Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | February 5, 2013

Robin’s Review: S5, E19 – Tough Love

Synopsis: Buffy has to drop out of college and take responsibility as Dawn’s guardian. Willow tries to help but is rejected. When she complains to Tara they fall out too. Giles catches one of Glory’s minions at the Magic Box and he reveals that Glory thinks Tara is the key. Glory catches Tara and when she discovers that she isn’t the key she sucks her sanity out. Willow turns to dark magic and attacks Glory. Buffy intervenes in time to prevent her from being killed.

The Good: The overall story remains solid in an episode that struggled with various problems.

Buffy’s need to adopt the role of mother makes legal and storyline sense. It’s a pretty tough situation for a twenty one year old to find themselves in and it’s not like she didn’t already have responsibilities. Similarly the tension between Willow and Tara made sense from what we’ve seen. As Oz did (404), Tara expresses her fear over Willow’s growing power and then she reveals that she also worries about how committed Willow is to her.

Glory’s reasoning that Tara is the Key because she is new to the group was solid. In theory the decision to have Tara lose her sanity is a good escalation of Glory’s threat. It certainly worked well to expose Dawn as the Key in the final scene. The fight scene was good too as Glory brushed off the magic that Willow could muster. I also enjoyed Glory’s description of the insanity which Tara was about to experience. It seems clear that Glory has experienced it before and doesn’t want to go back.

The Bad: Glory remains a cardboard villain though. She does little but primp, talk about the Key and occasionally fight the Scoobies. The torturing of Spike gave us a sense of the damage she could do and an attack on Tara should have been an emotive moment. Instead it fell completely flat. The loss of sanity should be a frightening thought but the clichéd presentation of Sunnydale’s mental patients hasn’t evoked those feelings. Worse though is that we don’t know if the process is reversible. If Tara had been taken away from the Scoobies it might have been implied that she was really gone and they had all suffered a great loss. Instead by having Tara around (and being reasonably calm) it told viewers that according to TV logic she may well recover one day. It’s hard to imagine her remaining on the show if she needs constant care.

The parallels to Jenny Calendar were obvious with Willow launching a furious retaliatory attack without Buffy’s support (217). But this wasn’t emotive at all. I didn’t like the way Willow ran up to Tara and Glory and was blocked from them by the acts at the World Fair. It felt like the director was reaching for drama rather than letting the horror of what had happened sink in. It should have been exciting to see Willow use magic but it felt generic. We haven’t seen her magic skills develop in an attacking scenario and so this had none of the relatable visual pull of seeing Giles wailing on Angelus.

The fact that Tara has never had her own episode or point of view moment doesn’t help either. She isn’t a character I care about nor is their relationship. The show’s impressive focus on Buffy this season has squeezed the other Scoobies out.

At first Glory’s minions couldn’t fight at all (513), then they can beat up Spike and Xander (518) and now they are back to being pathetic (as Giles captures one without trying). Pathetic and contrived as this minion just blurts out Glory’s plans without even being tied up.

The Unknown: It’s been a season of melodramatic acting on Buffy. It has been a tough change to manage because the tone of the show in previous seasons was so different. This year we’ve had to see multiple characters be sad, indecisive or lost for long periods. It’s been tough to enjoy at times. Buffy’s super awkward discussion with her professor was a good example of this problem. It felt like Sarah Michelle Gellar was pushing too hard to express the sadness over losing both her mum and now her chance to have a normal life. Both feelings are entirely valid but somehow it doesn’t feel like Buffy to dwell on them for so long. Similar problems attend to Tara losing her sanity and Dawn seeing herself as responsible for all this pain and suffering. They are such serious issues and the show isn’t really designed to deal with them. Buffy has done drama, loss and emotion amazingly well in the past but wallowing in it this season has not always been the best choice.

Glory seems to be dominating time in her body more than she did before. Ben’s anger and desperation at his loss of identity was interesting but I don’t know where it leads him.

Best Moment: In a way Glory’s description of the dark room her victims end up in was the most compelling part of the episode.

The Bottom Line: This was a bad combination of melodrama with poor plotting. Glory has been about as useless as Adam as a villain despite flashes of promise. Everyone needs to step up their game to give this season the ending it deserves.



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