scythe as a conduit, witch Willow Rosenberg activated those potentials and in effect created a new world order containing a powerful army capable of defeating any and all supernatural evils. Although the Buffy Season Eight comic book series began at some unspecified point after those events, the ramifications of Buffy’s actions have overshadowed the sprawling, overarching narrative nonetheless. From the US military that branded Buffy a “terrorist,” to a group of Japanese vampires intent on reversing the effects of the scythe, to being considered the enemy by the population-at-large when the existence of slayers was revealed—all of these subplots lead directly back to the events of the television show’s finale.

It should be no surprise then that in the final volume of Buffy Season Eight, entitled “Last Gleaming,” the latest apocalypse faced by Buffy and her cohorts likewise centers on the head slayer’s actions. While the masked Twilight had been portrayed as the “Big Bad” of the season, in actuality it is a different kind of “Twilight” that poses the greatest threat to mankind. By activating thousands of slayers, Buffy Summers in effect upset the balance of “one slayer alone against the vampires, demons and the forces of darkness,” and as watcher Rupert Giles points out in the installment directly before “Last Gleaming,” nature believes in balance. Buffy thus did not merely put in motion a series of events that placed her at odds with both the human and supernatural communities, but a change in the universe as well and the creation of a new, better dimension known as Twilight.

Buffy is not alone in the creation of this new dimension, however, as her former vampire lover Angel—who was earlier revealed to be the masked Twilight—likewise played a major role. In a flashback scene at the start of “Last Gleaming,” the Los Angeles-based Angel was visited by a “talking dog” who teaches him about destiny, prophecies and higher purposes. Angel also discovered at this time that he suddenly had the ability to fly, coupled with super strength and an overall indestructibility.

“Stop acting like it’s such a trial,” Angel is told. “You have power. It’s not a trick. It’s called a reward, and believe me when I say it makes ‘shanshu’ look like a sack a’ crap.”

It was because of the “talking dog,” which appeared to Angel in other forms as well, that the vampire-with-a-soul donned his Twilight mask and took control of the various forces that were forming in opposition to Buffy Summers and her slayers. His main goal, however, was to “push” Buffy until she herself received the same super abilities as Angel. When the two finally squared off against each other, the mystical energy surrounding them brought out their “sexual beast”—and gave birth to a new universe known as Twilight in the process. The encounter also caused a riff in their home dimension, however, and Buffy rejected Twilight in order to assist her friends, family and allies in their fight against the onslaught of demons rushing in to destroy planet Earth.

How exactly do you stop this particular apocalypse? Apparently with the help of the other vampire-with-a-soul who played a key part in the last apocalypse, Spike. Arriving in a spaceship manned by giant bugs—“a story left for another time”—Spike did his homework before seeking out the slayer love-of-his-life and found a solution within the “seed of wonder.”

“The world came from the seed,” Spike tells Buffy. “The seed brought it forth and the seed kept it here. Kept the warring nasties and the bubbling magical energies from seeping back into the old dimension, wherever that was.” He then compares the seed to a cork in a bottle. “Point is, bottle corked, world safe, nothing to fear. Unless a couple of super-powered morons who never got a higher education decide to shag a universe into existence.”

That “seed of life” is located within the Hellmouth of Sunnydale, California. The first volume of Buffy Season Eight was entitled “The Long Way Home,” and Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang once again return to the site of their greatest victories in “Last Gleaming.” Unfortunately, they are not alone. Demons intent on removing the seed and thus destroying the world have descended as well, along with supernatural beings that are against the destruction of the universe. The US military has likewise camped out on the outer ring of the crater formerly known as Sunnydale, and the former enemy suddenly finds itself on the same side as the slayers. “This crisis has led to many unlikely alliances,” Rupert Giles remarks to Buffy Summers as the former watcher himself takes command of the pro-Earth demons. Faith Lehane, meanwhile, leads a combat unit of slayers and soldiers. “I’m the big guns, I’m ready to bring it,” the number two slayer declares in regards to her unwanted—albeit warranted—leadership role.

While Spike had compared the “seed” to a cork in a bottle, with Hell itself pouring out if removed, Willow Rosenberg discovers another scenario when she is mystically transported to another dimension that serves as the home world for her supernatural mentor Aluwyn. “Have you ever broken a cork inside the bottle?” the snake-like entity offers Willow as an alternative analogy. “Destroy the seed, the gate and the path are gone. Hell has no avenue to your world. And you have a world without magic.”

As the battle wages both above and below the Hellmouth, Angel makes a reappearance. When Spike arrived at the end of the previous installment, Buffy sent Angel away because of the “rivalry” that existed between the two vampires-with-a-soul. More importantly, the head slayer felt someone needed to battle the demons while she formulated a plan, and Angel’s superpower abilities—coupled with his unrelenting need for redemption—made him the perfect candidate. Unfortunately, the “talking dog” decided to pay another visit with Angel and this time admitted to being the personification of the new universe Twilight.

“You really thought you were going to get off that easy?” it asks Angel. “It was Buffy who set it all in motion when she activated the other slayers. But it’s you who will finish it.”

Angel is more than swayed by these comments, however, as he also becomes possessed with the Twilight entity and descends upon Sunnydale in order to remove the seed himself. To make matters worse, the closer Buffy gets to the seed, the more her supernatural powers are reduced. Sensing that his slayer will be at a disadvantage against Angel within the depths of the Hellmouth, Rupert Giles enters the cavern as well. Giles also knows that Buffy will be reluctant to follow through on the only reasonable course of action—killing Angel—and thus decides that the task must fall to him. He is no match for the super-charged vampire, however, and in a scene eerily reminiscent of Jenny Calendar’s death at the hands of Angelus during the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel snaps the neck of Rupert Giles and kills the patriarch of Buffy’s surrogate family.

Buffy Summers believed she was creating a new and better world at the end of the television series when she activated thousands of slayers and empowered them in the process. Faced with the death of her mentor, she realizes there is only one way to stop the destruction surrounding her, even if it means betraying her own convictions. With one swift swing of the slayer scythe, she destroys the seed—putting an end to not only Twilight but the presence of magicks in the world. As the demons that had previously descended are swept away in a whirlwind, Willow Rosenberg falls to the Earth and wallows at the loss of her connection to it. Buffy likewise falls to the ground, feeling the pain from the loss of Rupert Giles. Angel, meanwhile, is frozen with his own anguish as he is released from Twilight’s hold and realizes the ramifications of his actions.

In the end, the world is again different. Vampires still exist and the slayers that Buffy created still have their abilities, but they are no longer an army. A distraught Willow breaks up with her lesbian lover Kennedy, convinced it was the powerful witch inside that was the source of Kennedy’s infatuation. While one relationship ends, however, another progresses forward. Through the course of Buffy Season Eight, an obvious attraction developed between Buffy’s younger sister Dawn and original Scooby Gang member Xander Harris. After the events at the Hellmouth, the two move into an apartment together in San Francisco with Dawn returning to college and Xander resuming his career in construction.

The bulk of Rupert Giles estate, meanwhile, is bequeathed to Faith Lehane, with one exception—the original “Vampyr” book that appeared in the pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “He thinks you’re stronger than I am,” Faith tells Buffy afterwards. “He must have figured I needed more help. So I get the money, the flat, the farm, the horses and you get this one crappy item. You know what it says? It says you’re the slayer.”

Faith inherits one additional item, however, in the form of the damaged Angel. “I’m the only one willing to handle,” Faith responds when Buffy asks if she up to the task. “You can’t look at him. Everyone else wants his head on a pike. Me? I’m all about forgiveness.”

As for Buffy Summers, she likewise moves to San Francisco and takes a job as a waitress. Buffy Season Eight produced a total of eight graphic novels consisting of 40 individual comic books and took close to four years to complete its story. The narrative was long, the stakes high and the aftereffects loom large. It was an epic tale but it concludes in the most simplistic of ways—with the lead heroine alone in the night, stake in hand, ready to do battle.

After all the events of Buffy Season Eight, Buffy Summers is a lone vampire slayer once again.

Anthony Letizia

Follow Geek Pittsburgh: Facebook - Twitter - RSS Feed