Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | October 21, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S5, E05 – No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home
Season 5, Episode 5
Original airing: 10/24/2012

My Rating: 55

The Good: I really love the arc of Buffy’s story in this episode. She’s determined to help her mother, and similar to a few episodes in the past, she turns to a magical answer. We’ve seen Buffy struggle with real world things before and it’s kind of nice to see her out of her element. As always, Buffy’s determination and sacrifice is a large part of the attraction of her character.

I thought her little emotional rollercoaster concerning Dawn was very believable as well. When Buffy sees Dawn fading in and out of the pictures, Buffy becomes suspicious and angry, reacting violently to Dawn. When she learns Dawn is not really her sister, she’s irate. Discovery of Dawn’s origins, however, don’t change her gut feelings. When she gets home and realizes she still has memories and attachments to Dawn emotionally, she seems to decide that is what really matters.

I also thought it was very important how the monk emphasized Dawn had no idea she was The Key. He also made sure to tell Buffy Dawn was innocent and helpless. These ideas would definitely trigger the Slayer side of Buffy.

Riley and Buffy’s relationship is continuing to be strained, which I think is excellent continuity from last week. Even though Riley is healed, he definitely feels the pain of losing his super strength and endurance. His fears about Buffy are becoming more and more concrete as she begins to treat him more like one of the Scooby gang and less like a helper in the actual battle.

Spike also continues his messed up relationship with Buffy in his one scene. I liked the reveal that he’d been outside the house for a long time. I did not like his petulant insults. However, dubbing Riley “Captain Cardboard” makes up for all that.

This episode brings out the Big Bad for the season. Along with the reveal of Dawn’s true nature, we learn that she’s being hunted by a woman dubbed The Beast. She’s strong, fast, and apparently insane. The monk doesn’t reveal what she wants The Key for, but he does say many people will die.

I found The Beast extremely interesting. I love her complete insanity and the unpredictable quality that lends to her character. I think she comes off as a real threat because of her appearance. Her fancy dress and high heels don’t stop her from breaking down steel doors and tossing Buffy around the factory before she causes it to collapse on top of her. That’s powerful stuff from a little blonde girl. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

Finally, I thought the idea of Anya working at The Magic Box was brilliant. I love this twist to her character. She’s always been interested in money and having nice things, but now she learns that what she really likes is making money. Her fervor for retail work was really fun to watch. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of customers though. It was a bit over the top and just became silly.

The Bad: The thing that really bothered me about this episode was Dawn’s behavior. As soon as Buffy begins to suspect Dawn is not who she says she is, Dawn begins to act suspicious. When Buffy slams her into the wall, Dawn isn’t upset or scared or angry. She becomes silent and sullen. Later in the episode, she magically has tea prepared for Joyce when Joyce returns home unexpectedly. Then, in a truly creepy fashion, she insists Joyce drink the tea. She continues this weird behavior till the end of the episode, when she suddenly switches back to being a sad, teenage girl with a sick mother and an angry older sister.

Obviously, her mannerisms are meant to be a misdirection for the audience. Buffy suspects Dawn, so we are supposed to suspect Dawn. Her strange, quiet behavior makes her appear as if she has an evil plan involving Joyce. The problem comes when it’s revealed that she’s not evil. Suddenly, her behavior makes no sense. The best misdirection makes sense in both scenarios. I should be able to watch the scenes before I know the twist and suspect she is evil. And then I should be able to rewatch the scenes knowing she is good and her behavior should still make sense. Here, it does not and that was a big letdown with this episode.

Favorite Moment: I thought the ending scene was an excellent moment for Buffy. She’s mellowed out from her initial shock about Dawn’s origins, but she’s still on the fence. However, Dawn’s vulnerability and Buffy’s own memories of her, implanted though they may be, bring out the protective big sister. The moment when Buffy is playing with Dawn’s hair is particularly poignant to me. It gave me the feeling that Buffy is really seeing Dawn differently and still as her little sister at the same time. The tender nature of this scene feels very powerful.

The Bottom Line: I really enjoyed several things in this episode, but it was blighted by Dawn’s poor scripting and direction. Especially as part of a Rewatch, I was rolling my eyes through an episode which could have been powerful during the entire forty minutes, instead of just the last five.

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