FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - No Place Like Home
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy has a sister now, though she doesn't realise that she isn't supposed to have one. Riley's going full douchebag and Spike has fallen in love with Buffy.
It's the new and improved Magic Box's grand opening for Giles, but Buffy's a little distracted. Joyce is still suffering from her headaches and Dawn is intensely, intensely irritating, while Riley isn't coping so well with being GI-less Joe. Whilst out on a routine patrol, Buffy meets a security guard near a warehouse; he thinks she's a raver and gives her a mysterious glowing orb that's obviously something magical. Later, the same security guard has been driven mad and rants to Buffy that something is coming for her family. She uses a magical trancey thing to see if it is what is making Joyce ill, but instead, it reveals that her little sister is not of this world. And that's all before she meets Glory, a powerful woman intent on finding the Key, known as Dawn to us.
There's plenty to talk about for this episode, but there's just one thing I really need to get off my chest first... God, Dawn is awful here, isn't she? Flat out rude, self-involved, immature brat awful. No wonder Buffy throws her against a wall as soon as she thinks the little cow might be a bad guy. Phew. Feel better now.
Of course, she isn't the evil one, but the episode does a nice little feint when Joyce returns home and Dawn makes perhaps one of the most sinister cups of tea in the history of Buffy, a traditionally tea-positive place. Trachtenberg really sells the sugar-coated terror for a second before we find out that it isn't Dawn, but Glory who will be the season's Big Bad. And what an entrance. Glory's always been one of my favourite Buffy villains because she functions as a sort of Bizarro Buffy, one who not only went full Cordelia, but full Angelus too, with a dash of godly powers mixed in. It helps that you've got the perfect person to embody her in Clare Kramer, who is a riot whenever she's onscreen.
Doing a lot of emotional work in this episode though is Buffy herself. Gellar is brilliant here, selling Buffy's determination to find something to fight in lieu of being able to do anything about Joyce's as yet mystery illness. Those scenes where she is trying desperately to make sense of it all are heartbreaking, particularly with the knowledge of what is going to occur in future. She also excels in the scene where she discovers that her memories have been tampered with as well as her life entire. She doesn't do much, but the pain of realising the lie is written across her face, echoed again in the scene where she tries to apologise to Dawn.
With the A narrative handling some fairly hefty plot and character development, it's left to Giles in the Magic Shop to provide some light relief. It's a dangerous practice, selling magical wares in Sunnydale, but I think even Giles is surprised to find out just how popular the shop can be. I also enjoy Anya trying to get to grips with working in retail. As a former checkout girl myself, nothing makes me laugh more in this episode (aside from Spike) than Anya saying "please go" to a paying customer. And speaking of Spike, James Marsters manages to appear in one scene and practically steal the whole episode by creating an iconic character moment.
It's a big one in terms of the season, this fifth episode and though it races by, No Place Like Home packs a lot in for its runtime without ever feeling like it's flinging too much at you. Apart from Spike's little moment and the arrival of Glory, most scenes are fairly subtle, building up to that trippy reveal and Buffy's first clash with a god (though she doesn't know it yet).
Quote of the Week:
Buffy: What are you doing here?
Buffy: Five words or less.
Spike: Out. For. A. Walk... Bitch.
Let's Get Trivial: During her torture session, Glory says 'someone sits on a tuffet' - Dawn has been referred to as Little Miss Muffet in various episodes, particularly by Faith in her shared dream with Buffy, and earlier this season, when the homeless man calls her 'curds and whey'.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Clare Kramer marks the third Bring It On star to appear in Buffy following on from Nicole Bilderback and, of course, Faith herself, Eliza Dushku.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Out of My Mind, here.