Shadow is a curious mix of soap and horror. The first half takes us through the very real angst of Joyce's illness, pulling at the heartstrings without being too mawkish.
Not so the Riley scenes, which seem to scream "you will feel sorry for him" to the viewer. I'm not sure the character has really earned it.
Far better, in a camp sort of way, are Glory's plans to locate the Key. The almost pantomime scene where she buys the spell ingredients from under Giles' nose are a delight.
As for the snake, why do they persist with these computer graphic reptiles? They never quite get them right. Maybe the Walking with Dinosaurs team should have a go.
Firstly - what a lame evil. That snake just didn't have me going. And strangling it with a chain... do snakes have windpipes?
But things really go from bad to worse in this episode. The opening scenes of the tension between the girls as they wait for Joyce to finish her scan is brilliantly executed - Buffy's irritation at Dawn hiding her feelings behind flippant jokes seems very real.
Maybe that's why season five feels so different from other seasons - it's about real threats rather than supernatural ones, and the mess of everyday life. Buffy can't fight illness, nor dust unpleasant emotions. It seems much more adult.
Why don't snake monsters work in Buffy? First we had the silly giant worm who lived in a hole and ate college students. Now we get the big, Dawn-seeking reptile, that isn't just unrealistic, it also looks unfortunately like a piece of male anatomy.
Oddly, though, the sillier Glory's machinations get, the cooler she becomes. She's the one Buffy villain you'd want to go shopping with.
With Joyce’s health worsening, we get a disappointing, story-arc-heavy episode featuring lots of miserable hanging around in hospital corridors. One of the main themes of Shadow is how all this affects Buffy’s relationships with all about her. Cue huffy faces from Riley and his frankly unconvincing turn to the dark side.
With his character teetering on the edge of believability, it doesn’t look like the lad can last much longer, does it? This rare highlight of this episode was matched by the delicious seedy Spike sweater sniffing scene, but apart from that the pacing was leaden, lacking much of the usual Buffy spark. The effects let it down even further. Buffy fights a rubber snake. With arms. Which she then punches out in the least convincing human vs. reptile battle since Tarzan met Godzilla.
Final sideswipe. Did anyone else notice Buffy stop and open the door of Giles’ convertible during the ultra urgent chase after the giant cobra? C’mon now! Surely a powerful slayer like here could have just leapt over it?
Liz (Kim's very grown up Lawyer Flatmate)
What they need is a really big Mongoose.