Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 Review and Core Episodes Guide
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews..
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Review
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Review
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Review
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 Review
Surprise siblings, new relationships and an unbeatable enemy enter the rich fold of the Buffyverse in the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, airing in the fall of 2000. Life becomes darker, harder and creepier for the Scooby Gang as they enter new territory where birth and death are sudden, and each character is forced to question his or her role in the group. Raising the stakes even higher than before, the 22 episodes in the fifth season de-stabilized the established slayer world. The season arc introduced new challenges to Buffy and her friends, testing their mental strength and spiritual resilience. As a sarcastic and powerful blond becomes Buffy’s number one enemy, Buffy fights to protect something greater than she can ever understand.
“Your power is rooted in darkness. You must feel it,” a dark, gorgeous stranger tells Buffy. The one and only Dracula (Rudolf Martin, 24, Dexter) visits the resident Sunnydale slayer in Buffy vs. Dracula (episode 1) to remind her that “you think you know what’s to come, what you are. You haven’t even begun.” Succumbing to his sexy spell, the slayer finally snaps out of it, realizing she’s “chock full of free will,” reminding the audience about the theme of the show: personal power and inner strength. And Buffy will need it when, at the end of the episode, she introduces the viewer to the newest member of the Summers’ household: her never-seen-before 14-year old sister Dawn.
Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg, Weeds, Gossip Girl) is introduced via her voice-over diary entries as a presence that has always been in Buffy’s world. In Real Me (episode 2), Dawn is a typical, confused, angry misunderstood girl – much like Harmony, who again makes an appearance. As both of their stories echo each other, themes of discovery, individuality and new beginnings are explored in this episode. Also, Giles buys the nifty Magic Box, the shop that ends up being the perfect location for future episodes of magical hijinks and battle-talk. Taking a break from the serious and confusing sister revelation, The Replacement (episode 3) is a Xander-centric episode where he’s split into two – and the ‘new’ Xander (Kelly Donovan, Nicholas Brendon’s real-life twin) is suave, confident and mature. “He’s better than me!” original Xander exclaims as the ‘new’ him kicks-ass at work, rents his first apartment and impresses Anya in a matter of hours. Hilariously returning to form at the end of the episode, Xander talks to Riley about being two different people and Riley sadly reveals, “When I’m with [Buffy], it’s like I’m split in two. Half of me is just on fire, the other half is so still and peaceful. But she doesn’t love me.” The splitting of self, confidence, potential and integration are examined in this fun and enlightening episode.
In Out of My Mind (episode 4), health becomes the focus as Buffy’s mom, Joyce, faints unexpectedly and Riley begins to show signs of wear and tear from The Initiative’s bio testing. Spike attempts to rid his body of The Initiative’s experiment on him, as the hospital becomes a recurring location. Ben, a kind intern (Charlie Weber, Everwood, 90210) helps Buffy and Dawn with their mother’s situation. As Buffy expresses her deep love for Riley, Spike has a surprising dream about Buffy. Feeling inadequate, reaching out, human frailty and obsession become the theme of this episode. “You’re not my sister,” Buffy accuses Dawn in No Place Like Home (episode 5), when she performs a spell to uncover the demon magic that might be making her mother sick. Seeing Dawn’s true nature, Buffy finally uncovers the reason for Dawn’s existence. This knowledge puts everyone in danger, most of all Dawn, as the Big Bad of the season is introduced: a wisecracking, superficial, unimaginably powerful blond. Glory (Clare Kramer, Bring it On, Goodnight Burbank) wants what Dawn represents and she’s willing to destroy the world to get it. Protection and revelation all come into play in this episode that reveals the answers to many questions.
The lovely Tara takes center stage in Family (episode 6) written and directed by Joss Whedon. As Glory continues her violent rampage through the town, Tara’s family comes to visit her for her birthday. With cryptic warnings about what Tara is and the evil she’s capable of, her family pressures her to leave Sunnydale, much to Willow’s dismay. And when Tara’s true nature is finally revealed, the gang realizes just how important Tara is to them. Themes of love, acceptance, family and being comfortable with who you are make this episode emotional and inspiring. And on the dark side of town, Riley slinks into a demon bar and drinks with a lonely vampire, feeling the growing distance between him and Buffy.
In Fool For Love (episode 7), Buffy is finally forced to explore the death of past slayers when she’s injured during a night patrol. And she goes to the one person who actually killed two slayers: Spike. As the past and present beautifully intertwine, Spike takes Buffy through his journey from being human to the vampire he is today. The audience is treated to flashbacks of Darla, Angel and Druscilla’s stories intertwined with Spike’s. “Every slayer has a death wish. Even you,” Spike tells Buffy as they fight and talk; fight and dance. Buffy triggers Spike’s emotional scar, and when Spike seeks revenge, he finds Buffy in a vulnerable situation and makes an uncharacteristic choice. Discovery, past, obsession, insecurities, vulnerabilities and feeling out of control are explored in this episode that wraps up an hour chock full of information and emotion.
“Sorry Charlie, you’re just not dark enough,” Spike tells Riley in Shadow (episode 8). When Riley discovers that Buffy didn’t tell him her mother’s in the hospital, he realizes that Spike just might be right, forcing him to deal with his feelings of being shut out. Glory’s attempt to find the key forces Buffy to protect her family. And while the slayer is busy being strong, Riley sneaks off to a vampire nest for a moment of feeling needed. Family, loss and ominous shadows become the theme of this dark episode. The slayer is forced to fight an enemy she’s never seen before in Listening to Fear (episode 9) when an extra-terrestrial demon crashes to earth and threatens her mother. Riley continues to deal with his despair and loneliness but returns to his confident self when he enlists the help of the Army. In a heartbreaking – and heart-stopping – scene Buffy does what she does best, reassuring everyone that “everything’s alright.” Joyce reveals that her illness made her see Dawn’s true form and tells Buffy, “You have to promise to keep her safe. To love her like I love you.” Ben and Glory are mysteriously linked as inner vs. outer space and dealing with pain is all explored in this heavy episode.
“You keep me at a distance. It’s about me taking care of you. It’s about you letting me in,” Riley finally tells Buffy. Into the Woods (episode 10) finds the slayer and her boyfriend at an emotional impasse when Spike takes Buffy to witness Riley dark secret. Riley tells Buffy he’s going to leave with the Army – unless she tells him to stay. Refusing to succumb to an ultimatum, Buffy becomes hard and cold. Xander, in true best friend form, reminds her, “you’ve been treating Riley like he’s the rebound guy when he’s the guy who comes along once in a lifetime. If you really think you can love this guy, I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need, if you’re ready for that then think about what you’re about to lose.” In a heartbreaking ending, Buffy races to catch Riley. Xander, taking his own advice, professes his deep love for Anya in a sweet scene that contrasts the pain Buffy is feeling. Love, breaking up, letting someone in, and betrayal are all explored in this emotional and sad episode.
Next: “Triangle” brightens the mood..