The fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer originally aired from September 26, 2000 to May 22, 2001, concurrently with the second season of Angel. It was the final season of the show to be broadcast on The WB television network.
After an unsettling encounter with the Dracula, Buffy asks Giles to once again be her Watcher. Luckily he agrees, for Buffy is about to face mortal problems far more threatening than the undead: the sudden appearance of a sister named Dawn, her mother’s mysterious illness and Spike’s undying devotion. Then an undefeatable demon appears, forcing Buffy to turn to an ancient Spirit Guide who tells her that love is her greatest gift — and power.
Dawn appears in Sunnydale as Buffy’s younger sister, with no one finding her presence alarming or noticeable. As a new and formidable enemy rises in the form of Glory, a woman capable to physically besting Buffy and seemingly unbeatable, it's discovered she is seeking a mysterious Key, tied to the Order of Dagon. Glory's ultimate plan is to use the Key to return to her home dimension, as a fully powered hell goddess, free from her mortal prison of Ben, the hospital intern which whom she is forced to share a body with.
While she works to find the elusive Key, her need to feed on energies causes her to form an army of mentally ill Sunnydale residents. Buffy and her friends struggle to discover her plan while protecting Dawn, who struggles to accept what she is and the truth about her life, while Spike finds himself falling in love with Buffy. Buffy's life starts to slowly break down as the struggles of a sister, college, Slayerhood and her increasingly ailing mother put pressure on her. Believing her sister to be responsible for her mother's lack of health and her illness causing her to realize Dawn is not who she says she is, Buffy eventually discovers the Order of Dagon used her essence to give the Key a new physical form safe from harm: the Key is now in fact Dawn herself, who is defenseless and must be protected by Buffy.
After a devastating emotional blow to Buffy's life after her mother passes away, Tara loses her sanity to Glory, earning Willow's ire and causing her to use high level magic to attempt to beat her. While failing, this forever changes Willow for the worse. Despite the Scooby Gang's best efforts, Glory eventually discovers the Key’s new form and kidnaps her for a ritual that would bring down the walls separating different dimensions, flooding the earth dimension with demons and other hell beasts. An all out final battle occurs, in which the combined efforts of Buffy, Willow and Giles end Glory's plans. However, the portal has already begun to open. Buffy finally realizes the meaning of the First Slayer's message: as she shares the same essence with Dawn, her blood can stop the end of the world: death is her gift, Buffy throws herself into the vortex and sacrifices her own life in place of her sister's. She leaves Dawn with her last words, encouraging to keep living, despite how brutal the world is.
The main antagonist of this season was Glory.
In order of character appearances:
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers (22/22)
- Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris (22/22)
- Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg (22/22)
- Emma Caulfield as Anya Jenkins (22/22)
- Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers (22/22)
- Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles (22/22)
- James Marsters as Spike (21/22) (Does not appear in "The Body")
- Marc Blucas as Riley Finn (10/22) (Does not appear in "Triangle" to "The Gift")
In order of character appearances:
- Amber Benson as Tara Maclay (18/22)
- Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers (17/22)
- Charlie Weber as Ben (14/22)
- Clare Kramer as Glory (12/22)
- Troy T. Blendell as Jinx (6/22)
- Mercedes McNab as Harmony Kendall (5/22)
- Randy Thompson as Aaron Kriegel (3/22)
- Kevin Weisman as Dreg (3/22)
- Justin Gorence as Orlando (3/22)
- Joel Grey as Doc (3/22)
- Bailey Chase as Graham Miller (3/22)
- David Boreanaz as Angel (2/22)
- Juliet Landau as Drusilla (2/22)
- Adam Busch as Warren Mears (2/22)
- Julie Benz as Darla (1/22)
- Kali Rocha as Cecily Addams (1/22)
- April Wheedon-Washington as Nikki Wood (1/22)
- Abraham Benrubi as Olaf (1/22)
- Harris Yulin as Quentin Travers (1/22)
- Sharon Ferguson as Sineya (1/22)
- Dean Butler as Hank Summers (1/22)
- This is the only season in which Anya Jenkins appears in every episode.
- This is the season with the highest number of cast members, with eight members of the principal cast from episode "Real Me" to "Into the Woods".
- Joss Whedon has stated about this season: “Our mission statement for season five was family. When you think you’ve moved on and grown up and moved out of the house and are living your life, family comes back. You realize that they’re always a part of your life. Also a very strong message with me is you make your own family, or sometimes it’s made for you by monks. So the introduction of Dawn, the death of Buffy’s mom, the meeting of Tara’s family – all of that stuff was very deliberate. We knew year one of college was freedom and not a lot of mom. But Kristine, luckily, was spending a year in Italy, so it was perfect. And we said, ‘Perfect, then you’ll come back and you’ll be very heavy in season five and then I’ll kill you’.”
- ↑ Ed Gross, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Turns 20: Joss Whedon Looks Back". Empire, March 09, 2017.