Review based on episodes 1-3
It’s been over 20 years since the series finale of one of the most beloved shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and reading that probably makes you feel incredibly old. So, here is some good news, it’s back – sort of. Although we haven’t seen any of the iconic characters from the series in live action since its spin-off, Angel ended a year later, the loyal fandom has remained invested, whether that be through the continued story in comics, Con appearances, and interviews, or just supporting the cast’s other projects. The hope has always remained that the show would live on with the original cast in some iteration, and though other efforts never quite materialized for one reason or another, we finally have our wishes granted – and not in that backfiring Anyanka kind of way.
With Slayers: A Buffyverse Story, available on Audible, we have a direct spin-off that features some of our favorite characters’ voices in the audio series, as well as within the writing itself. It was created by Christopher Golden, and Amber Benson, who also returns to voice Tara. It seems their intention, along with entertaining their loyal fan base, is to take these characters back from their original creator Joss Whedon, who is no longer involved for well-known reasons. Fan favorites like Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), and Anya (Emma Caufield Ford) suffered unceremonious endings that didn’t do their characters justice, and this series is an opportunity for them to rectify that in a meaningful way.
What lends itself to an Audible story like this one, where you spent years watching these characters, is that you already know how the actors play them. Their quirks, and mannerisms, down to very specific facial expressions are easy to visualize in your head as you listen to their familiar voices in the story. It’s a lot of fun just listening to them interact again, and the conversations and inventive sound-effects deserve high marks. The same can’t necessarily be said for fight sequences, which of course were always a big part of the show. With audio, it’s difficult, because you’re really forced to use your imagination, and focus on the discernible dialogue to clue you in on how things are going, or else you’ll be lost in a whirlwind of random grunting. The series handles it well, as most of the focus is on the tension building dialogue leading up to fisticuffs, but eventually things have to resort to violence.
Without digging too deep into the synopsis, the story at the onset of Slayers is centered on Spike (James Marsters), providing a fun film noir style narration, who while working undercover, pretending to be back to his evil ways, is recruited by Cordelia and Anya from an alternate reality where Cordelia is the only slayer, to help them defeat Spike’s old psychotic flame, Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Reluctantly Spike agrees, and has to relent to his tag-along newly activated slayer named Indira (Lay DeLeon Hayes) joining as well. Indira brings the peppy teenage energy our returning characters left in Sunnydale long ago, and his “best friend” Clem (James Charles Leary), who often steals the show, also puts down the kittens to lend a helping hand. The series also excitingly brings back everyone’s favorite, now retired, librarian and watcher, Rupert Giles (Anthony Steward Head), and Tara, among others as it develops.
While alternate realities and parallel universes aren’t a novel idea, there was already a precedent for it within the Buffyverse dating back to Season 3 of the show, so you could say they were there before it became so trendy. It allows for the writers to explore new traits in known characters, and the actors a chance to try things they may have always wanted to previously but weren’t able to within the confines of the show. The character of Cordelia always had a strong side to her, and that toughness grew over time until she was essentially abandoned by Whedon, so it’s great to have her featured as the slayer with that confidence and power to her here. Similarly, Tara was always sweet and quiet, and Anya was mostly comedic relief, so this outlet provides them both the chance to play dual roles with a lot of versatility.
It’s also a more straightforward path to bringing back characters that we lost, and all that exposition is primarily handled within Episode 2 so you can just absorb it and move on with enjoying it all – or most of it anyway. You might have a hard time finding enjoyment in a portion that features Tara in a conversation of sorts with a piano playing monkey called Mr. Pickles, but that’s the only confusing choice at least through the first three episodes of the series, and hey, maybe that pays off down the line, somehow.
Although the absence of the original “Scooby gang” can certainly be felt, Slayers does a great job of referencing everyone without distracting from its own plot, and if it proves to be successful, there is plenty of opportunity to get more former members of the show involved in future installments. In different ways, Carpenter, Caufield and Benson must feel some measure of liberation playing their characters again after all this time, and you would imagine it’s as much fun for this cast to work together as it is for fans to listen to them. Slayers: A Buffyverse Story is a very welcome continuation of the show we all fell in love with, and it’s comforting to know that it’s firmly in the right hands.