If any episode managed to single-handedly destroy a TV character for me, it's All the Way. I've never been a huge Dawn fan, but it's crazily frustrating to see five episodes worth of strong characterization this season violently plummet down the toilet with just a couple of actions here. We all initiate a collective eye-roll over her hideous kleptomania arc, but I always note one random part here as the scene that killed her for me. It's that ugly moment where Dawn continues to flirt and make out with a guy who just robbed an old man in his home, later happily taking some of the money herself. I'm probably being annoying, but that's just one of the worst, lowest things somebody can do, and entirely destroyed Dawn Summers for me.
The rest of All the Way is similarly pretty terrible. What makes the badness more noticeable is the arresting teaser sequence, where it's implied that Old Man Kaltenbach is a new kind of villain -- presumably targeting innocent trick 'r treaters with his candy evilness. The fact that this is an elaborate fake-out, and that some ordinary teen vampires are the episode's antagonists, is crazily disappointing. "Ooh, you thought this episode was interesting? Ha! Gotcha, kids! It's actually not". Snore.
Moments of interest only arrive in the characterization. Willow is becoming increasingly horrible as this season goes on, happy to use magic for the most mundane of tasks, and later betraying Tara's mind by erasing her memory of a fight they have. It's entirely out-of-line, and I admire the show for daring to make one of the most lovable characters in the show's ensemble so reprehensible. I don't know what happened with this storyline behind-the-scenes, but the groundwork right here is solid and interesting. What went wrong, show?
Also of note is Buffy being naive again. She can't just dump all of her problems onto Giles, expecting him to be around forever. Sooner or later, she'll need to take responsibility for things; and laying down the law with Dawn is a lot easier than some of the other tasks she's been avoiding lately, like bills or debts. Ah, poor Buff.
All the Way is criminally unambitious, only saved by the continuation of the various character-driven subplots that so far are making season six so intriguing. Skip all the Dawn junk, though. D+
Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); John O'Leary (Old Man Kaltenbach); Kavan Reece (Justin); Amber Tamblyn (Janice Penshaw); Dave Power (Zack); Amber Benson (Tara Maclay)
Writer Steven S. DeKnight Director David Solomon