Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | October 30, 2012

Cordia’s Review: S5, E06 – Family

Season 5, Episode 6
Original airing: 11/7/2000

My Rating: 58

The Good: This was not a terrible episode, but it could have been a lot better. Unfortunately, the main failings to me were also the main plot line concerning Tara (see The Bad). But I did really enjoy several other bits of the episode.

I really liked the scene with Buffy and Giles’. It felt very appropriate for Buffy to have called Giles over in the middle of the night to discuss this new development about Dawn. I was really caught up by the lighting during the scene. The minimalist illumination was perfect and made everything feel rather desperate and oppressive, which is perhaps why Buffy made her stupid decision not to tell Xander and Willow about Dawn (see The Bad).

I also really enjoyed Spike’s scenes. The contrast of fighting with Buffy in his mind while he’s having sex with Harmony speaks volumes to his personality. His greatest attraction to Buffy comes when they are beating the crap out of each other. In his head, they are both really, really enjoying this confrontation. It makes a lot of sense for the sexual side of a vampire to have a violent edge to it. And, of course, he’s using Harmony rather heartlessly to feed his own needs. Poor Harmony still comes across as sweet when she wants to cuddle afterwards.

Finally, I was really taken with the depictions of Xander and Anya in this episode. For the first time in perhaps ever, I felt like Anya was her own separate person. Her new zeal for retail work gives her something to live for other than Xander. She even says herself that she now has a place in the world. Purpose goes a long way towards creating a realistic character. I also enjoyed Xander’s new and continued stillness. He seems more calm and confident the way he interacts with Anya and in the conversations he has with Buffy.

The Bad: I was really disappointed with Buffy’s decision to hide the truth about Dawn from Xander and Willow. I can understand not blabbing it all over town, but this feels like a decision that’s going to come back and bite her in the butt. There have been several instances in the show where Buffy has determined she needs to handle things on her own and excludes her two closest friends. Inevitably, she needs them to help her. This has been going on since Season One! I should think she would have learned by now.

But the real failing of this episode, is the lack of attention given to Tara’s story. The show has hinted at her big secret a few times now. I actually like the idea of her being part demon, or being raised to think she is, but the execution was lack luster. Her family is so incredibly stereotypical it’s actually painful to watch. Her father is overbearing and judgmental, her brother is stupid and violent, and her cousin is meek and subservient. This smacks of a family where the men have all the power and treat the women like slaves or servants.

The struggle for me with this is how Tara came out as strong as she did. It’s hinted that she went to college against her family’s wishes and has been pursuing witchcraft wholly unauthorized and unsupervised. These seem like rather strong and purposefully actions for a girl who stutters from nervousness the instant she sees her brother and calls her father “sir”. It really doesn’t fit with the childhood which is presented for her. And her confidence over the last season has actually seemed to stem from Willow, so where did it come from before?

The worst part of this story is how it’s presented and wrapped in one episode. Will we, the audience, even remember this happened in two more episodes? It seems unlikely. There was not a lot of power here to the emotions. I didn’t really fear that Tara’s family was going to take her away because the set up for Buffy to protect her was way too obvious. It even had a “we’re her family” moment. Cheesy.

Favorite Moment: When Giles tells Buffy and Xander they are profoundly stupid, I laugh out loud every time.

The Bottom Line: I think this could have been a much more powerful story concept. I love the idea of Tara having a dark past, but the presentation here was too quick and simple. However, as always, I enjoyed the glimpses into the other Scoobies’ heads.


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