SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for recent issues of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9” including last week’s issue #9.
Aside from the core of the Scooby Gang splintering to deal with their own issues in the wake of the death of magic, last week’s most recent issue of the series also set Spike on a path to his own miniseries thanks to how Buffy herself has responded to a pregnancy scare followed by an abortion choice and capped off by a revelation of a robot mind swap. As Buffy, Spike and Andrew fight off both the mad mind inside Buffy’s body and rogue Slayer Simone, the full impact of the “Apart (Of Me)” arc comes to light.
To help unpack the many changes coming to Season 9 as a result, editor and co-writer (with Andrew Chambliss) of the story Scott Allie returned to CBR for the latest installment of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9 — our ongoing series looking inside the latest turns of the Slayer’s world. Below, Allie explains why this Buffy/Spike breakup is different than any you’ve seen before, how the robot duplicate story has put off some major life choices for the Slayer, why gunplay doesn’t always work in the world of Buffy and much more.
CBR News: Scott, this issue marks the end of a pretty substantial arc for “Buffy” and the end of a lot of threads that have been running through the series even dating back to Season 8. Where did you all envision the state of the book being at the end of this story? Is it maybe the end of the first act of Season 9?
Scott Allie: This story does make for a weird breaking point, you’re right. I didn’t think of it as the end of the first act, but this Season will continue to barrel along with very distinct arcs and changes constantly. One of the things that Buffy fans are less than happy about is that they’re seeing less of the main cast — the core four — but it’s really because everybody’s in a weird place, and things are changing rapidly for them. With this issue, there’s the idea of the robot and the pregnancy ending, which is something Joss brought in early on. It was one of the first things we decided to do with Season 9, and how it would put Buffy off kilter and put her in a new place was a big part of this whole first half of Season 9.
And with the relationship with Spike, we didn’t want to spend all those issues retreading stuff that had gone on before with the character. So some people are saying, “Once more we’re seeing Spike say goodbye to Buffy,” but it’s a little different this time. And I think soon people will see how different it is as his series rolls out. I want things to change for the characters and continue to change in a real personal way. I think this five-issue arc here did a lot of that. It set a lot of things in motion even as it resolved a lot of stuff set up at the end of Season 8. But it also opens a new conflict, which is always the idea.
We start out with a scene between Buffy and… other Buffy? Non-robot Buffy? I’m not sure what to call her. [Laughter] But in the midst of this scene, we get a shit back to the primal Slayer kind of mocking Buffy with the words “You are not the Slayer.” Can we take some prophetic significance in this?
Back in issue #5, Buffy had a dream, and the dream was really significant. Karl Moline drew it, and there was a lot in there including the moment where Buffy saw the primal Slayer — the original Slayer. And this Slayer kept telling her, “You’re not the Slayer.” That was our way of addressing Buffy’s self doubt — especially after the destruction of the Seed and the loss of magic. Her self doubt is really high. But it was also the first clue that she was not the Slayer. She wasn’t even a girl. She wasn’t Buffy. She was a robot. So the scene here between Buffy and the primal Slayer is her remembering that dream and making the connection.
We also get more of Simone’s plans and what she’s been working toward for quite a while. She’s always been somebody who’s more militaristic and looking to up the level of combat in the fight against vampires, and having her in this story reminds us that there’s rarely a lot of gunplay and kind of real world violence in Buffy. Is that something you’d discussed with Joss in terms of what the line is for either the characters in their world or for the writers crafting these stories?
There are a bunch of reasons, and while I’m often put into the position where I’m speaking for Joss, I don’t want to speak for him on this one. For me personally, I think guns are really bad drama. I think they’re terrible for drama because they’re so absolute in their problem-solving technique. If you take a bullet, you take a bullet. I think that stops the story and solves the problem in too easy a way. I think it’s way better to have a story focused on people. If you’re going to have physical action, it’s more interesting to have them fight in different ways. It’s really cute in a Tarantino movie to see a Mexican standoff with everybody pointing guns at each others’ heads, but once one person pulls the trigger, everybody pulls the trigger, and then everyone’s dead. To me, that’s less interesting. Certainly guns have their place in storytelling and certain kinds of fiction, but if everybody’s going to be fighting all the time — which is part of the premise of Buffy, that there’s fighting a lot of the time — then if everyone uses guns, there will be a lot of bodies dropping everywhere. So I think that’s bad drama.
But for Buffy personally, I think it’s more of a moral thing. Though, that’s a shady argument to try and speak for.
We also get a surprising turn in the story of Dowling this month as the police officer confronts his new role in this world of vampires. So often in “Buffy,” we get a big action beat followed by a big emotional beat, and with Dowling, we’ve been following action beats for a while. Now he’s offered the chance to lead a task force within the police against vampires, but he’s looking to reject that in favor of almost vigilanteism. Do you think that in this world, to a certain extent once you cross over into the world of vamps, it’s almost impossible to go back into “normal” society?
Yeah. I think that’s partly it. That’s what I was thinking in writing this, at least. The irony is that I kind of worked myself into a position where I felt it would be impossible for Dowling to continue as a cop and continue the work that he now sees needs to be done. It’s partly the trauma from seeing his partner killed — or worse considering what happened to her after being killed — and so the work he does now doesn’t follow this logical path that fits with police work. But when we talked it through, we felt that Dowling does need to remain with the force. So they need to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
I took a class in college with a professor I really loved named Barry Glassner. It was a class in hardboiled detective fiction, and because of my interests, we ended up talking about how hardboiled detective fiction slams up against the supernatural. And in many ways, the traditions of the detective story just don’t work with a horror story. Now, I think they can and often they do, but in many ways, those two ideas don’t want to fit together. So thinking of a cop who has to stay a cop and fill out a bunch of paperwork while also fighting monsters, there’s too much contradiction there. There’s too much discrepancy. So I think it made sense for Dowling to think here that he can’t do what Buffy does. He can’t fight these things he’s seen as a cop. So he needed another solution, but then the boss feels they need to deal with this stuff and he’s the one who’s got to do it.
On the total flipside from that real-world kind of talk, we have Spike and Andrew attacking with the bugs. These aliens are creatures we’ve seen in the background a lot, and while we still don’t know their origins, the impression I got from this fight scene is that they’re totally dedicated to Spike, and he also seems to be equally dedicated to them. What’s most important for you in slowly building up that part of the cast?
Well, it’s just that bugs are people too. These are people who have been on that ship for a while. I think one thing we’ve been trying to do lately is ratchet back how many bugs we seem to have on board so we can get to know them more individually. Jane Espenson did an eight-page story that showed him spending a lot of time on the ship, and we’ve done a few other things. So we want to treat them in a way that shows they’re individuals, though really only Spike has been around them long enough to see that. Buffy probably still can’t think of them as individuals, but Spike can. Victor Gischler does a great job of that in the upcoming [“Spike”] miniseries. The bugs are way more fleshed out and developed in that than we’ve seen them before.
You spoke last time about putting a lot of thought into Spike’s final scene with Buffy. The standout here for me was the idea that he doesn’t want to be the guy lurking in the shadows anymore. He doesn’t want to be an outsider both in terms of the society but also as a periphery character in Buffy’s life. What really turned him on that path?
I guess it’s partly that we as a group didn’t want him doing the same thing forever. We didn’t want him pining away and always being that guy on the periphery. I like the character enough that I want to see him move past that. He had a really close call in this arc with success. He was the guy that Buffy came to, and for a while, she was seriously entertaining the notion of having a baby with him. And then when she decided that that’s not what she wanted, he was the guy who was going to come be with her when she was going to deal with the pregnancy. And it was all too much for him. It’s like, “Really?!? You’re going to entertain the idea of us being together?” — which we did on that Phil Noto cover where the two of them are watching TV and drinking wine together. But then Buffy is the one who can go, “Yeah, not really. I’m going to go figure some other stuff out instead.”
But for Spike, he just has to go, “Fuck that. You can’t lean on me and ask for my help in one of the biggest things you’ve ever dealt with and then when it doesn’t happen, I’m still supposed to help you deal with something equally enormous. And now everything’s supposed to go back to normal where I go live in a bug ship above Golden Gate Park while you go for dinner at Xander and Dawn’s house. No. I can’t keep doing this.” So in a way, the pregnancy scare changed Spike as much as if not more than it changed Buffy.
And in this scene, we really only hear Spike’s side of the story. Buffy is silent. So why does she end up staying in San Francisco? What’s holding her back from uprooting herself and going forward with Spike or just in general?
Well, I think she does want a different direction for her life. You’re going to see that in the next arc, and I’m psyched to see what Andrew does with it. But the pregnancy scare affected both of them. For Spike, it was his brush with success and with getting what he wants. What he realized is that what he wants is a normal life — yeah he’s a vampire, but he wants as close to a normal life as he can get — with this girl. We’ll explore that more in the “Spike” series.
I think what Buffy realized in going through this decision that she made isn’t “I’m never going to have a baby.” That’s not what she said. What she said was, “My life is in no shape for me to have a baby.” So everything went crazy, and she had to deal with this robot situation. But what she has to deal with herself is saying, “This turned out this way because of how my life is, so I need to start living my life differently and making different choices.” That’s basically what that choice was all about for her. With a good reading of issue #6, you’ll realize that it’s not that she didn’t want a baby or that she didn’t think a Slayer could raise a baby. She just wasn’t at a point in her life where she had the maturity and stability where she should be bringing a baby into the world. And now, she wants to address that problem. So she’s not just going to get a job at Intel and start living a different life. A continuing thread for the rest of this season will be her fixing that situation for herself.
But if she were able to make the decision that he’d like her to make, she’d be able to say, “Yeah, Spike, my life isn’t stable right now, but let’s you and me fix that. Let’s you and me build something smart and sound and normal.” That’s how he sees her. But she doesn’t see him like that. So she realized she needs to deal with this instability in her life on her own, which is how I think she deals with everything. As much as she’s surrounded by friends and people that love her — though she’s less surrounded by those people now than she has been in the past — she always decides she needs to solve her problems by herself. Maybe she’ll grow out of that.
What’s the first step in that journey as we head into issue #11?
It’s just more nutty stuff. [Laughs] When Buffy went back to the coffee shop, there was something that Kennedy had left for her, and in that very last scene of #10, she quit her job at the coffee shop. Next, she’ll undertake a new avenue of employment that will lead to a pretty distinct three-issue arc that will feature a lot of Kennedy — which people aren’t necessarily going to love — and Koh is going to feature into it. We’ll also catch up with what’s going on with Xander and Dawn.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more of BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9!