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Friday, September 08, 2006

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 5, Episode 6: Family

DVDWritten and Directed by Joss Whedon

I'm rating this episode a lot higher than most people probably would, and I can understand the criticisms. First of all, for a Joss Whedon episode, the writing is incredibly perfunctory and the characterisations amazingly two-dimensional. Tara's family are your typical uneducated, woman-hating, southern hicks, and there is absolutely no depth to them at all. As such, you're never in any doubt as to how you're supposed to feel, and one gets the impression that Whedon could have done a lot better if he'd tried harder. The actors playing them are also not particularly good, which hurts their credibility something rotten.

Still, for all its faults, I really like this episode, and that's all down to Amber Benson's performance. I'll never for the life of me understand why some people criticise her acting, because it's clear to me at least that she saves this episode from being a shambolic mess, or at the very least something very mediocre. A good actor can do a lot with decent material, but it takes a truly excellent actor to take weak material and make it sound good. Somehow she manages to take lines like "I'm not a demon" and "He hurt my nose" and make them sound Shakespearean. The rest of the cast are on fine form too, and, for all the failings of the writing, I like the way that, for the first time in ages, the gang all come together for a common cause. Although, interestingly enough, Riley is conspicuously absent from the showdown against Tara's family, while Spike is present (and instrumental to sending them packing), indicating the shifting dynamic of the group. And, for all my criticism of the writing, I do like this exchange a lot:

Mr Maclay: "This is insane. You people have no right to meddle with Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin. Who the hell are you?"
Buffy: "We're family."

Elsewhere, I also like the level of maturity in the Buffy/Giles conversation regarding Dawn's status as the Key during the teaser. The fact that both of them treat each other as adults and converse on an equal level shows how much both of them have changed since the early days. And, for the first time, the score by Thomas Wanker (yes, that's his name) comes close to equalling that of his predecessor, Christophe Beck.

Overall rating: 9/10.

Next time: Fool for Love.

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