Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Real Me

Summary

Buffy is training with Giles, working on her concentration. Dawn disturbs them, frustrating them both. We cut to breakfast at the slayer's house. Dawn writes in her diary how she feels no one knows who she is and how Buffy gets everything. Dawn snags Buffy's cereal bowl when she isn't looking and takes the last of the milk. Buffy and Giles are going to the magic shop to get slayer supplies and Joyce says she can take Dawn with her and buy her school supplies. Buffy doesn't want to. Riley shows up, compliments Joyce, and tells Buffy they were supposed to hang out that day. But she has to go shopping with Giles and now Dawn. Dawn dislikes it when Riley calls her kid. Dawn believes Giles doesn't like her because he's old. He complains about his new car (a pretty sporty red two door) because he doesn't like driving an automatic. But when Dawn notices Willow and Tara on the street he stops eager to show them his car. Dawn is happy to see them, she really likes Willow who like her enjoys school. And she wants to be a witch like them. Buffy tells Willow she is training with Giles everyday and will have to drop the drama class they were taking together. Willow is really upset. Tara notices the shop is dark. They enter and find the place ransacked. Willow trips over the dead body of the shop owner (Mr. Bogarty). Buffy hustles Dawn out before she can see the body. A crazy man comes up to Dawn. He says he's a cat. He says he knows what she is "curds and whey" that she doesn't belong there.

Giles believes the owner was attacked by at least 4 vampires. Willow figures out what was taken and it includes a book on the slayer. Giles suspects someone is planning an attack on Buffy. He's impressed at the profit margins for the business and starts examining its features. He tells Buffy to start searching for the vampires right away but she's still stuck with Dawn and has to take her home. They notice an inexpensive unicorn statue has been stolen and can't imagine why. We cut to Harmony and her new minions. She is planning on killing the slayer.

Joyce is upset at Dawn not going shopping and going to a murder scene. She's also upset that Buffy wants to go out (patrolling) since that means no one can sit Dawn. Dawn insists that at 14 she doesn't need a sitter. But she's thrilled when Buffy suggests Xander. But she's unhappy when Anya comes with him, carrying Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life.

Tara tells Willow she thinks Dawn feels left out, an outsider not allowed to be a part of the gang. Willow realizes Tara is speaking about herself as much as Dawn, although Tara says she understands the closeness of the group. She feels they should do something to include Dawn. Riley and Buffy are patrolling and she's complaining about how her mother got upset and how Dawn is always interfering. Riley says Buffy is Dawn's idol, but she finds this hard to believe. Dawn is enjoying playing the Game of Life with Xander and Anya. She's complaining to Xander that her mother likes Buffy better and he says she likes them both the same but slipping her a $10 or $20 on occasion might help tip the scales. Dawn thinks Xander sees her as she really is a woman. A rock comes flying through the window. There is a message wrapped around it "Slayer come out and die". The dot over the i is a happy face. Harmony is outside with her minions calling Buffy out. Xander finds it hard to believe she has minions. Harmony is mad at him for making fun of her. She mocks him, getting Dawn mad and Dawn accidently invites her in. She attacks Xander. Dawn runs upstairs.

Harmony is a much better fighter than she was before, but Xander does push her out of the house and locks the door. When Buffy returns, she finds Harmony with minions hysterical. But she's really angry when she learns Dawn invited her in. Meanwhile, Harmony is upset that her plan went awry. She and her minions are walking home. Spike shows up and knocks down Brad. He, too, is surprised that Harmony has a gang. He doesn't think she can kill the slayer. He asks if her plan is to grab one of Buffy's friends and use him as bait. Harmony refuses to tell him her plan, but as soon as he leaves runs to her gang with the new plan.

Buffy is ranting about Dawn, Xander and Riley are trying to calm her down. Xander points out Joyce let Dracula in the house (Buffy Vs. Dracula), but that doesn't slow Buffy down. Dawn hears this and runs out of the house. Anya chases her, but Harmony's minions grab Dawn and knock Anya out. Anya is badly hurt and needs to go to the hospital, but she does tell them that Harmony has Dawn. At Harmony's lair, the gang want to eat Dawn. Harmony says that's not the plan, but they realize that eating Dawn doesn't actually interfere with the plan - which is no more than luring Buffy to a place where they can jump her. Spike is in his crypt trying to get his new tv to work. Buffy enters and beats the location of Harmony's lair out of him.

At the lair, Harmony is telling Dawn how tough her life is. Then the gang enter and say they've decided to eat Dawn and kill Harmony, Brad abstained in the vote. One of the vampires walks over to Dawn. She says that if he touches her, Buffy will kill him. He touches her. Buffy stakes him. She tells Dawn to close her eyes. She kills two more of the vampires while Harmony tries to confront her. But Mort sneaks up behind her. Dawn opens her eyes and warns Buffy. Harmony runs away. Buffy has a tough fight but eventually stakes Mort with one of Harmony's unicorns. She frees Dawn and they both threaten to tell their mother what happened. But when they get home, both keep quiet and Dawn thinks this was nice.

The next day, they are at the shop which Giles has taken over. Dawn is writing in her diary that Buffy is in for a surprise when she discovers who Dawn really is.

Analysis

Last week, I wondered whether Buffy Vs. Dracula really happened. I have to wonder the same this week. In addition to the mystery of Dawn, there is the even greater mystery of Harmony having minions. That's hard for everyone to accept and it has to make you question the reality (even in Buffy terms) of what you are seeing. This week's story really just seemed to be a delivery mechanism for the real point of the episode: describing Dawn. The episode was framed by Dawn's thoughts delivered via her diary entries. It begins and ends with Dawn saying that the real me is hidden - a statement that could be ominous or merely the normal feelings of a teenager.

A young girl is accosted by a crazy man on the street. He says a lot of wild things, frightens her, then disappears. Or, a man driven mad by the ability to see through the disguises of demons spots a demonic creature disguised as a young girl. He confronts her and she destroys him. Either one of those is a possible description of what I'd call the pivotal scene of this episode. Like most scenes this week, it was ambiguous. We lack enough information to fully understand it. We don't know anything about the history of the man nor do we see what actually happens to him. The fact that Dawn doesn't make any mention of this man to Tara suggests she is hiding something. Or possibly something is being hidden from Dawn who may herself be a pawn of some hidden power. It's possible everyone is being kept in the dark here. This scene lends credence to the ominous theory of Dawn.

But there is support for the normal teenage girl theory. When Dawn, Anya, and Xander are playing the Game of Life, Dawn looks up adoringly at Xander thinking that he sees the real her: a woman. And her face is covered with chocolate ice cream. It's a perfectly normal teenage crush scene, made credible by Dawn's earlier sudden acquiescence when Xander was suggested as her babysitter and the fact that she changed into a dress before Xander came over. Her frustration at being called kid by Riley and little girl by Anya also adds support to the theory. The theory is clearly expressed by Riley who says she's a young girl who idolizes her super powerful big sister.

Dawn's character is largely described in terms of other characters in the episode. Tara talks of being an outsider, unable to break into the tightly knit gang. Willow realizes she's talking about herself, but she is also talking about Dawn. And is it merely coincidence that both Tara and Dawn admire Willow and want to be like her. Dawn says Willow is the only one who loves studying as much as she does and she wants to be a witch like her. When Willow assures Tara she's one of the good guys, a mysterious look crosses Tara's face. Is it just a lack of belief in being a part of the closely knit group or an indication of her not being good (we still don't know why she deliberately sabotaged the spell in Goodbye, Iowa). Similarly, when Dawn accidently invites Harmony into the house is it really just an accident or an attempt to sabotage the slayer. Of course, when Buffy is fighting Harmony's minions Dawn shouts a warning, suggesting she is one of the good guys.

Giles also talks of a sense of helplessness and an inability to contribute. He does this while driving his car and talking about it, but the camera cuts immediately to Dawn when he says this. She has been relegated to sitting quietly in the back seat while Giles and Buffy talk. It's interesting that in the same scene Giles complains about Buffy's lack of respect for him, something Dawn also complains about. And in the final scene, he reveals how incredibly bored he was the previous year. In a nice parallel, the episode begins with a bored Dawn interrupting her sister's training.

Harmony seems to be Dawn's alter ego. Dawn is quiet, a passive participant, and intelligent. Harmony is loud (she's constantly cheering on her minions, shouting at people, and clapping her hands in this episode). Harmony is active: she throws the rock through the window, decides to kill the slayer, and attacks Xander. Harmony is stupid. She always has been stupid and turning into a vampire hasn't changed her. Dawn is surrounded by a gang - the scoobies - who largely ignore her and generally force her to do things she doesn't want to do (leave the store, play games with Anya, close her eyes). Harmony is surrounded by a gang - her minions - who either follow her devotedly or turn on her murderously. They start off obeying her implicitly, even bringing her another unicorn to add to her tacky collection, but ultimately decide to kill her and follow their own plan. Both Harmony and Dawn are perceived as nonthreatening. Buffy finds Harmony laughable as pretty well everyone does (Xander taunts her at the house, Spike tells her she doesn't have what it takes to fight slayers) and just about everyone ignores Dawn's wishes (she's forced to have a babysitter by her mother and sister, Giles tells her to be quiet in the car, she's pushed out of the store). Both are pushed along by events outside their control. Harmony is forced by her minions to attack the slayer that night. Her kidnapping plan is actually Spike's. Dawn wants to go shopping with her mother, but is forced to go with Buffy. She wants to stay in the store, but is pushed out. She's kidnapped by the minions and forced to go to the lair. It's interesting that the minions turn on both Harmony and Dawn, essentially seeing no difference between the two. They will kill one and eat the other, in whatever order is convenient. The minions are the force which unite Harmony and Dawn, culminating in the scene in which Harmony pours out her heart to the chained Dawn. And Buffy destroys them all, freeing both Harmony (who runs away) and Dawn (whose chains she breaks).

Most interestingly, both Harmony and Dawn display a certain naivete and lack of understanding of the world. Harmony writes a death threat with a happy face on it. She misinterprets most of what people say to her (like the vampire asking when they are going to do it) and simply doesn't get a lot of things. She's trying to be evil and to lead a gang of vampires, but she has no idea of how to do it. Dawn misunderstands the relationship between Willow and Tara and what upsets her mother, thinking it's witchcraft. She thinks Giles doesn't like her because he is very old. She draws parallels between her sister and comic book super heroes. For Dawn the world is a half open book, as it is for most children. All sorts of things happen which she tries to fit into an incomplete cosmology. And that leads her to false conclusions, just as Harmony's limited world view (she really isn't all that much older than Dawn) leads to her misunderstanding of just about everything.

I like Giles buying the Magic Shop. It has been a part of the Buffyverse for some time and making it a regular part of the show is a natural progression. Also, Giles really needed a job. It was hard to understand how an unemployed Giles was able to support himself. And since the gang so frequently need magic supplies, it just makes life easier for them all.

In Primeval, the gang magically united to defeat Adam. In Restless, they discovered there was a price to be paid for that magical union. In Buffy Vs. Dracula, there was a suggestion of a connection between the events of those previous episodes and this season. This week, we see that Dawn is similar to the magically enhanced Buffy of Primeval in having characteristics of various people.

Some quick final thoughts. I liked Dawn's idea that Buffy should wear a mask and act like a 'real' superhero, thus protecting her loved ones. It's interesting that the very thing which makes Buffy strong (her family and friends) make her weak (as evidenced by Harmony's plan of grabbing Dawn and drawing out the slayer). When Dawn tells Joyce she wants to be like Willow and Tara, Joyce's response suggests she knows about the lesbian relationship. But in Buffy Vs. Dracula, it seemed clear she wasn't aware of it. Is this something she learnt recently or is it part of the altered reality? The crazy man says 'curds and whey' a nursery rhyme reference to Little Miss Muffet. Is Dawn a fictive character (not unlike the creatures from fairy tale we saw in Hush). It's amazing how Anya can say the most terrible things (like selling children) and still no one ever thinks of her as evil. I loved the ice scream smeared Dawn thinking that Xander sees her as the woman she really is. You've got to feel sorry for Brad who is called sire whipped, mocked by Xander, and knocked out by Spike.

Lines of the week:

"I'm here to violate your first born never goes over with parents." - Riley showing some common sense.

"I bet the death rate keeps the rent down." - Giles getting ready to go into business.

"I've been skimming through the book jackets all morning." - Harmony doing her research.

"Can I trade in the children for more cash?" - Anya displaying her failure to grasp the game of life.

"I've watched Passions with Spike. Let us never speak of it." - Giles on how bored he was the previous year.

Got a comment? Send me mail.

Go to more Buffy the Vampire Slayer reviews.
Go to other tv reviews.
Go to my home page and get links to everything.