I give the show major probs for managing to change the formula from action-oriented monster killing to character-drama with it feeling like a natural development. Sure, even in the first season the show had some dramatic elements and even in its fifth there is enough action and monster killing to make everyone still watching happy, but it does feel different. Episodes like Hush in the previous season showed how far the acting had come along, but all the episodes surrounding the death of Buffy’s mom this season were absolutely outstanding.
A show where casual monster killing is par for the course and secondary characters got offed regularly to get the emotions of the main characters rolling (mostly the female partners, the males just went away), one more death shouldn’t matter much. And yet they managed something unexpected and yet all so fitting with it. Here was a character I never really liked, yet I still felt the impact that Joyce’s death had. I was sad to see her go, not because of herself, but because of what it did to Buffy and her friends. When a show can make you feel that, well, that’s really an impressive feat.
Also impressive was that the show makers again managed to get a big villain who felt different from every big villain on the show so far (and which again gave this season its own unique flair). Though Glory was, in the final analysis, just as gimmicky as Adam and the über-vampire in the first season had been. She was evil just because. The little bits of character development she got where when she and her human host merged in the last episode of the season. Glory got four or fife lines that showed complexity, the rest was just generic villain gobbledygook. But that’s the price you pay when you go from plot-driven to character-driven. This time it was worth it (I mean for the first time I actually liked Xander, who managed to be a good friend for Buffy and actually act like a decent human being most of the time).