Buffy's role as student counsellor is proving very handy. As well as giving her daytime access to Sunnydale High, it really complements her new nocturnal role - as Chief Executive Slayer to several not wholly apt pupils.
A skilful episode from writer/director Doug Petrie. From the cemetery teaser, via Willow's funny-smelling spell, through to the juxtaposition of the Summers girls' fighting techniques, it all works well. It's also good at maintaining the decoy idea that Dawn's potential in no less than Kennedy's or Chloe's. Michelle Trachtenberg expresses Dawn's anticipation of this unexpected status well.
So it's a bit deflating to find that gawky Amanda was the locator spell's real target (and the Bringers' quarry at the same time). Some understated compensation arrives through the inspirational reprise where Xander puts Dawn on his level. Confidence about the season's direction is duly restored.
Discovering that you've somehow been Chosen, and having to make some sense of it is one of the great themes in fantasy fiction, so it's no surprise to see it on Buffy. What is surprising is to see the theme play so badly against much of the established spirit of the show.
For some reason, Buffy never mentions to the potentials that her friends have killed many a vamp without supernatural abilities. Instead, she bangs on about the potentials' inherent Slayer abilities, of which there's scant sign.
What's going on here? Suddenly, this show isn't about the value of friendship, always a central tenet, any more. It's turned into a Star Wars-like aristocracy where you're either born with it or you're not.
Xander's speech is no answer - it's the pathetic whine of a serf. Frankly, Buffy's suddenly gone all undemocratic, and I don't like it one bit.
The training scenes with Spike were ace, though.
Potential is another season seven episode that provides Michelle Trachtenberg with a chance to shine and show a likeable side to Dawn.
With even more potential slayers arriving in Sunnydale (funny how they all come from English speaking nations) Buffy realises that there isn’t really safety in numbers and that they must find the next Slayer…
Interestingly the scriptwriters don’t take the obvious route. Previous episodes have seen Dawn eager to learn about her sister’s nocturnal activities. At the beginning of this episode she is clearly jealous of the attention the potentials are getting. But when Willow’s spell points to Dawn being the Chosen One, rather than revelling in it Dawn is very matter of fact - daunted, even, by the dubious honour.
And then there’s the twist, which was at first obvious and then (to my mind) cleverly dismissed - when Dawn seemed to be the One. Clever stuff.
Ooh, but one other thing - Molly must die! Though you can retain Vi, the kooky one in the hat... or maybe just give me her hat?