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This is a wonderful read. :D

Here, Giles recognizes additionally that destroying the Seed is something that slayers, magicians and demons don’t want; it’s an action that is necessary for the world but acts against slayer interests. His decision to move in to destroy the seed himself encapsulates his behaviour throughout the season.

There's an incredible poignancy to the fact that Giles, who's been burned by magic in the past and has always been ambivalent about using magic because of his formative experiences, is the one who moves to destroy the Seed. He's probably one of the few humans who truly does understand what that loss would mean to the world, but he's not lost to the magic the way Willow is and he believes the world would carry on.

As for Buffy not knowing, the only person who truly understands is Willow because Aluwyn told her. Everyone else? They worked it out. They guessed. And considering how intuitive Buffy is mid-battle, I think she could've worked it out. Remember, Buffy's the one who always finds the third way. People only told her two options--why would we be surprised that she'd figure out a third? That's her way more so than anyone else's; certainly more so than Giles or random General or Xander.

[eta] No mention of Ethan? There's gotta be something in there.

Edited at 2010-12-10 05:23 am (UTC)

You're absolutely right about Giles and magic. It's interesting how his being the one to attempt to destroy the Seed connects with his own abuses. I wanted to write some about Giles/Willow (and the issue itself has hints of both Faith and Xander being a little hurt by their perception of his dismissals of them--he's a mentor to so many), too, as it's poignant that he takes away her dream as well as Buffy's, while also saving them both from being consumed by it...layers within layers, it's all a little much.

I don't know that you're wrong about Buffy and the Seed. But I don't see this as quite the same leap-of-faith, amazing-third-solution situation as, say, substituting herself for Dawn. I mean, it's not a triumphant moment at all, for one, and that Buffy follows Giles' lead suggests not that she comes up with a solution out of her head so much as her recognizing Giles' wisdom. Which isn't meant to take away from her choice to smash the seed, which is huge. I think we might have to wait for 40 to see whether there's a definitive answer on whether Buffy knew what destroying the seed would do, or not. In some ways I'm wondering if Buffy's smashing the seed maps a bit onto her jumping up into Angel's arms...in both cases she's trusting the judgment of one of the men in her life. Angel's the bad guy and Giles is the ambiguous good guy, hence why one was a terrible decision and the other one is...hm, I'm not sure.

(I'm not committed to the idea that Buffy was *only* following Giles' lead, btw--but definitely, Giles' going to smash the seed encourages Buffy to do so.)

On Ethan: oh I was totally going to mention him, though I was going to do it in the section on Spike that I'm now saving for the next review! But as a quick run through: yep, Ethan killed by General Voll, working for Angel, foreshadows Giles' death; that Ethan also foreshadows Spike's entry connects Spike to Giles. And I think 36-38 are in various ways priming Spike to take over Giles' role. Actually I have thoughts on both Spike and Xander and how they compare to Giles as Watcher figures, but, ye gods, I'm exhausted. I want to pound out a 39 review asap though because this hermit thing is hard, but I also don't want to give up on my silly goal of putting a review out there (nearly) cold.

Buffy lets him down, and he dies as a result. And he lets her down, and then she figuratively, as Angel promised in Retreat, turns the sword against herself.

Giles recognizing that he failed as Buffy's watcher? At least his death saves the world.

BTW, you shouldn't have any RL. Write more posts. Really enjoy reading yours.

BTW, you shouldn't have any RL. Write more posts.

This. :D

Giles seems pretty contrite in 38 about planning on killing Buffy. Buffy, for her part, forgives him--recognizing, rightly, the destruction she's caused. I haven't spent too much time reading their dialogue closely (and don't have 38 on me right now), but the two seem to reach an understanding that they acted against each other. It's something I didn't talk about (because I forgot, mainly), but it's some comfort that even though the two actually work against each other this season, it's not like LMPTM where Buffy shuts Giles out, angrily. They love each other.

I'm so glad you liked it!

This is one of the best reads I've read since I learned reading. Thank you so much for sharing that. *puts in her her memories*

Giles' character development isn't focused on like Buffy's and Willow's, but you can notice it, and it hurts to see the innocent man in S1 and know how much he's gonna change and grow colder with years. Giles this season reminds me of Buffy in a way, he puts everything on his shoulders and does it alone. He can't trust anyone to do the job better than himself.

:D Thanks so much!

I love Giles, but as you say his character development is a little out of focus. It's not always easy to track where he's coming from. The notes are helping with that a bit I think. He really does change a lot. Like Buffy, the big Angel drama is a real formative experience for him, as is The Gift. There's probably something in there about how closely their stories run in parallel; they are both so closed off in season seven, and that continues into season eight.

This is the best analysis of Giles' character I've read.

She doesn’t kill him, though by all accounts she should do so (Willow points out that she should be staking him, in #34).

Well, to be fair, even if she wanted to, she literally *couldn't* (not before they got close to the Seed). Which she found out when she tried to, staking him with a tree, as soon as he revealed himself as Twilight.

She doesn’t kill Angel, as she did in Becoming, but she kills magic, which is something that might be even more deeply a part of her, and a part of her identity.

I'm thinking of the line from "Always Darkest": "You can't kill what's inside you".

But Buffy's powers will of course still be a part of her... However, the Slayer line seems to be finished, and apparently, according to Allie, we are supposed to see this as "the betrayal" ("Buffy betrays herself"), though I'm really ambiguous on the whole thing and I don't know if it really makes sense in the context. Saving the world certainly takes precedence over having magic and creating new Slayers, so I'm having trouble seeing this as "betrayal", except maybe from Willow's point of view.

But as a quick run through: yep, Ethan killed by General Voll, working for Angel, foreshadows Giles' death; that Ethan also foreshadows Spike's entry connects Spike to Giles. And I think 36-38 are in various ways priming Spike to take over Giles' role. Actually I have thoughts on both Spike and Xander and how they compare to Giles as Watcher figures, but, ye gods, I'm exhausted.

I can't wait to read your next review. As much as there are strong Giles/Angel parallels - which you have pointed out here (both are forces of Destiny, in contrast to Xander and Spike who are on the Free will side of the continuum), there has also been a strong Giles/Spike parallel, hinted back in S4 in "Restless". And in #37 in particular, Spike was oddly Giles-like at times - and even quoting Giles ("Giles always said you were a crap student").


You're right of course about Buffy not being able to stake Angel. Everyone (including me sometimes) forgets that she tried to do that initially.

I got the "Buffy betrays herself" vibe from the Seed destruction, but I can see how it's a bit tricky. I think the betrayal is the fact that Buffy got herself in a position where breaking the Seed was her best option. The seed breaking was what she needed to do, but she only needed to do it because she jumped Angel and then more or less continued trusting him.

Definitely going to talk about Giles/Spike a bit! Though mostly what you already mention.

I have to be honest that the only scene in issue 39 that really got to me was Giles taking the scythe from Faith. I felt for Faith there. That she gave it up spoke of loyalty to Giles and even to Buffy. But it was also a sad faith (pun!) in that, as always, it comes off to Faith as Buffy still being chosen first.

I really like your point about Giles choosing to save the world by destroying the seed and the idea that this is Buffy choosing to do the same. It makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, the execution of the scene really could have been better. It would have been nice if that was made far more clear. As it was, until the end it really looked like Giles was trying to kill Angel. Or, as some theorized, even trying to get himself killed to force Buffy's hand (though that isn't what Scott Allie says, and in this respect I believe him. That would have been a foolish decision because he would have no idea what Buffy would do. Besides, Allie confirms that Giles was going for the seed, so that's relatively clear [as things go]). I think it all hangs together better in your meta than it does in the comic itself. I wish it were half as clear. You may be right about all of it. It makes sense. It works. Unfortunately, the comics don't bring this across nearly as well as they might've.

Edited at 2010-12-10 04:22 pm (UTC)

Yeah, poor Faith. (I actually feel for Xander too when Giles is a bit dismissive--"what are YOU doing here?") There's the sense that so many people admire Giles, and he just always has to put other concerns ahead of them. In this case Giles wasn't putting Buffy ahead of Faith per se, but it's hard for Faith to get that, and Giles will never be able to explain it to her.

I share some of your concerns about the execution in the comics. I didn't have trouble following what Giles and Buffy were doing. But I'm not entirely sure how much Buffy or Giles know about what they're doing, or why. Aycheb isn't wrong below in suggesting that maybe Giles didn't know exactly what he was doing. I might have to ponder for a bit!

I feel like his arc in season eight, and in 39 in particular, contains a deep, deep ambivalence about Giles’ behaviour
I agree. But I think I disagree about Giles’s motivations and the culpability for “Gates” sacrifice at the battle of that one Starbucks town. On culpability I think Giles died because he didn’t listen to Xander and didn’t trust Buffy to catch the Scythe and use it. Arguably Jenny died, at least in part, from keeping her own counsel too. On motivations I think there a very simple reason Giles didn’t want to talk to Buffy about the Twilight prophecy. Giles intended to kill Buffy if she ascended. It’s not dissimilar to the reason Buffy didn’t want to talk to Willow about the Fray future. Neither Giles nor Buffy were able to keep their murderous secrets indefinitely but while Buffy took Xander’s advice and told Willow unprompted, Giles only confessed to Buffy when she figured it out.

Giles was looking for the seed because he believed it had the power to depower/kill a God. People doubt that Buffy knew what she was doing when she smashed it but did Giles? Buffy had one piece the puzzle that he never did, she’d been to the Fray future, she read the watcher diaries there, she knew from direct experience that the world could survive without magicks, with all the demons banished. The connection between that and destroying the seed (which Spike has told her is the source of it all the things, keeping them from seeping back into their original hell dimensions) is a fairly straight forward one to make under pressure (and thinking under pressure is what Buffy does best). On camera, all Giles knows about Fray world is what Buffy told him i.e. that Willow went dark. According to Scott Allie the reason Giles wanted to break the seed was to give Buffy a chance against a more wonderflonium/red kryptonite-resistant Twilight/Angel. Not to save the world by ending magic but to give Buffy a chance to. It does make more sense in terms of fitting what we know Giles knows/believes he knows than him intending to end magic. Giles may be ambivalent about certain forms of magic but her is, when all is said and done, a magician. He agreed with Ethan about the Initiative and used magic to save Faith from Roden.

On culpability I think Giles died because he didn’t listen to Xander and didn’t trust Buffy to catch the Scythe and use it. Arguably Jenny died, at least in part, from keeping her own counsel too.

Agreed--that was part of what Giles did wrong, I think.

On motivations I think there a very simple reason Giles didn’t want to talk to Buffy about the Twilight prophecy. Giles intended to kill Buffy if she ascended. It’s not dissimilar to the reason Buffy didn’t want to talk to Willow about the Fray future. Neither Giles nor Buffy were able to keep their murderous secrets indefinitely but while Buffy took Xander’s advice and told Willow unprompted, Giles only confessed to Buffy when she figured it out.

I wanted to talk about this a bit but got caught up in other arguments (hello, editing). I think that only covers so much. Angel's statement to Buffy in After These Messages gives her explicit reason for not telling Willow, which is fear that it might make her future into the future she's seen. That it involves killing her is a big part of that, but I don't know that it would be that different if, say, Buffy just portal-jumped back having seen Willow super evil and still alive. The guilt is a major factor, but that ties into with the point I was making that there's just some vague hope that the problem will go away, and that she won't have to face it. I think this is true of Giles as well.

One thing I didn't get into explicitly though: I wonder how much Giles hid what he was doing because of the idea that, should he need to kill Buffy, he'd need the element of surprise. But I mean, he could still warn Buffy about the Twilight prophecy without telling her, "Also, btw, I need to kill you, so, watch out for me." It's just very difficult to do that. I think it's hard to pin Giles' motivations down to one single thing (though yes, the "having to kill Buffy" is a major reason that changes the equation a lot).

Re: Giles and the seed. Buffy's intuitive grasp makes sense; I actually quite like the idea that Buffy knew what she wanted, and I'm increasingly convinced that she did. On Giles, I haven't checked out the Allie interview yet. But I'm not sure how to read into the text that Giles thought that destroying the Seed would depower Angel and Buffy, when the Seed is also the very thing that does depower them as much as it does. Giving Buffy a chance to fight Angel with a more even playing field seems to go against his concern that Buffy would hold back, too. It's not impossible but I'm not quite sure how that reading would work, and I think Giles really was trying to destroy the Seed to save the world (by ending magic). Giles' attitude towards magic is tricky, and I agree that he will use it. But I don't see him being all that conflicted about choosing to save the world by ending magic, when there's a clear and present danger to that world. I don't think he was jumping for joy, hoping he'd have a chance to strangle a doctor with no last name either, but he did smother Ben; I think it's similar here.

I wanted to talk about this a bit but got caught up in other arguments (hello, editing)
I do that all the time, it did seem the obvious omission. With Giles not telling her because it might hasten I have trouble figuring the logic of how it would have that effect (I'm probably just being dense). Angel had Whistler telling him not to talk to Buffy because when he did they all died and the talking birds making the point that if she knew she was going to get a reward (of Angel who has no trouble thinking of himself as such) her actions wouldn't be pure and the magic enabling her ascension wouldn't work. Which sort of makes sense in the sense that Angel didn't know he was going to be rewarded for whatever he did that got him thrown back to a restored LA. Buffy telling Willow might, I suppose, hasten her going dark if it scared her into preparing against it through some kind of magical fix. Hair of the dog so to speak, which would be quite Willow. But if Buffy were told that a vampire and a Slayer together would unmake the world while creating a new one maybe that would make her seek out Spike or Angel to warn them. Is that what Giles was afraid of? Or maybe he continues to avoid telling her prophecies as he's done from the beginning because when he withheld the codex from her, her 16 year old reaction was exactly what he'd hoped to avoid and at heart he still thinks of her as that girl.

As for Giles's motivation going down to the seed chamber, Scott Allie's already given two contradictory interpretations so I think we're on our own. My best guess is that when Giles went doe there he was planning to kill Angel or give Buffy the Scythe so she could. That's why he talks about that to Xander but when faced with B/A fighting he realises that he can't keep up and decides that Buffy couldn't do it. So he goes for the seed instead, I think maybe with the same idea Wishverse Giles had when he smashed Anyanka's amulet. He goes in blind (literally, his eyes are closed in the panel) hope that the world it will create has to be better than the one they have (on the verge of destruction). That hope against reason makes it heroic. Buffy on the other hand smashes the seed knowing exactly what kind of future her action will create. The reality she killed Willow to come back and prevent coming to pass. Her action is a betrayal of what she thought she stood for and specifically a betrayal of Willow (we know from #35 that Buffy thinks what she stands for, above all, is her friends). Why does she chose that option instead of killing Twilight? People will argue its her weakness for Angel but I think her cry of "No More" speaks against that interpretation. I think what she grasps then is that as long as the seed remains in place Twilight (or some other magical apocalypse) is inevitable, the seed will continue to spin the fate of the world into some pattern of its own pleasing and the story will never end until it ends bloody. In S7 we learn Buffy isn't so keen on stories, having been the subject of since she was called, and the events of S8 are unlikely to have changed her mind about that.

So I am going to respond to this soon, but I just finished my post and it's long and rambling and I am bad at brevity. Also this means I can finally go and read your review, along with Maggie's et al. Yay! I'll reply more substantively (or not) soon, though right now I'm pretty tired.

OK now that I've done my other writing, back to this one. I'm mostly using the parallel to guess at Giles' motivations. The most concrete explanation for why someone would want to hide knowledge of someone's future from them is provided by Angel in After These Messages. Thematically I think that fills the role of describing why everyone keeps withholding everything this season, from Angel with Buffy to Buffy with Willow to, yep, Giles with Buffy. The reason Giles might be afraid of this is, I think, that he really doesn't trust Buffy where her vamps are concerned. If Buffy knew that her destiny was supposed to be to make a new better world with a vampire with a soul (we'll say for the moment that it could be either Angel or Spike from Giles' perspective), Giles might really believe Buffy would go for that. It's a distorted view of Buffy, and Buffy happily proved him wrong in 35. But there's reasons why Giles might be worried that Buffy would prioritize her connection to a vampire over everything else and I think that's what's in here.

I really like the connection to the Wishverse amulet. Giles, Giles, man of blind faith, like 10% of the time but an important 10%. (Could you imagine Wesley smashing the amulet in The Wish? I don't think he'd be willing to make that bet.) Aluwyn told Willow that their watcher or vampire would figure out what smashing the Seed would do, and while Aluwyn is certainly an unreliable narrator I'm willing to take that statement as comics shorthand for "Giles and Spike really do have enough information to figure out what smashing the seed would do." I'm willing to see that it isn't. That Giles is blind in the panels is something I didn't notice (sometimes I'm dense with the visual cues), so that might add some value to your interpretation.

As far as Buffy, I think there's a few things at work here and I do think her seeing that Giles wanted to smash the Seed is a point in the Seed's favour. It's rather like Giles wanting to reensoul Angel because it was Jenny's last wish. But I agree with you to a point. To go further: I take "No more" as mostly Buffy deciding that she *has* to make a decision, a final one that will prevent her and people like her from being able to make grand sweeping decisions again. Angel is, after all, not that different from her in her own eyes, nor Willow, and leaving herself alive around the Seed is dangerous. I think it's not just the stories (that spin from the Seed) but herself as storyteller Buffy wants to end there.


Okay, so I skimmed the comics stuff, but your thoughts on the series are - as mentioned - nifty. Food for thought.


One of the things I like about season eight is that they comment a lot on the series. So it's good I can share this with non-readers too


Great essay! You are always with the sense-making. *g*

Wow. Thank you. Now I have to go back & reread all of Season 8, and possibly rewatxh the show.

Thanks for sharing. *strokes ego of max* ;-)

I hold back from essaying until 19th january.

Thanks! And a bit of a wise policy. :)

Hi! Long time no talk.

It's a brilliant essay that I read with great pleasure. There're just 3 little things I'd like to put into light.
About Giles's attempt to kill Spike in season 7, you're right Giles and Buffy don't discuss Spike's fate much, but there's also the fact they don't understand each other, they litteraly don't speak the same language as is underlined by the metaphorical scene between Chao Ahn and Giles and at the core of the misunderstanding is the meaning of "feeling". When Buffy says she feels Spike can be a better man, she speaks about an intuition and an intimate knowledge, but when Giles speaks about Buffy's feelings he is speaking about emotions. Ironically, Giles is the one speaking from an emotional place and he is blind to it. Yet, the fact that Giles made an effort to find a solution to detrigger Spike must not be underestimated: it took him time, it took him to be away in a moment when the First could have stroken any time. And he did it more out of concern for Buffy than for Spike: when you read his explanations it's clear that Spike's well being is of very little interest to him.

About Giles's last stand in Last Gleaming, you insist with great reason about how it can be read in regard to his personnal story with Buffy and Angel, his traits of character and his training as a Watcher but I see another layer (I could be wrong,as I don't read the comics) but it seems like Giles has learned since season 7 from Buffy and perhaps from Faith too; what he choses to do here is a typical Buffy's solution. He found a third way renouncing the kill (granted there're circomstances that guide his choice, but I think that metaphorically it works). It's not by chance IMO he's shown going at the Seed with the Scythe in his hands. Of course he doesn't succeed and it's Buffy who breaks the Seed, but with this choice, this scene is in direct opposition to the one with Ben in season 5 and to the one with Spike in season 7. In a way he fulfills there his own definition of what a hero is.

And last, your choice as a last quote is perfect: it's the key to understand Giles even beyond his feelings for Buffy.

Thank you again for this great essay, I'm eagerly waiting for your next posts.

I can't wait to respond to this in more depth, but I think you nail the dynamic in season seven. And there's something very interesting in your last major paragraph. I'll respond within a few days (a bit wiped right now!).

Once again I love your description of Giles and Buffy (like Giles and Choa Ann) speaking different languages. That's really neither of their faults, or both of their faults, at once. That Giles made an effort to detrigger Spike really is to his credit. Generally I think Buffy behaves very badly in LMPTM, though for understandable reasons--certainly keeping Spike chained would have been a wiser decision, unseemly though it appeared. But Giles still didn't try very hard to convince her once the stone was unleashed into Spike's brain. And round and round....

As to your second paragraph, Giles taking on the Scythe as him learning from Buffy's conception of heroism is interesting. And he does avoid having to kill Buffy or Angel by his choice, which is very impressive. The question remains: is destroying the Seed really a positive third option? I suppose it is, but it's another type of death, that of magic rather than of one individual person. It's not entirely clear that magic, which also cuts off magical beings and wonder and many great things in the world, is actually better off destroyed. But I think you may be right that Giles, by choosing another path, fulfills his concept of heroism.

And yes I love that quote! It describes Giles with respect to Buffy. And it's really something that Giles doesn't start owning, I think, until after Jenny's death. He still seems somewhat idealistic beforehand; less so after.

loved your analisys....
hope you do one when season 8 ends... would be gratifing....
and im from brazil.... so your text made a lot of people happy.... cause they saw what they might have missed about giles....

Oh thanks! I'm so glad to make people think more about Giles and the show and season eight.

Here are some old metas about Giles (maybe you'd like to read them)

You need to learn: Giles in BTVS Season Seven

The Darker Side of Giles: Response to Jane Davitt’s “Giles and Spike: The Watcher and the Vampire” by avidrosette

We are happy to inform you that your essay, A Watcher's Job: On Giles' Story in Season Eight, has been nominated for The Over Our Head Award (Best Meta) in the 2016 Headline Awards, celebrating Anthony Head and all of his characters!
The judging and voting will begin on January 21st and the winners will be announced on February 20th.
Please let us know if you would prefer not to participate.
Congratulations and Good Luck!!!

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