Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 29

5.1 Buffy Vs. Dracula
5.2 Real Me
5.3 The Replacement

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 246-251.

If you’re watching Angel, this week begins the excellent season 2:

2.1 Judgement
2.2 Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?
2.3 First Impressions

Follow along in Once Bitten, pp. 151-158.

So… um… what’s up with Buffy having a sister?! Did I MISS something?

I’ve actually really been looking forward to this week, just to relive the WTF?! reactions we all had when this episode originally aired (and no, to answer a question that I’m asked all the time when people are watching for the first time, there wasn’t a mistake, the DVD didn’t leave an episode off, and you haven’t missed anything… just keep watching).

I’m a big season 5 fan. So where I went into season 4 defending the amazing standalones but letting you know it was my least favourite, I have no such qualms with this season. It includes two of Joss Whedon’s best episodes, and the one that I consider his masterpiece – yes, even putting it above the musical. The rewatchers know the one I mean, and I can’t wait for the new viewers to get to it.

But for now, we have the first three episodes, which are more comic than dramatic (don’t worry, the tone of the season will change muchly). I’m a very big fan of “Buffy vs. Dracula,” even though I know it’s a very disliked episode among fans. Many people I know love it, so it’s not a “Beer Bad” by any means, but considering how few of the season premieres I like, this might be my favourite of all of them. How can one NOT love an episode with bug-eating Xander?:

“Like that’s enough to stop the Dark Master . . . bator.”
“I think you’re drawing a lot of crazy conclusions about the Unholy Prince . . . bator.”

“Real Me” introduces that annoying little sister, Dawn. Oh, Dawnie. Some Buffy fans have a certain fondness for her, even if half the time we want to throw her off a cliff or lock her in a closet or throw her into a vampire lair and let them take care of her. (No? Just me?) She’ll grate on you, for sure, and you’ll find yourself yelling, “Shut UP Dawn!!” so many times you’ll lose count, but... okay, I know I was working towards saying something positive here, but my hatred of Dawn took over. Oh, right... seeing her on the rewatch actually didn’t trigger my gag reflex, but instead my affection for her. Maybe I'm being soft. After all, the rewatch made me rethink my assessment of Joyce (and for a minute I thought I was starting to like Riley and then "Where the Wild Things Are" happened and, well, there was that old gag reflex again).

That said, I yelled “Shut UP, Dawn!” about four times in this episode. (Like, really, what tweener eats ice cream like that? Is she THREE? No, wait, my three-year-old wouldn’t eat ice cream like that…) And I still wanted to whack her upside the head. Perhaps they were a little too successful in making her annoying.

“The Replacement” isn’t the best episode, but it’s still really fun, and so many people have emailed me over the years to ask how they did the special effects on that episode, but there was no CGI… that’s Nicholas Brendon’s twin brother Kelly! It certainly helps to have a cast member with an identical twin who is ALSO an actor, and it’s fun that they incorporated it in some way. And OMG the Snoopy Dance!!!!!!! I can’t describe the decibel level of the squeeee I emitted the first time I saw that. ;)

But enough from me, now on to our two guests this week! First up, to give us an excellent context for “Buffy vs. Dracula” within its literary and filmic precedents is Stacey Abbott! I’ve been working with Stacey on her upcoming anthology, TV Goes to Hell: The Unofficial Road Map to Supernatural and she’s been an absolute pleasure, so I’m so glad to have her with us here (again) on the rewatch! Take it away, Stacey!

“Nothing but a Bunch of Gypsy Stuff”: Dracula in the Buffyverse
Stacey Abbott

While Buffy is a series that is immersed in popular culture, its references to other vampire texts come few and far between. There is an occasional reference to Anne Rice – “I’ve fought more than a couple of pimply overweight vamps who called themselves Lestat”— and in “Parting Gifts” (Angel 1.10) Angel claims that Frank Langella’s was the only performance of a vampire he ever really believed, referring to the 1979 John Badham adaptation of Dracula (which says so much about Angel). Beyond that there is little acknowledgement of centuries’ worth of vampire literature, films and television, that is until “Buffy vs Dracula” and then the references come fast and furious. The first time I saw this episode I was disappointed. I found Rudolph Martin’s performance as the Count to be somewhat underwhelming to say the least. Dracula is now such an iconic figure that you need actors of great presence to play this role – Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Jack Palance, Gary Oldman (Ok Angel – even Frank Langella) – these are the actors you remember (who really remembers that Gerard Butler got his start as Dracula in Dracula 2000 or Gary Purcell pre-dated Prison Break with a performance of Dracula in Blade Trinity?). Martin’s performance seemed hollow, and overly indebted to all the Dracula’s who had come before him. But upon repeat viewing, I came to realise that this was the point.

Dracula, born at the end of the 19th Century in Bram Stoker’s novel and then reincarnated into film and television more times than almost any other literary figure (second only to Sherlock Holmes) is such an iconic figure of the 20th Century that he has become the sum of his parts: long dark hair, pale skin, long cape and, as Buffy says, “dark penetrating eyes and lilty accent.” Upon meeting him, Xander immediately recognises him for Dracula (or at the very least a Dracula-wannabe) because of his cape (“look whose caught a case of Dark Prince envy”) and accent (“no we we’re not going to leabe you and where did you get that accent? Sesame Street? One two three victims. AhAhAh!”). His performance is there to remind us of the legacy of Stoker’s novel and its impact upon our understanding of vampire mythology. That is why he is allowed to break the show’s own vampire rules by having Dracula be able to transform into bats, mist, and wolves – dismissed by Spike as “nothing but gypsy stuff”—not to mention affecting the weather (yes it is Dracula’s arrival that makes it rain at the beginning and not Willow) and making a castle appear in town. In many ways this episode is one of the best adaptations of Stoker’s novel, interpreted through the lens of a century’s worth of adaptations. Martin’s Dracula is composite of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, and the Count from Sesame Street. The episode contains numerous moments right out of Stoker’s novel and yet they also contain within them echoes of later vampire texts. For instance, Dracula is delivered to his castle in Sunnydale in a dirt-filled box by two un-witting truck drivers just like Dracula is similarly delivered to Carfax Abbey in the book. But the modern-day truck drivers are reminiscent of the drivers who deliver the vampire Mr. Barlow to the town of Jerusalem’s Lot in the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1979). This allusion is reinforced when Dracula literally busts out of the box to kill them, calling to mind the frightening image of Barlow’s shattered crate which confirms his arrival in the small town.

Xander’s wonderfully comic performance as Dracula’s bug-eating sidekick is an outstanding allusion to Dwight Frye’s classic performance of Renfield in Tod Browning’s Dracula, with a touch of Arte Johnson from Love at First Bite (1979) thrown in for good measure. While Dracula’s brides have appeared in countless films about Dracula (including Browning’s Dracula 1931, Hammer Studios’ Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula 2000, and Van Helsing 2004), the seduction of Giles by the brides is a conscious allusion, through its music and visual style, to Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula in which Keannu Reeves is seduced by the brides. Finally, Dracula’s invasion of Buffy’s home is both a reference to the novel and more recent vampire films. In the novel Dracula gains access to the heroine Mina by using the mad Renfield to let him into the asylum where she is staying so that he can hypnotise and seduce her, placing her under his control like Buffy. In Dracula, the attack on Mina is a means for Dracula to assert his power over the other men by showing that their women are vulnerable. But the fact that it is Buffy’s Mom who puts her in peril in “Buffy vs Dracula”, contains within it echoes of the pre-Buffy teen film Fright Night (1985), in which hero Charlie Brewster’s equally single Mom invites a tall dark stranger into the house, putting Charlie in danger of the vampire. In these teen dramas, lonely mothers are targets for manipulative men.

So what is the significance of these allusions? Is it just a chance to dust off their vampire trivia and infuse the text with all that has been withheld before? Partly? But also it is about the confrontation between these two icons of popular vampire fiction one born at the end of the 19th Century but which informed the 20th Century conception of the vampire, and one born at the end of the 20th Century but which so far has proven itself to be one of the defining texts for the 21st Century vampire genre. Buffy is fast becoming as influential to the genre as Dracula (and while it is still comparatively young the fact that we are still talking about it supports this argument). In this episode Buffy faces the genre’s past in order to prepare for its future. She knows what has come before, she’s seen Dracula’s movies and so she knows how to defeat him. What she doesn’t fully know yet, as pointed out by Dracula, is the true nature of her own power. It takes one icon to put another icon on her path to self-discovery. This path will take Buffy on her darkest journey so far and one of my favourite seasons – “you think you know who you are? What is to come? You’ve only just begun.” Enjoy.

Thank you, Stacey! And for the next episode, it’s always my pleasure to introduce the wonderful Cynthea Masson. (Spoilers have been whited out: if you see a space and you're a rewatcher, highlight it with your mouse and you'll see the hidden words beneath.)

“You Don’t Belong Here”—“Real Me” and the Break of Dawn
Cynthea Masson

Maybe “Beer Bad” (4.5) caused me to have a chemical reaction or something because I’ve never dissed Buffy in the past as much as I have of late. Perhaps the fact that I am now on my umpteenth (really it could even be the 20th-something) time through the series accounts for my grumpiness about parts of it. Just this morning I silently cursed a Season Six shot of Buffy’s house, which featured the street number 1313 on both the house and the sidewalk even though the Summers live at number 1630. (I assume 1313 is the number of the actual house of which Nikki Stafford spoke so fondly in her post of May 20, 2011.) Still I will state for the record before the most recent rant on which I’m about to embark that Buffy remains my favourite television show of all time (with Angel a close second, if not a tie for first). And Season Five is one of the two I claim as my favourite seasons of the series (the other being Season Six). That said, let me clarify that I have never, ever, ever liked Dawn. Never. Not even in the comics.

Rewatching “Real Me” (5.2) helped me to recognize that my dislike of Dawn may well originate with the manner in which Dawn is introduced to us; she is simply too annoying from day one—cloyingly annoying in a way that I think she need not have been (or even should not have been) if the show’s intention was for Dawn to garner sympathy from the viewer as an essential component of Season Five’s emotionally driven plot arc. Of all the things that happen to Dawn in Season Five that could elicit sympathy (none of which I’ll mention here for fear of spoilers), not one of them made me feel sorry for her—no, not even that one. Through the entirety of “Real Me” (and, indeed, through the entirety of Season Five), I just wished she’d go away. (Michelle Trachtenberg certainly had her work cut out for her having to play such an exasperating character each week—a remarkable feat worthy of slayer status!) If only Dawn had been introduced in a different manner, if only she had done something to help me like her in “Real Me” or to understand why any of the Scoobies like her, I would have readily asserted that the idea of Dawn—the story of a mystically fabricated sister whom Buffy comes to love absolutely—was one of the best plot devices of the series.

So, what went wrong in “Real Me”?

Dawn interrupts. I suppose that’s the point of her. But she interrupts just as Buffy is in the midst of honing her slayer-strength meditation skills and just as Giles is imparting his astute Watcher wisdom. And if they’d just been allowed to continue rather than being disrupted by Dawn acting like a four-year-old brat who doesn’t know the difference between a set of mystical crystals and the game of Jenga (even though she has apparently spent fourteen years living with the Slayer), Buffy might have paid attention to Giles’ sage (indeed, prophetic) advice: “There is nothing but you. You are the center.” Do you hear that, Buffy? That annoying sister of yours is not supposed to be here! “And within you is the core of your being of what you are. Find it.” Buffy, find your gift! (“Death is your gift.”) Okay, so it might not be the sort of gift the average person discovers at the core of one’s being, but you are the Slayer after all. “Let the world fall away. Fall away. Fall away....” Spoiler much? Well, first-time viewers will just have to wait for the season finale to read more into Giles’ words of wisdom.

Even Dawn’s opening disruption could have been forgiven—chalk it up to regrettable clumsiness of the non-slaying Summer’s girl—but she is unredeemable through the entire episode. A sister of the Slayer, a resident of Sunnydale, a teenager with vampire acquaintances (not to mention the former Vengeance demon and practising witches with whom she hangs out) would not, could not have been sheltered from the pantheon of demons and other supernatural paraphernalia that are part and parcel of life in Sunnydale. Dawn may be new to us, but she is supposed to be Buffy’s fourteen-year-old sister. Fourteen!

Why then does she not have more Hellmouth street smarts? Why can she not remain with the gang after Willow trips over the dead body of Mr. Bogarty in the magic shop? Along with many others, I am willing to suspend my disbelief for a multitude of elements in this show, but I am not willing to believe that a sister of the Slayer could be so immeasurably ignorant of the very substance of Buffy’s day-to-day life that she has never even seen a corpse, reanimated or otherwise. Even worse, what fourteen-year-old would get chocolate ice-cream all over her face in front of an older guy on whom she has a crush? What sister of a vampire slayer would invite a vampire (of the soulless, chip-free variety) into the house? Simply put, Dawn exhibits no maturity or logic and, therefore, no credibility.

Of course, such a lack of credibility may be intentional. Perhaps we are meant to gather from Dawn’s grating ways that she, in fact, does not belong in Sunnydale. Perhaps we are meant to expect her to be discovered as a fraud and ousted. But if we are meant to recognize (along with the occasional mentally unstable passerby) that Dawn doesn’t belong here, then why doesn’t Buffy or anyone else see the “real” Dawn? After all, Buffy recognized that super-Jonathan wasn’t real in “Superstar” (4.17), and Tara recognized that fake-Buffy wasn’t real in “Who Are You” (4.16), so why does Dawn’s unreality remain concealed in “Real Me”? Buffy finds Dawn annoying, but she neither questions nor challenges the fact of her existence. Like it or not, Buffy accepts this interloper as a sister. Dawn is here to stay despite her maddening ways. And, to quote Buffy’s complaint to Riley about kid sister Dawn, “that’s what bugs.”

Thank you, Cynthea!

Next week: We move into a more serious realm... remember Tara swiping the object under the bed in season 4 as if she was hiding something? Good. ;)

5.4 Out of My Mind
5.5 No Place Like Home
5.6 Family

Your host will be Tanya Cochran, who has written an excellent summary of the three. And if you're watching Angel, more excellence is coming your way with
2.4 Untouched
2.5 Dear Boy
2.6 Guise Will Be Guise

See you next week!


Marebabe said...

So, brand-new season. At the start of disc 1 of my S5 DVDs, before we even got to the title page, the rapid-fire sequence of images rather suggested that we’re in for an INTENSE season five. Bring it!

At the beach, when Willow so casually lit the blazing fire in the barbecue grill, I was reminded of Hermione Granger, that most proficient of young witches. Not surprising, really. Everywhere you look these days, it’s Harry Potter this and Harry Potter that. (Speaking of, my husband and I saw the new HP movie last night, and LOVED it!)

Um, Dracula is very, very different. By about 12 minutes into this episode, I was DEMANDING an explanation about the disapparating (or dissolving) thing and the turning-into-a-bat thing. Stuff we’ve not seen any other vamps do. It was sort of explained, but not really. Not to my satisfaction, anyway. Also, the wolf seen prowling on the roof of the espresso place, and how instantly Dracula had Xander completely in his power – “Yes, Master” – with his hypno-eyes.

Mighty interesting way they chose to introduce Buffy’s SISTER. I guess they wanted a hook to bring viewers back next week!

(One little aside about Angel in “Judgment”. His karaoke performance of “Mandy” was so awful it was good!)

Marebabe said...

In “The Real Me”, we had Giles thinking about breaking up with his new red convertible, alleging that it had seduced him. So cute!

The name of the magic shop, The Magic Box, instantly reminded me of LOST. I knew you’d understand.

OK. I had heard of a character named Dawn. Then I heard that her last name was Summers. I guessed then that she was probably a cousin of Buffy’s. Then I learned that she was Buffy’s sister. I thought for sure that she would turn out to be Buffy’s OLDER sister, already grown up and moved away by the time Buffy and her Mom moved to Sunnydale. The fact that Dawn is only 14 (big surprise!) caused me to quickly flash back through all of seasons 1-4, wondering what logical explanation there could be for us never having seen – or even heard of – her before. Especially in “Ted”, when Joyce was seriously considering getting married and presenting her daughters with a new stepdad. It’s OK. I’ll just suspend my disbelief some more. No problem.

Spike, to Harmony: “Evil For Dummies?” Spike wins again! (In the Favorite Line of the Week Contest.)

At the beginning of “The Replacement”, I couldn’t help noticing that Xander was not exactly “dressed to impress” when he met with the real estate lady. He was in a bad slump, and had really let himself go, as they say. All the better to show a marked contrast with “the imposter”.

As I watched this episode, it seemed sort of familiar, but I couldn’t place it until they began talking about the importance of re-integrating the two Xanders. This was like the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within”, where Kirk got split in two through a transporter accident. In that episode we had a weak and wishy-washy Kirk vs. an aggressive, domineering and violent Kirk. By contrast, in “The Replacement”, we had an ambitious go-getter Xander vs. an unkempt, complete loser Xander. I like the notion that, no matter who you’re talking about (even me!) if you split someone’s personality in two, you’ll come up with very different combinations of traits. As a writer, you could have some real fun with, say, happy vs. sad, or upbeat vs. gloomy.

Dusk said...

The whole aging issue is a problem for me too. I heard she was originally supposed to be like 8-10,which I guess would have made more sense, as it's unlikley for a toddler to have been hanging around Sunnydale High sometimes.

Sarah and Michelle knew each other before, and Michelle was a big fan, so that's who her name got in the mix supposedly. Much of Dawn's problems come from not changing the writing. Take her away from a dead body, when she's a teenager and has possibly 5+ years of secondhand Slayer expirence, in some way more of any Scooby.

Does anyone know why they used Kelly? Did they just really like him, or was it money? They used a split screen for Vamp Willow so it seemed strange they couldn't here.

Xander has got quite a track record with the Summers girls,hopeless crush on Buffy, nearly had both her and Joyce attack him in BBB, Dawn has a crush on him.

This is the time episode I really liked Harmony.

Marebabe said...

@Stacey: You will find this hard to believe, but I’ve never seen ANY of the classic vampire movies you mentioned. For several years I’ve thought I would like to see Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”. Having read your analysis this evening, I’ve decided that I’ll get right on that!

Missy said...

Oh Dawnie,the hatred you bring out in people is of epic proportion.

It took soooo many rewatches to care even the slightest about she who doesn't belong.(and it's still hard to watch some episodes without wanting to just slap her in the face)

s5&s2 are tied for no.3 on my season ranking list....just for the emotional gravitas alone.What can I say s3&s6 still have my heart even after all these yrs(& rewatches).

I've always loved the relationship between Tara&Dawn...and I love that their connection is there from the get go....it's just sooo damn adorable(mostly because of Tara,but I'll give Dawn some credit..picking Tara as her thumb wars pal-too cute)

I can't even look at the screen anymore during the infamous Ice Cream face scene..I can't tell if it's the sheer annoyance of the character of if I feel soooo completely awkward for her-that it's like my own past mistake(not that that ever happened to me)- it just feels so embarrasing...I cringe for her.

I loooooove Xander and two of him makes me one happy lady...for the record I didn't know Nicky had a twin until during the last season(2003) when I finally found a friend with good internet acess and my thirst for BtVS knowledge took over.

Ha...sooo distracted by Dawnie that I almost forget Dracs showedup,I've recently come to love Dracula vs Buffy...I mean I still have some issues but on the whole it's a pretty fun way to open a season that rivals having bamboo shoots shoved under your finger nails.

The Newbies are in for some gutwrenching fun this season.

(I might be in the minority here but I love all the season premiers and season finales-but the finales always win out by sheer force of craziness,Joss loves a finale)

Missy said...


Mandy will become a running gag..thats not spoilery ,right?


They'd been looking for a way to use kelly since s3.
Jane Espenson has said it would have been a waste not to use Kelly at some point during the series

Stephanie said...

Riley actually utters one of my favourite quotes in Buffy vs Dracula: an accusatory "You're under the thrall of the Dark Prince!" I don't know why but I think it's hilarious.

Marebabe said...

Speaking of vampire movies, I’ve seen a few minutes of “Interview With the Vampire” with Tom Cruise. (Ran across it channel-surfing one day.) I thought it was beautifully filmed, and decided it would be good to see someday. I can tell that there’s a vampire film festival in my future, aside from Buffy!

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Real Me: When Dawn interrupts Buffy's hand stand/crystal training, I can't help but be reminded of Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, when Luke is doing a hand stand, Yoda is on his feet, and R2D2 starts bleeping away. The rock falls as Luke loses his concentration, and Yoda and Luke take a tumble. Just like when Dawnie knocks over the crystals. Dawn is sometimes like R2D2, but more annoying.

Favorite exchange in Buffy vs. Dracula:

Riley: "Giles, come on, come on. Grab my hand."

Giles: "Thank God you came. There was no possible escape. My shoe, silly me, I'll just pop back down..."

Riley: "No, no, no, sir. No more chick pit for you. Come on."

The Replacement shows us a much more confident and assertive Willow. Love when Giles says, regarding the two Xanders: "I guess he's clearly a bad influence on himself.

I also adore when Anya, upon the spell being broken, said: "I liked it the other way. Put 'em back." I too, would enjoy having two Xander's around for a little while.

Nikki Stafford said...

Dusk: I covered this in my rundown, but I'm thinking they used Kelly because, hey, twin brother! Yes, they used it for Vamp Willow and Evil Spock and every other show where someone has an evil twin, but that's because those actors don't actually have a real twin. Why spend a ton of your annual budget on CGI when you've got the twin? ;)

Suzanne said...

I, too, am not very fond of Dawn. I was hoping to feel differently during a rewatch, but so far that isn't happening. I felt so relieved during "The Replacement" to not have her violating the group dynamic. I dislike having to see Buffy bickering with a little sister; to me, Willow will always be Buffy's true sister.

That being said, I do like Season 5 very much, and I even remember liking some upcoming scenes with Dawn, so I will just sit back and try not to get too annoyed. I do think that much of the annoyance comes from her very unrealistic portrayal (or maybe it is the writers fault) of a 14-year old. My daughter is 13 and my son is 11, and both of them are a lot more mature than Dawn. She acts more like a seven or eight-year old kid would act. It is also completely unrealistic to think that a girl her age would need to have baby sitters! Remember that Buffy was only about 15 when the show began and I didn't see anybody babysitting her when Joyce had a work function.

I enjoy "Dracula" a lot even though it isn't my overall favorite opening episode. I didn't care for "The Real Me," which I am sure isn't surprising. However, I loved "The Replacement." One of my favorite lines is when Xander is being all protective of his Babylon 5 plates since my husband and I are huge fans of that show. It ranks right up there with our Buffy love.

Lastly, I am oddly touched by the ending scene in "The Replacement" when Riley opens up to Xander about his feeling that Buffy doesn't love him. He seemed wise and vulnerable all at the same time.

Marebabe said...

@Lisa(ufn): Yes! I really loved that training scene at the beginning of "Real Me". Everything about it was so elegant. Dawn barging in and upsetting the mood and the balance and the concentration was just so RUDE! It's like A) she's had no fetchin' up, and B) the writers gave viewers that imprint experience with Dawn so that we would all be predisposed to really not like her! If that was their intention, it certainly worked.

Efthymia said...

"Buffy vs. Dracula":
Ah, Nikki, I remember reading your book and being really surprised that you liked this episode... Yep, still surprised. I think it's my least favourite season opener, and I tend to dislike season openers, so that says a lot. I've watched it and rewatched it and rewatched it, and I still find it nothing but ridiculous.

"Real Me":
An entire episode dedicated to the annoying abnormality that is Dawn... yay... :/
The first time I watched I remembered how they had made a point in past seasons about Buffy being an only child, so I was very confused.

I was so disappointed by Season 4, and Season 5 beginning like this had me thinking that it would be even worse! Thankfully, it wasn't, and I think about it very fondly now. Still, after my first watch of the entire series, it ranked just above my two least favourite seasons because of Dawn. It took rewatching for me to push Dawn aside and appreciate the rest of it.

"The Replacement":
I knew nothing about Nicholas Brendon having a twin brother when I first watched this episode, and even now that I do know it I can't really tell who's who, apart from a couple of moments (and I'm not 100% sure about those).
It's a fun episode -well, lots of Xander and Anya...- and I'm particularly happy that the Xander we think is the real one goes to Willow for help, because through the course of the series they kind of let us forget how close friends they used to be.

@Marebabe: Buffy, Xander & Willow always remind me of Harry, Ron & Hermione respectively, and if the evolutions of the two trios weren't parallel, I would have thought that one copied from the other.

Dusk said...

Oh, I think I was thrown by "Bite Me" lol. The opening sentence for that episode is "So what do you do when you're on a limited budget and need to do an episode that requires big-budget split screens?"

Yes, I guess having a twin would be cool most of the time.

BTW isn't it strange that the HP movies are ending and soon we will see HP on BtVS? Nerdlol!

Word Verif: Ardslorg-Groosalugg's evil twin.

Page48 said...

Surely suave Xander had to go shopping before heading off for work in the morning. No reason to believe the 'blue-shirt-and-khakis uniform existed in the original Xander's collection.

"Leftover" posters everywhere, and still rocking the WP stickers.

Plenty of Dawnie haters in the Buffyverse, but I'm not going to pile on. S5 is my personal fave and, while I can't say that I owe that all to Dawnie, what kind of an S5 would BtVS have without her?

I love Harmony as a vamp. She's so out of her league as an evil undead. I would shoot Buffy a disapproving "tsk, tsk" if she ever staked Harm.

I'm so glad Giles found the Magic Box. He was such a sad, outta work sack in S4, watching "Passions" with Spike. Now he has his focus AND he's Buffy's watcher one more time. 'Comeback of the Year' consideration for Giles.

Add "Dixon" to the names (Alpert & Hurley) etched in stone in Sunnydale's Bad Robot Cemetery.

Sunnydale girls are bringing the bare midriff early in S5, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

The Question Mark said...

Great three episodes to start off the season! Dawn's appearance is jarring to say the least, but if anybody can pull of such a ballsy move, it's Joss.

I've been keeping up with Angel's adventures too, & they're fantastic. My friend told me I am a LOT like Lorn, and when I saw him in the opening shot of Season 2, I immediately discovered why.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I loathe B vs D. It's my least favourite episode. It's MY Beer Bad. It's a bad fan fic mashup. It's Dracula as an underwear model. It's two worlds colliding for no reason.

Dracula elements that don't fit - dirt in the coffin, dematerializing, ultra pale skin, mist, turning into a wolf.... Good gravy. The only possible connection is the thrall, since Dru could do it.

Don't get me wrong. I love my vampire stories. It's why I started watching Angel. But there's an internal consistency stories have that this doesn't. Many characters (Spike for instance) hang a lantern on them. That doesn't make them right.

Dark penetrating eyes? Please. If they were any bluer they'd be marbles.

Does Giles call them the three sisters (more Scottish play) than the wives because that would take the erotica out of his thing with Buffy? (Hint - they needn't bother. It isn't there, even if he did play her husband on All My Children.)

Don't hate Dawn, btw, for reasons I'll go into in the spoiler comments.

Okay, Dracula rant over. Other things I noticed this week:

I love the Anya hair changes in the title sequence.

The sudden rainstorm reminded me of Lost.

Buffy makes kind of a creepy John Wayne Gacy reference.

Why does Xander have sequins on his shirt?

Dracula repeats spirit Tara's words about Buffy and Giles starts to in Real Me. Apparently she doesn't know who she is. Identity will be important this season (see also The Replacement.)

I like that Willow is starting drama in Real Me and is wearing a Shakespeare quote on her shirt.

Dawn is already as tall as Buffy.

I have to admit some sympathy for Harmony - I too have a unicorn collection. What? They're pretty!

Xander grows up with violence, yet watches violent movies. His friend isn't exactly a pacifist either, but that's her job.

Are any apartment rents high in Sunnydale?

Did they film this episode at a real dump? Because ew.

I'm with Dawn on the Buffy/Riley kisses. Making choking noises now.

It's sad that we so easily believe that slobby Xander is the real one and together Xander is the fake.

"Buy yourself a Klingon costume and move on?" Who buys a Klingon costume? All the Klingons I know make their own. I usually go Romulan myself.

Nicky often does the Snoopy dance at cons if you ask nicely.

Xander pulls one of the rare Buffy guns.

Buffy's figure skating movie obsession? Michelle (Dawn) will later make one.

Oh, Riley. You can take the boy out of the Initiative...

Most important thing to point out? There are no B5 collector plates.

Tom D. said...

I'm one of those who likes Buffy vs. Dracula. I've come to like it a lot more on repeated viewings. Xander is hilarious throughout (I love "your excellent spookiness" and "she who you most desire -- sorry, whom"!). Giles's face at the end, when Buffy asks him to be her watcher again, is pretty great. And there's some interesting setting-up of the question of what a slayer really is, which, obviously, is going to be a thing. I enjoyed Stacey Abbott's explanation of the pop-culture antecedents of this version of Dracula.

I also just rewatched Judgment. The main plot of the episode, with the woman who Angel is trying to protect, is a bit "meh," but there's a lot of good stuff going on. The green karaoke demon, of course. The Faith scene at the end -- even if you dislike Faith, it's still important that the show remembers that whole redemption plot and doesn't just let it vanish into the ether. The Lilah/Lindsey/Darla scene -- entertaining stuff is going to happen with all three of them.

And there's a lot of foreshadowing of themes that are going to reappear throughout the show -- Angel trying to be heroic and screwing up very badly and having to atone for it, and then going out and trying to be heroic again, because really, what other choice does he have?

Relatedly, I love Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been and I'm looking forward to rewatching it. It's the episode where I first said "who's this Tim Minear guy?" He's done some amazing writing on Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse.

Anne said...

@Dusk said...

Does anyone know why they used Kelly? Did they just really like him, or was it money? They used a split screen for Vamp Willow so it seemed strange they couldn't here.

I know at one point in the series, Nicolas Brendon gets pretty sick and they use Kelly. However I do not remember if that was before or after "The Replacement"

Missy said...

Lost track of what was happening over in HeLL.A.

I adore Lorne

figured I'd put that out there :)

EvaHart said...

Brilliant start to the season. I think I already prefer this one to season 4.

And yes, when Dawn appeared I had a major WTF moment. I was up pretty late watching it and for a second I thought I was going a little crazy and having major memory issues. Seriously, Joss Whedon must be an evil genius to mess with my head like that.

Despite the initial confusion I think the little sister pov adds an interesting new dimension of someone outside the scoobies. And although its probably too early to say, I like Dawn. Yes, I really do.
Maybe it's because growing up I was the annoying little sister and I can identify with her character. I know first hand how hard, and at times depressing it can be to live in your big sister's shadow. So I was a little overwhelmed by the Dawn-hatred going on here. Maybe I'm yet to see the extent of her annoyingness but at them moment, sure she is immature, but to be honest I think she just makes Buffy seem more annoying. How can she expect Dawn to be mature when she just treats her like a baby?

Loved The Replacement. Xander and Anya are possibly my favourite couple so far. And I totally agree with Anya. Who wouldn't want two Xanders?
It's cool about him having a twin brother and also reminded me a bit of the Ashmore brothers. I can never tell them apart in films or Tv shows either.

Also loving all the HP comments. Very topical. Sniff.
It's interesting seeing the comparisons between the two trios. I suppose that makes Spike the equivalent of Draco. Well they have pretty much the same hair ;)

Delvin Anaris said...

Worth noting, cribbed from the Buffy Wiki (http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Real_Me):

"Prior to the role of Dawn being cast, Sarah Michelle Gellar suggested they take a look at Michelle Trachtenberg. Dawn was originally conceived to be 12 years old, but after Trachtenberg was cast, the writers raised the character's age to 14. However, the first few scripts were still written in the voice of a 12-year-old. Before being cast, Trachtenberg, a fan of the show, had written a letter to Joss Whedon that suggested how she could become a character on Buffy. The character of Dawn was also originally intended to have the power to speak to the dead, or to be able to move objects with her mind. These powers were later dropped."

So there's an understandable reason for Dawn's initial excessive annoyingness.

For myself, the first time I saw this, I, too, was aggravated extremely by Dawn. (It might not have helped that, at the time, I actually had a 12-year-old sister...)

As time went on, though, I came to like her quite a lot. In general, I found her to be a pretty believable character. The first few episodes still grate on my nerves, but once the writing catches up to the final conception of the character, I don't have any problem with it.

Yes, she's annoying. She's a younger sister—she should be, what, 5 years younger than Buffy? She has an older sister whose shadow she is constantly in—but at home, she's Mom's pet, "the baby." She's kind of spoiled and starting to get a taste of not being the center of attention as she becomes more a part of Buffy's circle.

Annoying is completely believable here.

Linda345 said...

Our power was out much of last week. Much misery. Among other problems, I was prevented from commenting on the wonderful "Restless." I just want to say this, quickly: what sticks in my mind most following watching Restless is Willow's statement, "I never do anything naughty." Repressed much?

I was "restless" watching 5.1. I understood it was somehow important to revisit the ancient vampire legend, but I longed to get back to the Scooby gang. Immature of me, and I appreciate the commentaries here that help me understand "Buffy and Dracula."

As a newbie, my initial explanation of Dawn was, well, maybe Buffy spent the summer with her dad somewhere, Dawn was living with him, and Buffy brought her sister back with her. Funny she was never mentioned before, hmmmmm. Just as mysterious to me was the scene with those monks, and the green light. What was that all about? I did not connect the two events until the truth came out. That said, I liked that Dawn was there. I liked that she was a catalyst for the characters to express their nurturing sides.

I did not like to see Faith come around, but that was a good episode.

The importance of "The Replacement" was to further emphasize the theme that has been evident from the beginning. These people are in search of personal identity, starting from way back in high school, that essential time of identity angst, through young adulthood and, as with Giles, beyond. The idea that we are all complex, and happiest when we learn to accept the good and bad parts, is being reinforced throughout the series.

Dusk said...

Here's a video that is fitting for the week, and it's scary how close it is the the actual show!


Dusk said...

Oh, it won't link. Search on Youtube "Whose Line:Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Nikki Stafford said...

Lisa(until further notice): Dawn is sometimes like R2D2, but more annoying.

This just made me seriously laugh out loud. ;)

JS said...

When I first saw this, I felt the same way. Who is the annoying person and why are they all acting like it is perfectly normal that she is there and is part of the family? I thought we could have had a section in the book a la Nikki and Paulo --> Dawn: WHY?

Loved the campiness of Dracula and agree with Anya about 2 Xanders, for a little while anyway.

Next week has one of my ab favorite Scooby stories.

Blam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blam said...

I like Dawn. There, I said it. 8^)

And I meant it, too. I like her in concept — of which the newbies still only have the barest inkling — but also in execution as portrayed by Michelle Trachtenberg. I know that she had a rapport with Sarah Michelle Gellar from working together in the past, but where her presence really shines is in her interaction with the rest of the cast as the group's collective little sister. None of the other original Scoobies had siblings, which is actually mighty strange in real-life if not narrative terms; it's tempting to say that that's part of what drew them to one another, except that only Xander and Willow have been best friends since childhood, with Buffy coming in rather late by comparison and Cordelia being more of an accomplice (turned romantic/sexual foil) than a friend.

Of course I'm not blind to some folks' issues with Dawn, but for the most part I write them off as, well, growing pains likely unavoidable in taking a risk like this or as intentional plot and character bits. I also just don't think I'm bothered by some of the stuff that bothers other viewers — and, in other cases, the reverse is true. People like Riley, Deppula, and "Beer Bad"; I like Dawnie.

Yes, I'm not fond of the Dracula with the silky Johnny Depp hair that is neither short enough nor long enough. He bugs me so much that I actually wish he would appear again frequently only so that Buffy could immediately stake him, with Spike there every single time yelling "Ponce!"

Blam said...

WTF?!? Sorry for the extra post...

Cynthea: If only Dawn had been introduced in a different manner, if only she had done something to help me like her in "Real Me" or to understand why any of the Scoobies like her, I would have readily asserted that the idea of Dawn ... was one of the best plot devices of the series.

I can see this side of things. My introduction to Dawn is a little more like the one occurring in this Rewatch. While I did see the Buffy pilot when it aired and maybe a couple of episodes after that, I was very focused on my career and my limited TV plate was full (news, some baseball, Friends, NYPD Blue, Star Trek, X-Files, my wife's favorite shows). Only after I had a health crisis and started watching lots more television did I give in to my friends' mounting insistence that I watch Buffy — the tipping point being the insanely powerful episode to which Nikki alluded this week, which I saw totally by chance when it first ran on The WB both the first time and in repeats; I literally watched the entire series during the summer after Season 5 thanks to a friend's tape of the first few episodes, multiple airings daily on the cable channel FX, reruns of the past season on WB, and of course my overheating VCR. [Remember, kids: You can't watch TV without acronyms.]

The big problems with Dawn — which, again, I suspect are in large part inherent in her status as a "continuity implant" and more to the point one who was originally intended to be younger than the character ended up being — have to do with the following point made by Cynthea and echoed by many.

A sister of the Slayer, a resident of Sunnydale, a teenager with vampire acquaintances (not to mention the former Vengeance demon and practising witches with whom she hangs out) would not, could not have been sheltered from the pantheon of demons and other supernatural paraphernalia that are part and parcel of life in Sunnydale. Dawn may be new to us, but she is supposed to be Buffy’s fourteen-year-old sister. Fourteen!

Why then does she not have more Hellmouth street smarts?

You can only incorporate Dawn as always having always existed in Buffy's reality so well, and on the whole I think that the creative team did an admirable job. I won't argue that we really should be past the point of her being protected from this, not so much because that wouldn't be Buffy's and Joyce's and Giles's inclination but because for all the reasons Cynthea states she would unavoidably be inured to (or possibly almost terminally spooked by) this stuff already. The writers probably should have resisted the temptation to equate the new prism through which we saw the Sunnydale status quo via Dawn with that status quo being new to her; she was quite literally going to be wide-eyed about enough already — Willow and Tara's relationship, impending tragedies, her own burgeoning adolescence — that she could still have served her dual functions as both fresh perspective and... well, plot points that I can't mention... without having to be so innocent to the realities if not the inner workings of the supernaturalia.

VW: dicapers — 1. Two! Two! Two capers in one! 2. Absorbent undergarments worn by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Efthymia said...

I, too, am a younger sister, but I never acted like Dawn! I had my own life and friends and I didn't need to interfere with my sister's, which is probably part of why we are such good friends now. Both my sister and I have been annoying to one another at times, regardless of who was born first, and I wasn't excused or treated like the baby by our parents just because I came second. I dislike Dawn's behaviour being defended with the argument that she's the younger sister, because it's like saying that younger siblings are de facto annoying.

@EvaHart: I wouldn't say Spike is Draco, to me he's probably more Snape -although hotter and funnier.

Witness Aria said...

Buffy V. Dracula: Love NB's performance of Renfield. Glad I was right in seeing the resemblance to the Tod Browning version. And Giles is not leaving! Whew! I was so excited seeing the start of this season my first time through. So glad to see the characters again (I came into the series just as season 4 was released on DVD and didn't have cable for reruns. Had to wait for the season 5 DVDs forever!) Love the episode. Funny, witty, classic.

Real Me: I love Dawn. That's all I'll say. To me, her immaturity is explained by Buffy's point of view and the things we learn about her later. I love the way the episode is structured. I love getting a look at the Scoobies from an outside/not quite inside perspective. Love the shock of it. If you first-timers are thinking this is a cheat of some sort, don't. There's more to this story, and it makes season 5 brilliant.

Replacement: Pure comedy gold and great character development. "Kill us both, Spock!" And I love Riley in this. I like what happens to him in season 5 a lot actually. He seems more real to me this season.


Judgement: I like the opening scene a lot. The team has coalesced...almost. The rest of the plot was a bit hokey, but the idea of it was great. And this season seriously rocks. They have it figured out now, and they'll start playing around with all sorts of fun story and structure ideas.

AYNOHYEB: Speaking of...Love it. I remember the first time through being distracted by Angel's backstory. In the back of my mind, from what we learned in Buffy, I just assumed Angel had been living as a rat-eating vagrant ever since he got his soul back, and I was like, what? what? But it's true that there are a lot of years in there where we don't know what he went through, and Angel the series starts to fill in some of the gaps with stories far more awesome than alley/rat/garbage/brood/rinse/repeat, and this is the start. So good. Yay, Tim Minear!

First Impressions: Not so good in my mind, but Angel in a pink helmet. "Hop in board, gorgeous" FTW.

lyssiria said...

Maybe you'll all remember how I loathe Where The Wild Things Are; well my hatred of that episode PALES in comparison to my complete and utter hatred of Dawn. You'd think I'd be over it by now (also being on my umpteenth rewatch), but NO! According to my husband, it's because I AM Buffy and I identify with her so much better when she is an only child, the same as me. ...Maybe that's it, but I think it's because Dawn is JUST SO ANNOYING. However, it's an unfortunate truth that a lot of fourteen year old girls are woefully immature and would interrupt and break things and spill stuff and try to hide it, so THAT part of Michelle's performance in itself doesn't bother me. It's just that she is exactly what Buffy says 'a little idiot.' Clearly, she does NOT belong in Sunnydale. 'Course, my loathing might have something to do with the fact that she COMPLETELY ruins Buffy's training handstand, and doesn't even acknowledge that she's done something wrong. UGH.

@EvaHart - I think that Buffy really really WANTS to be able to have her sister be a peer rather than someone she has to protect. If Dawn would act more like an adult, Buffy could treat her more like one. Vicious cycle, that.

Blam said...

"Buffy vs. Dracula" is a very strange choice for season opener. I enjoy when TV shows and comics take a lighter, mostly self-contained detour — The X-Files, the Star Trek series, and Buffy are all good at it — but it's usually done as a breather between epics or a refreshing pause during an intense storyline; I'm not sure it works here on any other level than purely confounding expectations — which frankly is beneath Joss & Co., who admirably almost always invest real meaning in what could otherwise be stunts ("Hush"; the upcoming "Once More with Feeling") and further the plot even during experiments that belly-flop a bit ("Superstar"). Maybe if they'd nailed Dracula the episode's general disconnect would've just been an enjoyable goof, but it doesn't really work for me.

I do like a lot of the schtick that occurred, from Xander as Renfield to Giles's reluctance to leave the embrace of Dracula's Wives, a fact that just adds to the frustration that this could have been a near-classic episode with a different, better approach to Dracula himself.

And there was plenty of good dialogue. Its full humor doesn't translate in cold, hard text, but in context Buffy's "Xander... I'm pretty sure that's Dracula" is nearly laugh-out-loud funny itself just for the sheer absurdity of it. The jaunty, hyperaware dialogue and some early chintzy effects notwithstanding, Buffy has operated within its own fictional universe and only referenced others either as fodder for banter (from the generic of Buffy being a "superhero" to the specifics of "Scooby gang" and "Spidey-sense") or as a contextual contrast, giving us the way mummies, werewolves, patchwork men, and, yes, vampires quote-unquote "really" work in the Slayer's reality.

VW: pokyice — [poh kee iyss] n., slang 1. sharp frozen water, i.e., icicles 2. method of cooling down beverages in the slammer, the clink, the hoosegow, the gray-bar hotel

Blam said...

Speaking of nailing Dracula (and I did), one of my favorite exchanges not yet mentioned was...

Riley: "You're not just saying that because of those dark, penetrating eyes of his... Are you?"

Buffy: "No... His eyes were... There was no penetration."

To me that's actually funnier than Xander's "Dark Master... bator" line, because a double entendre is always best when it's unintentional or unavoidable if not both, although Xander's later "Unholy Prince... bator" is pretty danged clever in its very nonsensicality.

We've already seen Riley's jealousy spring up where Angel is concerned, and events in the first of next week's episodes will bring us even closer to a pivotal decision of Riley's that drives home not just his matter-of-fact, mildly heartbreaking revelation to Xander that he doesn't feel his love for Buffy is reciprocated — it might've been more than mild were this not Riley — but his difficulty, no matter how much he might want to accept it, in dealing with the fact that his girlfriend doesn't just fight supernatural creatures, she is one, and as Dracula says the source of her power does have a darkness in it.

I also like Joyce's remark to Tara and Willow, of whose relationship she's still ignorant, "Sometimes you just feel like giving up on men altogether" — as the gals share a sly smile and Willow, um, grinds away with her mortar and pestle.

Blam said...

Of course there was some major forwarding of the overall story at the very end of the episode, with the introduction of Dawn. In fact, her and Buffy's shared "Mo-o-om!!!" could be one of the most surprising, significant lines of dialogue uttered on the series.

I just can't help but wish that the writers had either pushed their Dracula further into the realm of goof (risky, to be sure) or embraced him as part of the Slayer-universe mythology — bringing him in line with the series' established lore or elaborating on how or why he was so different from your everyday vampire.

The hand-waving and lip service to it as "nothing but showy gypsy stuff" per Spike is a nice try but ultimately unsatisfying. A vampire who's actually learned magic — serious magic at that, given the number of creatures into which he can transform and his powerful hypnosis — is frankly a fascinating concept to explore. Maybe you can write off his ever-present fangs but never-present Klingon forehead as a parlor trick (even illusion) that he learned along the way. Coming back from a staking, though... Doesn't that bear some explanation? In much vampire lore, staking merely immobilized the creatures so that beheading could be performed more readily, beheading being the only real way (other then immolation, perhaps) to definitively kill them; removing a stake could actually revive a vampire to its living, or at least undead, state. Yet in most modern stories, including TV takes from Buffy to The Vampire Diaries to True Blood, staking brings what on True Blood is called "the true death" —

— unless you're Wolfram & Hart and you have access to some very powerful mojo that's beginning to wreak havoc on the Slayer's former flame over on Angel.

VW: Booso — Casper's favorite clown

Blam said...

I've already given my opinion on Dawn, so I don't know how much there is to say about "Real Me" beyond repeating some choice lines.

Dawn: "I'm telling Mom that you slayed in front of me."

B: "How bored were you last year?"
G: "I watched Passions with Spike. Let us never speak of it."

Dawn: "[Tara] and Willow are both witches. They do spells and stuff, which is so much cooler than slaying. I told Mom one time I wished they'd teach me some of the things they do together... A-and then she got really quiet and made me go upstairs. Huh. I guess her generation isn't cool with witchcraft."

I suppose, given that last quote, Joyce isn't actually ignorant of Willow and Tara's relationship like I said earlier; she just must not have been thinking about it.

For me the first quote above encapsulates much of the potential in Dawn. Joss Whedon and his merry gang are excellent at the complex plots, the sexy talk, and other stuff of an adult nature, light and dark, but they and Joss himself in particular are also uncommonly good at reflecting real innocence and the turbulent period of adolescence during which aspects of it, at least, begin to get lost. I still think that complaints about Dawn's naivete over the supernatural are valid — although I don't think it's yet been revealed whether she's been in Sunnydale as long as her mother and sister have or how long she's known about Buffy being the Slayer — but there's a lot to mine in a 14-year-old girl's perspective on all this, again even aside from (he said, portentously) what she might actually be.

The way her thumb-wrestling match with Tara was scripted, acted, and framed is a golden moment.

And yay for Giles taking over The Magic Box, as well as Buffy's rededication to her training with Giles as her Watcher! It's not just satisfying for viewers who root for their relationship — and for the gang as a whole to have a nexus of congregation — but it will serve many plots well.

Blam said...

"The Replacement" is lots of fun and has plenty of choice dialogue — but, then, this is Buffy, so of course it does. Willow bursting into Giles's place, prompting him to exasperatedly say "I swear this time I know I had that locked" is one great line. Buffy's "Okay, Xander... s" in the final act is another.

You can tell Kelly and Nick apart, by the way. Kelly's nose and the rounding of his face is a bit "off" for Xander (which is to say, Nicholas). While Kelly is mostly Confident Xander when the pair is together in the new apartment, they switch a lot in the later scenes in the magic shop depending on which one's talking — Nick delivering most of the dialogue while Kelly just reacts dressed as whichever Xander is the Xander mostly not talking.

So while it's awesome that Nick had an identical twin to use for a split-in-two episode, the problem (for me, anyway) becomes that looking for the camera tricks is replaced by looking for which one, if either, is Kelly instead of Nick.

On to comments on Angel and, if I have time, on other comments... 8^)

VW: pedize — [peh dyz] v. deny someone a ride

Blam said...

Season One of Angel had some very rewarding episodes, in terms of both stand-alone entertainment and significance to the larger Buffy mythology ("I Will Remember You" early on; "Sanctuary" later). The series has already kicked things up a notch just one disc's worth into Season Two, however.

I'd love to have been introduced to Lorne through his first appearance in "Judgment", Season Two's opener. Unfortunately, I hadn't started watching the series quite yet, so as I've said before these early episodes are a sort of "how they came together" prequel story to me.

While the episode catches flak for not fleshing out the story of the woman whose protector Angel slew and thus as whose champion Angel thus feels obligated to serve – and, yeah, she should have spoken up during the fight before Angel killed the guy — that whole plot is really just a MacGuffin to reinforce both that Angel has not just a purpose but a potential reward (as indicated by the scroll in "To Shanshu in LA") and that, beyond the reach of a Hellmouth at least, "evil" is not necessarily a standard setting in the shadow society of demons that still populates the world. Given the time it takes on screen and the big joust/tribunal set piece, it's hardly as incidental as the yet-another-apocalypse scenes in "The Zeppo", but to me the lack of details concerning the woman's child or those enthroned creatures to whom she's appealing drives home Angel's own confusion and realization that there are many, varied, and powerful forces at work. Of course, I can't help but wonder, the more I see of the demon population in Los Angeles, who's off fighting the good fight around the rest of the globe.

The opening scenes are fun in their depiction of the gang (well, trio) having sharpened up into a reasonably well-oiled, accomplished if still farily ragtag fighting force — with, as Cordelia notes, still frustratingly vague visions — in the month we're told has elapsed since the previous season. And the coda with Angel visiting Faith in prison provides nice continuity; that scene alone is worth Buffy-only viewers checking this episode out, although both Angel and David Boreanaz (as he, um, vamps over the closing credits) singing "Mandy" are the real clincher.

Blam said...

I also wanted to mention, before knocking off for the night, that the look of Buffy and even the newer Angel both seem to really take a leap forward in Seasons Five and Two, respectively. Season Five of Buffy on looks much crisper, and the rising of the tribunal in "Judgment" (as well as Angel's general makeup and creature effects) is leagues ahead of the visuals of early Buffy.

kluu said...

Reading in another comment that they had first expected and so written the beginning episodes where Dawn appears for a 10 year old explains a lot to me. If this is true, if they had cast a ten or 11 year old, then the problems I had with the first few appearances of Dawn would not have arose.

The problem I see based on this new information is not Michelle, whom I personally love, or even how Dawn acts but in that they had written Dawn to be 10 not 14.

I believe that after a few episodes they correct this and though she is still annoying she is at least more age appropriately written.