Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | September 17, 2012

Robin’s Review: S5, E02 – Real Me

Synopsis: Through Dawn’s diary entries we hear her thoughts on life with the Scooby gang. Buffy and Giles head out to the magic shop and Dawn tags along. Once they discover a dead body, Dawn is left outside where a crazy man yells at her. Harmony is back in town with her own gang of vampires who plan to kill Buffy. They come to the Summers house while Xander and Anya are babysitting and Dawn accidentally invites Harmony in. Later she is kidnapped by the gang and Buffy has to go rescue her. Giles buys the magic shop.

The Good: As with Dracula, Dawn was fairly comfortably woven into the Buffyverse with everyone’s behaviour adapting around her. Her reaction to life as the Slayer’s sister was well thought through. Buffy had to grow up very quickly because of her calling. Naturally Joyce and Buffy want to shield Dawn from the darkness and she feels left out and patronised as a result. I enjoyed seeing her reaction to the rest of the gang. Xander and Willow would have known her for a long time and so there’s lots of affection there. Tara empathises with Dawn’s status as an outsider while Giles seems even older to her than he did to the Scoobies when they first met him. It was telling that she could see how “in to” Buffy, Riley is. From her perspective Buffy isn’t all that, so understandably she would sneer at his adoration.

The diary entries were a sensible shortcut to explain why we were suddenly getting a character’s inner monologue. They also allowed for a couple of fun perspective gags with Dawn unaware of the chocolate ice cream covering her face and her ignorance of the true nature of Willow and Tara’s relationship.

Harmony seemed a solid choice to be the vampire threat of the episode. Without her personality to carry the group a generic group of vamps might have seemed dull. Spike had a couple of good cameos interacting with the blonde women in his life. Giles’ decision to buy the magic shop gives him a new location to operate out of and a change of scenery for the whole show. With Willow and Tara growing in their knowledge of all things magic it seems an especially fertile choice.

The Bad: For the second week in a row Xander laughs at a vampire when he should really have been scared. He almost paid for it when Harmony burst in but the fact that Buffy then cackled away was a real downer. Yes Harmony has proven to be a goof, even as a vampire. But that still shouldn’t stop the Scoobies from remembering that she is a demon now. In general vampires have lost their edge as a threat and that weakens the options the show has when trying to generate drama.

The Unknown: The extraordinary circumstances of Dawn’s arrival into the Buffyverse are definitely intriguing. The crazy guy who rants at her says she doesn’t “belong here.” Dawn later echoes this idea by saying that she is not just Buffy’s little sister. It’s not clear at all what or who she is and I hope there will be a strong explanation.

We’ve seen throughout Buffy that Joss Whedon likes to find characters who can reflect aspects of Buffy’s personality. Cordelia was the girl she might have become without her calling while Kendra was what she might have been without a life. Faith was then a Buffy with no moral compass and now we have Dawn. A sister without the calling but one who has to live within that environment. I’m not sure if Dawn is meant to be a reflection of Buffy in that same way or if she is just meant to introduce some new element into Buffy’s emotional palette. For example Dawn says she likes school work which Buffy never seemed as keen on.

Unfortunately the scenarios which played out here didn’t seem appealing. Seeing Buffy whining about her sister wasn’t fun and neither was hearing Dawn complain about her. Joyce added to my lack of sympathy by foisting Dawn on Buffy and not seeing the defence of the world as a higher priority than her own career. Lines like “I’ll tell Mom you slayed in front of me” made me cringe and it was hard to feel sorry for Dawn getting kidnapped when her attitude to danger was so cavalier.

In a way hearing Buffy give Dawn none of the breaks that she would give to others seemed entirely plausible. We all hold our families to a higher standard than we do our friends because they should understand us better than anyone. So perhaps I will grow to appreciate the grating dynamics that were on display here.

Tara gave us a hint of the secrets she is keeping by frowning at Willow calling her one of “the good guys.” This seems to match a comment made in “Restless” about her past.

I guess the Watcher’s Council must pay really well if Giles can spend a year unemployed and still have enough cash to buy a shop. Either that or the Sunnydale Bank has extremely generous loan arrangements.

Best Moment: Dawn’s crush on Xander was one of the few cute things she got to play. As she sits with him and Anya playing board games she tucks into a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Her narration reveals that she thinks on some level Xander sees her as a woman. He smiles broadly at her and we cut back to see she has ice cream all round her mouth.

The Bottom Line: This was a tough episode to write. Introducing a new character can always be tricky but to pretend like one has existed all along is a whole new kind of effort. In general I think the writers deserve credit for what they accomplished and Dawn did seem like a whole new character with her own personality. However the Summers household felt like a less fun place to be and the show is now bursting at the seams with characters. I’m very much in “The Unknown” as to how this is all going to pan out.

60/100

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