TV - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 5

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

steven harris moves on to Season 5 in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer watching duties...

So Buffy has a sister. Who knew? None of us. And yet all of the Scoobies and everyone else in Sunnydale. Except not really. They just think they knew. I’ll back up and start again.

So Buffy has a sister called Dawn. She’s not a real sister, she’s some sort of key to some sort of demon dimension that some sort of monstrous god thing wants in order to get back to the demon dimension which will cause collateral devastation to this dimension. I’ll back up and start again.

Dawn is one of the tropes of Season 5 foretold in the closing episode of Season 4 during the dream sequences when Buffy encountered the spirit of the First Slayer. What was not foretold was just how high the emotional stakes would be cranked up for the new series. Dawn was a form of energy, a key to unlocking the aforementioned dimension. Glory is a hell-bitch god with 80s hair obsession and strength so megatastic that Buffy cannot really compete. Glory does not know what form the key has been transformed into by some religious nutjob types but knows it is somewhere in Sunnydale, where all the weird shit happens. Oh yeah, and Glory is sometimes Ben, a human created possibly as a side effect when she was cast out of her dimension. Ben has a conscience and is quite nice, when he’s not Glory. I won’t back up and start again.

Family, friendships, growing up, responsibility. Themes one might find in lots of teen dramas of the period. Of any period if you think about it. Not Happy Days. That was a sitcom. Although actually it did have all those things too. And the Fonz. Spike is like the Fonz. In Season 6 we will see him on a motorbike. Hush now, I’m working. Aaaaay!

Willow’s relationships with Tara is blossoming, as is her skill with magic. There are beginning to be signs that Willow possibly likes magic a little too much but this is in no way a gay thing. Which categorically proves there is absolutely no connection between being same-sex orientated and becoming over dependent on witchcraft. It would be practically medieval to suggest such a thing.

Riley seems pretty emasculated by his lack of science-freak experiment diet from the Initiative and becomes a sad sack of a character who ends up letting vamps pleasure suck him for money. From the veins. Good god, people, what did you think I meant? He departs in a blur of muscles and frowns.
Spike’s infatuation with Buffy becomes intensified to such a point that he even commissions local smart-alec psycho boy Warren to make him a Buffybot, an android Summers woman who just wants to hump and fight with the most peroxided vampire in the world.

Xander and Anya are growing into a stronger and more dependable relationship. Anya works for Giles at the Magic shop, Xander finds gainful employment, they get a flat. Domestic niceness and blissitude ahoy.

And death. Joyce Summers, Buffy and Dawn’s mum dies (let’s just accept that as well as being The Key, Dawn is Buffy’s sister because the implanted memories everyone has of her life with them also engender emotional attachments). Joyce shows signs of illness early in the season and while at first it is thought to be something Glory is responsible for it is later discovered that she has a brain tumour. An operation appears to have successfully removed the tumour and things return a little more to normal. And then she dies of an aneurysm.

Slayer. It’s one of the words in the title of the show. Slaying happens. It’s what Buffy does. Which means death is a constant, a given throughout the show. The body count must be ridiculously high across seven seasons when you think about it. So how do you make just one more death significant and emotive when the basic premise of every episode is danger, attack, kill, resolution?

In the critically-acclaimed episode The Body, written by series creator Joss Whedon, one of the most impactive ways is to strip all incidental music from the action. All of it. Great lumps of silence serve instead to express the unreality and sensory disorientation one experiences when tragedy strikes. Where there are sound impressions they are heightened, wind chimes jiggling outside, the graphic noise of Buffy vomiting when she begins to comprehend that her mother is dead.

For a series so fixated on cemeteries it is ingenious indeed to ensure that one of the most powerful scenes ever is the daylight burial of Joyce. A large crowd is gathered as a religious man in robes says religious things which require robes. Slowly the crowd thins until there are just Buffy, Dawn, Willow and Tara. And then just Buffy. And then Angel. Oh well, it’s a wonderful and astonishing piece of television until that piece of wood turns up. He’s not in it much anyway.

Joyce’s death is a foreshadowing. As things escalate with Glory, Dawn’s identity is discovered and Buffy, who has been on a vision quest and told that ‘death is your gift’ realises this will hold significance when it comes down to facing the big bad god. Willow has already proven that Glory can be distracted by powerful magic from a black-eyed witchy woman and along the way a troll hammer has come into the gang’s possession. Spike joins the fight to try to save Buffy’s kid sister and it’s a huge troupe of fighty types who tackle Glory once she has kidnapped Dawn intending to drain her blood to open a portal back to her own dimension. The fact that this will also wreak havoc upon our dimension is almost incidental. That shit’s always happening to Buffy. This time it’s personal. It’s her fricking sister for the deadening if she can’t stop Glory.

Which she does. With a lot of help. A weakened Glory turns into Ben at just the wrong moment. Buffy might have let him go – he is kinda human and not a total git after all – but he could turn back into super-bitch pouty-face freakazoid Glory at any moment and Giles, yes Giles, kills him. Nobody else sees this. Only the audience know that Ripper is not merely an old nickname.

Glory is defeated but the portal is still open. Dawn is prepared to sacrifice herself to close it but Buffy jumps into it, and subsequently to her death. Portal closed. Season ended. Well, apart from the bit about there being a gravestone with Buffy’s name on it and the inscription ‘She saved the world. A lot.’ How can she possibly come back from this? Tune in next season or conjure yourself up a bunch of Crusadey knights and get all stabby.