Ever since the end of season two, it's felt like Buffy has been desperately groping for some real point with no success. I enjoyed seasons three and four, but they didn't have the same relevance and emotional depth as season two. If I had been watching the show on the air, I would've been frustrated by its lack of meaty plot. Luckily, everyone I know loves seasons five-seven, so I knew there was hope for me. If I thought season two was the end of all encompasing season mastery, I was wrong. Season five is when Buffy starts to feel like it's moving again.
From the season opener, you can tell this season is going to challenge Buffy as a character, and it does. I complained in my season four review that the past two antagonists didn't have the same emotional baggage that the Big Bads of seasons one and two had. Season five changes that, and it's the first time in ages that Buffy seems genuinely scared of an antagonist. The Big Bad of the season is fun, mysterious, and darker than more recent ones. This made me feel as if important things were really at stake, and being reacquainted with that anxiety was delightful. It showed me Whedon had more up his sleeve.
I'm not a big fan of the new character of Dawn. Her personality is dull, obnoxious and irrationally stupid in a way that is accurate for her age. That makes it even more irritating. However, she reveals a different side of Buffy. Viewers have often seen Buffy being protective of those in need from episode to episode, and taking too much responsibility on amongst her equal friends over seasons. Dawn provided the great opportunity for Buffy's protection to seem like a healthy, necessary responsibility, as she was not Buffy's equal. Seeing that side of Buffy made me love her even more amidst her heartbreak.
As for regular characters, relationships deepen and the Scooby Gang seems to finally begin emerging into true adulthood. Xander is officially not annoying, and his dynamic with Anya is sweet and perfect for his character. I can't get enough of Willow and Tara. I've been very curious and confused by Spike's supposed personality progression, but now I see it, and I love what the writers did with him. Fool for Love is absolutely spot on in showing his change of heart, and its dark edge was an indicator of things to come.
Overall, it's a great season, and it excites me to know the show is finally going somewhere with its plot, rather than just characterization and episodic formatting. The Gift will make me cry for many years to come. At this rate, I'm definitely going to need a Buffy box set to get me through bad times.
Favourite episodes: I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favourites. A lot of fabulous tones are utilized in this season, and I can't choose between the different styles. Family created a huge amount of emotional resonance for me and represented the strong ties of The Scooby Gang. The Body played with a different style and completely embodied feelings of grief. Both of these are Whedon's masterful creations - if for completely different reasons. However, I'm also partial to the dark, touching tones of Fool for Love, the psychological spin of The Weight of the World, the sentimental feelings produced from Tough Love, and the heroic, perfect finale The Gift. Okay, I might have just referenced practically a third of the entire season. But I can't help loving the characterization and plotting of this season.
Least favourite episodes: The Real Me was irritating, if only for my confusion and general dislike of Dawn. Listening to Fear was neither campy enough nor dramatic enough to hold my attention. I wanted to be more emotionally affected by Spiral. Overall, not too bad for the season. There was no episode I really despised, and most of the campy elements were fun rather than impossible to enjoy and ridiculous.