Mark Reads ‘The Chosen’: Complete Archive!

Hello, Readers! I wanted to provide a master post for all my videos/reviews of the epic fanfiction series The Chosen, which imagines a full eighth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is a work-in-progress for the ninth season. It’s been an honor and a thrill to discover (through Mark Does Stuff) just what fanfiction can do, and this is no exception!

So, before I get into my thoughts about this project, here are my two review posts:

Season 8, Episodes 1-5
Season 8, Episodes 6-10

And the remaining videos that were commissioned by Devon/neet:

Season 8

Episode 12

Episode 13

Episode 15

Episode 20

Episode 21

Season 9

Episode 3

Episode 11

I didn’t want to just put up the remaining commissions, though. This is a massive, ambitious project, and while I think it started off slow, HOLY SHIT DOES IT COME TOGETHER IN THE SECOND HALF. In that sense, The Chosen feels very much like a television show with a twenty-two episode run. The main arc concerning Madrigan and the Circle has a horrifying, unreal end to it, one that largely wraps up the story while leaving cookie crumbs for a fascinating story for season nine.

On top of that, I became increasingly impressed with how visual the second half of The Chosen felt. Episode 20, “Exhcanges,” has a fight scene that is UNREAL, complete with a moment (in the video above) that’s just… yeah. It’s when you finally realize what Madrigan is doing, and of course you learn this in the most gut-wrenching way imaginable.

I have some general thoughts to share, but I wanted to talk about a few specific episodes in more detail. Please heed this warning: beyond here, I will talk about plot/character development in detail, so if you are planning on reading The Chosen, don’t read this.

Episode 11: Hard Day’s Night

I love when a television show, especially one that’s serialized and longstanding, devotes an episode to a story that does not focus on the main characters. Shows like The X-Files and LOST were particularly good at this, and Whedon wasn’t one to avoid taking risks. So “Hard Day’s Night” absolutely feels like something the man would write himself. It’s witty, it’s strange, it’s a brilliant parody of a corporate environment, and Boss is an incredible character. I mean, it’s about a demon union that offers exponentially awesome incentives to harm or kill the Slayers. There’s a clock radio!!!

Episode 12: Loves, Labor, Lost

Story wise, it’s not one of the stronger episodes, and the main antagonist sort of drifts along in terms of the plot. But I’m 100% into this story because of:

- Xander’s characterization, which relies heavily on his path in season seven to build up a sense of restless loneliness, one that he channels into what he does in the workshop. The writers’ understanding of his character is something I enjoyed a lot.
- The completely-out-of-right-field twist of having a Super Slayer show up to attack Slayer Central. At the time, I had no idea what this thing was, but it was terrifying.
- THAT ENDING. It’s on video, but holy god, what???

Episode 13: The Inward Eye

Bringing Tara back was risky, and I’m so pleased that this episode explicitly addresses how fucked up this. It is not simply a giant celebration. The Scoobies’ reactions range from tearful joy to violent suspicion, and I’m glad this happens. Of course, the whole time, I couldn’t help but wonder: is she real??? I mean, how the hell is this even possible? So it was great that the subplot with Hannah and Wood produced an answer to this, especially since it was something hinted at a few episodes before this. BUT THEN SHE HAS THAT GODDAMN KEY AND EYE LOGO BRANDED ON HER AAHHHHHHHH WHAT THE FUCK.

Episode 15: Second Chances

So given the end of episode 13, I knew that the writers would eventually have to deal with the fact that Tara, while very much herself, was resurrected by Madrigan for some ulterior motive. This episode has a brilliant Whedon-esque twist to the end: Tara believes that she was brought back to “judge” Willow in a sense, to eliminate her because of her capacity for turning dark. It was a way to acknowledge and address what Willow did in the wake of Tara’s death, as well as providing Buffy with a way to accept that she does get another chance this time around. It eliminated the chance that Tara was here just as a pawn of someone else. EXCEPT NO, SHE TOTALLY WAS. Of course, we don’t find out why Madrigan is pleased with Tara accepting Willow and not killing her, but oh god, TOO MANY TWISTS.

Episode 17: The Wren

Despite that I don’t actually think this is an awful episode, this was my least favorite of season 8. I don’t like ren faires, though I admit seeing the Scoobies as weird, hallucinatory versions of ren faire cast members was kinda neat. I just don’t like the execution of it. Still, I’m including this here because it’s super important for Dawn’s characterization in this season. It heavily foreshadows what she does in the final episode, though at the time, I didn’t see it at all.

Episode 18: Separate Tables

GILES AND HANNAH FLASHBACK STORY HOLY SHIT THIS WAS FUCKING INCREDIBLE I LOVE HANNAH, OH MY GOD, SO MANY FLASHBACKS WHERE WE GET TO SEE RIPPER IN ACTION BLESS THIS EPISODE FOREVER. No, read this for Ziggy Stardust Giles alone. It’s worth it.

Episode 20: Exchanges

Just. Incredible. Thrilling, some of the best writing all season, utilizes a massive cast of characters without ever feeling muddy or convoluted, and that final act is a work of fanfic art. You know, in hindsight, I should have seen that Faith’s arc in this season was always leading to her getting close with Hazel in a way she’d never done before, only to lose her because she taught her well. The horrific irony of that is heartbreak. Hazel died because she had the best mentor possible, and she did this because of what Faith taught her about being a Slayer. And finding out the Super Slayers exist because they’re IMBUED WITH MAGIC and because they are going to absorb all the Slayers was unendingly fucked up. This wasn’t about eliminating the Slayers for ~evil purposes~. A rogue Watcher wanted to create an international organization that fought for good by taking over governments and corporations, and he was going to achieve that by absorbing all the existing Slayers into Super Slayers. Fucked up. AND BRILLIANT. SO GODDAMN BRILLIANT.

Episode 21: Duality

The episode that season seven desperately needed to address Willow and what she did in season six. My god, the use of a mirror land to reflect Willow’s sins back at her was genius, and it’s the only way she could have ever earned redemption. Saying that the scythe cleansed her of her wrongdoing is lazy, and this episode directly subverts and deconstructs that to give one hell of a story about Tara and Willow.

Episode 22: Win, Lose, or Draw

I still think “Exchanges” is the highlight, but sweet babies, what an epic, dizzying finale. It’s violent, it spans TWO CONTINENTS, and features Xander and Dawn doing INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT THINGS that will have long-lasting consequences for season nine. Honestly, I don’t want to spoil this for you! IT’S SO GREAT HOLY SHIT. Ugh, this episode destroyed my Faith feelings, I swear.

Season 9

Episode 3: Class of ’99

Sunnydale school reunion with appearances by Harmony, Angel, Oz, and Cordelia? YES, PLEASE.

Episode 5: Coming Home

Okay, while I don’t think the execution of this is perfect, this entire episode is centered around Tara and is a deliberate attempt to separate her from Willow. I don’t mean breaking up, but the idea that Tara is always “Willow’s girlfriend.” Here, through the use of flashbacks, we’re given a much more complete picture of who she is and where she came from. It’s a heartbreaking and touching story that feels like a great sequel to “Family.”

Episode 9: When In Doubt

SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THIS EPISODE. Dawn’s “powers” are ridiculous in a totally awesome way (and I kinda don’t want to spoil that), we get a bigger glimpse of Willow being all awesome and magicky in a way that doesn’t seem totally tainted by her past. Also, AMY. AMY HOLY CRAP. I get the sense that the fandom doesn’t really care for her, and I’m not here to say I’m a fan of her at all, but I’m fascinated by the idea that Amy and Willow have had these frequent role reversals. Amy started off as the witch, then Willow became infinitely more powerful, and this comes off almost as if Amy is Willow’s creation, something she has to deal with now.

Episode 11: Beggars Would Ride

Endlessly heartbreaking and ridiculously weird, this, along with “Exchanges,” is the best written story in The Chosen. It takes an idea we’ve seen before in different iterations – the creation of an alternate world/reality due to a wish or spell – and runs with it in a way that crushes my heart over and over again. I suppose it’s so hard to read because I miss Anya so much, and I wish she didn’t die. And this story toys with that, and then punches you in the feelings again.

Anyway, I’m interested in what y’all thought of this if you finished reading it! I swear, it gets really good around episode 12, and it’s like a freight train of awesome from there on out. Many thanks, of course, to Devon for commissioning me to read this. Thank you for introducing me to this fantastic project!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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