End of Season 5 (5.12 - 5.22)
We see Glory in a feeble and weak state before she is helped to "drink" another postman, which might help to explain why she's been around for 11 episodes without really doing anything much. Meanwhile the Council of Watchers shows up looking pleasingly equal-opportunities.
GILES: You all stand around and look sombre. Good job!
We are still unclear about how Glory knows Ben. They send each other messages through her minions.
QUENTIN: The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change. It's been that way from the beginning.
GILES: Well, that's a very comforting, bloodless way of looking at it, isn't it?
In fact we're learning a bit more about the Council.
GILES: the rough stuff, they're all right, a bit ham-handed, but they get it done - but this stuff, the bureaucracy, the pulling of political strings, they're the best in the world. They can kill you with the stroke of a pen. Poncy sods.
The interviews with the scoobies are fun. Willow says "lesbian" and Tara claims to be level five.
SPIKE: Heard of me, have you?
LADY WATCHER: Wrote my thesis on you!
Glory finally moves on Buffy, who is forced to turn to Spike.
SPIKE: What's the matter, Slayer? You're not feeling a hundred percent?
SPIKE: They didn't put a chip in your head, did they?
SPIKE: Be funny if they did.
Some Knights of Byzantium show up with a "don't protect the key" agenda and nowhere near enough firepower. Buffy shows real leadership and convinces the Council to rejoin her.
5.13 Blood Ties
DAWN: I just think you're freaking out 'cause you have to fight someone prettier than you.
It's all about Dawn in fact. People are weird around her at Buffy's 20th birthday party.
DAWN: Geez! Lurk much?
SPIKE: I wasn't lurking. I was standing about. It's a whole different vibe.
Ben mentions he has a sister and suddenly he turns into Glory - didn't see that coming! Best twist for a while.
Willow saves everyone with a teleportation spell - the first thing she's really contributed this season, if we forget the shouty troll. The outstanding performance is from Dawn though.
DAWN: Think she'd raise my allowance?
We learn that the Bronze has been refurbed and that Sunnydale has a railway station - it's the "last stop, this line".
BUFFY: The test isn't till tomorrow, right? I don't have an opinion till then.
Dawn has a realistic 14 year old's knack of poking holes in her sister's arguments.
BUFFY: He's a killer, Dawn. You cannot have a crush on something that is dead - and evil - and a vampire.
DAWN: Right, that's why you were never with Angel for three years.
BUFFY: Angel's different. He has a soul.
DAWN: Spike has a chip. Same diff.
The chip becomes the centre of attention.
DRUSILLA: I don't believe in science. All those bits and molecules that no one's ever seen.
And she has a point - in a world with magic, science clearly is limited in its explanatory power.
BUFFY: You can't love without a soul.
DRUSILLA: Oh, we can, you know. We can love quite well. If not wisely.
In the Buffyverse, the concept of a "soul" seems to be reduced to simply providing a person's conscience - it's the source of morality. One thing I like very much about this season is the way they make it clear that Spike isn't good - he just acts good when Buffy's present because he loves her.
5.15 I was Made to Love You
The "Previously" features a lot more of Riley than usual, but nothing of Angel. Glory is in there, as she was in the last episode's, even though she was entirely absent from the action - and indeed doesn't feature in this episode except to make it clear that she shares a body with Ben.
Lip service is still being paid to the fact that Buffy and Willow and Tara are students. What Ben's doing at a student party is entirely unexplained (and why it's so very quiet). As is why Anya was on campus chatting to Tara.
BUFFY: So, what do you guys think she is? I mean, this may sound nuts, but I kinda got the impression that she was a-
XANDER: Oh yeah, robot.
It's quickly established that April clearly must be a sex-bot.
XANDER: I miss Oz. He'd get it. He wouldn't say anything, but he'd get it.
There's the ubiquitous fight, but instead of Buffy winning, April just runs down. It's not your average saving-the-world episode.
BUFFY: Can you cry? Sometimes I feel better when I cry. But there might be rust issues.
APRIL: Crying is blackmail. Good girlfriends don't cry.
Buffy treats April as a person rather than a thing, I suppose because she's not evil. Perhaps that's not a bad way to approach a world with demons in it - compassion for everything that isn't irretrievably evil (including Spike, come to think of it). I actually find April's "death scene" surprisingly touching, even without thinking about what happens next.
APRIL: It's getting dark.
5.16 The Body
A difficult episode to watch for anyone who's lost a parent. It does feature some outstanding acting from Buffy and from Willow (talking about supporting Buffy while completely going to pieces). And they do make a bit of a vampire story out of it with a few moments of peril. But on the whole I still don't think this is a suitable subject for entertainment.
ANGEL: I'm sorry. I couldn't come sooner.
Angel gets to be the perfect ex. There's also a key scene for Willow, if you know what's to come.
WILLOW: I'm not even sure it's possible, Dawn. I mean, I've seen things on resurrection, but - there's books and stuff - but I guess the spells... backfire?
TARA: That's not the point.
WILLOW: That's not the point. The point is, it's bad... because...
If this was a typical episode, the spell would backfire and Buffy would have to defeat her mom as a monster (I imagine something like zombie-Prof-Walsh). But the twist is that that's not what happens.
ANGEL: I can stay in town as long as you want me.
BUFFY: How's forever? Does forever work for you?
GILES: Some Slayers before Buffy found it helpful in regaining their focus, learning more about their role. There's a sacred place in the desert. It's not far.
How very convenient, eh? Buffy gets questing with very little ritual.
BUFFY: Hello kitty.
For some reason (no doubt to do with Giles' ritual) the First Slayer no longer needs to borrow Tara's voice.
FIRST SLAYER: Death is your gift.
FIRST SLAYER: ...is your gift.
Buffy points out that it is really a bit far-fetched that they were all taken in.
BUFFY: You guys couldn't tell me apart from a robot?
BUFFY-BOT: Oh, I don't think I'm a robot.
ANYA: She's very well done.
This episode has so many tiny moments of slight humour that it makes me feel it's really trying too hard. Like:
BUFFY-BOT: Thank you. But I really think we should be listening to the other Buffy, Guiles.
and Spike trying to convince Glory that Bob Barker is the key, and so on. None of them really quite funny enough. I'm starting to wonder if all the episodes where I don't like the dialogue were by the same writer, but I'll resist the temptation to go look, because if it's true, whenever that writer appears in the credits I'll be prejudiced from the start. Still, each season does seem to have a couple of episodes that I don't think are well-written, and this is one of them.
5.19 Tough Love
Does the title refer to Buffy and Dawn, or Willow and Tara?
WILLOW: What is it about me that you don't trust?
TARA: It's not that. I worry, sometimes. You're changing so much, so fast. I don't know where you're heading.
Tara has a fantastic scene with Glory, without saying a word.
DAWN: Maybe I'm not evil. But I don't think I can be good.
SPIKE: Well, I'm not good - and I'm okay.
We see Willow in evil-fighting-witch mode for the first time, which is pretty impressive. Of course, she loses. But she was a useless spare wheel for the previous 18 episodes and finally she's doing something, and it's for love. She has indeed come a long way - she's no longer the "big faker" of Restless.
BUFFY: Eggplant, that's me... salami with - ew, peanut butter? Dawn.
DAWN: Yeah, like eggplant is normal. It's what, half egg, half plant? That's just unnatural.
Maybe I'm finally starting to like Dawn.
Glory really isn't very bright - she makes the classic evil-villain mistake of stopping and asking the hero whether they have any last words for no particular reason instead of just killing them.
GLORY: Last words, slay-runt?
BUFFY: Just one. Truck.
Now that is actually funny.
ANYA: Run away? Finally, a sensible plan.
Actually they haven't tried it before. It doesn't go well, which explains why they don't try it again.
XANDER: Is anybody else queasy?
ANYA: He doesn't travel well. He's like fine shrimp.
Anya is very interested in shrimp. Spike doesn't bother having an even slightly British accent any more. Willow is back into being a useful member of the team.
GILES: I'm so proud of you. You've come so far. You're everything a Watcher... everything I could have hoped for.
Talk like that is getting a bit scary. Losing Giles would be scarier, really, than Glory running off with Dawn and killing an entire army of the Knights of Byzantium and their magic-literate "clerics".
And why is this episode called Spiral? No idea.
5.21 The Weight of the World
SPIKE: Ben came, he turned into Glory, snatched the kid, and pfft! Vanished, remember? You do remember? Is everyone here very stoned?
Willow goes inside Buffy's head ("extraordinarily advanced" magic according to Giles) and sees a recap of her meeting with the First Slayer in Intervention.
WILLOW: Hey, I know you. You're the first original Slayer, who tried killing us all in our dreams... how've you been?
Willow, of course, only remembers the First Slayer from Restless, almost a year ago. This cycle is significant because - I think - Buffy has been on a journey of self-discovery which started in Restless and ends in The Gift - one of finding out what a slayer is.
In some ways, the journey actually started a year before that, in Graduation Day Part 2, when Buffy becomes more than just one slayer - when Faith gives her some of her "stuff". Of course both Buffy and Willow have been learning about themselves.
BUFFY: You talk funny.
WILLOW: Yes, as you'll tell me again when we're older and in chem class.
Giles explains that the only way to close the dimensional portal is to kill Dawn.
5.22 The Gift
The teaser begins with an excellent 30-second recap of the story so far - from the start (of the TV show, anyway).
The story about the portal is muddied further as it's explained that the dimensions will bleed together, but only until Dawn dies, then it will all stop. And it can only be done at a specific time or it won't happen at all. Doesn't really seem as apolalypse-y as opening the hellmouth, which had no story about being able to be closed again soon after.
ANYA: Here to help. Wanna live.
XANDER: Smart chicks are so hot.
WILLOW: You couldn't have figured that out in 10th grade?
Giles' role has always been to help Buffy reflect, and there's a scene where they review progress. Buffy points out that she sacrificed Angel to save the world, but says she can't do that any more.
BUFFY: I loved him so much. But I knew what was right. I don't have that any more. I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices.
There's a new theme here - ethics is difficult, and making choices is more difficult if you know more about it. Giles explains his position.
GILES: I've sworn to protect this sorry world, and sometimes that means saying and doing... what other people can't. What they shouldn't have to.
It seems Spike completely redeemed himself by being prepared to die to protect Dawn. He's invited back in.
BUFFY: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.
SPIKE: Yeah. Hey - always knew I'd go down fighting.
BUFFY: I'm counting on you to protect her.
SPIKE: Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
As usual the final battle involves some excellent teamwork, with Willow in command while Buffy stalemates Glory. But this time, some of the team's more subtle specialities are needed.
BEN: She could've killed me.
GILES: No she couldn't. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that... and still she couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.
Charmingly, he puts on his specs to do it.
BUFFY: Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.
Buffy realises that a slayer can not only give others their death, but can give her own. At that moment, the sun appears - it's dawn, of course. This completes her discovery of what it is to be a slayer. To me, the biggest step along this path was in Fool for Love when Buffy gets Spike to tell her about the two slayers he killed. Spike tells her that "every slayer has a death wish" - that in the end they're ready to die because they're desperate to know what it's like. Buffy wasn't ready then, but she is now. Ready to give up - she said as much to Willow in The Weight of the World. So her death is her gift to Dawn, to the world, and also to herself.