Tuesday, 3 July 2012
BUFFY 5.2: REAL ME
WRITER: David Fury
DIRECTOR: David Grossman
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
About to go off on a days training session with Giles, Buffy gets burdened by her mom with taking her little sister, Dawn, with her. To say that Dawn is an annoyance to the Buffster would be a wild understatement. Young Dawnie hates having to tag along with Buffy too, finding her older sister equally as annoying and frustrating; hating that Buffy is seen as being so special. Ironically Buffy sees Dawn the same way, for being ‘the baby’ and getting special treatment from everyone, especially their mother. Anyway, the gang stumble upon the murdered owner of the Magic Box shop and Dawn has a run in with a freaky man who tells her she doesn’t belong. It soon transpires that good old Harmony, vamped at the end of season 3, is back in the ‘dale and putting her own vampire gang together with one single aim: kill the Slayer. Problem is Harmony is kinda rubbish at being evil. But a trip to Buffy’s house sees her accidentally invited in by Dawn, which goes and unleashes Buffy’s fury on her lil sis. Later on, Dawn, upset at being belittled by her sister runs off…only to be kidnapped by Harm and her gang. It’s left to Buffy to track down Harm’s lair and save her lil sis before she becomes an undead all you can buffet.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
The title ‘Real Me’ refers to both Dawn and Harmony and how they think the world doesn’t see who they really are. Dawn is frustrated at being ‘the baby’ and always being in the shadow of her big sister. A large part of this episode is told from Dawn’s pov using her voiceover delivered diary entries where she vents her frustrations. Harm, meanwhile, is back to prove a point. She is still angry about how Spike treated her last season and is looking to unleash the badass within, to show him “the real me”. Dawn’s excuse is she is going through the usual teenage angst thing where the whole world is against her and everything is so unfair. The irony being we will soon find out that she is actually more than she seems. Unfortunately for poor Harmony she really is what she seems, no matter how hard she tries not to be. She’s trying to be a big bad. But she’s not. She’s still the same shallow, ditsy girl who’s not exactly blessed with a great deal upstairs. And of course the Buffster kicks her ass, though (thankfully) she does live to bite another day.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
Well, I guess its Harm. And possibly her ‘minions’, though they never pose any real threat. Some (unkindly) would say Dawnie was the real horror here. But not me. I always liked Dawn, even when she was being whiney and angsty. Like Willow, I kinda identified with her because, as the red head Wiccan says, “She’s a bit of a spaz.”
WHY IT ROCKS
Michelle Trachtenberg. Michelle plays young Dawn and I think she does a great job. Yes, she can be whiney and brattish, but that’s what the character demands. That’s what kids can be like. And some adults too. But Michelle always made Dawn sympathetic and turned in strong performances.
Harmony. Mercedes McNab plays the shallow, ditsy, rather vacuous vampire almost too well. Harm is hilarious, especially when she’s trying to be a badass. She’s not scary, just kinda pathetically cute. No matter what she does, how bad she tries to be, you always feel sorry for her. She engenders so much empathy for an ‘evil’ character. It’s a testament to Joss and to the casting people that they found these excellent supporting players who could capture the characters essences as well as the show’s odd and offbeat tone with so much apparent ease.
Giles and his new car. Yep, Giles has gone and got himself a red convertible sports car, though he doesn’t seem to be getting along with it too well. The scene with Giles, Buffy and Dawn in Giles’ car on their way to the Magic Box is very good and very funny. The easy chemistry between Tony Head and SMG is charming as she teases him about his new sporty acquisition.
Xander, Anya and Dawn playing The Game of Life…and Anya realising she is winning…and then gleefully offering to swap her children for more money. Heh. Once more Emma Caulfield proves how damn funny she is.
WHY IT SUCKS
Buffy hates Dawnie. I know this is all about setting up the relationship and raising the stakes for what Buffy will have to do and what she’ll eventually have to give up later in the season, but her continual ragging on poor Dawnie borders on outright bullying. She seems to almost take gleeful pleasure in putting the kid down every chance she gets. It’s an aspect of Buff’s character you can easily not like. Yes, Dawnie can be annoying. But she IS just a kid. She IS gonna mess up. But when she’s treated with respect and affection she comes across as perfectly sweet. It’s great to see here the obviously close relationship she has with Willow, seeing Willow as more of a big sister than her actual big sister. This is a relationship which will carry on right through the series and in to the comics.
Though pretty funny and providing a decent introduction to young Dawn as well as introducing a couple of tiny clues to the bigger season plot, ‘Real Me’ is a rather limp story. I like Harmony but she provides no real threat or menace. And neither do her minions. And the episode doesn’t really amount to much in the end.
I think I’ll go for The Game of Life scene. Anya is so damn funny when she realises she’s winning and Dawnie is sweet as she gazes dreamily at Xander, hoping he’ll see her as a woman, while in fact Xander sees her as she truly is: a cute little kid with ice cream all over her mouth.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Giles (angrily, gears crunching): Just not used to automatic transmission. I loathe this just sitting here, not contributing. No, no, no, it's just not working out.
Buffy: Giles, are you breaking up with your car?
Giles: Well, it did seduce me. All red and sporty.
Buffy: Little two-door tramp.
Anya: Crap! Look at this. Now I'm burdened with a husband, and several tiny pink children, more cash than I can reasonably manage.
Xander: That means you're winning.
Xander: Yes, cash equals good.
Anya: Ooh, I'm so pleased! (claps happily) Can I trade in the children for more cash?
Buffy: No, but, see, Mom, that doesn't really work for me. We're just going to the magic shop, no school supplies there.
Dawn: Yeah, Mom. I'm not going to Hogwarts. (chuckles) Hog— (looks at Buffy, who's not amused) Jeez, crack a book sometime.
Dawn (voice-over): I don't think Buffy's Watcher likes me too much. I think its 'cause he's just so... old. I'm not sure how old he is, but I've heard him use the word "newfangled" one time, so he's got to be pretty far gone.
Dawn (voice-over): Like Tara. She and Willow are both witches. They do spells and stuff, which is so much cooler than slaying. I told Mom one time I wish they'd teach me some of the things they do together. And then she got really quiet and made me go upstairs. Huh, I guess her generation isn't cool with witchcraft.
Buffy: How bored were you last year?
Giles: I watched Passions with Spike. Let us never speak of it.
AND ANOTHER THING
Michelle Trachtenberg and Sarah Michelle Gellar were friends before Michelle joined Buffy. It was SMG who suggested Michelle for the role of Dawn as they’d worked together before on the daytime soap All My Children and had become quite close. So there was already a big sister/little sister thing going on. They’ve remained friends since.
Michelle Trachtenberg was a massive fan of the show before being cast as Dawn. She’d said joining Buffy was like a dream come true.
Harmony’s minion Cyrus is played by Tom Lenk Tom went on to play uber nerd Andrew in Buffy seasons six and seven and a couple of episodes of Angel season five. He also has a role in Joss and Drew Goddard’s 2012 movie The Cabin in the Woods.
HOW MANY STAKES?
Lay off the kid, Buff. 3 (out of 5)