Thursday, July 19, 2012

Buffy Season 5 Rewatch

A few months ago I discovered the website Mark Watches. Mark is a guy (duh) who somehow missed watching a lot of the sci-fi and fantasy shows that we all loved growing up: Buffy, X-Files, etc. So he decided to start a website where he would watch complete runs of tv shows and blog about every episode. For the past few months, he's been working his way through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, watching them as they aired tag-team after one another.

What can I say, he inspired me! It's no secret that Buffy is my favorite series of all time, but it's actually been a while since I went back and visited our Sunnydale crew. Rather than doing a complete Buffy rewatch (I know several people who have tried this, but got burned out somewhere around season 3) I decided to start nearer the end with the episodes I haven't seen as many times. So Season 5 it is!

While watching the episodes there were a lot of thoughts swirling in my mind; I was trying to remember what I thought and felt the first time I saw them, but was also responding to the show as someone who knows where the series is headed. I had also recently read Mark's posts about each episode. He talked a lot about the process of his coming out and bullying (in the context of Willow and Tara's relationship) and also the death of his father and mother's battle with cancer (in response to Joyce Summers' illness).

When Season 5 originally aired I remember hearing a lot of chatter about how people found Dawn annoying and whiny and thought Glory was a bad villain portrayed by a terrible actress. I don't remember having that reaction at all; I know I was shocked by the appearance of Dawn, but never had the negative reaction to her that seemed prevalent in the fandom. I also thought Glory was fascinating. She was a God trapped in the body of a valley girl (trapped in the body of a 20-something dude). It was like Joss was taking the joke of Buffy even further--on the exterior she was your typical helpless female, but then BAM she has the power of a God.

"You're just a mortal; you couldn't understand my pain."
"I guess I'll have to settle with causing it."

Upon rewatch, when I had the benefit of seeing every episode back to back without commercials, I was blown away with the elegant structure of season 5. Every episode progressed the mystery of Glory, doling out clues as to her identify and ultimate endgame. The Scoobies all struggled to fit in to a more adult world and I think that's why I reconnected with season 5 so strongly. It's all about belonging and becoming an adult. Even more than season 4 (when Buffy had to face the challenges of college), season 5 was about responsibility, becoming the person that you choose to be, and how hard it is to just live in the world. I'm no spring chicken anymore and while I remember how hard it is to be in high school, the challenges of the adult world are what really resonate with me now.

And my god, some of the episodes in Season 5 are the best in the series. The Body, which was the most ambitious episode until Once More With Feeling, was one that I actually regretted rewatching. It made me want to cry, hug my Mom, and I was shocked how unprepared I was for it...even though I had seen it before. The season opener, Buffy vs. Dracula is another one of my favorites, twisting the classic tale in typical Buffy fashion. And let's not forget Fool For Love, where the origins of Spike are finally revealed and we learn how he killed two slayers.

Spike, your hair in the 70s certainly was....effulgent.

And let's talk about The Gift. After a "vision quest" earlier in the season where she encounters the First Slayer, Buffy learns that death is her gift. At first she rejects this idea, thinking it means that she brings death to people....until the season finale when she realized that through her own death she gifts life. So many moments from this episode are stellar. The opening sequence where Buffy saves a random dude in the alley from a vampire who doesn't recognize her, Anya suggesting they use the troll hammer against Glory, Willow recovering Tara's mind, the Buffybot!, the battle on the scaffolding between Buffy and Glory, Joel Grey's blood-letting of Dawn, and Buffy's final monologue--her message to Dawn to And the final moments where the faces of all of the Scoobies, even Spike, show the devastation and the extent of their loss with the death of Buffy. Just remembering it is giving me goose-bumps.

"Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will *always* love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."

So whether you have the DVDs, stream it on Netflix, or watch the reruns on LOGO, I suggest that you revisit season 5 And if you haven't watched any Buffy before....remind me why we are friends?

PS: Mark also has another cool website called Mark Reads where he reads popular series like Harry Potter, Song of Ice and Fire, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.

1 comment:

Clovis said...

i loved season five. it's a toss up between that and season three for which one is my favorite. i think because both of them are really about growing up and leaving old things behind and about how that can be both painful and good at the same time. also because "The Body" is one of the most effecting hours of television ever.

also, i liked Dawn in season five because she was part of the plot. she had a reason for being there. it's season six where she gets annoying and then she pretty much redeems herself again in season seven.