Episode Title: Real Me
Original Air Date: October 3rd 2000
“You’d think a Slayer’s house would have more weapons!” – Anya
One of the issues for any long running series is how to bring new viewers in when your already deep into the series length let alone how you can grab them without them having to play catch up ib the previous four seasons. This issue however is something that the show runners perhaps unwittingly manage to do with this episode shot from the prospective of Dawn.
Dawn as know suddenly showed up at the end of the previous episode with little warning and even less explanation as to where she had been hiding all this time we’d been thinking that Buffy was an only child. Okay there are no doubt some members of the fanbase who will point to the hints given during Faith’s coma dream sequences in the previous season which hinted at the arrival of “Little Sister” but honestly I don’t know anyone who picked up on these hints during the original run making it only the more baffling how Buffy had gained a younger sister. While the go to thought regarding the sudden appearance of her character is to put it down to writers wanting to boost ratings by introducing a new character, Dawn thankfully is a lot more developed and less of a throwaway character than we first expect her to be and more so as the season progresses and the gaps in her backstory are gradually filled in.
Shooting the episode from Dawns perspective as she narrates from her journal it provides an alternative starting point for the new fan. Here characters are introduced while for the established fan we get to see their relationship to Dawn while getting more of an idea about her character with Willow referring to her as her “Favourite Chess Partner” while her own comment about “cracking open a book” when her Harry Potter reference falls flat only further highlights that like Willow she is smart for her age. At the same time though Michelle Trachtenberg truly makes this character her own from the first frame, making it little surprise that they boosted her character’s age from 12 to 15 to allow Trachtenberg to play here, even though she had really won the role after she wrote to Joss Whedon as a fan of the show outlining how she could be written onto the show.
Dawn’s mysterious background while perhaps not gone into too deep here, does get teased in a great scene where when talking about Xander she says that “He’s see her for who she really is” the music swelling as we expect the answers to be revealled only for her to suddenly pull the rug out from under out feet by finishing her sentence with “A mature young woman”.
Outside of the mystery surrounding Dawn’s sudden appearance in the lives of Buffy and the Scoobies whose group name I couldn’t help but feel someone was trying to change into being called “The Slayer Circle” when Tara questions her position in the group…thankfully that one didn’t stick. Still here we do get some big changes for the group as Giles takes over “The Magic Box” after the previous owner comes down with a nasty case of DEATH! This store finally gives the group a much needed central location which they were certainly lacking throughout Season 4.
This episode also sees the return of Harmony who has in the time since we saw her last formed her own gang, while much like Evil Ed in “Fright Night” she really has become such a better character since she got turned into a Vampire and here she only continues to grow as she brings the right combination of evil and sheer uselessness that makes her such a fun presence especially when she is berating her minions and continually fails in her attempts to be Sunnydale’s top vampire.
Throughout this is a fun episode and in many ways feels like the show is being freshen up after the hit and miss elements of the forth season. At the same time a seemingly crazy man freaking Dawn out is only a hint of what’s to come in the season ahead.
Next episode: The Replacement