Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Blood Ties

Summary

The gang discuss plans for Buffy's 20th birthday party. Buffy isn't sure it's the right time for a party. Giles has some information about Glory, saying she and two other hell gods ruled over a demon dimension. Somehow, she found her way to our dimension. Being in human form limits her power and living here is driving her insane. She maintains what little sanity she has by sucking it out of the brains of humans, thus leaving them insane. Tara and Willow say they will work on some spells. Anya will do research. Xander says they should find out about the key. Buffy realizes she has to tell them about Dawn.

The knights are meeting, reciting a verse about severing the link that is the key. Glory's minions appear and they start fighting. The knights are winning, but Glory appears and quickly defeats them. Dawn shows up at the magic shop as Tara and Willow are casting an early warning spell (they've already done it at the house). It will set off sirens if Glory gets near. They act a little awkward around her. Inside, Xander and Anya act a little strangely and Dawn notices Giles hide a note book. She thinks Buffy is keeping something from her and also thinks Glory doesn't look so tough. Meanwhile, Glory is torturing the remaining knight, who won't talk because he doesn't know where the key is. She sucks out his brain, leaving him crazy.

It's Buffy's birthday party and she is opening presents. Dawn gives her a framed photograph of them together when they visited their father in San Diego. She made the frame herself. Everyone is really moved by this. Later, Giles, Joyce, and Buffy are talking in the kitchen and Dawn overhears part of the conversation when she comes for plates. In the living room, Dawn accuses everyone of talking about her. Anya claims they were talking about sex, but Dawn doesn't buy it. Angry, she goes to her room. Later, she sneaks out and bumps into Spike, standing outside the house. He has a box of chocolates which she realizes is a birthday present for Buffy. But when she tells him that she's going to break into the magic shop, he decides to go with her. In the shop, they read the note book and realize Dawn is the key.

Buffy is talking to Willow and Tara about Riley and the fact he didn't send a card, although she didn't expect one. Tara sees Dawn, with a knife in her hand and a big cut. She asks if it is blood she is bleeding and if it is how can she be a thing, a key. She wants to know about herself and she's furious with Buffy and Joyce. Later, at the shop, Buffy says they have to find out about the key so Dawn can know about herself. They find cigarette butts indicating Spike was there and Buffy confronts him. But he points out she was just as much to blame.

Joyce tries to talk to Dawn to no avail. At the hospital, Ben finds the crazy knight as a patient. One of the minions shows up and tries to convince him to side with Glory. Ben points out Glory can't hurt him and he won't help her. Dawn is alone in her room. Joyce and Buffy are talking about her downstairs - she was suspended from school. Dawn over hears part of the conversation, misunderstands, and gets angry. She trashes her room and tears up her diaries. Buffy and Joyce hear the alarm and think it is Glory, but it's the fire alarm - Dawn has burnt her diaries and fled the house.

Buffy has the gang looking for Dawn, she and Spike search together. Dawn is roaming the city going to places full of false memories. Xander and Giles talk about how strange it is to think she isn't a little girl. Buffy admits to Spike that he was right. He tries to console her. Dawn goes to the hospital and enters the ward where the knight is. He wants to destroy her. She finds Ben who has hot chocolate with her. He thinks she had a fight with Buffy and tells her he has a sister and understands. She tells him the truth and he panics, telling her to flee and that Glory is coming. He morphs into Glory. Glory cannot remember the conversation with Ben and wonders what Dawn is doing there. Interrupted by a guard, she kills him.

Buffy and Spike meet with the others, none of whom has had any luck in the search for Dawn. Buffy decides they should go to the hospital in case something happened to Dawn. Dawn asks Glory questions about the key, pretending she'll help her find it. Buffy learns of the dead guard and realizes Glory is there. Glory tells Dawn the key is very old, though not as old as she is. She says the key is evil, then says it isn't that it's a matter of perspective. She thinks Dawn doesn't know anything and gets angry. She's also sick. Dawn notices this. Glory decides to feed off Dawn, thus sending a message to the slayer. Buffy arrives. An all out fight ensues. Spike is knocked out. Buffy is hurt. Willow performs a teleportation spell, sending Glory to a point high in the sky and somewhere away from the hospital. Willow is knocked down by the spell and is bleeding. Buffy tells Dawn that they are sisters, no matter what the facts, that she could only feel the way she feels about a sister. Dawn starts to tell her about Ben, but says she can't remember what happened. Buffy takes her home.

Analysis

What if the world were created just five minutes ago. Created out of whole cloth. Everything - the fossil record, the books in the library, the scar on your nose from when you fell off your bike when you were 7, the dog-eared copy of Lord of the Rings on top of your bookcase, the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson video - was just created 5 minutes ago. And your whole lifetime of memories and everyone else's lifetime of memories was created at the same time. Does that make them any less real? And is there any way to really tell? If no one told us, would we care. And if someone did tell us, would it matter? That's the question facing Dawn and the gang when the truth about the key is finally revealed. And on the show, as in real life, there really isn't a satisfactory answer.

Much of this season has been about secrets and sharing information with the people close to you. Riley found it impossible to talk to Buffy about his fears and she failed to tell him how she felt before he left. Xander realized he had to tell Anya how he felt or they would have the same problems Buffy and Riley had. Anya had to admit to her fears of mortality. And, now, Buffy has had to come clean with her friends about Dawn. None of these secrets were kept for bad reasons, but the secrets did lead or were leading to problems. People can't work together effectively when such big secrets are being kept.

A few minutes into this episode, only three people of significance didn't know about the key being Dawn: Dawn, Ben, and Glory. And that causes trouble. Dawn is determined to find out what is going on and so breaks in to the magic shop and reads the note book. Not only is this the worst possible way for her to find out, but it also means Spike (who is notoriously unreliable) now knows. Of course, this did lead to the great scene of Dawn reading the note book and realizing that the crazy people who talked to her (in Real Me and Listening to Fear) knew what she was and then understanding why the giant snake (in Shadow) acted the way it did when it saw her. From a dramatic perspective, this was great. It created real tension, provided motivation for Dawn, added depth to Spike, and helped tie things together for the viewers. But for the people in the story, it was a disaster.

Dawn's reaction is predictably dramatic. Suddenly realizing she isn't human, she mutilates herself and creates a scene. Self mutilation is actually pretty common amongst teen girls who've suffered a major trauma. Buffy realizes that she has to find out about the key for Dawn's sake. This is an interesting side effect of the monks' plan. They created the key in the form of her sister so she would be sure to protect it. But by giving her an involvement in Dawn's emotional welfare, they also motivated her to find out about the key and this may well be crucial in the defeat of Glory. Also, the human nature of Dawn drove her to find out about herself - leading her to Ben and the discovery that he and Glory are one and the same, or something like that. It's not clear whether Dawn remembers this and simply isn't telling anyone (another case of concealed truth) or for some reason doesn't remember. It's also interesting to note that Ben and Glory do not share memories - so they, too, are concealing facts.

Buffy's confrontation with Spike brings everything to the surface. He points out that by not telling Dawn the truth, she was creating a situation where she would find out without anyone to help her cope with the information. By not telling Spike the truth, she made it impossible for him to use any judgement in controlling Dawn. Buffy realizes that the anger she is directing at Spike is better directed at herself. She is truly responsible for what has happened. But she still doesn't do anything about it. Instead of bringing Dawn into the group, sharing knowledge with her, she keeps her at the periphery. Dawn hears snippets of the conversation with Joyce and jumps to the worst conclusion. This drives her to a rage and sends her to what was almost her death.

At this point, Buffy starts doing the right thing. She involves everybody - even Spike - in the hunt for Dawn. She shares the knowledge and the mission. Most importantly, she admits to Spike that he was right - she should have told Dawn. He, to his credit, tries to console her. He assures her she will find Dawn. As Buffy reaches this turning point, Dawn is also approaching a similar juncture in her life. She meets the knight who wants to kill her because she is the key. She then encounters Ben and discovers that he is, in some way, also Glory. And, then, she becomes very brave. She has been wandering aimlessly so far. Now she starts to play a dangerous game with Glory, trying to find out as much about herself as she can while keeping the secret (the one secret they really should keep) from her. She doesn't learn much about the key, except that what it opens is a really sensitive issue with Glory, but she does notice that Glory is sick.

Finally, Buffy talks to Dawn and tells her that they are truly sisters. That she feels for her as she would for a sister and to her she is real, flesh and blood. Dawn's willingness to go home, her comment about getting an increase in her allowance, indicate that she is returning to the role of daughter and sister. She realizes that no matter how she arrived in the family or when, she is now part of the family and that is all that matters.

Some quick final thoughts. I loved Spike complaining that his nails were still wet. I think this is the first time we've seen a vampire involved in personal grooming. Is Glory Ben or do they merely share the same corporeal existence? Maybe that's how Glory found her way into our dimension and maybe the key can control that somehow. Maybe that's why Ben fears the knights, since killing him might also incapacitate Glory. Buffy does arrive just in the nick of time as Spike predicted. It's nice to see consistency in Buffy's birthday. Dawn's plight could be read as a metaphor for adoption - which is one of the things I really love about this show. It deals with many real life problems, but cloaks them with fantasy elements.

Lines of the week:

"I know way more about demon dimensions than Giles does." - Anya in a fit of self promotion.

"I was standing about. It's a whole different vibe." - Spike explaining about not lurking.

"He is not my boyfriend." - Buffy correcting Glory's impression of Spike.

"Think she'd raise my allowance." - Dawn being human again.

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