After an unsettling encounter with the Dracula, Buffy asks Giles to once again be her Watcher. Luckily he agrees, for Buffy is about to face mortal problems far more threatening than the undead: the sudden appearance of a sister named Dawn, her mothers mysterious illness and Spikes undying devotion. Then an undefeatable demon appears, forcing Buffy to turn to an ancient Spirit Guide who tells her that love is her greatest gift and power.
The fifth season of Joss Whedon's hit series started out in excellent form as slayer extraordinaire Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) did battle with the most famous of vampires (that Dracula guy) and then went on to spar with another nemesis, little sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). Wait--Buffy has a teenage sister? Where has she been the past four years? And why is everyone acting like she's always been around? Turns out that young Dawn is actually "The Key," a form of pure energy that, true to its name, helps open the gates between different dimensions. To protect said key from falling into the wrong hands, a group of monks gave it human form and sent it to the fiercely protective Buffy for safekeeping, creating new memories of Dawn for everyone as if she'd existed... well, always. Why all the super secrecy? There's this very, very, very bad girl named Glory (Clare Kramer) who wants the key very badly, and will do anything to get it. Oh, and by the way, Glory isn't just a run-of-the-mill demon... she's way worse.
Some fans will tell you that Buffy "jumped the shark" with the introduction of Dawn, when in actuality this season was the pinnacle of the show's achievement, as there was superb comedy to be had ("Buffy Vs. Dracula," the double-Xander episode "The Replacement," the introduction of the "Buffybot" in "Intervention") as well as some of television's best drama. The Whedon-scripted and -directed "The Body" remains one of Buffy's best episodes, when the young woman who faces down supernatural death on a daily basis finds herself powerless in the wake of her mother's sudden passing. The first third or so of the season was a bit choppy, but once the evil Glory came into her own, Buffy was a television force to be reckoned with. Kramer was the show's best villain (after the evil Angel, natch), and the supporting cast was never better. But as always, it was the superb Gellar who was the powerful center of the show, sparking opposite lovelorn vampire Spike (James Marsters) and wrestling with moral dilemmas rarely seen on television. With this season, Buffy Summers became, like Tony Soprano, one of television's true greats. --Mark Englehart