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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season

Considered by many Buffyphiles to be the last really good season before sliding into preposterous nonsense, Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Those familiar with the phrase "jumping the shark" will recognize that Buffy made that leap at the beginning of the season with the very first episode, "Buffy vs. Dracula." The premise was rather stupid — the Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar) goes mano a mano with the most famous of all vamps, who just happens to be passing through Sunnydale. But the ep offered a few fine moments, most of them provided by Nicholas Brendan as Xander, who succumbs, Renfield-like, to Drac's hypnotic charms and becomes — in Xander's words — the vampire's "spider-eating man-bitch." The actual shark-jumping, however, came at the end of the episode when Buffy, heading off to go to the movies with boyfriend/load Riley (Marc Blucas) is told by her mother to take her sister — who had never existed before. Like the moment Fonzie strapped on those water-skis, this is where Joss Whedon and his fellow Buffy handlers let slip just how bankrupt of inspiration they'd become — they resorted to the classic (and never successful) "bring in a cute, bratty kid" solution. The season continued onward, explaining Dawn's (Michelle Trachtenberg) sudden appearance with the plot construct that she was a mysterious "Key" of some sort, created by a mysterious cult of monks and mysteriously attached to Buffy who would protect the mysterious Key from the mysterious baddies who were after it. Many questions arise, of course, from this plot arc — for instance, if you're trying to protect something exceedingly valuable and you can manipulate space, time, and mass, why make the valuable something into a willful, whiny, always-getting-into-danger teenage girl? Why not an enormous boulder, or an office building, or even a lamp? You know … something that can't be killed? Interwoven throughout the season with this inane development was Giles' (Anthony Stewart Head) contemplating a return to England; Buffy's mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) falling victim to sudden headaches and dizzy spells; Riley succumbing to dark desires in a last-ditch attempt by the writers to make the character interesting; Spike (James Marsters) becoming more and more fixated on Buffy; and the growth of both Willow's (Alyson Hanigan) powers as a witch and her relationship with Tara (Amber Benson).

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Season highlights included "The Replacement," with Xander being split into two identical looking (but very different) entities; "Family," where Tara's family comes to visit and secrets about her past are revealed; "Fool for Love," a Spike flashback episode custom-made for Marsters fans; "Triangle," in which a squabbling Willow and Anya (Emma Caulfield) accidentally summon an enormous troll named Olaf (Abraham Benrubi); the double-whammy of "I Was Made to Love You" and "Intervention," with the Scoobies first tangling with an out-of-control robot-girlfriend and then finding themselves confused by Spike's relationship with his own custom Buffybot; and "The Body" — one of the best episodes in the show's entire run — a poignant depiction of the crippling effects of grief. With all that was good in the season combined with the awful Dawn/Key plot-arc, it was a schizoid season with as much cringe-inducing badness as embraceable goodness. And it was the last gasp of a great show, before what has come to be known by fans as "Season Sux." The folks at Fox present Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season with the same attention to detail and desires of the fans as with previous sets — the full-screen (1.33:1) transfers of the 22 episodes are excellent, with crisp, rich detail even in the darkest scenes, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (in English, Spanish or French with optional English or Spanish subtitles) is superb. Extras include a Season Five overview, commentary by writers/directors on "Real Me," "Fool For Love," "I Was Made to Love You," and "The Body"; scripts for "The Replacement," "Fool for Love," "Into the Woods," and '"Checkpoint"; seven featurettes focusing on casting, stunts, the season's stories, demons and, yes, Dawn; deleted scenes; a still gallery; an interactive trailer for the video game; and a DVD-ROM "Demon Guide." Folding DVD digipak in paperboard slip-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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