If you were disliking the creative direction Buffy had been headed in of late, you could almost view this episode as a week where the writers gave up, coming up with a script where the Scooby Gang literally stand around in a house wondering why they can't do anything. While Older and Far Away doesn't work on any particularly deeper level (I guess you could strain that it's a metaphor for early-twenties lethargy, but that's sort of a stretch), it's fine as a standalone mystery. It does grind all the high-strung emotion and devastation of Dead Things to a severe halt, but I guess the show couldn't throw even more angst at us right now.
Dawn is the star of the episode, for all the wrong reasons. As well as bringing back that immortal catchphrase, it's largely the point where she becomes entirely obnoxious, taking away any shading she may have had at the early stages of this klepto arc. A problem I have with this episode is that I'm still not sure how the writers want us to react to Dawn's behavior. She's ridiculously argumentative and petulant, bringing everything round to her and making everyone's comments somehow a reflection on how they see her. So you literally get folks talking about needing to head to work in the morning, followed by Dawn whining that they're only saying that because they can't stand being stuck around her for much longer. Gah. But are we supposed to feel bad for her? Or are we supposed to see her as an annoying toddler who needs to sit her shrieky ass down? It's confusing.
Spike and Buffy are on a whole separate page to the pummel-happy streak they blazed through last episode. It felt a little jarring, but I don't think I could take any more sadomasochism. I still really love Tara being so close to Buffy, and I liked her little asides to Spike, him all freaked out by how eerily prescient she was being.
Besides a couple of amusing character moments, the rest of the hour is pretty routine. And the 'demon attacks followed by dissolve into the walls' thing got old real fast. Sophie and Buffy's date both seemed a little unnecessary, too -- like cannon fodder only without the mortal wounds. Eh. The episode achieves some interesting levels when everybody's secrets get exposed due to the absence of some kind of distraction -- but that entire theme was done far more successfully earlier this year with the musical. With that in mind, Older and Far Away sometimes feels a little tired. It's not a necessarily bad episode, just kind of 'there'. C+
Guest stars Kali Rocha (Halfrek); Ryan Browning (Richard); Amber Benson (Tara Maclay)
Writer Drew Z. Greenberg Director Michael Gershman