BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9: "Angel & Faith" Part Ways

SPOILER WARNING: This interview features extensive discussion of major plot points from "Angel & Faith" #25

Christos Gage and Dark Horse Comics have wrapped on "Angel & Faith: Season 9," and the Buffy-verse is not quite the same as was prior to the title's Launch. We've seen Giles die and resurface as a demon-slave of Eyghon, and finally return as (more or less) the Giles we know and love, albeit as a hormonal teenager. Angel reunited with Connor in the depths of Quor'toth and Faith found herself alone again, although, in the end, it's a solitary existence of her own choosing. 
Season 9 concluded with "Angel & Faith" #25, as Angel faced down the magic-starved Whistler and managed, for now at least, to delay the apocalypse once again. CBR News spoke with Gage about his dynamic duo's final issue, and the writer shared some final thoughts on the Season as a whole as well as a small glimpses into his role on Season 10.

CBR News: As we open on this final issue of the Season, Whistler and Angel are locked in combat, wrestling over the orb of magic while innocent bystanders are in pain all around them. Whistler obviously has the upper hand, here. Is Angel a match for demon-form-Whistler, or does Whistler possess superior demon-strength and skills?

Christos Gage: I'd say Whistler is probably stronger, but he's usually a behind-the-scenes guy, not one to get his own hands dirty. So Angel definitely has the upper hand in terms of fighting experience and ability. I reckon it more or less evens out, though; the longer it goes, the worse it is for Angel -- and he knows it.

What's going through Angel's mind? Does he have a plan in place at this point?

Yeah, at this point he has figured out -- or has a working theory -- that a strong dose of magic might stabilize Whistler. And the best place to get magic is the orb. If that doesn't work, it's pretty much over.

Angel somehow releases some of the built-up magic energy on Whistler's horn. Whistler shifts back into his human form, and though he still has possession of the orb, he seems to have calmed down a bit. This seems to give some credence to Angel's assertion last issue that Whistler just needed "a fix." Is this so?

In a basic sense, yes. Whistler is a being of balance, so when Earth lost it's magic, his own personal, inner balance was thrown out of whack. It's like he was mentally ill, and catching a dose of magic was like taking his meds.

What does Whistler see now that he's sated his own thirst?

The human cost. The lives he's already destroyed, and the billions more he'll destroy if his plan is carried out. He saw those things before, but his own "hunger" was so great, he ignored it. Now he can finally process it, really feel it.

Knowing that the orb is at critical mass, Whistler suddenly decides to make his final move, using the last of his magic to generate a containment field around him and the orb. What is it in him that sparks this final, selfless act?

The realization that he was about to kill billions of people, and the knowledge of what that would mean -- plus a determination to end his life in control of his own destiny and choices, rather than fulfilling some cosmic role that was forced on him.

Whistler says, as the orb seals, that though he's been selfish in the past, he's "gotta have balance." Does one final, selfless sacrifice balance out all the previous mistakes? Or is he thinking about something more than just "balance"?

He was making a wry joke -- his final act was actually rejecting his role as keeper of the balance. As he says, just doing what's right, not what he's supposed to.

As he dies, Whistler leaves Angel with his final thoughts, that perhaps one must find one's own center before trying to save the world. Later, as Alasdair tries to give Angel Whistler's hat, Angel echoes this sentiment. Is this an idea that might carry over into Angel's future?

It just might! Though Angel has had a hard time not falling back into old patterns.

We're treated to some hints of other things to come, as well. We see Pearl's hand grasping up out of the river and Nadira is in the hospital, changing due to the magic plague. What might the future hold for these two?

I think Nadira still has interesting things to do as a character. When push came to shove, she overcame her own thirst for revenge and let Angel off the hook. She's more multifaceted than she's had a chance to show. And then there's whatever she's changing into. As for Pearl, she'll emerge more powerful, and probably crazier and angrier than ever. I see less evolution for her. More like doubling down on evil.

In the med-tent, at Nadira's bedside, Faith lets Angel know she's leaving. What's Angel's response to this news? He seems upset, but also as if he knew it was coming.

He didn't know it was coming, but when he gets it, he doesn't need much explanation. He's been right there; he knows what supporting him has cost Faith. But, in a very Angel-ish way, he realized it too late.

Faith seems, despite all of the pain she's feeling at the moment, to be in a relatively positive place: looking towards the future, and taking steps towards a healthier mindset. How has she changed over this Season?

I agree with that, and I'm glad it came through. Faith has suffered this season -- losing a relationship mentoring Slayers that was very good for her, enduring a very traumatic encounter with her father -- but as a result, she has managed to recognize, come to grips with and get past some of her greatest challenges as a person. I like to think she is finally at a point where she can, as you say, step into the future as her own person, sadder, but wiser. She's not running away by leaving Angel; she's going toward something, and that something is the person she's going to be.

Giles announces he, too, will be leaving London, with Faith. Faith seems, at first, thrilled at the idea, but is dismayed when Giles says he simply needs help getting to the States to find Buffy. That sense of hardness falls back over Faith -- perhaps this is a hint that she still has a ways to go?

I think it's more that it reinforces her choice to be on her own for a while. She knows that Giles is just being kind of tone-deaf and overly blunt or insensitive, probably due to all the changes he himself has gone through. But realizing how much his words hurt her makes her feel like she definitely needs some "Faith time" to get comfortable with being on her own. Not the false bravado she exuded before, when she acted like the tough loner only to let herself be used by people like the Mayor, but to really stand on her own two feet. Then she can think about letting others in again.

Looking back at the season as a whole, which the moments really stand out to you as pivotal?

I feel like it was all important. I hope so, anyway. But definitely, for Faith, the stuff with her father. For Angel, I think reuniting with Connor was pretty big, and also coming to a sort of peace with Willow.

Were there sub-plots or character arcs that you hoped to realize in Season 9 that you were unable to follow through that might yet re-surface?

Not really. I would have loved to do something with Lorne, because I adore the character, but we all agreed that should only happen if there was a really good story to tell with him, rather than just to do it. I didn't come up with anything, but if I do, watch out!

As the Season closes, there are still some threads left dangling. I have to ask: will you be returning for Season 10? What can you tell us about where the next season might take us, and who might be showing up?

I am definitely coming back for Season 10. Anything else, I am not at liberty to say -- yet!

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