THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy to celebrate Dark Horse Comics' release of "Buffy Season 10" on March 19 and "Angel and Faith Season 10" on April 2. So far we've done:
Buffy Season 1 (and an overview of why we love Buffy)
Buffy Season 2
Buffy Season 3
Buffy Season 4
Angel Season 1
Meanwhile, in Sunnydale, a major retcon has taken place. Out of nowhere, Buffy suddenly has an annoying kid sister, Dawn. In retrospect, after 3 more seasons on televisions and 2 more in comics, this seems completely natural and normal. Of course, Buffy always had a sister, just like those monks intended, right? But at the time, it was shocking to a lot of fans. Especially after a much-hyped but somewhat lackluster season premiere episode featuring Dracula, nerd rage did abound, including from yours truly.
However, in context of the season, this all makes sense, especially as seen through the lens of episode 6, "Family," written and directed by Joss Whedon himself. It would seem like a throwaway for Whedon's talents on a relatively minor, Tara-centric episode, except when Tara's father, brother, and sister (played by Amy Adams-- who knew?!?) confront the Scoobies in The Magic Box, revealing Tara's part-demon heritage and demanding she be turned over to them so she can be locked away, the patriarch demands to know, "Who gave you the right?"
"We're family," Buffy declares. Because long before it was almost a cliche to say it, love made a family with them, Tara was as much a part of the gang as anyone else, and they would fight to protect her. Same for Dawn. Because Season 5 is all about family. And love. And death. And what we do for those we love.
And, of course, it's impossible to discuss that without mentioning episode 16, "The Body," and the drastic changes that has on the series. (More below)
Hightlights: Giles takes over the magic shop and Anya finds a job the shopkeeper. Xander gets split in two. Buffy stands up to the Watchers Council. The introduction of Warren (and his robot girlfriend. . .and the robot Buffy for Spike. . . ewwwwwww). Harmony and Drusilla. And Spike, Spike, Spike, and Spike.
Lowlights: Glory is kind of terrible as a Big Bad. She's annoying as hell, basically all-powerful, and super shallow. I mean that both about her personaliy and as a character. There's just not much there there. I think a Supreme Being or God is kind of a boring character archetype to begin with (Angel will have this same problem with the introduction of Jasmine, though they pull it off better.) Spike is the better nemesis and a lot of the best moments are his, not Glory's. Some of the effects were just not quite there, too (I'm looking at you, giant snake!) And Riley kind of goes out like a bitch, not with a bang, but a whimper.
"Fool for Love," Episode 5.7 guest review by Specbot
Spike is the ultimate break out character. Everyone I know loves him, but possibly the greatest feat of his character is that instead of making him a one-note flanderization of himself in later seasons, he was fleshed out. And as a result, I loved him even more. “Fool for Love” shows Spike’s backstory: his turning, the origin of his nickname, and exactly how he became the slayer of slayers. It’s a fun journey down a memory lane we’ve never seen before, turns into a few brutal fights, and hey it’s always fun to see Angelus again. This episode more than any before it really put into question Spike’s feelings for Buffy: does he really love her, or is it just another extension of his obsession with Slayers?
"The Body," Episode 5.16. You can't talk about Season 5 and not talk about this episode. Buffy and her friends are surrounded by death, and yet it has never hit so close to home. And the culprit is not vampires, or robots, or demons, or even supreme beings from another dimension. The problem with this is it feels almost voyeuristic. This is so hard to watch. We shouldn't be invading these intense, private moments.
As a piece of art, as an episode of television, what stands out is Whedon's script and direction. Every member of the group processes the loss differently. And Whedon shoots it so interestingly, with shots that resemble seeing things through Buffy's eyes: staring at the phone as it goes in and out of focus, looking only at the paramedic's chest instead of his face. We see, from inside Dawn's classroom, as two sisters, two of most powerful beings in the universe, the Slayer and the Key, deal with this situation beyond both of their control.
And we hear nothing. In a show known for its soundtrack, this episode has no music. We follow Xander, and there is silence. Willow freaks out because she can't decide on the right shirt. And then there's Anya.
9 out of 10
Overall rating for Season Five: 7 out of 10 I'm still a little miffed at the whole Dawn ret-con. It's been 15 years, and still. This season was, overall, incredibly uneven. Some of it was absolutely amazing and masterful. And some of it was just ok. But, in 2000-2001, Buffy and Angel were, collectively, the best show on TV.