BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Buffy Summers -
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Rupert Giles -
Anthony Stewart Head
Willow Rosenberg -
Xander Harris -
Joyce Summers -
OTHER BUFFY SEASONS
OTHER VAMPIRE SHOWS
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER's fifth series is the series where Buffy grows up, not just as a character, but as a show. Gone are the heady days of a high school girl jump-kicking her way through teenage angst and schoolday worries. This is the series where the show gets adult, just as the character is forced to grow up.
Love, family, responsibility, pain, death and sacrifice are the themes of the series. Nothing too weighty there then. It starts off with the light, bright and utterly silly Buffy vs Dracula, throws in a masterful dramatic curveball in the shape of sister Dawn who is just suddenly there for a couple of episodes before it is explained that she is the key to universal destruction. Then Glory, the indestructible Goddess with a fancy for shoes and bubble baths is introduced. So far so funny.
Then the darkness begins to set in. Riley, Buffy's second love, leaves when he can't fit into Buffy's life of protecting Dawn. Buffy starts to doubt her own abilities. Dawn learns the truth about what she is and turns to a spot of self-harming.
The real sucker punch, though, comes with the death of Buffy and Dawn's mother, Joyce, in The Body. This episode alone justifies the existence of the show. A finer piece of dramatic work you would be hard set to find. It is brilliant, shocking and an example of what can be achieved in a genre show if you have faith, great writers and a strong cast. The Body is the highlight of the series and the whole show to date.
But it doesn't end there. Forever is a fine examination of grief within the concept of the Buffyverse, The Weight of the World is a strong examination of guilt and the series finale, The Gift, is another exceptional episode in the very best series of this wonderful show.Top
Buffy vs Dracula
A new vampire comes to town, a famous one, famous one. Dracula has finally come to make the slayer his own and she seems unable to withstand his spell.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER has built up a whole new mythology around its own view of vampires so bringing in the original icon is a bit of risk, but the show treats him with the exact levels of both respect and disrespect to pull it off. Having him show up exactly as he appeared in the movies, all cape and pale skin, gives the californians a chance to sneer and make jokes, but allowing him to invade Buffy's home and bite her is a surprisingly shocking turn of events that makes Dracula into a credible threat to the Slayer.
Nicholas Brendon gets the best comedy moments as he is turned into the bug-eating Renfield of the piece, but Giles' encounter with the three female vampires that Dracula keeps in tow is equally funny.
When it's over and the dust of another dead vamp has settled, though, there will only be one thing on your mind - Excuse me, sister?Top
Buffy's little sister Dawn is feeling put upon by her heroine sister. Buffy is hampered by having Dawn around all the time. Familial tensions are not eased when ex-Sunnydale High girl Harmony arrives in town with her new gang and a plan to kill the Slayer.
Harmony and her gang of misfit vampires are never a real threat to Buffy, but then this episode isn't about her. This story introduces the character of Dawn, but doesn't give any explanation for her. There's no way that the whole production crew could think that nobody would notice the sudden introduction of a whole new character after four full seasons without even a line of explanation, so this is clearly a clever plot ploy. Well either that or the worse continuity gaffe in the history of television.
Michelle Trachtenberg is the newcomer and she does a pretty good job of conveying the innate clumsiness and lack of self-confidence that can only come in early teens. Having a superhero as a sister has to be hard, but at this time it must be crushing.
Even so, we're going to want answers, and soon. And a serious villain would be good as well.Top
The demon known as Toth has a plan to kill Buffy, but when they have a fight at the city dump, his spell hits Xander, not her. When he wakes up in the morning, he finds that the demon has taken his face and his life and seems to be doing a better job with both.
The whole ying/yang, split into the good and the bad sides is pretty old hat and has been used in everything from STAR TREK to LOGAN'S RUN to RED DWARF, but whilst it may not be original it is, given the Buffy twist, thoroughly entertaining. Nicholas Brendon manages to make his postive and negative sides different enough to tell apart without making them seem like two different people, which is helped by the fact that he has a twin brother which allows Xander to appear opposite himself without tricky effects. If you don't know then you wouldn't tell.
Apart from that there's the usual quota of pithy, funny dialogue to be getting on with, more than making up for the lack of serious action.Top
Out of My Mind
Riley's health starts to suffer as the experiments carried out on him by the Intiaitive doctors begin failing. He needs to be operated on as a matter of urgency, but Spike has kidnapped the Doctor in order to have the killing-inhibitor-chip removed from his brain. If that wasn't enough, Buffy's mother faints at home.
This is a low key episode that is very much about the relationship between Riley and Buffy and his difficulties in coming to terms with the fact that she has superpowers and he is about to lose some of the enhanced strength that the Initiative gave him. AS such, there is very little action. The wit and humour are there, all played out between the very likeable characters whom the cast inhabit like second skins. Nothing here feels forced or out of place.
Buffy's mother's illness is actually more affecting that Riley's because of its unexplained nature and what seems like filler when you look back on the episode never feels like it whilst your watching.Top
No Place Like Home
A group of monks running from something they call only 'the Beast' carry out a final enchantment in order to protect the key. The Beast turns out to be a beautiful woman more powerful than even Buffy. There is a fight and Buffy loses, badly, but not before the last of the surviving monks explains about Dawn.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is a show so confident in itself that it can run a conceit like the sudden appearance of a younger sister for the main character and then not explain it until the fifth episode. That could easily be seen as utter arrogance except for the simple fact that the show is utterly brilliant and the conceit works brilliantly. It's a set up that other shows would kill for; clever, original and fitting nicely in with the show's established mythology. Hell, they even have the balls to play with their own mythology by making the oh-so-threatening big bad evil a young woman not unlike Buffy herself (monk-slaying and brain-sucking aside).
This is why we love BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.Top
Willow’s girlfriend Tara is about to turn 20 when her family turn up to take her home. For Tara has a secret. On her birthday the demon that is within her will break free and she will show her true face. Of course, she can hide that side of herself from them with a spell, but when full demons attack the spell leaves them blind to their attackers.
Family is everything and the Scoobies are now Tara's family. Buffy's family is giving her nothing but grief. Now that she knows the truth about Dawn she has to deal with that and her mother's failing health continues to be a major cause for concern.
It's a lesser story, based around the minor character of Tara, who is now destined to become more significant, but one that is funny and dramatic and emotional (but in a good way). The face off with the family is genuinely moving rather than trite. The triteness comes with the cringe-inducing last shot.Top
Fool For Love
A vampire manages to stab Buffy and get away. Shocked by her failure, she is determined to know more about how the other slayers died, but of course they weren't left around to write reports about it afterwards. There is one source of information, however. Spike, the vampire with a chip in his brain, was once capable of killing not one, but two slayers.
There are some really adult (by which I mean grown up) ideas in this episode. It's about the characters and nothing else. The slayers died because of an inherent weakness in themselves. A weakness that Buffy cannot be immune to. Her mother's illness is an enemy that she is powerless against and the dark shadow in the background is still capable of beating her with ease. Sarah Michelle Gellar shows again what a strong actress she has become, dealing with these themes with a powerful performance. Both she and the show are maturing nicely.
It's not just a one woman episode, though. This is also Spike's story. We are treated to his history from the time he was turned to the time he killed his second slayer and his current persona was perfected. This starts off being played for laughs (William the Bloody before he was turned was a very different man), but it gets darker and darker as he tells the tale of the killings. James Marsters also shows that he can give a bit of depth to the character if he's given the script to work with.Top
The gorgeous demon girl is called Glory and she's summoning up something nasty that can help her find the key. Buffy, frustrated at her inability to help her mother's failing health, sets out to kill her, but gets her butt royally kicked. She has to find and kill the newly-risen monster before it finds Dawn.
There was a time when BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was bright, cheerful, fun show that just wanted to entertain (and we're only talking as far back as The Replacement), but the darkness has set in big style. Buffy's mother's illness has cast a real shadow (no pun intended) over the whole show and the characters are responding accordingly. This is powerful, human drama and doesn't even need the supernatural stuff to keep it going. The cast, most especially Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michelle Trachtenberg and Kristine Sutherland (as Buffy's mother) are putting in really strong performances that wouldn't be out of place in any medical drama.
On top of all that Riley is feeling shut out and has taken to allowing vampires to bite his neck. There's very little light in Sunnydale, but that's OK because the drama is compelling rather than depressing and there's always Spike's sweater sniffing (don't ask) and Glory's toadying servant to raise a smile above the gloom.Top
Listening to Fear
Whilst Buffy takes time off from her slaying duties to help nurse her mother, an extraterrestrial demon falls to Earth in a meteorite and sets about killing those people suffering from mental illness. Buffy's recently discharged mother is a perfect target.
The story of Buffy's mother and her brain tumour is taking centre stage over the monsters and the slaying and that's just fine because it's actually quite fine drama. Sarah Michelle Gellar gets some meaty acting scenes with Kristine Sutherland, ably supported by Michelle Trachtenberg. Dealing with a mental illness is not the kind of subject that teens are likely to watch television about, so introducing into this show is a masterstroke.
The downsides are that there is less for everyone else to do other than look worried and the slaying stories take a back seat. The demon in this episode is pretty lame and always less than scary so that when it takes on Buffy it never looks like being any sort of a contest at all. The revealing of a link between Glory and the hospital intern called Ben is also a smart twist.Top
Into the Woods
Buffy's mother comes out of her brain surgery and the doctor's say that it's been a complete success. Her relationship with Riley, however, goes onto the critical list when Spike reveals to her that Riley has been driven to a club where humans pay for vampires to bite them. Riley's been offered his job back in the military and tells Buffy that they seem to need him a lot more than she does.
Sometimes love isn't enough. Sometimes people can't cope with the little that their partners can give. Sometimes people can't give what is demanded of them. Sometimes characters in dramas have long conversations about their feelings and what they mean to each other. Few of these are as eloquent as well written as the one between Buffy and Riley at the core of this episode, but even this one is nothing like real people talk. As they face off against each other there is no hiding the fact that these are characters in a drama acting out a dramatic scene from a script rather than being people breaking up.
Following that scene there's a scene where Buffy and Xander have a cosy little chat and that is also a scene from a drama, but such is the character of Xander and the acting from Nicholas Brendon that he manages to pull it off and immediately upgrades Xander from class clown to the heart of the operation.Top
Willow and Anya don't get on too well. Willow being Xander's best friend and Anya being Xander's girlfriend leaves him caught up in the middle of all their fights. When Giles leaves for England for a few days to consult with the Watchers' Council, they are left in charge of the magic shop and manage to release a troll from his prison to go on a rampage through downtown Sunnydale.
This is a much lighter episode than we have had of late and is all the more welcome for it. Whilst we may wonder what Glory has been doing through these weeks of attention being elsewhere, we can sit back and enjoy the witty banter, silly situations and wholesale damage to property that is wreaked in this romp. This is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER at its lightest, brightest, fluffiest popcorn entertainment best and a wonderful change of pace.Top
Following a contact from Giles, the Watchers' Council in Britain has come up with information regarding Glory. They agree to pass this to Buffy only if she passes a complete review of her readiness to face the new evil. Glory decides to make a visit to Buffy's house.
Nobody likes a test, especially when so much is riding on it. Unfortunately, the test is all that there is in this episode. As the operatives of the council go about their assessing, there are lots of witty exchanges and funny moments, but nothing really happens until Glory shows up in Buffy's house and then some strange men dressed as knights from what they call the Order of Byzantium show up to complicate matters.
What really saves the episode is the moment when Buffy walks into the Magic Box shop and lays down the law to the Council, spelling out the way that it's going to be and showing, once and for all, that she is now her own woman, her own slayer and her own adult. It's the moment that Buffy comes of age. After that, the revelation of Glory's true nature is just the icing on the cake.Top
Buffy turns 20, which means a party, but birthdays have never gone really well for Buffy. This time around, Dawn learns that she is the key and has to deal with the fact that everything she thought was real is a lie, including herself. She runs away, putting herself at the mercy of Glory, learning in the process the secret connection between Ben the hospital intern and Glory, which she promptly forgets.
The focus on character drama in this season ofthe show is quite remarkable, all but taking over from the monster-killing stuff. This time around it's Dawn who has the heavy stuff to deal with and Michelle Trachtenberg gives a fine showing as the traumatised team, supported well by the other members of the family, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Kristine Sutherland. This is almost turning into a family soap opera - but in a good way.
After Glory was revealed as a Goddess at the end of Checkpoint, this is the first time that Buffy and the team face off against her and they don't come out of it too well. The manner of their escape, though, is original and funny. We can't wait to see where this story is going to take us.Top
Buffy learns of Spike's obsession for her and is suitably repelled by the idea, so when Spike's old love Drusilla shows up with a plan for getting him back into his evil ways, he's all for it. He soon finds out, however, that hell hath no fury like three woman spurned.
The return of Drusilla, freshly scarred from the events in ANGEL's second season (especially the episode Redefiniton), sparks a witty and funny episode as Spike sets up his own scheme for gaining Buffy's love. It all backfires spectacularly, of course, with Buffy, Drusilla and Harmony all ganging up on him at once.
It's nice to have a light, funny and more angst-free than recently story to enjoy and James Marster's Spike gets himself a memorable sequence to boot.Top
I Was Made to Love You
A pretty girl with unusual manners arrives in Sunnydale looking for someone called Warren. When Spike suggests something improper to her at a party, she throws him out of the window as if he something small and light. The gang realise that the girl's a robot designed and built to be the perfect girlfriend, but what happens when girlfriends get jealous and have the strength of a bulldozer.
This is a fun, light episode although it seems to have it in for the male of the species. First off there's Warren who built the girl and then just abandons her in the hope that she'll just sit quietly in her room until her batteries go flat. Then there's Spike who's a demon and so doesn't count. Even Xander reveals some slight mysoginistic fantasies. The fact is that Buffy sees the robot as having the same problems in life that she has - loving men completely only to have them run away. That doesn't mean that she's not going to get into a fight with the metal monster if she has to.
It's all a set up though for the most surprising, shocking and chilling last thirty seconds of a genre show ever.Top
Buffy arrives home to find her mother dead. The paramedics come, but can't revive her. The gang get together and head for the hospital. Buffy has to go to school to get Dawn. There are arrangements to be made. And there are still vampires out there.
Following on from the stunning last few seconds of I Was Made To Love You, this in not only one of the finest hours of genre television ever created, but is one of the finest hours of television of any kind. Anyone who has gone through the pain of a personal loss will find this hard to watch because of the intensity and veracity of the piece. This might be BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but this is about a teenage girl losing her mother suddenly.
We've known for a while that Sarah Michelle Gellar is a good actress, but her performance here is brilliant, aided by some of the best writing and direction that the show has ever produced. Brave directorial decisions such as the total absence of music at any point, overbright colours, long and lingering closeups all play up the performance and the situation.
But it isn't just the lead star who gets to shine. Michelle Trachtenberg gets to meltdown in public as Dawn whilst Alyson Hannigan goes through all the stages of confusion and pain of a best friend. Even the lesser characters such as Anya and Tara have moments of powerful truth.
There's even a couple of moments of humour. Death isn't a funny subject, but life still goes on and there is humour even in the darkest of moments. Life going on also explains the vampire attack in the morgue. It's a conscious decision by Joss Whedon to show that life carries on for everyone else when someone dies and real life for Buffy is killing vampires, but how much better would the episode have been had there been no supernatural element at all? In the end analysis it is all that stops this pinnacle of genre television from being a pinnacle of television drama of any kind.Top
Buffy and Dawn bury their mother and face the uncertain prospect of life without her. Dawn, however, can't cope with that and looks for a spell to bring her back. These spells, though, mess with the very strongest forces of nature and what comes back isn't often quite right.
The Body was about the shock of death. Forever is about grief. In its way, it is almost as powerful an episode, but it deals with its central theme in a more typically BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER way, making the emotional theme into a physical, supernatural story. It's more subtle than it sounds and it works beautifully well, relying on solid performances from Sarah Michelle Gellar and, more centrally, Michelle Trachtenberg. If they weren't just so good then this would not have worked.Top
Buffy feels that she can't cope with being the Slayer any more following the death of her mother. Before letting her go, Giles takes her into the desert on a quest to find her focus. In her absence, the gang have to deal with another Buffy, a robot that Spike has acquired that looks just like her, but acts very differently.
Whilst touching on the disorientation that is left in the wake of a tragic loss, this is back to more normal territory as the gang have to deal with a doppelganger Buffy, the robot built by Warren for Spike following the events of I Was Made To Love You. The Buffy robot is a wonderful creation, allowing Sarah Michelle Gellar a chance to have some fun following all the tortured emotional stuff she's had to do recently, being bright and chirpy and just a little wrong. In the meantime, the rest of the gang get to play with responses to seeing what they believe to be Buffy behaving in a very inappropriate manner. The script for the Buffy robot is full of wonderful one liners and innuendo.
Then Spike is taken by Glory and everyone knows that they have to stop him from talking and let her know that Dawn is the key so we get a gung ho action sequence as well. Spike's insulting of the goddess in the most base terms that she understands is wonderfully funny.Top
Dawn is skipping school and Buffy is forced to come to terms with the fact that she is the head of the household now and is going to have to deal with the real life stuff. Glory works out that the newcomer to the scene is Tara and so she must surely be the key and sets out to get what she wants at last.
Wow, just when we thought we might be getting to the edge of the dark woods in terms of emotion along comes this episode to crash us right back into the very heart of darkness. The Dawn skipping school storyline isn't too bad and Willow and Tara's fight is nothing too heavy, but when Glory shows up and takes her revenge on Tara it's the most shocking twist bar Buffy's mother's death. The show is really pulling out all the stops to show that it's not afraid to go into the very darkest places and take its audience with it.
And in the final moments, Glory descends in all her, well, glory and sets up a hell of a confrontation. Bring it on.Top
The latest encounter with Glory convinces Buffy that she cannot defeat a God and so she does the only thing that she can think of - run away. Taking a mobile home, she and the gang make a break for it, but they are ambushed by the Knight of the Order of Byzantium and are forced to take shelter in an abandoned gas shelter with a seriously wounded Giles. In desperation, Buffy calls Ben, the human inside whom Glory lives, to come and help.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is a show that has come up with many an odd image in its day, but can there ever be one quite as surreal as a bunch of knights on horseback chasing a mobile home? It's as much fun as it is silly, but once the chase is over and the gang hole up inside the gas station things take a turn for the more tense. This is slow burn drama with a final flash of action that sets up for a finale as Dawn is taken and Buffy collapses.
For anyone who has come this far not seeing the next episode would not be an option.Top
The Weight of the World
Glory has Dawn and prepares for the blood sacrifice that will bring down the walls between dimensions and cause Hell of Earth - literally. As the goddess fights with a sudden onslaught of human guilt, Willow is struggling with Buffy's guilt, as manifested inside her head by a series of surreal scenarios. If Willow cannot reach the Slayer then all is lost.
Guilt is the key. Well, Dawn is the key, but guilt is the key theme of this episode. Whilst the two sides of Glory battle for dominance (a really bizarre sequence as Ben and Glory keep morphing into each other as they fight for Dawn's life) Willow goes on a trip through Buffy's brightly coloured subconscious. The rest of the team search for ways to beating the God's plan, but nothing looks hopeful.
This is a set up for the finale and, as such, is not the best episode when taken on its own merit, but the plot is on a rollercoaster now and plunging down towards the final loop. There's a lot of humour in the gang's inability to remember that Glory and Ben are the same being, but the tone is mainly sombre as the time grows close.Top
The time has come for the final battle with Glory. It is a battle that the gang cannot possibly win, but if they can delay Glory for long enough then perhaps the window of opportunity for Dawn's sacrifice will be past. They prepare for one last stand and use every weapon they can lay their hands on, combined with some very original strategy, but it all proves for naught as Dawn's blood opens a rift and only death will close it again.
'Death is your gift' was the first slayer's message for Buffy in her vision quest (Intervention), but her real gift is brilliant television. When the 'previously on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER' opening starts with the very first episode and then accelerates through the whole journey that has been taken through five series, the audience just knows that they are in for something special, perhaps something final.
And special it most certainly is.
First there is the calm before the storm as both sides prepare for desperate action, like armies before a battle, and then comes the fight. This is stunningly choreographed and full of surprises as witches, vampires, robots, wrecking balls and enchanted troll god hammers all come into play. That is nothing, though, to the human drama that plays out in the final moments. The fight was won, but the battle lost. The rift is open and hell is coming through. Someone has to die and Buffy is the one to make that ultimate sacrifice. It's one of the most powerful moments that the show has ever produced and is only undercut by the fact that the studio announced another series before transmitting this episode.
Here lies Buffy. She saved the world. A lot.Top
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