Saturday, November 17, 2007

Buffy Season Five Begins

17 November 2007

So, this Wednesday, I got to see Buffy face Count Dracula, as tyranist and I begin Season Five.

"Buffy vs. Dracula" (why don't they capitalise 'versus' again? Is it a legal precedent?) was written by Marti Noxon and begins at the end of summer. Buffy is still with Riley, but sneaks out of his bed to go vampire-hunting. She encounters Count Dracula, who has come to Sunnydale in search of Buffy Summers.

Dracula is vaguely European, with long hair and has that sort of Antonio Banderas effeminate sensuality that women tend to respond to. He has the fabled ability to entrance the ladies with his gaze, and when Buffy tries to stake him, he turns into smoke, and later, a bat.
Giles, meanwhile, has decided that, rather than sit around and make a glorified cameo in each episode, he'll go back to England. He tells Willow this, and she spends the rest of the show trying to get the others to appreciate him (without explaining why).

The credits have neat new visuals, as they always do at the beginning of a season. Anya is now in the opening titles. Which reminds me, tyranist has begun to hate Marc Blucas. I think his despising of her is on the same level of my despising of Harmony Kendall. It'll be interesting to see if that changes (for either of us).

That night, Xander runs into Dracula walking home. The Count uses his charms to entrance Xander, "Renfielding" him to be his servant. Dracula also visits Buffy in her bedroom (she's living with Mom for the summer), coming in and doing the whole seduction thing. He tells her she has a dark side and that her slayer abilities make her a creature of the night like him, all with the Fabio hair. When Buffy starts giving in and letting the vampire bite her, tyranist and I knew that it was just a dream.

But Buffy wakes up the next morning with bitemarks in her neck, which she hides with a scarf. Turns out her mother saw the handsome European man and invited him in earlier that night. At Giles's place, nobody notices Xander eating spiders or referring to Dracula as "the master." Riley, however, does notice something odd going on with his girlfriend, and everyone is shocked to see that she has those deep hickeys from the night before. Willow and Tara go to put a protection spell on Buffy's house, Giles and Riley go looking for the Count, while Xander suggests Buffy hide out at his place.

Xander locks Anya in the closet and takes Buffy to Dracula's castle. Yes, there's now a castle in Sunnydale. But there's probably one in yours too (I know for a fact that there's a castle in tyranist's hometown), so don't worry about it. Confronted with Dracula, Buffy tries to break free of his spell, but it's real hard. Dracula promises to make her immortal like him, and begins monologuing.

Giles and Riley find the castle and go inside, splitting up to look for the Count. Riley finds Xander, who he floors with one punch. Giles finds the trio of vampire women he refers to as "the three sisters." They are evil and attractive, and begin pawing at Giles, who is almost as helpless against them as I would be. Not you, of course, no, you're too strong and pure for that sort of thing.

Riley rescues Giles (the three babe vampires seem to have escaped), and they head down to save Buffy. It's too late: Dracula cuts himself and gives his blood to Buffy to drink. As she tastes it, though, she gets a barrage of memories that are very similar to one of Doyle/Cordelia's visions, and it snaps her back to reality. They battle, and Buffy stakes Dracula.

The spell on Xander is also broken, and he is angry at what happened, and tired of being everybody's buttmonkey.* They leave the castle triumphant.

But then . . . the dust that was Dracula reforms! Buffy is in the room, though, telling him she knew he was going to do that, and stakes him again. Poof! He is dust again.

But for how long? For . . . how . . . long?

Afterward, Giles tells Buffy he has something to tell her. She has something too and he lets her go first. She tells him what almost happened and how she's got a dark side and how much she's missed his teachings and asks him to be her Watcher again. Giles is unable to go back to England now, but is happier for it.

The last scene of the episode is Buffy about to leave on a date with Riley. She sees a strange Harriet the Spy-looking girl in her room. "Make sure you take your sister," her mother says. The end.

Good show. Pretty light, I think, but hey, that's Marti Noxon's strength.

I already knew who the sister was, though tyranist now claims (lies) that he wasn't the one who explained it to me, so the ending wasn't really a surprise to me. But I can imagine audiences of September 2000, though, scratching their heads or shouting "What the f--?" even louder than they did with the Jonathan episode.

But hey, they never said Buffy didn't have a sister. Perhaps Dawn was living in L.A. with her dad this whole time, and they just never mentioned her before. I'm imagining the week of anticipation was filled with all sorts of speculation and probably a lot of doubt that the addition of a new Summers was a good idea.**

Well, all those questions are answered in "Real Me," the next episode. It begins with Giles telling Luke "Feel the Force flowing through you" while she balances on her hands. She is interrupted by her still-unnamed sister and Buffy, some white crystals, and R2-D2 all fall over.

In the Summers home, we see the morning ritual of Joyce getting ready for work, Buffy getting ready for her day, and Dawn messing things up for her. She is told to take her sister to get school supplies while she's off training with Giles. Dawn writes in her diary about the people in her sister's life. She resents Buffy greatly, considers Willow a role model, Giles a geezer, and Xander a manly, dreamy hunk.

At this point, there have to be millions of "Buffy" watchers wondering what the hell is going on with their show. Who is this girl? Where was the introductory episode? How come the characters look at her like she's always been on the show? Why is she in the opening titles already? After being be-effed by the WB with two previous episodes, my money would've been on yet another episode they didn't show, one that explained just what the devil is going on with this Dawn character. Due to the magic of DVD (and time travel), tyranist and I are only somewhat confused.

Dawn reluctantly goes along with Buffy in Giles' new convertible, and they stop by the magic shop where they see Tara and Willow. Inside, the magic shop owner is lying dead--murdered by vampires is good--and Buffy asks Dawn to wait outside while they investigate. Outside, she encounters an unbalanced-looking man (that we don't know) who tells her she doesn't belong there.

Giles admires the magic shop and what a good business it would be while they see that the vampires stole books on Slayer lore and a pretty unicorn statue. Tara goes out to be with Dawn and comforts her, telling her that she knows what it's like not to be a part of the group. Giles decides to buy the magic shop and run it while also training Buffy and defeating demons and monsters every week.

Well, it turns out that the unicorn was for Harmony Kendall, who is still living under Sunnydale, and is still a vampire. But now she's got a group of really dumb vampire followers (my guess is that three of them were scientists and one was a Rhodes Scholar until they tasted of Harmony's blood) that she calls minions. They stole the books so they could figure out how to kill Buffy. And Harmony has a plan.

That night, Dawn is unhappy about having to be babysat that night while Buffy goes patrolling with Riley and Joyce goes to her still-unseen gallery. She's less unhappy, though, when Buffy gets Xander to sit her, but is disappointed when Anya comes over too (Anya treats her like a little child, though not as unkindly as you'd think). A rock is thrown through the window, and Harmony and her minions are there to call Buffy out (as you know, the vampires can't enter the house without an invitation). Xander tells Harmony that Buffy's not there and that she sucks, and Harmony starts calling everyone names. Dawn says, "Oh yeah? Why don't you come in here and say that," breaking the protection on the house. Xander is luckily able to chase Harmony away, though I can't really remember how.

Buffy has spent the whole patrol complaining about her sister, and when she gets home, she is furious at Dawn for inviting Harmony into their house.*** Dawn hears Buffy calling her irresponsible and immature and worthless and pretty much all the pet names my father had for me, and runs outside to . . . well, be captured by Harmony's minions. Anya, of all people, tries to protect the girl, but she is knocked unconscious just inside Buffy's door (so the vampires can't do evil shtuff to her). Riley and Xander take Anya to the hospital.

Buffy finds Spike and threatens him with bodily . . . well, death, if he doesn't tell her where Harmony is. Dawn, meanwhile, has been taken down to Harmony's lair and tied up. Harmony begins complaining to the girl about her life and how unappreciated she is and how difficult it is to be stylishly undead until her minions decide to kill her and eat the girl.

Then Buffy arrives. The vampire thugs attack her and Dawn watches her sister in action as she dusts one, two, three, four of 'em. All but Harmony, who, damn you episode writer David Fury, escaped. She takes Dawn home before Joyce gets back from work, and both of them make a deal not to tell their mother what happened to them. The end . . . with still no clue as to where Dawn came from.

This was another really fun episode, despite the dual frustration of Dawn's unexplained appearance and Harmony's disgusting reappearance.

One of the three big signs of a TV show "jumping the shark" is the addition of a cute new child to the family. But I gotta say, I find Dawn absolutely delightful. I realise that's not the straightest of words, so I try not to say it much, but it's really the most appropriate word. I love that kid.

It is vexing the way she's been introduced on the show, but hey, I'm along for the ride on this one.

Rish Outfield

*For once, this isn't my own silly distortion of the text. Xander actually uses the immortal word "buttmonkey."

**Which reminds me, X-men just added a new Summers sibling too. I wonder if Buffy got her last name from the X-men.

***Like me, Dawn is a constant screw up. Unlike me, Dawn is fourteen years old.

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