In the fifth episode of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy sets out to find out what is causing her mother’s illness and discovers something else and I genuinely did not expect this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
Yes. Yes, that is the general theme of what this episode has made me feel, and it’s an accurate depiction of just how fucked up my brain is right now.
You know what the worst part of this is? WE STILL DIDN’T FIND OUT WHAT IS CAUSING JOYCE’S ILLNESS. WHAT THE FUCK THIS ISN’T FAIR.
Here’s the thing: revealing who Dawn is and why she just showed up is a big deal. It’s a massive moment for the show, and it’s in the beginning of the season, and it’s done in a way that does not remove the emotional dynamics of Buffy having a little sister. I think that this could have easily been a gimmick and one that had no resonance with me. I am emotionally invested in Buffy the Vampire Slayer at this point in the series, and that means I am going to be ridiculously irrational about the things that happen to these characters. I’m actually happy that I get to write about these stories one at a time, though, because it gives me a moment to not only reflect on each episode after a lot of thought, but to think about the big picture of the season itself. I was a little surprised to find out that not many people seemed to like season four, but I know that I had a much different experience with the way I viewed it. Obviously, Tara was introduced, so that means everything was already perfect from the start. But I truthfully love longform stories, and I’m beginning to see just how season five is coming together. IT EXCITES ME.
First of all, before we get to what the fuck stuff, I had a moment of panic when the grand re-opening of The Magic Box did not seem to go as Giles had planned. Look, Giles had a really tough time in season four, and now he’s finally found a way not only to stay involved in things, but to give his own life this really beautiful purpose. And then no one showed up to the shop. I just don’t know that I could deal with Giles feeling listless and useless again because I LOVE GILES. Instead, the show takes his magic shop in a completely different direction, overwhelming him with customers. And then Anya. Anya. Ugh, like, the thing that’s so great about Anya is that she’s so complete to me, and the way her character is written and Emma Caulfield’s portrayal of her is so effortless. I’m at a point where I’m convinced Emma Caulfield is Anya. I’ve never seen a character like her in anything I’ve ever read or watched! That’s just so impressive to me. And now she works for Giles, and there’s absolutely nothing about this that I don’t love deeply.
The rest of the episode focuses on the Summers family. You know, upon thinking about it, I’m glad that Dawn’s identity is finally answered. (Well, not completely, since I don’t know what she opens.) How much longer could the writers have continued to pretend that she’s always been Buffy’s sister? I shouldn’t ask that. Joss Whedon runs this show, so clearly he would troll us for years if he could. By revealing that she was inserted into reality, we now have this UNBELIEVABLE STORYTELLING POTENTIAL for season five. Oh god, does that mean Dawn has to leave at the end of the season? Okay, I don’t want to think about this right now. Instead, let’s talk about how the Dawn reveal somehow makes her character even better.
The great misdirect of “No Place Like Home” is that we’re meant to think that Buffy’s trance will help her figure out what’s ailing her mother. Dawn is still just a side concern at this point. Throughout the episode, we see how Dawn continually butts in on Buffy’s life, justified or not, and irritates her older sister. Bless Willow, by the way, for her loving empathy, because ultimately, it’s clear that Dawn just wants attention of some sort. Why else would she cling to Joyce during all of this? Why would Dawn continually attempt to be involved with Buffy’s life?
Oh god, now there is so much new subtext to the way Dawn acts. The monk says she’s the “innocent” in all of this and look at the way she acts with Buffy. Yes, she’s annoying, but she’s got this childish innocence to her and GAH SHE JUST BECAME SO COMPLEX TO ME. I can’t. I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS.
Also, Spike loves Buffy and I can’t stop laughing at it oh my god.
Also, okay, I need an entire paragraph devoted to this: WHO THE FUCK IS THE WOMAN IN RED. Who is she? Why does she need the key? Why is she called The Beast? Is she disguised WHAT IS HER REAL FORM. Also she is stronger than Buffy!!! This is so fascinating to me because it’s a new woman on the show and she can royally kick Buffy’s ass. How is Buffy going to deal with this? OMG Riley will train her! AND THAT IS HOW HE WILL BE MORE INVOLVED. Okay, that’s probably a bad prediction because he was barely in this episode. Are the writers hinting that he’s on his way out? Wait, where the fuck was Tara during all of this? I have so many questions, and none are being answered.
So yeah. IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT DAWN. Dawn is a key. What is she a key for oh my god. But even if that is going to frame the bulk of season five (since I don’t imagine that this will be resolved in the near future), it still doesn’t destroy her characterization. By re-contextualizing her existence as Buffy’s sister, I was so unbelievably impressed that she is still the innocent little sister. She’s to be protected by the Slayer, and because of this, we get that touching scene in Dawn’s bedroom. It’s another scene of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s that allows me to see just what a terrific actress she is. It was easy for me to notice the way she changed her body language around Dawn, how she knew that she’d been treating her “sister” in a way that was probably pretty immature. It’s the first time she’s genuinely apologized to Dawn and the first time they actually can bond over something. Unfortunately, they’re bonding over their mother’s sickness, but it’s still something.
Christ, so what’s wrong with Joyce? I DON’T LIKE THIS. WHAT’S HAPPENING.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am on tour! I have dates in the western half of North America, and you should come listen to live readings of bad fic and discussions of Mark Does Stuff projects, past or present or future!
– You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for any updates and live commentary on upcoming reviews I’m writing.
– If you’d like to support what I’m doing, you can click the little Donate button in the right sidebar, buy eBooks on MarkDoesStuff, or purchase physical books on Lulu.com.
– Support my twin brother’s ALC ride and I’ll continue reading bad fic on video. DO IT.
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is now out and available for purchase!!!