Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 5, Episode 2: Real MeWritten by David Fury; Directed by David Grossman
Ah, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn. People hate this character, and to be perfectly honest I completely understand why. The whole "introducing a younger character to reinvigorate the franchise" trick is such a cliché that it's virtually impossible to pull off successfully. And you know, I actually think the writers did a pretty good job of it, giving it narrative justification and also making a joke out of the notion of a hitherto unmentioned sibling suddenly showing up out of nowhere with no explanation. I also think that, when given decent material, Michelle Trachtenberg is a fine actor (see The Body, where she does as good as any of the other regulars), although it's completely true that, when the writing isn't up to snuff, she's plain awful ("Get out get out get out!!!").
Anyway, this is a pretty neat episode, book-ended by Dawn's narration, in which she describes how she sees the rest of the gang (I refuse to call them the Scoobies, because Scooby Doo is shit). After becoming so used to them over the course of the last four years, it's interesting to see them through fresh eyes. A lot of people consider Dawn to be a whiny little bitch, but a while ago I read some comments on a message board by a fan that put things into a different perspective. Basically, in the Buffy/Dawn arguments, most people side with Buffy because they like her and are naturally antagonistic towards a new character with whom she is constantly at loggerheads. This viewer, however, only started watching at the beginning of Season 5, so, as far as he knew, Dawn had always been a part of the show. To him, Buffy was completely unreasonable while Dawn was by far the more sympathetic of the two. I'm not sure I can just forget four years of character development, but I can't deny that, over the course of this season, Buffy becomes considerably colder and more unlikeable, and a lot of it is to do with the way she treats her younger sister.
The main problem with this episode stems from the fact that Dawn is written much younger than she appears. Originally, the character was envisioned as being around 10 or 12 years old, but when the then 15-year-old Trachtenberg was cast, the script was changed to make her 14. It doesn't work. She's played way too young, and it's not until a couple of episodes have passed that this problem is rectified. As such, this spoils the tone of the episode, making it seem unneccessarily childish.
Overall rating: 7/10.
Next time: The Replacement.