BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9: Red Willow & the Rise of the Vampire Slayer

[SPOILER WARNING: This interview features extensive discussion of major plot points from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #23.]

As "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" hurtles towards its grand finale, all of the ongoing plot pieces are clicking into place. Forces good and evil are colliding, and the seemingly disconnected plotlines -- the loss of magic, Dawn's slow vanishing act and The Siphon's hunger for power -- are converging inside the mystic catacomb of The Deeper Well.

With "Buffy" issue #23, written by Andrew Chambliss and featuring art by Georges Jeanty, Buffy and her crew have gained access to The Deeper Well. After a skirmish with D'Hoffryn's demon council, the two parties seem to have agreed to disagree -- for the time being. As Buffy and Willow plunge into the Well in search of the magic necessary to save Buffy's sister, D'Hoffryn leads the charge against Severin, The Siphon.

Unfortunately, things are quickly complicated, as it's revealed that Severin's accomplice, Simone, has some big plans all her own.

For this installment of "BEHIND BUFFY SEASON 9," Comic Book Resources spoke with Dark Horse Comics Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie for an in-depth look at the events of the latest issue and how the repercussions might play out during the tail end of Season 9 and beyond.

CBR News: As "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9" #23 opens, Simone and Severin have gained entry to the deeper well, and are plunging into its depths. Sev insists he's found his fount of power, but also slips and refers to Simone by his deceased girlfriend's name, Clare. As Simone implies, is Severin cracking up? It seems he may not have really been prepared for the amount of power he's attempting to harness.

Scott Allie: You are absolutely right. It is way too much for him, and he's falling apart. Simone was much more prepared for what's coming than he was, and the bottom line is that she doesn't care how ready he is. Her plan may not include him surviving.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Deeper Well, Buffy and the gang, along with the Demon Council, are about to take the plunge themselves. However, while D'Hoffryn and the council are focused on stopping Sev, Buffy and Willow have an alternate objective -- saving Dawn. Are these objectives really so mutually exclusive?

They aren't mutually exclusive, but they're not very in synch, either, and with the stakes so high on both sides it doesn't work to have the heroes' focus divided to the extent that it is. And this story is not only about whether they can achieve both things, but where Buffy's going to be able to place her focus.

Simone leaves Severin behind to raise the Old One, Maloker. Has she been using Sev for her own ends from the beginning? What is she really hoping to achieve?

She was definitely using Severin from the beginning. She's more in control of what's happening than almost anyone, and her real agenda is about to come to light. It appears that she was turning slayers into zompires. Her real endgame is revealed by the end of the issue -- revealed, if not spelled out.

As Willow and Buffy venture deeper into the well, Willow finds herself suddenly aglow with magic energy, and feel herself pulled towards what she thinks will be a new source of magic large enough for the entire world. Upon finding the open sarcophagus of Maloker, Buffy and Willow share a great scene of dialogue -- how large a shadow does "Dark Willow" still cast over their relationship?

The Dark Willow angle has changed a bit since the "Willow" mini that Jeff Parker and Chris Gage wrote. Willow has come to realize that there is no Dark Willow, there's only Willow: one person capable of actions good and bad. So she's taking more responsibility for things, and she's more confident and at peace with herself. I know, it's so much less dramatic that way -- but it's good to see our kids conquer some of their demons.

How isolated, or supported, does Buffy really feel? She seems to be far from trusting of anyone at this point.

Buffy has issues. She has an incredible support system, she has these great friends that she loves and she trusts, but when things get tense, her tendency is to think that it all rests on her. Right now, she feels a little abandoned since Willow split right before things got crazy for Buffy at the start of the season, and Xander has been a wreck for a while, and even worse recently. So I don't know that she'd say she distrusts people generally, but she certainly thinks she has to solve these things herself. 

Maloker! What sort of inspiration went into Jeanty's design of the sire of vampires?

The design was entirely Georges'. He came up with that, Joss [Whedon] signed off on it -- I don't think there was much back and forth. Georges wanted to get some real bat-like features in there, while not making it look like a bat turned into a guy. I think Georges really loves the opportunity to design monsters and demons in the book.

Xander's been sidelined by D'Hoffryn for aiding and abetting the enemy. While the demons head off to battle, Xander receives a call from Spike and Dawn. Dawn doesn't remember Xander, but the call, along with a key piece of information from Spike, seems to catalyze something in Xander. What does he see as his role in this situation?

You know, that's a good question. He's so mad about so many things, and about his inability to solve these problems. At this point in the story he's trying to settle in and play his part -- be part of the team. He thought he was going to be the guy to solve everything, and by this issue he's recognized his failure. But he's stepping up and being part of the team as best he can.

Xander catches up to Buffy down below in the Deeper Well and tells her that, while he shouldn't have trusted Simone, the situation is a result of mistakes made by everyone -- is he prepared to take responsibility for his own mistakes?

This will be a big part of Season 10. Yeah. He's ready to own up. If anything, he's going to be too hard on himself.

Is it going to come down to Buffy cleaning up the mess, or will we see some real fallout and change in Xander's character?

Xander is doing sort of nothing but catching fallout right now, and into the next season. This and other factors are gonna keep pressing down on him, and you are gonna see some growth from it. But unfortunately he definitely is not in a better place about it before the end of Season 9.

As Xander finishes explaining Simone's plan to raise an army of zomps, the two find Simone's body just in time for her to leap up, having turned herself. She's not your typical magic-less, mindless zompire, is she? Is this a sign of the return of magic?

Is it a sign of that? Too early to tell. But she is truly unique. She's a Slayer, who's been sired in the Deeper Well by the original vampire, or the thing that created vampires. The zompires are subpar vamps because the earth is so disconnected from magic, but here, in the Deeper Well, with Maloker, she's as close to the strong stuff as anyone can be.

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