Binging Buffy: A fairly solid body of work in season 5
To talk about Buffy season 5 is to talk about Dawn, the incredibly random sister Buffy inherits who sort of ruins everything? I have to say that Joyce just randomly yelling, "If you're going out why don't you take your sister," made me laugh harder than anything else on this entire show. THAT is the way you introduce Buffy's supposed sister?! Obviously, as I kept watching, it all started to make sense, but that moment will stick with me forever.
Okay, so Dawn. Do I like her? No. But the biggest problem with that character, for me, is not the fact that she's annoying. I've written a lot about how Buffy seasons tend to struggle with the larger big bad arc. It's why season 2 was so great. Bad Angel was something we cared about. But season 5 seemed to have a better idea of its arc than some of the others, and it was intriguing! Glory is a god! That's cool! And that's something Buffy hasn't dealt with yet. The problem is that Glory's central motivation is to find her "key." If the show had made someone we already knew and loved the key, that would've been more interesting. Where the season struggles is in making the most important person, the one we should all care about deeply, a new teen we just met.
By the end of the season, we have to believe that Buffy would sacrifice herself for this person. And I think they did a good job of explaining that Dawn felt like her sister, but that scene didn't have quite the impact I think it would've had Buffy been sacrificing herself for, say, Willow. It's just hard to introduce someone new this far into a series and make an entire season pivot around them. I was still getting used to her even existing when everyone else seemed to want to die for her. (Also, to reiterate, she's very annoying.)
That being said, I do think killing Joyce was the right call in terms of Buffy's final sacrifice. I believed she'd do it to save her sister because she'd already lost her mom and couldn't lose anyone else. And that brings us to "The Body." In terms of experimental episodes, this one worked. I'm almost always a fan of a supernatural series forcing its characters to face something real, such as a brain aneurysm or cancer, etc. Having to watch our slayer, who has saved the world "a lot" as her tombstone will come to read, not be able to save her mother from something so incredibly human is heartbreaking. Plus, I'm a little obsessed with that hour's use of silence.
A couple other things about this season: The Riley-as-a-vampire-junkie story did nothing for me. Spike, however, was the highlight. He's just so funny and charming, and while the Buffy sex bot was the creepiest thing ever — this show can't go a full season without a weird sex thing! — everything else he did was pretty great. And yes, Buffy kissing Spike when he thought she was the robot was a lovely moment.
Also, I really enjoyed Willow tapping more into her witch powers, and I think the Scooby dynamic is pretty solid at this point, which is why, ultimately, I liked season 5. It's certainly not my favorite season (or my second-favorite for that matter), but it had a thought-out season-long arc, some great episodes, and a massive finale. (Although crazy Tara was even more annoying than Dawn.)
And now, some superlatives...
Episode I'd least like to live in: "Family," because of those creepy demons that looked like clowns and had Gene Simmons-esque tongues.
Worst marriage proposal: "Anya, you wanna marry me?" Don't get me wrong, I love them, but come on Xander, you can do better.
Best meta joke/Passions reference:
Buffy: "How bored were you last year?"
Giles: "I watched Passions with Spike. Let us never speak of it."
Line that broke my heart into a million pieces: "How's forever? Does forever work for you?" —Buffy's response to Angel asking how long she wants him to stay
Favorite episode: "The Body," obviously.