Buffy 5×13: Blood Ties

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Stephen DeKnight | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 02/06/2001]

Here lies an excellent arc episode which really utilizes Dawn as a metaphor for adoption to its fullest while also proficiently furthering the arc of the season. The title, “Blood Ties,” refers to the links discovered between Ben and Glory as well as between Dawn and Buffy and how those links affect all of them. This is where the episode focuses its attention. Oh yeah, and Willow teleports Glory into airspace! What could possibly be more exciting!?

It’s Buffy’s birthday, so you can count on lots of pain right from the start! At least Dawn has excellent reasons to be very obnoxious and sneaking around this time. The episode picks up shortly after “Checkpoint” [5×12] ends, with the Scoobies gathered around discussing the new information obtained from the Watcher’s Council on Glory. A lot of shows like to skip right past critical information gained in previous episodes, but thankfully not this one. I personally think Buffy was smart to keep Dawn’s keyness a secret (sans Giles). The way everyone acts when they know later on proves Buffy was correct. Anya is still amusing though, telling Dawn, “You make a very pretty little girl!” Later on Dawn tells Spike she’s badder than him in a very amusing scene. Spike, as usual, twists it around and makes fun of Dawn. She finds out about her key-like nature by breaking into the Magic Box with Spike, which feels oddly fitting.

All this setup leads to the fantasticly powerful scene with Dawn and the knife. Great acting from a young Michelle Trachtenberg here. The following Dawn bedroom scene is also excellent with a very appropiate response to her situation: “so I’ve only been alive for six months, huh?” Dawn’s first “GET OUT!” triplet is out and is very fitting here. That girl can sure scream though! One little thing to note is that as the gang leaves the house, Giles asks if he should stay. Buffy tells him, “this is a family thing.” This just goes to show that while Giles is incredibly close and family-like to Buffy, he is not family. This is an important distinction when recognizing that “The Body” [5×16] is not far away.

Joyce tries to help Dawn out and gets a response of “you’re not my mother.” Adoption metaphor much? This is played very well though. Normal activities become meaningless to Dawn in the light of this kind of life-changing news. Dawn looking at her diary, holding it dear, feeling the pain of the truth, and then burning all of it ring very true. For once I can understand why she’s running off outside into possible danger. I like how Spike points out that Dawn probably would have run off even if she hadn’t found out, which kind of makes fun of how silly Dawn often is. I’m really pleased to see her use the precarious situation she’s in with Glory later to pump Glory for information about just how close she is to finding the key, along with getting information about its origin at the same time. That’s one of Dawn’s few intelligent moves in the series.

When Buffy finds out Spike helped Dawn out she really lets him have it for a bit. Spike verbally retaliates leaving Buffy disappointed knowing Spike is actually right. This situation is Buffy’s fault, not Spike’s: “Oh, yeah, here it comes. Something goes wrong in your life, blame Spike. News flash, blondie. If kid sis wants to grab a midnight stroll, she’ll find a way sooner or later. I just thought she’d be safer with big bad looking over her shoulder… Maybe if you had been more honest with her in the first place, you wouldn’t be trying to make yourself feel better with a round of Kick The Spike.” Buffy can only turn around and leave in defeat, and even later admits to Spike that he was right.

The end of the episode provides a really cool fight scene with Glory, the best since her introduction. I love Willow and Tara’s teleportation spell. It’s interesting to note just how much it hurt Willow, with Giles even pointing out just how dangerous the spell was. Glory’s power has been fueling Willow’s desire to increase her power. Although Willow would have gotten to a powerful place eventually, regardless of external forces, the urgency of needing a weapon against Glory is what pushes her to the next level now. It’s very hilarious where Glory materializes though!

So overall I don’t have any big complaints with this one. It’s a good, solid, entertaining arc episode which does everything it needs to do, and does it very well. We get more information on Ben and Glory, Dawn and the rest of the Scoobies find out about the Key, Willow’s power concerns Giles even more as well as beginning to physically hurt her, and Buffy continues to have somewhat amicable conversations with Spike. All in all, I’m quite happy.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ It’s cool that there’s a good explanation for why Glory acts the way she does. Being in human form and living in this dimension make her extra crazy and limits her power.
+ Anya telling everyone she knows more than Giles on dimensions. “Well, I do.”
+ Good to see Buffy and Giles training still, continued from early in the season. I wonder if their sessions are still like they were in S2. Probably not, heh.
+ Buffy chatting with the girls about Riley not sending a birthday card. It’s nice to see the show hasn’t forgotten about him.
+ Building up Ben as a pretty moral guy at this point is smart, even though we have no clue of his association with Glory until the end of the episode.

– It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to see everyone’s immediate reaction to the news about Dawn.
– The fight scene with the Knights is a bit awkward. Glory’s right there, so why do her minions even bother fighting?


* The blood connection between Buffy and Dawn is established, which obviously comes into major play during “The Gift” [5×22].




36 thoughts on “Buffy 5×13: Blood Ties”

  1. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on December 31, 2006.]

    hey, the only time Dawn is borderline to stupid is “real me”… and the “get aud”-stuff is really cool… I so remembered myself in my pubescent years, it was scary: and that’s why I loved it to have it more often; because pubescent years, not the nicest ones… and there’s a lot of screaming, and door smashing and running away, feeling lonely, and misunderstood.
    okay: I LOVE DAWN (even at her most annoying, because how should she be, except annoying…)


  2. [Note: FRYRISH posted this comment on December 31, 2006.]

    I didn’t really ever find Dawn particularly stupid (especially not in Real Me). Dawn’s arc was well done in seasons five and seven, six was when the writer’s didn’t really know where to take her. Stealing little nick-nacks isn’t something I’d be too concerned about. Surely they could have come up with a less silly way of having Dawn act out. But I digress.

    Of the Dawn-centric episodes this is definately in the upper echelon. I always found the Spike/Dawn dynamic compelling and it was a shame that we never got to see Dawn warm back up to Spike in S7. The sequence with the knife as you mention and the whole “Is this blood” line has always struck me as one of the most affecting moments of the season.


  3. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on January 3, 2007.]

    You’re quite right about that. That was very shocking.

    This episode comes at a time when it had really hit me what a peak Buffy was at in quality. The performances, scripts and execution were spot on. As you said, Mike, there was excellent acting from Tratchenberg.


  4. [Note: Tranquillity posted this comment on February 19, 2007.]

    I quite like dawn in season 5 because she has a purpose. She is the Key and her presence provides Both Buffy and Spike with a vehicle for character growth that is very important. Dawn gets annoying in seasons 6 and 7 when she is basically pointless. she should have died at the end of season five and added an extra dimention of bitterness to Buffy’s return (assuming that Buffy died too and that season six wasn’t already bitter enough)


  5. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 29, 2007.]

    Ok, so at the end was Dawn lying or could she really not remember that ben was Glory? Because if she had told the group, Giles would have no doubt have done what he does in gift, either way I guess it had to be this way, let the audience find out but not the characters.


  6. [Note: Xenophon posted this comment on October 26, 2007.]

    @Austin- I think even though she knows the whole demon/slayer aspect, I think her mind could not quite get around the aspect of Ben changing into Glory. And as such her mind shut down the memory of how Ben disappeared (Similar to Amnesia where your mind shuts out hurtful memories)… just my take on it, I might be wrong.


  7. [Note: Zephos posted this comment on November 2, 2007.]

    Actually there’s a spell on Glory/Ben that prevents any human who witnesses the transformation from remembereing it afterwards. The group see it at the end of “Spiral” but forget pretty much straight away. There’s some funny moments in “The Weight of the World” where Spike is trying to convince the group that Ben is Glory, but they can’t understand it!


  8. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 12, 2007.]

    Good ep. Just a little random, but for some reason I love it when Xander smacks Glory over the head with a crowbar. I don’t know why, but that amuses the crap out of me.

    I love the Dawn/Spike relationship. Unfortunately, it gets dropped later in S7 (and through a lot of S6 where Spike was mainly just interacting with Buffy).


  9. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 26, 2007.]

    Really good episode. Everyone here is amazing and I agree with mikejer about Michelle Trachtenberg, she is really wonderful.
    This is another one of my favorites.


  10. [Note: bigmoneygrip posted this comment on November 23, 2008.]

    Spike/Dawn “am not” “am too”

    Spike (after picking the lock) That’s right, who’s bad?

    Like the ongoing “Buffy busting into Spike’s crypt” – kinda like Kramer/Jerry

    Spike flinging the crypt top like it was a pillow – I like it when he shows his vamp strength

    Xander fighting Glory/Spike fighting Glory


  11. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 27, 2009.]

    When Glory says, “It [the key] was a bright green, swirly shimmer- really brought out the blue in my eyes,” Dawn is right behind her. And you know what she’s wearing? That’s right- a green shirt with a blue collar.

    Also, am I the only one who doesn’t understand the blood connection? How is their blood connected? The whole point is that they made her into a human- she wasn’t really Joyce’s daughter, so how could she and Buffy have a blood connection? I’m so confused. Is it explained in later reviews?


  12. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 11, 2009.]

    WILLOW: (panting, nose bleeding) Teleportation spell. Still working out the kinks.
    BUFFY: Where’d you send her?
    WILLOW: Don’t know. That’s one of the kinks.

    Love this exchange! Also love that it’s Willow and Tara who actually manage to deal with Glory after everyone else fails.


  13. [Note: Chanah posted this comment on July 11, 2009.]

    Emily wrote:

    Also, am I the only one who doesn’t understand the blood connection? How is their blood connected? The whole point is that they made her into a human- she wasn’t really Joyce’s daughter, so how could she and Buffy have a blood connection? I’m so confused. Is it explained in later reviews?

    No, but in Season 7 in the ep where they think Dawn is a potential, and somebody says it makes sense because of the blood thing, Anya says: I never got that.

    They don’t explain, but they aren’t above doing a bit of self-mocking on that one later on.


  14. [Note: Nix posted this comment on August 17, 2009.]

    I think they had a blood connection because they made much of her physical form and mind in part by copying Buffy (as Buffy herself comments in _The Gift_). The Key component is presumably some immanent vital force within her blood supply, but the blood itself was made by copying Buffy’s, and, well, there *are* laws of contagion and similarity in magic, so it makes sense that if you do that the Key is going to contaminate Buffy’s blood supply as well (particularly given that reality-alteration was involved, so Buffy was being changed *anyway*. For all we know Joyce’s blood/death would have served as wel, only of course it was no longer available.)


  15. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on August 17, 2009.]

    About the blood thing: the monks made her human form using Buffy’s blood–she was made of Buffy. That’s the connection. I always thought they were fairly clear on the matter.


  16. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on December 28, 2009.]

    Is it just me that I find the knight, the one Glory interogated, strikingly handsome (in different way from Spike) and not bad acting either but no one mentioned about him ?


  17. [Note: Roxanne posted this comment on September 30, 2010.]

    I just noticed something. When Buffy is opening presents before Anya gets excited, the dress that Buffy gets and that Anya wants is the same dress Buffy is wearing in Restless when she’s walking through the desert. Am I right?


  18. [Note: John posted this comment on January 6, 2011.]

    I have to say, Dawn can be irritating a lot (as the character was intended to be!) but the “blobs of energy don’t need an education” line was brilliant. I don’t know if it’s bad for me to be laughing about it, but god it cracks me up every time.


  19. [Note: John posted this comment on January 6, 2011.]

    Also, Xander being all smug because an ancient being of pure energy “digs him” was simply great. I neer cease to admire the show’s ability to deftly slip great humor into even the most serious of episodes.


  20. [Note: Neil posted this comment on April 4, 2011.]

    A- ?? Sorry but this should have been a P

    Buffy, Dawn, Spike, plus Laugh out loud moments from Anya and some powerful witchieness from Willow there is not a foot put wrong in this episode, even Glory is not too annoying.


  21. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 18, 2011.]

    I really love this episode and have to disagree with your ‘cons’ in your pros and cons section Mike.

    I’ll start with the second one first – I always presumed that Glory was drawing the Knights of Hack n Slash out so she could kidnap one of them and interrogate him about the key, which she does indeed do. The Knights know they don’t stand a chance fighting against Glory and would never go straight up against her, or else they would just try to kill her instead of trying to find and destroy the key, they know that it would be a pointless death (or brain suck) for any soldiers who go up against her.

    However they could try to find out where Glory is up to in her key-hunt by taking one of her minions who, if they have been on this mission for so long, the Knights may well know what we discover later – that the minions will talk at the slightest threat (eg when Giles says he’ll tie one up). If they knew Glory was with the minions it would be pointless to try, but if they saw minions and didn’t know Glory was definately there then they would be willing to give up lives to try to get information. We know they are ready to die for the cause as Glory knows too, so it makes sense to send minions (who are also willing to die for the cause) as bait.

    So to me the minions are bait and keeping the Knights busy fighting while Glory is coming to get them. They must have some kind of protection (the clerics magic perhaps) normally as well as some use or Glory would just have kidnapped and killed them all by now.

    Now your 1st con Mike: I think it was actually a smart move not to show us the instant reaction of the scoobies regarding Dawn being the key. Most likely, after shock, the next reactions would be to ask a lot of questions to which we the viewer already knows the answers as they have been cleverly and elegantly revealed to us over S5. To show this being told directly to The Scoobies would feel to me like a ‘and the story so far…’ moment which in general ‘Buffy’ writers respect us too much to think we need such straight-forward narration. I know it wouldn’t be to tell us what’s happened but to show reactions, but especially since we see the story told again when Dawn reads Giles notes (which I think is shown nicely but means we couldn’t have had the same kind of scene of The Scoobies working it out whilst Buffy talks), I think how they did do it is better.

    The way they did it was to show people talking about Dawn in reaction to seeing her, now they know what they do. She can tell they are talking about her and acting strange around her, which is what leads her to find out what is going on. If we had had the scoobies being told her story then discussing it behind her back, then dawn discovering it, it is too many times to tell the story in an episode. Just showing us them all talking about Dawn behind her back and acting oddly has a purpose to the plot as well as the characters as opposed to something that feels likes straight narration, even though it may not be, and would be too much repetition.

    Overall I’d give this episode an ‘A’. It’s great but just missed that extra special ‘something’ that a ‘P’ episode has.


  22. [Note: Dave posted this comment on August 13, 2011.]

    I’d give a minus to the fact that Spike can barely lift the hammer that Buffy wields with ease in “The Gift.” It’s clear that Spike and Buffy are very, VERY close in terms of physical strength.


  23. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 21, 2012.]

    Dave, good point. Especially in light of Get It Done in S7, it’s odd that Buffy with ca. one demon’s strength and Spike with ca. one demon’s strength lift the same object differently. We do know that different demons have different strengths (e.g., Giles as a Fyarl demon in A New Man seems much stronger than the average vamp), and as far as I know we don’t know what kind of demon was used to forge the Slayer power, so perhaps your answer lies there.

    I agree with Buffy that Glory is in no way prettier than Buffy.


  24. [Note: Domitan posted this comment on August 31, 2012.]

    Thanks, MikeJer, for pointing out the adoption metaphor. My wife and I just adopted a baby boy this year. The struggles of Dawn in facing her not being a ‘blood relative’ of Buffy and Joyce are so real. If in the future our son is having difficulty dealing with identity issues related to his being adopted, I would definitely show him this episode…or perhaps introduce him to the Buffy series when he is of age, then see if he sees himself in this episode’s adoption metaphor.


  25. [Note: JEL posted this comment on December 16, 2012.]

    I thought the interchanges between Joyce and Buffy when they were sitting downstairs were interesting and a good example of character continuity. Everything that Buffy says is true, it will help Dawn to find out where she came from and Dawn does need the Slayer. But that is not all that Dawn needs and Joyce is right also; Dawn also needs her sister as a sister. Buffy is pushing all the emotional aspects to the side and wants to focus on the practical. Which I think is right in character. I think at the end of the episode Buffy gets what Joyce was trying to convey and does treat Dawn as a sister then. However the middle part of this could be one of several incidents that lie behind Buffy saying “I was terrible to Dawn” in “Intervention”.


  26. [Note: JEL posted this comment on December 22, 2012.]

    In the “previously seen” bits in the subsequent episodes of season 5 they keep repeating the scene from this episode where Spike reads to Dawn: “[The monks] had to be certain the Slayer would protect [the key] with her life. So they sent the key to her … in human form. In the form of a sister.” After hearing that multiple times it finally hit me that that is exactly what happens. Because the key is Buffy’s sister, whom she loves, she does in fact protect Dawn with her very life. I don’t know if that was intentional foreshadowing; it doesn’t feel like it. But unintentional or intentional, it is certainly prophetic.


  27. [Note: JEL posted this comment on December 22, 2012.]

    A little late to be replying, but I consider inconsistencies in how strong Buffy is compared to other vampires (both in general and to Angel / Spike) just one of those things one has to live with. There are several other things like that. Given multiple writers and directors across seven seasons combined with the various time constraints in producing a TV show and desire to make certain special/specific plot points or moments (even if its not completely consistent with what has gone before), I’m not surprised that these inconsistencies crop up.


  28. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    Dave:I think it is pretty clear that she is much stronger than he is. Problem is her strength is kinetic and not related giant muscle mass. Despite her strength, she still only weighs 100 lbs. that’s why she gets tossed around so much.


  29. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 27, 2014.]

    This is a wonderful episode. Tons of character development, witty humor, and a bit of a turning point for everyone. I think that MT often gets dissed for her role of Dawn but I think she acted exceptionally well in this episode, her wigging out and cutting herself; shouting, screaming for them to ‘Get out. Get out, Get out, GET OUTT!’ was so nicely acted. She could easily have overacted or underacted (“What am I? Am I real? Am I anything?”) but instead she hit just the right note in each and every one of her difficult scenes. And I really liked seeing her keep her cool and take advantage of her opportunity to pump Glory about the Key.

    Everyone’s reactions rang true to their characters. Tara and Willow were super awkward, but you could see they were genuinely trying very hard to be at ease with the situation and to make Dawn feel better. Xander was Xander, trying to cover up his anxiety over quips and jokes and tons of babbling; and Anya was straight to the point, “You make a very pretty little girl.’ Priceless. I also love how Xander was rambling on excitedly to Giles about how ‘an ancient blob of energy’ has a crush on him and in the next episode she’s got a crush on Spike.

    Which reminds me, I agree to a few of the earlier comments, I think the Dawn/Spike dynamic was loads of fun to watch. I always awaited their conversations and they were strangely fitting. I enjoyed them retorting at each other and whining like little kids, “Are too!” “Am not!” I even loved Spike’s comment, “I’m not lurking. I’m standing about, it’s a whole different vibe.” Aw, Spike! And the bent box of chocolates returned. It’s a shame though, that they left the Dawn/Spike thread in the dust in S7. Oh, well. I also liked Spike and Buffy bonding. It’s interesting the way the Buffy/Spike relationship is changing. Instead of continuing with “another round of kick the Spike,” Buffy actually said to Spike “You were right”; Spike comforted Buffy by telling her that she’d find Dawn in the nick of time like she always did; and Spike even joined the Slayerettes on a mission and was helpful. Wow. This certainly wouldn’t have worked last year, but the change has been so gradual. I feel like she’s warming up to him, and he’s clearly smitten. JM and his facial expressions. When Buffy storms out of his crypt in agony; you can see the pain written all over his face at hurting her. Lovely.

    Everything was pretty great and overall, it moves the plot forward brilliantly. Strong episode. Magnificent performances. An A is definitely suited.


  30. [Note: Joy posted this comment on July 28, 2014.]

    Before being turned into a vampire, William had worn reading glasses, but as Spike he doesn’t. When Spike and Dawn are in the Magic Shop reading about the key, Spike has trouble making out Giles’ handwriting but Dawn can read it easily. Another wonderful little touch by James Marsters.


  31. [Note: YEup posted this comment on February 23, 2015.]

    I don’t understand in what world it makes sense to tell anybody else the key secret. It just seems a terrible idea both in dealing with Glory for everybody’s safety and also Dawn’s mental state.


  32. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on February 23, 2015.]

    Wow, I didn’t realize you rated this episode this highly. All I’ve seen on the internet is scorn for the “get out” scene.

    A little line I very much appreciated was Willow’s “The bigger they are…” line– she treats going up against an actual literal deity as the latest in a series of difficult but perfectly reasonable challenges, which is totally in tune with the cavalier attitude that’s been coming with her newfound power.


  33. [Note: Robert posted this comment on July 5, 2016.]

    Regarding Dawn’s “Get out! Get out! Get out!” – it’s noteworthy that Glory shouts the exact same thing to her minions in “The Weight of the World”. Like Dawn at times, Glory definitely acts very much like a rebellious teenager. Given that we know she was banished from her dimension by the other two hellgods I have to wonder – were they Glory’s parents? There’s no clear indication of this in the writing, but it would be interesting if true.


  34. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on July 5, 2016.]


    Actually, that would be pretty great metaphorically, since Glory’s death coincides with the end of Buffy’s adolescence.


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