Episode Title: Family
Original Air Date: November 7th 2000
“You’re in a magic shop, and you can’t think what Tara would like. I think you’re both profoundly stupid.” – Giles
Its funny to think that we’ve now had Tara in our lives for quite awhile now and she’s never had the focus instead relegated to the background and general arm candy for Willow, while the projected an almost permanent aura of being the series pixie dream girl. Thankfully someone decided it was time to fill in some major holes in her backstory as here we get the first (and sadly last) Tara-centric plotline.
Despite constantly being in a state of permanent chill (read of that what you want) this week we find Tara far from herself despite her birthday approaching and the Scoobies much like the audience realising that they don’t exactly know anything about her and hence decide to throw her a birthday party. Unfortunately Tara’s family have decided to pay her a surprise visit while threatening to reveal a secret she’s been hiding from the group.
Opening with one of the more irritating Willow moments of all time, which made me all so glad that I don’t keep sharp objects / loaded firearms nearby as Tara regales her with a childish tale she’s made up about their cat Miss Kitty Fantastico. I’m sure this scene was meant to be cute, but boy did this serve to remind us how far Willow has fallen as a character as she’s gone from the cute bashful sidekick to Buffy-lite as her magical abilities have increased with Season 4 perhaps marking the start of this decline, which is only the more apparent here. Still what this scene does outline though Tara’s desire to match Willows magic abilities though the exact reason much like a lot of her personal magic use is never explained, though we do finally get to learn here why she sabotaged the demon finding spell in the previous season.
The main meat of the story surrounding Tara and the sudden appearance of her brother, father and cousin is well played out as we learn that Tara believes she is of demonic heritage and like all the women in her family she will turn evil when she becomes and adult as they force her to return home. In a twist similar to those we’d come to expect from the more mature “Angel” spin-off its of course a load of toss spun by the men of her family to keep the women in line, though the how is left unclear. Still it does gives us the great line from Spike which perfectly encapsulates the moment when he tells Tara’s father
“That’s just a family legend, am I right?….Just a bit of spin to keep the ladies in line….Oh, you’re a piece of work. I like you.”
Spike and his chip equally come in handy by proving any doubters wrong as he purposely shocks himself by punching Tara. Spike meanwhile has his own issues to deal with in the episode as he continues his obsession with Buffy, which this week materialises as a fantasy of him fighting Buffy which suddenly cuts at its climax to whole other climax as we see him in bed with Harmony which kinda says a lot about him.
The family angle of course isn’t just limited to Tara and her family, but also to Buffy who is still struggling with how to handle the truth about Dawn, a situation which unintentionally causes her further issues with Riley, who once more goes into his dark side as we see him drinking his issues away in Willy’s bar. Its always interesting to see him getting to play more than the good guy, but these scenes in the bar really didn’t give us anything apart from emphasising the issues in his relationship with Buffy.
Another fun episode which rounds out Tara’s character with a few details and without feeling the need to get into anything overly heavy or dark. Yes its true there are still some issues throughout especially when we don’t know what happened to Tara’s mother whose notably absent and replaced bizarrely by her cousin. Its really just a shame that they never felt the urge to explore Tara’s character more and give her more episodes to head up but atleast with this sole episode she does get we are finally left with her fully brought into the group.
Next Episode: Fool For Love