Plus, this was so much more frustrating because I loved the beginning. I wasn't one of those people who jumped ships because Buffy got it on with a random slayer girl. It lasted a couple of pages and seemed to be overlook-able in my book. It was around the point that they went to Tibet that I got upset. Oz being married just made me sad, because I have this horribly selfish, "If I can't see him with Willow, I don't want to see him with anyone," attitude, but the when Angel showed up and there was the sexisode between him and Buffy, I just got frustrated. There was no motivation for him to be Twilight other than maybe that the Powers That Be talked to him through a dog. Anyway, it wasn't explained well; in fact, it was hardly explained at all. Just Buffy going, "Huh, this is weird. I've never seen him like this before."
When Spike showed up, it was great, because obviously whenever Spike shows up--especially when he knocks something over with a large vehicle in the process--it's great. And I love Spike. But I couldn't help feeling like it was "Spike for the sake of Spike." Once again, I would have liked more motivation. More of a backstory. Better development in general.
Then, the worst developed thing of all (well, at least as badly developed as Angel/Twilight) . . . Giles dying. I'm not mad at Joss for killing Giles. I love Giles as much as any other Buffy fan, but I realize that on a narrative structure, Giles' death could be useful, powerful, and even aesthetically beautiful in the "wow, that was done well" kind of way. But it wasn't. Giles was underdeveloped throughout the whole season, especially his relationship with Buffy, so when he died, I was sad because Giles from the show died, not because Giles from the comic died.
I've been holding onto my Joss love for a long time, through what I thought were some weak stylistic moments in Dollhouse through most of Season 8 of Buffy. I was starting to consider, after issue 39, "breaking up with Joss," as one of my friends calls it. Or maybe not breaking up, because I still love him for everything but half of a comic book season. But I may have considered taking a short break and seeing other writers. Joss definitely saved himself from that in issue 40, however. So many things I loved. First of all, I mostly forgave him for the things that bothered me about the season because he actually did something with them. Giles leaving his estate to Faith and the Faith/Buffy moment . . . awesome. Plus, when Buffy got the Vampyr book, there were tears in my eyes. Angel becoming Twilight still bothers me, and the moral guilt thing he's going through now just seems, well, old. But I love that Faith has become "all about the forgiveness" and is being the strong one now. I didn't know what to think throughout the season with Dawn/Xander (felt like fanfic and not Whedon for most of it), but they were adorable in the finale and I liked them together.
Best, though, Spike definitely earned his keep in the episode. I love his relationship with Buffy, and his speech to her was beautiful. "Honestly? F*** anybody who thinks they could've done better. The world was on fire. The world is always on fire and you're always in the thick of it and the only difference this time is that people actually noticed. So they judge. And they carp, and debate--but put the scythe in their hands and they'd shake like trifle on a train."
Lastly, I'm really excited for where this can go. I really like the complications with Willow's character and the strain between her and Buffy . . . even though at an emotional level it makes me sad, at an artistic level, I respect it and it feels real. It wasn't a cheap sensational move on the writer's part. It doesn't feed into audience masochism like killing off characters and breaking up couples does. Joss is awesome at feeding audience masochism, but I think it's a cheep artistic move to make audiences "feel" the easy way. But it also doesn't feed fandom fantasies like getting Buffy and Angel back together for the first time in five seasons. It was a tough move that maneuvered between cheap pain and cheap happiness and gave the audience a real, powerful emotional experience. And it creates great potential for season 9.
OK. Those are my thoughts. Believe it or not, I have more. This is the restrained version. But enough for one night . . .