Mon
Jan 14 2013 1:30pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Sisterhood is Powerful

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

Buffy has only just begun her shiny new post-Dracula training regime with Giles, boring Dawn to tears and eventually, thereby, meeting with disaster when little Sis makes one of her classic distracto-moves and sends Buffy crashing to the floor in a pile of what the hell was that noise?

It’s not really Dawn’s fault. She’s been doing this for so long, after all. The only thing more boring than training is watching it, you know?  By now one of the three Summers women should have noted that Slaying and sister-care do not a multi-task make.

Anyway, it’s been practically forever since we had a Dawn-centered episode, and so “Real Me” is a sort of State of the Buffyverse address, bringing us up to speed on the whos and wheres of season five, via the fresh young eyes and much put-upon point of view of Michelle Trachtenberg. In other words, she’s having a good old whine in her diary about Buffy, Joyce, more Buffy, the way that Riley’s infatuated with Buffy, the way everyone’s infatuated with Buffy and by the way, nobody understands her.

This is what both teenagers and their diaries are for, pretty much, so that’s fair. Maybe we find it all a little tiresome, but remember, we’re eavesdropping.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

The morning’s inevitable encounter with death gets off on the wrong foot when Joyce obliges Buffy to take her sister shopping for school supplies. Sure, everything’s marvellous at first—especially Giles’s midlife crisis car, a shiny red convertible simply packed with vroom. He and Buffy are having a lovely adult conversation about how very much at loose ends he feels. Even though he’s decided to stay in America for the sake of Buffy and their mutual calling, he’s clearly realized it’s not enough to fill his days. He’s also starting to figure out that unless he plans to spend those days cruisin’ the Interstate, seeking hints of demonic activity within easy sight of the California highway system, he bought the wrong type of time-waster. Still, we’ve all fallen for a pretty toy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

On the way to the magic shop, the trio runs into WillTara, whom Dawn likes very much. From what she says about them, we can deduce she doesn’t yet know that they’re an item. But she does think their witchy mojo is very cool and enviable.

Everyone’s a-bubble about the Slayer’s new work ethic, right up until Willow finds out that more slay equals less drama in Buffy’s life.  By which I mean: she’s dropping drama class. Two seconds later, though, they all get a reality check on the true meaning of “this sucks!” when they find the Magic Shop owner devoured and dumped in his own workplace. Once again, running the boogety boogety store has proved fatal to a hapless entrepreneur.

Buffy hustles little sis out of the shop to spare her the sight of a dead body. There, a disturbed guy who thinks he’s a cat (he should be so lucky!) accosts Dawn, telling her that not only does he know what she is but that she doesn’t belong there. Where? Sunnydale? The parking lot?

Still. Weird, right?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

In time, Tara comes out to keep her company and thumb-wrestle. They’re there awhile, because even as the Scoobies hunt for answers, Giles is going through the books and getting one whopper of a new concept for how to spend his days and dwindling savings.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

The upshot of the clue hunt is that Harmony, of all vampires, has formed herself a gang. She has decided to kick ass, take unicorns, and kill the Slayer. One of the guys she sired is the massive, muscle-y and utterly humorless Mort. Another is Tom Lenk, which is pretty distracting, I must say. As in: I’m trying to pay attention to the episode and it’s all: “Hey, Andrew-vamp!”

Later in the day, Joyce is hosed about Buffy’s failure to buy school supplies and Dawn’s having been proximate to a corpse, yet again, on the sunny, so-safe Hellmouth.  Since Buffy has to go on a little Harmony hunt, the elder Summers agree that Dawn needs a sitter, a proposition she violently resists until it turns out to be Xander.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

Because, you know, Xander.

Who else would Dawn have a crush on, after all? She’s no dummy, and she likes that he treats her like an adult. She’s less enchanted when Anya turns up, but so it goes.

Elsewhere, WillTara are moving in together. Tara tries to gently hint to Willow that it’s tough for Dawn to be Scooby-adjacent but forbidden to help with cases. Willow takes this as code for “I don’t fit with the gang.” She tells her honey she’s one of the good guys, and this makes Tara visibly uncomfortable. She kept meaning to mention that Career Day seminar where her aptitude tests came out 1) Supervillain; 2) Martyr; 3) Total Bleeping Demonbait. But it was never the right time.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

Out on patrol, Buffy is ranting about Joyce’s weird insistence on trying to protect at least one of her daughters from death, demons, disfigurement, dismemberment, desanguination, monsters, homicide, summonings, zombie attacks, sea monsters—remember how the guys in “Go Fish” tried to grab Dawn from the junior high school pool? Ah, good times!—curses and harsh language. Riley notes that Buffy seems unusually tense about it all. He reminds Buffy that she is, after all, Dawn’s idol.

(He then turns this into an opportunity to remind her she has a studly yet sensitive boyfriend.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

Over at Casa Slaya, meanwhile, Anya is winning at Life when Harmony and the gang show up, looking to call Buffy out. Xander finds this hilarious and it’s all a big yuckfest until Dawn semi-inadvertently invites Harmony in. Anya and Xander fight Harmony off, but they can’t save Dawn from the righteous wrath of her sister when the truth comes out.

No harm done! But it is, we have to agree, a bit of a faux pas.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

As Harmony and her minions are regrouping, they run into Spike. As is her wont, Harmony tells Spike all about what she’s up to. He asks if she’s planning to kidnap a Scooby to serve as bait. No, Harmony says, meaning Yes!

Fortunately for her, Dawn bolts from the house, pretty much on cue, when she hears Buffy declaring that the policy of total sheltering of the sis is good for nobody:  “We’re doing nothing but turning her into a little idiot who will get us all killed!”

Ouch. I’d bail, too, if I’d overheard that.

So Dawn runs out and gets grabbed by Mort the Massive Minion. Anya gets a head wound and a dislocated shoulder out of the deal, but avoids being eaten by falling backward into the Summers kitchen.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

At this point in the episode, Harmony is just beginning to suspect that things aren’t breaking her way. The minions are not so keen on her leadership style, and they’re feeling underfed. They want to eat Dawn, on the theory that what Buffy doesn’t know will still lead her into a perfectly functional trap.

Confronted with the insubordination, Harmony commences whining to the nearest sympathetic hostage. She sounds, not coincidentally, just like Dawn’s self-pitying diary entries. Her captive audience entirely fails to take a lesson from this, but to be fair, they’re both pretty wrapped up in the minions’—including Tom Lenk!—ardent desire to darn well have their nosh.

Of course, this has all taken just long enough for Buffy to have had time to punch their location out of Spike and catch up with the group.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

Harmony flees. Mort is really huge. There’s a big Slayer on Meathead fight and eventually someone gets a carousel unicorn horn through the chest. Evil hates it when that happens. Dawn is saved! Again! Yay!

(Or, perhaps: yay?)

After a brief squabble, Buffy decides not to rat her sibling out to Mom. So Dawn’s happy with the final reckoning: nobody’s grounded, Anya’s gonna be okay and Xander isn’t mad at her. Still. She feels unappreciated. Nobody gets the real her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real Me

What can you say about a retcon, really? “Real Me” reminds us that Dawn’s been hovering on the edges of the Buffy universe since “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” and it gives us the quick tour of her relationships with all the important characters. It completely changes the dynamic in Buffy’s home life, and there’s a little snippet of the bigger S5 arc in there, in Dawn’s encounter with cat man.

It’s also another episode that shows the vampires to be lightweight comedy villains, rather than true threats. Maybe at one time vampkind could throw up a fair fight for Buffy, but now the best they can do is . . . well, not so good. And yet I feel for Harmony. Part of me wishes she could beat the odds, last a couple centuries, and actually grow into the secure, empowered and charismatic bitch-goddess she so desperately wants to be.

Next: Why can’t he have nice things?


A.M. Dellamonica has so much fiction up here on Tor.com! 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.

39 comments
Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
In the comics, Harmony is actually solely responsible for the reveal of vampires to the mundane world(by feeding on Andy Dick) gets a reality show, kills a Slayer after an unprovoked attack on live TV, and turns the world against the Slayers.

Then she sets up the ground rules for vampires to exist with no Slayage, an agreement Buffy keeps, and works for demons rights all over the world(while making sex tapes and trying ALL of Clem's patience).

I was following along with Mark Watches Buffy, and the commenters over there did this running joke where they acted like they were all caught in the spell, screwing with new watchers about how Dawn had been there the whole time, and coming up with scenarios that Dawn had been involved in, much like this article. It was quite fun!
Dr. Thanatos
2. Dr. Thanatos
I could see giving Harmony the Nobel Prize for eating Andy Dick...
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
Unfortunately, the paprazzi showed up so she didn't kill him.
Emma Rosloff
4. emmarosloff
Here comes bait-tastic, impossible-to-please, fun-ruining Dawn. Yippee...

Not that the other characters (Buffy most of all) aren't partly responsible for her general dismay -- they do tend to ignore her, shut her away and doubt her most of the time, which often leads to her more reckless behaviors. It is a two-way street, but I have to admit that I don't find it super compelling at either end.

Someone else said it best in a comment on a previous post -- she sucks all the oxygen out of the room. In her better moments I can accept her, but I'm constantly on edge, waiting for the inevitable meltdown that Michelle Trackenburg can never fully pull off. Who wants to watch a character that's so hard to like? Even worse, she makes me like Buffy less because Buffy reacts so poorly to her most of the time. Whether or not it's justified, I find myself impatient to get back to more interesting characters and storylines.

This season in particular is all about Dawn the Magical Key. At least Glory's cool.
Constance Sublette
5. Zorra
Gads the Dawn biz is such a drag.

I hated this episode so much, that I stopped watching Buffy for years.

I still hate it so much I won't watch it.
Jason Parker
6. tarbis
Dawn is a character that is really hard to like. This season is probably when it's hardest to like her. Partially because we haven't seen the trauma conga line that is her existence (mom dies, kidnapped, nearly murdered, sister dies, sister comes back depressed, father figure leaves, mother figure leaves, hope spot, mother figure dies, sister almost raped by big brother figure, replaced by sister in favor of new potential pseudo-sisters). The only Scooby that gets it worse is Buffy and she was a couple years older when her life went to hell.

When it comes down to it she has three big problems as a character. One, like Riley she was invented for one plot line and once the plot line is over she just kinda hangs around and never really goes anywhere. Second there are already a lot of characters so any screen time she gets takes away from somebody's favorite which pisses off the audience. Third, Dawn starts off being written like a thirteen year old girl that as spend three and a half years being told by the universe that objectively her sister is the special one and she will never ever be that special. Thirteen year-olds that hear that tend to whine and act out and generally act in ways that annoy viewers who are thinking about how their lives suck now, not how their lives sucked at fourteen. So nods to realism in writing her made Dawn unlikable.

That said I never really hated Dawn. Mainly I was annoyed at her and annoyed at how the writers tended to use (or misuse) her.
Dr. Thanatos
7. Gardner Dozois
As I said last week, I admire the sheer breathtaking audacidy of Buffy suddenly always having had a sister, made even better by the straightfaced pretense they kept up for the next few episodes, like this one, that that's the way it's always been. The first hint of an explanation you get here, with the crazy person's reaction to Dawn.

I must say, I don't understand all the hate and loathing directed toward Dawn, who I rather liked. As pointed out by tarbis above, and by others, she certainly has her problems and issues, and that she sulks and whines about them feels perfectly realistic to me as a depiction of a teenaged girl, even one under less extraordinary circumstances. (A little later in the season, you can add to Dawn's psychological woes: finds out she's not really human, finds out that her family is not really her family and all her memories of her entire life are false, has an angry god chasing her around and trying to kill her. No WONDER the kid is fucked up! Kids in real life have reacted far worse and acted out negatively over far less.)

I liked the way Dawn was handled in her initial season. The problem with her in later seasons was that she hung around after her storyline had run out and after she really didn't have any reason to be in the show anymore. They had no idea what to do with her in subsequent seasons. As I've said before, she's a magical creature created out of magical energy BY magic, and her magical nature can be seen by anybody with the eyes to see, like the crazy people--no way she should have turned out to be just a normal teenage girl. They should have run with that instead, and had her develop Powers of some sort. They even could have turned her into a Big Bad.

Or, suppose that she was the one who deliberately jumped instead of Buffy, sacrificing herself to close the dimensional gateways? You could even had a moment of her assuming her true shape as a ball of magical energy before dissipating, maybe saying something noble, thus allowing the audience not to feel too badly about her passing since she didn't "really" die. That would have tied off the Glory plot and neatly gotten rid of her. Of course, since they didn't know at that point if the show was going to continue at all, they probably wanted Buffy to die to provide the biggest finish possible.
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
Well, Dawn still serves an important metaphorical role after this season, so I don't know that killing her was ever in the cards.

If you view Buffy's journey as the journey into adulthood, then making the all important decision to protect your inner child even as you accept adult responsibility is crucial, and that is what The Gift represents, Buffy's decision to ensure her inner child survived.

I mean we can all agree that maintaining a childlike wonder at life is still important in this world of bills, jobs and responsiblities. What would Buffy had been like in 6 & 7 without an inner child? Her estrangement from her inner child and her spirit is the main factor in her depression in S6 and it was healing that estrangement that led to her coming out of it.

So I disagree that Dawn serves no useful purpose after the Key storyline is over. I do agree that she doesn't get much of her plotline afterward, but that is not the same as having no purpose. She is there to be a reflection of Buffy.
Alyx Dellamonica
9. AMDellamonica
The thing about Dawn being a concrete metaphor for Buffy's inner child is, perhaps, that once the inner child is out of Buffy and in the world, Buffy herself is too much the tedious adult of responsibility. I don't know that she ever gets to play again, all that much. (I'll keep watching.)

I am so happy to hear Harmony continues on in the comics, and is so crazily empowered!
Dr. Thanatos
10. metria31183
@AMDellamonica: I believe that the episode "Gone" is a really good vehicle for discussion of Buffy's inner child and getting to play. There is a scene with Dawn in that episode that really seems to hit this particular nail on the head, i.e. what happens when Buffy tries to play again.
Dr. Thanatos
11. Sian
I'm another one who has never hated Dawn. Sure, she can be annoying, but that's the point. I think tardis has got it spot on above, describing why people take against Dawn. But as a character I think she's very interesting and she does serve a purpose - in my view, she's not just hanging around like some people think. Dawn's amusing, brings some extra drama and trauma, and shows a different aspect of the slaying life. Plus I think Michelle Trachtenberg is an amazing actress and always capable of pulling everything off - I particularly like the episode where she discovers she's not human and the look on her face in the finale when Buffy's about to jump.

However, whilst I agree with the whole metaphor thing about Buffy's inner child and so on, I'm not sure that I think creating Dawn for that purpose was really necessary - I feel like it makes the metaphor too obvious and, as Alyx says, it makes Buffy (even more) tedious as well.


I'm very glad I've finally caught up again!
Constance Sublette
12. Zorra
She should have sacrificed herself and Joyce returns, the Joyce who had to die because the fabrication of Dawn twisted out of keel far too much of her, the mother, physically and psychically.

Love, C.
Dr. Thanatos
13. Gardner Dozois
I don't think the show ever said that Joyce's fatal brain tumor was a consequence of the monks creating Dawn by magic; that may be a conclusion you're drawing that you weren't meant to make. If anything, the show kept emphazing, over and over again, that Dawn was made out of BUFFY, who doesn't seem to have suffered any fatal consequences as a result. In that respect, that she's made out of Buffy, Dawn is actually more Buffy's child than her sister.
Emma Rosloff
14. emmarosloff
@Sian - Your're totally entitled to your opinion on the Dawn front, but I have to disagree with "she can be annoying, but that's the point." I would say that the point is for the character to be annoying, but for her portrayal of the character to be compelling. I guess you felt that way, but I didn't. And I'll agree with others -- I actually didn't have a problem with Dawn as a character, including how she was introduced and what function she served in the story.

My issue was with Michelle Trackenburg, who just didn't endear herself to me at all. Compare her to someone like Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia or Emma Caulfield as Anya -- both are characters that are often "annoying, because that's the point", but both manage to captivate my interest.

Granted, I understand that neither has to cope with what Dawn has to cope with, but if either of them had played Dawn (at the appropriate age), I guarantee you I would've liked her better. I do actually think she was written well, but personally I feel a better actress could've made her more compelling, whiny outbursts and all.

I guess it could be argued that she really is symbolic -- that her being so unlikable is irrelevant. She's an innocent and it doesn't matter how Buffy feels towards her, it's her duty to protect her. But I still feel like part of the fault is with the actress for being heavy-handed with Dawn's periodic outbursts. I think it says a lot that she can go through so much trauma and all I'm thinking about when she's upset is how obnoxious I think she's being.

Just my opinion, though.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
See, I completely disagree with you on Cordy, though I liked her better on Angel.

Charisma Carpenter never really made Cordy sympathetic enough for me. She also served a similiar metaphorical role as Dawn, and because of this was more of a character acted upon by the needs of the story(similarly to Paul Ballard in Dollhouse) instead of character with her own motivations.
Dr. Thanatos
16. Dr. Thanatos
I have no issues with Dawn. After all, it gives me the opportunity to drive my family crazy by referring over and over to the adventures of Buffy's imaginary sister...
Emma Rosloff
17. emmarosloff
@ Aeryl -- It's not even that I was sympathetic to Cordelia (although I agree, she gets a lot better come Angel... until all of that ends, anyway), it's that her performance was good enough that she captivated my attention. Maybe her character didn't have a lot of substance in the beginning, but she played it well enough that I could love to hate her kind of deal. I never felt that way with Dawn.
Kristen Templet
18. SF_Fangirl
I agree with Gardner Dozois. I was shocked by the ballsy-ness of this move - TPTB tried to retcon a sister into the show. How annoying! Only the magically explained it into a plot later. Pretty neat actually.

I had only started watching the show the previous season. I definately do not recall hating Dawn.

I don't think Dawn killed her "mother," the plot needs of Buffy having to play mother for her sister did - getting her away from college and back lviving at home.
Alyx Dellamonica
19. AMDellamonica
@metria31183 - I'll watch it with that in mind!

I'd agree with Gardner that whether Dawn's creation was the whole source of Joyce's tumor is open to interpretation. There isn't a moment, in canon, where they explicitly say so, is there? That said, I think it's an interpretation that's open to argument but with enough on-screen content to make it.

You all are divided on whether or not MT is a good actor--I always thought she did reasonably well with material that was a bit repetitive, emotionally. Now I'm trying to decide how I'd rank the three actresses you're discussing: SMG, MT and Charisma Carpenter. Hmmmm....
Dr. Thanatos
20. Gardner Dozois
As far as I can remember, Joyce's tumor is never blamed in canon on Dawn's creation, and I think that's a dubious interpretation, myself--as I said, they emphasize over and over again that Dawn was made out of BUFFY, out of her flesh and blood, not out of Joyce's, so I think blaming Joyce's tumor on Dawn's creation is a stretch; if it was going to hurt anybody, it should have been Buffy, not Joyce. (I still think it's interesting that if Dawn was created out of Buffy, or from Buffy, in some ways that makes Dawn her child as much as her sister. So maybe Dawn doesn't represent Buffy's Inner Child, perhaps she IS Buffy's child.)

Of the three actreses, I think that Sarah Michelle Gellar is the best, with the widest range, able to do light comedy as well as drama. Charisma Carpenter was often very funny as Cordelia, especially later on ANGEL, but the character was more cartoonish, and Carpenter didn't handle the dramatic bits as well. Michelle Trackenburg does a more than adequate job with what they give her to do--but they don't give her much to do, so it's hard to say how she stacks up against the other two. When they let her, she seemed to have a flair for light comedy too, which would be born out by watching her first movie, HARRIET THE SPY; too often they just had her moping, though.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
I don't think its canon, but its explicit in the show several times that magic comes with a price, so I can accept that the cost of Dawn's life is Joyce, much as I think that Tara is the price paid for Buffy's life. But I don't think Dawn is culpable for it.
Dr. Thanatos
22. Gardner Dozois
If so, and if Dawn was "made out of Buffy," then Buffy certainly paid the price for it by dying. I don't think Joyce really figures into the equation.
Dr. Thanatos
23. Gardner Dozois
And under the "magic must be paid for" theory, would Tara be the price for WILLOW'S magic?
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
Buffy's dying doesn't figure into it, because the price had already been paid with Joyce's death.

And of course losing Tara would be the price Willow paid for her magic.
Dr. Thanatos
25. Dr. Thanatos
At the risk of being skeptical about all the discussion of "paying the price" I might suggest that the payment for everything we didn't like about anything for seasons 1-6 was the existance of Andrew...
Jason Parker
26. tarbis
Can we be honest with ourselves and admit that magic on Buffy and Angel only had one rule and that rule was: the script says we do this. Magic from season one to season seven was wildly inconsisent in application and form.

However if you insist on importing the idea of equivalent exchange into the universe then consider that Dawn was created by the monks using their magic. Monks who quickly became a pile of very dead monks. You can hang their deaths on Dawn if you like.

Joyce dies because the demands of the season (Buffy must feel stripped of everything except her sister for the finale) and the fact that the College Years set up wasn't working. Moving her back home without killing Joyce would have made Buffy look like a loser, but if mom is gone and Buffy is taking care of her sister then moving home becomes heroic.
Alyx Dellamonica
27. AMDellamonica
Tarbis, you're right of course. The script's requirements are the ultimate rule.

That'll never keep this bunch of viewers/writers/editors from trying to impose order on the chaos, though. I sincerely doubt most of us can help ourselves.
Chris Nelly
28. Aeryl
Well, it is explicity stated in After Life that magic comes with a price. And there is that Angel episode with the slugs. Trying to retroactively apply to previous seasons IS a fanwank. But I think it lays out a nice parallel.

And all the magic performed in the show is shown to have consequences. Katherine uses magic, ends up a trophy. Xander gets Amy to use magic, is besieged by the consequences. Willow ensouls Angel, "loses" her BFF. Willow tries to use magic to quit cheating, is found anyway. Willow uses magic to overcome pain, causes pain. This is been pretty consistent from the start. So it makes sense, that to create life, it costs a life. Willow thought she was paying the price for Buffy's life by slaughtering the fawn(in another virginal dress, BTW) but she was wrong.
Emma Rosloff
29. emmarosloff
Of course the Script Rules All, but there's a suprising amount of hidden meaning in spite of that. That's what's great about any story -- you can interpret it your own way and learn something new. I was actually really piqued by the assertion that Dawn's coming somehow warped Joyce's brain chemistry enough to cause the tumor. That made sense to me.

My favorite interpretation, however, is the simplest, brutalist one -- Joyce was unfortunate enough to get cancer and then have a brain annuerism. It was a powerful storytelling choice because it was so real and absolutely unpreventable in a world full of larger-than-life characters who seemed to be safe from that kind of death, up to that point in the story. It was ironic -- given her daughter's calling -- that she would die in a way completely seperate, a way that any person could die (hidden meaning aside).

That's what really sticks with me. It grounded the show while upping the stakes -- a stark reminder that at the end of the day, they're all just flesh and blood. Maybe the demons and vamps won't kill them, but it doesn't mean that any of them are above dying a perfectly normal death.
Dr. Thanatos
30. Gardner Dozois
I tend to agree with emmarosloff--the irony that Buffy could protect her mother from vampires, demons, even rogue Slayers, but couldn't protect her from a tumor is very strong and intentional, I'm sure. The same kind of irony applies to Tara's death; Buffy's the Slayer, and can defend her friends against all kinds of enemies, and Willow's a very powerful witch (even then) who can perform all sorts of magic, but they can't protect Tara against a random bullet that's not even aimed at her.

That and what tarbis said about the need of the show itself, quite true, are more than sufficient to account for Joyce's death. I'm not sure that the idea that the creation of Dawn directly caused Joyce's death as a price to be paid for the magic really needs to come into it. After all, Joyce had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision to create Dawn, or the process of doing so, so why should she be the one to pay the price for using magic? Buffy, who Dawn was made out of, DOES pay the price for Dawn's creation--she dies. I don't see where Joyce factors into that. (You could see Tara's death as the price to be paid for Willow bringing Buffy back from the dead, the Powers not being satisfied by Willow's attempt to substitute a deer as the price, but at least Tara was consciously participating in the decision to bring Buffy back and taking part in the ritual.)
Dr. Thanatos
31. stephan maich
yes, gender-specific prejudicial behavior is a powerful social force. "positively" and "negatively".
Andrew Love
32. Andy Love
Joyce's tumor is associated with Joyce's ability to sense the true nature of Dawn, which might be why people associate Joyce's death with Dawn.
(mom dies, kidnapped, nearly murdered, sister dies, sister comes back depressed, father figure leaves, mother figure leaves, hope spot, mother figure dies, sister almost raped by big brother figure, replaced by sister in favor of new potential pseudo-sisters).
Yeah, Dawn has a huge list of traumas, particularly if we count the memories she has, of events before her creation. I get this list
1) Big sister becomes dangerously mentally ill and is hospitalized.
2) Parents divorce and father stops being a factor in her life; near the same time, the family moves to a new town, after big sister burns down the school gym
3) Constant threat of vampires and other monsters... (including at least one kidnapping)
4) Finds out she's not human
5) Mother dies
6) Sister/caretaker dies
7) After acquiring two parent-surrogates, one endangers her life with reckless behavior, and the other one leaves Dawn in that situation.
8) One parent-surrogate is murdered, and Dawn is left alone with the body for hours before anyone thinks of her.

Yikes.
Chris Nelly
33. Aeryl
That's very true. We all acknowledge how traumatic Buffy's life was for everyone around them, of course Dawn's memories would reflect that trauma even more in a younger child.
Dr. Thanatos
34. Ingonyama
Did anyone else find themselves cheering like mad when Dawn picked up a sword and kicked ass alongside Buffy in the S6 finale, only to have it all come crashing down when she went back to useless in S7?

Anyone? Bueller? Just me? OK then.
Dr. Thanatos
35. Gardner Dozois
Since by that point it was well-known that Sarah Michelle Geller was getting restless in the role and wanted to leave, I thought they were setting us up for DAWN THE VAMPIRE-SLAYER in the next season. Didn't happen, though.
Jason Parker
36. tarbis
I'm a big fan of the idea that Joyce just got sick and died. It has a reality and an honesty to it. Of course I also like the idea that Tara was shot and that's all there is to it. No guiding magic or cosmic balance, bad things that happened to good people.

@Ingonyama- I liked Dawn being more active in that scene, but recentering the entire show on her would have annoyed the hell out of me. However she wasn't useless in S7. Dawn had decent grab bag of non-combat skills (ancient languages, ritual casting, strong research skills) unfortunately the presence of the potentials meant anything useful Dawn did was done off camera.
Alyx Dellamonica
37. AMDellamonica
The potentials definitely overshadowed any usefulness Dawn may have had, I agree with @Tarbis there.

Dawn with a sword at the end of S6 I had forgotten.
Jill Hayhurst
38. pericat
Lots of people could see Dawn for who she was. Every single one had something physically wrong with their brains, due to Glory using them as god chow. Joyce only 'saw' Dawn when the tumor got big enough to make trouble for her, so not really buying the tie-in of Joyce's death to Dawn's existence. As for Tara's death, Willow demands immediately that Osiris fix it, and Osiris refuses on the grounds that it was not a magical death, but one caused by human agency and thus in his view, natural. So again, I think it is a stretch to connect Tara's death as a consequence of Willow's magic use.
Chris Nelly
39. Aeryl
I'll have to double check my source, but I'm pretty sure the thing about Tara being the price for Buffy's life is in the commentary.

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