In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
One of the running themes I’ve noticed in the first five seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer revolves around the issue of keeping important secrets from friends and loved ones. Throughout the course of the series, nearly every major character and a handful of minor characters on the show has harbored at least one secret, and for the most part, they have resulted in some fairly negative consequences. In the first of this week’s featured episodes, “Blood Ties,” the big secret regarding Dawn’s true identity is revealed to the entire Scooby Gang, as well as Dawn herself, who understandably takes the news quite hard. In addition to this bombshell, the group also finds out some much-needed information about Glory, whom they discover is an immortal being from a demon dimension who had somehow found her way on Earth and is stuck in human form. Giles informs the group that while Glory retains her godlike power, being on Earth is causing her to slowly go insane and that she is able to fend off the deterioration of her mind by sucking the mental energy of others around her, which explains the sudden increase of insane people around Sunnydale. Later on, we get another demonstration of Glory’s mind-sucking ability when she tortures and eventually mind-wipes a member of the Knights of Byzantium, the group that Buffy ran into a few episodes back.
The gang briefly tries to put Glory and the truth about Dawn behind them to help Buffy celebrate her twentieth birthday at the Music Box. Dawn picks up on everyone’s sudden uneasiness around her and later sneaks out of her house in order to find the reason behind it. She runs into Spike, who is again hanging out right outside the Summers home, and he accompanies her to the Magic Box, where he helps her break in and snoop around all of Giles’ books concerning the arcane and supernatural. While in the shop, Dawn finds Giles’ personal journal and reads about the Key that Glory is looking for, eventually discovering that she is the human embodiment of the Key and not Joyce Summers’ biological daughter as she had believed before. Emotionally devastated by this revelation, Dawn returns home and confronts everyone, bleeding from a self-inflicted wound and asking if real blood is coming out of her arm. Buffy and Joyce try to console her, but she tells them to leave her alone and runs up to her room.
The next day, after discovering some telltale cigarette butts at the Magic Box, Buffy confronts Spike and accuses him of revealing Dawn’s secret to her. Spike admits that he did help Dawn break into the Magic Box but that he only did so to help protect her from any other dangerous beings that may have been lurking around in town that night. The disillusioned Dawn begins to act out, getting herself suspended from school and burning her diaries in her room before running away. While the gang splits up to search for her, Dawn wanders around Sunnydale before ending up at the hospital, where she runs into Ben. While telling Ben the information she found out about herself, Ben freaks out and tells her that she needs to leave before Glory arrives. Dawn is confused by this sudden outburst and is shocked to see Ben actually transform into Glory, who thankfully still has not discovered that Dawn is the Key. Buffy arrives at the hospital to stop Glory from draining Dawn’s mind and engages in another brutally one-sided battle until Willow casts a teleportation spell that sends Glory to a spot high above the town that results in her crashing to the ground. With Dawn now safe back at home, Buffy informs her that even though she’s not her blood relative, that she and Joyce promise to love her and treat her like family. Dawn is relieved to hear this and tries to inform Buffy that Ben and Glory are linked but is unable to remember seeing him actually turn into her.
One of the aspects of Season Five that has most impressed me is how quickly the show has turned Dawn into such an important and relatable character despite not being around during the first four seasons. From her first appearance on, she always came across as a genuine teenage girl instead of the insipid, pop-culture-spouting, shallow cyphers many other shows seem to make out of characters her age. In this episode, after facing the truth about her identity and discovering that all of her past memories are fabrications, Michelle Trachtenberg really nails the character’s emotional trauma without going too over the top, and the final scene between her and Buffy was genuinely touching and heartfelt. Whedon and his writing staff has done an excellent job in turning Dawn into a bonafide three-dimensional character instead of just a plot device, and “Blood Ties” further deepens her character by giving her the knowledge she was deprived of and as a result actually strengthens her relationship with her adopted sister, which up until now was rather strained. It’s yet another example of how well this show melds character and plot, especially with this season. 4.5 out of 5 Shell Frames.
Another big secret is revealed in the next episode, entitled “Crush,” in which Buffy finally discovers Spike’s unrequited love for her. Adding to her troubles, Spike’s former lady love Drusilla arrives back in Sunnydale on a late-arriving train after killing and feeding off all the passengers. While investigating the deaths at the train station, Buffy finds Dawn at the cemetery hanging out with Spike, with whom she has developed an unlikely bond. After chiding Dawn for associating with Spike, Dawn tells Buffy that Spike is obviously in love with her, which disgusts and horrifies her. Her suspicions are further piqued when she finds Spike at her home chatting up Joyce and offering to help track down the vampires who killed the train passengers.
While on stakeout with Spike, Buffy notices his efforts to try to be nice and charming to her. When they find a lair filled with vampires, Buffy finishes them off but determines that they were not the ones on the train. She then surmises that Spike knew that these were not the right vampires and asks him if he thinks they are on a date. Spike denies this at first but then asks if she wants it to be, which sets Buffy off. She tells Spike that she would never be with him and that, even with the chip in his head, he is still a murderous monster. When Spike returns to his crypt, he is greeted by Drusilla, who tells him of her adventures in Los Angeles and that she wants him to come back with her, chip or no chip. Harmony then shows up and chides Drusilla but is thrown out by Spike, who seems to have chosen Dru over her. The newly reunited vampire couple then go dancing at the Bronze, where Dru kills a young patron and offers him to Spike to feed off of, which he does. When Buffy shows up at Spike’s lair to further explain to him why they’ll never be together, she runs into Spike and Dru, who incapacitates her with a cattle prod. Drusilla is then shocked by Spike with the same cattle prod.
Both Buffy and Dru wake up in chains with Spike standing between them. He then professes his love for Buffy and offers to kill Drusilla in order to prove it, also stating that if she doesn’t reciprocate his love, he’ll release Dru. When Buffy rejects him again, Spike flies into a rage and laments the so-called “difficulty” of women. Harmony then shows up armed with a crossbow and shoots Spike in the back, and as the two former lovers struggle, Drusilla breaks free and tries to attack Buffy only to be stopped by Spike. Heartbroken by Spike’s defense of the Slayer, Drusilla leaves, as does Harmony, telling Spike that it’s really over this time. Buffy then hits Spike and walks away. Spike follows her home, trying to talk to her, but Buffy turns around and tells him that she wants him out of her life for good. As they approach the Summers home, Spike finds out that Willow has cast a new spell that forbids him from entering.
While the Spike / Buffy dynamic has been interesting this season, I was not wholly satisfied with this escalation of their love/hate relationship. Spike has always been a fun character and is one of my favorites on the show, but he’s had a long way to go this season to make himself sympathetic to the viewer after all the terrible things he did in Season Two, and for a while there he was making considerable progress. His actions in “Crush” really set him back in my opinion. I get that he’s really not too experienced in the ways of wooing non-vampire women, but his method of trying to force Buffy to at least give him hope of a future between them was both pathetic and stupid. At this point, Spike has probably been a vampire for a little over a century, so I would think that he would still remember that women never swoon for guys who threaten to kill them. I did like the early scenes in which Spike was trying to be cordial, and I get that he goes from one extreme to the next in order to get at least some reaction from her other than out and out disdain, but after we’ve spent this much time building up some goodwill towards Spike, it’s a shame they had to all get dashed by his ridiculous ultimatum at the episode’s climax. While “Crush” is a minor setback in a string of really great episodes, it still lays the groundwork for some interesting character development in the early scenes and therefore earns 3.5 out of 5 Quasimodo Debates.