This and the following episode are Buffy in a holding pattern. Season five has been problematic because it regularly felt like the writers had so many tasty ingredients this year that somehow failed to make a satisfactory pie. The concept of Dawn and Glory and the Key is so strong, and Joyce's death was so powerful, yet the fringes of those ideas were pretty weak. As a result, we had a ton of episodes where Glory raised a monster or did something 'bad' to one of the Scoobies. There were a whole bunch of episodes with people standing around in hospital corridors looking concerned. And with two more episodes to fill before the big finale, we once again have the show running on empty.
Fittingly, there's a lot of running in Spiral. And a lot of meandering around in circles. What I liked about the episode was the believable depiction of Buffy's world crumbling to pieces. Her mom is dead, her sister is the main target, the big bad is seemingly indestructible, the entire world will potentially collapse in on itself. It's a strong central theme, and I can buy that Buffy chose to run. She's young, and in these extraordinary situations I think most people would initially just want to run away from things instead of immediately finding solutions.
At the same time, I guess the winnebago fight sequence was impressive, and I loved hearing Glory's back-story. But the problem with Spiral is that it's kind of... boring. A lot of the discussions featured here (Giles' pride in Buffy, Willow's angst over Tara's madness, Dawn's belief that she's the cause of all this chaos) feel overly familiar, and no matter how interesting the concept of Ben is, Ben himself is such a flat character performed by such a vacant actor that I can't help but tune out. I'm also watching Angel at the same time as I'm watching this, and that show's second season has been firing on all cylinders all year. It only helps expose how much weaker Buffy's fifth season has been. C-
Guest stars Clare Kramer (Glory); Charlie Weber (Ben); Wade Andrew Williams (General Gregor); Karim Prince (Dante Chavalier); Amber Benson (Tara Maclay)
Writer Steven S. DeKnight Director James A. Contner