Well, shit is dark. What a depressing, bleak season full of terrible twists and even worse turns. Jesus, it’s like an episode of Breaking Bad up in here. Thank goddess (Witchcraft!) too because Season 4 was a real drag.
Season 5 starts out by introducing Dracula, the baddest vamp of them all. However, the season really gets rolling when Glory shows up and the monk reveals what Dawn really is: the key. Plus, it’s insane to see someone finally seem like a match, in physical strength at least, to Buffy. Glory’s introduced and unlike some villains past, she’s really, really scary and a very real threat.
The importance of family is really driven home this season; even makeshift family. The whole saga with Tara’s relatives, I remember, was so intense (this was pre-Glee guys!) and so moving and a wonderful parallel for homophobia and the damage it causes.
Plus, the kids are all growing up way too fast. When it was revealed that Tara was turning 20 on her birthday — JUST 20?! — I was shocked. I’d forgotten these guys were teenagers, kids practically, but after everything they’d been through, all the Scoobies were certainly adults before their times. (Even Giles, who becomes dark as hell as he chokes the life from Ben/Glory.) So dark.
Usually, when I see the next episode is a “standalone” that may not add to the larger plot, I dread it. But Season 5 has some GREAT character work laid into those miscellaneous eps. Especially the one where Spike just explains his history to Buffy. It was awesome to see Slayer’s past — I particularly love 70s disco diva slayer and punk rock Spike. And it developed further the relationship growing between Spike and Buffy.
Buffy and Spike
Buffy and Spike’s relationship does a complete 180 this season, and yet it actually makes complete and total sense. (Except for the Buffy-bot, which was way more horrible than anyone properly reacted.) I can remember watching this as it was happening on TV and being totally enamored and immersed in it. It was like fanfiction come to life — in a good way.
To get there, we had to get rid of Riley in a way that would make sense. The first time around, I remember being super pleased to see him go, but now I was more into how Xander randomly shows up and starts being important to Buffy again, convincing her to go after her vamp-lusting boyf. Oh yeah, Riley’s cheating on Buffy with vampires because he wants to feel needed. Yikes. Perfect progression of their closed-off, emotionally distant relationship. Buffy isn’t mean to have a healthy love. She just isn’t.
Enter Spike. He gets her in ways she’s afraid to get herself. And when he calls out her “death wish,” it’s over, man. They’re gonna bone.
And on his own, Spike does a lot of changing and growing this season. Murderous rage turns to sexual obsession turns to love. Spike isn’t just your average “bad boy” though. He’s sad and intriguing and complex — a super well-written character, superbly played by James Marsters. In the real world, Spike’s obsessive behavior would be creepy but we never get the sense that Buffy is THAT bothered by it. She never stakes him. She never totally shuts him out. It left me constantly wondering how she really feels about him because the words out of her mouth never matched her actual reactions to him. She should have been WAY more pissed about the Buffybot than she ended up being — and that struck me. I thought, “Maybe she likes Spike too?”
Look, I have a big problem with the idea that Spike’s behavior is in any way acceptable or that because Buffy does get with him later, that somehow his invasions of her privacy and personal space were acceptable …but when, on the stairs, after being invited back in to the Summers’ home, Spike says, “I know that I’m a monster. But you treat me like a man,” it’s like, how can you not start rooting for them?
I know fandom hates Dawn but she really has it terribly rough. Imagine finding out all your memories were fake, you weren’t even real and also you might be evil. Spike is actually the only person who understands Dawn, too.
And in the end, Dawn also grows up too fast. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for the rest of the Scoobies and the world pretty quickly. And her relationship with Buffy grows beautifully until the final moments of “The Gift.”
Okay, can we just talk about “The Body?” This is one of the greatest episodes of television ever, ever, ever. The silence, and Buffy’s face, and the way the whole extended scene of her finding her mother dead on the couch is shot and edited is just so unique and daring and incredible. I was riveted during that scene. It felt so, so human and real.
All the acting in this episode is brilliant too. From Willow’s reaction, to Anya’s hysterical confusion to Xander’s frustration. It felt like I was watching a real group of friends deal with something very real, which on a supernatural show full of corny, over-the-top elements, the stripped-down humanity of “The Body” is so stark and surprising and ultimately, deserved. Ugh, guys. “The Body” is so good and sad and good and whyyyyy?
Willow and Tara
Willow’s becoming wicked powerful and it’s not always for the best. Through working at Giles’ new Magic Box (which yay! I love when they all get this new hangout. It’s the one I most associate with the show, really. Also it makes me want new supernatural or Wiccan friends. Any takers?), she has access to anything she needs for new spells and potions.
The once meek and powerless Willow of Sunnydale High is now totally “in control” in her mind, because she’s growing into someone to contend with: a powerful witch who can even take on Glory when Buffy can’t. It’s crazy to see Willow become almost an equal to Buffy this season.
Tara is what keeps Willow from going completely off the rails, but for how much longer?
Season 6 awaits!