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Positives and Negatives - S5

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  • "Buffy vs. Dracula"

    Positive: The confidence that Buffy exudes throughout this episode and how much she enjoys slaying here is great to see. IMO, Faith was right when she said that if a Slayer doesn’t enjoy slaying, they’re doing something wrong. If Buffy is going to spend her life fighting monsters, then she might as well enjoy it. And I liked Willow and Xander meeting her during her patrol. It’s the last time we see a scene between just the three of them for a while.

    Negative: Buffy telling Giles that she wanted him to be her Watcher again was a great scene and it does a good job justifying his continued presence in the narrative, but I think the season overall fails to deliver on the promise of a closer Buffy-Giles relationship that the scene seemed to give. Even though Giles is now her official Watcher again, I don’t think their relationship ever quite reaches the highs that it did in S1-S3. Also: I like the S5 opening credits, but I’m not a fan of the amazing S3-S4 opening credits group shot of the Scoobies walking out with the rocket launcher being replaced by a shot of… Buffy opening a door. I’m glad they had the sense to keep her awesome power shot from “Anne” though.

    "Real Me"

    Positive: The character interactions. This episode does a great job of showing what Dawn’s presence must have been like for the other characters in S1-S4 and, in doing so, it kind of harkens back to the early seasons. Buffy's main conflict in the episode is balancing slaying with babysitting her younger sister, which is a throwback to the slaying versus normal life theme that dominated her character arc in the first two seasons, in particular. The relationship between Buffy and Joyce even reverts back to their S1-S2 dynamic in a way (which I’ll mention as a negative). I think Buffy and Dawn have great chemistry, the two actresses look like they could, in fact, be sisters, and I like how this episode shows that they are more alike than they realize. Buffy and Dawn are both as whiny and self-involved as each other. Only Dawn’s immaturity in this episode is due to her being a kid (as much as she hates being called that), while Buffy’s immaturity in this episode is about her abandonment issues. I agree with a thing of evil that she comes across as really angry and mean here. The reunion between Spike and Harmony was another great character interaction. The two actors perfectly captured the dynamic of two exes encountering each other, their chemistry was underrated.

    Negative: Something must have been in the water of the Summers household that week because not only are Buffy and Dawn kind of bratty, but Joyce is too. She *forces* Buffy to take Dawn along with her even though Buffy tells her that she has slayer stuff to handle and then has the audacity to get angry at her when Dawn comes across a corpse. It’s like, what did you expect? It makes me feel bad to see Buffy, who has expressed on several occasions the guilt she feels for her job putting loved ones in danger, essentially be punished for it by Joyce here. However, this could also be interpreted as a positive as Joyce’s unfair and inconsiderate treatment of Buffy here is reminiscent of her S1-S2 characterization, which fits in the episode’s overall early seasons tone. Also: Buffy’s hypocrisy towards Dawn accidentally inviting a dangerous vampire in grates considering her own history with that (“Passion” and “Lovers Walk”).

    "The Replacement

    Positive: Spike’s scene with the Buffy doll went a long way in showing the disturbedness of his character instead of the abundant charm that we’ve gotten used to over the course of S4. While I enjoyed Spike a great deal as comic relief in his appearances in S3-S4, I think S5 does a better job of blending those aspects of his character with his more villainous (and infinitely more interesting) character traits of S2. This is my favorite Spike season for sure.

    Negative: I don’t know why the writers thought it would be a good idea to devote so many scenes to a dirty, whiny Xander monologuing to himself. I get that Xander is the comic relief character, and yada-yada-yada, but I think he’s at his funniest when he’s snarky and clever rather when than he’s forced to be the scrubby role that he is here. There should have been way more scenes with the confident version of Xander.

    "Out of My Mind"

    Positive: Spike’s dream sequence at the end is extremely well-done and always stood out to me as one of the show’s most shocking moments when I first watched it.

    Negative: Riley is a complete idiot in this episode.

    "No Place Like Home"

    Positive: This episode does not get enough credit for being the one where Buffy’s life gets – to quote Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – flipped, turned upside down. Finding out that Dawn is the Key, the devastating realization that she can’t control her mother’s fate – this stands alongside Merrick approaching her at Hemery High as the most life-changing day of Buffy Summers's life.

    Negative: The reveal of Glory’s name in “Shadow” isn’t exactly spectacular or mind-blowing in the way it's executed, so why did the writers wait until three episodes later to reveal it?


    Positive(s): This episode’s plot annoys the hell out of me, but it’s the execution and the little character details that make me love it so much.

    + Amy Adams as Cousin Beth. She does a really good job and her character is the only one of Tara’s relatives who doesn’t feel like a caricature.
    + The Scoobies battling demons that they can’t see is an underratedly creepy premise and the fight scene was well-directed and executed.
    + Willow and Anya both rushing to save Xander with Willow getting there first.
    + Spike being the one to make the connection that the Maclays lie about the women in their family being demon to keep them in line works as excellent foreshadowing to how he ends up doing the same thing to Buffy in Season 6 with the ‘You came back wrong’ and whatnot.
    + What I love most about this episode is the surprisingly subtle parallel between Buffy and Tara. Tara is afraid of the darkness that is supposedly inside of her and fears that she will be rejected because of it, which is remarkably similar to Buffy’s fear of the darkness inside of her and her worry that it is what will drive her loved ones away. Tara’s mother is not in the picture and neither is Buffy’s. Of course, Joyce is still alive at this point in the narrative but she honestly might as well not be. She is absent from the episode and the only reference Buffy really makes to her is in relation to her attempt to call Hank. And Buffy’s own issues with Hank are parallel to Tara’s issues with her father. Buffy does pick up on the similarities between herself and Tara, which is why she forgives Tara so easily for casting the spell and sticks up for her at the end of the episode. What's great about the connection between Buffy and Tara here is how subtle it is. There’s no self-involved rant from Buffy about how she can relate to Tara or how much fathers suck or whatever to make sure the viewer gets the point, it’s just simply there for them to pick up on. And the episode sets the groundwork nicely for future interactions in which Buffy does open up to Tara about the similar things she experiences: losing her mother in “The Body”, fearing that she’s a demon in “Dead Things”.

    Negative: Tara's backstory falls apart under scrutiny. Her fear of being outed as a demon is an obvious metaphor for fear of being outed as gay. And it's lame. Whedon, STOP using demons as a metaphor for minority groups! They are not the same! People have good reasons to be prejudiced towards demons whereas there are no good reasons to be prejudiced towards gay people. The treatment of the former is a gray area, the treatment of the latter is not. It always irks me when ME tries to use demon-phobia as a metaphor for homophobia (here) or racism ("That Old Gang of Mine") or whatever agenda. It doesn’t work well with the show’s mythology and it seems like the writers think they’re being clever and progressive whenever they do it when it’s really just kind of offensive. The demons work well as a metaphor for *Buffy* and her personal journey, *not* as a metaphor for racial minorities/LGBT people.

    "Fool for Love"

    Positive: I like the parallel between the William of the flashback scenes and Riley. William was a good man whose insecurity over being rejected by the woman he loved (Cecily) brought out his darker side and led to him becoming attracted to a vampire (Dru) who made him. It works as foreshadowing to how good boy Riley’s insecurity and feeling of rejection from Buffy brings out some darkness in him and causes him to seek vampire whores to feel desired.

    Negative: The scene with Willow, Xander, and Anya on patrol with Riley. All three of them are cute, but out of place in an episode like this. A better way to incorporate the Scoobies into the episode would have been to have shown them interacting with Buffy, which would have added more impact to Spike mentioning them as Buffy’s ties to the world. Also: where’s Tara? After the whole ‘we’re family’ thing last episode, she gets left out?


    Positive: This episode does a good job of showing how much things (Joyce's illness; Glory) are taking a toll on Buffy and how emotionally distant she’s becoming. As tedious as I found the many scenes of Riley wangsting, I get what he means when he talks about Buffy shutting him out because she does in this episode. The communication between these two is non-existent. He doesn’t even know about Dawn being the Key! Buffy isn’t treating him as like a boyfriend or a relationship partner so much as a Scooby Gang member that she happens to have sex with. She spends the episode just hitting things and refusing to talk to anyone. There’s something Faith-like about the way she pummels the rubber snake towards the end. Her behavior here is unhealthy but it’s great foreshadowing to her emotional breakdown at the end of the season and her depression in S6, both of which are a result of her bottling stuff in so much.

    Negative: I know James Marsters had a contract, but did Spike need to be in *every* single episode? Sometimes a little goes a long way. The scene with Spike raiding Buffy’s bedroom is just lame. Perhaps in an episode like “Triangle”, it would be better but it’s jarringly out of place in an episode as heavy as this one and especially disappointing coming after “Fool for Love”, which did such brilliant things with the character. Spike’s love for Buffy brings out such twisted aspects of his personality and it makes him all the more interesting, but the way they play it for silly comedy here makes it feel very one-note. There should be something darkly creepy about the fact that an obsessed Spike can just wander into Buffy’s house and bedroom at any time. The writers could have shown him pulling an Angelus and creepily sneaking in to watch her sleep or something, taking pictures, etc. Capitalized on his creepy factor, which would have made the moments where he is genuinely heroic stand out more. Instead, they’re doing ‘Spike steals panties’ type humor and it’s not interesting or funny.

    "Listening to Fear"

    Positive: Willow. Her being Tiny Jewish Santa, her monologue on the stars. She’s been wayyy too underutilized this season.

    Negative: Riley should have just been a man, talked to Buffy, and bowed out of the relationship gracefully to found his own purpose. Instead, he turns to blood suckers.

    "Into the Woods"

    Positive: Riley leaves.

    Negative: Xander accusing Buffy of shutting down because of Angel. It doesn’t really fit for me because there were plenty of times in S4 where Buffy opened up to Riley, despite her difficulty doing so (when it came to Angel in “Doomed” and “New Moon Rising”, and when it came to Faith in “This Year’s Girl”). Contrary to popular opinion, I think Buffy’s emotional distance from Riley in S5 was a result of the traumatic one-two punch of finding out that her mother was deathly-ill AND that her baby sister was a ball of energy with fake memories within the same week, not because of residual Angel issues from S2-S3. Xander’s speech does have some truth to it, but IMO a lot of it is part of a common thing in S5-S7 where people (both characters in-universe and fans out-of-universe) try to trace all of Buffy’s flaws back to her experience with Angel and it annoys me. Like, can't it be possible for Buffy to be secretive and emotionally distant WITHOUT it being about Angel? Likewise, can't it ALSO possible for Buffy to have conflict with Willow and/or Xander in S5-S7 without it being because of some unresolved conflict between them from the Angel era in S2-S3? Why does Angel always have to be the scapegoat for Buffy’s issues? While I think Buffy does have *some* unresolved Angel issues in S5-S7, they are not as a big of a deal as people tend to say they are and, for the most part, I think she’s over him post-S4.


    Positive: Vampmogs already mentioned the stellar Anya-Willow interaction in this episode, so I’ll voice the unpopular opinion that I love the way Buffy is portrayed in this episode. I see this episode as having a flipped, Scooby-centric perspective. Just like Buffy wasn’t the protagonist in “The Zeppo”, “Doppelgangland” and “Wild at Heart”, she’s not the protagonist of "Triangle". Willow, Xander, and Anya are the protagonists and Buffy’s seemingly bizarre characterization in the episode works as a commentary on the way the Scoobies see her as Buffy’s recent behavior was been a bit erratic to them lately (Xander’s ‘You’re acting like a crazy person!’ in the previous episode), to say the least. When Buffy does the over-the-top crying to Tara, the viewer is thinking ‘WTF?’ the same way that Willow, Xander, and Giles were probably thinking ‘WTF?’ when Buffy burned down the vamp whore house in “Into the Woods”. The only difference between the two scenes is that in the latter instance, the audience was clued in to Buffy’s point-of-view. We were privy to Buffy's relationship issues with Riley so we (and, by the end of the episode, Xander as well after confronting her) knew why she was acting the way that she was acting. Here, we don't. There’s probably a reason why Buffy is super emotional in this episode, but we don’t know why because we are locked out of her point-of-view. Just as Willow, Xander, and Anya have been locked out of Buffy’s point-of-view in recent episodes due to their preoccupation with their own issues (which are the A-plot of this episode) and Buffy’s refusal to open up to them, the viewer is locked out of her point-of-view for most of the episode. Buffy is at her most grounded in “Triangle” when she is interacting with Dawn, Joyce, and Giles, the only three people that Buffy has been confiding in and having emotional scenes with lately. And as unpopular as Buffy’s crying is in the episode, I do think it’s genuinely cathartic for her after her attempts to bottle her tears up and keep them private for three episodes straight. After this episode, and particularly after “Blood Ties”, Buffy seems much happier and communicative with her friends than she was in between the end of “No Place Like Home” and “Into the Woods” (that is, until Joyce dies, and then it's emotional kabloowey again). Of course, a large part of that is because her mother is better but also because of the emotional release she got in this episode.

    Now... was this episode *intended* by the writers to be an experiment in perspective like I'm theorizing? Most likely not. It might truly just be a badly written episode like others say it is, but it's a hell of a lot of fun which makes me want to do the work to justify it and come up with my own interpretation. And the Scoobies are so sidelined this season that it's rather nice to view this episode as them taking precedence over Buffy.

    Negative: Not really a flaw of *this* episode, more a flaw of future ones, but Willow and Tara’s mutual playfulness with magic in this episode is a contradiction of their S6 dynamic.
    Last edited by Andrew S.; 29-10-18, 04:37 AM.


    • Buffy vs. Dracula

      Positive: The Scooby beach scene is adorable. I'm surprised we didn't see these So Cal kids at the beach *more*. I also loved Willow transparently trying to flatter Giles as indispensable to convince him not to leave.

      Negative: This is one of my least favorite openers. Dracula is way too cheesy. Xander is cartoonish. Riley bringing up Angel in his analysis of Buffy being under Dracula's thrall is a stupid, self-centered distraction from focusing on how to get Buffy out of Dracula's thrall. Maybe this should have been a Negative in Primeval but there's no explanation why Spike wasn't staked after he teamed up with Adam. There's little there, there in this ep.

      The Real Me

      Positive: Like past posters, I really like this one. Early S5 is actually pretty rocky for me but this ep is great. It's soooo morbid and opportunistic but I love the blunt honesty of Giles getting distracted by the Magic Box as a business opportunity and evaluating the square footage and profit margins even though they're supposed to be investing Mr. Boggarty's death. It's gross but it's called out that way and it feels very human and realistic. This episode also features Anya and the Game of Life and how she would trade her children for more cash. Giles/Anya = OTP.

      Negative: I agree with Sosa Losa and Priceless that Tara's "outsider" complaints are ridiculous. First. Tara tries to make out like Dawn is a victim because she can't "help" even though Dawn is a little girl whose mother has enforced rules that Dawn can't even see a foot of a dead body. Willow reasonably points out that Dawn is too young. Then, Tara starts passive-aggressively bitching about being an outsider. Willow tries to figure out who's been making Tara feel like an outsider, reasonably believing that Tara must have some *facts* of being snubbed because Tara is filing these grievances. Tara doesn't give facts and just mumbles about how she doesn't even want to break into their bond. Willow tries to comfort Tara and Tara shakes Willow off because you know, Tara's been lying her head off to Willow about her species and anticipated commitment to their relationship.

      Tara = So. Much. Work.

      I also think it's odd that Dawn is mature enough to get all dolled up for Xander but not mature enough to eat ice cream neatly. It's like she's George Costanza or something, even though I don't think the ep was going for "Dawn is a pig" but rather "Dawn is a baby when we want her to be a baby".

      The Replacement

      Positive: This is a nice episode for Riley. I like the guy-code stuff about Riley removing his hands from Buffy's shoulders. I also like that he'd also be singing the "La la la/ I'm on my way to Xander's" song. His speech that Buffy doesn't love him was very well delivered by MB. (Although, I agree with Stoney that he and Buffy shouldn't have gone into a bedroom to make out on Xander's apartment tour.) It's a shame about S5 Riley. I feel like MB had a good handle on the character and was looking fantastic in S5 and he was getting better jokes....and then, his character got weighed down with frustrating, not-compelling stories about him being a dumb-ass as he breaks up with Buffy.

      Negative: I agree with Sosa Losa that Willow's "Sometimes we all save you" is such a garbage thing to say. Completely inaccurate about Xander who saves people a lot, including in this ep (as pointed out by Sosa). I try to not to have characters acting badly as a Negative just because they're acting badly. This is a Negative because the wording of the line is bitchy but AH delivers it sweetly and as part of a Xander/Willow friendship scene. I feel like the writers were trying to convince the audience through Willow that there's an earned perception that Xander is a loser. I think such a perception WAS earned in the sense that Xander was aimless about doing well in school and then, getting a job. Xander makes dumb jokes at the wrong time, and doesn't dress well. However, it was NEVER true about Xander's heroism. Xander who's been heroic and important to the Scoobies from Day 1 through pushing Buffy out of the way when Toth appeared.

      I REALLY agree with Andrew S that I got tired of Schlubby Xander monologuing to himself and felt there should have been more scenes with Confident Xander. I do love the end, though, when we see that Confident Xander also has a goofy sense of humor. He's just been appropriate about not deploying it at work or when trying to have a deep, relationship-building conversation with Anya. Giles's "Yes, he's clearly a bad influence on himself" reaction to the Xanders cracking each other up with goofy jokes is mean but very funny and on-point meta because as I said above, there is a reason why people assumed Schlubby Xander was the real Xander.

      Out of My Mind

      Positive: Ugh, not a lot here for me. The best scene is the episode is Willow's joy at finally having a college-lecture inspired academic debate with Buffy and then, trolling Buffy about how Robespierre was the coolest to keep the conversation going.

      Negative: Riley's S5 self-destruction is not compelling to me. I academically see the reasons, but I just don't care. It's ridiculous that the Scoobies haven't staked Harmony after she kidnapped Dawn. It's further ridiculous that Buffy doesn't stake Spike after he coordinates with Harmony to kidnap a doctor and get his chip out. Spike's continued efforts to get the chip out aren't compelling to me. So like, this ep has two plots (not counting Joyce-illness foreshadowing). They both stink.


      • No Place Like Home

        Positive: I love EC/Anya and her manic energy about business to the point that Giles offered her a job. That scene where Giles/XanderWillow are exhausted and in pain from the opening day but Anya is an Energizer Bunny of Capitalism (Bunny-joke intended!) cracks me up.

        Negative: This plot is contrived. As Stoney said, it's moronic that the Monk flew to Sunnydale to tell Buffy about the Key, thereby leading Glory to Buffy. It was stupid that the Monks made the Key into a human to be protected by the Slayer, when Glory is so much stronger than Buffy to the point that Buffy can't even hurt Glory in a fight. It's a huge coincidence that the night watchman just happened to hand Buffy the Dagonsphere because she was patrolling in the right place at the right time. It's never clear why the Monk planted the Dagonsphere in that random parking lot anyway. Then, it's an additional huge coincidence that Buffy happened to be at the hospital to see the brainsucked watchman babbling about going through family. I know that Glory's victims babble stuff pertinent to Glory's wider plans but that's some HIGHLY CONVENIENT babbling for the ep designed to reveal that Dawn is the Key. This is the first and I think only time in the series that Buffy does a spell entirely on her own- but that's important so that Buffy can find out about Dawn alone.

        As vampmogs said, I have no idea how Buffy abides Spike stalking her house just after the episode where he kidnaps a doctor to try to get his chip removed.


        Positive: I've come to take a perverse pleasure in how Willow is characterized here. IMO, Tara's actions are very bad. She didn't just screw up a spell. Instead, Tara presumed that she was a demon and that magic would bring that demon part out of her shortly and may require her to leave with her family. Tara apparently chose to deal with this by performing whatever spells she wanted to amuse herself (before she joined the Scoobies) and lied to Willow about her presumed species even as she was having sex with Willow, doing magic with Willow, and she and Willow moved in together. Tara persisted in her lie even after seeing how Willow was destroyed after her last relationship broke up because her SO was a demon and had to leave. Then, Tara did a spell to remove the ability of demon-fighters charged with keeping the hellmouth safe to see demons.

        S5 gives me a strange feeling that the writers knew that they wanted to turn Willow evil by next season but they didn't want to actually write Willow doing increasingly bad things until they had to in S6. I take little to no issue with any spell Willow casts in S5, other than the cash-register prank in Triangle and showing Dawn the History of Resurrection Book in Forever (only because it should have been accompanied by a conversation between Dawn and Willow). The writers try to communicate some kind of moral decline because S5 Willow is louder and prouder than S1-4 Willow (gay meaning intended) and Tara scolds her. I'm cool with a loud and proud Willow. Tara's scolding doesn't have any extra moral value just because she says it with an earnest tone and stutter. So, no real foreshadowing of Dark Willow there.

        If we just isolate Willow and Tara from the rest of the group (see below), Family does the best job in writing an intensely appealing in-character Willow who betrays a f*cked up value system. It's *incredibly* appealing that Willow physically gets down on the floor right with Tara after the spell is revealed to ask Tara what she wants. Willow doesn't dispense forgiveness from on-high. She doesn't wait to see how Buffy or anyone else lands before she starts vociferously defending Tara to Mr. Macalay and boiling down Tara's rights to be here as whether *Tara* wants to leave and that alone. At the end of the ep, Willow asks a little for an explanation on why Tara wasn't forthcoming about her family. When Tara says that she was ashamed, Willow pulls back on her request for an explanation in order to reassure Tara that Tara's past only defines her as an amazing survivor/person.

        It pairs nicely with Phases as well. Oz lies to Willow about being a werewolf. However in Phases, Willow more directly called Oz out and said, "I kind of thought you would have told me." Oz gives Willow a far more satisfactory answer that he wasn't used to the thought of being a werewolf than Tara saying that she feared that if Willow met her family than Willow wouldn't want anything to do with her. Oz addresses his lie about being a demon; Tara side-steps her presumed demonness to instead focus on her family who've just been outed (ahem) as the real demons. At the end of both Phases and Family, Willow definitely has a vibe where she hasn't enjoyed playing the "heavy" and having conflict. After she's gone through the "Why didn't you tell me?" motions and gets whatever answer from Oz and Tara whether it fully answers the question or not, Willow's ebullient about getting to shower both of them with praise and get to the kissing for her straight relationship and floaty dancing subject to network restrictions on kissing for her gay relationship.

        Willow certainly indicated in Family that she's fine with serious lies in their relationship and doing spells on the other as long as it preserves Willow/Tara 5evah and their happiness together. To tie it back with IRYJ further, it's exactly how Mollock justified not telling Willow that he was a demon controlling the Internet. Because it was all in service of their LOOOOVE. In Family, Willow's rush to ignore every troubling thing she just learned about Tara is read as compassion. With S6, it's read as an actual f*cked up value system akin to Mollock where Willow doesn't care about lies or spells done on the other as long as it preserves the Willow/Tara romance.

        That said:

        Negative: Family still fails at Dark Willow foreshadowing because none of the other Scoobies were in-touch with the seriousness and darkness of Tara's actions. I wish the other characters remained standoffish with Tara and queried why she lied in the past instead of embracing her so completely. It's hard to say Willow and Willow alone has a f*cked up value system when everyone else apparently shares it.

        I love me some Scoobies but the family stuff really leaves me cold. I think Buffy/Xander were crappy to be all pouty about going to Tara's birthday party. It wasn't a huge production. Willow was just asking them to go to the Bronze, THEIR HANG-OUT PLACE ANY NIGHT THEY CAN GET THERE, and eat cake and snacks while bringing some kind of birthday gift. Buffy's "not the most thrilling event of the social season" was ridiculous. What social season? Buffy has two best friends and their SOs and a boyfriend and a mentor. That's her social circle. It's a small one. Buffy and Xander don't have any obligation to be close with Tara but attending her birthday party is a low-level social expectation. It's really insensitive and even gross that somehow going to the Bronze this night as opposed to all other nights is uniquely objectionable to Buffy/Xander BECAUSE it's Tara's birthday and other...Wiccas will be there. Whether it's because they're just regular Wiccas or lesbians.

        However even though Buffy/Xander even resented going to the Bronze if they had to also buy a gift for the occasion, suddenly Tara is FAAAAAMILY a few hours later just because it's evident that Tara had a miserable childhood? Even though Tara lied to everyone and performed a spell blocking their ability to see demons? Even though they didn't know enough about Tara to even pick out a birthday gift a few hours ago? It's completely bizarre to me. There's a million gradients of relationship between "Being invited to her birthday party is an annoying unwanted imposition" and "FAAAAAMILY." The Scoobies should have hit one of those. Generally though, I think putting the "family" label on the Scoobies is a short-cut way for the writers to say that they're close without having to actually write the Scoobies as close. This embrace of Tara is a literal representation of that. Buffy/Xander don't have to know anything about Tara other than she was abused and reacted to that abuse with duplicity and violations of their person. She's found family.....just because.

        It's also really convenient that Riley isn't in that scene but Spike is. It's like the writers knew who'd be sticking around through the season.

        I guess my Positive may not count because the gang's sappy ignorance of the seriousness of Tara's actions works to undermine any good Dark Willow foreshadowing. In that case, SMG and MT are funny in the scene where Buffy blocks Dawn from hanging with Melinda because she's...short. Also, yay Amy Adams. One of my favorite mega-movie stars today. I wonder if there's any Willow/Cousin Beth femme-slash? I'd love to read it if it exists. Alyson Hannigan/Amy Adams is really a red-headed twosome of cuteness.

        Fool for Love

        Positive: This is a great episode. It's very professionally made with terrific performances (especially from JM) and top-notch production levels. As vampmogs said, I love how you see the Boxer Rebellion scene from Spike's POV where Angel is just jealous that Spike bested a slayer and then, from Angel's POV in Darla where Angel is trying to deal with his soul's disgust at murder.

        I do read Buffy's sacrifice in The Gift as partly suicide to get away from the pain of life. I don't think she was anywhere at that point in Fool for Love but she gets there mostly because Joyce's illness and then death. Which starts in earnest at the end of FFL. I also don't think all slayers necessarily have a death wish when they die. Like, I don't think Kendra wanted to die by any means whatsoever. However, IMO, Buffy did. On that level, it makes thematic sense for Spike to be the only one to call out the "Dearth is your art"/"One good day" theme to foreshadow The Gift even if the other characters don't think that of Buffy or her sacrifice.

        Negative: I don't know how Spike thought he'd be able to shoot Buffy with the chip. He couldn't even point a toy gun at Xander/Anya without being disabled by migraines.

        I also don't get why the Chinese Slayer is asking Spike, the vampire murdering her, to pass on her "Tell my mother I'm sorry" message. It's a mixed bag, though, because I LOVE that the Chinese slayer had last words for her family just before she died much like Buffy will in The Gift. Spike will link Nikki Wood to Buffy because they're both sexy and fight similarly. IMO, Nikki Wood is also linked to Buffy because they have to take care of their "child" and the Chinese Slayer is linked to Buffy because of their important relationship with their mother. I just think the Chinese slayer's last words should have been phrased differently- like the Slayer praying to G-d or something for her mother or just saying something like, "Now my mother's all alone."
        Last edited by Dipstick; 16-11-18, 05:44 PM.


        • Shadow

          Positive: Xander is so quietly ON POINT about Riley. First, EXCUSE ME GILES, but Xander was entirely right that it was rude and fool-hardy for Riley to take out that nest of vamps when Riley had already plans with the Scoobies to go take care of it together. Then, Riley starts like acting like Buffy is crazy for going lone-ranger too.

          RILEY: Where's Buffy?
          GILES: Um, she-she left a while ago.
          RILEY: What? Where?
          XANDER: That creepy demon woman's conjuring some kind of monster.
          RILEY: And you let Buffy go after her? Alone?
          GILES: Uh, "let" isn't really a factor when she sets her mind to something, you know that.
          RILEY: She'll get herself killed. It's crazy.
          XANDER: Yeah. Crazy. Going off alone, half-cocked, instead of waiting for much-needed backup ... charging in with a big old hand grenade ... oh, wait.
          RILEY: This is different.
          XANDER: Yeah, it is. Buffy needs something she can fight, something she can solve. I don't know what kind of action you're looking for ... (looks closer at Riley) Do you?

          It's so perfect. Xander was calling Riley out on his hypocrisy but also demonstrating the insight and empathy to know that something must be troubling Buffy and Riley to make them go lone-ranger. Xander was offering his help to Riley- both in demon fighting and also to hear out what was troubling Riley as a friend. Riley was the one who declined this lifeline.

          Negative: It's interesting that the Magic Box sold ingredients for a "Make a giant snake" spell to Glory. However, this plot is just...dropped. It's frustrating that this episode indicates that Giles sells magic ingredients to anyone willing to buy, no questions asked, human photo identification requested, waiting period enforced, or investigation of the ingredients and what spell it'll lead to. However, the series never interrogates or deals with this (dark) grey area but instead treats it like a joke. It's a relevant and important story-idea since the Magic Box was HQ but it was never dealt with.

          Listening to Fear

          Positive: I thought this episode particularly nailed what it's like to have an incredibly sick parent. There's the gross enforced-cheer boredom to sitting around the hospital. Every patient will be like Joyce- desperate to go home if the doctor gives even an inkling that it can be done. It's so intimidating and downright terrifying to be the child charged with the medication regimen and catheter-flushing and care for your parent, even though you're the one used to be taken care of as the child. You desperately want to give your parent the relief from being stuck at the hospital because it's been agony for you to sit there and you're not even the sick patient chained to a hospital bed with no outdoor relief at all. But when you get home, you don't feel like a hero or like you did anything right because the parent is miserable and angry from all of their pain and fear. There's a mountain of household chores waiting because you've been in the hospital this whole time. And you still have to keep them in decent shape until they go back to the hospital to be wheeled in for a dangerous surgery. But by the surgery time, everything is out of your control and you long to go back to the control and responsibility that was scaring the living daylights out of you a day ago.

          Negative: I agree with those who said Spike's presence feels forced and pointless.


          Positive: I really like what vampmogs wrote about Willow/Anya.

          Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
          I also love that this episode addresses some pretty legitimate issues that Willow and Anya actually have with each other. Willow's fear that Anya will hurt Xander is a totally rationale and understandable given her history and somewhat proven by the fact that in Entropy she tries to do exactly that. Willow is also correct to point out that Anya can't play the "But I was a demon" card when, even as a demon vengeance demons don't seem inherently evil the way vampires are, and Anya cursed Olaf when she was a human and as a human sided with a bunch of murderous vampires and tried to have Willow killed in Dopplegangland. Likewise, Anya's comments about Willow being a danger to Xander may sound farfetched now but in S6 she will try to "use him as a hood ornament" and will attack him on Kingman's Bluff so they're rather fortuitous. Ultimately both girls will have the opportunity to hurt Xander and not take it (Anya stops Spike from wishing in Entropy and Willow can't kill Xander in Grave) but the fact of the matter is it's pure luck, and not through their love for him, that they don't kill him earlier than that. Xander could have died when Willow attacked the police car with the truck and had Anya been able to grant her own wishes, Xander would "never have been born."

          I also just find their general complaints towards each other pretty valid and understandable. Willow is right that Anya can't keep using the excuse that she was a demon to justify her general rudeness. As demons, Halfrek, Anya and D'Hoffryn seem perfectly capable of being pleasant and cordial to one another and others when they want to be. And as we'll come to learn in Selfless, Anya was "strangely literal" and "off-putting" to others even when she was a human and had trouble making friends. Anya is rude because Anya, the person, is rude. Likewise, whilst it may sound funny to suggest that Willow would ever be interested in Xander again because she's "gay now" I don't actually blame Anya for being uncomfortable as she knows about the affair in S3. Anya spent a lot of time with Cordelia right after the breakup so she would have heard all about it first hand from one of the people hurt the most by Willow and I can understand why that would play on her thoughts given that Xander and Willow continue to be close and Xander is quite protective of her.
          Yup. Also on Willow's end, I like that this fight has been building since Doppelgangland/The Prom. By The Prom, Willow correctly thought Xander was courting danger by dating a vengeance demon whose modus operandi has been to hurt and kill men. A former serial killer who'd only recently orchestrated a situation and tried to get Willow killed in her quest to get her power back to be...a serial killer again. However, Willow didn't push the issue because it just seemed like one date. Then Xander started going out with Anya in S4. However, no one took that relationship seriously and they believed that Xander and Anya were just scratching an itch. Xander/Anya gets serious in a big way in S5. However, Willow's lost the clear opportunity to warn Anya off hurting Xander or to discourage Xander from dating Anya because she's an unrepentant serial killer because Anya's been human for close to two years now.

          As a result, it makes perfect sense that Willow doesn't address her deeper issues but first, picks a petty fight with Anya because Willow is frustrated that Anya is well-positioned to make Xander miserable. Moreover, Willow is frustrated that Anya has slowly acquired so much institutional power in the gang, demonstrated by her control over Willow's supply of magic ingredients. It's both an earned and petty frustration. I certainly would be frustrated that Anya hasn't repented by being a serial killer. Anya is nasty and assholic to everyone but Anya conveniently doesn't have to act better because she blames it on her Newly Human Status even though her whole stock in trade as a vengeance demon was learning the manners of others in order to manipulate them to make destructive wishes. I would say that Anya finagled a far nicer life as a human than she "deserves."

          However, it's not up to Willow to decide what kind of life Anya gets to live as a human and I think Willow comes to understand that at the end of the episode. Xander fell in love with Anya. Giles correctly observed that Anya would be a wonderful employee at the Magic Box. And Anya has been fighting with the Scoobies for over a year now. Sure, Willow could try to punish Anya with sarcasm but it's pretty ineffective. Anya is so confident and such a sarcasm-machine herself that Anya usually can't feel the shame of sarcasm or insults directed at her. Moreover, Willow taking it upon herself to punish Anya just ends up hurting Xander, primarily, and Giles, secondarily. You know, the ostensible *points* of Willow's grudge. The two people that Willow claims that she's fighting for.

          It's quite emblematic of Willow's hard-headed practicality that she still holds (IMO justified) negative opinions of Anya after Triangle but Willow has relieved herself from her unproductive and actually counter-productive position of pointing out Anya's flaws to the gang. Willow accepts Anya. With that acceptance in place, I think both girls actually become friends at the end of the season.

          Negative: I like that episode brought up the Economics of the Magic Box. However, I wish that we got a definitive answer on whether Giles subsidizes Willow's/Tara's magical ingredients and to what extent. I could have gone on thinking that magical-ingredients-money grows on trees for Willow and Tara but this episode corrected that assumption. That's cool. It's delightfully realistic to see Willow and Anya haggling over money on the surface, and who is Giles's Teacher's Pet subliminally. However, it would be even *cooler* if we learned whether Giles helps Willow and Tara pay for their ingredients in exchange for their evidence volunteer work at the store.
          Last edited by Dipstick; 17-11-18, 06:01 PM.


          • I forgot to write about Into the Woods and I jumped to Triangle too fast.

            Into the Woods

            Postive: I disagree with Xander's speech to Buffy...but I love that he made it. I disagree in the sense that Riley's suck-jobs and behavior of late falls to the level of dump-able behavior. However, Buffy had been treating Riley like a convenience and she hadn't been in touch with her true feelings. That doesn't excuse Riley's behavior at all whereas I think Buffy actually did have compelling extenuating circumstances in her familial tragedy/chaos. Still, there's a lot of validity to Xander demanding that Buffy consider her own actions leading up to Riley's descent and Xander demanding that Buffy seriously consider her feelings for Riley so that they don't waste each other's time. Xander overstates how amazing Riley was but Riley really did have his virtues and good points before his descent. It's very fair for Xander to bring those good qualities so that Buffy can consider her broader relationship with Riley beyond just this present betrayal because Buffy was in a place where all she could see was the betrayal and her anger. It's valid for Buffy to focus on that but if she resented the ultimatum, she needed to be able to consider her entire relationship with Riley beyond the last few bad weeks to make a complete decision in time.

            I agree that Buffy still wasn't in touch with her feelings by running after Riley. Subsequent events pretty much prove that Riley wasn't The One Who Got Away- with regard to both Riley's later life and Buffy's later life. Buffy was responding to some obligation that she felt to be a Good Person, even though such obligation never existed. Because as stated at the beginning, Riley deserved to be dumped for what he did.

            That said, I agree with Andrew S that Buffy's issues with Riley weren't because of Angel. Yes, it was because of the stresses in her family. Buffy was more distant from her best friends as well in the first half of S5. She was also keeping Dawn's identity from them. That wasn't because of Angel. It was because Buffy couldn't deal with her family, her safe place, being the subject of the season's seemingly (and *actually*) unbeatable dangers of *G-d*, whether that's natural life/death on Joyce or Glory threatening Dawn.

            Negative: Ugh. The plastic stake. Soooooo stupid. If Riley was going to go through with that, why not just kill Spike? IMO, Riley never felt this bizarre sentimentality about Spike that held him back from staking Spike like the core Scoobies. So, why not just stake Spike and be done with it? If Riley was concerned that Buffy would get mad at him for that, Riley could very easily lie to Buffy about that. He could just pretend that Spike left town. I don't believe that Riley was stopped because he didn't want to lie to Buffy when he's been sneaking out of her bed for vamp jobs. Even with the Scoobies' bizarre sentimentality over Spike, at this point, Riley getting secret suck-jobs is a MUCH bigger betrayal than staking Spike would be.


            Positive: It's cool to get more details about the Watcher's Council. It's probably the most satisfying episode from that standpoint. It's a great Buffy/Giles episode too (if you ignore the pay issue in terms of Buffy's later financial distress). I love "She's not your bloody instrument!" And Buffy complying with the tests so that Giles isn't deported.

            Negative: Even though I'm a huge Scooby fan, I actually dislike the Scoobies cheering Buffy. It's extremely cheesy. What's more, it's the ultimate in the "cheap seats in the back." The Scoobies don't even know why Buffy is jumping through Council hoops because Buffy/Giles have been lying to the Scoobies about Dawn as the Key. The Scoobies think Buffy is just jumping through Council hoops to stop Glory from obvious menace and badness but they haven't Clue 1 on the emotional import leading Buffy/Giles to turn to the Council again. As a result, I'm pretty offended on the Scoobies' behalf that they're fighting and submitting to Watchers' tests when they don't even know why they're doing it. It just adds salt in the wound to see them cheer Buffy on.

            Blood Ties

            Positive: I love the Spike/Dawn scene where they both realize that she's the Key. It's a great moment for Dawn where she shows intelligence by increasingly figuring it out with every clue from her life. I also think Spike was most effectively used when he was soulless but still an in-practice part of Team Scooby by creating discord and problems but not to obviously evil/homicidal ends (i.e. this episode, Forever). This is one of the best moments for S4-6 Spike because his character and the repercussions from a major action make sense. It makes sense that he'd follow Dawn along to steal stuff because that amuses him. He plays an on-the-surface destructive role by abetting and encouraging Dawn's robbery because he's evil. As Spike is doing this, he's advancing the broader S5 story when he helps Dawn discover that she's the Key. However, it makes practical and thematic sense that Buffy wouldn't stake him for this action because he...just helped Dawn learn the truth about herself.

            Such an action is completely destabilizing of everything Buffy was trying to do....and yet, completely undeserving of the death penalty because Dawn has every right to know about herself. "Maybe if you'd been more honest with her, you wouldn't be trying to make yourself feel better with a Round of Kick the Spike" is completely correct.

            Negative: That said, Giles's IQ takes a beating to get to this moment. The whole name of the game is concealing Dawn's identity at this point. So, Giles writes down that Dawn is the his store accessible to the public....which has frequently been broken into before.....where Glory knows Buffy maintains her headquarters. There are no magical locks or barriers to Giles's office or the drawer with his diaries, even though Willow/Tara were tasked to make an alarm for the broader Magic Box. Sigh.


            • Crush

              Positive: Again, I like the Spike/Dawn scenes. It's interesting that Dawn stuck her toe into dangerous waters once she found out that she was created to be protected. It's her version of rebellion. However, she has strong self-preservation so she goes to Spike, a G-rated version of danger because he's chipped and in love with Buffy and thus, not an actual threat.

              As for Spike, I think his friendship with Dawn was mainly about appealing to Buffy. This episode actually indicates that with how Spike abruptly changes his scary story for Dawn into a bland heartwarming story so he looks good to Buffy. Dawn is de-prioritized once Buffy enters the crypt. However, it's still a very refreshing change of pace to see Spike socializing in a friendly manner without melodrama or repetitive rancor. JM and MT have good acting chemistry together, as well. I kind of like that Spike dropped Dawn the minute that Buffy came back in S6 because it feeds my theory that soulless creatures can love melodramatically and toxically but they can't be selfless friends to the vulnerable. However, it's a unfortunate that S7 didn't rebuild a Spike/Dawn friendship when he was souled and better capable of being a friend.

              Negative: This sums it up.

              Originally posted by a thing of evil View Post
              Negative: Why does Spike survive this episode? I mean, he teams up with Drusilla. They kill innocent people. Knock Buffy out. Shackle her. Spike then launches into a nonsensical, narcissistic, misogynistic rant and I didn't even mention his pathetic, creepy, stalker-y, masturbatory shrine. Spike, no. I mean, what does Spike have to do to get dusted? His plot armor is officially ridiculous, it wrecks the believability or verisimilitude or whatever you want to call it. And to add an insult to injury, Drusilla just walks away because apparently Buffy can't be bothered to slay the massacre-loving soulless vampire that killed her friend. Crush, more like trash.
              Harmony also walks away. What's more, Harmony draws attention to how she's walking away sloooooowwly so Spike can think about her ass. Meanwhile, Buffy is apparently also too busy checking out Harmony's ass so she doesn't stake the unchipped vampire who recently kidnapped her sister. So, Buffy let three dangerous vampires go. We don't even see Real Drusilla anymore in the present day for the rest of the duration of the Buffyverse. Buffy could have staked Drusilla without affecting any of the future stories. But I'd venture the writers wanted to keep these vamps as possible characters for the future even if they didn't have specific plans for them so Buffy's character and the logic/morality of the verse was again sacrificed.

              I Was Made To Love You

              Positive: As said before, Xander is amazing in this episode and Giles is great too in his protectiveness of Buffy. This may sound odd because Willow's not important to this episode but this ep featured multiple moments where Willow did something tiny but the effect was huge. It's funny and cute that she tries sowing her appreciation of non-Tara ladies by bro-ing it up with Xander over April but sticks her foot in her mouth in front of Tara. Aly does beautiful, subtle work when she looks a little sad when Xander mentions that he misses Oz. "Gay Now", regardless, that break-up still hurts. (I think Aly was directed to do that. Still, one of her great qualities as an actress on this show is that she still acts her ass off in her facial expressions even when she's just a background character without any lines. I think she did that less in S7 when either AH was phoning it in or Willow was shell of herself; the downgrade was noticable because she was always so special about making Willow come alive in scenes that weren't about her at all.) Excellent, ironic foreshadowing in how Willow feels empathy with and identifies with Warren building a sexbot.

              Negative: The pacing could have been better. April doesn't indicate she's a threat until the end of Act 1. The Scoobies spend most of the time talking and Buffy talks to Warren through most of Act 2 and 3. This is a very pleasant character ep before stuff gets much darker so I don't resent the lingering. However, better pacing could have allowed more to happen.

              The Body

              Positive: I was the most affected by that part where Buffy imagines that she got home in time and the paramedics revived Joyce and she was just fine...and then, flash to Joyce's corpse. I did cry then on first-watch. I also love Anya finding Willow's blue top and throwing it aside because Anya doesn't know that Willow was looking for it. Quietly realistic.

              Negative: I don't care for the Buffy/Tara scene at the hospital. I feel like the scene sets up that Tara is really going to say something powerful and revealing because her mother also died when she was young. But then, Tara doesn't say anything other than vague and emo, "It's always sudden. I thought...things...that made me feel like I was bad." I think they should have given Tara a genuine anecdote with specifics that could foreshadow/relate to Buffy's experience. Probably something specific about her relationship with Donnie, before her mother died and then after that could be contrasted with the Buffy/Dawn relationship. Something concrete that I could get my arms around. (Such an anecdote could have illuminated Tara's issues in Tough Love.) However, I can't connect to vague aphorisms like "always sudden."
              Last edited by Dipstick; 20-11-18, 09:22 PM.


              • Forever

                Positive: I think there's interesting mirroring going on between Giles/Tara and Willow/Spike. I think these pairs are generally mirrored. Giles and Tara are the rules-based hierarchical magical practitioners; Willow and Spike are the rebels inclined to throw the rule-book out as well as the limitations placed on them. Here, Willow and Spike intentionally give Dawn information/aid about resurrections. I believe Willow wasn't trying to help Dawn actually resurrect but was instead, trying to give Dawn peace of mind that resurrecting Joyce would be more trouble than it was worth by giving Dawn access to a book which said that instead of just leaving it as "Because I said so. End of story." However, the practical effect is that Willow and Spike intentionally helped. Meanwhile, Giles and Tara actually UNINTENTIONALLY help Dawn. Tara betrays the idea that resurrections can be done to Clever!Dawn when Tara just intended to communicate a "No, no, no!" message.

                TARA: Because witches can't be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons. Wiccans took an oath a long time ago to honor that.
                DAWN: So it's possible ... to bring someone back? They wouldn't have taken an oath if thy didn't know they could do it.

                Meanwhile, Giles so busy cleaved to his "Deal with grief by being useful and doing chores" mentality that Dawn was able to use that to manipulate him into showing her the location of the most potent magic books.

                I think AH's acting is awesome here. Obviously, this is an acting powerhouse for SMG and MT and they both do wonderfully in portraying their utter grief and misery at being essentially orphaned. However in line with my Positive, AH had a tricky job of communicating the nuances of her decision to give Dawn the book entirely with her face without the benefit of any words. She effectively communicates Willow's early deference at leaving it up to Tara to handle Dawn's grief and questions about the resurrection, but then, how Willow is about as unconvinced by Tara's "Wiccans took an Oath" dogma as Dawn and how Willow increasingly feels helpless and guilty at how Dawn continues to be angry at them for not helping her and how Willow really doesn't want to land on that note for Dawn's visit. But then AH also acts out a potent discomfort and even fear of disagreeing openly with Tara. She hardly has any words to act out these feelings. It's all in her eyes. There was some nostril work as well but mostly eyes.

                Negative: I don't like that Buffy slapped Dawn. It's played as a typical cinematic slap where someone (usually a girl) is so angry and miserable that she just slaps someone hard without any control. It's usually rendered somewhat inoffensive because it's assumed that girls can't slap that hard. However, Buffy isn't a typical girl or even a typical human. She's a slayer who has to watch how she hits or even hugs. Like in Into the Woods, Buffy hurt Joyce's doctor when she hugged him too hard, forgetting that she had slayer strength. However I would imagine that if Buffy hit Dawn with slayer strength, Dawn would be knocked over or we'd see a bruise quickly start to form. But then on the gripping hand, Buffy hit Dawn without control. This wasn't some disciplined spanking where Buffy controlled the strength of her hand. I also hate this cinematic trope that seems to excuse the stronger person slapping the more vulnerable person in the face if the more vulnerable person is being a pain and the stronger person is distressed.


                Positive: I love Willow and Xander and to a lesser extent, Anya here. I think they are all in this complex middle zone where they demonstrate support and respect for Buffy but they want to help stop her from getting into a destructive, toxic relationship that she was specifically loudly repulsed by just before Joyce died. Also, big heart-eyes at Willow fixing the Buffybot. It would have felt like an asspull to surprise us with the Buffybot fighting Glory in The Gift without that scene. I also like the symbolism of Willow turning the sexbot into an aid for Team Good.

                Negative: I dislike that Buffy kissed Spike as a reward for not betraying Dawn. He's been stalking her all year. He tied her up and shackled her while he threatened her into stating love for him. He threatened a human into building a sexbot twin of her after Buffy denied him a sexual relationship. I understand considering Spike an ally in the upcoming serious fight with Glory. I've complained about Spike's plot armor a lot but Spike's continued existence makes the most sense at the end of S5 when the situation is that dire that they need all of the superpowered help they can get and Spike proved that he loved Buffy/Dawn enough that he'd stand up to torture to protect them. However, Buffy kissing Spike sends the wrong message that she'll reward him with physical intimacy if he protects her family, no matter what other terrible soulless acts he commits. Frankly, it makes the most sense that Buffy is sexually attracted to Spike and wants to mack on him and this "kissing as a favor for your sacrifice" is the cover that Buffy is using at the moment. That makes more narrative sense but the dishonesty is annoying.

                Tough Love

                Positive: I actually like the Willow/Tara fight taken on its own but not as foreshadowing for S6. I saw Tara pulling nasty faces (Out of My Mind with the Fiat Lux spell), making bitchy remarks ("Not everything is about you and your friends" in Family, complaining about not being included in The Real Me, "In case you didn't hear the first six thousand times, no more teleportation spells in Crush) or harshly controlling Willow's language (Forever with the resurrection discussion). Tara's discomfort with Willow's power and her resentment that Willow Doesn't! Get! Her! Pain! had been subtly built up this season. This season did a better job building up that Tara has issues with Willow rather than the audience should have issues with Willow. Tara doesn't bring up a fear of Willow going back to boys; instead Willow interprets that as Tara's issue. However, it's understandable that Willow would be struggling with this in an unspoken way and it adds nuance to Willow's focus on expressing that she's Gay Now.

                I think Tara was a jerk in this fight by denying Willow the space to talk about her concerns of Buffy hurting Dawn, by using loaded language that Willow frightens her and then, when cornered on what that meant, interpreting it as "I don't know where you're heading. I don't know where I'll fit when you abandon me" faux victimness. However, I do think it's worth mentioning that Willow's power has grown by leaps and bounds and demands a conversation on what that means. It should have been mentioned in a calm discussion with Willow to get her feelings too instead of a passive-aggressive mention in a discussion about who has more authority and who feels more insecure in their relationship. However, I think it's realistic that Tara and really anyone would ponder how much power Willow has and continues to develop after Willow teleported Glory.

                For another positive, my favorite LGBT moment in the series (and maybe all of television history) is Willow promising to take care of Brainsuck!Tara even if she never recovers. It's so understatedly advanced. Tough Love aired three years BEFORE George W. Bush, in no small part. won re-election because homophobic US citizens were afraid that gay people would have the right to marry. Meanwhile without any chest beating or Afterschool Special Music and Sparkles, Willow gives "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" vows to Tara as part of the larger Big Bad arc. It underscores how many gay couples were already doing that even if they were disenfranchised of their rights for the state to recognize and support those vows.

                Negative: I like a lot of the I. Owe. You. Pain! fight. However, I don't care for certain elements. The "Darkest Magics" book has too literal and silly a title. I thought the special effects work of Willow floating into the apartment looked corny. I also can't figure out if Willow was juiced enough on magic that she actually had to float or if she was wasting her magical resources on a grand entrance. I think it was the latter because when she drank all of the magic books in Villains, she doesn't float. So, either Willow or the mythology annoy me there.

                S1-5 Willow consistently wears ugly clothes so I don't cite them as Negatives. It's kind of her thing. However, I've read all of this appreciation for her Tough Love pink dress and I don't agree. It's odd because she wears a similar dress in Choices and I thought the dress was great in Choices. However in Tough Love, the dress is a blander pink that clashes with her red hair and it's not cut as well and she pairs it with a hideous jacket. Those details make all of the difference.
                Last edited by Dipstick; 28-11-18, 06:53 PM.


                • Spiral


                  Originally posted by a thing of evil View Post

                  Positive: This is a very entertaining episode and I like that everybody gets to have at least one awesome and/or cool moment! Buffy fights the knights on the roof of the RV. Willow's big with the witch-fu. Xander lights Spike's cigarette. Giles has that beautiful moment with Buffy. Spike catches the sword. Dawn says thank you. Anya frying pans the knight. It's all pretty epic!

                  Negative: Nothing makes sense in this episode. Obviously, everybody can't fit in the Xander-mobile. So why not fit them into Xander-mobile and Giles' little two-door tramp seen in Real Me? Or any other car? Why the RV? You're running away, why not use something speedy? How about a plane? There's an airport in Sunnydale. And horsies! Why? How? And how did the knights even manage to locate the fleeing RV? Why does Buffy call Ben? I mean, if you're bringing normal people into this why not just call an ambulance? Why does Ben come to Buffy? He knows that Buffy's the slayer and understands the situation with Glory, right? I can go on like this. I'm OK with sacrificing sense for the sake of entertainment value but to a point. Spiral straight up tramples over that point.
                  To defend the ep a little, I can see why the Scoobies didn't want to split the group. It's hard to figure where the superpowers should be divided if you split the group in two. The first instinct is to surround Dawn with Spike/Buffy/Willow (who comes with Tara attached at the hip) because she's the person most in danger. However, it's also not good to leave Xander/Anya/Giles at sitting ducks for the knights or Glory to torture them without the benefit of any superpower protection. So, I see how the safest courses is for everyone to just stick together. With regard to the plane, that traps the Scoobies onto a public mode of transportation for hours. What if a knight or agent of Glory's was able to figure out that the Scoobies were on a particular flight? They'd be sitting ducks on the plane for hours. What if they were able to track the Scoobies to the destination city? They'd be back where they started but poorer and with the need to figure out other transportation. At least with the RV, the Scoobies assured themselves their own private set of wheels. I also think this was a particularly slow, crappy RV. Quality RVs can go 70, 75 mph- the speed limit on most US expressways. Maybe Spike/Buffy thought there'd be a better selection.

                  Positive: I agree that this is a great ensemble piece. I like the second half of S5 much more than the first half because the second half is where (a) the plot really ramps up and Glory stops being repetitive with her all talk, little action whining about the Key and (b) the show is a true ensemble again instead of too much focus on Buffy/Riley/Dawn/to a lesser extent Spike over the rest of the Scoobies. I think the Giles/Buffy scene is my favorite. I think it brings great nuance and honor to Giles's later position to kill Dawn to save the world. It was well built up that Giles would to do whatever he could to hide Dawn, beg the Watcher's Council for help, support Buffy running away to hide Dawn even as he may be dying from a stab wound without adequate medical care. He just doesn't want everyone else in the world to die to extend Dawn's life by a few minutes. I think the end of S5 was particularly effective at the characterization of Giles as a loving hero...who'd do the hard, evil things when pushed to a certain point because he won't tolerate an apocalypse or an embittered Glory roaming the world indefinitely.

                  Negative: I do agree with a thing of evil that it was stupid to call Ben, the Resident like he's some Super Speshul Healer as opposed to 911.

                  The Weight of the World:

                  Positive: I think it's cool to have this quiet, introspective episode sandwiched between major action eps Tough Love/Spiral and then, The Gift. A big theme of this season has been insanity and appropriate therapy to deal with insanity. It appears with Insane Glory, her brainsucked victims and then, Willow's efforts to cure Crazy!Tara, and Brain Tumor!Joyce. Spike brought up a complex among slayers to have a death-wish. Riley and the other clients going to see vampires for suck-job have addiction, suicidal ideation issues. Ben literally has a split personality, very much on display in this episode. This theme is rounded off very well by having Buffy join the non-functioning mentally ill for this episode when she's catatonic.

                  I think it's the natural inclination to hope that talk therapy will solve every problem of mental illness. It's beautiful to see Willow do that with the mystical help of actually getting into Buffy's head. After seeing Insane Glory ravage and endanger the world, Ben succumb to his split personality, hordes of hopelessly brainsucked mental patients remain tortured with Tara recently having joined their number, and Joyce die from a brain aneurysm, it's so encouraging and gorgeous to see Willow and Buffy talking out Buffy's long-term complex to the point that Buffy can go from catatonia to high-functioning hero again even if it's not a permanent solution.

                  Negative: I agree that the actors who play Ben and Glory both aren't set up for loooooong monologues with each other. Clare Kramer actually isn't a bad actress. She does "menacing" very well. She's actually very good in her scenes with Dawn in this episode. However, she has her limitations. Charlie Weber pretty much just sucks as an actor and wasn't up to the challenge of playing Ben.

                  The Gift:

                  Positive: Willow curing Tara's insanity is the highlight of the ep for me. It's so multi-functional. Willow saves her loved one from a lifetime of sickness and torture. Willow gets another shot at confronting Glory, but this time, comes out ahead. Glory becomes disoriented and easier to fight after she got a taste of her own brain-suck medicine. Tara is back on the board as a witch for Team Buffy. I also love the gang using Crazy Tara to locate Glory's lair because Tara knows where it is and is itching to go there because she's been forcibly indoctrinated into Glory's cult of worship by virtue of being brainsucked.

                  Negative: As vampmogs said, it's a complete retcon to say that Buffy's blood serves the same purpose as Dawn's. What was the point of even creating a Key if Buffy's blood is the same as Dawn's blood i.e. able to open and close dimensions? It's also bizarre to watch this season along with AtS. The AtS gang hops in and out of portals a lot, including at the end of this parallel season with The Gift. I fanwank that it's easier to get into Pylea/Quor-Toth than Glory's home dimension but man, there's a big difference in how the series paints the labor of finding a way into other dimensions. Some of the battle is framed poorly. I don't know what Buffy was doing when the Buffybot was fighting Glory. It was like Buffy was lying in wait while the Buffybot pummeled Glory so that Buffy could immediately appear once the Buffybot's head was knocked off. Buffy should have been running to the tower to rescue Dawn while Glory and the 'Bot fought. The Dagonsphere seemed pretty useless as a repelling object because Glory could crush it. However, why the f*ck did Buffy toss the one repelling object at Glory for her to crush? Buffy should have held onto the Dagonsphere in her run to save Dawn at the tower. I don't know how Xander saw Glory through an entire wall enough to have the aim to strike the wrecking ball at her.
                  Last edited by Dipstick; 03-12-18, 09:37 PM.


                  • “Checkpoint”

                    Positive: I like Glory a lot, especially in this episode. She's no Angelus or Mayor, but I do think she’s one of the better Big Bads in the series. I really liked her confrontation with Buffy at the Summers’ house and a thing of evil has a great point that Glory is basically Buffy’s version of Vamp-Willow. Buffy did compare her to Cordelia – and BtVS-Cordelia was intended to be Buffy’s original shadow self, the bitchier side of herself that she keeps contained. And Glory plays that role that season and there are good parallels between her and Buffy. She’s a powerful being known for dominating and causing fear in her own dimensional demon-world, much in the same way that powerful Buffy dominates and causes fear to the Earthly demon-world by being the Slayer. Glory is the most powerful villain in the series, but (in addition to Ben, of course) her vanity and self-absorption often undermines her strength and holds her back from accomplishing her plans throughout the season. It’s in complete contrast to S5 Buffy, who becomes more selfless, determined, and loving than she’s ever been as the season progresses. Glory’s temporary bouts of weakness and insanity as a result of being contained in the human world could also be considered a mirror to Buffy’s own mental health issues that begin this season as a result of the world’s events taking their toll on her. Clare Kramer may not have the screen presence of Harry Groener or Juliet Landau, but she’s better than most fans give her credit for and she consistently nails Glory’s craziness, shallowness, and dangerousness throughout the season.

                    Negative: The scene with the Watcher’s Council interviewing Spike is ridiculous. There is no way in hell they wouldn’t stake him. He killed *two* Slayers, FFS. Total plot armor at its best and the scene wasn’t even funny enough to justify it.

                    “Blood Ties”

                    Positive: Spike is awesome in this episode. Episodes like this are what I mean when I say that he is the show’s truthteller. Spike isn’t a truthteller in the sense that he’s right about everything, but his words/actions are what lead other characters to question and discover the truth in themselves. He does that with Buffy and Dawn in this episode. Not only does Spike (albeit unintentionally) lead Dawn to discover she’s the Key, he gives Buffy a reality check about blaming him for her own lying to Dawn. His indignant speech to Buffy about going with Dawn to protect her is extremely manipulative (as others stated before, he didn’t go to protect Dawn but because he was bored), but it was convincing enough that it got through to Buffy and made her question how unfairly she had been treating her sister.

                    Negative: Characters acting stupid for the sake of the plot, which is increasingly more common starting with this season. Dawn running out of the house in the middle of the night – twice! – even though she was kidnapped earlier in the season for doing the same thing. Also: Giles leaving valuable information about The Key lying around the Magic Box. Like, WTF, dude? Buffy should have been pissed at him instead of Spike. It’s a good thing Glory wasn’t smart enough to send her minions to raid the shop for info.


                    Positive: James Marsters is such an incredible actor. He almost manages to make me forget that Spike’s presence on this show makes no sense because he’s so entertaining. I like how a lot of Spike’s scenes in this episode are subverted re-enactments of classic Bangel moments from S1-S3. Spike and Dru teaming up to knock Buffy out and tie her up is very similar to Angel and Faith doing the same thing to her in “Enemies” – except here, Spike knocks Dru out too. His gesture to stake Drusilla to prove his love to Buffy is a nice throwback to Angel proving his own goodness/love for Buffy by staking Darla back in S1 – except Buffy is noticeably less impressed by the gesture here (a testament to how much she’s grown!). And the ending with Willow casting the de-invitation spell and Buffy shutting the door in Spike’s face is a throwback to the two of them doing the exact same thing to Angel in “Passion”.

                    Negative: I really love the way SMG interacts with Marsters here and I love the way she plays Buffy’s reactions to him/his crush on her, but the writing itself for Buffy here is bizarre. I honestly don’t blame Joyce for asking Buffy if she led Spike on in any sort of way because 1) Buffy *does* start to lead him on a few episodes from now once she kisses him in “Intervention” and 2) Buffy’s behavior towards him is so weird in the first place. After what he pulls here, why is he still alive? Spike has been stalking her throughout the season, he kidnaps her here, and sets Drusilla on her. If Buffy is SO tired of dealing with Spike, then she should just stake his ass and be done with it! And it’s not just Spike. Buffy allows not one, not two, but THREE evil vampires to get away without moving a muscle at the end of the episode. What the hell? I mean, she’s done this type of thing before, but it’s never as egregious as it is here. I can’t fanwank it at all, it is just pure ridiculousness.

                    “I Was Made to Love You”

                    Positive: Unpopular opinion, but I love Warren. He’s well-realized by Adam Busch, extremely nasty but deeply insecure, and one of the few characters introduced in the later seasons that’s both interesting and integral to the point. It breaks my heart to hear Willow and Tara be the ones defending him, though.

                    Negative: I hate Ben. Always have and always will. I feel that all the Riley-haters should direct their energy towards Ben, because he's terrible. He’s a majorly important character to the season, someone that the audience is supposed to care about and feel really sorry for, and clearly someone that Buffy and Dawn are supposed to care about (considering Buffy flirts with him, Dawn tells him she's The Key, and he's the person they think to call when they're on the run and need help later on in the season). But he has no chemistry with either of them, nearly all of his scenes feature badly-delivered whining and/or exposition, and the actor cannot act. He makes me miss early-seasons!David Boreanaz, that’s how bad he is. Even on Boreanaz’s worst days, the chemistry between him and Gellar was terrific. But there are no sparks flying between her and Charlie Weber. Possibly the most miscast character in the entire series.

                    "The Body"

                    Positive: Life is a better Big Bad here than it was in all of Season 6. R.I.P. Joyce.

                    Negative: Giles should have had more to do. Every single character gets a memorable reaction/moment in the episode, except for him.
                    Last edited by Andrew S.; 31-12-18, 02:18 AM.


                    • Finally finishing these. I remember doing the last few episodes of S5 at the beginning of the year and trying to post it, only for the whole thing to get swallowed. LOL, I was so pissed. But better late than never. This season is still the best example of long-form storytelling the show ever did. While some episodes were better than others and there were a lot of plot holes in the arc (particularly where Glory was concerned), I think they did a good job sustaining momentum and it never drags on the way the S6-S7 arcs often did.


                      Positive: This is a really good one for Dawn. She’s super angsty but she still gets shit done. Dawn essentially acts like a young Willow Rosenberg throughout this episode, so it’s appropriate that Willow is the one to give her the book. She’s incredibly smart and resourceful, successfully outwits all the adults around her, and I like the team-up between her and Spike.

                      Negative: Hank’s absence. I hate a deadbeat.


                      Positive: I like when the bot talks to Willow and one of her attributes is: GAY (1999-present). The bolded part, in particular, is what kills me every time.

                      Negative: Buffy says ‘I’m going to kill Spike’ right in front of the Buffybot and the bot *doesn’t* flip out in defense of him? April most definitely would have defended Warren’s honor, so why doesn’t Buffybot defend Spike’s? It would have been so cool to see Buffy fight herself. We got our Willow v. Willow fight in “Doppelgangland”, we got our Xander v. Xander fight in “The Replacement”, we should have gotten a Buffy v. Buffy fight here.

                      Also: Buffy kissing Spike at the end as a reward for his loyalty has some weird implications. If a scene like this had happened between her and Xander at any point in the series, people would have lost (and would still be losing) their collective shits.

                      “Tough Love”

                      Positive: Tara’s refusal to tell Glory about The Key is really brave and endearing. I love everything about the Tara-Dawn relationship and this is when Tara really starts to come into her own as a character for me.

                      Negative: Willow and Tara’s fight is contrived.


                      Positive: Giles’s speech to Buffy and his saying he’s proud of her. Buffy takes her role as the Slayer seriously, but she refuses to let it compromise who she is and what she values. As much as that frustrates Giles (like when they argue about killing Dawn in “The Gift”), scenes like this (along with his ‘she’s a hero’ speech) show that, deep down, he really admires that quality about her.

                      Negative: As enjoyable as the episode is, the plot makes no sense.

                      “The Weight of the World”

                      Positive: The ‘Ben is Glory, Glory is Ben?’ bit never gets old. It almost manages to justify Ben’s existence!

                      Negative: While I like the parallels between her and Buffy, the Glory stuff in this episode drags for me. Her feelings of humanity are somewhat interesting but it comes far too late in the game and is pretty much dropped by the next episode.

                      “The Gift”

                      Positive: I hate the ‘previously-on’ recaps and usually find them unnecessary, but I do love the recap for this one and it saddens me the Region 1 DVDs cut it out. Buffy’s life literally flashes before our eyes and it’s brilliant. I also love the scene between Buffy and Willow:

                      WILLOW: “I’ve mostly been looking into ways to help Tara. I-I know that shouldn’t be my priority--”
                      BUFFY: (puts her hand on Willow’s knee) “Of course, it should.”

                      I love that moment because it shows that Buffy’s not a hypocrite. Buffy spends the whole episode emphasizing Dawn (the person she loves most) as her number one priority, so she’s not going to get mad at Willow for emphasizing Tara (the person that she loves most) as her number one priority.

                      Negative: While I get that she’s under a lot of pressure and even sympathize with her moral dilemma, Buffy’s ‘I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn!’ is extremely obnoxious. Everyone she said that to had been spending the entire year risking their lives to protect Dawn. Poor Tara just got brainsucked because she was protecting Buffy’s sister, so Buffy can chill out with that attitude.
                      Last edited by Andrew S.; 30-12-19, 10:18 PM.


                      • Great post, Andrew S. I find myself nodding in agreement to practically everything you posted. Especially Willow and Tara's fight feeling contrived in Tough Love, the weird implications of the final Buffy and Spike scene in Intervention, Glory's scenes dragging in Weight of the World, and the lovely scene between Buffy and Willow in The Gift.

                        The only episode we really differ on is Forever. I really enjoy that episode overall but I would say it's negative is the ridiculous dino-demon which looks silly and completely takes me out of the scene. And despite enjoying the Spike/Dawn relationship overall, this episode has weirdly always left me really cold on that front. Their quest is actually my least favourite thing about the episode and I much prefer all the other scenes of Buffy dealing with organising Joyce's funeral etc.

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                        • Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                          The only episode we really differ on is Forever. I really enjoy that episode overall but I would say it's negative is the ridiculous dino-demon which looks silly and completely takes me out of the scene. And despite enjoying the Spike/Dawn relationship overall, this episode has weirdly always left me really cold on that front. Their quest is actually my least favourite thing about the episode and I much prefer all the other scenes of Buffy dealing with organising Joyce's funeral etc.
                          Yeah the dino-demon was weird (and way too stiff!) but Dawn’s nerve alone made the scene for me. I think it’s the first time we see her participating in the action for a change instead of just being the damsel. And for that, I am grateful.

                          What I like about the Spike-Dawn dynamic is how it’s not only entertaining, but surprisingly layered on both ends. As protective as he is of Dawn, Spike mainly just seems to view her as an extension of Buffy. Once Buffy finally starts to reciprocate his interest, Spike loses interest in his friendship with Dawn. And on Dawn’s end, I like how she isn’t as naive as she was in “Crush”. She is very much aware of Spike’s shadier aspects (she calls him out on stalking Buffy) but still trusts him.

                          I also think Hank’s absence is a big reason why Dawn gravitates toward Spike so much. Likewise with Xander. While Dawn’s crushes on them are mostly played for laughs, there’s a sad context to it when you consider that Spike, Xander and even Riley (who Dawn was becoming quite attached to before he left) have spent more time with her in the past several months than Hank has for the past several years.
                          Last edited by Andrew S.; 31-12-19, 04:53 AM.