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  • Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Created By: Joss Whedon

"The Buffy Files: Chapter 5"

A Look Back at Buffy: The Vampire Slayer Season Five

By STEPHEN LACKEY     November 07, 2006

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Fifth Season
© Fox

After last season’s disaster I didn’t know what to expect from season five of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Right away I was annoyed with the new character Dawn.  She was just dropped into the series at the end of season four as if she had been there the whole time.  On top of her abrupt entrance, she’s just plain annoying.  Other characters though, mainly Anya and Tara finally seemed to find their places in the series and I really started to enjoy having them around in season five. 

The first episode of season five, “Buffy vs. Dracula” left me with mixed emotions.  As a whole I liked the episode but not because of Dracula.  The stand out character in this episode is easily Xander.  He gets most of the good lines and cracked me up throughout.  Dracula himself was boring and considering he was Dracula he was dispatched quite easily.  He was built up as this epic power and then he was dead.  I was actually kind of glad because as the episode progressed I became afraid that he would be the villain for this season and that would have really sucked. 

The next episode “The Real Me” is told through Dawn’s eyes and through her diary.  We learn that Dawn didn’t just magically appear, she has been around for fifteen years, since she was born.  Everyone else seems to validate this by being very familiar with her and her place within the group.  This episode didn’t blow me away, it’s just important because through it we learn so much about Dawn.  It’s not until several episodes in that we finally learn the truth about Dawn and her part in this season’s overall story arc.  Buffy learns that Dawn isn’t a human at all but a key to an alternate universe.  The key was made into human form and placed into Buffy’s care with fifteen years worth of fake memories to allow Buffy and her family and friends accept and protect Dawn.  Glory, this season main villain is an evil God looking for the key to open the gate back to her own universe and in the process allowing all sorts of nasty stuff to rain terror down on Earth.  Try as she might Buffy can’t seem to beat Glory so the gang runs and hides, doing whatever they must to protect Dawn from her.  At first I really hated Glory but once I settled into her character she really amused me.  As much as I still hate Dawn as a character I have to admit her introduction into the series and her relevance to the storyline is unique. 

Dawn, Tara, Anya, and even Spike to some extent all play a part in the theme of family in this season.  Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles have had this little group together for years.  So, it’s hard to bring in new people to their family but they do with these new characters.  This idea is best realized in the episode aptly titled “Family”.  In the episode Buffy and Xander discuss Tara’s birthday and how they don’t understand her enough to know what to buy her for a gift.  They realize that they really haven’t given her a chance to become a part of the group the way she deserves.  When Tara’s family shows up to try and force her to come home Buffy and the rest of the gang step in front of Tara to defend her and let her father know she already has a family that accepts her for who she is.  It’s a nice emotional episode for the character.  Tara is interesting because in many ways she’s a mirror image of Willow, her girlfriend, nervous, spastic, and overall just a little awkward.  Willow ends up more often being the stronger one their relationship, which is a new role for the character.  Thematically it’s interesting too because at the same time she’s becoming a stringer witch.  Riley, a boring block of wood of a love interest for Buffy finally finds his way out of the series.  Buffy is upset for a few episodes but it doesn’t compare to the extensive and epic grieving she did over Angel.  It makes sense because they never had the same spark that she and Angel did.  What was more emotional than their actual break up were the two separate instances when Buffy admits to herself that she doesn’t love Riley and Riley accepts the fact that Buffy doesn’t love him.  These scenes both happen a long time before they actually break up. 

Other familial changes are afoot too in this season.  Buffy’s mother gets sick and doctors tell her she has a tumor.  She has surgery but she never seems to get back to a hundred percent.  This leads to my absolute favorite episode of the season; “The Body”.  Buffy comes home to discover her mother’s body sprawled out on the couch.  She calls an ambulance and they pronounce her dead and tell Buffy they have to go on another call and that someone will be there to pick up the body.  This is of course a moving episode but it’s not great just because of the drama, it’s also great because of the execution of the episode.  Throughout the episode there are flashes of what Buffy could have done differently to try and save her mother such as coming home early.  At first I thought these meant something, maybe there was some kind of demon or some sort of time distortion or anything but no, her mom really died.  This episode is another Whedon masterpiece. 

I can’t go without mentioning Spike in this season.  He has fallen in love with Buffy and we know it early on but Buffy doesn’t find out until Dawn explains it to her in a way that just makes it seem so obvious.  The episode “Intervention” finds Spike wanting to have some fun with his new “Buffybot” built by a villain stopped in the previous episode.  The Buffybot looks exactly like Buffy but is in complete love with Spike, is a bit stupid, and is excruciatingly and hilariously chipper.  Sara Michelle Gellar seems to be having a great time with this role and I had a great time watching her in the episode. 

Buffy has died once before but this season it feels more real as she knows at the end of the season that the only way to save her family and well everyone else is to sacrifice herself.  The episode features excellent action and some good humor but the end with Buffy’s gravestone feels resolved and permanent.  When I saw in the bonus features that Whedon had considered stopping the series there it made sense.  Granted this would have been a dark way to end but it would have fit with the gothic sort of tragic atmosphere of the series.  Even though I’m seeing these episode for the first time since my box set has seven seasons in it I know she’ll be back, so that probably took a little wind out of my sails for the ending but even with that said the series finale was very strong. 

I like this season overall.  It doesn’t have the impact that seasons two and three had but it’s still a really great season.  It gets points for trimming the dead weight of Riley and Harmony, another irritating character that is barely worth mentioning.  Buffy’s mother gets a fantastic send off too in one of the best episodes of the series.


Showing items 1 - 9 of 9
thelastonelives 11/7/2006 7:16:13 AM
The Buffybot was great, that episode is one of my favorites. Didn't like the little evil-elven brotherhood that ran with Grace though. Though this is somewhat off topic, Wheden please give Spike his own show. In these times you could totally have fun with Spikes character trying to make it in a crazy messed up world.
spacekicker 11/7/2006 8:50:40 AM
BUFFYBOTT!!! Plus, this season introduces the one that will be your favorite character FOREVER! Andrew...you don't know it yet, but he is awesome. Body just astounded me when I saw it. That strange framing that gave you the disconnected feeling of when one of your family dies. Great stuff.
lister 11/7/2006 11:00:48 AM
Loved the Dracula episode... ("I'm standing right here!") Then came Dawn-y.... aaaaaaand the show started to go downhill. I stayed with it until the end though so it was still watchable.
redhairs99 11/7/2006 11:14:44 AM
Andrew? He was in season 5. Granted, the actor who would later play Andrew played a demon in one of the episodes of season 5. It's actually Warren who is introduced in this season. I think the reason Joss thought about ending the show was that it had been cancelled by The WB after season 5. UPN picked the show up for Season 6 and Season 7.
karas1 11/7/2006 1:04:32 PM
You know, I liked Dawn. She was SUPPOSED to be an irritating little sister who got in the way. That was the relationship to Buffy that the Monks had chosen. They made her weak so that Buffy would protect her. Dawn grew up a lot in season 6 and really came into her own in season 7, perhaps the only good thing about season 7.
lister 11/7/2006 2:11:20 PM
What on God's green earth makes you think I would want to watch a show with an irritating little sister who gets in the way? Why couldn't the monks have chosen SOMEthing else that needed protection? How about a baby? Or a puppy with a broken leg. Anything other than Dawn-y. (and nice choice monks... a precocious teenager... yeah, she won't get into trouble or anything... morons!) She was bad. Oh, so bad.
roboticon 11/8/2006 4:49:09 AM
Personally I found the scene when Giles kills Glory (I can't remember the male's name) was extraordinary and tragic - I think the scene in Angel's finale with Lorne is reminiscent.
mbeckham1 11/8/2006 11:43:36 AM
Dawn in Buffy and Connor in Angel are not important for themselves but because they of how they changed the motivations of the characters of Buffy and Angel. They were each, put in the role of being a parent or guardian which changed their perspectives on their relationships and on their save-the-world missions. In keeping with giving themes to each season. I would say the themes this season were sacrifice and loss. Buffy drops out of college and moves in wit her mother as to take care of her, Riley puts his career on hold to try to preserve his relationship with Buffy. Even Spike sacrifices his chance to get back in the killing game and his relationship with Drucilla for love of Buffy. Willow puts herself on the line to save Tara and Buffy sacrifies her life for Dawn and the world. Even Dawn sacrificed a chance to see her mother again when she realized it might hurt them all especially Buffy and possibly even Joyce. The most poignant aspect of the season was that some of these sacrifices were in vain. Buffy could not save Joyce despite her what her efforts to care for her mother cost her. I think one f the saddest scenes in the series was when Buffy first brought her mother home from the hospital and while she was washing the dises she heard Joyce babbling incoherently as the doctor warned, and her bit by bit Buffy started to breakdown in sobs. Which brings us to the other theme: loss. The Body stands as one of the most haunting episodes in the series because it's all about absence, and the terrible efferct that absence has on everyone. In the end whether there is a heaven or hell in the series or in our world doesn't change anything for the living. A vital part of there lives was gone and Whedon allowed nothing(not even background music) to distract from how that now empty space effects each of the charactersk, and how they don't know how they fit anymore, they can barely speak to each other or Buffy who is almost catatonic throughout the episode. They are scattered and each one looks like their about to topple. Anya gives the best speech about how tragically pointless death what it does to the living seems to be. This loss is echoed first by Willows near loss of Tara and even more so by the death of Buffy and the blow, everyone including Spike suffered at the sight of her. Buffy, before even Joyce dies, begins to lose her ability to connect with othe people, her sisters not her sister her mother is sick, possibly dying, and after she does die Buffy's efforts to be strong distances her even from Dawn, to whom she can hardly offer a comforting word. Perhaps, her difficulties in season six rose to some extent because her sacrifice was also an escape from a future where everything important to her could or would be lost.
stormseye 11/21/2006 4:37:50 PM
The episode, "The Body", was by far the most powerful portrayal about the effect death has on the living I have seen on TV or in the movies. MBeckham is right, the theme of loss and sacrifice is pervasive through out the season and especially in "the body". I also really liked how Willow broke down because she could not find her blue sweater to wear to meet Buffy at the hospital. The misplaced anger, confusion, awkward silence and unbearable grief were all right on the mark. It was important that Buffy's mom was not killed by some monster, then the team could focus their emotions into anger at an enemy. In the absence of such a "scapegoat", as it would be with many people, death seems to lose its meaning, its moral; and people are left lost.


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