FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Real Me
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy has a sister. What?!
Dawn, Buffy's sister, is causing a few problems for the Slayer as she needs taking care of, seemingly full time given her habit of getting into mischief. When the gang head to the Magic Shop for supplies, Willow quite literally falls over the dead body of the owner. It's a vamp attack, announcing a new squad in town who are researching the Slayer and have a fondness for ceramic unicorns. Yes, Harmony's back in town and she wants a showdown with Buffy, but is thwarted when the Slayer happens to be on a date when Harmony calls for her. Dawn, being Dawn, inadvertently invites her in and the vamp returns later to kidnap the sister and lure Buffy into a trap.
So, Dawn's arrived. I'm going to get the negative stuff out of the way first because, Dawn aside, this episode is a joy. The new little sister? Not so much. God, Dawn's narration is horrible. Just gratingly irritating. And I think it jars so much because, at this stage, it feels like such a caricature of how a teen girl speaks, which is something the show has never done. The teenage characters of Buffy, Willow and Xander never fell into that trap of feeling cliched or sketched. Even Cordelia had layers.
Real Me is not the best first impression of the character we could have had, though I know it's the sibling relationship that they clearly needed to set up. It just feels clumsy given how much of a mystery Dawn still is.
Which brings me nicely on to the positive aspect about Dawn; the writers have just dropped her in there. She got a few seconds in the last episode and now everyone in the show is acting like she's always been there. It's a clever, brave move and instantly gets the audience speculating about where this annoying, diary-writing teen has come from. There's not much of a hint to what she is here, just that she will become something, but the encounter with the mad, homeless man offers up a neat callback to Faith's prophecy of Dawn's arrival back in Graduation Day. He calls her "Curds and whey," referencing "Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 7-3-0."
Positives for the rest of the episode are numerous and mainly revolve around how hilarious it is. From Giles' brand new, shiny red penis car to Buffy's reaction to finding out that Harmony has minions. And then there's Harmony herself. I love that Harmony's plans seem to be taken from the ideas whiteboard of a crappy Bond villain, that she's got the management skills of Michael Scott and the villainous presence of a poodle. Mercedes McNab's comic timing is spectacular here and her sparring with Sarah Michelle Gellar ranks amongst the funniest of Buffy's exchanges with villains.
We also have the second big plot development of the fifth season as Giles decides to buy the Magic Shop, despite Buffy's understandable concern that Magic Shop owners have a very limited shelf life. The fourth season did suffer from having a particular location that the Scoobies could be based out of; Giles' place is lovely, but I always got the impression that everything was a bit cramped in there. Now, we'll have the Magic Shop, a nice training room for Buffy and plenty of magical items for hijinks.
Thankfully, there is enough about Real Me to love in the face of the annoyingly whiny teenager plonked into the middle of it. I understand why they drop Dawn into the midst of everything so equally, and why they do make her so irritating, but boy is it a culture shock.
Quote of the Week:
Harmony: So Slayer! At last we meet.
Buffy: We've met, Harmony, you halfwit.
Inventive Kill: Buffy slays Mort with a unicorn horn. Cabin in the Woods, eat your heart out. Um, not literally.
Let's Get Trivial: Michelle Trachtenberg's updated status from her first appearance in the show to series regular is the fastest in the series' history, appearing in just one episode before promotion. The show will now set the record for highest number of main cast members (8) until Riley leaves in Into The Woods.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Tom Lenk, who plays a Harmony minion, will return next season to play Tucker's brother... I mean, Andrew.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Buffy vs. Dracula, here.