Category Archives: Season 5

Final Thoughts: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Five

Buffy’s fifth season represents a return to form, with a rebalanced Sooby Team, a tight season arc, a compelling (and amusing) villain, and some of the best one-off episodes the series has to offer.  For better or worse, the show would shift gears in season six but, for my money, this year was about as good as the old formula got; thoroughly confident about what worked while self-aware enough not to grow tiresome. Continue reading

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But… You’re Just a Girl

Spoiler!

Spoiler!

“The Gift” is the greatest Buffy finale.  There’s an inherent awesome to any final showdown with Hell God, and this one certainly lives up to the hype, but there’s more going on here than mere spectacle.  ME was able to inject some genuine tension into the proceedings by linking the world’s fate to Dawn’s.  We all knew the that the season wasn’t going to end with Glory destroying the world but, given the nature of Dawn’s introduction to the series, it seemed entirely possible that Buffy might be able to win the fight but still lose her sister.  It makes for some great storytelling but, in itself, it isn’t what makes this such an incredible finale.  That fact rests on how thoroughly this episode encapsulates what Buffy the Vampire Slayer was about. Continue reading

Six Billion Lunatics Looking for the Fastest Ride Out

Not to be confused with fanfic

Not to be confused with fanfic

“The Weight of the World” makes for a solid penultimate episode to the season as Willow attempts to help Buffy deal with her sense of failure.  In some sense, this the standard “remind Buffy that she’s Buffy” story that ends most seasons, but there’s more than enough fresh meat here to keep things interesting.  This isn’t a case of Buffy deferring the final battle because she’s afraid, or overmatched, or isolated; it’s her shutting down because she’s failed.  As Willow points out, the battle isn’t actually over but, for Buffy, failure doesn’t mean losing the fight, it means surrendering. Continue reading

What’s the Story with these Roleplaying Rejects?

What could be dumb about this?

The Knights of Byzantium are stupid.  Like, deeply, world-breakingly hella-stupid.  So stupid that it requires every bit of goodwill this series has built up over the years not to just stop here and see what’s on CBS.  Why is that in a world of vampires, witches, and sex-bots I can’t accept the existence of knights in shining armour?  Lots of reasons, but I’ll reserve them for the Final Thoughts as there’s no coherent way to integrate them into a discussion of what should’ve been a good story.  For now, lets just consider them this episode’s threat, a well-meaning complication in the wider fight against Glory.  By ignoring the specifics, “Spiral” can be considered a relatively good episode. Continue reading

Did Somebody Order an Apocalypse?

I’ll only do this once, I swear

“Tough Love” begins the final, heavily serialized push to the finale.  Season five has done an effective job balancing Buffy’s episodic and serial elements, but it’s still nice to have things brought into such sharp focus.  These last four episode really work as a unit, so much so that it’s a bit difficult to review them individually.  Great as this week’s high stakes excitement is, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the cliffhanger, which is unfortunate, considering how much substance there actually is here. Continue reading

Weird Love’s Better than no Love

This view should be a special feature on every episode

Part of what makes Buffy’s infrequent gut-punches so effective is our ability to have so much fun outside of them.  After the heavy hearts of the last two weeks, the show seamlessly pivots back to comedy in “Intervention.”  A big part of what makes this transition work is the fact that Joyce’s death isn’t ignored, it’s fallout is still a central element of the plot.  Buffy goes on her vision quest, in part because she’s concerned about the emotional impact (or lack of impact) caused by her mother’s death.  Misinterpreting that impact is how her friends rationalize her apparent affair with Spike, and concern regarding that impact is what keeps Spike from telling Glory about Dawn.  Keeping Joyce’s death in the spotlight is how this episode keeps the laughs from feeling jarring.  Keeping those laughs from feeling disrespectful… well, that’s all in the episode’s execution. Continue reading

Well, What do you Know? A Bitty Buffy

This is totally the best idea ever

Rough edges aside, I’d still call “Forever” a really good episode.  The ME team was wise not to try to confine the fallout from Joyce’s death to one episode; she deserved more than that.  The risk of this is that any further exploration of grief would inevitably suffer in comparison to “The Body.”  There’s some of that here but, for the most part, this episode’s able to avoid retreading the same ground.  Where “The Body” was decidedly unlike a Buffy episode, “Forever” is almost exactly what we’d expect from this series when dealing with death; we get some research, a fight with a big ugly baddie, and some ill advised spell-casting.  As I said, there are a few rough edges in there but some smart choices and some solid acting help make keep this story fresh. Continue reading

We Don’t Know… How it Works… Why

Why can’t she get back in it?

Well, here we are, season five’s masterpiece.  “The Body” presents much the same problem that “Hush” did in that, while I have much to say, little of it hasn’t been covered elsewhere.  As one of the best known Buffy episodes, it’s also one of the most discussed, a fact that strikes me as somewhat ironic as I write it in that it’s decidedly unlike a Buffy episode.  Not “unlike any other Buffy episode,” in a series this diverse there are a dozen that warrant such description, eg: “Once More With Feeling” is unlike anything else on the show while still feeling like Buffy.  “The Body” doesn’t.  This episode isn’t just singular in it superb writing, acting, directing; it’s set apart in  that it sheds itself of virtually all of the vibe by which we recognize this show.  Much of the genius stems from the fact that this  isn’t a Buffy episode at all. Continue reading

Robots are the Strangest People

Don’t pretend you wouldn’t

Episode fifteen is yet another of season five’s hidden gems.  I think that the awesomeness of “The Body” tends to dwarf a lot of the other awesomeness the was going on around it.  “I Was Made to Love You” isn’t going to wind up on anybody’s top ten Buffy lists, but it’s still an excellent monster-of-the-week, bringing the funny while effectively tying into the the characters’ lives.  “Good Girlfriend = Robot” is your classic Buffy mystical sci-fi metaphor made flesh and it works as well here as it ever has. Continue reading

It’s not gonna have a happy ending when the main guy’s all bumpy

Spike’s dating duds

“Crush” is another one of those oft-forgotten Buffy episodes s that’s actually exemplary of just how bold the series could be.  Not bold in the sense of “Hush” or “Once More with Feeling,” but in the sense of having an uncompromising commitment to the characters.  Even when that commitment meant they couldn’t give us the story we really wanted.  This might sound like storytelling 101 but, in the realm of TV (network TV especially (network TV ten years ago most especially)) this was a damn ballsy approach.  Even on today’s “premium” cable, who characters are is far too often ignored in favour of whatever story the writers want to tell (see Dexter).  Buffy wasn’t immune to this (see “Triangle”) but, far more often, it was willing to give us episodes like “Crush,” ones that felt real even if they really weren’t what we wanted to see. Continue reading