Another disaster-filled birthday party for Buffy with Dawn inadvertently trapping the entire gang (and a few extras) inside the Summers house.
The problem with Dawn is that the 15 year old is being written like an 10 year old. This makes her really irritating and unlikeable. Not that everyone should be likeable but Dawn makes you want to kick the telly instead of feeling sympathy for her isolation and loneliness.
For me the best part about this episode was the fact that Tara got to be more than simply Willow's girlfriend (who states the obvious). She got to make fun of Spike, tell Anya off and make Willow nervous. It was nice work.
Overall, this week's episode had some funny moments, and raised some interesting ideas. Will Willow stay clean? Can Buffy and Spike stay away from each other? Does anyone really believe Anya and Xander will get married? Does Tara have a new career as the funny one? And since when does eight people in a house playing Monopoly constitute a party?
Trapping people within a house is a staple of the horror genre, and one that has often been used on TV (Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel). But while the device can be used to heighten the tension and give mores scope to explore the lead characters, handled incorrectly it can look like the producer is just trying to do an episode on the cheap. Luckily, Older and Far Away avoids this pitfall and provides moments of terror, but handled in the usual Buffy way, with plenty of humour and a healthy dose of teenage angst.
There are no prizes who provides the latter, but congratulations to Michelle Trachtenberg for managing to narrowly avoid being too annoying and eking out our sympathy. Surprisingly, it’s Tara that provides a high proportion of the laughs, along with Helfrek, whose impish behaviour should earn her further guest appearances. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.