Triangle (episode 11) lightens the mood when it focuses on Willow and Anya’s amusing animosity as they run the Magic Box together while Giles goes to England. When Willow accidentally conjures an angry troll (Abraham Benrubi, ER, Robot Chicken) who runs amok, the gang is forced to reel him back in only to find out that he’s connected to Anya. Fun and entertaining, the episode explores themes of protection, relationships, dealing with breakups and revelations as Dawn overhears a secret about her. The Watcher’s Council visits the gang in Checkpoint (episode 12) with information about Glory – only if Buffy agrees to their rigorous testing first. Realizing that she holds the power, Buffy calls their bluff, reinstates Giles as Watcher and demands information from the shady council. Their news changes everything: Glory isn’t a demon. She’s much, much stronger. Personal power, instinct, and perspective are examined in this revelatory episode.
It’s Buffy’s 20th birthday and as she celebrates another year, Dawn sneaks into the Magic Box with Spike’s help and discovers her true nature. In Blood Ties (episode 13), Dawn goes to dangerous lengths trying to find out her origin, seeking help from Ben. The link between him and Glory is finally revealed as Buffy battles Glory again. Sharing her blood with her sister, Buffy tells her they are a real family. Willow showcases her fast-rising witchy powers when she teleports Glory out of the gang’s way but causes some damage to her own body in the process. Family, protection, identity, sense of self and sisterly love come to light in this episode that answers many questions. Crush (episode 14) finally reveals Spike’s obsessive love to Buffy when he finds that she’s discovered his creepy shrine to her. Drusilla makes an appearance when she comes back for Spike, only to tell him sadly, “Poor Spike. Even I can’t help you now.” As Buffy shuts him down, Spike tells her, “I love you. You’re all I think about. I’m drowning in you, Summers.” And Buffy responds with a message that clearly lets him know how she feels. Love, obsession, confession and rejection are the theme of this entertaining and dark episode.
When a dark-haired beauty with an odd way of speaking appears in Sunnydale, the gang discovers she’s a robot girlfriend, made to love her creator, Warren (Adam Busch, Point Pleasant, Men at Work). I Was Made to Love You (episode 15) explored forced love, disconnection and playing God when the April the robot (Shonda Farr, Jack & Bobby, CSI) searches for loyalty and love in a world that seems to lack it. Meanwhile Spike forces Warren to make another robot fashioned from the likeness of a certain blond slayer.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, death touches Buffy’s world and this time, she can’t slay the demons away. In The Body (episode 16), written and directed by Whedon, the episode uses silence, skewed angles and non-linear narrative to show the disjointed feeling of losing someone. Scenes take their time or sometimes cut abruptly as each character tries to deal with the loss and emotion of a loved one’s passing. “But I don’t understand. It’s mortal and it’s stupid,” Anya breaks down they all try to understand loss. Dawn sneaks into the morgue and Buffy watches as they both try to understand death. Feeling helpless, unprepared and numb are themes explored in this beautiful episode.
Grief becomes the theme in Forever (episode 17), as Buffy prepares for a funeral. Angel makes a quiet appearance, holding Buffy through the night, as Dawn searches for a way to deal with her pain. Finding Buffy’s distant, unemotional responses too much to bear Dawn enlists Spike’s help, to see Doc, (the fantastic Joel Grey, Cabaret, Oz, Alias), a demon, who knows how to resurrect the dead. As the sisters finally explode with emotion, Dawn makes a powerful decision and releases her grief, turning to her sister for strength. Letting go, needing a parent, holding on and support are all examined in this intense and well-acted episode.
“’Strength’, ‘resilience’ – those are all words for hardness. I feel like being the Slayer is turning me into stone,” Buffy confesses to Giles, spurring a spiritual excursion to the desert. Intervention (episode 18) sees Buffy explore her slayer spirituality when she implores the guidance of the first slayer. Back in Sunnydale, Dawn begins to show some strange secret behaviour, as Glory mistakes Spike for the key. He’s captured and tortured but refuses to give up information. Returning from her excursion, Buffy gratefully kisses Spike and tells him she won’t forget what he did for her and Dawn. And the advice Buffy receives from the original slayer? “You are full of love. Love will bring you to your gift. Death is your gift.” Loyalty, obsession and spiritual quests are explored in this episode that foreshadows coming events.
Taking her responsibility to Dawn seriously, Buffy drops out of college and begins to focus on Dawn’s life, much to the agony of her little sister. Tough Love (episode 19) shows Buffy becoming a true guardian as Dawn questions her true nature. Glory damages Tara’s brain searching for answers. Seeking revenge, a powerful Willow takes Glory on, only to find she’s not powerful enough. A confused Tara outs Dawn to Glory, putting everyone’s lives in danger. Responsibility, and fighting for—and with—someone you love reach new heights in this suspenseful episode. Spiral (episode 20) kicks the action up ten-fold when Glory gives chase and Buffy decides to do something she’s never done: run. The gang flees town in hot pursuit by the mystical Knights and take refuge in an abandoned gas station. When Giles is badly hurt, Ben is called for help, inadvertently leading Glory to them. Glory grabs Dawn and flees, leaving a tired and exhausted Buffy to fall to her knees and shut down. Dawn’s specific role in Glory’s plan is finally revealed as the slayer, exhausted and tired decides to finally let go and give up.
“You’ve carried the weight of the world since high school. So for one second you wanted out,” Willow empathizes with a catatonic Buffy. In Weight of the World (episode 21), Willow casts a spell to enter Buffy’s mind. Snapping her out of her regressed state, Buffy gets back into the game. Glory prepares Dawn for the ritual that will destroy the world and Giles finally gives Buffy the only solution to end this all: she must kill her sister. Guilt, love, emotions, death, and family bring to light a dilemma that the slayer must now face. In The Gift (episode 22), the intense season finale brought the theme of blood and sacrifice to end the 22-arc story in a beautiful, moving conclusion. As Dawn begins to bleed above a tower built by Glory’s minions, the gang enters into battle with their toughest adversary. Utilizing Willow’s powerful witch abilities, Xander’s heart and presence, and Giles’ ability to make wise and difficult decisions, Buffy manages to get to Dawn – but not in time. Making the hardest decision of her life, Buffy whispers to Dawn: “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.” Love, sacrifice, duty, death and life bring the fifth season to an emotional end.
The fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer examined the strange and emotional ties that bind a family together. Huge game changers, stronger enemies and difficult choices all cause the characters to make choices that push them further into darkness or light. The 22 serialized episodes explored the splitting of self and took Buffy on a journey from young adolescent to adult with loss and humour. Making the ultimate sacrifice, Buffy’s choice made the fifth season heavy, emotional and poignant, setting the audience up for another season of dark, emotional and entertaining stories.
Next: Central Mythology Episodes