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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a drama about a young girl who inherits the powers to fight the demons that threaten the Earth. She lives in Sunnydale, California which happens to be the Hellmouth and must learn to master her powers while also trying to have some semblance of a normal life. The WB 1997 - 2001. UPN 2002-03.

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Episode 2 - Real Me

17 September 2012

Synopsis: Through Dawn’s diary entries we hear her thoughts on life with the Scooby gang. Buffy and Giles head out to the magic shop and Dawn tags along. Once they discover a dead body, Dawn is left outside where a crazy man yells at her. Harmony is back in town with her own gang of vampires who plan to kill Buffy. They come to the Summers house while Xander and Anya are babysitting and Dawn accidentally invites Harmony in. Later she is kidnapped by the gang and Buffy has to go rescue her. Giles buys the magic shop.Dawn tied up

The Good: As with Dracula, Dawn was fairly comfortably woven into the Buffyverse with everyone’s behaviour adapting around her. Her reaction to life as the Slayer’s sister was well thought through. Buffy had to grow up very quickly because of her calling. Naturally Joyce and Buffy want to shield Dawn from the darkness and she feels left out and patronised as a result. I enjoyed seeing her reaction to the rest of the gang. Xander and Willow would have known her for a long time and so there’s lots of affection there. Tara empathises with Dawn’s status as an outsider while Giles seems even older to her than he did to the Scoobies when they first met him. It was telling that she could see how “in to” Buffy, Riley is. From her perspective Buffy isn’t all that, so understandably she would sneer at his adoration.

The diary entries were a sensible shortcut to explain why we were suddenly getting a character’s inner monologue. They also allowed for a couple of fun perspective gags with Dawn unaware of the chocolate ice cream covering her face and her ignorance of the true nature of Willow and Tara’s relationship.

Harmony seemed a solid choice to be the vampire threat of the episode. Without her personality to carry the group a generic group of vamps might have seemed dull. Spike had a couple of good cameos interacting with the blonde women in his life. Giles’ decision to buy the magic shop gives him a new location to operate out of and a change of scenery for the whole show. With Willow and Tara growing in their knowledge of all things magic it seems an especially fertile choice.

The Bad: For the second week in a row Xander laughs at a vampire when he should really have been scared. He almost paid for it when Harmony burst in but the fact that Buffy then cackled away was a real downer. Yes Harmony has proven to be a goof, even as a vampire. But that still shouldn’t stop the Scoobies from remembering that she is a demon now. In general vampires have lost their edge as a threat and that weakens the options the show has when trying to generate drama.

The Unknown: The extraordinary circumstances of Dawn’s arrival into the Buffyverse are definitely intriguing. The crazy guy who rants at her says she doesn’t “belong here.” Dawn later echoes this idea by saying that she is not just Buffy’s little sister. It’s not clear at all what or who she is and I hope there will be a strong explanation.

We’ve seen throughout Buffy that Joss Whedon likes to find characters who can reflect aspects of Buffy’s personality. Cordelia was the girl she might have become without her calling while Kendra was what she might have been without a life. Faith was then a Buffy with no moral compass and now we have Dawn. A sister without the calling but one who has to live within that environment. I’m not sure if Dawn is meant to be a reflection of Buffy in that same way or if she is just meant to introduce some new element into Buffy’s emotional palette. For example Dawn says she likes school work which Buffy never seemed as keen on.

Unfortunately the scenarios which played out here didn’t seem appealing. Seeing Buffy whining about her sister wasn’t fun and neither was hearing Dawn complain about her. Joyce added to my lack of sympathy by foisting Dawn on Buffy and not seeing the defence of the world as a higher priority than her own career. Lines like “I’ll tell Mom you slayed in front of me” made me cringe and it was hard to feel sorry for Dawn getting kidnapped when her attitude to danger was so cavalier.

In a way hearing Buffy give Dawn none of the breaks that she would give to others seemed entirely plausible. We all hold our families to a higher standard than we do our friends because they should understand us better than anyone. So perhaps I will grow to appreciate the grating dynamics that were on display here.

Tara gave us a hint of the secrets she is keeping by frowning at Willow calling her one of “the good guys.” This seems to match a comment made in “Restless” about her past.

I guess the Watcher’s Council must pay really well if Giles can spend a year unemployed and still have enough cash to buy a shop. Either that or the Sunnydale Bank has extremely generous loan arrangements.

Best Moment: Dawn’s crush on Xander was one of the few cute things she got to play. As she sits with him and Anya playing board games she tucks into a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Her narration reveals that she thinks on some level Xander sees her as a woman. He smiles broadly at her and we cut back to see she has ice cream all round her mouth.

The Bottom Line: This was a tough episode to write. Introducing a new character can always be tricky but to pretend like one has existed all along is a whole new kind of effort. In general I think the writers deserve credit for what they accomplished and Dawn did seem like a whole new character with her own personality. However the Summers household felt like a less fun place to be and the show is now bursting at the seams with characters. I’m very much in “The Unknown” as to how this is all going to pan out.

 

Cordia’s Second Look
Real Me
Season 5, Episode 2
Original airing: 10/3/2000

My Rating: 62

The Good: This episode absolutely had to focus on Dawn. After her incredibly short, surprise introduction in Buffy vs. Dracula (S5E1), it would have been cruel to do anything else. Happily, the episode fully lived up to integrating Dawn into the show. Using her journal entries and internal monologue allowed the viewer to see the Buffyverse through Dawn’s eyes, which was pretty fun. Her interpretations of each character poked a bit of fun at the show, but also did a good job of reintroducing everyone.

I also enjoyed the hints during the episode that Dawn is not what she seems. Of course, the viewers know that. She literally came out of nowhere, but it’s fun to wonder where she came from. And it’s obvious the show has a purpose for her and she’s not some random character they are actually trying to pretend DID exist from the beginning. Her conversation with the old man hints at Buffy’s dream interactions with Faith in Graduation Day, Part Two (S3E22) and This Year’s Girl (S4E15). He also explicitly tells her “You don’t belong here.”

The episode gives another hint which could be Joss Whedon toying with the audience or could be a hint that Dawn herself knows what’s going on. At the end, she writes in her journal that Buffy will be surprised to learn who Dawn really is. This could be teenage angst and desire to be seen as a person and not a ‘kid’ or it could be that she knows where she came from. Fascinating stuff.

I really enjoyed Harmony as a background to this episode. It felt a bit like the writers decided they needed a villain for this to be a real episode, even though I think this episode would have held up strongly as just a Dawn-introduction. But Harmony was a good choice. Since the show has a history with her, she got to be campy and funny, which was done really well. I particularly enjoyed her chat with Spike.

The Bad: I actually don’t feel like there’s anything bad in the episode, except perhaps the lack of an explanation for how unemployed Giles manages to buy a flash sports car AND a business within days of each other. Otherwise, I thought this episode did what it needed to do very well.

Favorite Moment: I really enjoyed Dawn’s reintroductions of each character. It was fun seeing them through fresh eyes after four years. If I were to pick one, I’d say the best was the breakfast scene with Buffy. The show did such a good job of integrating Dawn into the morning routine of the Summers’ household. And her description of Buffy really felt like something that would come from a younger sibling.

The Bottom Line: This episode was designed to introduce Dawn and start the audience asking questions about her. It did that exceptionally well. But it wasn’t emotive, intense, or dramatic. I certainly wasn’t on the edge of my seat at any time. So I don’t feel it’s proper to give it a higher score. That certainly doesn’t detract from what it succeeded in doing – confusing us even more about Dawn.

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  • P.S. I really enjoyed the dramatization of Virginia and mine's comments on last week podcast, with Cordia playing the part of Virginia and Robin as myself. I always wanted a British accent.

    Posted by Derek, 11/09/2012 6:00am (6 years ago)

  • I didn't really remember this episode. That could be because the first I watched it I was also on the Buffy wiki trying to figure out who exactly Dawn is, needless to say though I enjoyed it more on Rewatch. A lot I want to say I can't because of spoilers but this is a really good introduction of Dawn. It does a really good job of making Dawn seem like a normal part of life for everyone but dropping hints that she is anything but normal. This may be spoiler-y but a lot of season 5 is going to depend on making the relationship between Buffy and Dawn being believable and one we care about it. In that way it's very similar to season 4 which relied on Buffy and Riley, the difference being Buffy and Dawn's relationship is good. Is Dawn annoying at times? Yes. Does her screaming BUFFFFEEEEEE (Buffy first by the way) make me made to puncture my ear drums? Yes. But the point is Dawn is supposed to be a bit annoying, she's the bratty little sister. I do remember Dawn growing from this point but in a few scenes I believe that Buffy and Dawn are sisters who get on each other's nerves but love each other. It (kind of) makes me wish Dawn had always been around. And so begins what I feel will be a season (series?) long struggle of defending Dawn Summers.

    Viewer score: 69 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 10/09/2012 8:15pm (6 years ago)

  • It is with a fair amount of shame I admit to breaking into a huge stupid grin when you read out my comments on the last podcast ,I had popped into my local for a pint to listen to it and got rather strange looks from people who heard the weird high pitched noise I emitted as I heard my name lol.
    First off what a beautifully shot start this is, it’s cinematic even, and a great use of slow motion.
    Dawn has arrived and in a way everything we need to know about her (for now) is explained expertly in this opening with the removal of giles’s glasses. That one tiny act tells us the viewer so much about how at least he and buffy regard dawn as annoying and in the way. It's worthy of note that Michelle Trachtenberg is in the opening credits already which leaves us in no doubt that she is here to stay, I think without this I would assume she might be a one or two episode thing.
    I cannot claim to be a fashion expert, but I was drawn straight away to the fact that joyce appears to be dressed as mick jagger when she opens the door to riley, his comment "you look great miss summers" got the biggest laugh from me that riley ever has or is ever likely to get.
    I liked giles's midlife crisis on wheels and thank god they didn't resort to the god awful green screen way of doing things as they have in the past.
    Finding the body of the shop keeper is a great idea because of the amount of things that scene shows us, namely the need to shield dawn from the harsh realities of life in sunnydale and that tara still feels like an outsider of the group, also it gives giles an opportunity to do something with his life, and gives the Scooby gang a new bat cave (something that's really been missing since the school went boom)
    Always nice to see harm back! The idea of her leading a "gang" of anybody seems ridiculous and bizarrely cute. Did you notice during the scene between tara and willow when willow is hanging a picture a boom mike falls into shot. Sadly that boom mike has more business being on screen than riley does!
    Without being spoilery i find that on re-watch of this episode lines that once seemed throw away like "I'll drop my sister back at home, MY mother’s gonna kill me" now seem to have more depth to them. There are more (which i won't mention) but these lines are often subtlety placed, what felt like someone ham-fistedly jabbing at a canvas with a big brush in season four now feels like an artist carefully hiding messages in a masterpiece with a delicate hand.
    Oh and "Step on up kiddies, thrashings for all". best line of the ep.

    Viewer score: 82 / 100

    Posted by Cody paul, 10/09/2012 3:40pm (6 years ago)

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