Friday, October 31, 2014

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season Five)

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the fifth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If you have not seen the fifth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in its entirety, then continue at your own peril. For a spoiler-free introduction to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, click here.

Season five is utterly depressing. It is the most depressing season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Other seasons (especially those following this one) are dark, but this season is just stark and depressing. From Buffy and Riley's frustrating breakup, to the apparent futility of our heroine's struggle against this season's Big Bad, to her own mother's bout with cancer. On the other hand, it introduces my favorite character in the series - Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) - so at least there's that.

Dawn's introduction to the series is downright brilliant. The season begins with Dawn present as Buffy's little sister, without explanation for her sudden appearance, and with all the characters acting like she'd been around the previous four seasons. It's uncanny, because you know something's not right about the situation, but the series doesn't serve up the explanation right away. And yet, there is a perfectly good explanation - it's not merely a retcon for the sake of giving Buffy a sister. Memories have been tampered with, and Dawn is actually a force of energy (literally a destroyer of worlds) that has been formed into the container of an adolescent human girl.

Referred to by an ancient order as "the key", she has been transformed so that Buffy - without realizing it - would protect it with her life. From what? From this season's Big Bad using it to unlock a gateway to other dimensions and unleash Hell on Earth. Whereas before, the Big Bad was a vampire or demon, this time around she's on the level of a God (more precisely, Goddess), so the stakes are high. And like Buffy, she's a pretty woman who can kick ass - but she's so strong that for once this is an opponent Buffy can't stand against. She is the radiant and ill-tempered Glorificus (or Glory), portrayed by Clare Kramer.

And her weakness is that she spends half the time reluctantly manifested as a mortal - a more or less innocent mortal, who must be murdered in cold blood if Glory is to be stopped. As if that weren't depressing enough, the only way for Buffy to save Dawn from her destiny to die in order to unleash Hell on Earth, is for Buffy to sacrifice her own life instead. And unlike at the end of the first season, this time Buffy's death feels real. I'd read that this was supposed to be the end of the series - and it works well that way, but - well, I'll say more about that next season.

Before all that, though, a lot goes on in this season. Of particular note is that Giles finds his new calling as the owner of a magic shop (the "Magic Box") - a role he seems well suited for - which becomes the gang's new central hub. Riley skips town after a frustrating development involving the revelation that his and Buffy's superficially perfect relationship lacks a certain level of passion, feeding the conclusion that Buffy has a thing for bad boys. On that subject, Spike slowly comes to the realization in this season that he's in love with Buffy, which is an interesting development that further encourages his change over to the good side. Even though Buffy's distaste for Spike at the outset is well-founded, I thought she was still a little too harsh in pushing him away.

And then we come to Joyce's cancer. Unfortunately, that Buffy's mom dies in this season was spoiled for me by two independent sources, so it did not come as a surprise. It was, however, still very uncomfortable, even though I never particularly liked Joyce's character. The episode in which it happens is one of those artistic detour episodes, and, I have to say, did a fascinating job of covering a very serious plot development in a way that stands apart from every other episode in the series. Fascinating, but uncomfortable, and not one I'd relish many rewatches. It was heartbreaking, an artistic masterpiece, and an award-winning episode, but I would feel a little off calling it one of the best episodes of the series...

Other memorable episodes in this season include the premiere, which features the appearance of none other than the legendary figure of Dracula himself. It was inevitable that Dracula would sooner or later meet the Vampire Slayer in this series, and this was a fun episode, although ultimately a little goofy, I think. Then there is Fool For Love, which explores some of Spike's history with Drusilla, and the two Slayers he'd killed in the past. We also get introduced to Warren (Adam Busch) in this season, who will become a primary antagonist in the next season, though here he is simply a nerdy loser who builds sexbots.

Continue to season six!

No comments:

Post a Comment