A very solid episode complete with some seriously butt-puckering moments with Glory, the necessary "oh crap" moment for Dawn, and a very realistic reaction to her new found identity.
The description can be found at BuffyGuide.com.
Thematically, this episode reads like a more extreme version of what a child goes through when they learn that they were adopted, although in this case, Dawn needs to face the reality that her whole existence has been a lie, not just her parental lineage. Nonetheless, the storytelling was similar to many adoption stories and the point resonates. Dawn is Buffy's sister not by accident of the crossing of life paths...but by the what is in her heart. She knows that Dawn is hers to protect and to cherish just as all siblings do.
Plot-wise, this one does three important things beyond getting the truth out about Dawn.
- It establishes that Spike legitimately cares about Buffy's emotional well being - his motivations are still selfish, but you can see how something good may some day come from his romantic interest.
- It reveals the nature of Ben's connection to Glory (they're sharing a body!)...which is a plot twist planned form the start that makes the whole season's story far more interesting. And what's more...when someone witnesses the switcheroo, the magic wipes their memory. Which is cool.
- It gives us a final look at Joyce and her role as a parental figure. This is her last major screen time for the series, other than as a corpse or a flashback or a wishful dream. It's nice to remember how important Joyce's presence has been before we say goodbye to her.
Actually...this episode is strong on characterization, but otherwise a disappointment on the writing front. The highlights should perhaps have been lengthier for a show that does so many momentous things.
Despite that note, I must say that SMG, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Clare Kramer (the leading ladies this week) really carried the mediocre words to someplace meaningful...particularly Trachtenberg, who doesn't get enough credit in Buffy fandom for my taste.
Family isn't drawn in DNA, though biological ties can help to give it a head start. The deep, lifelong familial bonds around which most of us build our lives are powered by something much more permanent than our genes. It's what's in the heart that counts.
XANDER: There's my sweet little Dawnie! How ya been doin', little one?
DAWN: (laugh) I'm fine...what's gotten into you? Do you get into the sugar again?
ANYA: Dawn! You make a very pretty little girl!
XANDER: (realizing Anya is freaking out) Anya...do you want to come back and help me out with that thing?
ANYA: Of course...Xander needs help with his thing! (LOL!!)
DAWN: I think you're just wigging out because you finally have to fight someone prettier than you.
BUFFY: Glory is evil. And powerful. (brief pause) And in no way prettier than me. (LOL)
BUFFY: Prezzies! Just what I needed.
ANYA: The suspense is killing me! I want the presents.
WILLOW: See...the great Willow is wise. Open ours!
BUFFY: (opens a gift and produces a very girly looking pair of PJs) Awww...it's lovely...thanks guys!
WILLOW: Well we kinda figured you'd get a lot of axes and crossbows. So we thought...less killy more frilly! (cute!)
ANYA: It's so adorable...(she takes it and hugs it really tightly)...I wish it were mine! (she appears to want to walk off with it but the power of a half-dozen glares holds her at bay) Like you all weren't thinking the exact same thing. (LOL)
GILES: I'm fairly certain I wasn't. (ROTFL!!)
DAWN: Here, open mine.
BUFFY: It's not gonna explode is it? (she opens it to reveal a very sweet looking picture framed with sea shells hand-glued to the sides)
DAWN: It's from that summer when we went to visit Dad in San Diego. They're shells I got from the beach. I picked them up myself.
BUFFY: I remember. (Buffy is deeply moved by the thought that went into the gift...and the realization that her love for Dawn is completely real despite her apocryphal past)
DAWN: Well jeez...don't get all movie of the week. I was just too cheap to buy you a real present.
BUFFY: Thank you. (earnestly hugs Dawn...awwwwww)
BUFFY: Dawn, are you alright? Did she hurt you?
DAWN: What do you care?
BUFFY: Because you're my sister and I love you!
DAWN: No...I'm not.
BUFFY: Dawn, look at this. Blood on your hand...it's Summers blood. It's just like mine, OK? It doesn't matter who you are or where you came from. You're still my sister. (very important scene for later)