Dec 31 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Delicious Refreshing Coda

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Going by episodes, I’ve recently passed the halfway point in these rewatches. “Chosen,” the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale, is episode 144, which makes the middle point of the whole televised story arc “Who Are You?”, the second half of Faith’s return. Or put another way: “Superstar” was the first day of the rest of the Buffy.

Based on the comments here and conversations I’ve seen online since BtvS began airing in 1997, I think I can safely say most fans would agree that Season 2 was better than Season 1. The show had been promising from the beginning, but when Angelus became a big bad, the storytelling hit its impressive, must-watch stride.

Then many of us split over whether S2 or 3 was the best year of the bunch.

So, year four. Not a fan favorite with very many viewers, am I right? As we wrap up Buffy’s first year of college, I’ll hazard one last generalization: I’d guess most of us would agree things got better in S5, when Glory and Dawn showed up.

I will pause here for outrage and shouting by all Dawn haters.

As “Restless” opens, Tara and Anya are nowhere to be seen. Riley is humping off for a debriefing. He’s going to get a perhaps-improbable honorable discharge, in exchange for his silence about Undead Scientist Maggie’s crazy demon-mashup scheme. We get a glimpse of Joyce, too, but the point we’re meant to absorb is the original Scooby gang is warmly, fuzzily back together. After a year of estrangement, failed dates and sublimated conflict, they’re planning a long night of kicking back and watching videos as they recover from the battle.

The rationale is they’re all too buzzed after the spell and fighting Adam to sleep, and they’re too newly rebonded to chill out anywhere but with each other.

So Joyce goes upstairs, and they throw in a video. Wow, those videos look oldey timey!

The gang immediately passes out, and everyone has a funky dream.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Willow’s first. She’s painting Greek letters on Tara’s back and they’re talking about Miss Kitty Fantastico’s name. Tara tells her “They will find out about you,” a refrain that keeps popping up as this sequence unfolds. Willow, it seems, has something to hide. Are you shocked?

She’s supposed to go to class, but doesn’t want to leave. There’s a desert outside the red-curtained window, and the vibe is not happy. Windows and menace and Tara handily nearby. I feel sad in advance about where this relationship is going.

Then Willow is back in high school, talking to Oz and Xander and taking drama.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

This part of the dream is a classic performance anxiety schtick. It’s supposed to be the first day, but when Willow shows it turns out class has reached the point where they’re putting on a show. Giles is the director, Riley’s cowboy guy, Harmony is a milkmaid, and Buffy is dressed for Chicago.

Willow, naturally, is the unrehearsed, OMG, what’s going on? star of the whole operation. As the refrain of ‘hide your true nature’ and ‘lie like a dog’ continues, it turns out everyone she knows is in the audience.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Then, just as this is threatening to make some narrative sense, we move into some fleeing, as the first Slayer, or the first Mister Pointy at any rate, puts in an appearance. Buffy rescues Willow and they run away, to a classroom where Buffy rips off Willow’s “costume,” revealing the old S1 Willow in her ‘softer side of Sears’ costume. Now she’s facing a class that includes flirting OzTara. The whole room is very bored and hostile as she first tries to deliver a book report on The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, and then gets attacked by the first Slayer. She’s gasping for air when Xander appears to wake up and begin his fun journey toward a similar confrontation.

I will say at this point that the Cheese Man who appears in all four dreams, in my opinion, should really be played by Joel Grey.

Moving on! Xander wakes up to find Willow suffocating while Giles and Buffy watch Apocalypse Now. He goes upstairs to pee and finds Joyce experimenting with being MILFy and up with people.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Be right back, Xander says, but then he finds the whole Initiative primed and ready to take notes on his bathroom performance. (There are a lot of performances and viewer/audience bits in this episode.)

This drives him into the Casa Xander basement. Something’s rattling at the door and Xander says, “That’s not the way out.”

He’ll end up in the basement again, repeatedly, but for now he segues out, to a park where Buffy’s playing in the sandbox and Spike’s going to be a Watcher. “Spike’s like a son to me,” Giles says.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

“I was into that for a while,” Xander replies. He’s watching himself from the ice cream van and, after an exchange with Buffy about sharks and one glimpse of the endless desert, the truck is where he ends up.

He’s with Anya at first.  She’s thinking about getting back into vengeance, which might be far more interesting to him if, in the back of the ice cream truck, WillTara weren’t dressed sexy, getting it on and luring him in for the fun. Anya’s cool with it. What a girlfriend! What would she have said about Joyce?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

The pursuit of wholesome threesome action takes Xander back to the basement, and from there to high school. Giles tells him this is because of “what they did.” By this he means the enjoining spell. After a general outbreak francais, Xander is dragged by Giles and Anya to a Sunnydale version of Apocalypse Now where Snyder is Colonel Kurtz.

(Snyder! Harmony! Oz! Yes, it’s a cameo-palooza!)

Once again this leads—surprise!—back to the basement. Xander’s father busts through the rattling door, rips out his heart, and turns into the last Slayer.

Giles’s dream starts with pregnant Olivia, an empty baby carriage and Buffy wanting to train by playing carnival games. Spike’s got a tomb fronted by lawn gnomes, and he’s hired himself out as an attraction. I nominate his photo shoot as the single funniest thing in all of the “Restless” dreams.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Within the crypt, Olivia’s crying and the empty carriage is tipped over. The cheese man, who is still not Joel Grey, arrives to tell Giles : “I wear the cheese, it does not wear me.”

And then we’re in the Bronze! Xander and Willow are trying, with some urgency, to find the answer to what’s happening to them within the usual book suspects.

But there’s also another show on: Anya is doing stand-up comedy and explaining her jokes as she tells them. I find this incredibly awesome. I could watch Emma Caulfield do meta-comedy for awhile. Is it possible to give her enough praise for the peculiar delight that is Anya?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Then Giles sings. He starts to explain what’s happening, with the first Slayer and the spell they all cast in “Primeval.” He exhorts Xander not to bleed on his newly steam-cleaned couch, loses his amplification, and has to chase his mic cable back to a watch he’d been using earlier to hypnotize Buffy.

Then the first Slayer, who never had a Watcher, cuts into his head. Giles—the real Giles in the living room of Joyce, that is—begins to have what looks awfully like a seizure...

...and with that, we move on to Buffy. First she’s in her dorm room, and Anya’s trying to wake her up. It’s the beginning of “Once More With Feeling,” am I right?

Then she’s back at the bed she and Faith made, not long ago, in one of their shared visions.

Tara asks who the bed’s for. She adds: “You think you know. What’s to come. What you are. You haven’t even begun.”

Buffy goes looking for the others and we get another tasty tidbit from Tara: “Be back before dawn.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

Next she’s wandering the university set (sort of—it has Sunnydale High’s lockers), wearing a deeply cute dress. She finds Joyce in a wall.  “I don’t think you should live in there,” Buffy says. Joyce suggests she could probably break through and get her out, but Buffy has spotted Xander. She moves on, leaving her mother behind.

Kind of heartbreaking, no?

After an encounter with Riley and Adam, she gives herself a clay facial, walks out into the sand and hooks up with both the first Slayer and her interpreter, Tara.

Like much of the official apparatus of Slayage, Firstie is not so impressed with Buffy’s practice of having friends. She sees herself as a thing apart from humanity, something that “lives in the action of death,” as she cheerily puts it.

But Buffy is pretty confident that she doesn’t have to lie around putting up with nonsense from a girl who’s been dead since just about the dawn of time. She tells her “I’m going to ignore you and you’re going to go away.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

And it works! It takes two tries, but soon enough she wakes up, safe and sound, and so do the others.

All that’s left is a little wrap-up explanation—by casting the enjoining spell, they affronted the Slayers’ power source—and one last stare, on Buffy’s part, at what will turn out to be Dawn’s bed.

There’s so much in this episode and I caught a lot more of it, this time, because of course I’ve seen the whole run of the show. I’ve mentioned some of the main predictions, clues and images—the ones that felt significant to me—but I left plenty for you. What are your favorites? Within that mishmash of intriguing Joss imagery, what’s most meaningful to you?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Restless

“Restless” is fun to watch, despite its necessary dreamlike opacity. Is it a great ending for the season? I’d say it’s better than “Primeval” would have been. And it’s something of a nice change to see, just once, the way the team embarks on coming back after their annual ‘fire bad, tree pretty’ moment. The episode affirms the core around which the series is built: Buffy is changing the Slayer rules, rejecting the whole ‘she who slays alone dies alone’ paradigm. And in the process, she’s taking the fight against evil to a whole new level.

Next: Would you like some bugs to go with your Dracula?

A.M. Dellamonica has so much fiction up here on! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales.

Now you can read her novelette, “Wild Things,” that ties into the world of her award winning novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

1. JimmyMac80
One of the best forshadowings in here, IMO, is the exchange between Adam and Buffy, given what we learn about the Slayer powers in Season 7.
Adam: She's uncomfortable with certain concepts. It's understandable. Aggression is a natural human tendency. Though you and me come by it another way.
BUFFY: We're not demons.
Adam: Is that a fact?
Plus the whole ending,
BUFFY: I am not alone.
TARA: The Slayer does not walk in this world.
BUFFY: I talk. I shop, I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out. And I don't sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends.
I think this forshadows a bit of Buffy sharing her power with the potentials in Season 7 as well.
Nate the great
2. thDigitalReader
I'm not trying to start a fight, but can someone tell me the cheif complaints about Dawn? I liked the character and the way she was introduced.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
Xander's is paticularly interesting, because it's really showing what puts him in the basement.

First, it was the performance enxiety dream, where Xander fears he isn't good enough, and boom, basement.

The next is falling back into chauvinistic behaviors, believing what Willow and Tara have should be for HIS entertainment.

Lastly, it's when he runs away from confronting authority, represented by Snyder.

It's all of these behaviors which will lead him to abandon Anya at the alter, showing that after all those years, he still can't leave the basement.

Giles exposition song is a thing of beauty.

Buffy's back in the virginal get up again, what with the cherries and all. The clock is wrong becuase 3:65 isn't on a clock. Adam looks wierd without makeup.

That's Buffy's bed in the last shot, not Dawn's. That's her wrought iron headboard in the front left of the frame and the windows Angel used to climb in and out of to the right. I think it is supposed to represent her anxiety over going back to sleep.

I always wonder if they decided to use the land shark and Randy Giles after they wrote this episode or before? Like if they knew were gonna do Tabula Rasa with those elements, or decided to do Tabula Rasa and decided later that it would be great to incorporate some nonsensical moments from Restless into that episode. Because at this point in time, that line about Spike and Giles is more important to show you how Xander is distancing himself from his former concept of himself(that is insecure, chauvanistic, and callow) than it is to be foreshadowing. But regardless, it's neat they got it to work out that way.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
@1 That's a good point. The whole idea of the Potentials has been laying around since Season 2, as Kendra pointed out she'd been trained her whole life to be a Slayer, so I'm sure that ending is where Joss was headed the whole time.
5. Natenanimous
This is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, even though it's so different. I love the dream-logic and the dream-metaphors and the foreshadowing, and just how smooth and fun and foreboding the whole thing is. I love when Xander moves through pretty much every set the show has in one long, uncut shot that ends up back in his basement. I love when Giles tries to sing the answers. I love Spike posing for the cameras. I love when Giles says that Spike is like a son to him, and then later in the show there's an episode where that actually happens. I love that Riley is Cowboy Guy, and that his plan for world domination is toasters that think. I love the whole surreal meta-dialogue that runs through the episode. I think it's brilliant, and it's one of those things where watching it makes me love Joss Whedon more than is entirely healthy.
6. Natenanimous
@3 Re: the clock at 3:65. You probably know this, but I love how that ties into some long-term foreshadowing Joss did. At the end of Season Three, when Buffy and Faith are talking in their dreamspace, Faith says that there's a countdown from "seven three oh", or 730, which is the number of days in two years. Two years from that episode is the end of season five, where Buffy sacrifices herself. In this episode, on the clock, it's 365, which is what the countdown is now at. One year until the sacrifice. Joss planned it—or at least planned that something big would happen—since the end of Season Three.
7. Gardner Dozois
This was a very brave show for a series on network television to run, particularly back then. I'm sure the surreal stuff and the lack of the familiar plot structure confused some people, and anybody who tuned in to this episode who was previously unfamiliar with the series must have been totally bewildered. I liked it, although it's a peculiar--and daring--choice for a season-ending episode.

There's little doubt in my mind that this season was weaker than the previous season, although it does contain one of the best BUFFY episodes of all time, "Hush," and some very good comic episodes in the first half of the season like "Superstar" and "Beer Bad." It never really did gell, probably fatally hurt by the sudden unexpected departure of the actress who played Professor Walsh, and the relative weakness of Adam as a Big Bad. Even the ending of the Adam arc felt somewhat prefunctory and hurriedly tacked-on, which perhaps is why they went on to do this offbeat episode as the season-ender instead. (I always wondered why Buffy didn't trot out this merging to create the Super-Slayer trick on other occasions--would have been interesting to see what Super-Slayer could have done against Glory, for instance. Considering that Glory was a MUCH more credible threat to end the entire world than Adam ever was, you'd think that Buffy would have pulled out all the stops to defeat her.)

There's also no doubt in my mind that Season Five is far superior to Season Four. I'm one of those who liked Dawn, and thought that their way of introducing her into the show was daringly audacious.
Emma Rosloff
8. emmarosloff
Despite the weakness of season 4's overall plot arc, this episode gave me a new admiration for Buffy. Joss could've stuck to the initial parameters, left it at 'Evil vs. Slayer, go!' and still had a successful show. Instead, he pushes us to probe deeper, and gives us new cause to rally around his heroine -- Buffy is not merely our Slayer (the one we happen to be following in the chronology of his universe), but the Slayer, the one who has the power to (and will eventually) change how Slaying is done.

Not only is this the most important time in Buffy's life, it's the most important time in entirety of the Buffyverse, making Joss's story ultimately much more compelling.

A few things stuck out to me during the course of the four narratives. In Willow's, I thought it was interesting how she assumed that she was hiding her former self -- the mousy softmore that got picked on for being too smart -- when I think what she's really hiding is her future self, whom she's yet to acknowledge -- the lust for power building in her as she becomes more and more adept at magic, and the capacity for corruption that comes with.

In Xander's, Aeryl points out that he can't get out of the basement, that all of his choices keep leading him back there. Yet when confronted with climbing the stairs to leave through the main entrance, something sinister awaits him, and he keeps commenting that "that's no way out". We assume that a vampire or demon of some kind is trying to get in, only to learn that it's actually his abusive father banging at the door, and all the colorful baggage that comes with his parents' dysfuntional marriage. Of all the demons he's fought and faced, it's his own he can't get past. Like Aeryl said, this foreshadows his cold feet at the altar.

Giles' is a bit sad -- he's so clearly Buffy's father figure, but he's all business about it, because it's his duty (for her sake and the sake of the world) to be her Watcher first, father second (foreshadowing his decision to leave in Season 6). And yet it's an all consuming task -- Olivia and her empty baby carriage show us that he can't have a family of his own outside the Scoobies, yet within them he must play his part, even when it pains him. Also, he makes an off-handed comment about how he feels like Buffy should've just killed Spike, foreshadowing his conspirating with Principle Wood in Season 7.

In Buffy's, I love how determined she is to find her friends no matter how disorienting things are around her (because it's in her nature to perservere), and that the minute she understands who she's dealing with (the first Slayer), she demands to see her face to face. Their exchange is great, too, reinforcing that Buffy may be the Slayer, but she refuses to be beholden to anything that doesn't serve her, even the very tennants on which her sacred duty rests.

Season 5 was a mixed bag for me -- it's not that I didn't like Dawn in concept (or even in execution, in terms of how the character was inserted into the storyline), it's really that I didn't care for Michelle Trackenburg as an actress. My boyfriend claims that Dawn was there to recapture the teen audience, since the Scoobies were no longer in high school, and that it was SMG who insisted Trackenburg be brought on board, probably because they were friends.

Personally, I can't help but wonder if the move was pointed. If they'd brought in a better actress to play her sister, SMG might have had to compete for the spotlight. As it stands, I only find Dawn palatable in her better moments -- when she's being well-behaved or particularly sisterly. Otherwise, her petulant outbursts and overall thick-headed behavior kind of just bugged the crap out of me. I get that the character had her reasons. A better actress might've been able to pull it off, but Trackenburg's performance had me gratefully turning back to SMG (and all the others) every time.
Jack Flynn
9. JackofMidworld
It's been a while since I've seen this episode but I actually used it as a basis for a RPG scenario, the way that Xander transitioned from the truck to the basement, closets that lead to other houses, stuff like that.

The scene with Giles and Spike is called back to later, too, when Willow accidentally erases everybody's memory and they get to play with that father/son dynamic again. Even the clothes seemed similar, if memory serves.

Personally, I liked Dawn. Thought she shook up the status quo and gave Buffy something to be responsible for that wasn't Slayer-related; especially after The Body.
Emma Rosloff
10. emmarosloff
On the topic of Spike and Giles, I always thought it was interesting how Joss found ways to explore relationship dynamics between his characters outside of the status-quo. Like when Giles and Joyce revert to teenagers and end up sleeping together and having a pseudo relationship. Or Xander and Willow having their brief 'affair'. In this case (and in Tabula Rasa) we get to see what it would be like if Giles and Spike had a father/son dynamic, something very far from the reality of things.

Because Giles never, ever warms up to Spike, only barely tolerating him because of Buffy's decision to spare him (which he makes clear in this episode he doesn't agree with), and even going against her come Season 7 to try and take him out, creating a rift between them -- a small one, but a permanent one. Even in Tabula Rasa, when he thinks he's his son, his gut reaction is to be disappointed in him.
Constance Sublette
11. Zorra

Nor am I trying to start a fight, because, why? :)

But, for starters, Dawn, why we hate her -- she killed Joyce. She killed a lot of other memories and connections by everything needing to be re-arranged, particularly everybody's memories -- but imagine what that meant most of all for Joyce, to take on the entire change of brain and physical memory, to have this other daughter. Joyce dies badly of a brain something within months after Dawn shows up.

For second, Dawn her whiny, hyper self, sucking up all the oxygen from more interesting characters in the room. Not a good actress, unlike, say, Alyson Hannigan; maybe even worse than Eliza Dushku

Why they did it -- bringing in this new and younger characters makes perfect sense in refreshing a series, particularly one which so many of its avid fans felt had betrayed them after leaving high school (I'm not one of them -- I love getting out of high school -- I love getting out of college just as much, for that matter.). With Dawn, they all get to go back to high school yet one more time with even more feeling.

Still, when the opening of season 5 was --wtf?????? Dawn? -- I stopped watching for years.

Love, C.
Constance Sublette
12. Zorra

Yet, none of them can leave high school anymore than Xander can leave his basement. Particularly Buffy cannot leave high school for some reason -- where does she hide the broken Angel?

They still go back to high school in the final season yet! Dawn gets them back to high school, but they keep going back there one way and another, all through the series.

Love, c.
13. Dianthus
As for Dawn, the only thing I liked about her was the partners-in-crime friendship she had with Spike (which ME wished into the cornfield in s7). By The Gift, I was ready to shout "Let her jump! Let her jump!" at the TV. Buffy's sacrifice is too important, tho', as it reflects the sacrifces made by the sister/mothers who came before us.
As for the father/son dynamic btwn Giles and Spike, Joss said somewhere that 'Spike is what Giles was, and Giles is what Spike refused to become' (or somesuch). Also, Spike kinda replaces Giles as Buffy's Watcher in s6. She relies on him for a lot.
I love, love, love Spike's photo shoot in Giles's dream!
Interesting that it's the guys who dream of Spike, and not the girls, but it kinda makes sense if Xander represents Buffy's heart and Giles her head.
It's in Xander's dream that Spike is a Watcher in training (in her heart) and in Giles's dream that Spike hires himself out as an attraction (in her head). He is very attractive.
I like the Cheeseman just as he is.
Alyx Dellamonica
14. AMDellamonica
Zorra, I was beginning to think I was wrong about there being no not-Dawn fans in the group! Thank you for laying it out for us.

As you may have guessed, all, I went away to a land with no Internet for the holidays. I am catching up on the discussions and will be moving at my usual pace next week. Happy 2013 to you all!
Chris Chriserson
15. Captchas_are_annoying
@2: Initially, I loved Dawn. I think the entire "Dawn is the key" storyline was a clever concept, well executed, and was one of the more tangibly high-stakes season finales in the entire show, and for the purposes of that season, she was fantastic.

However, in my view, she never grew as a character as season 6 and 7 progressed. She was always little more than a plot device, thrown in as a "damsel-in-distress" to be resuced whenever stakes needed to be raised a little for the moster of the week. She was the only scoobie who couldn't hold her own in a fight, and was constantly in need of rescue. Narratively usefull, but ultimately dead weight compared to the other characters.

Also, something which really, really, really annoyed me is this - why isn't Dawn special? I mean, within the mythology of the show, shouldn't she be powerfull in some way, shape or form? After all, she was created from Slayer blood to house an ancient mystical energy source.... but couldn't use a stake or cast a spell to save her life, more often than not. Anyone agree?
16. Dianthus
Captcha, I agree that ME really dropped the ball with Dawn. They may or may not be in the process of fixing that in the comix, but the comix don't have the same reach (IMO) as the series. They teased us with the possibility of more in Potential but that was just a big psych-out.
It's as if they'd said what they wanted to say w/ Dawn, but then they were stuck w/ her and just didn't know what else to do. Very disappointing.
17. JMH
I hated Dawn, but I always figured I was supposed to. It was flawlessly done, an artistic marvel; I hated her as much as, and for a lot of the same reasons that, Buffy did.
And she did grow, she was just born broken and she grew broken. Not like any of the other Scoobies had room to throw stones on that. And of course she was helpless. Buffy wouldn't let her do anything.
Xander used to be helpless, but he learnt. Dawn couldn't learn because she was so rarely given the freedom to try, or the encouragement to improve. I think Spike tries to teach her a little, but that's about it.
And Buffy's our avatar. We don't get to see Dawn in her element, with her friends, being herself. We only see Buffy seeing her, the eternal baby sister.
Joss and co are painfully symbolic sometimes.

I'm sure we'll get into it then, but I just want to preemptively jump to Xander's defense. Leaving Anya was the bravest thing he ever did. In a way, it was the thing that finally let him leave the basement, rather than drag her down there with him. Surely he should've done it sooner, maybe, but his relationship with her was too easy for both of them, and not allowing it to continue and coming to understand that sometimes love isn't enough was a huge act of bravery for him. I was so proud of him, then.
18. JMH
PS. Re Dawn and her specialness...
The problem is, she's the key. That's a passive power. She can be used by other people, but the key can't turn itself. You know?
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
@17, I don't disagree with you in re Xander. I know that breakup broke a lot of fans hearts, but I think Selfless proved it wouldn't have worked, if only because Anya wasn't secure in her identity.

As far as Dawn, after the last episode cemented the metaphor of the Scoobs representing a vital part of Buffy, they had to add Buffy's inner child, so hello Dawn.

Dawn in many ways is the ultimate Refrigerator Girl(without the love interest), she doesn't get much of her own development, and what she does get is always filtered through the prism of Buffy. She suffers to make Buffy suffer, and when she grows as a person, it is demonstrate Buffy's growth. Which is actually kinda boring.
20. Gardner Dozois
I liked how Dawn was handled in her initial season. After that, they didn't really seem to know what to do with her. I kept waiting for her to develop magical Powers of some sort--after all, she's a magical creature created of mystical energy of immense potency, and there's no reason why that should have changed just because Buffy died to keep her function from being fullfilled. But she never did develop any Powers. Toward the end of the Bad Willow arc, they seemed to be toying with the idea of making her into a Slayer, but nothing really came of that either. So she was mostly regulated to the role of annoying younger sister who needed to be rescued all the time (to the point where they make a joke about this in "Once More, With Feeling"). I think that the actress did as good a job as she could with the material they gave her to work with, but they didn't really give her much most of the time, past her initial season, so that she fell into the needs-to-be-rescued damsel role is not her fault, or even the fault of the character, but rather the fault of the writers.
Emma Rosloff
21. emmarosloff
I'm actually happy that Dawn wasn't a Potential come season 7 and I liked the episode were we find that out. You're expecting it to happen, so much so that it would almost be boring if it did. Joss knew that and that's why he twists our expectations in that episode.

If anything it gives her a true, unfiltered shining moment -- she's calm under pressure, resourceful like Buffy always has to be, and brave. And when she realizes that the other girl is the Potential instead of her, she maturely hands over the torch and lets the girl finish the fight.

This leads to that great convo between her and Xander where he makes the astute observation that as boring old regular people their dedication to the fight, however small, is pretty extraordinary. Moving through season 7 Dawn begins to find her place in a more ancillary role -- doing research and compiling a database, something Giles never got around to. At one point she even jokingly refers to herself as 'Watcher Junior'. I actually liked that, it felt right to me.

While I couldn't stand Michelle Trackenburg I did feel bad for Dawn as a character, given how little Buffy wanted to do with her, particularly in season 6. Dawn is so desperate for clear boundaries and some stability, and evidence that someone loves her unconditionally -- what any kid wants and needs -- but Buffy (and really, all the other characters, except for Tara, who has no choice but to leave because of Willow) is too caught up in her own stuff to be able to be a mother to Dawn until season 7.

And even then, a war is on, so Buffy can't give Dawn her undivided attention. What was so frustrating to me was that anytime Buffy tried to genuinely reach out to Dawn she'd get punished for it -- Dawn would lash out at her.

I'm not saying that's not a feasible reaction, but Michelle Trackenburg did not do what Dawn was going through justice in my mind -- I felt no sympathy for her anytime she was petulant, which seemed to be her default whenever things got heated. Her performance just didn't have the nuance it needed, which is a shame because I felt like the character was compelling on paper. But like Zorra said, she just seemed to suck all the oxygen out of the room and take time away from the more interesting characters.

I felt that way about her pretty much from the get-go.
22. Dianthus
Painfully symbolic...yes, that's a great way of putting it.
Xander leaving Anya was one thing. Adding insult to injury by playing the injured party in Entropy was something else entirely. Xander and Buffy both had the sheer, unmittigated gall to act like Spike and Anya had betrayed them, rather than the other way 'round. Xander (that S.O.B) even more so than Buffy. I kinda hated him for that.
In s6, it seemed to me like Spike was the only one who wasn't so caught up in his own problems that he could clearly see what was going on with Buffy (unlike the others). Unfortunately, he got so caught up in Buffy's problems that he wasn't there for Dawn like he had been before in s5 and early s6. She really needed some stability in her life, and that's in pretty short supply on a Hellmouth.
Jack Flynn
23. JackofMidworld
JMH - that's an outstanding point! It's so obvious but never really thought of it (well, her) like that.
Alyx Dellamonica
24. AMDellamonica
A key can't turn itself. I'm going to be pondering that for awhile.
25. Gardner Dozois
She was a totally magical creature, created out of magical energy for mystical purposes BY magic, and crackling with magical energy inside for anybody with the eyes to see (like the crazy people)--no way she should have ended up being just an ordinary teenage girl
26. Dianthus
Gardner D., I couldn't agree more. It's just one of many things ME let slide, and it's really too bad. They could have done/could still do so much more with Dawn.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
The current comics are addressing this, if it makes you feel better.
28. Gardner Dozois
I don't pay any attention to the comics. The continuity of the show itself is the only one that means anything to me. And as far as what happened on the air is concerned, Dawn turned out to be an ordinary teenage girl.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
See, it never bothered me. After Willow gets amped up in S4, there are a plethora of superpowered characters. The only "normal" characters for the audience to relate to after Cordy leaves is Xander. Dawn, as a normal girl, filled a hole in the cast, IMO.

It would have a ripoff to have Dawn all of a sudden become this powerful Witch or Slayer. The monks didn't do a spell to create a witch or slayer, they did a spell to create a normal girl.

The crazy people couldn't see her because she was crackling with energy, they could see how reality had been bent around her, like Buffy does in that episode where she does the spell.

Now, I don't disagree with the assertion that Joyce's life was the cost for creating human life in Dawn, just like Tara was the price to pay for resurrecting Buffy. What I don't understand is the virtiol aimed at Dawn for "causing" Joyce's death, because that infers some culpability, and Dawn has none, she did not choose to be created.
30. Garder Dozois
Several of the crazy people refer to Dawn as a shiny ball of light or energy, which seems to indicate that the magical energy is there within her.

I think that blaming Dawn for Joyce's death is a bit unfair. As you aptly point out, Dawn didn't choose to be created.
31. Dianthus
Anya was sans power at the time, and I could relate more with her than Dawn. They created Dawn with one purpose in mind. Once that purpose was fulfilled, they just didn't seem to know what else to do with her. It's a shame.
As for the comics, I think a lot of fans don't really consider them "canon" in the same way as the TV show (mostly b/c they're lame). Spike might finally be getting his due, but there's a 'tree falling in the forest' sort of vibe to it.
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
Anya may have been nonpowered, but she was still an 1100 year old ex demon, which is far outside the realm of "normal".

And yes, they did create Dawn with a purpose in mind, and THAT purpose was never fulfilled. She represented Buffy's inner child, that she had to protect on her quest to adulthood. Even after the conclusion of the Key plotline, she continued to fill that role. Check out Mark Field's Unpaid Sophistry for some very interesting analysis on how she continues to fill that role. He's almost finished reviewing the series, but his archives are incredible.
Chris Nelly
33. Aeryl

According to this article, Dawn was orginally supposed to have telekinetic powers and be able to speak to the dead(don't all the dead on this show already speak? Talk about redundant!)
34. Dr. Thanatos

Everyone speaks to the dead. The dead generally don't answer...
Alyx Dellamonica
35. AMDellamonica
Dawn should have had powers--'should' in this case meaning I'm with Gardner. Given how she was created, and the raw materials, powers seem uber-logical.

But what niche could she have filled, power-wise, that wasn't already occupied by someone else?

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