Mon
Feb 4 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Mom! The Stork Brought A Howler Monkey!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Who doesn’t love an episode that starts with terrified, sprinting monks with a name like the Order of Dagon? These guys, they’re in full-bore flee mode, because something’s after them, and their head start is tragically skimpy. What’s more, they have a plot coupon—otherwise known as a ‘key’—to protect... and that’s all we learn before whatever it is they’re so very afraid of busts in on their spellcasting sanctum and turns them into so much lunch.

But that was all two months ago. Here and now, Buffy’s staking a big biker vampire in an abandoned parking lot. It’s a quippy, efficient kill, all in line with her current stake smarter, not harder Slayer philosophy. A supernice security guard then shows to shoo her off the property. He thinks she’s looking for a rave, and helpfully tells her to take a suspicious mystical item—a glowing ball, later to be identified as also an item from the Of Dagon collection—with her.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Next day, Buffy is making breakfast from scratch as a treat for Joyce, who, as it turns out, still isn’t feeling great. There are tests and medical consultations in the offing, and low-key sibling rivalry simmers throughout the scene. All slay and no play can make Buffy more than a little wistful about the close relationship between her mom and sister, especially now with a health scare in the mix.

But Joyce isn’t ready to give up being the parent and nurturer title. She tells Buffy to quit worrying and bundles the girls off to the Magic Box, where Giles has clearly lost his mind, because he’s wearing a purple wizard’s robe and hat.  The perfectly reasonable cause of his insanity? Financial terror. It’s his grand opening, and he’s worrying about whether anyone will ever come and spend money in his store.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

(As previously established, a more relevant fear might be whether anyone will come and homicide the heck out of him there, but that’s beside the point.)

Bit by bit the Scoobies show up to gather, enjoy, and be supportive. Dawn embarrasses Buffy by revealing her assessment of Riley’s post-surgical fitness for patrolling: the word ‘kitteny,’ unfortunately, was used. The girls are scrapping when they get home, but they find Joyce on the couch with a splitting headache, and so Buffy zooms straight off to the hospital for drugs.

There she meets Ben again. We had space here, if we cared to take it way back when we didn’t know where all this was going, to contemplate why he was getting screen time. Is he the decoy villain of the year? He seems too devoid of evil. Riley’s replacement? Devoid of monster. Ah well, maybe he really is going to be turned into a vampire.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

We all know now, of course. But then? What did we think of Ben? Or did we?

Ben’s alleged reason for being in the scene is he’s trying to treat the security guard Buffy met last night, who is now far less nice and utterly lacking his previous aplomb. He is in fact raving about how something’s coming and they’ll go after her through her family.

This is about me, Buffy thinks, and it’s awesome! The shiny globe thing has something to do with Mom’s headaches! Hurrah! Whatever it is that’s hurting her mother, she can look it up, find it, and pound it into submission, preferably with a two-headed axe. This is so much more comforting than waiting on tests and drugs.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Meanwhile, back at the boogety boogety grand opening, the first hints of coming retail chaos are just beginning to go ca-Ching! Giles makes a first sale and is deeply excited. Then Buffy rushes in to share the news about Joyce, glowballs, demons, deranged security guards and the prospect of thumping her mother’s so-worrying headaches into the paranormal dust. Research begins!

Everyone’s productively occupied except the monk from two months ago, who is enjoying one last moment of not being chased or tortured before the Beast / Glorificus / That Which Must Not Be Named / Yay It’s Clare Kramer! scoops him up.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Glory is unhappy to be on the mortal coil. She is struggling to keep it together as she explains to the monk that she really really needs that key he hid, but even a bit of fun torture takes it out of her: she has to slurp all the stability she can get out of another hapless security guard’s mind. This is why Sunnydale is filling up with mentally unbalanced people. It’s not just PTSD in demon attack survivors after all.

By now the Magic Box is very busy and Giles is overwhelmed. Anya steps in to be brilliant both in the area of customer service and by suggesting that Buffy do a ‘pull the curtain back’ spell to figure out what’s happening to Joyce.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

And Buffy is so into that. She sets up the spell, taking just a little time to see if she can make Riley feel better about the kitteny comment. (Results are mixed.) Then she has to pause again when Dawn interrupts. Is Dawn interrupting for an ominous reason? We don’t know. Also, the Fashion Police would like to note that Buffy’s demon-skull shirt that she’s doing the spell in seems rather a weird choice.

But despite Dawn’s interference, Buffy manages to find her happy place and get into the trance for the curtain-pulling spell. She roams around the house in the midst of an echoey sound effect and cannot find a spell on Joyce, who seems, for the moment, to be feeling better.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

But Dawn—ha! She’s flickering in and out of their family pictures. Buffy goes into Dawn’s room and the sibling who came from beyond is flickering too. Conclusion? Dawn’s the thing making Joyce sick.

And who are we to argue? I mean here she is, popping into the storyline, and what’s with the Scoobies claiming she’s been there all along? And Joyce is sick. The fact that Glory’s running around town, ripping monks’ parts off and generally seeming pretty Big Bad villainish, doesn’t change the headaches.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

The sisterly showdown over all this is getting pretty nasty when Giles phones to report that the Dagon sphere was created to repel ‘that which cannot be named.’ This is an acronym, Giles goes on to say, which in many ancient languages translates into “Srsly, something very bad!” Or maybe “Villain may explode if heated.”

During this phone conversation, Dawn is lurking and looking potentially evil in the living room.

Buffy decides to go back to the warehouse where she found the sphere. On the way out the door, she interrupts an inept stalking-in-progress. This is just a quick crammed-in comedy follow-up on Spike’s newest problem: realizing he’s in love with Buffy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Spike does a very bad job of covering his butt here, piling on a load of babble about just passing by, Buffy shagging Captain Cardboard—a Riley-phemism I enjoyed—and her having stupid hair. If only he hadn’t left a pile of cigarette butts outside, it... well, no, he just wasn’t ever going to be convincing.

But who cares? Not Buffy. Parent in danger, stuff to do! She’s way too busy rushing off to the warehouse to spare much of a thought for Spike. The monk is clinging to life, gathering his energies for one last burst of exposition. Back home, Dawn has made tea for their mother and we’re meant to be very very worried that it is Death Tea of Magical Matricide. On a lighter note, Giles hires Anya to work at the magic shop, leaving us to conclude that the store is indeed going to be a moneymaking proposition.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Buffy finds the monk. Glory finds Buffy. The ensuing fight is easily as unequal as the vamp-of-the-week dusting from the teaser, but this time it’s Buffy who’s completely outmatched. She figures this out, grabs the monk and runs for it.

“Hands off my holy man!” You’re hilarious, Clare Kramer.

Glory’s resulting tantrum destroys the building she’s in, which helps Buffy escape. The monk then spills his failing guts: Dawn’s not what she seems, but she’s also not evil. (He doesn’t weigh in on whether she’s killing Joyce.) She’s the key, and she needs protecting from the curly-haired Slayer-flattening entity currently mourning a broken shoe within a warehouse-sized pile of rubble down the road.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Also? Dawn’s clueless and utterly innocent in all this. So Buffy’s not allowed to tell her she knew what she was getting into and please buzz off.

“No pressure,” the monk gasps. (No, he doesn’t actually. He just drops this whopping extra load of responsibility on Buffy’s already-laden shoulders and dies.)

Personally, if I were going to send the Slayer a new dependent, I’d take a look at her life and consider making it Ken the Obscenely Well-Heeled and Thoroughly Adorable Stepdad. The kind of guy they could all remember Joyce marrying two years ago. Maybe he owns an armored car company, or a wildly successful flamethrower distribution franchise. He loves Joyce, long walks on the beach, handing over fists full of cash and driving his stepchildren to the graveyard for patrol. In his spare time, Ken designs fashionable yet affordable boots that have pop-out wooden spikes in the heels.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

No, those monks aren’t practical at all, are they? Buffy sucks it up: goes home, apologizes to Dawn, and then joins her in a deep funkish worry about what might be wrong with their mother.

By the end of “No Place Like Home,” we essentially know everything about Dawn. It’s an entertaining and action-packed explanation for something we’d been wondering about, back when it aired, for weeks. The thing we’re unclear now on is this: how badass is Glory, really?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, No Place Like Home

Next: Hey, Tara! You can choose your friends, but... you know the rest, right?


A.M. Dellamonica has kaboodles of 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.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
46 comments
Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
The thing is that photo makes no sense without Dawn, its completely off center. Plus why would Joyce pose that way, if not for the person posing to her right? Wierd.

Giles and his wizard outfit was adorable. You have no idea how mad I was to learn he starred in Merlin and WAS NOT MERLIN!!!! Boo! Never watched it again.

I wanted to like Riley, because I'm shallow and Beefcake is right up my alley(srsly, he's way cuter than her other BFs though James Marsters can never be shirtless enough for me), but it's about this time that his insecurity turns me off. Thing is it's his insecurity that makes his declarations about Buffy not loving him, a self fulfilling prophecy.
Jack Flynn
2. JackofMidworld
I loved this reread. Laughed all the way through it.

Now, in response to your "how badass is Glory" question, I wonder who would've won if she and a post-ascension Mayor had a tussle. The only other on-par villain I can think of (not counting Jasmine, Illyria, or any of the other outer-dimensional avatar baddies from LA) might be the Judge, just because he can kill an entire mall's worth of people as a warm-up act.

Tho now I really want to see a Glory-Illyria battle...
Constance Sublette
3. Zorra
And peeps still are surprised that I hate Dawn -- she's a mother killer, and that's why, by golly -- which I figured out right away, once I went back to watching Buffy, which I stopped doing because of Dawn whom I hated with entirely immature passion, because it isn't Dawn's fault, but I just hate her for whiny, hyper self anyway.*

As for Ben, initially thought he was going to be the new loverboy, then I started getting suspicious. I'm not able to remember now what first started me getting suspicious that he was a Glory hench or maybe even something worse.

Damn if Glory isn't the scariest all the way around Big Bad they did -- with the except of Fillon's Preacher -- I never got over that one.

Anthony Head is a terrific comic actor. I've seen him do some things in Brit television productions that make me giggle a lot (not in Merlin, at which I do also giggle, but not in a good way).

Love, C.

* I'm joking. Sort of. :):(
Dr. Thanatos
4. Dr. Thanatos
I love Glory most among BigBads. She gets the best lines, has the most warped view of reality, and has her minions extremely well trained in how they address her. If only I could get Siri to talk to me like that:

"How can I serve you, oh most adwquate and devilishly handsome of physicians?"

I half expected her to change shape and eat a bunch of Dwarves (see: "Smaug, O greatest and most horrible of calamities"---if that line don't make it into the movies I will be truly annoyed)
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
My suspicions are aroused when the Queller demon comes to town.

My second fave Tony Head role is the singing Repo Man. Only reason I saw that movie(well that and Paris Hilton playing herself). He's scarier than Glory!
Dr. Thanatos
6. Dianthus
Poor Spike, he knows how to kill a Slayer, not how to love one.
OTOH, Riley seems pretty clueless too.
Emma Rosloff
7. emmarosloff
Haha. I got a good, long laugh out of the "send Buffy a magical stepdad" paragraph. Particularly the part about boots with wooden stakes in the heels.

Glory was a lot of fun. Although you'd really think with unruly gods like her running around that there'd be some Slayer equivalent of a God-killer. Poor Buffy. "Vampire Slayer" doesn't really encompass the breadth of her responsiblities. "Humanity Saver" is probably a more apt title.

I did like this episode for the clarity around what the heck Dawn actually is. I was captivated by how well she was integrated into the show, given her abrupt appearance (alas, if only Dawn herself had been more likable). It was satisfying watching Buffy wrestle with her existence, just as I had, and come to realize that she was not what she appeared to be.
Dr. Thanatos
8. SAJ14SAJ
Zorra, I thought it was well established that Joyce died--strangely enough in the world of hurt that Buffy lives in--of completely natural, non-demon-or-god-or-other-woowoo related causes....

Just.... a normal tragedy for Buffy.
Alyx Dellamonica
9. AMDellamonica
Glory is lovable as villains go, and very scary. I think if I had to choose, I'd say I preferred the Mayor but was more scared of Glory. But hey, I don't have to choose!

Dianthus--yes! Agree!

Aeryl, I have to say Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon was pretty much the best thing about Merlin. I miss him still.

Emma, I love making you laugh!

SaJ14SAJ, this group disappears about the true cause of Joyce's death.
Dr. Thanatos
10. SAJ14saj
AMDellamonica,

If the group actually ever reappears, we should ask them where they went :-)

Seriously, I am pretty sure I got that off the commentary track on the actual DVDs.

Yes, I am geeky enough to own the box set for both Buddy and Angel, from back when DVDs were the way to go--and to have actually listened to the commentary tracks. You don't get that intensely nerdish experience from a Netflix rewatch, but it is so much more convenient. :-)
Dr. Thanatos
11. Capper
Wait a minute. Are you saying that Ben is Glory?
Dr. Thanatos
12. Gardner Dozois
Much of what could be discussed about this episode was already said last week when we were talking about Dawn.

With the introduction of Glory, the season arc really gets underway. Glory strikes me as the most formidible of the Buffy Big Bads. She certainly shouldn't have much trouble destroying The Master, Angelius, or Spike, and I don't think Adam would stand much of a chance against her either. Glory against the Mayor in his Big Snake form would be an interesting match-up, and a hard one to call, but I think my money would be on Glory, who, after all, is a god, which ought to trump a snake demon. The Judge--who really was an incidental villian, not a Big Bad--could only hurt people with humanity in them, so couldn't do much against Glory, and if he could be blown to pieces with a rocket launcher, Glory could certainly smash him to bits.

In fact, Glory is SO formidible that one of the things they have to cover for and alibi during the season is why she can't just kill Buffy with one blow, like squashing a fly.

As I said last week, first time I saw Ben I thought he was going to turn out to be Buffy's new Love Interest...although I did have a faint second-thought that he was going to get killed, since ordinary people who are nice to Buffy often seem to get killed (as, for example, the security guard from this episode, who isn't killed but does have his mind sucked out; he's never mentioned again, but you have to think his ultimate prognosis is not good), something that's been true for the entire run of the series, all the way back to high school).

Zorra seems convinced that the creation of Dawn killed Joyce, but I don't think that was the intention of the showrunners. Rather the opposite, in fact, that in this world of magic and supernatural creatures, you can still be struck down randomly by a mundane, everyday cause.
Dr. Thanatos
13. build6
Dawn - I really don't get the hate. "Want tea Mom? I made it for you" in that strangely creepy way.

Spike - (since nobody else has said it yet) ... 5 words or less, "Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch."
Dr. Thanatos
15. Dianthus
Of all the Big Bads Buffy battled, the Mayor will always be my favorite. He wasn't the worst, or the most powerful, but gosh darn it, he was the most fun!
Revisiting my earlier post...at least Spike was willing to stick around and try to suss things out.
Dr. Thanatos
16. build6
heh I'm pretty partial to Spike myself - the highlight of season 7 for me was the bit when Buffy asks him to stay with her :-P

The Mayor - I like him (and I liked how Giles just took the chance to straight out stab him - didn't see that coming). But as a Big Bad I think Glory is awesome and "superior" to the Mayor - we never actually saw Buffy outright running away from the Mayor, did we? That happened every time Buffy fought Glory so it really "stuck" in me that Glory outclassed her.

Speaking of which, although it's definitely the case that Buffy is an all-round "humanity saver" and not just a vampire-slayer, it also makes sense to me that that would be her primary job, since the "primary threat" *is* vampires - it's mathematics. Demons don't turn humans into other demons, and (per Angel) there's a lot of demons who aren't interested in chomping on humans. Vampires create more vampires and if there's no check on them at all, they're gonna overrun the world due to non-linear/exponential growth :-) And short of very few examples (Angel, and chipped Spike and... uh, nobody else?) vampires are generally "hostile".
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
Harmony grows to be a an unsouled but neutral vampire, but other than her, I can't think of one.
Dr. Thanatos
18. build6
oh, Harmony, you're right, hahaha ... oh man Harmony. I remember that Angel episode where she was sent in to spy for the gang on the pyramid-scheme vampire and ended up getting immediately brainwashed (I actually saw that coming).

It took a lot of doing to get her to "ok" though (and in terms of bodycount, hers is not low either. Spike, Angelus, Harmony... yeah even "Good" vampires = a lot of dead innocents).

picture making no sense - yeah it's kinda strange, but I think this is one of those "let's not pick too much on it" kind of thing. Same for the "why not make the key a rich stepdad etc." question, though I feel there's a good way to explain that actually -

it bothered me a bit originally too ("why did the key have to be someone so defenseless?"), but I started thinking while watching Intervention (my fav episode) - when Spike lied to Glory that the key was Bob Barker and Glory immediately knew no, much too old - that maybe there were limitations to the magic the monks could pull off, like, they kept saying "the key is new to the world", so a 14 yr old girl was as old as they could make it so "younger sister to the Slayer" was best they could do. After all if they had a completely free hand in what to make the key, why not make it a Glory-killing weapon?

As a matter of "retconning" it'd much easier to fit in a young child (doesn't actually DO anything for most of her life) than an adult which would presumably have bigger ripples in reality.

alright I'm spamming the comments too much already so no more :-P
Dr. Thanatos
19. Gardner Dozois
I agree with build6--it makes sense that the monks would send the key to Buffy in the form of a helpless younger girl, something that would kick in all of her protective mothering instincts, especially with all the false memories that were implanted about Dawn being her sister and growing up together. A stepdad would not work on the same instinctual level--dads are supposed to protect YOU, not the other way around.

Which brings up an issue I don't think was ever really explored. Were false memories of Dawn existing implanted in everybody she would have come in contact with in Sunnydale, or was she somehow magically INSERTED as a baby into reality back in time, so that she really did grow up there and they really do remember her? In other words, if you had a time-machine in the BUFFY reality and went back in time to Buffy's first Sunnydale years, would you see her babysitting Dawn and going to the mall with her, or would you see the reality as we saw it in the first few seasons of the show? The flickering of the photos would seem to indicate the former, but it's an intersting question. Wonder how those early Buffy episodes would have changed if Dawn had really existed back then, even if retroactively injected into the time-stream by the monks?

This may be the only time Buffy deliberately does magic, casts a spell, other than the spell which turns her into the Super-Slayer in the end of the previous season.

Harmony is played as a comically inept vampire, but she must have been killing and eating SOMEBODY along the way, or she wouldn't have lasted long enough to make it into ANGEL, so I'm not sure she counts as a morally "neutral" vampire. Even when she's Angel's secretary, she's only not killing people because Angel orders her not to and threatens to stake her if she does.
Constance Sublette
20. Zorra
8. SAJ14SAJ -- 'They' may say it, but I ain't buying it. :)

It was Joyce's brain that went kaplooey.

Think of what it would do to a woman's entire physical, intelligence and emotional system to have entire complete 15 years' of memories of a daughter she never had, plus what led up to the conception of that baby, plus the 9 months of carrying the baby, plus the labor of delivery implanted in you. Every fiber of your being for 16 years has to be rearranged and on a level that people who aren't parents, and particularly mothers who gave birth, can't even conceive -- ah-hem- of. It is one of the most cruel things ever done on Buffy, but no one ever even thinks of it. Just an older woman, a mom, her whole life majorly shifted and she dies. Too bad. Next!

That's why I think this killed Joyce, particularly since Joyce suffers her first spell so soon after Dawnie shows up, and dies in that season too.

Love, C.
Constance Sublette
21. Zorra
Gardner -- No, because Buffy sees what it is, that inconceivably powerful spell working that made the key. Am I recalling correctly? Spike sees that Dawn's a construct, as do the brain vacuumed. Even Dawn herself has problems with her authenticity, before she gets the news officially. This of course works just fine within the arc of how the conscious identities of most people that age aren't fully formed yet, and that so many of us, of any age feel we're imposters. This is what the show likes doing best, it seems. It happens over and over in so many ways to so many characters.

Shoot, Glory - Ben ... which one was the real one? So Giles does what he does, without compunction without remorse as coldly and deliberately as ever such a deed were ever done.

Love, C.
Dr. Thanatos
22. Gardner Dozois
I still don't buy that Dawn being created killed Joyce. All the other characters, including Buffy and all of her close friends, also had those fifteen years worth of false memories shoved into their heads. Why should it kill only Joyce? Dawn was created out of BUFFY'S essence, not Joyce's, and in some ways could be better considered to be her daughter than her sister. So I don't see why it would be Joyce who was destroyed by it. I still don't think that that's what the showrunners had in mind at all.
Dr. Thanatos
23. Dianthus
Spike was introduced as a Big Bad, but then he got side-lined (for Angelus) and chipped, so he wasn't any season's ultimate Big Bad. His journey is (IMO) the most profound of any character on BtVS, which seems a bit unfair (it's Buffy's show, after all) but remarkable nonetheless.
As I said earlier, the Mayor wasn't the worst/scariest/most powerful villian. That's not the hot issue for me. He was the most banal/least expected/funniest. That makes him an exception, kinda like Spike, which makes them both more interesting.
Constance Sublette
24. Zorra
Gardner -- You haven't convinced me.

And like the cheating lover, it doesn't matter what they thought they were or were not doing, the consequences of Big Hurt are inevitable. :)

Love, C.
Dr. Thanatos
25. Gardner Dozois
We'll have to agree to be unconvinced by each other's arguments, then.
Jason Parker
26. tarbis
One thing that sticks out about this episode is where it fell in the season. Most shows in the last ten years would have teased out "what is Dawn" until it was deeply annoying or nobody cared anymore. In this case we're five episodes in and the mystery is solved. My gripe with the timing is that this is another episode that is a collection of plot points and it immediately follows an episode that was a collection of plot points. Putting Tara's episode in the middle might have helped the flow.
Glory was fun, but I was unimpressed with her plan and how she tied into the theme of the season. The Master and season one was all about fear. Angelus and season two centered on how love hurts, for everybody. Season three and the Mayor were all about becoming more than you were. Even silly looking Adam was an extension of growing up, integrating new ideas, and being more than the sum of your parts which was the heart of season four. Season five centered on family and death, unfortunately Glory’s quest to get home didn’t dovetail with either theme. She was more of a plot device and unfortunately that set the tone the big bads that would follow.
Still the sanity slurping was a nice twist on "vampire" and Gloria was, at minimum, funny.
Concerning "neutral" vampires, I don't think you find neutral ones as much as vampires that are smart, lazy, or both. Harmony was smart enough to realize that a regular job had more benefits than luring people into alleys did. The vampire sex workers managed to stay off the radar in Sunnydale by not killing anyone and letting the prey come to them. On ANGEL there were a few junkie vampires that pulled the same trick.
**Editted to add a final thought**
I am very glad that they went with giving Buffy a sister instead of adding a male character of any type for the role. The fairy tale meets psych 101 vibe could get pretty heavy this season. So having a key with an actual phallus in the hands of female villain that is need of door opening could only go to a very skeevy place.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
I always viewed Glory as Dark Buffy, for the most part. She was what Buffy could have been had her compassion not tempered her power. So I think as a reflection of Buffy and the shallow parts of herself she must overcome on her path to adulthood, she represents the season's challenges pretty well.
Jason Parker
28. tarbis
@27
I'd see that more if Faith and Cordelia (in her own way) hadn't already filled the role of Buffy's dark reflection.
Maybe it works if Glory and Ben's self-centeredness are contrasted with Buffy's ability to sacrifice, but sacrifice didn't really come through as the theme of the season at large. That might just be me reading things differently.
Alyx Dellamonica
29. AMDellamonica
I was glad, too, that they didn't drag out the mystery of Dawn for very long, Tarbis. And I agree with your point that Glory, as a villain, doesn't mesh as well with the other things going on in the season.

Gardner and Zorra, I'm watching alertly for any evidence that will support one or the other of your arguments.

And yeah, it makes perfect sense that the key's a lovable harmless girlchild, but part of me still wants to vote for a useful stepdad.
Emma Rosloff
30. emmarosloff
@16 -- Great point about Buffy needing to "cull the vampire herd" as it were, like a wolf that picks off sheep. But you'd think that some powerful coven or something (kind of like the magi who created the Slayer) would get around to creating a couple more uber heroes, so poor Buffy wasn't stuck with "Demon Hunter" and "God Killer" as well.

@28 -- In my mind, Faith was more "Dark Slayer" than she was "Dark Buffy". Their personalities were intrinsically different; only their power as Slayers made them the same. How they chose to wield it is where we draw the contrast. Cordelia almost felt like "Pre-Buffy", a reflection of the shallow girl Buffy used to be at her former highschool before she was called to active Slayer duty.

If anything, I'd say that Spike is "Dark Buffy" -- the Yin to her Yang, although Spike's journey and his role are less clear cut. The show explores this idea that her power is rooted in darkness; Spike is the only character who accepts that about her. Almost like an inoculation to a disease; she's got a little bit of it in her, in order to fight against it day in and day out.

It's only through the lens of Spike's darkness that she comes to embrace her own, and likewise, only through her prevailing sense of justice that Spike comes to embrace being good again. And while all the other characters (as supportive as they are) heap their own expectations onto Buffy, Spike only wants her to be who she is. It just takes him until the very end to finally see her clearly.
Dr. Thanatos
31. Gardner Dozois
But the useful stepdad doesn't fulfill the role that Dawn does. For all intents and purposes, Dawn is Buffy's child, made out of her very essence, her flesh and blood, quite probably the only child that Buffy will ever have. No way a stepdad can compete with that, as far as kicking in Buffy's material protective instincts is concerned. Besides, with all her Daddy issues, I think a stepdad would be in for a rough road with Buffy anyway.

Just rewatched the episode where Buffy comes back to life, and it struck me strongly that now she's gone through just what vampires go through, perhaps the only Slayer who ever has: waking up in her coffin, and having to claw her way up out of the ground. Perhaps that gives her enough sympathy with Spike's experience to make it possible for them to hook up. There's a wonderful moment where Spike realizes what's happened to her and tells her that he knows what that's like, and they share a look that says, in the words of the old proverb, "only those the snake has bitten can tell each other how it feels." In that way, in addition to having super-strength and killing on a regular basis and both being magical creatures of a sort, Buffy and Spike are more similar in experience and nature than she is with anyone else on the show.
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
@31, in re Spike knowing what Buffy went through,I love how they had to retcon that mistake by the writers, by stating that Dru buried him anyway, even though she didn't leave him for dead to be rise.
Jason Parker
33. tarbis
@30
I have the feeling that we have different expectations for dark reflection type villains. Cordelia and Faith, at the time, were both about using and abusing their power while feeling superior. Buffy power-tripped, but tried not to abuse her privilege. Glory abused what privilege she had, but was focused on gaining more privilege which thematicly is different thing.

I can't comment on Spike being a dark reflection character because I haven't given it much thought. Although it is interesting that he started out middle class and weak (unknown, unmarriageable, etc.) before getting power while Buffy started out middle class and strong (popular, well liked, etc.). In a way Spike is almost what a vampire Jonathan might have been (except taller).

@32
It was a retcon that had to cover two failures. In ANGEL it had been laid down that Dru was a traditionalist who believed in burying her children. So late in the game for season seven they had to patch because a writer had missed both mentions and had him take Dru home to mother. The shows were really bad about continuity. (It amuses me that Greenwald had to remind Whedon at one point that vampires don't reflect.)
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
@33, Actually Glory wanted something that was actually very near and dear to Buffy. Glory wanted her normality back. She wanted things to go back as they were before things were changed(before being trapped in this dimension/becoming the Slayer). Buffy had to overcome the desire to have the world as it used to be, and face the adult expectations of dealing with the world as it is, and Glory represents a powerful person's refusal to do this.
Dr. Thanatos
35. Dianthus
It's never stated outright, but it's implied that Buffy is the only Slayer who has "gone native" by taking vampire lovers. Of course, if a previous Slayer had had any sort of romantic relationship with a demon, the CoW wouldn't want the word to get out. Since Buffy's The Greatest Slayer evah (per JW), is that partly why? It certainly helps defeat evil to have an equally super-strong ally fighting @ your side.
@33. tarbis - I agree that ME sucked at continuity (details, details). They had to re-edit the ep where Spike escapes Initiative HQ so he wasn't seen fighting as much. Duh!
Also, it seems JW's never heard of a fcking calculator! He explains away the discrepancy in Spike's age by saying he's bad @ math.
Dr. Thanatos
36. Michael T Birks
Re: @35
If Buffy was the first Slayer to 'go native', is it because she's the only slayer to have survived so long? Or, at least, to have had so much prolonged contact with the supernatural.

Of course, Buffy _didn't_ survive any longer than, say, Kendra, or the slayer from the Boxer rebellion. She died, right there in Prophecy Girl.

I've always been somewhat partial to the theory that the 'true' slayer line passed from her at that point, that Kendra and then Faith were the True Slayers, while Buffy was an abberation, possibly even an abomination, which is why she grew so far beyond her original role.
Jason Parker
37. tarbis
@34
I can see how you're reading the show that way. It's a reading that doesn't violate canon or authorial intent. Giving the way you're phrasing it I can agree to a point.
But I still don't see how a villain based around a return to comforting normalcy ties to the arc and themes of season five specifically. It ties into Buffy's character arc over the course of the show, but not the season specifically.
Chris Nelly
38. Aeryl
This is the season where Buffy becomes an adult, where she makes the decision to put away the desire for normalcy and accepts the responsibilities of The Slayer.

Mark Field over at Unpaid Sophistry explains this better than I ever could, but I'll quote one little bit, which includes a bit from James Marsters.

As I read it, her dive represents the fact that she’s leaving childhood behind and launching herself into the new dimension of adulthood. James Marsters: “Thematically, I think that tied up his original premise, which is how does a young child become an adult and pass through adolescence. And all of us vampires are just metaphors for those problems. I think that in the moment that she sacrificed her life to save her sister she became a true adult.”

Now considering that the season was written to be the end if necessary, I find it okay that the nemesis for the season represents a challenge that transcends the themes of an individual season, much as the S7 Big Bad attempts to do.

Now, that being said, I completely understand why some people feel Glory is somewhat out if sync with the season. Kramer's performance is polarizing to some, and I know some people thought she was a generic rip off of Cordy. Which you know, makes me think, I know Joss told Charisma Carpenter that if AtS didn't work out, he'd work something out for her to come back to BtVS, and considering where her character went on Angel, I wonder if this isn't what his contingency was.
Dr. Thanatos
39. Dianthus
I think it's pretty clear that Kendra held the Slayer line, since Faith was called on her death. No other Slayer was called on Buffy's second death (that we know of).
Buffy was the first Slayer to have a 'support group' of friends and family. That's part of her success.
I just keep thinking how much good Angel could've done; other Slayers he could've helped.
Angel and Spike were exceptions as vampires. Presumably other Slayers didn't have such help. OTOH, other not-evil demons are/were out there, and could've been recruited to the cause.
Dr. Thanatos
40. Gardner Dozois
Buffy was unique in several ways: only Slayer to have a support group of friends; only Slayer (as far as we know) to willingly have sex with vampires; only Slayer to die twice and return; only Slayer to wake up in her coffin and have to claw her way up out of the ground, just like a vampire. I think she was attracted to Angel and Spike because she had something of their darkness in her own soul, and although she tried to deny that for years, it spoke to her. That's why she DIDN'T last with Riley; not enough monster in the man.

But then, the whole idea of the show was how incongrous she was as a monster-fighter, giggly Valley Girl/cheerleader, rather shallow at the beginning, forced into a grim new life.
Dr. Thanatos
41. build6
@30 -

there's no way it could be "official policy" to have more than one. I'm pretty late to this (and I refuse to read the comics) so I don't know if other people have expounded on this already, but this is a thought new to me at least :-) -

once I saw in S7 the episode about the "origin" of the Slayers, the beginning voiceover about how there was only ONE Slayer took on a new meaning for me:

Even if there was a way for the original three watchers/creators to have created more than one Slayer, they *would not* have done it. (I think per the storyline it was significant that the Scythe was a creation by women-not-affiliated-to-the-Council)

Because (per S5E12) it's about power.

- If the first slayer was a woman who had to be chained for demonic powers to be infused into her, she was probably not a volunteer.
- If having that power was a "good thing", the original watchers/creators would have infused the power into themselves.

The Slayers are meant to be expendable tools to be used and discarded when they "inevitably" die (very young, too - no more than mid-twenties at the most? (which episode was this mentioned?)). Maybe JW meant something in there about how "old men with power have always used women for their needs". Watchers are dissuaded from forming emotional attachments, and are fired if they do. Slayers are supposed to do as they're told, and they're told that doing as they're told saves the world, so how could they do otherwise?

ONE superpowered woman, whose only source of information about an unnatural world she knew nothing about can be controlled - if not by manipulation through her Watcher (who *thinks* he/she is helping her), then by their enforcement arm (perfectly happy to kill a Slayer if it's too much trouble to bring her home for "rehabilitation", per Faith in S4. After all, hey, another one would rise then, and you can intercept her with another Watcher who'll tell her "it's your destiny, and you got to listen to me". No big deal).

But a whole *bunch* of superpowered "expendable tools" might start wondering about the expendability bit. Faith pointed out that with their powers etc., *they* should be outside "rules". The reason they're not is that there's only one.

Having ONE superpowered woman would serve the councils/creators' purpose in helping keep down the critters/saving their own skins. Having a lot of them puts them in charge, and that's not what they created the Slayers for.
Dr. Thanatos
42. Dianthus
I know there are plenty of meta reasons why the Slayer mythos is the way it is: commentary on gender relations primary among them. Thing is, even carpenter Xander would tell you that you should take good care of your tools. This suggests the CoW are ultimately concerned more with maintaining their power than their duty to protect the innocent and fighting the good fight.
Dr. Thanatos
43. Gardner Dozois
It's long been obivous that the Council of Watchers is either corrupt or deeply stupid, and far more concerned with maintaining their power and authority than they are with fighting Evil effectively.
Dr. Thanatos
44. Dianthus
I'd vote for corrupt over deeply stupid. They're clearly part of the world-wide male conspiracy against women. Never mind the men who've been valuable allies in the fight for womens' rights. Obviously, they don't count.
Emma Rosloff
45. emmarosloff
@41 -- You make very good points. I completely agree that the Slayer was meant to be a tool. The Watcher's Council was totally corrupt by the time Buffy came around (and in a way they are the Ultimate Big Bad for keeping the Slayers from realizing their true potential). I always considered them to be a metaphor for the outmoded paradigms we find ourselves subscribing to purely for the sake of "tradition", whether they're beneficial to us or not. But I can definitely see a metaphor their for how men have subjugated women for their own purposes for thousands of years.

I only meant to postulate on the relative magical power in the Buffyverse and the possibility that a group entirely outside of the men who created the Slayer (and the council that stemmed from it) could've worked to create some super-powered being of their own (I suppose the Initiative took a whack at it, but they botched it big time). I admit I wasn't examining the themes behind Joss Whedon's story so much as openly speculating about other forces at work in the Buffyverse and what they might be capable of if the need ever arose.

I guess after the umpteenth Apocalypse I couldn't help wondering how the good guys have managed to stumble along for so long when there seem to be countless forces of evil at work and only one clear-cut Crusader to stem the tide. Partiuclarly when I learned that the Slayer herself was a construct. It feels almost remiss that no other powerful group seized upon such a capitol idea, plagued as they might have been by demons, unruly gods and pestilent vampires of their own. I'll admit that this could lead to an imbalance -- too many super-powered crusaders and their priorities will eventually be warped by a lack of checks and balances (a lot like in the real world). But too much evil and it feels almost unrealistic that the good guys haven't been overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there about the endurance of the human spirit. I guess the truth is that no matter the evil forces that rally against them, the Slayer(s) will only ever lose if they stop fighting (or are eradicated entirely). Buffy never stops, even when the Slayer line passes to Kendra (and then to Faith). She finds a way to buck the odds, beat the system, and remake the Slayer line to tip the balance. That's definitely a big part of what makes the story so great -- she transforms her servitude into something far greater and far more beneficial to the forces of good in the world. Justice prevails over power. Not just for the people at large, but for the Slayers themselves, whose treatment has been anything but just.
Dr. Thanatos
46. build6
@45 - on re-reading I think I'm coming off more "hostile" than I sound in my own head :-P, agree with you. Heh for all we know (per the Zeppo) there's all sorts of apocalypses being averted by alternate non-Slayer heroes all over the world that nobody in Sunnydale knows about.

actually guys would like some advice - there's still a few "Chosen Collection" sets floating around, is it worth getting one of those instead of the "Buffy: The Complete Series" sets that was released in 2010?
Alyx Dellamonica
47. AMDellamonica
Alyx here, popping in to say this discussion has become so rich and well-reasoned and well-rounded that there's little I can see to add to it. Though I will say that moment of recognition between Spike and Buffy, over the coffin-clawing, is also one of my favorite bits.

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