Mark Reads ‘The Chosen’: Episodes 1-5

In the eighth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen, a group of Buffy fans imagines what an eighth season of the show would be like. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Chosen.

So, this is incredibly new for me! I’ve been doing some double features over on Mark Watches this year, and I’d been kicking around the same idea for Mark Reads. However, I was unsure what to do. Should I read a short series? A single book? I hadn’t quite figured out anything, and then a lovely person by the name of Devon answered this puzzle for me. Devon commissioned TWELVE videos of me reading The Chosen, a fanfiction series covering the eighth and ninth “seasons” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it was just too good of a project to turn down.

What I’d like to do is loosely review the entire published project. This is going to be for the first five episodes of The Chosen, split up by episode so that you can come and read as you please. I’ll link to each episode with a bolded title, and after that, I’ll put any videos I was commissioned to do and the thoughts I had about the specific episode. In the spirt of capturing my reactions, I will be writing each “review” as if I am liveblogging it. I thought it would be a fun way to get my thoughts down and move through a very large body of work. Once I’m able to get next week’s reviews done, I’ll begin work on more reviews of season 8, then I’ll move on to season 9!

Anyway, it’s really cool that Mark Does Stuff has opened up my eyes to what fanfiction can achieve. I’ve read so much terrible stuff over the years that it’s nice to experience… nice things??? Oh god, right? So, going into this, I wanted to pay attention to a few things:

1) Does this answer any questions left unanswered by the series?

2) Does it honor the show’s style, or is it a different take on what the show could be?

3) Do these stories work well if you imagine them as an actual episode, or are they best left as a written story?

4) What the hell are the Scoobies going to do after “Chosen”?????

So, let’s do this, y’all!

Season Eight!!!

Episode 1: “Crossroads”

Teaser Video

Act I Video

  • Oh gosh, I was so stoked that Dawn was being badass, but then… wait, why was Buffy nearly a vampire’s lunch?
  • I ask this multiple times in the video, but where are they all living? During the entirety of Act I, this wasn’t clear for Willow, Xander, and Dawn, but I’m intrigued. Buffy is somewhere, possible in Europe? Faith is on her way to an unnamed place. Giles and Andrew are in Pennsylvania, and Robin Wood joins Giles there later. I don’t know where Trillium High is, but the name sounds strange, and there’s nothing to give me an idea where Kennedy is, either. Is this on purpose?
  • This is clearly picking up where “Chosen” left off. The Watchers Council has been reinstated, but for the purpose of actually assisting the Slayers, which is awesome.
  • The best part of this new dynamic is that the Slayers are always given a choice whether or not they want to pursue being a Slayer. YES. YES. YES. It’s so great that they don’t force anyone into it.
  • Aw, Andrew.
  • The neat thing that I’ve already picked up on is how well the writers are able to write as these characters, picking up their mannerisms and speech patterns. It’s clever, and it helps makes this feel more real.
  • Kennedy’s line about the sharp end of the sword to her new Watcher is FANTASTIC. A great callback!
  • At the end of Act I, Giles remarks to Robin Wood that “not every Slayer is called with a sense of altruism.” OH GOD, WHAT DOES HE MEAN.
  • Ugh, this is TOTALLY FAITH. Like, the same attitude, but with the growth from season seven attached to her. She’s in a “good place.” SO MANY FAITH FEELS, Y’ALL.
  • Oh, Jesus. Xander’s been in a funk since Anya died. 🙁 🙁 🙁
  • Oh shit, wait, if Andrew helps Xander “build things,” does that mean they’re all in Pennsylvania?
  • Trillium is the name of the city! I know it’s the name of a group of perennials, but does it have significance to the story?
  • OH MY GOD ANDREW’S SUMMARY OF CLEVELAND IS SO GREAT. Oh man, what’s the Mistake on the Lake???
  • It really does make sense that D.C. is on a Hellmouth. Come on, you probably thought of that yourself. NEW SERIES, SOMEONE. MAKE IT.
  • I want to see if Andrew will get more character development.
  • A Bermuda Triangle of Hellmouths! I rather like this idea. Trillium is sort of the headquarters of the Slayers. Neat!
  • Ugh, Crystal Pepsi was so gross.
  • WHAT THE FUCK XANDER IS LEAVING. But it’s the first episode!!!!!!
  • Giles used stirring music during his YOU HAVE A CHOICE speech to the new Slayers at one point. Why is this the most perfect image ever?
  • The Slayers have dorms. It’s so official!
  • “Yeah, we can’t all be named after a time of day.” LOL-ING FOREVER.
  • Okay, Xander and Willow’s conversation about the things they miss from Sunnydale is just downright heartbreaking.
  • no there is friendship happening here and hugs and tears and THIS IS ALREADY HAPPENING.
  • I really would want Faith to be there for my first Slayer experience.
  • The scene where the vampire and Hazel make fun one of another is very Buffy. VERY Buffy.
  • Ah, and now we’ve got the explanation of the episode’s title. It’s clearly applicable to Xander’s story, too.
  • This episode is largely a set-up. It exists to tell us where these characters are, what the future holds for them, and what sort of characterization is in store for them. I still have no idea where Buffy is, though! It’s a good story, though, and I loved the focus on contrasting the certainty that the characters had with Xander’s total lack of hope.

Episode 2: “Human Nature”

  • A very classic cold open from the show. And Day of the Triffids isn’t very good, Xander. It’s so different from the book!
  • People turning into trees!!!
  • It’s interesting that Kennedy is now “The Slayer” by title, not Buffy. Why is that?
  • Ugh, Giles and Xander bonding and talking about feelings. This is too good.
  • Xander almost said Anya. My heart. 🙁
  • OH NO IT’S EVIL TREE PEOPLE. Right? Right???
  • Oh shit, someone else is getting to Slayers before Faith? I don’t have a good feeling about this.
  • What the hell is Buffy doing, and where is she???
  • Okay, she’s fighting some sort of spider creature? This is a pretty brutal fight. But why is she out in this forest at night?
  • Willow, she’s part of a tree cult, BE CAREFUL.
  • It’s neat how Willow’s scene goes right into Xander’s.
  • Okay, there’s no way it’s a coincidence that the lumberyard is empty of any employees. What’s going on?
  • This episode builds suspense well. We’ve got Xander in a deserted lumberyard, and Giles just discovered that Allison, the girl Faith was supposed to talk to, ran off for the weekend. Uh-oh.
  • Hahaha, holy shit, that tree is wearing a jacket, isn’t it???
  • The writers really do get these characters, and it’s awesome.
  • “Xander Harris: Making as little look like as much as possible for 23 years.” Oh, Xander, my heart.
  • Ah, so, we’re given an interesting situation. Faith is bonding with Kennedy. Faith is telling Kennedy to give her Watcher a chance. Faith is saying this. Meanwhile, Willow is keeping her activities from Kennedy. A possible split? Look, I’m just trying to call these things in advance for once.
  • Wow, Dawn went in on Kennedy. That Tara reference was harsh.
  • I think the scene where Willow confronts Xylia is clunky. It’s weird that she would outright tell someone that she suspects a dude was literally turned into a tree. Mind you, she hasn’t even known Xylia for a day.
  • Bravo for having Willow reference her own deadly and violent experience with revenge.
  • I don’t like the way this conflict is resolved. It deflates the tension pretty quickly, and it’s just not satisfying to me. That being said, it does introduce a future plot: Kennedy’s anger and disappointment at Willow for not including her.
  • The end of “Human Nature” is fantastic, an emotional dedication to the people that the Scoobies lost in Sunnydale. Perhaps this is how Xander will be able to heal.

Episode 3: Hide & Seek

  • Okay, predicting that the series’s arc concerns the missing Slayer.
  • Oh boy, the tension between Kennedy and Willow builds! I’m glad the writers aren’t simply retreading the same ground we saw with Willow and Tara. Here, Kennedy is increasingly upset that she doesn’t seem to have a more special place in Willow’s life. Namely, on Willow’s one day off to spend with Kennedy, she takes a call from Giles and agrees to work. We know that this is important, but to Kennedy, it’s another chance for Willow to be taken away from her.
  • Buffy faced an Ettercap? From Dungeons & Dragons???? Or, shit, aren’t those the spiders in The Hobbit, too????
  • Okay, 100% into this plotline involving the scythe and missing Slayers. There are less now? Who’s picking them off?
  • It’s interesting that initially, Xander points out that it’s strange that Kennedy of all people doesn’t seem to understand that Willow is going to be pulled away from things because of the nature of what she does. This isn’t like Riley and Buffy in season four, where Riley fundamentally did not understand Buffy. Kennedy does get what this is like. So why the insecurity and anger?
  • Whoa, Knight! A ginger monster fighter with a beard!
  • So Buffy went to Europe to escape the life of obligation she’d lived for seven years. And amidst the quiet and lack of responsibility, she’s still unsatisfied. I am liking this exploration of what life means to her without being the Slayer.
  • Okay, what’s the Mogari???
  • Yeah, I feel bad for Willow. Giles is openly depending on her on her day off. Yikes.
  • Faith’s dialogue style is largely replicated here, but sometimes, it feels forced, as if the writer is reaching to make her sound even more ridiculous than usual. But I admit that I’m entertained by the very notion of Faith and Robin’s date, and this is basically imagined it went down.
  • I find that at least at this point, I’m still not terribly interested in Kennedy. At least in this episode, she’s too similar to Faith. Only… well, in her own words, “more rude.”
  • “A group of female Bruce Banners.” Wow, I never thought of the Slayers that way.
  • So, whatever this Mogari demon thing is, I still think this plot isn’t grabbing me yet. It’s a bit too familiar for me, given that season seven was about an evil force taking out the Potentials. Now the actual Slayers are disappearing and being targeted.
  • I don’t know if any of you played the original Trivial Pursuit, but that First Edition was FUCKING HARD. Holy shit.
  • It’s fascinating to me that Dawn is the one to outright state that she thinks Kennedy is not “right” for Willow. And it’s appropriate that Xander would defend Willow’s choice, too.
  • Oh god, Kennedy, why are you so frustrated by bad timing? It’s frustrating me. Clearly, Willow wants to spend time with you, and you know for a fact that she has certain responsibilities that are necessary, but you choose to ignore that and drown yourself in your own rage.
  • WAVING CHEESE SLICES. BLESS YOU. What a fantastic reference to “Restless.”
  • I do like the dream sequence a lot, but I don’t know that it’s a very strong way to end this episode. These feel less like self-contained episodes and more like chapters in a book! Which is fine, but I definitely didn’t expect that.

Episode 4: “The Name of the Game”

  • Okay, I love a good mystery. WHAT’S IN THE CHEST????
  • I will say that what the writers get right every time is interactions between characters. Even if some of the dialogue or pacing feels weird, they understand these characters well. I loved the bonding between Hazel and Faith.
  • HAHAHA OH GOD, DAWN’S FRIENDS WANT TO KNOW IF SHE’S EVER DONE STUFF WITH XANDER. What a weird thought. He is like a brother to her!
  • Aw, shucks, Dawn’s friends are more interested in her housemates than spending time with her. Boo!
  • Oh shit, ~teenage drinking plotline~.
  • Lord, I almost thought Faith and Kennedy would start to fight over the Slayers they were training. Who were currently fighting. SO MUCH ANGRY FIGHTING.
  • At least Xander and Robin Wood are getting along! (I keep having to ignore the urge to call him Principal Wood. He’s not a principal anymore!)
  • Oh my god, I LOVE HOW WILLOW ADMITS THAT SHE MISSES BUFFY. Ugh, I miss her, too.
  • Giles’s skeleton key is literally made from a skeleton. BLESS.
  • Well, the opening of the chest was slightly disappointing. There must be something of importance in there.
  • Aw, Judith and Hazel are getting along!
  • Willow is telling Kennedy about Vamp Willow!!! Aw, the vamp who knew Willow was actually gay.
  • Okay, so I was thinking, “Wow, this is a really cute date, and I am enjoying this, and this makes me care about Willow and Kennedy as a couple,” and then WHAT THE FUCK. IS KENNEDY PROPOSING?? WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?
  • There is no way playing with that Ouija board is going to end well. NO WAY.
  • Again, the writers know how to write these characters super well. See: Xander’s manly poker night.
  • On that note, though, there isn’t much here in terms of plot. There’s a lot of character development, but there are only loose examples of a story. Even the “arc” that’s being hinted at is only addressed every so often.
  • Wait, so Kennedy didn’t propose? Whoa, I’m surprised. That being said, the butterfly tear jewel thing? Yeah, that’s awesome. Bravo.
  • Hahaha, as soon as I complained that not much was going on here, I get the Ouija board scene. Fantastically written in a way that utilizes pretty much every trope I’ve ever seen surrounding Ouija boards. I love that we’re given this full story through Dawn’s interrogation and Brenda’s live reading of the diary. It’s clever.
  • Hahaha, and Faith’s arrival at Manly Man Card Night is also spectacular. A buck fifty and a peppermint! Good bet, Faith.
  • “I guess she got ‘bored.'” I MISSED YOUR PUNS, BUFFY.
  • This episode had a much, much more satisfying ending than the ones before. I could totally imagine it as an actual episode of the show.

Episode 5: “Fringes”

  • It’s hard not to think of the show Fringe when I read that title.
  • I’ll have to see how it unfolds, but there’s a very eerie similarity between the dinner scene at the open of this and how season six starts. Buffy returns home after a long absence, and everyone already has their own idea of what they want her to do. Actually, that’s a bit similar to “When She Was Bad” in some ways, too.
  • Okay, I don’t understand who this group of creepy beings are, but Lord Madrigan makes it clear that somehow, he’s infiltrated the Scoobies, and that someone is a spy of sorts. Well, that’s what I’m guessing. But I’m not sure who that might be.
  • I wasn’t surprised that Sonja was the plant upon meeting her. Yeah, she was suspicious immediately.
  • Wow, Kennedy, great teaching method. Breaking noses is awesome.
  • Wow, Kennedy, picking a fight with Buffy is also a good idea.
  • Wow, this is a disaster.
  • I think it’s pretty neat (and unexpected) that most of Act I focuses on Judith.
  • Sonja’s “reports” are brutal. Damn.
  • So, how exactly did Sonja infiltrate them? How was Giles tricked into believing she was a Slayer?
  • God, Kennedy is so frustrating to read! I suppose that’s a compliment to the writers, because her characterization can evoke such a strong reaction to me.
  • You know, Sonja’s “report” about Faith got me thinking: Have I got this all wrong? Sonja writes with this weird blend between formality and casual theorizing, and it seems strange. What is Sonja’s purpose? What about the group she belongs to?
  • One giant FUCK YES to the wonderfully written scene between Faith and Xander. Goddamn, it’s a great rumination on loss and emotional baggage, one that those two characters understand.
  • Sonja’s update about Willow and Buffy is downright ridiculous. Who is she reporting to? What is her purpose?
  • I like that this episode very much addresses what Buffy’s role will be in this new organization. There’s no easy answer to that issue, though. Buffy left – again – and she has to acknowledge that if she’s going to be around permanently.
  • You know, as irritating as Kennedy can be, the writers are smart to base a lot of her behavior on her experience with Buffy at the end of season seven.
  • OMG THE LIBRARY IN SLAYER CENTRAL. Oh god, I wish I could see this on film!!!
  • Demon puppies!!!
  • Okay, how is Norg connected to all of this? I complained about a lack of plot in the past, and now I’ve got like 10 of them to deal with.
  • So, how is Sonja sending these updates? What are the logistics of them?
  • I DON’T BELIEVE NORG AT ALL. It’s a trap!
  • Oh. He was telling the truth!
  • what the fuck is going on I DON’T GET IT. It was a trick, but who set it up???
  • hahahaha oh my god, who is the man with the scar

Well, I totally fell for that one. Shit.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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