In the second episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DAWN WHAT THE FUCK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Let me get the obvious out of the way before we move on to other intriguing things. Shall we?
WHERE THE FUCK DID DAWN SUMMERS COME FROM?
I get the distinct sense that this is not a horrific and terribly done retcon. This is being done on purpose, because why else would this show introduce a sibling of a main cast member without ever having said a thing about her for FOUR YEARS? Well, yes, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but THAT’S NOT THE POINT. Is this meant to be something else? Why on earth did Buffy say that Dawn’s been living in the house, under the same rules, for years? She hasn’t been around FOR FOUR YEARS. Why does Dawn write in her diary that she’s going to surprise everyone? Why does all of this make me so unbelievably uncomfortable?
Regardless, I don’t think this is enough to distract from what a FANTASTIC character introduction this is. I didn’t think I’d like Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, but she’s PERFECT. What better way to introduce a character we should have known by giving her an episode that focuses on her experience as Buffy’s younger sister. Look, I can immediately relate to what Dawn feels like. I always felt like I lived in the shadow of my siblings, especially since I was treated so differently from them. I don’t want to ignore the fact that Dawn can be irritating at times, but she’s fourteen. What is Buffy expecting? I get that Buffy has a lot on her plate, but let me take my stance right now: Buffy is rude to her sister, and I don’t like it. (Not the writing, mind you, just the behavior.)
I’m happy that David Fury chose to frame “Real Me” from the perspective of Dawn’s diary entries because it allows him to flesh out her character as she relates to the various Scoobies. Because we don’t have the luxury of knowing her history (WHY WHY WHYYYY???!?!?!?), we can’t imagine the relationship dynamics she has. For once, I am totally fine with the writers just outright telling us. It’s done in such a personal way that I have no problem with the fact that it’s not subtle at all. Dawn’s not a subtle person, anyway, so it wouldn’t have fit her personality. Still, we also get to see how Buffy treats her, so it’s not a matter of just taking Dawn at her word. I’m doing my best to understand where both of these characters are coming from. Buffy’s desperate to have her own life and to focus on this new path she’s on with Giles; Dawn wants to be accepted and respected as her own person more than anything.
It’s unsurprising, then, that she enjoys Willow and Tara. It’s a testament to what fantastic people they are that they’re so open and accepting of Dawn. I mean, Tara is genuinely concerned for Dawn! I LOVE IT SO MUCH. TARA WHY AREN’T YOU REAL. But over the course of the episode, I began to see how everyone was so open to accepting Dawn. In fact, it seemed that Buffy was the only character to really have a problem with her. Again, I get that. No one else has her as a sister, and that dynamic alone can make things strained and stressful.
But then I’m confused. Like, okay, so does that homeless man who accosts Dawn serve a different purpose than to just vocalize what she’s already feeling? Does she literally not belong here? Okay, STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS, MARK. And I only say that because I feel like I’m going to obsess about this so much that I’ll be disappointed to learn that it meant nothing. Like, I just realized Dawn could be Buffy’s sister from her father’s… previous marriage? Wait, he didn’t have one. Or did he? Oh no, I am slipping into an abyss of confusion.
Let’s focus on what I do know about “Real Me”: Harmony is perfection. She has minions and a shrine of unicorns. She disappeared to in order to study. Well, sort of. She was kind of predictable, wasn’t she? SPIKE READ HER SO QUICKLY. Whatever, I just love having her around because I’m pretty sure in the history of vampire canon, there is no vampire ever that’s like Harmony. And I appreciate her. There’s even room in this episode for Giles to be wonderful as well. I’m happy that Buffy’s invited him back into her life, and I’m even more ecstatic that HE BOUGHT THE MAGIC SHOP. OH MY GOD. GILES! I am just so satisfied with this plot development. Now we have a new place for the Scoobies to meet with Giles, and it guarantees he’ll have a full roll in all future episodes. Oh my god, does this also mean Tara will start hanging out with Giles, too? This is a new life goal of mine.
I don’t want to deny that this story really is about Dawn, though, despite that there really are a lot of great moments with the other characters. (Jesus, I just remembered Willow coming up behind Tara and hugging her. UGH SO PERFECT.) Who is the real Dawn? Is she destined to always get in her sister’s way? Is she always going to be ignored and judged? Will Buffy and Joyce continue to treat her like she’s six years old? Again, I can’t ignore that every character here treats Dawn with respect except Buffy. Hell, even Xander is absolutely fantastic to her! So what gives? I’m thinking of the freak out that Buffy has and Dawn overhears before storming out of the house. I got a little more insight into Buffy’s frustration from it. I learned that Buffy felt she had to constantly protect her sister. Which… okay, sorry, I can’t ignore this, but THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE EVER PROTECTED YOUR SISTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW. I can’t. I can’t even write about this anymore. Who the fuck is Dawn? Where did she come from? Is the explanation of her identity going to erase these experiences, or do they matter? When the fuck are Willow and Tara going to just make out on the screen?
I am so confused, excited, and disgustingly unprepared for season five. I already like where this is headed, but damn it. DAWN! Who the hell are you?