The Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch rolls on. If a little slower than it has been rolling. Season 5 has been done and dusted and I ended it with more than just a little something in my eye.
A little history lesson
The fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was going to be its final season. The WB hadn’t picked it up for a sixth season. But then UPN flew in and Buffy was getting a new lease of life post season five.
However, with this monumental move of networks, Joss Whedon wanted the ending of season five to be somewhat final. To mark an end to Buffy’s time at The WB. And season five was a great swan song to Buffy’s reign at The WB.
Be Back Before Dawn
Ahhh Dawn. The one thing I remember hating with a passion about season five when I first saw it. She threw everything out of whack! Why does Buffy have a little sister?! Why did they have to make Dawn such an annoying brat? So many questions. Which were thankfully answered. Maybe not the brat part though.
This time around, Dawn was definitely less of an annoyance. More that I’ve definitely got accustomed to her annoyance. And her screaming. Stop screaming girl!
It’s funny how well established the relationship between Buffy and Dawn felt. Well, not just between the sisters, but Dawn’s relationship with everyone. Despite dropping this new character in 5 years into the show, it did feel like she’d always been there. Of course, she had for the characters. Not for us viewers. Even then, watching this time around, it felt perfectly ‘normal’ for Dawn to be there.
One in One Out
So we have a new player with Dawn. And one player out with Riley. Poor Riley. With season four’s end, Riley didn’t really have a place in the fifth season of Buffy. All he was, was Buffy’s beau. He added nothing. He was just there. This is coming from a Riley fan. Poor Riley.
Off he went to the jungle. With Buffy running after him. The best part about that episode? No, not Riley leaving. Xander’s speech to Buffy. My god, does Xander have some of the best monologues. This is definitely in my top monologues from Buffy:
But you missed the point. You shut down, Buffy. And you’ve been treating Riley like the rebound guy. When he’s the one that comes along once in a lifetime. He’s never held back with you. He’s risked everything. And you’re about to let him fly because you don’t like ultimatums? If he’s not the guy, if what he needs from you just isn’t there, let him go. Break his heart, and make it a clean break. But if you really think you can love this guy… I’m talking scary, messy, no-emotions-barred need… if you’re ready for that… then think about what you’re about to lose.
If that doesn’t choke you up, you are dead inside.
What about Buffy?
Season five was a massive season for Buffy. Yes, she went through a lot of crap in season six. But, in my opinion, season five was the toughest for her. Poor girl. She gains a sister. Comes to the realisation that all her memories of her life are mostly a sham because of said new sister. Loses her man. Loses her mother. Has to fight an all-powerful hell God. No wonder she has one moment where she just wants to give up. I’ll give her that moment. Buffy grew up a lot in season five. She had to.
If that single word doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, shame on you. I know Buffy like the back of my hand. And yet that final scene at the end of I Was Made to Love You managed to punch me in the gut hard enough that I forgot to skip the end credits and move along to the next episode. More likely, my subconscious just wasn’t ready for The Body.
The Body has to be one of the most powerful episodes in TV history. Yes, ALL of TV history. Stark. Bleached. Raw. There’s no score music. Joyce’s death hit me hard. The Body was a tough episode to watch. Not like any other Buffy episode. Watching how each character deals with Joyce’s death was heartbreaking. Willow’s inability to pick out something to wear. Xander punching a hole in the wall. The most memorable for me? Anya’s:
But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s, there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore! It’s stupid! It’s mortal and
stupid! And, and Xander’s crying and not talking, and, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.
She used to be an immortal demon has the hardest time comprehending death. What’s been put into words here hit a nerve with me. Just reading it again is bringing tears to my eyes!
The big bad… Glorificus?
So what about the big bad of the season? Glory? Well, she’s not a favourite of mine. Wasn’t when I first experienced season five and even less so now. She just plain annoys me. Very quickly got bored with her sass. I get it, you’re a God. Move on.
The Knights of Byzantium were an odd thing to throw into the season. It just felt out-of-place. Yes, I understand you’re knights. You’re a big organisation bent on stopping Hell being unleashed on Earth. You have your knightly duties. But you don’t have to actually be knights. Right?
She did save the world. A lot
The Gift could probably be the perfect ending for a TV show. I’m of the thinking that killing Buffy is the perfect way to end Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After all, how can it continue without the title character.
The whole of season five gave Buffy, the character, closure. She’d gone through so much and given so much. She was ready to give the ultimate sacrifice. And it was a beautiful, tearful one. But a happy one at the same time. Yes, my face was a mess with the final shot of Buffy’s tombstone. God, was it a mess. But it just felt right. Buffy had done her duty. Everything in season five was pointing to this. And off she went. The perfect ending. I wish there wasn’t a season six and seven.
Top episodes of the season – Hats off to The Body, No Place Like Home, The Gift, Fool for Love and The Weight of the World.
Those episodes that made me cry – The Body (No person should ever have to see the effects this episode has on me.), Into the Woods, Checkpoint, Forever and The Gift.
The episode I didn’t love – Triangle, I Was Made To Love You, Crush and The Replacement. But that’s me nitpicking.
Season 5’s probably in my top three favourite seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Strong season. Would have been a fantastic swan song.
Season six, here I come!
I’m crying just reading about The Body!
I challenge anyone to not cry while reading about it. I think I might have cried a little writing about it.
The Body is just unbelievably good. And I agree, that would have made an elegant and fantastic series ending. But there are episodes in seasons 6 and 7 I really like so it’d be hard to say I really wish season 5 was the end.
Season 6 and 7 do have some brilliant episodes. Once More, With Feeling springs to mind instantly. But still think that season 5 was an epic send off.
I am a confirmed Joss Whedon fan, but I have yet to see this show. I want to check it out soon.
Steph, you got to see Buffy. It’s Joss’ most well known bit of work and for good reason. Amazing show. Think you and your kids would get a kick out of it!
While I still enjoyed seasons six and seven, part of me feels like the original Buffy the Vampire show ended when she died in the end of the fifth season. That was such a pitch-perfect way for her to go out and worked so well. There were a few hiccups in this season, but the high points were through the roof. Dawn was okay; I never felt the vitriol for her but felt she got a bit too much attention. This season didn’t match the high points of season two and three, but I liked it more than season four. Poor Riley. They never really knew what to do with him.
Season 2 and 3 of Buffy are just flawless for me. They got the balance just right and I don’t think it’s ever been as good as it was for those two seasons.
You’re dead right, season 6 and 7 felt very removed from the previous 5 seasons of Buffy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it just felt like it lost the heart of the previous seasons.
Imagine if that final shot of Buffy’s gravestone was THE final shot of Buffy. That is perfect in my eyes.
I would have hated if BtVS has ended with Buffy dying. For 5 years Buffy has challenged what it means to be a Slayer and redefined the role into something truly inspiring and empowering, and then, just like every Slayer before her, she dies? I’d have found that terribly disappointing. No, in true Buffy-fashion it’s far more appropriate that she comes back and keeps on fighting. I consider The Gift a stronger episode than Chosen but the latter is without a doubt the better ending for Buffy. In typical Buffy Summers style she activates all the Potentials, overturning the patriarchal and oppressive “Into every generation one Slayer is born” and concocts a plan that flies in the face of every generation’s fight against evil. That’s my girl.
Yes, she dies. But her death isn’t pointless, like other slayers of the past. She dies doing something that she was destined to do. She dies to save the lives of her friends and family. Not just fighting off the average evil. That speaks volumes about her death.
Coming back from death cheapened her final sacrifice for me. It made it almost as if it just didn’t matter that much.
I used to love this show. Haven’t seen it in ages. This has inspired me to get the old DVDs out!
Do it! You won’t regret it 😀
I never got into Buffy. I have enjoyed reading your nostalgia reviews, though. Sounds like it has held up with the passage of time.
I’m wondering whether it’s nostalgia, on my side, which has helped it along the passage of time. That’s the cynical part of me. Mostly I think it’s still one of the best genre shows to have existed.
I’ve never seen the show to be honest, but I could see how people became die hard fans. It’s Whedon after all and vampires certainly are intriguing 🙂
My father died when I was in my teens; fortunately I didn’t have to confront his body like Buffy did. I’ve watched “The Body” countless times; its my favorite episode. It rings absolutely true; it’s the most authentic depiction of what it feels like to have a parent die that I have ever seen on TV or movies. One of my favorite little moments is when, after the paramedics take the body away, Buffy wanders into the kitchen and opens the back door for a moment. She hears the ordinary activities of children playing. And the look on her face says: ‘How can the world go about its business when this momentous, earth shaking event occurred? How can they not know my mother is dead?’ I had a moment exactly like that after I found out my father had died. This episode is a jewel.
I’ve heard this said by a lot of people who went through similar experiences. The realism portrayed in that one episode of Buffy is just immense. For a show that’s rooted in fantasy, it really says something that it can still produce something so real.
Season 5 is my favorite after 2 & 3. As far as Dawn goes, I knew (since I watched the entire series recently and not when it first aired) that Michelle Trachtenberg would be introduced as Buffy’s sister but I had no idea how they would do it. Her character’s first scene is genius. I can’t imagine the mindfuck that would be to fans who had absolutely no idea that was coming.
I agree, this ending would have been perfect but it was such a relief to know that wouldn’t be the end. Her death was handled so well but I like the idea that drives the ending to season 7 better but the execution was pretty horrible. I am not looking forward to watching the redundant Potentials episodes again when I rewatch the series.
The Body is one of the best episodes of television I have ever seen. Sarah Michelle Gellar should have been nominated for an Emmy for that. Anyone who thinks Buffy is a silly vampire show needs to see this to realize it is way bigger than that.
Dawn’s appearance was a big deal. Sadly, at the time, I was a massive spoiler whore so I knew it was coming. Though I can imagine the surprise was a lot like the one felt when Angel turned into Angelus in season 2. That was a huge shock for me!
The Potentials episodes are a major downer for me for season 7 too. Not looking forward to that part of season 7 either. Could have done without a lot of them having so much face time.
I would say I’m surprised that Buffy, on a whole, didn’t get more recognition. But then some of the best TV shows go that way. Sad.