BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Michael Gershman
Music by Thomas Wanker
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Stewart Head, Emma Caulfield & James Marsters
2000/990 mins/Color/2.0 DD
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
When a TV show is created, one has to assume that the creator(s) want the show to be successful and profitable. But, when a show does become a hit, a problem is created. The fans will demand more and more from the show and expect a certain consistency of quality. However, most shows have difficulty staying at the top of their game, and nothing exemplifies this like the fifth season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which has just come to DVD.
(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 5, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 4. So, if you haven't seen Season 4 and want to be surprised by Season 5, read with caution.) As Season 5 opens, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is attempting to get on with her life following the events of Season 4. Now that Riley (Marc Blucas) has left The Initiative, he is free to spend more time with Buffy and their romance continues to blossom. In the season opener, a battle takes place which is surprising, but makes perfect sense: Buffy takes on Dracula. It is during this fight that Buffy re-discovers her true nature and become even more determined to her roles as a slayer. It's during this same episode, when Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), Buffy's sister, is introduced. And although Dawn is certainly new to us, the audience, everyone on the show acts as if Dawn has been there all along. What's going on?
As Buffy is re-invigorated in her role as slayer, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) takes over the "Magic Box" shop and this becomes the headquarters for Buffy and the "Scooby Gang". At this same time, a new evil arrives in Sunnydale in the form of Glory (Clare Kramer), a being whose powers are mysterious, but whose intentions are clear: she's bad and she wants to destroy the world. As Buffy prepares to combat Glory, she must deal with several other stressors, such as the origins of Dawn, her complex relationship with Riley, her mother's health, and the fact that Spike (James Marsters) seems to be hanging around a lot more. As for the other characters, the relationships between Xander (Nicholas Brendon) & Anya (Emma Caulfield) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) & Tara (Amber Benson) begin to get more serious as well.
Allow me to digress for a moment. THE X-FILES was made up of basically two kinds of episodes; those which dealt with the central government conspiracy and those in which Mulder and Scully would go to a small town and fight some odd baddy. I never got into the conspiracy and thus lived for the small town shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER has a similar structure. Each season has an over-riding story arc which is addressed in most episodes, but then there are shows which deal with some side-plot or self-contained story. Unlike THE X-FILES, I really enjoy the BUFFY shows which deal with the season's central plot. The problem with Season 5 is that there are too many subplots fighting to be the main focus of the shows. We've got Riley, Buffy's mom, Dawn, and Glory, and as the season progresses, the show alternates trying too hard to cram all of this in, while allowing the stories to also get lost in the shuffle. Due to this, the shows lose focus of what BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is all about -- fighting vampires! There is so much attention paid to human drama in this season that the horror/butt-kicking aspects get completely ignored at times. Glory is an interesting nemesis, but she generates more comic relief than scares. I can't think of any truly interesting villains from Season 5 (certainly none as creepy as the creatures from "Hush" in Season 4). Granted, bad BUFFY is still better than most shows on TV and the episodes from Season 5 offer the same kind of sparkling dialogue and fun action sequences which made the show popular to begin with. But, the story suffers in this season and it's easy to track the show's decline over the years. So, BUFFY Season 5 is a disappointment in the sense that we all know that the show could be better.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: The Complete Fifth Season comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. All 22 episodes from this season are included here, and have been spread over six discs. The shows are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, as intended by series creator Joss Whedon. The episodes all look very good here, as the images are sharp and clear, and there is only a slight amount of grain, mostly in the night-time shots. (mostly...) The colors are all fine and the dark scenes are never too dark. There are some minor issues with artifacting, but otherwise the transfers rival digital broadcast quality. The shows carry Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks, which, once again, prove just how good a 2.0 track can sound. As with the other DVDs from the BUFFY series, the audio here is excellent, providing clear dialogue and a great use of surround sound during the action sequences.
As the quality of shows has deteriorated over the seasons, so has the quality of the extras on the DVD sets. There are commentaries on only 4 episodes; "Real Me", commentary by writer David Fury & director David Grossman (Disc 1); "Fool for Love", commentary by writer Doug Petrie (Disc 2); "I Was Made to Love You", commentary by writer & producer Jane Espenson (Disc 4); and "The Body", commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon (Disc 5). These commentaries vary in quality, but all offer good info, with the best being Whedon's thoughts on "The Body", which is a very moving episode. Original scripts can be accessed for "The Replacement" (Disc 1), "Fool for Love" (Disc 2), "Into the Woods" (Disc 3), and "Checkpoint" (Disc 4).
The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 3 and Disc 6. Disc 3 is kicked off with "Buffy Abroad" (4 minutes), which examines the popularity of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER overseas and offers scenes dubbed in different languages. "Casting Buffy" (7 minutes) is probably the best extra here, as casting director Marcia Shulman offers insight into how each of the main characters were cast -- actually with more depth, this could have been one of the best extras ever. Series regular Danny Strong hosts "Demonology -- A Slayer's Guide" (11 minutes) which is a humorous look at the different monsters on the show. Stunt coordinator John Medlen walks us through "Action Heroes! The Stunts of BUFFY" (11 minutes), which offers interviews with the stunt doubles from the show. Lastly, there is a 2-minute outtake reel which contains bloopers from various seasons. Disc 6 offers "The Story of Season 5" (28 minutes), a detailed look at the season with comments from the writers and directors on the various plot-lines from Season 5. "Natural Causes" (9 minutes) offers an overview of the illness which plagues Buffy's mom, while "Spotlight on Dawn" (9 minutes) is pretty self-explanatory. Finally, there is a still gallery. As usual DO NOT watch any of these extras before watching the episodes as they all contain spoilers, as do many of the menu screens. It should also be noted that Sarah Michelle Gellar is nowhere to be found in the supplemental material...interesting.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©