Buffy Season 5 Review

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Overview]

Here’s a bold statement for you: Season 5 is the best season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so far, and I expect it to stay that way. This is something I could not say with clarity before I had reviewed the entire season, but after looking back on it all it’s finally clear. Each season that preceded this had something hampering it, whether that was S1’s corniness or S2’s first half or S3’s relative emotional void or S4’s plot arc. In contrast, S5 has it all: a solid intriguing plot, strong thematic consistency, fantastic character development, huge emotional turmoil, plenty of laughs, and unparalleled payoffs. It’s not without flaws, but when thinking of the entire season as a whole, what we’ve got is damn near perfect — definitely worthy of my first, and likely only, ‘A’ for an entire season. Honestly, with S6’s mid-season consistency problems and S7’s plot slip-ups, it’s hard to imagine either of them topping S5 in overall greatness.

While S2 heavily explored the personal side of Buffy Summers, S5 tackles the other half and dives head first into what it really means to be the Slayer. From the violence to the sex to the power to the love, S5 offers us a painting that defines the role of the Slayer and how Buffy as a person frequently subverts what is expected of her. In addition to this in-depth look at the Slayer, we also get a lot of personal development for Buffy. This is explored via the end of her relationship with Riley and subsequent revelations about relationships. Buffy is where the season’s focus lies, but that’s not to say everyone else was pushed aside. It turns out we actually get some of the best development in the series for Willow and Spike as well.

In S4 we saw the Scoobies slowly separate while trying to define themselves. Here we see the group working together more as a family than a group of friends. Although everyone seems pretty tight this year, what with the Willow/Tara and Xander/Anya relationships, there’s a lot of sneaky and subtle problems that are brewing underneath the surface. A lot of these underlying issues are character flaws that began fostering much earlier in the series, most notably present in Willow and Xander. Spike also got an impressive amount of development, probably the most of any season. He goes from trying to kill Buffy to being a reliable ally in Buffy’s fight against Glory.

The introduction of the Magic Box as a gathering place for the Scoobies was a fantastic move, which helped facilitate this more familial feel. After the library in Act I (S1-S3) I was ready for a change. S4 delivered by leaving the group fractured, occasionally gathering at Giles’ place. But because of Joyce’s illness and the appearance of Dawn, Buffy moves back home (I had really missed the Summers’ home in S4) and Giles buys the Magic Box which functions as a new ‘headquarters.’ This set is rich and beautiful making way for something fresh yet interesting.

Unlike S4, where stand-alone episodes kept the season afloat, S5 sports excellent stand-alones along with an amazing story arc. Here’s a quick break down of the vital stuff that happened. The season opens with a thematically stirring episode in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] which immediately opens up a can of interesting ideas involving the nature of the Slayer’s power and the connection between blood and life. All these elements turned out to play a major role in future episodes and in the finale, “The Gift” [5×22] . Dawn also suddenly appears at the end, which sets up some fantastic mystery and confusion surrounding what she is. The following three episodes each touch on a specific character and delves deeper into their minds: Dawn in “Real Me” [5×02] , Xander in “The Replacement” [5×03] , and Riley (and to an extent, Spike) in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] .

The season’s arc doesn’t fully begin until the underrated masterpiece “No Place Like Home” [5×05] in which Glory makes her presence known, severely thrashes Buffy, and a monk reveals what Dawn really is. Shortly after this, we get a character masterpiece for Buffy and Spike in “Fool for Love” [5×07] which adds entirely new layers to Spike while also imparting valuable insight into the nature of the Slayer from his perspective. “Shadow” [5×08] deals with Glory’s hunt for the Key and the seriousness of Joyce’s illness while “Listening to Fear” [5×09] directly tackles the latter. Riley departs in a fascinating look at Buffy’s relationship issues in “Into the Woods” [5×10] . The Watcher’s Council and power games are brought up in “Checkpoint” [5×12] . The theme of blood and life is returned to when Dawn discovers what she is in “Blood Ties” [5×13] . It’s not until “The Body” [5×16] , though, when the series changes forever. From this shocking piece of life onward we get strong thematic and plot cohesion right until the beautiful finale, “The Gift” [5×22] .

 


[Cons]

  • The occasional stretch of episodes where Glory isn’t doing anything when she has motivation to be pummeling Buffy and friends.
  • The Knights of Byzantium.
  • A couple episodes involving a tiny bit of sloppy character work.

I must say how amazed I am by how very little is wrong with this season. I’m extremely critical in my entertainment and can usually always point out a bunch of things that really bother me (just read my previous season reviews), but S5 just gets it almost all right. “Almost” is the key word there, as the season still has a few things that hold it back from being perfect.

The most prominent of these things is the occasional mis-management of Glory’s search for the Key. Although I feel the amount of screen time this plot got was perfect, I just wish more of an excuse was made for why she was never going after Buffy. I get that she shares her body with Ben and that she’s extremely lazy, but you must remember she’s also extremely temperamental. You’d think after Willow teleports her into the sky in “Blood Ties” [5×13] Glory would be furious and go after Buffy the moment she got the chance. But after four episodes go by Glory is still putting together the basics. After the middle part of the season I oftened wondered why Glory won’t just get up and finish her business. Either the writers botched up an explanation or they made Glory far too stupid. Either way, not good.

What I’d call the biggest missed opportunity this season would be the Knights of Byzantium. Most of my problems with them are outlined in my review of “Spiral” [5×20] . Simply put they are excessively hokey, unrealistic (even for the Buffyverse), one-dimensional, and under-used. If these guys had been a bit less hokey and gotten a bit more intelligent attention, they could have been another excellent layer in this wonderfully textured season. As it stands, it just feels like the writers bit off more than they could chew.

The only remaining issue I had with the season worth mentioning is a couple moments of surprisingly bad characterization. We see this seep out in mostly Jane Espenson’s episodes, which is a shame because otherwise I really enjoy her work. The primary issues that bothered me in this way were Buffy’s crying in “Triangle” [5×11] and all the Scoobies but Buffy and their reaction to the BuffyBot in “Intervention” [5×18] . On other shows this kind of out-of-character behavior is common and almost even expected. But Buffy has been operating on a different level since S2 — I genuinely expect more than these odd displays. Fortunately they are, indeed, rare and it doesn’t really bother me very much because of it.

 


[Pros]

  • Amazing thematic continuity and power throughout the season.
  • Great character work, especially for Buffy, Willow, and Spike.
  • Excellent season-long arc, which is used to intelligently augment the characters’ journeys.
  • Smart stand-alone episodes.
  • Overall? Emotional, powerful, intelligent, shocking, funny, and compelling.

The fact the lowest score I gave out in this entire season was a 70 says it all. A lot went right this season; heck, nearly everything went right this season, hence its well-deserving score. All the flaws present in previous seasons are exonerated and what we’re left with is nothing short of amazing. The season opens strong and closes strong. Probably the thing that impresses me the most is the well thought-out and fascinating themes which permeate the season. From “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] to “The Gift” [5×22] , these messages are potent, vivid, and consistent.

The subjects of death and love are mingled together in dark, complex, fascinating, beautiful, and at times even downright scary ways. The firsts hints of this direction are dropped in the foreboding “No Place Like Home” [5×05] . It isn’t until “Fool for Love” [5×07] , though, that the subject gets direct attention. It’s here where Spike informs Buffy of the Slayer death wish as he tries to “dance” with the dark side he knows she has. Spike’s haunting speech really opens up a well of discussion: “Death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp. That look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know: What’s it like? Where does it lead you?” Buffy confirms her curiousity of the subject matter with her scared yet silent response. This is ultimately a question most of us ponder at some point in our lives, whether religious or not. This subject alone could easily be the topic of an article or an essay of which I may write something about someday.

This subject gets even more attention later on in the season. Riley’s departure in “Into the Woods” [5×10] , which at first appears to be completely unrelated to the themes of the season, turns out to actually be quite integral in forcing Buffy to think about her ability to love. I’ll go more into the specifics as they relate to Buffy a little bit later. For now I can say that issues surrounding Riley play a huge part of some big realizations Buffy makes in “Crush” [5×14] and especially “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] . Death stands, quite nakedly, in Buffy’s face during “The Body” [5×16] which gives her time to think about just how worried she is that being the Slayer is turning her “into stone.”

This leads into the potent message given to her by her Spirit Guide in “Intervention” [5×18] . There she is told that love will bring her to her gift of death, which is initially completely misunderstood. What the Spirit Guide meant was that Buffy’s deep resevoirs of love that she’s had over the years — two examples being her sacrifice of “boyfriend love” for the world in “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] and her sacrifice of blood, or life force, so that Angel could live in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] — will lead her to her final gift to her sister, friends, and the world: her sacrificial death. It’s not easy for Buffy to arrive at this realization as her trials in “The Weight of the World” [5×21] prove, but “The Gift” [5×22] shows that “I figured it out. And… I’m okay.” Death and love become one in the same, which brings the season, and to an extent the entire series, full circle in a stunning finish.

As powerful as the death/love connection is, there’s some other noteworthy themes running through the season, all of which intelligently overlap with the other themes. An example of this is the focus on the thought of blood as life. This is brought up and explored in the season opener and gets fairly steady attention throughout the season culminating in “The Gift” [5×22] , in which Spike himself points out its importance. His speech sums up what has been subtley woven into the season: “Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It’s what keeps you going, makes you warm, makes you hard, makes you other than dead.” This theme blends together with the importance and connection between blood relatives, a subject touched on most notably in “Blood Ties” [5×13] . Buffy later says of Dawn, “She’s me. The Monks made her out of me. I hold her and I feel closer to her than… It’s not just the memories they built, it’s physical. Dawn is a part of me” (“The Gift” [5×22] ).

The blood relations tie directly into another prominent theme in the season: family. Although it is noted how special blood relatives are, Whedon makes sure to point out that created families can be nearly as potent and important. This is brought to the forefront in “Family” [5×06] when Tara’s selfish and dominating family come to impose themselves on her life. They attempt to control her with lies which shows how the bonds of direct family, when abused, can be as destructive as they can be beautiful. It’s at times like these when the importance of a created family, like the Scooby Gang, makes itself known. This entire season the Scoobies function as a make-shift family — always there for each other in the darkest of times. This feeling is brought home not only in “Family” [5×06] but also in “Checkpoint” [5×12] . Even so, as Buffy tells Giles in “Blood Ties” [5×13] when he asks if he can help out with the Dawn situation, “this is a family thing.” In general, blood reigns prime.

A slightly more subtle theme is one that sneakily sets up S6 without us even realizing it, and that is how the Scoobies, specifically Buffy, are being forced to grow up prematurely. Joyce’s death, Tara being brain sucked, the responsibility that is Dawn, and marriage are all events and actions that spur abrupt growth in the characters, even though the development that led to them was not abrupt. For Buffy, her care-free era ends abruptly when she learns of Dawn’s origins in “No Place Like Home” [5×05] . It’s not until after “The Body” [5×16] , though, when she’s forced to stare adulthood in the face. With Joyce’s passing, she’s now unexpectedly Dawn’s surrogate mother and must not only protect her from Glory, but also do all the day-to-day chores of raising a teenager. This is complete overload for Buffy and we see her trying, and mostly failing, in both of her duties. “The Body” [5×16] didn’t just alter Buffy, it altered the entire series. From that point on the series got a lot more adult and forced its characters to be adults when they weren’t ready yet. All this in tandem with Buffy’s death in the finale, and we’ve got a great setup for a dark, chaotic S6.

As genius as the themes of the season were, they’re not the only reason why it succeeds. How about the excellent character work? Buffy loses a lot and at several point wants to just give up, Willow has finally unleashed her dark magic resevoirs, Spike’s murderish yet sexual obsession of Buffy slowly morphed into love, Riley left, and Xander proposed to Anya! That’s a lot of huge stuff! I’ll go more into each of their plights in their respective sections.

What I want to talk about now is the surprisingly tight season-long plot. Notice how I haven’t talked about Glory much? That’s because she’s not even remotely close to the reason why S5 is as amazing as it is. With that said, I feel that, overall, Glory performed her duties to the season just fine. The entire plot involving the Key and Glory’s wish to go home laid the basic framework to put all the more important, character-related, pieces into play. A great example of this is how “Blood Ties” [5×13] uses Dawn’s unique situation as the Key as a stunning metaphor for adoption. Not surprisingly “The Gift” [5×22] is also a standout.

“No Place Like Home” [5×05] introduces Glory in a fascinating and foreboding manner and some of the moral complexities explored later through Ben provided some interesting things to think about. “But what are some big effects Glory had on the Scoobies” you might ask. I would respond by saying she spurred the Watcher’s Council to get involved, forced Willow into using more dangerous magic than she’s ever used before, made Buffy think about entirely new ways to fight an enemy, and, oh yeah, indirectly caused Buffy to die. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a pretty successful villain. I’ll get more into Glory’s personality, a topic of much debate, later.

So, okay, the plot worked. Cool. What about those silly stand-alone episodes that plague shows so often? Well, that problem is non-existent this season. There are stand-alones, but amazingly they deeply add to the character work being done throughout the season. Nearly every stand-alone in this season contains focused and vital character work. Just some of these highlights are “The Replacement” [5×03] , “Fool for Love” [5×07] , “Into the Woods” [5×10] , “Crush” [5×14] , and “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] .

Even after all that praise the season could still be missing what S3 was missing: emotion. But nope, we got plenty of that this year too. We got powerful episodes, both heart-breaking and funny, intelligent and shocking. This season’s got heart, its got smarts, its got darkness, and its got consistency. All in all? S5 simply wins in my book. I’m not sure I can give enough praise out to Joss and the entire Buffy team for this season’s near-perfect work. What a stunning season of television.

 


[Buffy]

Ah, Buffy. Poor, poor Buffy. This may be obvious, but I have a deep love for the character of Buffy. I will go over why I have so much love for her when I write a comprehensive series review someday (and you think the season reviews take a while to write…). For now, I’m going to limit my answer to simply ‘writing.’ The way Buffy has been characterized from the beginning of the series until now has been perfect. So when Buffy jumps to her death, I find myself deeply moved and inspired. While in my review of “The Gift” [5×22] I mentioned many of the pieces that led Buffy to this kind of sacrifice, here I’m going to go into a bit more detail.

I’m going to begin with the Buffy/Riley relationship. Throughout the first half of the season we see Riley getting increasingly frustrated with an increasingly distant Buffy. This problem isn’t one-sided, as Riley has issues of his own which hurt their relationship from progressing and will be discussed in his section. Buffy, though, is emotionally shut down, which we get proof of from her own mouth in “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] . Why is Buffy’s soul so guarded from being hurt? Quick answer: “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] . If you look closely at all her relationship progress since then, from Scott Hope to Riley, it really comes into focus just how cut-off she is on that deep level. Buffy got hurt in such an intimate way during the events of S2 that she’s still closed up from it, which is a testament to both the excellence of that arc and all the development the character has gotten since.

To Buffy’s credit, she warned Riley a lot in “Doomed” [4×11] about where the likely result of a relationship between the two of them would end up. Although it may have appeared that she was willing to open herself up by going out with Riley, it’s obvious she never really did. Sure she’s ‘into’ him during S4, but that’s all just boyfriend/girlfriend excitement, nothing more. Buffy never showed the kind of emotion and passion with Riley that she did with Angel. Riley doesn’t begin to notice problems in their relationship until they get over that initial ‘moon eyes’ stage. It happens though, and right from the start of S5. Although Riley’s seeing the problems Buffy’s almost oblivious to them, and for a good reason: she’s on overload this season with too many life-altering events happening for her to focus on Riley. The first time she notices something is in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] but then quickly returns to thinking all is well again. Well, it wasn’t. “Into the Woods” [5×10] came rolling in and Riley went rolling out leaving Buffy initially perplexed by what just happened.

Buffy’s lack of serious emotion after Riley’s departure further went to prove she was never truly invested in him as she was with Angel. Although, I respect Buffy for running after Riley, which showed that she was genuinely willing to try to fix the problems they had. Riley’s departure is important in the overall scheme of the season because it’s the first piece of the nice routine Buffy had gotten comfortable with to go. Also, it’s what truly gave Spike a chance to make advances on Buffy and show his feelings for her without being staked on the spot (Riley almost did anyway).

Riley’s departure also provided Buffy the initiative to explore herself, in regard to relationships, and what she needs to do looking towards the future. At this point in the season Buffy has already been deep in her exploration of what it means to be the Slayer. The other piece is finding out who she is as a person, which I’m going to touch on first. The episodes relating to this worth taking a close look at are “Crush” [5×14] and “I Was Made to Love You” [5×15] . The former forces Buffy to begin thinking about the dating process as she thinks about initiating contact with Ben. The latter, though, is where the money’s at, providing Buffy with some excellent self-analysis of herself.

Much of this self-analysis involves discovering just what it is she needs in her life at this time. At first she thinks that she needs to change herself to impress and keep a guy. But, as Xander tells her earlier and she eventually realizes later thanks to the good use of plot, “maybe you could just be Buffy, he’ll see your amazing heart, and he’ll fall in love with you.” The AprilBot was constructed for the sole purpose of providing Warren a girlfriend, yet Warren still didn’t love her. The AprilBot proves to Buffy two important things: being submissive in a relationship can open yourself up to some serious abuse, and that it’s important to be yourself. Real love isn’t about lusty impulses, it’s about compromise, understanding, and mutual sacrifice. Buffy finally realizes that she’s really not ready for that yet. That, first, she needs to find out who she is. This is information that, unfortunately due to traumatic life experiences, Buffy won’t get to fully enjoy until after “Chosen” [7×22] .

Now we get to the primary focus of Buffy’s development this season, which is a big focus of the season as a whole: the exploration of what it means to be the Slayer. She trains harder than ever, reads up on Slayer history, consults the Spirit Guide, and learns how her duties as the Slayer often intersect with those of just being a human being. While the season explores many nuances of this development, three episodes in particular are the biggies: last season’s “Restless” [4×22] , “Fool for Love” [5×07] , and “The Gift” [5×22] .

Buffy’s dream in “Restless” [4×22] really beautifully set up her experiences to come in S5. From the reminder of the “7-3-0” on the clock in “Graduation Day Pt. 2” [3×22] to the hint of Dawn’s arrival to Buffy not completely trusting Riley, hinting at their future issues, to Adam essentially telling Buffy that she is part demon like him, which turns out to be somewhat true. The spirit of the First Slayer also tells her that the Slayer has “no speech. No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute…alone.” All these hints really go to not only get us viewers thinking about these things, but the characters as well. Much of this is reaffirmed in the S5 opener, “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] . But, the episode which deeply explores these themes is the incomparable “Fool for Love” [5×07] .

While also a big episode for Spike’s history and development, “Fool for Love” [5×07] provides Buffy with some vital information through Spike’s eyes. Spike’s experiences are very relevant and even frighten Buffy. He talks about how slayers have a death wish, and that the only thing preventing Buffy from reaching that point is her “ties to the world.” The two of them also share a load of potent sexual tension (I always take a cold shower after watching it… okay, no I don’t, but I do in my head… just ignore me already, K?). This speech of his, in many ways, sets up what is to come. What’s impressive, though, is that while she does come close to this death wish several times, she doesn’t give into it.

We don’t see this character thread picked up on seriously again until after Joyce’s traumatic death in “The Body” [5×16] . As pointed out in that review, this episode marks a jolting turning point into darkness for the series. It’s also at this point that Buffy must become Dawn’s surrogate mother, which she’s obviously not ready to do. Her primary support system drops away and she buckles. A lot. With a crisis at hand, though, she manages to plough through regardless of her mistakes. After Joyce’s funeral in “Forever” [5×17] , Angel arrives to help Buffy with her grief. After telling him “it’s tomorrow that I’m worried about,” Angel gives her some crucial advice: “You’ll find your way. I mean not all at once, but…” And she will find her way in time. But with nothing supernatural to immediately deal with in S6, we see her state of mind in its fully depressed state which is even much worse than her mental state here.

But before we get there Buffy picks up some key pieces of information. The vital one is the Spirit Guide’s message in “Intervention” [5×18] to “Love. Give. Forgive. For it will lead you to your gift… death is your gift.” At first Buffy doesn’t get any of this, but slowly over the following group of episodes she starts to put it all together. At the end of “Intervention” [5×18] , she forgives Spike for his use of the BuffyBot and kisses him as a reward for nearly sacrificing himself to protect Dawn. In “Tough Love” [5×19] she tries to step up and give of herself to help Dawn, as she also does in a physical capacity in “Spiral” [5×20] . The love component of this word trio comes into play during the final episode of the season, “The Gift” [5×22] . All of this is entwined with the other themes of blood as life and family as they relate to Dawn.

At the end of “Spiral” [5×20] , having lost Dawn to Glory after just promising to protect her, Buffy decides to ‘quit’ and goes into catatonia. This is the closest Buffy ever got to the death wish the way Spike envisioned in “Fool for Love” [5×07] . At this point, deeply explored in “The Weight of the World” [5×21] , she’s lost enough and just wants it all to end. In this frozen state, we can clearly see the resurfacing early-series desire of Buffy’s to just be a girl — where others can take care of all the responsibilities. Buffy’s adulthood is being forced down her throat at this point and she’s fighting it every step of the way. Repeated here is also her misconception of the meaning of the message given to her by the Spirit Guide involving death. She believes killing things is her gift, and that now she let Dawn die. For a moment, though, she wanted it all over, for Glory to win, which is what is killing her now.

It turns out, though, that thankfully Buffy had it all wrong. In the magnificent finale, “The Gift” [5×22] , she discovers what her true nature is — not the nature of the Slayer, but rather this Slayer. And that nature is, as I put it in my review, “blood being irrevocably tied to life, Buffy’s blood connection to Dawn, and the Spirit Guide’s true meaning. Death, here, now, is Buffy’s gift of love to Dawn, her friends, and the world. Pure, undiluted love … The Slayer is not just a killer, but if used wisely is an instrument of love; a hardened fighter who is blinded by the very love she is full of — the gift she gives to the world.” Buffy ultimately chooses to sacrifice herself, or die, rather than kill Dawn, which was her original assumption of the Guide’s message. This realization is the beautiful culmination of a season’s worth of carefully written character work, and the emotional payoff is simply phenomenal.

The final thing I picked up on this season is an introduction to the topic of power. “Checkpoint” [5×12] almost plays as a trailer for S7’s primary theme in my mind. This connection is made more evident when looking at Buffy’s initial realization about power in “Checkpoint” [5×12] and comparing it to the S7 opener “Lessons” [7×01] . In the former we hear her say to the Council, “Everyone is just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I’ve finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don’t. This bothers them.” In the latter, we hear Buffy explain to Dawn, “It’s about power. Who’s got it. Who knows how to use it.” Buffy definitely takes another step into maturity during “Checkpoint” [5×12] and learns her first important lesson about power, which is used as the launching point to her knowledge and growth on the subject in S7. This represents a really cool advance setup, even if it likely wasn’t originally conceived that way.

Overall this is quite a huge season for Buffy and is likely the most life-changing of all the seasons, although S2 comes in a close second, then followed by S6. S5 ends with Buffy’s real death, which appears to not really set anything up for next season. It turns out it’s just the opposite. “She saved the world. A lot,” but this beautiful discovery made about herself in “The Gift” [5×22] , which represents all of S5’s development, is turned upside down as a painful memory of what she used to be. Now she’s living in the shadow of her former self… her former peace. It’s not going to be pretty, nor pleasant. Nor is it intended to be. S6 shows a dire time when she must save herself instead of the world.

 


[Willow]

Where’d cute little Willow go!? Well, that was then. This is now. It’s called character growth. Since very early in the series we’ve seen Willow undergo big, but gradual transformations. The last couple seasons, though, have really begun to sieze that early development. The focus on her character in S5 is very focused on one particular theme: magic. Although Willow’s relationship with Tara is also a big part of her life, it turns out Tara’s actually unknowingly fueling Willow’s need for power by being a somewhat submissive magic partner, at least for a while. In a way, this entire season’s a giant setup to the giant power overdose we see her indulge in during S6. Right from the start, in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] , things are brewing within her.

As a rare sunny barbeque on the beach ends in an abrupt dark storm passing over the Scoobies, we hear Willow immediately take defensive posturing yelling, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Whether or not she actually caused the storm isn’t terribly important, but her defensiveness is perfectly representative of how protective Willow is of herself and her use of magic. She doesn’t want anyone telling her she’s messing with nasty stuff or that she can’t handle it. Throughout S5 we see this strategy of hers in effect each time Giles expresses concern for her in regard to her magic with comments like “That was an incredibly… dangerous spell for an adept at your level.” Giles has been expressing these concerns since all the way back to S2 when Willow was initially getting into magic. We’ll see both of these issues directly confronted in a wonderful scene in “Flooded” [6×04] as Giles finally doesn’t just warn Willow about her magic use — he yells at her about it, and she snaps right back in a chilling display of anger.

So Willow’s power continues to increase. That much is obvious. The real question is, what is it that is fueling this growing obsession besides just her own motivation? The answer lies in two very distinct things: Glory and Tara. Now, Glory is a big part of this because the Scoobies are presented with an enemy so strong, Buffy can’t touch it — no one can. This forces Willow’s hand and gives her an excuse — a permission slip — to start really pulling off some deeply dark spells. Although Willow does these spells out of good intentions, which has always been one of the reasons she began using magic, what she fails to see is that the black magic is fundamentally changing her personality. This change happens so gradually that she doesn’t even notice it’s happening. The rest of the gang starts to take notice towards the end of the season (see “The Weight of the World” [5×21] ), but they’re too steeped in the immediate crisis to dwell on it.

It turns out Tara unintentially fuels Willow’s magic obsession as well. When Tara’s introduced in S4 we see a character who is in many ways very similar to the Willow we saw in S1. At this point in time, Willow wants to be the dominant partner in any relationship she has. Tara provides this… for a while. Throughout S5 we see Tara gaining more and more confidence in herself, just as Willow did throughout S2 and S3. As Tara grows confidence she begins to start speaking up to Willow and expressing her concerns with Willow’s abuse of magic. All of this builds up to their first major fight, in “Tough Love” [5×19] , which is where Tara expresses how unsure she is of where Willow’s headed — and not just with witchcraft. Although these problems are brewing largely beneath the surface through S5, Willow and Tara ironically prove to be one of the most traditionally normal relationships in the entire gang.

All of the build-up and teases (see “Blood Ties” [5×13] ) involving Willow’s power over the course of the season finally come to a head in “Tough Love” [5×19] when Willow goes all out in rage and vengeance on Glory for brain-sucking Tara. This magic spree at the end of the season really leaves her with a lot of power running through her system and it doesn’t just go away. Usually after a draining period immediately following its use, Willow seems to retain much of the power she had last reached. We see her continue to pour out powerful magic in each of the final four episodes culminating in her bringing Tara’s mind back out of Glory accompanied with some new telepathy skill. Both Willow’s demeanor and attitude throughout these episode is strikingly different than before them. The magic she accessed in “Tough Love” [5×19] has permanently changed her.

All of this is directly picked up at the beginning of S6 where we see Willow using magic heavily and frequently. Her personality is much darker and edgier as well. S5 proves to be a huge piece in Willow’s character development that began all the way back in S2. Although I know some people wish the series had ended with “The Gift” [5×22] , which is understandable considering how amazing that episode is, I for one am incredibly pleased we got more. If it had ended here, we’d never get to see Willow’s development play itself out. What lies ahead for Willow? Power, the taste of death, addiction, and dispair. Sounds fun!

 


[Xander]

“Kill us both, Spock!” the two pieces of Xander joke to each other about in “The Replacement” [5×03] , a huge episode for Xander. But where the nice development really begins is in the season opener, “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] , when he declares to all he isn’t going to be the “butt monkey” anymore. It’s awesome that he mostly lives up to that statement. Xander isn’t the complete goofball he was prior to S5 ever again. There is not a huge focus on Xander in S5, but what he does get is very potent and leaves me very satisfied.

“The Replacement” [5×03] showed us a Xander split into two equally genuine but extreme sides of his personality. The plot device works perfectly in allowing Xander to finally find full sight of what he’s always posessed. We saw a glimpse of this Xander in “The Zeppo” [3×13] , but here [S5] we see him finally see that side of him literally face-to-face and he’s forced to deal with it. Xander learns from this experience and is never the same again. From this point on we see a guy who’s still a little goofy and fun, but has much more control over several aspects of his life including steady construction work, which will lead to management and an overall boost in self confidence. He hasn’t, however, overcome all his inner demons, which we see the full extent of in S6.

Although I know it’s in S4, “Restless” [4×22] really provides such detailed analysis and foreshadowing of the core four characters that I feel like it’s fair game to heavily reference in any season. Its take on Xander is of particular importance, because here in S5 he’s only partially overcome what was hinted to us. While he’s overcome the slight depression of being stuck in his parents’ basement, he still hasn’t faced — or for that matter, recognized — his root fears: that he’ll end up just like his family: bitter and somewhat abusive to those he loves. This particular character flaw isn’t directly addressed until S6. Here in S5, we get a chance to see Xander really beginning to get some of his life together. I’ve already touched on his construction job, but the other key to his growth is his increasingly real relationship with Anya. Midway through S4 we discovered that Xander really does care about Anya a lot. It’s not until this season, though, when we see that caring transform into undiluted love. There’s one shining example of when this information is made known: the very end of “Into the Woods” [5×10] .

Xander beautifully tells Anya, “I’ve gotta say something… ‘Cause… I don’t think I’ve made it clear. I’m in love with you. Powerfully, painfully in love. The things you do… the way you think… the way you move… I get excited every time I’m about to see you. You make me feel like I’ve never felt before in my life. Like a man.” From that point onward, this couple was in a very serious relationship, which is why when Xander proposes to Anya in “The Gift” [5×22] I’m not terribly surprised. It’s just unfortunate that Xander thinks pure love alone is enough reason to get married. Love on its own will only take you so far, as the percentage of failed marriages these days proves, and Xander realizes this far too late.

What lies ahead for Xander is a struggle to overcome where he came from. All those years of just cracking jokes about his family finally comes back to bite him in a serious way. They aren’t just joke-fodder, but rather a real influence on him that presents itself as an important obstacle for him to overcome. Before he can overcome it, though, he has to fully recognize its existence, which he does in S6.

 


[Giles]

Early in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] Giles explains to Willow he’s moving back to England because he wants a life again and he feels Buffy has learned enough to be competent in fullfilling her responsibilities as the Slayer without his help. This desire of his to return home, stemming from his overall uselessness in S4 and really brought home in “Restless” [4×22] , is something that doesn’t just disappear once Buffy decides she really needs Giles’ help again. Instead it’s just pushed to the backburner, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Giles by now it’s that his devotion to help Buffy is as unwavering now as it was back in S2, maybe even moreso. So with Buffy reaching out for help in learning more about the nature of the Slayer, which also is a byproduct of “Restless” [4×22] , Giles decides to really settle into Sunnydale again.

The second episode, “Real Me” [5×02] , does a good job at showing this progression. Giles gets himself a shiny red sports car, ends up taking ownership of the Magic Box (previously referred to only as the Magic Shop), has begun successfully training Buffy in new techniques, and dives head first into new territory for Buffy’s training. The new car makes Giles feel sportier and is also reflected in his overall look. The duties at the Magic Box really give him something to do aside from just being there for Buffy — a day-to-day job like he had when he was a Watcher under the Council’s thumb.

As the season progresses we see Giles very firmly established as the patriarch of the entire Scooby family, and much more evidently than before. Even though he’s still the main guy in the group, I don’t get the feeling that Buffy sees him as a father figure as much as an extremely personal, family-like, friend. The two of them have such a mutual warmth and respect for one another, built on years of trust and committment to each other and their respective duties, that I can’t help but be warmed by it myself. A scene that reflects this respect and care without being explicit about it is in “Fool for Love” [5×07] when Buffy is reading up on past slayers and Giles points out that she can’t find much information about their final battle because they, well, died. There’s a glace between them here, the look on their faces, that says everything about their relationship: concern, care, commitment, and love. Simply beautiful.

Although we always knew Giles will go really far to do what is needed, we didn’t know specifically how far. “The Gift” [5×22] gives us that answer as we see Giles’ training as a Watcher seeping heavily into his care for the Scoobies. He makes it blatantly clear that if left with no other option, he would kill Dawn to close the portal — something Buffy cannot do, under any circumstance, at this time. Although it fortunately never came to that, because Buffy sacrifices herself in place of Dawn. But Giles still proves that he would have been capable of going through with it by suffocating Ben to death when he reappears. Although he placed his life above Dawn’s, Ben really wasn’t a terrible person — he just wanted to live. And Giles killed him showing no sign of emotion in the process because he knew it had to be done. What’s more shocking than the act itself is Giles admitting how unheroic it is and placing himself at the same level as Ben, the man he’s killing.

Where does all this leave Giles in S6? Mostly only hanging around Sunnydale to grieve with the other Scoobies over Buffy’s death. Eventually he realizes it’s time to move on with his life, just as he planned in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] , so he flies back to England (see “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] ) hoping to re-establish old ties, make new ones, and put the Watcher stage of his life behind him. It doesn’t quite work out as smoothly as I’m sure he would have hoped, though, what with Willow resurrecting Buffy and all.

 


[Spike]

Murder, sexual obsession, and love. These are three radically different things that you’d never expect to find within the same individual. Amazingly Spike somehow manages to possess all these qualities, the amount of each in constant flux, at the same time. This is a huge season for Spike in which he gets truck loads of depth, complexity, and intrigue. He’s always been extremely entertaining, but now in addition to that he’s a fully fleshed out character that has an arc and journey of his own. This is accomplished through the usual great writing and some well-timed transitions throughout the season. In “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] we see a very bored Spike who has simply resigned himself to an unlife without, well, life. This is where he begins the season at.

In “The Replacement” [5×03] Spike is seen gathering the parts to make a female mannequin. In “Out of My Mind” [5×04] it becomes obvious that Spike is trying to take his frustrations out on the mannequin he has now dressed up like Buffy. We see the full extent of his murderish and slightly sexual obsession with her in this interesting episode. Spike tries to capitalize on Riley’s illness to get the chip out of his head, but alas Buffy spoils his plans again and he’s just had enough. This represents a key turning point for him as he yells, “Buffy, Buffy, Buffy! Everywhere I turn, she’s there! That nasty little face, that… bouncing shampoo-commercial hair, that whole sodding holier-than-thou attitude… I can’t get rid of her! She’s everywhere. She’s haunting me.” Shortly after this outburst is when Spike has his first dream about Buffy that purely involved sexual passion, and he immediately knows how much trouble he’s in.

Knowing something is one thing, but dealing with it is another. It’s completely in character for Spike to let his feelings, no matter how disturbing (even for him, a soulless vampire), rule him. Starting in “No Place Like Home” [5×05] Spike’s desire to kill Buffy has largely transformed into a sexual obsession. He’s watching her more in a sexual way than he ever did before. What’s most impressive is that this revelation is actually completely believable. From the moment Spike first saw Buffy, dancing at the Bronze in “School Hard” [2×03] , it was obvious there was some sexual desire there. Then in “Who Are You?” [4×16] , when Faith in Buffy’s body sexually taunts him, we see just how much it actually tempts him to indulge in. During the run of “No Place Like Home” [5×05] through “Intervention” [5×18] Spike’s feelings begin to gradually develop into genuine love (to the extent that a soulless being can love), even though his sexual obsession doesn’t take the back seat until “Intervention” [5×18] .

During this run of episodes that comprise most of the season, Spike: steals Buffy’s clothing (underwear included), touches her as much as he can get away with, fantasizes about having sex with her, tries to establish a connection with her, and even occasionally helps her in an attempt to gain affection. There’s moments where the sexual tension flies off the both of them, prime examples being in “Fool for Love” [5×07] and “Crush” [5×14] . In “Into the Woods” [5×10] , Spike and Riley share a fascinating “passing of the torch” speech. The big point to arise out of this is that Spike would rather not be with Buffy if he can’t be close to her in the way that Riley isn’t close to her. When Riley asks him point-blank if he thinks he has a chance with her, he quickly replies “No, I don’t. Fella’s gotta try, though. Gotta do what he can.” And try Spike does.

All of this interesting material proves to just be prime setup for when Spike finally ‘gets’ what it is Buffy is really looking for. This moment occurs in “Intervention” [5×18] after Spike gets to sexualize Buffy to the max via the BuffyBot. Glory captures and tortures Spike trying to get him to divulge who the Key is. But Spike doesn’t budge in his devotion to Buffy, even though she rejected him in “Crush” [5×14] . This act proves to Buffy that Spike really has changed and that he, at the very least, is someone she can trust not to hurt her. As she perfectly put it, “The robot is gone. The robot was gross and obscene … That thing… it wasn’t even real… What you did, for me and Dawn… that was real. I won’t forget it.” Then she kisses him, that “crumb” he asked for in “Crush” [5×14] , therefore launching their relationship into a new place.

What is this “new place” you might ask? Well, it turns out that is a complicated question. A few things that come out of this is Buffy actively counting on Spike to assist the Scoobies in their fight against Glory and beyond. We see this when she lets Spike protect Dawn in “Tough Love” [5×19] and then she brings him with them on their crazy Winnebago run in “Spiral” [5×20] . Although Spike is rough with her in “The Weight of the World” [5×21] , trying to break her coma, he is genuinely trying to help her snap out of it in his own way. He’s not wrong in pointing out that Buffy’s not exactly weak either. Though I’ll leave his interesting comment, “Buffy likes it rough,” for next season.

It’s not until “The Gift” [5×22] , though, that Buffy and Spike really have something unique together. It’s an amazing scene with Buffy on the stairs in her home. Spike walks up to the door and reminds Buffy she de-invited him. He’s willing to stay there and let Buffy hand him the weapons he’ll fight at her side with. This is important to take note of, because it shows Spike is completely willing to fight on Buffy’s side and help her even though he won’t be able to have a romantic relationship with her. Buffy recognizes this change in Spike and invites him back in. In return, Spike tearfully admits “I know you’ll never love me. I know that I’m a monster. But you treat me like a man, and that’s…” enough. This is a place Spike is happy with, having the respect of his affection. Sure he wants much more, but he’s satisfied with what he has right now. This is extremely heartwarming to see.

While in S5 we get some major development and some resolution with Spike’s love arc, it also proves to be a great setup to what’s to come in S6. Although Spike is satisfied with where he stands with Buffy at the end of S5, when Buffy starts coming more and more to him it gives him the opportunity to have what he wanted from the start. For all Spike’s improvements this season, he’s still a demon. He’s not doing good things to be outright selfless, but simply to please Buffy and gain her respect and affection. This becomes ever more obvious as we get well into S6, where he learns more about who Buffy really is on an intimate level than he ever imagined.

 


[Anya]

Anya. Definition: fun machine. I pretty much see Anya as the ultimate in consistent humor. Nearly every line that comes out of her mouth is an utter joy to listen to. It’s fortunate that that’s not the only thing driving this character though. Although not one of the heavily focused-on characters, Anya proves to get a nice little, albeit unfocused, character arc of her own. This arc comprises of three main things: her relationship with Xander, her quarrels with Willow, and discovering exactly what it means to be alive through Joyce’s death. Throughout the first half of the season Anya and Xander are much like they are in S4: very much a couple, but not in undying love. S5 changes that, and it really begins during a magnificent speech by Xander at the end of “Into the Woods” [5×10] where he proves the full extent of his love, and Anya returns it in kind. From this point on we see her as much more integrated in the group and much more accepted. Anya’s devotion to Xander continues to strengthen all season long, which is why she responds like she does in “The Gift” [5×22] . I’ll get to this in a bit.

First I want to talk about Anya’s concerns about Willow. Throughout much of S4 and S5 they were having quite a few disagreements and unkind exchange of comments. This finally comes to a head in “Triangle” [5×11] when they’re both forced to air out their concerns. It turns out both of them are concerned about Xander’s well being. Anya knows about Willow’s “illicit smoochies” with Xander because of the entire Cordelia break-up back in “The Wish” [3×09] and is worried that Willow will take him away from her like she did to Cordelia, gay or not. Willow, on the other hand, is concerned that Anya’s just another demon that wants to take advantage of Xander. It turns out both of their concerns are completely valid, but also completely unnecessary. This allows Anya to come to a new place of trust in her relationship with Xander and his friends that she never had before, therefore strengthening their relationship.

Re-establishing what it means to be human has been a fairly big theme for Anya since the end of S3. Thanks to Joyce’s death we see her get some massive insight into the beauty and dispair of life and death. In “The Body” [5×16] she expresses her utter confusion at how human mortality works. in “Forever” [5×17] , though, she discovers something truly profound: that life and love would be meaningless in the absence of the permanent nature of death — that the cycle of human life, from conception to death, is something that is precious and beautiful. Instead of being confused and scared, Anya is now comforted and more excited about being human than she ever was before.

All of this wonderful discovery is what leads her to not run from this apocolypse in “The Gift” [5×22] like she did in “Graduation Day Pt. 1” [3×21] . It’s important to note, though, that she isn’t sticking around because of her desire to fight for humanity, but rather out of her love of Xander and her own desire to live and love. While still a big improvement for her, it shows she still has a ways to go to complete her understanding of humanity, and the hope for some kind of redemption for her years as a vengeance demon. Much of this is developed and addressed throughout S7. But, overall, Anya developed excellently this season while always providing that added injection of laughs.

 


[Dawn]

It’s interesting to me that Dawn is the most universally hated main character in the Buffyverse, with the possible exception of Angel‘s Connor. Why is it everyone hates this poor girl so much? Granted, she can occasionally be a bit over-the-top annoying, but most of the time the writers hit just the right chords. Her thorough introduction in “Real Me” [5×02] gives us the usual top-notch ‘inside the character’s head’ look at who Dawn is, why she thinks the way she thinks, and what her goals are. This is a girl, two years younger than Buffy was in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] and with no apparent powers of any kind, who is really just the average annoying little sister (I’m not saying all little sisters are annoying, only that in the category of annoying little sisters, Dawn’s an average one). She wants what many young girls want: love, attention, and friends.

Early in the season she has all but the latter, as Dawn’s never seemed to have very many friends of her own. As the season moves along, though, she begins to see that love and attention switching in meaning. While it’s far too convenient that the only times we see Dawn spying on the Scoobies talking is when they’re talking about her, it does lead to her slowly realizing that everything’s not what it seems. Eventually, in “Blood Ties” [5×13] , she becomes determined to discover exactly why everyone’s always talking about her in private. This, of course, leads directly to the discovery of her nature as the Key which is excellently played as a metaphor for adoption. All of the sudden Dawn really feels like her life, her entire history, is completely meaningless. Honestly, who can really blame her — in a way her entire past is meaningless. That would be enough to shake anyone up, let alone a 14 year-old girl.

Dawn comes to term with her unique existence impressively quickly, although she’s certainly not completely over it as Joyce’s death brings out. In “Tough Love” [5×19] Buffy discovers that Dawn’s been skipping classes and not doing any of her homework, thus risking Buffy’s claim to Dawn’s guardianship. Without Joyce around, Buffy is completely overwhelmed by sudden responsibility and can’t give Dawn the attention that she wants, which is interpreted by Dawn as a lack of caring and couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s at this point that Dawn’s not getting any attention and doesn’t have any consistent friends. Also, the love she’s getting from Buffy right now isn’t as completely obvious as the ‘mommy’ love she got from Joyce, which is why Dawn doesn’t see it right away. Under the tragic circumstances, who can blame her for acting out?

What defines who Dawn is to me arrives in “The Gift” [5×22] . Even though she’s caught up in cataclysmic events that aren’t her fault, she’s still willing to sacrifice herself to save the world. As Spike says in “Forever” [5×17] , “Well what do you know. Bitty Buffy.” This moment proves to me that Dawn’s got a lot more in her than everyone gives her credit for, and I respect her greatly for it. I feel that Dawn being an integral part of the plot worked extremely well, especially in giving Buffy an external branch of herself so she could not only die for her friends and the world, but for that piece of herself that hasn’t been barraged by loss and darkness. This combined with the generalized effect of mixing up the core Scooby interactions helped provide a positively fresh season from tone to plot. Overall, I’m quite pleased with Dawn’s addition to the gang here in S5. I felt the writers handled her excellently.

 


[Riley]

Trust and and the mysterious lure of darkness dominate Riley’s development and subsequent departure this season. These themes are handled in a very linear way and were thoroughly discussed in my episode reviews, so I’m just going to briefly summarize what is discussed in more detail there. With no job other than, as Graham puts it in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] , “boyfriend? Mission’s true love?,” Riley finds himself too focused on Buffy — to the point where he’s not fair to her. The blame in this relationship goes both ways though.

Although there were subtle issues in their relationship in S4, it becomes very evident here in S5 right from “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01] that these issues are beginning to get bigger. Riley is thrown by Buffy’s apparent lure to Dracula, which makes him a tiny bit jealous. This raises questions about the extent of Buffy’s interest in vampires which, of course, foreshadows where Riley’s headed. This immediately opens up some trust issues for the two of them, which get heavily discussed in “Out of My Mind” [5×04] . But what sets this up is a conversation the two of them have in a car in “The Replacement” [5×03] . Riley can see Buffy just doesn’t have a ton of faith and trust in him — she clearly doesn’t love him, of which he reveals to Xander at the end of the episode.

All of these troubles, which Buffy is aware of now but still too occupied due to her mom’s illness and Dawn’s nature, mutate into a danger streak from Riley which begins in “Fool for Love” [5×07] when he goes solo to take out a nest of vamps. This naturally leads to his encounter with a vampire (Sandy from “Doppelgangland” [3×16] no less) in “Shadow” [5×08] and then vampire suck jobs in “Into the Woods” [5×10] . All of this comes from Riley selfishly trying to understand what Buffy’s undeniable attraction to vampires is, and he fails miserably at it. Although her nature as the Slayer does create unique impulses for Buffy, that nature doesn’t rule her. To be fair to Riley, Buffy has kept him out of the loop and hasn’t been there with him, side-by-side, tear-for-tear, like she was for Angel. That stems directly from S2 and, more specifically, “Becoming Pt. 2” [2×22] and is something that will be very difficult for her to overcome.

So, overall, the circumstances of Riley’s departure were not one-sided. Both Riley and Buffy were to blame for not communicating enough and not emotionally opening up enough, respectively. I’ll be honest: I was a bit sad to see Riley go and actually wanted Buffy to catch him at the helicopter and try to resolve their differences. While I would have found that experience fascinating, I found what resulted in Riley’s departure just as, or even more, fascinating. I know Riley’s not a popular character, but to me his relationship with Buffy was a necessary and fascinating piece of the series. I, for one, want to speak up for Riley and say he’ll be missed (until “As You Were” [6×15] , where his cardboard way-too-pretty for a peace-woman-turned-military wife will annoy the crap out of me).

 


[Tara]

Aside from “Family” [5×06] , Tara is primarily just Willow’s girlfriend and doesn’t get much development of her own. With that said, Tara still gets some subtle development that will be vitally important come S6. All this surrounds her strong opinion on the use of magic and her concern about Willow’s abuse of it. But before all that, her family comes to town and claims she’s a demon that will only show her true form when she turns 20. It turns out the men in her family are just full of lies intended to dominate and control their women. I can’t help but ponder the possibility if how she was raised, with deceiving and dominating men constantly around and only her mother to show her genuine kindness, contributed to why she’s gay. Although I think it’s unlikely in this case, it sure couldn’t have helped anything. Regardless of that, though, it’s definitely obvious that Tara got her extremely shy personality as a reaction to her family.

All the same, all this time spent to herself gave her ample opportunity to establish her personal moral code in her use of magic, which I assume she probably got from her mom before she died. We know that her mom was “pretty powerful” which could mean two distinctly different things: she was powerful in the dark sense or she got powerful in the light sense, but based on Tara’s father and Tara’s natural use of magic I’m definitely leaning on the light side. The extent of Tara’s involvement with magic can be excellently summed up by herself in “Forever” [5×17] : “witches can’t be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons” and “we [witches] don’t mess with life and death.” Willow is shown to not be in agreement with this philosophy even if she doesn’t make it obvious that’s how she feels. This difference is what directly leads to their fight in “Tough Love” [5×19] .

This fight directly involves Tara letting it slip that Willow’s increasing use of the black arts is beginning to scare her. It scares her in the sense that Willow’s becoming edgier, darker, and more dangerous. Tara is aware of the dangers of black magic, which is why she, like Giles, warns against it and only practices natural magic. The dark magic Willow is using is changing her extremely quickly, and who can blame Tara for worrying that Willow might not only lose herself to it, but also change her love of Tara as well. Although Willow claims this is ludicrous, S6 proves that Tara wasn’t so wrong when she has to leave Willow for engaging in self-destructive behavior along with hurting her (the “All the Way” [6×06] memory spell, for example). When Tara steps up and confronts Willow with her concerns here in S5, it’s a big maturation step which sets up the stableness and strength she is able to show Willow, Buffy, and Dawn during their incredibly rough times in S6. Unlike everyone else, Tara only gets stronger next season.

 


[Glory]

Well, we’ve finally arrived at the season’s primary villain: Glory. You may have noticed just how little I’ve mentioned her up to this point. There’s a good reason for that: in of herself, Glory isn’t all that interesting. Like the villains before her (excluding Angelus), she just doesn’t have a lot development or a personal tie to Buffy. Many people even find her staple stupidity annoying or simply blame it on the actress. My take is that Glory feels very purposely written as a dumb god with incredible strength, and I honestly feel that she very much succeeds because of this. If she had been as powerful as she is and had brains, Buffy and gang wouldn’t have had a chance. In the Buffyverse there’s always a price — no one person has everything: ultimate smarts, ultimate strength, and ultimate skill. For example, the more powerful you made Buffy physically, the stupider and less human she’d become.

What value, then, did this type of character bring? Well, Glory’s power forced Willow to drastically accelerate her development in the black arts while also giving Buffy added motivation to continue training hard and exploring her slayer roots. Glory’s insanity, on the other hand, brought about some fantastic insight into how nuts a lot of humanity is. We see both of these characteristics outlined in Glory’s introduction episode, “No Place Like Home” [5×05] . From that point on Glory is shown to also be extremely lazy, superficial, and quite dumb — not willing to do anything herself, therefore accomplishing very little. To me, Glory’s shining moment as a character comes in “The Weight of the World” [5×21] when she gives her speech about how compared to humanity, her insanity is nothing. It’s quite compelling and insightful, and leads to some interesting back and forth between her and Ben, a decent guy who’s forced to make tough decisions. In the end Ben takes the selfish route, which is on his soul, but Giles would have killed him either way to prevent Glory from resurfacing.

In the end, Glory really works as she’s intended. You may not love her personality, but when looking closely at the writing it’s obvious she was intended to be that stupid. Although I could have done without her sitting around doing nothing as often as she did, what’s more important is that she successfully spurred development out of the characters that really matter. Glory lacks the personal tie of Angelus and the unique characterization of the Mayor, so on her own Glory is not a favorite villain of mine. But as a piece of the S5 puzzle, she unequivocally succeeds.

 


[Conclusion]

Alas, we’ve finally reached the end. This season’s been quite an amazing journey. Highlights for me include the heaps of character development, brilliant use of important and layered themes, darker exploration of both theme and character, a great balance of plot and stand-alone episodes, and a ton of heartfelt emotion, both joyous and painful (well, mostly painful). Consistency-wise S5 scores huge, even better than the impressive S3. As a whole this season is also noticeably better than its separate parts due to its clear focus of theme and characters; my decision to award it a solid ‘A’ is firm. While not perfect, S5 represents a full season of television that is just about as close to perfect as you can humanly get.

From Buffy’s exploration of the nature of the Slayer to Spike’s doomed lust for Buffy to Willow’s long-time-coming darker edge and power outbursts, S5 delivers some huge character payoffs and some shocking moments. Riley leaves, Buffy’s mom dies not from anything supernatural but rather complications from a brain tumor, Tara gets mentally violated, Giles kills an innocent man, and Buffy, our inspirational title character, sacrifices herself for us — every human being including her family and friends. The season ends on an incredibly mournful yet beautiful note of Buffy’s grave. This is not a “I technically died but got immediately brought back” thing. Buffy is dead, buried, and has transcended into heaven — she really deserves it too. It’s such a shame that the ignorant and selfish Scoobies didn’t leave her to this peace. But that, my friends, is for another season. 😉

 



[Score]

95/100

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132 thoughts on “Buffy Season 5 Review”

  1. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on February 14, 2007.]

    Hooray. First to comment. Can’t disagree with much of anything here, except for your complete spinelessness on choosing a “best” episode. Really man,

    I don’t mean to start a debate, but “Fool for Love” is the best episode of this season and anyone who believes differently is absolutely wrong and can die.

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  2. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    It’s not that I think “Real Me” is unimportant, just that it’s the least important in a season where every episode has a lot of value. It was a tough choice. I quite like “Real Me” actually. 🙂

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  3. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Oh, I know that, I was just surprised that it went out as least important, as it has the mammoth task of introducing Dawn.

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  4. [Note: Rick posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Love the review…very well done, but I have some points to make too!
    1. Don’t feel guilty about including “Restless” in the review so much, as it is essentially a de facto season 5 episode. While you can’t score it as such, it is meant to be an introduction to the next half of the series. While I agree that there are three acts to Buffy (which you mentioned), I would argue that there is a more general two act division, of which Restless is the divider…”You Think you know. what you are. what’s to come.” That’s the dividing line and season five changes a bit of the direction a bit each ep.
    2. Another thing I wanted to note was the brilliance of the writers in tackling the “Buffy wants to be a normal girl” in a more serious light. Buffy has always subverted expectations about her and thematically for women in general, but it has often been done with light-humoured, witty, and still brilliant notions like slaying in mini skirt or giving speaches in sushi pajamas. But in s5 we see a truer, more pure concern from Buffy that who she is is really and truly (like everyone said it would) changing her; that she can’t just be a normal, individual GIRL in this world of the powerful slayer (you can /man for the feminist theme if necessary). I think you touch on that sufficiently in Fool for Love and The Gift, so I won’t continue.
    3.Ryan, I shall gladly die for stating that “Fool for Love” is undoubtedly not the best episode of the series, or of the season. In terms of sheer quality and beauty, the two BEST (not necessarily most interesting or favourite) are preliminarily for me (I’m only in my own s4 reviews) Restless and The Body.
    4. I felt Intervention was the biggest disappointment. While I loved it to death and thought it was a great episode, it had the potential to be series altering, if it had focused more on Buffy and her quest. The scenes during the camp out scream Joss Whedon (sorry Jane Espenson) and are some of his best work; unfortunately, that greatness is mixed in incoherently with a Buffybot/funny episode that works in its own right, but not in relation to the greater theme. I wished this had been dividen into two episodes…
    5. My only complaint with your review Mike is about a small comment you made, I’m sure without any bad intention, in regards to Tara’s sexual orientation. You suggested that her mother’s strong role and the terrible males in her life might have contributed to her “being gay.” This assumption or thought that sexual orientation might arise from trauma or bad experiences seems to hint that homosexuality represents an abnormal development. While scientifically, the verdict is not out, there is no evidence to suggest such is the case. As well, for every gay person who had bad opposite-sex experiences, there are many who did not and many of us who did. I don’t mean to nitpick and I know it was just a minor comment, but I have a close gay friend and have therefore been over the issue distinctively, and sometimes those types of comments are just taken the wrong way.
    6.You mentioned that no one in the Buffyverse could be equally smart, skilled, and strong. What about Illyria!? Sure, she was a little confused about the world and humanity…but that’s because she’s been gone for a million years, not because of any distinct deficiency in her mental capacity.
    7. Awesome work. Thanks for all the effort you put into these things. It’s appreciated.

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  5. [Note: rick posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    I should probably clarify a point I made earlier…upon review I said: “there are many who did not and many of us who did.” That confuses a little bit and can be interpreted to suggest that I am gay. Although not important, I am not. What is important, though, is that the point be clarified: “many straight people did.” It’s a bad idea to suggest that sexuality can be influenced by bad relationships if one’s evidence is anecdotal.

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  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Rick, I’m not trying to speak for all gay people here. I don’t believe that all of them are the way they are because of bad experiences and/or trauma from the other sex. But it would be ignorant to assume some of them are not affected by those circumstances. I only made the comment in the review as suggesting a possibility (and it is a possibility). I have no motive in that comment and I’m not trying to imply anything about gay people in general. I’m not trying to imply anything about Tara either, but rather just trying to think about the ways in which her family ‘could’ have affected her while growing up. How one’s raised is a huge influence on many people. Tara could have been the way she is all her life for all I know. It’s never stated as much.

    I know this can be a touchy topic, so I just wanted to be explicitly clear about my thoughts on the matter.

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  7. [Note: Dana5140 posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    mikejer, no you cannot assume that anyone is gay because of family circumstances; this is purely biological, and to think otherwise is to play into right-wing fantasies that aversive therapy can convert a gay person into a hetero person and make them “normal.” It ain’t so. Tara’s shyness and stuttering can be read as response to her father and brother’s abusiveness; this is well known, But her gayness? Not a chance.

    PS. The Body is the greatest hour of tevelsion ever broadcast.
    As for Ryan RB, anyone who is willing to tell someone to go die because they disagree over a TV show has some serious problems. It isn’t funny, and it isn’t very smart.

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  8. [Note: rick posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    LOL i didn’t mean to start a firestorm! I was just simply stating some facts. There exists nothing to suggest that homosexuality is any more caused by abusive relationships with a specific sex than is heterosexuality. A more likely outcome for many women (and perhaps men) is an aversion to the same-sex (e.g., Tara might be wary of men in general, although this is not the case.) But it doesn’t seem logical to think that physical abuse causes a change in sexual ATTRACTION, and various scientific studies have found no such correlation. So in light of that, I definitely know there was no bad intent in the comment, but I feel compelled to argue that it would not be ignorant to not assume that such trauma is responsible for ANY gay orientations, as there is no scientific evidence supporting such a link. In regards to Dana’s comments, there is also no concrete proof of a biological or genetic cause, although one is suspected. What is known (as much as can be known) is that homosexuality seems to be an alternative and immutable, yet normal development of sexual orientation. Btw Mike, no offence was taken for me, I just want to state a fundamental disagreeance on that issue with you, as again, I have researched the topic extensively due to both experiences with gay people and personal research for a university class in psychology.
    Also, Dana, I believe (otherwise I hope to never meet him!) Ryan was joking! He’s a good guy (as I look around my shoulder 🙂 ).

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  9. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Dana5140: Lighten up. Fix your sarcasm detector. Notice how I ‘conveniently’ placed a debate-starting statement right after “Not to start a debate..”?

    Secondly, there has been research, but no conclusive or damning fact one or way another to suggest a total truth when it comes to the origins of homosexuality. The truth is likely closer to somewhere in between; social causes can definitely influence gender orientation. The author of the popular “Vagina Monologues” has her defining experience with lesbianism when she gets drunk with an older woman down the street and starts to fool around, despite feeling as though she had been raped by a man who did the exact same thing with her earlier on in her life; it was said to be what drove her to embrace women over men. One experience was described as violating, the other liberating; social context is a huge factor.

    It’s also hard to ignore the fact that we’re seeing many more gay and bisexual women nowadays because, due to the mainstream chic and attractiveness, it’s considered more accepted and is sometimes even participated in by straight girls who find something new that they discover they like. Social context.

    Now, of course, there’s also scientific evidence that proves that it can and sometimes is biological, but I think, given the limited amount of conclusive and damning research, it’s far too early in the progression of the subject to conclude that either cause is predominant. Certainly though, both have been described as causes by many gays themselves.

    Now, back to Buffy, shall we? Fool for Love FTW!

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  10. [Note: Rick posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Again, gotta disagree with you on the facts there again, but I agree…back to Buffy! and Down with Fool for Love…sure is a great ep, but not the best.

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  11. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Yikes! Lots of action since I’ve been at work.

    Dana: I’m not sure how keeping an open mind about things that aren’t universally true among people, at least in my experiences, lead to “right-wing fantasies that aversive therapy can convert a gay person into a hetero person.” No offense meant, but maybe step off the soap box for a minute and calm down.

    A Buffy-related argument to support my open-mindedness is Willow. Was she ‘born’ gay? Maybe… if that is the case then her having a crush for Xander and falling for Oz was just social conditioning by how she was raised. Or maybe Willow wasn’t born gay… then *something* must have happened between Oz and Tara that made her gay… she wasn’t innately like that. Either way, she proves my point that it really depends on the person. Some are born that way, others are influenced by other factors. This is why I was pondering Tara’s past… ’cause we just don’t know for sure. I do apologize if I’ve offended anyone though. I’m just trying to think things through.

    In regard to Ryan’s comment (and my response to his obvious sarcasm), lighten up! I’m not sure how you can even enjoy Buffy‘s sense of humor with that kind of reaction to sarcasm.

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  12. [Note: Rick posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    One last counter and I promise I’ll leave it alone…Just because Joss Whedon creates a gay character doesn’t make the progression natural. I love Willow’s relationships with Tara, but I’ve always had trouble with the abrubtness of her ‘gayness.’ Also, for you to consider, would you think that you or I, during college, are likely to decide to be gay. We had no choice in the matter from the moments we started feeling attraction towards women. Assuming homosexual is an alternative, yet normal development, there is little reason to believe that it is subject to the whimsy of early adulthood experiences (childhood maybe). Willow’s development makes little sense realistically, if you were to ask most professionals; however, it is treated with great sensitivity and Joss successfully creates a wonderful and normal lesbian relationship.

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  13. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 15, 2007.]

    Re Willow: fair enough. But also keep in mind I was never saying that this kind of change was common. I’m just saying that for some a change like this might occur, in part at least, because of life experiences and influences.

    As for Willow and Tara’s relationship, well, it’s a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. I absolutely love seeing a lesbian couple treated like a normal, well-adjusted couple. Heck, they’re the most normal couple on the show for two years! Whedon made it relateable (even to someone who is not gay, like myself) and even enjoyable to watch, as opposed to how odd and sensationalist most gay couples are portrayed on television. 🙂

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  14. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on February 16, 2007.]

    great review (up until the first half!); but I know a few people whowould wildly disagree, cause they don’t appreciate the dawn-key-plot. I consider it a little hokey too. (and that’s from the person who loves the spiral-fight!)
    yeah, I’d appreciate a comment on the fights and action; cause it has a few astonishing fight-scenes. as let’s say “into the woods” or the wonderful interaction of the two fights in “fool for love”, the most corporeal one up until “seeing red” in “the body”… yeah, good times.

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  15. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 16, 2007.]

    Aside from “Spiral,” I really don’t see what would be hokey about the plot this season. The season is actually quite mature, progressively dark, and endlessly fascinating from a theme-standpoint. Regardless of that, though, the reason why this season is so good is because of how perfectly the plot services the characters, and not vice versa. I hope I made my reasoning behind why this is the case clear, but feel free to tell me if I didn’t.

    On the action sequences: yeah it was great throughout the season, but honestly there’s not much to say about fight scenes other than “COOL” or “WOW” which is why they generally don’t really spark a lot of writing from me. I feel that’s stuff left for the individual episode reviews. The point of the ‘Season Review’ is not to just repeat what I said in all my episode reviews — I talked about the amazing Buffy/Spike interaction in FFL plenty in that review — but rather to provide a cumulative look at where the season succeeded, where it failed, and go much more in depth into how and why the characters evolved throughout the season.

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  16. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 16, 2007.]

    Rick,

    I forgot to answer your comment about Illyria having everything: strength, smarts, and sanity. I must remind you that she had to have her strength significantly reduced in “Time Bomb” or she would have literally exploded with her own power. Her sanity is also not always entirely stable, although after losing her uber powers you can see her as much more restrained and, dare I say, human. So, I think Illyria still fits in this mold. 🙂

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

    I really love season 5. I loved Glory as the big bad – i know some people didn’t but i find her very amusing and brutal at the same time. I love Fool For Love and agree that it is the best episode of the season.

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  18. [Note: Javian posted this comment on February 19, 2007.]

    I love this season too, & thanks for doing such a great in-depth review.

    I was also surprised by “Real Me” being your “least important”, but I looked through the eps list, and now I’m having a hard time justifying others…but, “The Replacement”, “I Was Made to Love You”, “Shadow”? Wow, every ep I’d initially dismiss as unimportant has at least a couple important points/moments.

    Anyway, love your reviews & can’t wait for season 6’s, which to me was a pretty great season…mostly.

    And I agree with your “The Gift”/”Fool for Love” dual-win 😉

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  19. [Note: tomrd16 posted this comment on February 25, 2007.]

    Well, I really enjoyed each episode’s and the whole season’s review, I agreed with almost everything (one of the exceptions being “Spiral”, since even though I did find the knights kinda hokey they didn’t bring down the episode that much for me and I totally loved the wennivago). I must also say that I absolutely loved Glory in all the stupidity and threat that she brought at the same time and I don’t dispise Dawn that much (annoys me ? YES, dispise? not much) although I won’t argue with you about Connor, for me the least favorite character in BTVS is Riley and one of the reasons I liked this season is that they got rid of him early on and gave me more Spike Time!!

    I also enjoyed reading the interesting debates brought up in the comments and I must say that even though the S5 finale would’ve been a great series and I’m a fan of S6 and I couldn’t imagine the story of Buffy without S6 and S7 so I’m really anticipating when the next season starts to get reviewed here.

    It’s almost like watching Buffy all over again 🙂

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  20. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on May 3, 2007.]

    Awesome review, mikejer. I loved how you tackled the season. I have to say I love this season, the direction they took. Like you, I like Glory but to me what really shines is the character development, beautiful episodes like “The Body”, “The Gift” and more and exploring the nature of a slayer. All in all, I think this season rocks.

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  21. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on August 8, 2007.]

    On the subject of Willow’s sudden conversion to homosexuality, has anyone considered that she’s probably bisexual? Her feelings for Xander and then Oz were both romantic and unmistakably physical, and she still had her crush on Giles when he verbally dropped a piano on her in Flooded (S6), which is why she takes it so hard. Also, she is affected by the magical jacket in Him (S7), even though (for example) Xander and Spike are not.

    If a bisexual person had gone through a few heterosexual romances and suddenly found herself romantically attracted to another woman, might she not assume that she has suddenly and inexplicably “turned gay”? I am often tempted to read Willow’s “Hello, gay now!” protestations as characteristic Willow-like denial. Willow insists on things being simple and easy, and bisexuality might be just too much for her to deal with.

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  22. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 30, 2007.]

    On the subject of Glory’s sporadic appearances, I think the writers were compensating for the uber-weak S4 arc and so they introduce her very early and then come up with at least a somewhat plausable excuse why she, being invulnrerable, didn’t up and squish Buffy after blood ties. I find myself believing that her lazyness and having to share body-time with Ben heavily impairs her movements and plans. Besides, with such overwhelming non-arc episodes like FFL and the Body, I really didn’t find myself wondering “where’s Glory, she should be causing trouble by now.” One final note, our perception of time may be skewed: though episodes were aired weekly, they, especially the non-arc ones, often take place consecutively. For instance, Triangle, Body and Forever take place in the span of less than a week, while almost a month has passed between viewings. I can buy that between Ben time and long visits to the mall, that Glory would leave the Scoobies alone long enough for their lives to get turned upside down by Joyce’s death.

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  23. [Note: Austin posted this comment on October 5, 2007.]

    Just a thought but do you think Joss and co could have gotten away with ending the series with Buffy dead? I know at one point they didn’t know if another channel was going to pick this up and they were definitely going to kill her so do you think the fans would have rioted if this had been the end?

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  24. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 13, 2007.]

    Ya know, I’m a bisexual female, but I’m not TOUCHING the sexual orientation debate that went on up there.

    Anywho, I love S5. I love that Buffy dies at the end. Okay, yeah, sad. But I give massive kudos to Joss for killing her (And I mean, KILLING her. Dead. Gone. Buried. Bye-bye), and then bringing her back. However, unlike most TV resurrections, when Buffy comes back she takes an entire season to deal with the fallout.

    But that’s S6 stuff, I guess. I just find the set-up done in S5 amazing. What with Willow’s increasingly reckless use of her powers and the growing fragmentation of the group. We also see Giles’ conflicted desire to back off and let Buffy learn on her own (though I take issue when he actually does leave later in S6).

    The overall arc, to me, isn’t as engrossing as the underlying themes that are carried throughout the season and that you go into great detail to describe. Plus, since I’m an unabashed Spike-fangirl, I very much enjoy the beginning of Spike’s redemption in this season (even if he does fall off the wagon next season).

    Oh, and I vote for Fool for Love as best ep. But I have less-than-objective reasons for that.

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  25. [Note: Woohoo1729 posted this comment on December 10, 2007.]

    I also don’t wanna touch the nature vs nurture debate above, unless anyone would wanna know my personal views as a gay male. Send me a private message or something so we don’t stir up another firestorm.

    I just wanted to bring up the fact that Willow wasn’t written to be a gay character from the get-go; in fact, the writers were even considering having Xander realize/become/reveal/etc his gayness instead of Willow. So any inconsistencies about her revelation/transformation in Season Four might stem from this–the writers have certainly made plotting and characterization inconsistencies throughout the series. The mere fact that she’s had crushes and relationships with men in the past does not by itself weaken her identifying as gay rather than bisexual. Not everybody who identifies as gay has always done so, everybody goes through this at different stages in their lives. I’m speaking through personal experiences.

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  26. [Note: Devil-Lee666 posted this comment on May 3, 2008.]

    Ok first I’m a long term Buffy fan and i’d just like to say that i loved your review and i love how into it people get!

    Now i’d like to say thank you so so much to LibMax who finally thought to point out that Willow is actually bisexual and not gay, as she has actually gone out with Oz, Kissed Xander, fell for ‘Malcom’ and has a really weird kinda crush on Giles!
    Now i have read the debate some of you guys have been having about Willow and Tara’s homosexuality!
    I, for one, absolutely LOVE Willow and Tara’s relationship and for me ‘Family’ was actually one of my favourite episodes in S5!
    I also love Willow’s ‘Hello, Gay now!’ line!
    I’m up for a debate on the whole case on someone being ‘born gay’ or it being natural or w/e
    Yes i guess Tara’s bad relationship with the males in her family havent really done anything to help her like men all that much, and i do see how she would prefer girls to guys!
    Willow has had bad relationships, namely Oz and Xander (thought that was a major crush!) so you can kind of see where she is coming from, after getting her heart broken that bad, i do understand why she would think that that maybe wouldnt happen if she went into a gay relationship.
    BUT
    i don’t think being gay is mainly based on your background, or previous relationships, etc etc
    I think it is how you feel. You can’t help how you feel and i love how Willow and Tara are so great at showing it!

    I also agree with Woohoo1729 about the fact that everyone goes through it at some point in their lives, even if they dont admit it or don’t realise.
    I also have personal experience in that area.

    Well i hadn’t really intended to leave this long a comment as i was just passing through while surfing for Buffy pictures, but i just wanted to get my view on the issue out so yeah

    Buffy rules =]

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  27. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    alright devillee. the way i see it is people are NOT born gay. id say its probably 2do wit circumstances, wot they been through, their personality, n plus who they find physically attractive. i hav 2disagree that every1 goes through it at some point though, 6billion people on earth! its a bit of an assumption 2 say EVERYbody goes through it. personally i thought S6 was taras best season by far n was sad 2c her go.

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  28. [Note: LetDown posted this comment on May 6, 2008.]

    Hi, first post here. It never made sense to me that Willow suddenly became ‘gay’. I could buy her realising she was bisexual or even just falling a particular girl while being generally straight. And either of these interpretations were good up to a point … and that point was season 7 where it was said many times that she was gay. I like LibMax’s suggestion that it was just her protesting. But I find it hard to get around her saying in ‘The Long Way Home’ that she doesn’t ‘truck with the stubbly crowd’. It seems to me that they’re retconning Willow’s sexuality and I’m a bit disappointed

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  29. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on May 16, 2008.]

    hmmm well i think “ignorant and selfish” was a little harsh for the scoobies. they had NO IDEA that buffy was in heaven and even if they did they still had good reasons to bring her back. “what would these be” you may ask?” well for starters maybe to save to town from the lame ass biker demons. or maybe to help keep the world from being overrun by monsters. or maybe to bring some form of closure to the friends that thought she was being tortured eternally in a hell dimension. and though willow did have a very twisted backup we all know that everything (even the backup) she did was necissary. cause i dont think that anyone would have wanted to watched “botty the robo zapper”

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  30. [Note: Tara posted this comment on March 10, 2009.]

    An excellent, well thought-out review, although I simply cannot agree that Season 5 is the best Season of Buffy. In my opinion, Seasons 2, 6, and 3 are all superior.

    I agree that in terms of Buffy’s significant development and maturity, this is some of the the finest character work of the show, along with Seasons 2 and 6. It’s also the best example of reconciling the two sides of Buffy (culminating in the beautiful ending of The Gift) where Buffy reaches a true understanding and acceptance of who she is. I love any episodes that deal with Slayer lore, and here it was woven beautifully into the main arc. Character as a whole was pretty well done, actually. Spike’s feelings for Buffy in particular could have been a disaster, but it works spectacularly.

    However, I have several main problems with this Season:

    1) Glory. As a villain, I found her wildly inconsistent. Although anything would be an improvement after Season 4’s Adam, there were some gaping inconsistencies with the character of Glory that I’m unsure is down to poor writing or Clare Kramer’s performance. For instance, she was spectacular in Checkpoint (which, incidently, happens to be one of the most underrated episodes of the show), but at other times, it seemed the writers were unsure of what they wanted her to be – or they tried to make her too much. She’s a terrifyingly powerful hellgod, famed for her ruthlessness, driven insane by having to live in the earthly dimension and has a great contempt for humanity. This would have been more than adequate for the writers to work with, but they inexplicably tried to give her character traits that turned her into Cordelia (they also made this mistake with Anya in the last Season). Not only does it detract from the elements of her character that I found really interesting and wanted explored more (her contempt for humanity and her response to the increasing emotional prevalence of Ben) but I also felt it undermined her as a threat. Her materialistic obsession with clothes and shoes came across as ridiculously corny and illogical – yes, she’s used to being worshipped, but Glory was famed for her brutal and annihilistic tendencies, not her preoccupation with nail polish and shoes. It seemed more like a cheap ploy for humour, which was at odds with the attempt to set her up as an unstoppable adversary. A somewhat wasted opportunity.

    2) The episodes that focused too heavily on Joyce’s sickness. I agree that it was a smart decision to have her die of natural causes, but Shadow and Listening to Fear were, in my mind, some of the worst episodes of the show. The pacing is all over the place – unbearably slow at times, followed by rushed and poorly executed action sequences – and the hospital scenes seem dangerously close to veering into soap opera (a reason why the Xander-Willow thing in Season 3 bugged me so much). The idea of Buffy having to grow up and take responsibility was handled much better in Season 6 – where it used the metaphor of Buffy coming back from the dead to face the problems of the adult world. In a show that is noted for how cleverly the supernatural is used as a metaphor for real-world problems, Joyce’s sickness arc descended too heavily into realism that jarred with, rather than complimented, the show’s supernatural premise. This was the one problem I had with The Body: note how uneasily the vampire attack sits with the rest of episode.

    The other problems are realtively minor, but nagging nonetheless. I agree with your point about the knights of Byzantium, I also found the quality of episodes to be quite inconsistent: Fool for Love and The Gift are among the finest episodes of the show’s history, but the Season as a whole lacks the overall episode consistency of Season 3. It’s still one heck of a good Season of television, but Buffy has done better.

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  31. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 3, 2009.]

    Wow, Mike. Your reviews are awesome!! I just wanted to add one thing about Tara’s development, and that’s her relationship with Buffy, which I think is a pretty important part of both of their development this season (especially in that scene in the hospital in “The Body”), as it leads to Buffy confiding in Tara in S6 (“Dead Things”, I think?). Is there a reason you left it out?

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  32. [Note: wytchcroft posted this comment on June 19, 2009.]

    Season five is the chosen one, it has power, richness, depth and genuine maturity and the best production values, cinematography, design and costume of the whole run.

    And it doesn’t seem to date.

    If anything time has revealed more qualities and, now the inital experience of its twists and character arcs are familiar, it sure is a heck of a lot funnier on re-watch than at the time.

    Nothing in life and certainly not in television is perfect, or flawless but this is so damn close.

    Mike I’ve been here for a long time lurking and read all your reviews and I hope you will finish season 7. Naturally i don’t agree with everything you write (or the views in the comments section) but so what, how would that be interesting anyway?

    Kudos to you and I look forward more:)

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  33. [Note: Dalexsi posted this comment on June 24, 2009.]

    I love reading these reviews! I only found them a few months ago so it’s been fun catching up. I agree with the season 5 review except that I had a different take on Glory. I didn’t think she was stupid, I thought she had a lot of pretty smart things to say on the human condition. If there was stupidity it seems that it would be due to the fact that she had to live in a human body and that likely affected her intelligence. But (sigh) I am biased…she is my second favorite villain; after the mayor 🙂

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  34. [Note: Emma posted this comment on July 12, 2009.]

    I would like to take this moment to tell you, your reviews are epic and awesome and deserving of pretty blue flowers. But I don’t know where you live, so you have to get your own pretty blue flowers.

    I agree with you that season 5 is the best season of Buffy, and certainly my favourite. It works the characters and plot together perfectly, has a very consistent stream of episodes, and is generally awesome (it gets pretty blue flowers too).

    Character-wise:

    BUFFY –
    This is the season that basically says to Buffy: “Ha ha, b*tch, you have to be a responsible adult NOW!!!!!” which is a little much to pile on a 20-year-old girl. She’s fighting the biggest baddest evil she’s fought to this point, her mother’s sick, her relationship with her boyfriend falls apart, and she doesn’t even understand her own nature. Her response to increasing pressure seems to be trying to be methodical, logical, and alone: she feared “being the slayer is turning [her] into stone,” which probably had a lot to do with it, but it’s also a coping mechanism: when her mother’s sick, she withdraws from those who want to support her and tries to support Dawn instead. I think, since she’s the slayer, she’s used to carrying others and not to being carried, while Riley desperately needs to carry her, or to carry something (as, at this point, he has made his life all about her – something Buffy’s boyfriends do way to much, it’s not healthy).

    When Joyce dies, she shrinks away from Dawn, both trying to support, but not revealing the emotions Dawn needed to gain actual support. Buffy expected she had to be a solid rock, to let Dawn fall apart, but what Dawn needed was not to feel alone, to see Buffy as damaged by losing Joyce as she was. The final scene of “Forever” finally shows Buffy as a grieving little girl, not super-gal, and that’s what gives Dawn the strength to undo the resurrection spell – if they’re the same, they can get through this. Also of note, in that second, Buffy falters – she just wants her mother back, because though she’s used to carrying the weight of the world, she really doesn’t *want* to, and really Joyce is the only one who can take that weight from her. At this moment, Dawn steps up to the plate, and Buffy and Dawn become far more equal in their grief.

    Her behaviour in “Tough Love” annoyed me on first viewing, but it makes perfect sense later – she’s trying to stick to organised structure and rules, because she knows that might work, and it means she doesn’t have to show how scared she is. “Forever” didn’t really stick as a lesson, she still feels like she has to carry Dawn, and protect her – but Dawn can’t be protected, nor does she want to be. The truth about the consequences finally gets Dawn to respond, far better than the general routine ever would or could.

    In “Weight of the World”, when she lapses into catatonia, this is pretty much her giving up, and to a degree, indulging the deathwish described in “Fool For Love”. At this point, she’s lost damn near everything: her mother’s dead, her boyfriend left, her sister’s going to be killed and the world’s going to end. And she blames herself; she’s held the world up for so long, when it falls, she can’t help but feel guilty. Also of note is the fact, yes, Buffy is a control freak. Guilt and a controlling nature go hand in hand, if you’re responsible for everything, yes, that means the bad things. Willow snaps her out of it, with a speech I really like: “You’ve had the weight of the world on your shoulders since High School, and for one moment you wanted it to go away – So what?” this looks at Buffy’s situation with the outside opinion needed, and tells her that she can’t hold the whole world up, and guilt won’t get anything done – she just needs to get back. She does, and lets herself cry her guts out in Willow’s arms.

    In the finale, she abjectly refuses to kill Dawn, even if it means the end of the world. Deep down, I don’t think this is the right decision – and Dawn would most likely die anyway – but it’s also the only decision Buffy, as a hero, could make. Honour before reason and all that. Of course, one later realises it’s a moot point – she’d never have to sacrifice Dawn, because Dawn would do it herself.

    But Buffy realises she can die in Dawn’s place, inverting what we’ve been told about the nature of the slayer. She gives up her life not out of a deathwish at having lost everything (“Fool for Love”) but to protect those she loves. She gives the world a gift not by killing what needed killing (which she had always done, not back in “Becoming, Part 2”) but by giving her own life. In many ways her sacrifice her runs as counterpoint to “Primeval”, in which she saves the world by gaining the love and essence of the ones she loves, here she saves the world by giving her love and essence to one she loves- her final speech hands down the torch to Dawn, telling her “[she has] to take care of them now. […] Be brave”. This goes in spite of the slayer’s nature of slavation by destruction, because she does not make this sacrifice as the slayer – she’s Buffy Summers, beloved sister, devoted friend, she saved the world a lot.

    That really wasn’t meant to get so long. Other characters in other comments.

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  35. [Note: Emma posted this comment on July 12, 2009.]

    WILLOW
    Willow’s got an enormous amount of power by now, but this is the season where she gets to embrace, indulge in, and control that power – season 2, 3, and to a lesser degree 4, she was learning, but here she feels she owns this. However, she doesn’t seem to understand magic like Tara does, she thinks of it as a way of accomplishing her goals, whereas Tara treats it like a thing of it’s own. This sets up around half of season 6, which shows how Willow can be corrupted.

    On a this-season note, she has a rivalry with Anya. Willow is irrevocably over Xander by now, we know that, but she has to learn how to be over him – she’s been pining over him for years, impliedly since they were kids, and she doesn’t want Anya to hurt him. She fears Anya, as, y’know, ex-evil-vengeance-demon (something not touched on enough). However, Anya fears Willow too, Willow being the closest person to Xander and not liking Anya very much. They both love him a lot, and want him safe.

    Willow’s dark half shows in “Tough Love,” firstly in her argument with Tara and her attack on Glory. In the argument, she becomes irritated when Tara gives the knowledge she can’t, and this highlights one problem with the Willow/Tara relationship that becomes a lot more important in season 6 – power imbalance. Willow is so used to being the more powerful one in that relationship, and when Tara speaks against her, it becomes a lot more difficult than it need be – of course, this is nowhere near what happens in “All The Way”, but Willow’s discomfort with Tara assertion is shown, even though it’s subtle, and Willow herself certainly doesn’t notice. Also worth mentioning, when Tara goes into depths of what they are, what Willow is, what Willow’s going to be, and her own uncertainty, Willow latches on to the most obvious thing about their relationship – her sexuality. By saying Tara’s only worried about her sexuality, it makes it easier to deny her problems and confusion, and do a degree, to put the blame on Tara: “I’m sorry I didn’t establish my lesbo street cred, but you’re the first woman I ever fell in love with, how could you take me seriously?” denying the depth of Tara’s worry.

    Of course, despite arguing, Willow still desperately loves Tara, and is devastated by Glory’s attack on her. And goes looking for vengeance, not because it’ll help, and not because she can really take Glory, but out of pure rage. She completely indulges in the dark arts, to try and get the strength, though I feel deep down, Willow knew she couldn’t do this – but deep down, she didn’t care. Which is a big problem of Willow’s in seasons 5 and 6, keeping Tara as the highlight of her life, devaluing everything else she has. While “she’s my everything” sounds romantic, it shouldn’t be true, one person should not be the only thing you have, and this shows prominently in season 6 – she gives up completely after Tara’s death, even saying Tara was the only thing she had (“Two to Go”).

    Of note, in “Weight of the World” it’s her who takes the leadership position when Buffy’s gone, and shy Willow is no more. The world is in danger, and this girl can step up the plate with the best of them – it’s she who manages to talk Buffy back to the world.

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  36. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on October 28, 2009.]

    Glory’s long absences from the fray are indeed bizarre. But I wonder if she wasn’t out of commission for those stretches because she was, well, Ben at the time. The frequency of the whole body-shifting thing is never really explored in much detail, but if we assume that only one of them is present for long periods of time, it’s possible that Glory wasn’t attacking the gang during Crush, I Was Made to Love You, The Body and others simply because she couldn’t. Maybe Ben was in control during those periods.

    It’s one of the many things concerning Glory that could have used a shade more detail. I quite like her and think she served her purpose well, but I agree that there was a lot about her that could have been further explored. But when you’re making the finest season of Buffy in its seven-year history, some things are bound to get left by the wayside.

    I just discovered this site and I love it. Kudos.

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  37. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on April 18, 2010.]

    Season 5 is a great addition to the Buffy series with some great stand alone episodes and character moments, however, there is some bad. I believe this season is a little overrated mainly because of the finale. Glory is good to start with and then she becomes just a pain until the end. Dawn doesn’t evolve yet either.

    The Good: ‘The Replacement’, ‘No Place Like Home’, ‘Fool for Love’, ‘Into the Woods’, ‘Checkpoint’, ‘Blood Ties’, ‘Crush’, and ‘The Gift’.

    The Bad: ‘Triangle’, ‘Forever’.

    The Ugly: ‘Listening to Fear’.

    As I have mentioned ‘The Body’ doesn’t fit in any of them because I didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it.

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  38. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on May 11, 2010.]

    Quick note on the stale orientation debate; I wouldn’t rule out nurture completely, but in my experience and my friends’, it is based on nature. You can’t ‘decide’ to be gay or straight; physical attraction is physical attraction. Somebody gives you ‘lusty wrong feelings’ or they don’t — you either feel a thing or you don’t. Wow, I mixed two Scooby quotes into one o_O I’m up waaay too late right now. But yes; as a bisexual, I’ve been accused of being so because of my absent father figure, when it’s just rubbish. I fancy girls, I fancy boys, I fancy *people*. I share the controversial belief that few people have an orientation that is set in stone, that there are possible exceptions to the rules of attraction. This theory makes some people say “a-HA!” and others shout at me, so er, I’m just throwing that out there and then ducking for cover.

    The other thing I wanted to say was that Emma’s two character notes based on this season were a great read, and along with MikeJer (who’s caused this repeatedly) has kept me up to silly o’clock. If you’re still lurking about, ma’am, I would absolutely love to hear more. I hadn’t heard anyone else make that very astute point about Willow’s unhealthy self-view when it comes to Tara, namely that she thinks Tara is the only reason she has for living, thereby belittling herself, everyone around her, and the reasons Tara loved her. A view I definitely share, but have never managed to articulate as well as you, so bravo!

    As always, love the site, MikeJer. Someday I might avoid posting very long comments and actually join the famed forums.

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  39. [Note: Evanna posted this comment on May 30, 2010.]

    Okay, so first time commenting here (though I’ve read all your reviews as I have rewatched the show) but I just had to say that I loove Season 5! It’s definitely my favorite season of Buffy, just because it’s almost flawless, and for me doesn’t have any bad episodes. I’m also a Spike-fangirl, and completely adore Willow/Tara. S5 has it all for me, great character development, humor, action and emotion. I also happen to love Glory in all her stupidity.

    I would not have wanted the series to end with this season though, it would have broken my heart completely (which it almost does, despite knowing that Buffy comes back) and I absolutely love S7 (my second favourite season) and S6 as well.

    So I didn’t contribute with anything in this comment apart from me loving S5, but I needed to write it down. Anyways, I love your site, the reviews are really, really good so thank you for writing them.

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  40. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 30, 2010.]

    Thanks Evanna! Always good to hear from people still reading my reviews. And, yes, S5 is totally amazing. 🙂

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  41. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on June 9, 2010.]

    It is an amazing season, and so much better than any of “Buffy’s” other seasons. It’s incredibly consistent (no episode earned anything less than a B from me), the main arc is great, and the character development is amazing. It also contains, in my opinion, the two best episodes of the entire series in “The Gift” and “The Body”.

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  42. [Note: Joe posted this comment on June 23, 2010.]

    I, too, find Season 5 to be the series’ best, for all the reasons Mike has noted in his review. I agree that “Triangle” is the worst (I just for the life of me couldn’t place Buffy’s characterization within the continuum of her personality. At all), and that’s still a playful, non-threatening episode whose presence doesn’t really alter anything in a negative way. And there are SO MANY game-changers in this season: “There’s No Place Like Home,” (don’t you just get PISSED rewatching when you see Glory rise from the building–as if, if she had just DIED, all of the pain could have been avoided), “Fool for Love,” “The Body,” “The Gift”–it’s ridiculous how consistently good this season is. Even the “lull” around episodes 8–10 has compelling stuff going on with Joyce, and even if you didn’t care for the Riley/Buffy relationship (I didn’t), you have to appreciate how they made his departure seem so organic and real.

    Love it. Absolutely.

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  43. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on July 17, 2010.]

    Everyone has different tastes, and therefore there can be no such thing as a best or worst episode, or a best or worst season.

    That said, objectively speaking, Season 5 was nowhere near as good as Seasons 2 & 3, was also worse than Season 4, and was only tolerable because it was still better than all other genre television of the time.

    I say “objectively” because Season 5 was the lowest-rated season since the first (when few even noticed its existence). Despite the fact that the show gained new viewers every year (I started watching in season 4), overall it lost far more viewers than it gained in both Seasons 4 & 5.

    So in other words, the consensus view is that Season 5 was the worst season to that point (excepting possibly Season 1, though it is hard to say, since so few knew about the show then), and Season 4 the second worst. It’s just that very, very few of us who gave up on the show have continued to post comments about it. But here I am, speaking for the silent millions who loved Seasons 2 & 3 and now no longer care to comment further.

    What was wrong with Season 5?

    — Riley (Boring)

    — Dawn (Annoying) Possibly THE death blow to the show

    — Tara (Boring)

    — Junked the UC Sunnydale setting/grounding (this started slipping S4)

    — Not nearly episodic enough, too arc-heavy (started slipping S4)

    — Buffy’s breakdown/waking coma

    — “Killing” Buffy when they had no intention of really killing her

    Season 5 looks spectacularly good next to the complete train wreck that was Season 6. That’s all the good that can be said of it.

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  44. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 17, 2010.]

    James: since when does the number of viewers who watch a show when it airs equate with objective quality? That’s like saying public opinion always dictates quality, which is a notion I find scary and absurd. By that benchmark American Idol is the best show in television history. Come on, now. Your comment also doesn’t account for the millions of people who have gotten into Buffy on DVD over the years (myself included) and now through Netflix Watch Instantly.

    I love S2 and S3 too, but let’s not fool ourselves into seeing them as flawless seasons. Your argument about Buffy coming back could also be made about Angel in early S3. Anyway, S6 handled the follow-through from the previous season a heck of a lot better than S3 did.

    Your list of things “wrong” with S5 is the very definition of subjectivity, and that’s fine. I respect that the season didn’t connect with you emotionally. I, personally, prefer serialized television to procedurals, so the fact the show begins dropping the plot-of-the-week feel in favor of larger arcs and more daring character character development is actually a huge plus to me and a lot of other people.

    As I’ve pointed out throughout my review above, which I expect you actually read before posting, there’s a lot of thought and intelligence that went into S5’s themes and individual character arcs. If those elements didn’t resonate with you, then that’s one thing, but to ignore that they’re even there is quite another.

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  45. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    The number of people who watch this TV show or that is irrelevant. I am talking about the number of viewers within just the context of Buffy. The original fans of the show. Who abandoned the sinking ship in droves with each increasingly painful season after 3.

    If you want me to account for the current viewing trends, there is this: Netflix has viewer ratings for each season’s dvd set. The ratings from s2 on go like this: 4.7, 4.7, 4.5, 4.5, 4.4, 4.3. That is a consensus view, thus relatively objective. When you alone say that s5 is the best, however, all you are really saying is that it is your favorite.

    You are right about Angel coming back s3, to me it was the first big problem with the show. I never got over it. It completely undercut and made irrelevant one of the most powerful moments in genre television history (end s2). It is very sad to me, still, that they did not have the guts to follow through. And Angel as a character added virtually nothing to s3 anyway, a big waste of space. Marking time until the spin-off. Sad.

    I understand that tastes differ. But the thing is, the only ones who will bother writing about Buffy anymore are people who like the later stuff at least as much as the earlier seasons. That makes sense. My only aim is to speak for the great multitude who jumped off the bandwagon, most of them in s5 or s6, and who you will not therefore hear from on the WWWeb again. They’re not going to bother.

    But let me tell you, back in the day, we’d get on the Bronze right after each episode aired to review, dissect, and trade comments. Things started to get ugly s5. Bitter arguments. People leaving. S6 was the final straw for a great many fans.

    I’m sure you’ve seen Ian Bell’s review site. The one that just gives up and quits s5. It is amusing that his site is still up, still marking the year he threw up his hands and walked away. Well, I can tell you that he is far from an anomaly.

    I understand that you and many others enjoy the arc-heavy episodes and greater focus on character “development” (I would call it bathos). I am only here to say, on behalf of the majority who are relatively silent on the matter these days, that many more of us did not prefer it.

    I agree that a lot of thought went into the themes and character arcs. But I disagree that it was intelligent. I disagree that it was successful.

    “Into the Woods” is a good example of the taste schism here. I would call it one of the worst episodes of the entire series. You give it an A. I have been rewatching the entire series with my son (he’s 11 and it’s his first time), and we just watched this awful episode tonight. It runs exactly like an episode of “One Tree Hill.” From the line level to the structural level, it is banal television. Endless overly dramatic dialogue, endless cliches, all building to a chase-after-lover-about-to-fly-out-of-town cliche I have literally seen 1000 times.

    Here’s my “favorite” part of the entire ham-handed episode. When Riley enters the Magic Shop to speak with Buffy, Xander and Anya leave, and Xander tells Anya he has “some things to do,” and to go home without him. And Anya leaves with no questions. Now come on. That would never happen. Ever. Anywhere. There is no person or demon on the planet that would not ask, “Like what, exactly?” It’s just bad writing.

    So what is Xander’s plan here, at this moment? Apparently to wait outside until Buffy comes out, so that he can then talk to her. But about what? He has little to no idea what she and Riley are talking about, or what, exactly, he will be needed for. It makes NO SENSE AT ALL. But you see, he is not waiting to have this conversation with Buffy because that is what his character (or anyone) would do. He is doing it SOLELY because the writer wants him there. He doesn’t know why he’s there or what he’s needed for. Only that God (the writer) needs him there. It’s just bad writing.

    Why would Xander think that Buffy would be available for a talk anyway? Anyone would assume that Riley and Buffy will be leaving together. Why would he assume otherwise? How could he know she would bolt, alone, after just a few minutes with Riley? It’s just bad writing.

    So he waits in the back alley, because he somehow knows that she will leave that way, and watches her kill the vampires from the shadows (as he himself says). So how could he be there and not see about 8 vampires waiting around back there, also waiting for Buffy, also somehow knowing she would leave through the back door? And they did not see him? It’s just bad writing.

    Xander still doesn’t know what’s up, so first Buffy has to fill him in on what’s going on with Riley. Then he has his big melodramatic conversation/lecture with Buffy, to set up the chase after Riley and Xander’s last scene with Anya, which is why he was really there, but could not have known. Only the writer could. It’s just bad writing.

    And on the line level? That and every overwrought dialogue-driven scene, mostly shot and edited exactly the way soap operas are, is simply embarrassing to watch and listen to. It is not Shakespeare, it is not Dostoyevsky, it is not Jane Austin. It is not intelligent. It is banal. “Run!” I laugh just thinking about it.

    On the soap opera thing– watch Buffy and Riley’s scene, and listen to the music. When there is a pause, and Riley then announces that he is thinking about leaving, listen to the music cue. It is really embarrassing, and kind of hilarious in a bad-TV way. It sounds just like a soap opera from 40-50 years ago, with the cheesy sudden note change in the strings when one character says something dramatic.

    Christophe Beck, the great composer whose work is among the best I have ever heard on genre TV, was of course gone after S4.

    Anyway. I have read your extensive review and character summaries. Perhaps I shall talk about Dawn in another post. Because I disagree most with your comments about her.

    But if I come off as mean, I apologize. Perhaps I disagree with you on much, but I do appreciate the enormous work you have put into all of these reviews, and it is nice to read so much thought on the series. It has been about 7 years since I’ve written or read anything on Buffy.

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  46. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    Big Time James, I’m with you on a lot of your criticsims of “Into the Woods”. It’s probably my least favorite episode of the entire fifth season. However, it truly is an exception (and I did still like it).

    You’ve got classic comedy episodes like “Triangle” and “Intervention” (well, most of the latter). Stunning drama in “The Body” and “The Gift”. And of course, wonderful backstory episodes like “Fool for Love”. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. But for me (and for a lot of other people, I think) this season stands head and shoulders above the rest of “Buffy’s” seasons.

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  47. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    James, first of all, and not that it matters, but when I go to Netflix and look at average ratings, this is how it breaks down:

    S1: 4.0

    S2: 4.2

    S3: 4.2

    S4: 4.2

    S5: 4.3

    S6: 4.2

    S7: 4.2

    Maybe Netflix ratings are based on the region you’re in? I also have to stress that just because the majority of people feel a certain way about something in no way has anything to do with the kind of objective quality you’re making it out to be. If that were the case then what would be the point of actual critics to break it down and try to, yes, offer their own subjective view, but also make points to support their overall argument and assessment of something’s worth? If you were citing RottenTomatoes.com, which is an aggregation of what critics thought of something (with actual reviews to back up their position), then that’d have more weight. I’ve actually argued my position for why I feel S5 is the best season of Buffy. Most of the people on Netflix (or whatever site you look at) have just clicked a button of which star amount they give to the season. If I just wanted to say S5 was my favorite season I would have just put up a one sentence note about it at the top and not bothered with this exhaustive analysis of the season as a whole.

    As for your dislike of “Into the Woods,” I simply disagree with you. While one can nitpick about plot logic flaws all day (and throughout the entire series, even in those lauded early seasons), which is what most of your problems with the episode seem to be, I’m looking at the episode from a character perspective. In light of this, I really appreciated the balanced take on the relationship between Buffy and Riley and the importance in which several critical moments in the episode end up having down the road (think “I Was Made to Love You,” “Intervention,” and “The Gift” for starters, let alone all the resonance that it has through S6).

    While Riley is mostly in the wrong here, Buffy’s not entirely in the clear either. They’ve both made mistakes and Xander, who could easily put together the issues between the two of them based on the lead-up episodes and several huge hints right in from of him (such as in “The Replacement,” “Shadow,” and the simple fact that Buffy is pissed and wants to talk with Riley alone here in this episode), simply tells her like it is regardless of whether the position Riley puts her in is fair or not. I found the episode strong in its use of the build-up to it along with its complicated look at their relationship together. I’m not one to care about little plot inconsistencies — I’m far more concerned with how the characters are developed, what the themes are, and the overall presentation. So while I’ll concede that the season certainly isn’t air-tight in its plot threads, I’ll add that ‘neither were the early seasons.’ That’s simply a flaw of the series as a whole.

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  48. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    James, I agree with you on your critcism on ‘Into The Woods’. Even more than thought actually, since I never really paid much attention to how crappily Xander’s character was written in this episode. I was more focused on how crappily Riley’s character was written. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so I’ll just copy-paste what I’ve said about that:

    “Xander’s speech in ‘Into The Woods’ didn’t ring true to me. Xander basically said it was Buffy’s fault that Riley went to the vampire brothel to get his blood sucked. That if she would have been more open, then it wouldn’t have happened. But seriously the Riley-getting-sucked-by-vampires -storyline was so ludacris, it was a hard to believe that any person would do that let alone Riley. I mean he goes there to ‘understand’ Buffy. So getting sucked by vampires makes him understand Buffy? What kind of insulting logic is that?! That storyline was a complete character assasination for Riley (making the few Buffy fans, who didn’t yet hate him, revile him too). So for Xander to suggest that it was Buffy’s fault was complete BS to me.”

    I also agree on the music on season 5. Thomas Wanker (the new composer) was lazy as hell and really not that competent. This season repeats the score over and over again until it’s just white noise. It’s annoying at first, but by season 6 I don’t even notice it anymore. But it’s still a loss since Christopher Beck was a great composer. This season also has a new stunt double team who are not nearly as good at their job as the previous one. That makes the action scenes cringy-worthy to watch as it’s a double whammy of bad music and bad choreography.

    But I do disagree with your reasoning about the ratings. I agree with mikejer on this. Season 5 is beloved by fans, but I’ve always disliked it. The soap opera comment by you James is spot on.

    But I disagree with Mikejer about not liking the season only because of the plot. I find both the character work and the plot be subpar to previous three seasons. Xander, Willow and Giles are all pushed to the sidelines and Tara still remains pretty much a non-character. These characters hang out with the group a lot, but they get almost no decent focus on their own. This is almost the opposite of season 4, where every individual character got enough screentime on their own, even if the Scooby Gang was almost non-existent. I prefer the season 4 way, though many Buffy fans seems to just want the gang to be together no matter what.

    Add this to the fact that Xander and Giles have this season what I call “BING!character development”. Again I copy-paste what I’ve said about this:

    “These episodes contain what I refer to as “BING!character development”. So you want to develop Xander to being something else than a butt-monkey? BING! He suddenly has carpenter skills, gets a promotion and moves out of his parents basement(to a very luxury looking apartment – quite a leap) all in _one_ episode. It would have been fun if Xander’s character would have developed more gradually during season 5 – now he has almost no development left for the rest of the season.

    Another example of BING!character development: Giles also suddenly gets a purpose in life again with Buffy interested in training again and Giles buying the magic shop. Giles’ feeling of having no purpose in season 4 completely written away in a couple of episodes. Again it would have been more fun to see a more gradual development for Giles. (Season 6 does this well – gradually develop characters. Especially for Buffy. But I won’t go any further into that because of spoilers.) But I guess that this BING!character development was intentional so that the writers wouldn’t have to deal those characters as much later in the season: “You want more focus? Too bad, you already got all your development in the first couple of episodes!” ”

    Also there’s the issue where these characters have been changed by a spell(introduction of Dawn). All of a sudden these characters remember to have lived a completely different life to what we’ve seen. This is not really a good way to have the viewer attached to these characters.

    Although I agree with you on season 5, James, I disagree with you on season 4:

    — Junked the UC Sunnydale setting/grounding (this started slipping S4)

    I thought season 4 made a good use of the university setting – the most important theme of the season was the Scoobies drifting apart. Very fitting as Giles is no longer the school librarian, Xander isn’t in uni and Angel and Cordy left. It was a season of change, which fit well to the university setting. Besides Willow, Riley, Tara and Buffy are constantly seen in the halls of the university or outside of it etc… So it definitely feels like they were attending uni. But I agree that season 5 completely dropped the ball with it. It almost seemed like the writers noticed how unpopular season 4 was, so they just decided to quietly drop the university setting. There’s like about three scenes where they deal with the university. And then towards the end Buffy drops college completely. This is fine if they want to explore life outside of uni( like they do in season 6), but it made the Buffy dropping out of school seem irrelevant since she wasn’t shown attending school anyways! This is despite the fact that in one of those three scenes, Buffy is actually shown to be doing good at school, suggesting that she was making a big effort attending school. But we saw none of that. So it when she does drop out, the viewer really can’t be emotionally affected by it. It would have made a big effect if Buffy would have had to drop out in season 4.

    Oh, and about Giles not being a librarian in the university in season 4, to quote Buffy it would have been very conveniant. Conveniant meaning lazy. If the writers would have chosen to simply have Giles be the librarian in the uni, it would have been very lazy writing. In that case ,university wouldn’t have differed much from the high school. The writers could have written season 4 so that the entire Scooby Gang still hanged out in the library, only in the university library (including Xander and Giles). But they boldly chose not to do that. Instead they chose to push the show forward into new territory towards adulthood where you can’t anymore hang out with your old gang from your youth. It is that momentum of change, of not being simply comfort food for the viewer, that makes Buffy special as a TV show. However contrast this with season 5: the gang now finds a new place to hang out with Giles, who very conveniently bought the magic shop – yet again a place for the gang to hang much like seasons 1-3. There they can yet again hang out with that old reunited gang defeating Big Bads as they come and go. It seemed to me the writers falled back on being simply comfort food for the viewer instead of keeping the moment of change that season 4 had. And by change I mean logical change and not that “BING!character development”.

    Finally one more thing, James:

    — Not nearly episodic enough, too arc-heavy (started slipping S4)

    Are you seriously suggesting that season 4 wasn’t episodic enough with too much focus on the arc? I’ve never heard anyone argue this. Season had the best standalone episodes and there were many of them. And the arc really wasn’t the main focus. Season 3, had much more focus on the arc than season 4. So I don’t really get your “started slipping S4” argument. But otherwise I do agree that season 5 was too arc-heavy with too few standalones. Plus the arc really ran out of steam like after episode 5, leaving 17 more episodes to go. This leads to the annoying thing where Buffy and Glory somehow don’t resolve their conflict until the very end of season 5. In the meantime Glory just sits in her apartment having a bubble bath. Or makes pointless housecalls to Buffy. And just when the audience is starting to catch on how inept and non-threathing Glory is, writers say “oh but she’s a GOD! Now doesn’t that make you worry!!!” No it didn’t. You can say she is a super-uber-duper-mega-evil-GOD, but that still doesn’t make me consider Glory a threatning villain (and in the end she doesn’t achieve anything nor make any significant damage to anyone). It just makes me roll my eyes as I watch the writers trying to save whatever there is save from that boring, drawn out story arc.

    Like James, I would also like to apologize if my post comes across as mean as it is long.

    PS. Here’s a trivia question for you all: Which Buffy episode fits this following description: “Buffy prepares for the final battle with the Big Bad, and she is forced to make a heart wrecking decision when, with the help of someone’s blood, a portal is opened to a hell dimension threatning to destroy the world.”

    The winner gets to hear more reasons to why season 5 sucks! 😉

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  49. [Note: Joe posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    While I can understand some of your dislike of season five simply as a matter of personal taste, I think a few of your complaints are a bit undersupported.

    Let’s take the “Bing” Character development (which is a term I do quite like, actually). For Xander, I’m not sure where you’re coming from entirely. You say he “suddenly” has carpentry skills. Forgive me if I’m misremembering, but didn’t he start working construction at LEAST as early as “Pangs” in season four (when he does the ground breaking)? Throughout that season he continues working several different jobs, trying to find what he’s good at. We see several moments where he’s doing something in consruction, so it doesn’t come off as unusual that he gets hired on full-time nearly a year later. I’m not sure what the complaint is there (though I do agree that his apartment was a bit ritzy).

    With Giles, we do get build up of his return to having something to do. In the season premier, he’s struggling to see a reason to stay, and has been for a while, but then Buffy tells him she wants to start training again, so he stays. And while the death of the Magic Box owner is a bit convenient, it certainly isn’t the first time that the owner’s been killed–it’s happened several times, and it occurs to Giles that owning a place like that might be something he can do well. Sometimes life does drop those kinds of opportunities right into one’s lap, and I think that was a well-taken opportunity by the writers. They don’t often rely on those sorts of conveniences, so when they do now and then, I’m willing to forgive.

    Then there’s the plot. Whether or not one likes stand-alone or arc-heavy seasons is entirely a matter of personal taste, so I certainly won’t argue about that, because there’s no objective argument that can change one’s mind about it. Additionally, there is a slight plotting problem here: there’s a lull later in the season (as Mikejer acknowledges in his review) in which Glory just sits around doing nothing, when she could and should be giving Buffy the super beatdown. However, to say that the story is basically over by episode four is just plain incorrect. Hello? Glory doesn’t even SHOW UP until episode five. We experience this monster just as Buffy does–we have no idea why she’s there, who she is, or what she wants. It takes time to figure that out. And Glory is, well, kind of stupid and lazy. Whether you like the way she was characterized is, again, personal taste.

    However, I must say that if you’re going to knock season five for its plot, you have to really look at season 2 and 3 and their plots as well–there are holes there, too, and, in my opinion, much bigger ones. In season two, for example, WHY does Angel want to destroy the world? One can argue that what happens in “I Only Have Eyes For You” has something to do with it, but I think it’s a stretch. And why did the vamps that took Giles in “Becoming” not kill Xander and Willow? In season three, why didn’t the mayor just send a bunch of vamps to knock of the Scooby gang after they knew he was evil? When he showed up in the library in “Graduation Day,” he could have basically offed them all with no problems; he couldn’t be killed, so why not just take them out? Clearly, a tight-knit, unerring plot is NOT what Buffy is about.

    I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t respect your opinion; we’re all entitled, of course, to like a particular season of the show more than others (I certainly have my favorites, of course). That’s personal taste, and one can’t change that. However, to say that season five “sucks” is an extreme oversimplification. I haven’t even touched on how, at least it seems to me, the themes are much tighter, complex, and more interwoven with the storyline. From a subjective standpoint, one can like what one wants to, but I can’t see how, from as objective and critically impartial a point of view as possible, one can see season five so unfavorably.

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  50. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    but didn’t he start working construction at LEAST as early as “Pangs” in season four (when he does the ground breaking)?

    Again I’ll just copy-paste what I’ve responded to this elsewhere:

    He shoveled dirt around. That’s hardly equates to having carpenter skills. By that logic I suppose Xander could have become a chef because he was a ice cream truck driver in one episode? Does not compute.

    Also some more:

    BTW, in the next episode( episode 4 think) Xander is doing carpenter work in the magic shop. Something he never did before this. It definitely suggests that the writers had no idea of Xander’s skills before The Replacement because he hadn’t displayed any such skills before it. The writers just realized that ‘oh, from now on we write Xander as if he has carpenter skills’.

    Compare this skills development to Willows skills in magic. Willow’s development in magic is very gradual that happens over many seasons. Not in one episode like in Xander’s case![…]If you would have asked any viewer before ‘The Replacement’ about Xander’s skills, no one would have had any clue about his carpenter skills.

    And still:

    Sure Xander could have had some construction jobs off-screen when we weren’t following him. But that was never mentioned, and only during The Replacement his carpentery skills are brought forward for the first time. So what you seem to suggesting is some kind of retcon-BING! -theory, where Xander’s carpentery skills are added in retroactively. I hardly see that as any better writing that my simple BING! -theory.

    Hopefully that’s those quotes from me won’t be too confusing as they are taken from another thread.

    Also someone else commented on Xander’s carpenter skills:

    I have to agree with jarppu on Xander’s rise. His job in “Pangs” was labor and would have little more to do with his getting a carpentry job as any of his other jobs.

    And carpentry, like any skilled trade, requires several years of apprenticeship then a reasonable amount of journeyman work before being appointed a supervisor. This is typical; Joss and the writers probably grew up in “white-coallr ghettoes” and have little understanding of blue-collar life.

    As for Giles, Joe, I might be forgiving too if they had given Giles a character arc for the rest of the season. The writers basically end his “feeling useless” -character arc in the very beginning of season 5 by giving him purpose( magic shop, being Buffy’s Watcher again). But the writers just do that to get him out the way, to sweep him under the rug. He essentially ceases to be his own character and simply becomes “The Watcher” again. So I might forgive the very convenient development for Giles, if they had given Giles something for the rest of the season. But instead he really gets no focus on his own, he is only “one of the Scoobies” from there on out. Only until season 6 he gets decent focus and isn’t just a statistic anymore.

    As for the plot: This season focuses a lot more on the plot and on the Big Bad than most Buffy seasons. And the Big Bad plot is entwined with the characters very tightly ( ie. introducing Dawn and her effects on the Scoobies, including the spell that changes all the characters’ memories). So it is warranted to be critical towards the plot as well. Season 4 however, wasn’t as focused on the plot and the character stuff was mostly incidental to the Initiative -arc. So I’m not that critical towards the plot in season 4 as I am in season 5. And I couldn’t help noticing that your criticisms about plots in seasons 2 and 3 were about the villains and not the core Scoobies. I’m critising both the villains AND the treatment of the Core Four characters. It’s not just the plot I have a problem with, it’s simply on the problems.

    However, to say that the story is basically over by episode four is just plain incorrect. Hello? Glory doesn’t even SHOW UP until episode five.

    For a second I was worried I’ve made an embarrasing mistake with the episode numbers, but nope, not me! I said the story was over after episode five, not four. And I do stand behind that argument. As I said, you now know everything important there is to know about the story arc. The only thing left to discover were: The Knights, Ben is Glory and the revelation that Glory is a GOD. I already argued that Glory being a God makes no difference whatsoever. The Knights were cheesy as hell, and they really didn’t have any kind of impact at all to the story (really, just take them out of the season and you would barely notice theris absence). Plus even though the Ben is Glory made for a good reveal, it didn’t really mount up to much.

    we experience this monster just as Buffy does–we have no idea why she’s there, who she is, or what she wants.

    Two of those questions are answered in episode five leaving only the “who she is” to be revealed. But then again from episode five we can already say the following about Glory: She’s powerful, vain, crazy and evil. Two things only remain for the rest of the episodes: that she’s lazy and that she’s a God. Like I said, the God thing makes no difference, and I guess the writers just decided to make her lazy to justify introducing her so early while yet leaving not having her confront the Scoobies and find the Key until the very end.

    However, to say that season five “sucks” is an extreme oversimplification.

    Yes it is, I was only trying to get someone to answer my trivia question. Hence the “;)”. More accurate one word description would be “disappointing”, because season 5 simply isn’t up to par to the previous three seasons, while still not being complete crap.

    I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t respect your opinion…From a subjective standpoint, one can like what one wants to, but I can’t see how, from as objective and critically impartial a point of view as possible, one can see season five so unfavorably.

    Funny because I didn’t get the sense of you not respecting my opinion until you said that. Exactly how do you back up your claim that my opinion is subjective, yet yours is objective?! Your post really didn’t contain any proof regarding that.

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  51. [Note: Joe posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    Ah–thanks for some clarification, Jarrpu. I think I understand better some of the things you meant; I didn’t realize that the “sucks” statement was a joke.

    I didn’t mean to sound hypocritical at the end of my post. What I meant by “so unfavorably” was the “sucks” statement, so I suspect that our misunderstanding can end there. All I meant was that saying that the season sucks really oversimplifies things and isn’t demonstrative of an objective viewing, but understanding that you were joking there clarifies that and makes me think you’re being much fairer in your overall assessment than I originally thought. This most recent post makes it clear that you’re being pretty fair and simply judging based on your own reading, which is much easier to read (even if we disagree on the overall quality) than someone who sounds like they’re smearing the season in an overly unfair way (which was how I originally viewed your first post, as I wasn’t getting the purposeful/humorous exaggeration).

    I buy several of the things you say about Giles–it would have been more interesting to see that carried out; I’ll agree with you there. With Xander, though, it seemed like a relatively natural progression (maybe he wasn’t comfortable doing that repair work until he was more skilled? I don’t know–to me, it’s just not that important).

    I just have one last observation to make, and that again is about the plot. You say that Glory and everything we need to know about her is effectively over relatively early (I’m still not sure I know what you mean about episode four of the season–Glory first appears in “There’s No Place Like Home,” which is episode 5, as “Out of My Mind” is episode 4–and we don’t know why she wants “The Key” for a very long time), but isn’t that really what happens in most of the seasons, anyway? In season two, Angel becomes evil and wants to torture and kill Buffy, which he tries to do. The Mayor wants to become a giant snake demon. Adam wants to create a big ol’ army. The First wants to overrun the world with evil and destroy the slayer line. I’m not sure I follow how Glory is any more of a failure and sustaining the plot than these others in a significant way. Sure, she doesn’t do much mid-season (which IS a problem, and I agree with that criticism), but pretty much every season suffers from a similar arc lull (which is, I suppose, a strong case against arc-heavy stories in Buffy).

    Again, sorry for any misreading of your posts. Seeing now that you were infusing a bit of humor and on-purpose exaggeration (if I’m understanding you correctly), I can see where you’re coming from more, and hopefully I’ve made what I meant about objectivity/subjectivity more clear.

    Cheers.

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  52. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    I like how Big Time James has elected himself “Voice of the Silent Majority”. That’s a pretty large assumption you’ve made about all these mysteriously silent ex-fans. I’ve been on a lot of Buffy sites in the last year or so, and have come across a pretty vocal contingent of folks who say the first couple seasons are the best, but they’re by no means not participating in the Buffy fandom simply because they don’t think the later seasons are as good- if anything, they’re more vocal than those of us who like all of the seasons fairly equally. I would still argue that people who really only like 2/7 of a show’s seasons aren’t actually the “original fans” as BTJ claims, but people who briefly got psyched on the show and simply didn’t like how it evolved. I can’t help but feel that you didn’t actually read or absorb what Mike wrote in this season review, and that you’re simply stating a personal bias against/dislike of Season 5, which is totally fine, but please don’t try to make it sound like your opinion is the definitive critique of the season. It’s ok if you thought the majority of the show sucked or if people who liked the show at the beginning didn’t like it later, but that doesn’t mean that critically it was a failure. As Mike pointed out, there are a ton of things out there – TV, movies, art in general – whose quality is not measured by the number of viewers.

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  53. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    BTW, not that I think this is really any true indicator of Season 5’s greatness, since it is just a bunch of people clicking fill-in stars, but the Netflix scores that show up for me are the same as Mike’s.

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  54. [Note: Joe posted this comment on August 2, 2010.]

    Nicely worded, Shannon. And Jarrpu, allow me to add that I think when I wrote my original comment in response to you, I was subconsciously responding to BTJ as well, without giving proper attribution, which was a bit unfair to you. My apologies.

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  55. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    “I’m still not sure I know what you mean about episode four of the season–Glory first appears in “There’s No Place Like Home,” which is episode 5, as “Out of My Mind” is episode 4″

    Darn it, I never said the plot was over after episode four(4), but after episode five(5). That is the episode that has the same number as the number of fingers on your right hand (5). That is the same number as the number of toes on your right foot(5). That is the same number that you get when you add one(1) to a four(4), meaning 4+1=5. That is the same number as…um…hmmm…well I can’t think of anything else. Just read my post carefully: I never said the plot ended after episode four(4). I know it might be difficult to make out the difference between those two words as they are the same length and starts with the same the letter, but I’m confident that, perhaps using the services of a consultant, you’ll be able to make out the difference. 😛 And yes, I just wrote an entire paragraph about this – I have no life. Oh and don’t get offended, I’m just having a bit of fun.

    Also the complaint about Giles not having a character arc also fits also to Xander. Before “The Replacement” Xander was insecure, had no insight to other people, was living in his parents’ basement and had no special skills. Right after “The Replacement” all of those things are fixed. It’s just as if the writers simply wanted to get Xander out the way, to not use up any time developing his character. So they simply got a season’s(maybe even two) worth of character development out of the way in one or two episodes. BING! Xander realizes he’s not a buttmonkey anymore and suddenly he isn’t. It would have been better if Xander’s character would have been developed more gradually during the season.

    Here’s how I would have developed Xander’s character throughout season 5:

    In the beginning of the season Xander decides he doesn’t want to be a buttmonkey anymore. He realizes that living with his parents is doing bad things to his self-esteem(perhaps making a reference to Restless). He moves out of his parents’ basement to a crappy low-rent apartment (around episode 4) because that is all he can afford. He makes a joke that this move seems to be even less than a lateral move – a move downwards as the apartment is so crappy. He jokes with Buffy comparing his crappy apartment to Buffy’s crappy apartment in “Anne”. But still, throughout the season Xander’s confidence grows as he isn’t no longer exposed to his parents. Also throughout the season we get to see clips of him working in construction jobs, and we get to see how his increased confidence is making him a better employee (without the help of magical spell). Then around episode 14 they make another Xander episode where he finally gets the promotion and he moves into the apartment we’ve seen in season 5. Even that development might me a little rushed considering how he spent the entire last season moping in his parents’ basement suggesting that he isn’t the one to change fast. But this would have been at least closer to “character development” than what we saw in season 5. You’ll see that this version has basically the same stuff as season 5, only spread out from two episode to ~15 episodes.

    Also the complaint about pushing characters to the sidelines also includes Willow, who gets a lot less focus and development than in previous seasons. This season is purely about the Summers’ family and everyone else gets pushed to the sidelines. While “Family” goes to say that family isn’t just blood, in practise that’s what it ends up being for the season. Only the people who have Summer’s blood running through their veins(or a has big desire for that blood, ie. Spike and Glory) get decent amount of focus. Of course I could write somthing like a 400 word essay about this giving more proof, but I don’t have the time. I hope you still see my point.

    One more thing about the villains: Angelus wasn’t introduced until episode 14 of season 2 and he actually achieved something (killing Jenny), making him a capable and actually threatening villain. The Mayor’s plan is revealed (and other stories relating to him – eg. Faith) gradually throughout the season. Plus it wasn’t just Angelus and the Mayor as the villains for the seasons – there was also Spike, Mr Trick and Faith. For season 5 there is only Glory. Adam doesn’t show up until the very end of episode 13 in season 4. And he was never really big focus for the season. Not in the same extent as Glory was. If Adam would have been given the same amount of focus and screentime during season 4 as Glory was given in season 5, I would have groaned and moaned about Adam too. But he’s barely even part of the season. As for The First – that’s another badly handled Big Bad arc, as Mikejer himself(and nearly everyone else) has stated.

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  56. [Note: Joe posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Just one last note I’ll make, and that’s an apology on my part. I don’t know how I got turned around with the episode four thing–I meant five the whole time, so my bad. I misquoted you, then thought you misquoted me, etcetera, etcetera. Oops!

    I see what you’re saying about Xander, and I suppose some further careful development would have been nice, so I’ll buy that criticism in those terms.

    See? We can all get along. So long as someone (myself, I mean) starts rereading and editing a bit more carefully 🙂

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  57. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Is hell freezing over? Because I think I actually agree with some of what jarppu is saying…

    I guess the difference for me jarppu (did I get it right?!?) is that I’ve always thought of Xander as the least important of the Core Four, so his truncated development in this season didn’t bother me, although I do agree with your description of it. I however see Giles’ progression in this season as more natural and I prefer the focus on Buffy and the Summers family, so I think this season works really well.

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  58. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Yes, you managed basic spelling, Shannon. Good on you. *Pats Shannon on the head* I’ve never been that emotionally invested in Joyce or Dawn. That is only natural since Joyce was never a big part of the series – at least not the extent as the Core Four was. And during season 5 three of those Core Four members are pushed to the side, whether it feels natural to you or not. And of course since a newly introduced character Dawn isn’t that important of a character to me (even if I don’t hate her as a lot fans do).

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  59. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Actually I was being highly sarcastic, since for all your complaining about people spelling your name wrong you can’t be bothered to spell other people’s names correctly, and your own general spelling and grammar are atrocious. Glad to see you’re as rude and unpleasant as ever though.

    I think you need to go re-read the character summaries in this review. Of the core four, Xander is really the only one that is lacking this season, while Willow and Giles both receive plenty of development and growth. And yes, the focus is on Buffy/Dawn/Joyce, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I don’t expect nor want equal development for all characters in every season. This season is beautifully done and the focus on Buffy in particular is pitch-perfect.

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  60. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Okay, I think it’s time for a little game of Moderator MikeJer.

    jarppu: Many of your anger-filled comments, which — let’s be honest — constitute the vast majority of your comments, often rub off as very antagonistic and borderline rude to a lot other commenters, and to me as well sometimes. Let’s try to keep the debate friendly, even when we (in the general sense) vehemently disagree with each other.

    Shannon: It doesn’t help the situation at all to respond to antagonism with more antagonism. Calling his spelling and grammar “atrocious” is the very definition of gross misrepresentation and antagonism. I know you’re frustrated, but you’ve got to keep things civil. I’ll repeat what I said to jarppu, “Let’s try to keep the debate friendly, even when we (in the general sense) vehemently disagree with each other.”

    As for S5 itself, the season is very centered on Buffy which, considering how excellently it was executed (in how it ties into the plot, the themes, and her personal growth) and how she’s the central character of the show, really isn’t a flaw. Not every character has to get equal development every season for it to be considered a success. There are different ways of handling character development in a serialized show, and each season of Buffy has a different mix with some being more successful than others. I, personally, find S5 to be largely successful overall in where it placed its focus. I agree that S4 spreads its character development around a bit more, but Buffy’s growth that season is quite simplistic compared to what’s accomplished in S5 (as described in this very review). While I love all the characters, I must concede that Buffy is the one I find the most well developed, intriguing, and personally connected to throughout the series. Considering that I feel she’s the best developed character in all the television I’ve ever seen, I don’t see it as a slight on the other characters that they don’t get as much growth as her in different parts of the series.

    Xander doesn’t get a concrete arc this season, but does get subtle development at points throughout the season (plus the excellent “The Replacement”), as does Giles, and we’re always kept attuned to what’s on their mind as the season progresses. While it would have been nice to see Xander actually work a construction job or two in the background, it’s just not a big deal (to me, obviously). Throughout S4 (actually, this started in between S3 and S4, so it’s been near a year and a half) he was working at various different jobs so it fits in just fine that somewhere in that time frame he found something he was good at. Was the setup perfect? No. But it still fits in with what we’ve seen before.

    As S6 goes on to explore, just because he moved out of his parents’ basement doesn’t mean that he’s escaped their shadow on his life. His progression in S5 is just the first step.

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  61. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Hey, she started it. Joe and I were having a good debate and then Shannon showed up. First provoking and then when I responded to her with sarcasm she simply blew up calling people rude and unpleasant and saying my writing is atrocious. Way to go killing a good conversation, Shannon.

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  62. [Note: Joe posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    I have seen a few times on other reviews on this site that Jarrpu and Shannon have “gotten into it,” so I don’t know the extent of their, um, relationship (?), but I have to agree–I never felt personally slighted or attacked during the debate between the two of us, and, no offense Shannon, but you did seem to come in with guns unnecessarily blazing. While I may disagree personally with Jarrpu’s outlook on season five and he mine (which is kind of necessary for intellectual debate about these sorts of things, isn’t it?), I didn’t feel personally attacked–he made it pretty clear that he was being jocular in his jabs. I’m not entirely sure where the angry reply came from.

    And just for the record (in case it for some reason isn’t clear), I agree with Mikejer here–though I do appreciate seeing/hearing a well-thought out counterpoint, Jarrpu.

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  63. [Note: Blue Fan posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    Yes, Joe, I’ve noticed Shannon and Jarppu’s conflicts before in other reviews. Here are my thoughts about this season (of course, not as tight and polished as Mikejer’s or Jarppu’s):

    Season 5 is my third favourite season (after 3 and 4), because I really enjoy the changes in everybody’s life in the “seasons of the middle”.

    I couldn’t agree more with Jarppu in the fact that character development of MOST characters is vastly superior in S4 and in S5. Not only the core four, but also other characters like Oz, Riley and Spike do develop a lot here. And what’s most important: we actually can SEE that progression and feel it quite natural. Buffy, however, is much more developed in S5.

    As far as for the plot, while I found S5’s storyline extremely interesting, I found it a bit like a Tolkien story. Don’t get me wrong with this, as I said before, this is my second or third favourite season. But come on: the Knights, the hell god who comes from another dimension and the little sister as a magical key it all sounds less original than the Initiative itself. Other pop culture’s elements have been introduced before, but twisting them (in most cases) and avoiding the cliche.

    But, altough less original, S5’s plot was better developed than S4’s one. The whole Initiative thing could have been greater, as Mikejer said, had it been more explored. Also, Maggie should have been the Big Bad. How scary could be a human villain who has brains (the opposite of Warren) and who believes her actions are morally good?

    On the contrary, S5’s arc feels rather tight and coherent than any other season except 3. As Mikejer has also noticed, this plot services the characters in their development. I would only complain, as someone said before me, that Joyce dead should have been less “realistic” (not like a soap opera style). Other than that, I think it was a fantastic decision to have her death cause from a natural desease.

    I expect more polite debate, beacause I think it that here were being developed some outstanding ideas.

    As usual, I say sorry for my poor English grammar and spelling.

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  64. [Note: shannon posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    You know, I was just going to let this one go, but I feel the need to make a brief defense. I made a self-referential joke/reference to the fact that for once I agreed with jarppu on something (obviously given the fact that we don’t usually agree), and also a joking reference to the fact that many people, myself included, have spelled his/her name incorrectly. In response I got what seemed to be a rude, condescending comment from jarppu, which is kind of par for the course, as most of this individual’s responses (both to me and others) trend toward the hostile end of the spectrum. Because this has been my previous experience with said individual I am probably predisposed to come out “allguns blazing”, as Joe put it, and I apologize for any unecessarily rude comments on my part.That’s all.

    p.s. season 5 still rocks.

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  65. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    You asked a sarcactic question, Shannon. I gave a sarcastic answer. If you can’t handle someone responding to your sarcasm with equal sarcasm, just stay out. Or in other words: If can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen! It looks like you just came here looking for a fight.

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  66. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    jarppu, your initial response to her rubbed off as more patronizing than sarcastic to me. It’s easy to misinterpret tone online, so one has to be extra careful to make their attitude clear. So she didn’t respond very well after that and got heated. That doesn’t mean she should “just stay out” for making a mistake. Why are you continuing to be so antagonistic after her apology? Shannon has let it go, now you need to as well. Moving back to Season 5…

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  67. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    Heh, like anyone really feels like talking about season 5 after Shannon’s little outburst. And that was barely an apology.

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  68. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    Besides, the fact that she just laughed after I – and you Mikejer- pointed out the obviously intentional insulting things she said, doesn’t make me confident at all she really meant her vague apology.

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  69. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 4, 2010.]

    The apology felt genuine to me. Regardless, it’s time for you to let it go. Seriously. Be warned that I will delete any further comments by anyone continuing to stir up flames.

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  70. [Note: Jason posted this comment on September 1, 2010.]

    Just finished the season. My favorite so far. Loved Dawn from the start. Loved Tara and Anya. Hated Riley and Ben. Loved the arc. Loved almost everything about it.

    Actually, I have a theory about my feelings towards Riley Finn. It’s not well worked-out yet, but I’ve had this idea that he’s never *deserved* to be in the gang, because it’s really supposed to be a gang of misfits, a gang of outcasts from conventional society. Dorky Xander. Nerdy Willow. Angel wracked with guilt and age. Buffy, who just wants to be a normal girl. Giles, whose academic passions would be scorned by most “normal” people. Dawn, the girl who’s not even a girl. Even Cordelia– it seems at first like she’s just popular and conventional, but it becomes clear that she’s a misfit in her own way, clueless and insecure.

    This is why Anya and Tara fit in the gang so easily, but Joyce would never have been able to. (She’s too fundamentally well-adjusted.) And neither should Riley. Joe-America just doesn’t *deserve* to be on the inside. Not as one of the freaks and geeks who are saving the world from all the inter-dimensional demons the rest of us go about our conventional lives oblivious to.

    On to season 6!

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  71. [Note: David posted this comment on September 3, 2010.]

    I won’t go into great detail (don’t really have time at the moment), but I think this was the best season of Buffy. It had everything that I love about this series: heart, lots of humor, and some major character growth. And that image of Buffy jumping into the portal is simply unforgettable.

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  72. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on September 14, 2010.]

    Wow, a lot has been written since last I was here.

    First topic: NETFLIX!

    This is fascinating. The way the ratings work is complex– they are not regional, they are personal to you! They are based on how YOU have rated all the things you have watched, and on how people who liked those same things rated Buffy!

    In other words, the other things you have rated have resulted in a predictive rating for Buffy. Those ratings predict the likelihood of your enjoying those seasons of Buffy (and anything else on Netflix).

    Anyway, they’ve done a pretty good job of predicting our personal tastes, don’t you think? They correctly identified, to some degree, how we would see the various seasons of Buffy relative to each other.

    Although for me, the actual numbers would look more like this:

    S1: 4 stars “A” in this site’s parlance

    S2: 5 A+

    S3: 5 A+

    S4: 4 A

    S5: 3 B

    S6: 1 F

    S7: 2 D

    But back to the topic at hand– it would be VERY interesting to see all the things you have rated and all the things I have rated, because those taste differences would go hand in hand with our Buffy differences, I think. And this goes for ALL “loyalists” (people who like the later seasons) vs. “Jumpers” (who do not like the later seasons). I can guess at a lot of these differences:

    Jumpers like original Star Trek, loyalists prefer the “New Generation.”

    Jumpers like “House M.D.,” loyalists like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

    Loyalists like “One Tree Hill” and “The OC” and “Gossip Girl” and etc. Jumpers like little in this category… “Gilmore Girls” is all I can think of.

    Of course, in general, loyalists like soap operas. Jumpers cannot stand them.

    By the same token, jumpers enjoy sitcoms far more than loyalists. But I’m thinking that loyalists do at least enjoy “How I Met Your Mother.” However, they probably enjoy “That 70s Show” much less than jumpers do.

    Jumpers think the first Star Wars movie was the best. Loyalists greatly prefer the second. And of course, Loyalists like the last three movies more than jumpers do.

    Loyalists, I can guarantee you, like “The Dollhouse” a whole lot more than the Jumpers. But both liked “Firefly.”

    Loyalists like “Avatar,” jumpers “District 9.”

    Loyalists love serialized teen books. I will guarantee you that loyalists rate the Potter movies much more highly than jumpers do, as well as Twilight. Deny the latter all you like, but I feel pretty confident about it.

    Loyalists like Anne Rice, jumpers Stephen King.

    Of course, this is all speculation. It would be fun to see a full (and real) list, though. There would be some differences no one would expect.

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  73. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on September 15, 2010.]

    mikejer: <>

    The plot was weak, but I pointed out far more than that… the dialogue was bad (and there was too much of it… a talking head episode: cinematic no-no), the episode was banally shot and edited, and the music was awful.

    But as far as the “character perspective” goes, this too is a huge problem for me that I perhaps did not make clear. I do not believe, for even a second, in the end of Buffy and Riley’s relationship as it was written here. Completely and wholly unbelievable. They basically broke up over NOTHING.

    I did not believe– at all– in the Riley-seeing-vampire-prostitutes subplot.

    These things were WRITTEN. It was not believable that the characters would do those things for any other reason other than the writers wanting them to. And that is weak writing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was glad they broke up. I remember well when this episode first aired, standing up and cheering as Riley’s helicopter flew away. As a character, he was boring from the start, and they made him far more of a drag S5.

    I mean seriously, what kind of cretin whines about wanting to be loved more passionately and “needed” more while his love’s mother is possibly dying? Completely ridiculous.

    Still, it is true that STORY matters a whole lot more to me than character soap operatics, which is where our differences lie here. I like stories. “Superstar” and “I Was Made to Love You” are the sort of episodes I like from s5.

    “Into the Woods” had no real story to tell at all. As with too many episodes in s5.

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  74. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on September 15, 2010.]

    Shannon: like how Big Time James has elected himself “Voice of the Silent Majority”. That’s a pretty large assumption you’ve made about all these mysteriously silent ex-fans.

    Not much of an assumption here. I was there with them, at the time. I went to conventions with them, posted with them on the Bronze at the time the episodes were actually airing. You were likey in kindergarten at the time, so of course you don’t know them. They’ve gone on to other things. As had I, until recently, watching the series again with my son.

    would still argue that people who really only like 2/7 of a show’s seasons aren’t actually the “original fans” as BTJ claims, but people who briefly got psyched on the show and simply didn’t like how it evolved.

    How does that not make them “original fans”?

    Also, the word you are looking for is “devolved.” And it devolved itself right out of existence.

    But hey, maybe you’re right. Just like people didn’t like the way the second and third “Matrix” movies “evolved,” or the last 3 Star Wars movies. Lol. People who don’t like the later editions just aren’t “real fans”…

    As Mike pointed out, there are a ton of things out there – TV, movies, art in general – whose quality is not measured by the number of viewers

    Let’s stay on point here– the point is not how many viewers Buffy had compared to other shows. The point is how many viewers the show had s2 and s3 compared to the rest. Got a plausible explanation for that?

    I can’t help but feel that you didn’t actually read or absorb what Mike wrote in this season review, and that you’re simply stating a personal bias against/dislike of Season 5, which is totally fine

    I think I wrote more salient critical facts to support my opinion than he did, if in fewer words. I did read what he wrote. Tell me what I’m missing.

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  75. [Note: Big Time James posted this comment on September 15, 2010.]

    Argh. My quotes didn’t go through. Oh well, I’m not rewriting. I’ll just leave those posts semi-coherent. They’re kinda fun that way. Last topic: DAWN.

    As I promised a couple months ago.

    What is wrong with Dawn? First and foremost, the writers appear to think she is 8 years old. She was written as though none of the writers had ever been around or talked to an actual teenage girl in their entire lives (which is strange, since several of them WERE once teenage girls). Actually, my daughter was 8 when we first watched these, and SHE found Dawn to be ridiculously immature (functionally retarded?) at the time.

    On top of that, she is whiney and annoying. And a danger to trying to entertain people with a character who is annoying is that your audience will be ANNOYED rather than amused. As too many of us were.

    What did she add to the ahow that it needed? Nothing. We didn’t need another character who caused trouble through her own stupidity (as when she was kidnapped by Harmony), or who constantly needed saving (a cliche the writers thought they could get away with overusing simply by ackowledging it onscreen– weak).

    And ultimately, the adding of a new, younger character to keep a show “fresh” is a FAMOUSLY hackneyed and cheesy device– and it never works. Joss Whedon thought his “magical” explanation for doing the same thing was clever enough to get away with it, but it was still the same old embarrassing late addition, regardless of how it was done.

    The only way to get away with it would have been over time, by giving us a chartacter who was interestingly written, and who added something to the show that it needed. Dawn represented neither. Indeed, the thoroughly poor writing of her only exacerbated the original sin of adding her in the first place.

    Dawn is by far the worst character on the show, and she was everpresent s5 on.

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  76. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on October 8, 2010.]

    I agree with BTJ about Dawn – I think I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, actually. I don’t mind her as a plot device for season five, but that she and the altered version of everyone’s lives stayed past the last episode is… not great to me. The writers become even more unsure of what to do with her over the next two seasons, and despite the time passing and the events that ought to have matured her, Dawn will go ahead and do the get out get out GET OUUUUT fit again. It seems, to me, that they were trying so hard to create a realistic portrayal of a teen (as opposed to the trio of the early seasons) that they overshot, and came out with something extreme, immature, and sort of cringe-worthy. I was the same age as Dawn when the show was airing, and her whiny, self-involved, over-dramatic behaviour was mortifying. I wasn’t the easiest teenager in the world, but fortunately neither I nor my friends got on like that. (I refer to her usual attitude, not the cutting-self-during-adoption-metaphor episode whose title I forget.)

    While I think Dawn was quite a misstep in the season – and to the rest of the show – I still think season five is brilliant, and you’ve helped me to articulate why, Mike. It includes The Body, the only episode of TV that left me emotionally shattered (my mum and I went through an entire box of tissues, and couldn’t speak for about twenty minutes after the episode ended). I didn’t feel Giles and Xander’s developments were out of the blue, though I can respect why others do. I thought having Buffy shoved into a catatonic state was gutsy and unprecedented, and it gave everyone else the action she usually takes. Triangle made me laugh so much I made embarrassing little pig snorts. I was horrified when Tara had her mind sucked out by Glory. Giles killed a guy for the greater good. Spike went from funny to disturbing to sweet in the space of a single season. Buffy died. Buried in the ground died (we knew there was another season, but we also knew that it was going to be screwed up as all hell because Buffy was decomposing).

    You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Glory or Dawn in my list of likes, ’cause they’re not in it. And much as I dislike both of them, they simply can’t bring down my enjoyment of the season. The stand-alones rock my world, and even the plot-heavy episodes and complete-fail Knights of Byzantium provide insightful and sometimes shocking opportunities for the main characters. I fast-forward past plot bits and focus on the pieces I enjoy – and by bob do I enjoy them. A lot of the fanbase really liked the plot this season, which I think is what helps to secure its place as one of the most-loved seasons. But as someone who never liked it, season five is still near the top of my list. Rather than focusing on teenage life or University life, they shift the focus onto adult life; jobs, apartments, bereavence, responsibilities, dependents… and, of course, saving the world. I thought it was a great transitional season between the adolescent past and the dark, painful period of season six, where life itself became the Big Bad.

    Personally, I can’t understand why people would think this is anywhere near the worst season, though I can usually appreciate their individual comments. There’s a lot of good in S5, and for me, it makes up for the bad. Great season review, as always, Mike!

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  77. [Note: Flo posted this comment on October 10, 2010.]

    Apparently I am the only one who actually likes Riley this season.

    Although that is admittedly partly due to a misunderstanding on my part regarding riley’s vampire-escapades. I thought for the most time that we was also drinking vampire blood in return in the hopes ot regaining some of his lost power (and maybe becoming a bit more like Buffy’s former lover Angel).

    That he was just trying to find oneone else to feel needed by cheapens the plot somewhat; but the basic idea behind it, that he fears that Buffy no longer needs him, remains the same.

    I find it interesting to note that Buffy apparently doesn’t perceive this problem herself; she still needs (and I believe also honestly loves) him, just not in the way he is used to being needed, and not as completely as he would have liked. Indeed, had Riley managed to find a new purpose in life that didn’t depend solely on Buffy, I think he would have been Buffy’s best shot at having a stable and healthy relationship.

    Moving on to other characters, i really liked Glory as a villain, but am surprised that she is so generally described as “dumb”. My impression was actually that her flaw was much rather that she was so completely self-absorbed, and thus unwilling to pay attention to anything that wasn’t entirely about herself. Case in point being her abandoning the pursuit of Buffy and the monk in 5×05 in favour of attending to her broken shoe.

    Concerning Dawn, I agree that her immaturity was a little over the top, but that is how a lot of character traits are exagerated in the show – in particular in the first seasons (like Cordelia’s snottiness, Xander’s insecurity or Willow’s nerdiness). I think she worked rather well this season as a counterpoint to Buffy’s growing maturity.

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  78. [Note: hardlyeverpost posted this comment on January 5, 2011.]

    I have never posted on this site before and only found it about a week ago. I love reading these kind of websites about shows because I am the type of person to really only care about characters and when I read these type of reviews I see a show on a whole new level.

    I was in junior high/high school when this show was on and I refused to watch it because I was totally put off by the name and the movie with the same name. I have now watched the entire series on DVD as I have grown to be a HUGE TV fanatic and avidly watch shows I missed out on. I have to say this isn’t my favourite season but is my second favourite after 6! I love reading the reviews but I don’t always agree. I didn’t pick 2 and 3 in my favourites because I didn’t like Buffy with Angel or really Angel at all, I did like Angelus though. I am trying to watch AtS right now and and having a hard time sticking to it because I really don’t like Angel’s character that much.

    Anyways that was a little off topic. What I loved about this season was it showed a real LOVE relationship in Willow and Tara, I loved having more Spike, I was glad Giles had more of a purpose than season 4, Anya started to hit her stride and Buffy started to grow up.

    I didn’t like Riley (never did) or Dawn and I never thought Xander should have been core anyhow.

    Thanks for the great review, I see the show on a whole new level than from my eyes alone!

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  79. [Note: Anne posted this comment on April 13, 2011.]

    I just want to say thanks mikejer for your reviews, these as well as the scholar’s view on Nik and Nite “The great Buffy rewatch” really highten my experience of the series, this is a work of art that is hard to truely appreciate on a superficial level like I had when i saw it for the first time.

    Also in my opinion you really helped explain why I love season 5 the best, it is masterful.

    In my opinion if the series would never have grown up from its season 2 and 3 feel it would not have been as special and unique and talked about as it is now. The character evolution is what keeps us talking and debating.

    Kudos to you mikejer for your tremendous work

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  80. [Note: Louisa posted this comment on May 24, 2011.]

    Glory disappears here and there in Season 5 because some of the time she’s Ben. The magic that keeps them separate broke down toward the end of the season, but earlier on, Ben was able to hold down a full-time job so he must have been better able to hold on for fairly long periods of time until the portal thing timing kicked in to countdown. It was a sign that Glory was more powerfully prominent when Ben lost his job.

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  81. [Note: xfactor posted this comment on August 11, 2011.]

    This isn’t close to the best season of Buffy. It ranks ahead of season 4 and 7, and tied with season 6 but that’s about it. Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are far superior.

    The Riley downward spiral was nicely done, with both him and Buffy to blame. But the Glory storyline was incredibly boring and Dawn is the single worst main character on this show (a shame since i love Michelle Trachtenberg). The only episode where she is remotely tolerable is Real Me. It all goes downhill from there.

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  82. [Note: julaalala posted this comment on December 3, 2011.]

    There’s no denying that this is a good season. But it’s very overrated. They should have given the storyline more exploration and development. Having 8 main characters didn’t really help either.

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  83. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on February 4, 2012.]

    Season 5 is the one that got me hooked on Buffy and made me realize that this show is so much more profound than it appears at first. I watched the series out of order, starting with season 5, so it will always be the most special to me.

    On the topic of each season’s “big bad”, it’s interesting to zoom out and look at what each season’s villain means in the overall development of the show and its characters (you may have already talked about this in a review I haven’t read yet).

    Season 2’s evil was Buffy’s boyfriend, which made it extremely personal for her, Season 3 was the town mayor, Season 4 involved the federal government, and Season 5 involved a god. As we move from the deeply personal to the larger social and political structures and then to the theological, each villain pushes the characters to new heights in their strength and maturity. I especially love S 5 for juxtaposing a god with Buffy’s spiritual journey into her own nature.

    And then Season 6’s villains turn out not to be something bigger than S 5, but rather the complete opposite – the 3 dorkiest, most immature boys. It makes perfect sense when looking at Buffy’s character at that point – lost, depressed, struggling to reclaim who she is. Having suffered from severe chronic depression myself (I remember you mentioning that you hadn’t), I can say S 6 really hit the nail on the head and I really, really love the writers for taking such a dark risk with it. S 6 can easily be a metaphor for a person’s depression and/or quarter or mid-life crisis – a time when they really have no direction and feel they have lost their purpose and passion for life. In those times, even the littlest challenges feel like mountains, which is why those 3 dorks are such perfect villains. And then S 7, when Buffy has overcome her personal demons, she is all the stronger for having gotten through that phase and is able to take on the source of all evil by spreading her knowledge and strength to others.

    It’s just so beautiful to contemplate this whole arc, but it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if S 6 hadn’t happened. In order to be realistic and true to human nature, the show had to take that nose dive and then come out of it.

    Sorry for all the blabbering. I LOVE YOUR REVIEWS!! Thank you for this site!

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  84. [Note: green posted this comment on March 15, 2012.]

    Was just trying to decide if I wanted to try to watch season 5, again. It’s been a while, and the first time I hated it. I thought time might have mellowed me and I just finished seasons 1-4. I read this and it firmly convinced me to never watch it again. I abandoned Buffy because of this season, although I heard the following seasons were even worse.

    To me, it was actually written like Joss WANTED to kill the show off. I thought it was that bad. Not gonna try to justify my feelings, I just wanted to chime in.

    I’m chiming in mostly because of BTJ’s insightful posts. I would be classified as a Jumper, by him. This one statement hit the nail on the head though ‘Of course, in general, loyalists like soap operas. Jumpers cannot stand them.’

    In a nutshell, that’s it. Almost every statement he made about movies Jumpers would like, I agree with. The only reason I can’t agree on them all is because I haven’t seen some of them. They just don’t appeal to me, so I never watched them, and won’t. I can’t stand Soap Operas or Space Operas, and I think that’s why I so disagree with season 5 being the best. There were just too many characters I couldn’t tolerate at all, including both Dawn and Glory. I actually rolled my eyes the entire way through ‘The Gift’. They really should have left Buffy dead.

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  85. [Note: Alex posted this comment on March 15, 2012.]

    Green, from your post I can’t tell whether or not you’ve actually rewatched Season 5 again. Have you? I ask because the first time I saw it, when I was admittedly still a teenager, I remember thinking it was rubbish. I didn’t really watch the whole season but I dipped in and out of it and my memories of it were not good.

    However, having watched it again more recently, I’ve developed a very different opinion. If you haven’t already rewatched it, I’d be interested to hear if your opinions have changed when you do.

    And on the whole loyalist vs. jumpers thing… I guess I’m a loyalist, but only about half of those statements are accurate in my case. Take from that what you will.

    I also can’t help noticing that if you replace ‘jumpers’ with ‘men’ and ‘loyalists’ with ‘women’ a lot of those statements probably seem true, in terms of a pretty generalised, stereotypical view (although not one that I agree with, I hasten to add).

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  86. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 15, 2012.]

    This whole “jumpers” vs “loyalists” argument feels kind of pointless to me. I like quality television that has has emotional and intellectual heft, with characters that are are well-developed and have psychological depth to them. Shows that have these qualities are the ones I watch TV for. Buffy Season 5 is an excellent example of a season that has these qualities, from top to bottom. I don’t particularly care what category that makes it fall under. I mean, who really cares whether something has soap opera qualities or not if it’s well-written and filled with evolving and vibrant characters? Maybe that’s just me? It’s not like Season 5 is anything like your average plot-driven daytime soap junk.

    Another thought is that a lot of the emotional power from the season derives from its consistent underlying themes and the surrounding character development, so if one is to watch the season more casually, I think they’d be a lot less likely to engage with it nearly as much, if at all. Most of the people I see that rage about the later seasons don’t tend to think about the show on a thematic level very much. This is, of course, not to say that there aren’t people who do think on this level and still have solid complaints about these seasons. But that’s the exception, I find. And to remove a consideration of the thematic relevance of the final three seasons in one’s analysis is to gut the core of what those respective seasons are trying to say about the characters and their journeys. A fair and substantive analysis of the seasons cannot exist without thinking about these factors.

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  87. [Note: keekey posted this comment on March 15, 2012.]

    I disagree that the later seasons of Buffy are somehow more “soap opera”-like than the earlier seasons. I found the whole Buffy/Angel plot line in the earlier seasons to be at least as sudsy as anything in the later seasons (which doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the earlier seasons because I thought they were great, but I’m always puzzled when people who prefer the earlier seasons criticize the later seasons as a “soap opera.”) So the Jumper/Loyalist distinction doesn’t resonate much for me here. But then, per BTJ’s test, I would be totally confused because I like House M.D. and District 9 but still think The Empire Strikes Back was the best Star Wars movie.

    I agree with MikeJer’s point that episodes in the later seasons were woven together in a way that seems to make them more satisfying if you have the luxury of sitting and watching the episodes back-to-back-to-back, while the earlier seasons are more easily enjoyed piecemeal. Actually, for that reason, I find myself re-watching Season 4 episodes with a frequency totally disproportionate to my actual enjoyment of Season 4 overall because I think that season’s real strength was its great stand-alone episodes (Pangs, Something Blue, Hush, etc.) while it’s overall story arc was much weaker than the arcs in most seasons.

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  88. [Note: Kurt posted this comment on August 13, 2012.]

    My favourite season overall and this review clearly shows why, every episode thoughout is almost perfect to me and was exactly what I hoped 6 and 7 could of been… sadly not quite. I think Buffy could of quite easily ended here and I wouldn’t of particually cared.

    I like these reviews, I have been re-watching Buffy from the beginning and reading some of the points you make and I have to agree with most of them. Also, it’s good to see others are actually still watching this show today. You probably find it strange getting praise for work you did over 5 years ago but still, good job 🙂

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  89. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 13, 2012.]

    Not strange in the slightest, Kurt! I’m just as excited about the show as I was 5 years ago (in some ways, maybe even more), and I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews.

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  90. [Note: NewSpock posted this comment on August 19, 2012.]

    Agree with most parts of your review. It is imho indeed one of the best seasons of Buffy, imho only beaten by the second half of season 2, that imho simply can’t be topped by anything.

    I disagree with the low rating of Family, I think it’s a masterly executed episode and important for Tara’s character, although I can understand it regarding the one-dimensionality of Tara’s family, but then they only got one episode so it’s hard to open up things.

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  91. [Note: Arachnea posted this comment on March 6, 2013.]

    I know I’m late to add something and I don’t mean to put oil in the fire, but give my opinion about the differences between the first seasons of Buffy and the later ones.

    When Buffy first aired, I was just beginning my “career” as a young mother. Some of my friends tried to hook me on the show and I didn’t bite: I thought it was a meaningless and silly show about teens and monsters, with a clichéd love story between the cute blond and the vampire. Then… what ? A scary puppet, evil hyenas, evil demony computer with horns ?!! Well, my friends had a lot of fun. I had too, but because I thought it was terribly corny and laughable. Some years later, someone made me watch “The Body” and I thought, ok, a show that can punch your guts must have something to say.

    So I started again and in english (the voices in french are absolutely terrible and made the acting look bad). I watched with more attention and was hooked (but I still believe season one isn’t very good). My take on it is that seasons 1-2-3 and to some extent 4, feel very young. From season 5, it’s more mature, more adult, darker and more risky. I don’t believe for one second it’s about original fans vs later or jumpers vs loyalists (even if this were true, I wouldn’t fit at all on the stereotypical list). But that’s why I love all of Buffy and the feeling on the seasons fit the pattern: the story of a teenager growing to become an adult. Problems that feel huge when you’re a teen but cannot compare to the problems you will be faced with later in life. If you compare the Mayor to Glory, there’s a huge difference in terms of complexity. The Mayor was a lot of fun, but Glory – as annoying as she could be at times – was a concept more difficult to grasp, with complex ramifications, a look over society, humanity and insanity.

    So, objectively, Buffy as a show is slowly progressive, wether you like the changes or not, from lighthearted to more serious. But life is about changes, some we like, some we dislike ;).

    I believe you will like or dislike a season based on what you’re looking for. I happen to mostly agree with MikeJer because I like to watch complex characters try, fail, learn, evolve and I like the writers not taking the safe route. Season 5 is my favourite (emotionally, it’s the most resonant), then 3,6,4,2,7,1. Mostly because I don’t think that Buffy is about the scoobies, but about the changes in life of a young girl and around her life gravit her friends, family and ennemies. It doesn’t mean that the scoobies and Giles aren’t important ! I enjoy their development as much as those of Buffy, but it doesn’t bother me if a season focuses on the main character/metaphor of the show and BtVS still pull it off with including good comedy even with darker stuff. And I say that even though Buffy is only my second favourite character on the show ;).

    So, I understand why some disliked the changes, because there’s a different take and theme on each season. Whereas each Trek remained true to it’s own show, but evolved with each new series (and not necessarily for the best :P). That’s what sets BtVS apart and that’s why I can watch the entire show several times without being bored. More over, read insightful reviews and comments, because there’s always some new details to discover ! Thank you Mike and sorry for all my long comments… I don’t seem able to synthesize my thoughts in english…

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  92. [Note: Gon posted this comment on March 6, 2013.]

    Personally I don’t see it like you, Arachnea.

    I agree there are two main Buffy periods. We can call them “adolescence years” (S1,2,3) vs. “adult years” (s5,6,7). S4 is something different, I think, in between.

    You wrote “problems that feel huge when you’re a teen […] cannot compare to the problems you will be faced with later in life”. I’m not sure about that. I don’t think that Buffy’s problems in high school just feel huge: they are huge. I don’t know, I just don’t believe that “adult problems” are necessarily harder or darker.

    I’m a 35-years-old male and I still think I had the hardest years or my life, and the most compelling problems, when I was a teenager. Life as an adult has been surely more difficult in a material way and the way I see things is much more complex – but I’m sure I’ve faced a much worse period during adolescence.

    I prefer BTVS “adolescence years” mostly because I think they’re more original and strong. We see a world of changes there, but we also have a very coherent world. We see Buffy & other characters grow, but there’s always an original premise respected. I’m very fond of that.

    I think the “adult years” don’t possess the same coherence. Though I admit that’s necessary, because when you’re a young adult things change so much, I think the result is not so strong. Also I never totally disagree with the paths the series take in the “adolescence years”. Sadly I can’t say the same about the “adult years” (I’m talking about S7).

    Well, that’s merely my way of feeling it. This being said, many – if not most – of my favorite episodes of BTVS belong to the late seasons. And my favorite seasons would be, in order, 3, 4, 6, 2, 5, 7, 1, which I suppose it’s balanced.

    I’ve expressed my feelings about S5 in my comment to “The Gift”. I’m sorry if I went off-topic here. I just felt the need to defend teenage-Buffy 🙂

    Oh, but I do agree the French version is terrifying.

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