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Discussion of 5.20 "Spiral" - Aired 5/08/01 (WB-US)

Buffy Summers

Staff member
Nov 20, 2001
The City of Angels
Buffy, Willow, Tara, and Dawn narrowly escape from Glory, but only because she is hit by a truck. Buffy and the Scoobies leave Sunnydale in Spike's RV, because Buffy fears that they will never beat Glory.

Source: TV.com

Discuss this episode here!


Newly Human
Aug 11, 2010
The Joycemobile
I disliked the 1st half of this episode. Buffy carrying Dawn while running? I know it makes sense, since she can run faster than Dawn & would have no problem doing so while carrying her, but it looks lame! And the scene in Xander's apartment- Buffy's brilliant strategy is to run?

I do like both Spike & Giles driving the van. And Buffy's fight on top of the moving Winnebago was awesome.

What I don't get is when did Orlando (the crazy knight) see that Dawn is the key? Just because they're crazy doesn't mean they automatically know, right? Tara doesn't indicate that she realizes Dawn is the key until she looks at her in the right light (unfortunately in front of Glory).

I really like this meta from AV Club:
“Spiral” also deepens the themes of the season by setting Ben’s reaction to his lot in life against Dawn’s. When one of Glory’s minions tells Ben that his life was never really his, he says, “It doesn’t matter how I came by it, it’s mine.” Contrast that with Dawn, whining about how she shouldn’t exist; or compare it to Buffy, standing up for Dawn by hissing at the general that it’s not Dawn’s fault that she’s The Key. This is what Season Five has been exploring: the malice that creeps over us no matter what we do, and the malice that we partly bring on ourselves. Buffy brings Ben to the desert, where he changes into Glory and snatches Dawn. And when Buffy tries to run after her, she’s blocked by the wall that her own team created. Sometimes there are obstacles in front of us that we don’t deserve, and sometimes… we conjure them.

Chosen Enemy

Losing my soul
Aug 11, 2010
What I don't get is when did Orlando (the crazy knight) see that Dawn is the key? Just because they're crazy doesn't mean they automatically know, right? Tara doesn't indicate that she realizes Dawn is the key until she looks at her in the right light (unfortunately in front of Glory).

When he was at the hospital and Dawn comes into his room after running away from home. Crazy people don't automathically know, they look at the key and see. When Dawn and Spike were at the Magic box, Dawn finds the watcher's diary and reads that those and these can see the key in its real form, the energy. Something like that, I don't really remember how it went.
Ah, I forgot about that scene from the hospital. Thanks, that was bugging me!


I do doodle. You too. You do doodle, too.
Staff member
Jan 1, 2010
Stockholm, Swe
Black Thorn
I am not a big fan of this episode, frankly it's a bit of - "yeah yeah, get it over with" for me. It's great to see the fight on the RV though, Spike saving Buffy from a sword, the kicking some Byzantium soldier ass and the lines that always makes me chuckle;

Willow: "Don't hit the horsies!"
Buffy: "We won't." (to Giles) "Aim for the horsies"

But beyond that, not a very strong or entertaining episode at all. The knights are annoying, the flight rather than fight concept is fine in theory but disappointing in practice, injuring Giles just to be able to call in Ben is just so silly and Spike being able to wander around the desert for a while only covered by a sheet of some sort is beyond ridiculous...
Pretty much my thoughts on this one.
Mr Trick
Mr Trick
Yeah Buffy telling Giles to aim for the horses was great!


Ray of Sunshine..
Sep 12, 2010
I loved that episode in the way that it kept me gripped until the end. The fact that they ran shows how desperate Buffy was and also that, for the first time, Buffy doesn't know how to solve the problem and save her sister. Especially so soon after losing her mother, it just shows that she's lost. Logistically speaking I agree that Spike in the desert did seem a bit silly, but other than that I thought it to be quite a good episode.
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Minuscule Redheaded One
Feb 8, 2011
Northern Minnesota
I also think this episode did a great job in showing how desperate of a situation the Scoobies are in with Glory, but for the most part it didn't do much for me. I think it's the whole knights thing - there's just too much going on and nothing was explained very well. How did the knights find them in their RV, anyway? They must not have gotten very far.There are quite a few things that just bugged me, but I won't get into them.

I do like that they show that Buffy does have weakness and does have a breaking point. She is human, she is not perfect, and at this point, almost everyone important in her life has been taken away or hurt.
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Dec 24, 2009
I also think this episode did a great job in showing how desperate of a situation the Scoobies are in with Glory, but for the most part it didn't do much for me. I think it's the whole knights thing - there's just too much going on and nothing was explained very well. How did the knights find them in their RV, anyway? They must not have gotten very far.There are quite a few things that just bugged me, but I won't get into them.

I do like that they show that Buffy does have weakness and does have a breaking point. She is human, she is not perfect, and at this point, almost everyone important in her life has been taken away or hurt.

Agree - Everything falls apart for Buffy as The Slayer and Protector - this is the complete opposite of Buffy's harsh words to Giles when they are first talking about the potential resolution to Glory and The Key. Not only does she lose Dawn to Glory but she has also now lost Giles and those harsh and threatening words to him have come back and turned on her.

While having Spike run around in the desert is totally unrealistic, this episode has one of the great Spuffy moments of their relationship when he stops that sword with his bare hands. And it also has that very nice moment between Xander and Spike with the lighting cigarette. All of the characters get some their special moments.

I think this is a very good set up for how everything will end with Buffy realizing that she can take on the complete role of "the parent mother" who will sacrifice her own life for the child and the Jossian ultimate hero resolution - the heroic self-sacrifice.
Gum Gnome33
Gum Gnome33
[No message]


Oct 9, 2011
I gotta say, I enjoyed watching Glory get hit by a lorry lol :D but I agree with [MENTION=10354]VisionGirl[/MENTION] it did look kinda lame, Buffy carrying Dawn :rolleyes: lol
Loving Spike's goggles as he drives the Winebago :D (is that spelled right??? :confused:lol)
I want to know, how did the horse riding army find Buffy and the Scoobies???? I mean they're driving in the middle of a desert, how the hell did they know where they were????? :confused:
Poor poor Giles, getting kinda skewered :( Not nice :(


Home sweet virtual home!
Oct 9, 2011
I would also like to know this!
Maybe they had some scouts every over the world or they used magic to find them.

I really enjoyed the fight-scenes on the top of the bus... and the moment with Spike and his ugly glasses :D. All in all there had been some funny moments at the bus. But I agree I didn't like Buffy's plan. Run away. I think she did that because she was so scared about Dawn that on the one hand, so she couldn't think as clear as she would do normally, and on the other hand she just wantet to get with Dawn away from Glory. As fast as possible. She was really desperatly...


Raising penguins in Guam
Apr 17, 2011
Boston, MA
Willow: "Don't hit the horsies!"
Buffy: "We won't." (to Giles) "Aim for the horsies"[/I]

I love that line!

Also this episode contains my favorite hero spike moment (the grabbing of the sword and holding onto it) especially considering this was pre soul. And even pre buffy's on any level returning his feelings of love.

Gum Gnome33

"Well, yeah..."
Jan 10, 2011
Also this episode contains my favorite hero spike moment (the grabbing of the sword and holding onto it) especially considering this was pre soul. And even pre buffy's on any level returning his feelings of love.

This episode has some of Spike's finest moments in it, (particularly because they happen sans soul). As you mentioned, there's that great heroic sword moment, (which leads to a nice Spander scene which I know lots of people appreciate!), and there's the clear-cut display of empathy for Tara when he assures her that she hasn't hurt him in spite of his pain and still-sizzling hands, with Buffy clearly out of earshot.
Wesley Pryce
Wesley Pryce
[No message]
yeah, some of Spike's finest moments, I agree


... in a tutu. Pillock.
Feb 22, 2011
I loved this episode, not least because Giles / ASH looked (wait for it ...) particularly smoking hot in this ep. I also loved the tender scene between Buffy and Giles after he was hurt, and I LOVED Anthony's acting. I liked the Spike sword moment. I loved the creativity of setting up these knights, who were basically also good guys, as adversaries of our good guys. I loved the irony of Ben saving Giles' life, only to be killed by him later. This ep also gives rise to some great fan fiction about Giles beating himself up because his injury slowed them down, allowed Glory to capture Dawn, and ultimately cost Buffy her life.
Interesting stuff!
I especially like your observation about the Knights of Byzantium being basically good guys pitted against the Scoobs


Bite Me
Jun 18, 2003
Black Thorn
First time in 5 years that Buffy's decided to run away from an enemy she thought she couldnt defeat. I liked the scene in the van when everyone is leaving Sunnydale. Poor Spike getting hit with sun light when Tara messes with the blinds and poor Buffy feeling all overwhelmed. The fight scene was great especially Anya hitting that guy with a pan. This episode had everything, it was great.


modulating between criticism and reconstruction
Feb 18, 2014
Denver, Colorado
This entire episode filled me with a feeling of utter hopelessness. It reached its peak for me when they were trapped in that abandoned gas station (or whatever it was) with the knights of Byzantium surrounding them. That, Giles' grave injury and the fact that Glory seems like an unstoppable force just was too much. It seemed difficult to imagine how the scoobies were going to win; I couldn't think of anything myself. I felt terrible for them.

Then Glory shows up and takes Dawn. Ugh, gut punch. Buffy cracked and went catatonic, and I couldn't blame her.

Give Us A Kiss

Fuffy Apologist
Feb 4, 2015
I liked this episode (especially the scene where Buffy is fighting the knights on the top of the RV)-Until Buffy went catatonic :(

Give Us A Kiss

Fuffy Apologist
Feb 4, 2015
Spells seem to be helpful today...

Ben could pull off the dress ;)

Dawn, do you have a thing for feet ??? o_O

What's the difference between dead and seriously dead ??? o_O

Anya, a piano won't help...

Good idea Buffy, escaping is the only option unfortunately :(

Ben, if she's not your god then why do you share a body ??? o_O

How did Spike get the RV ??? o_O

That knight looks a bit like how Patrick Stewart would look like if he had hair.

Xander "shrimp" Harris :p

Spam :eek:

Buffy :(

Did Dawn just jinx it ??? :eek:

Those are some very stubborn knights...

At least it's over now :)

They are in the middle of nowhere, in a desert somewhere...

And they come again, with fire arrows... :rolleyes:

Willow's invisible wall is more effective than the great American wall that Trump will build...

Another one of Buffy's speeches.

Willow, I want Tara back too :(

Giles, please don't die :(

Willow can bring electricity :eek:

Ben :eek:

Spike can't even light a cigarette :( (Spike has had a very long day and really needs one)

Buffy, kill Ben and you kill Glory as well.

Buffy, you need to continue to protect Dawn...

Ben, don't destroy the key...

Glory :eek:

Poor Buffy :(

Buffy has now entered a catatonic state :(

Next time: The saga continues.


Oct 27, 2017
Ben is so annoying in this episode. Once he patched up Giles he should have been in a rush to leave but there's no urgency. His behavior in this episode is like he has forgotten that Glory can take over his body at any damn point.

Tara not getting any better, Giles getting seriously wounded , then Dawn being taken... I don't blame Buffy for falling apart at the end. The whole situation seems so hopeless.

Mr Trick

Jan 9, 2015
London, UK
At first I thought some of the Knights stuff was a bit silly and long winded. But it does at least build up the universe surrounding the Key and Glory etc.. There's certainly lots of fun moments.

The scene with Giles when it looks like he might die is really touching. Again with this being 5 seasons in at the time viewers probably thought there's a chance that he could die. Again this does a good job in building up the stakes leading the finale.
Btvs fan
I thought Spikes plan was the best, get a Porsh and drive off in that. Giles and Co can follow in his BMW 🤷‍♂️

Btvs fan

Feb 11, 2019
This is the episode which made David Hines give up reviewing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This review is 18 years old, do you still Agree or disagree with it ?

"Spiral," by Steven S. DeKnight
review by David Hines
rating: **

I think it may be time to start thinking about writing off BUFFY THE

At least it is for me. Barring an incredibly brilliant or incredibly
terrible episode that screams for commentary, this is the next-to-last
review I will write about the series. I haven't written a review of the
show for some time because I've been busy. I don't plan to write another
until my post-finale assessment of the season because I don't feel the
show is worth my time. This is unfortunate. To say that BUFFY has had
more promise than most television shows in memory is an understatement,
and since this is a show that has an insanely talented creator/writer at
its helm, with a powerhouse cast, a number of good and capable writers on
staff, hordes of fans in the entertainment press, and a die-hard base of
viewers whose support will go with the show to its new home on UPN, BTVS
had a real and significant chance to realize that potential. And it
hasn't done that.

The greatest and most long-standing failure of the series has been its
inability to recognize and examine implications. As a result, while it
makes some effort to deal with wrenching emotions and deep issues, BTVS is
an unfortunately superficial show. There are episodes and storylines that
embody this problem (I think this season's Joyce cancer arc is one, and
will dissect it in my season review); but oddly, this sort of problem is
most clearly demonstrated in individual scenes. We get one of those in
this episode, and it points up some problems that have plagued the season,
and the show.

Here is the summary, for those whose attention may have wandered: Glory
is a hellgod who has been banished from her own dimension. She wants to
get home, and the Key can take her there. Because Dawn is the Key,
Glory's use of the Key is bound to be unpleasant for Dawn. It also
promises to be unpleasant for every sentient being in the multiverse whose
name is not Glorificus: the Key opens doors to all the universes at
once. Dimensions wobble and leak into one another, all boundaries between
realms mystical and secular are lost, dogs and cats live together, mass
hysteria ensues.

(Given the above, that the monks who incarnated Dawn ever tried to harness
the Key's energies was, all things considered, highly stupid; that
Somebody created the Key in the first place is even more so. As tools
go, it's sort of like the lever in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that brings the
laboratory crashing down when the monster pulls it. Yes, BRIDE's a great
movie, and the emotion of the moment is terrific, and it's a classic
ending... but at the same time, you can't help but think damn that's a
dangerous thing to have in a laboratory.)

Glory has found out that Dawn is the Key, so Buffy and company are
electing to bravely run away, a valid strategic action. The Knights Who
Say Ni are running after Buffy and company, because they have an alternate
strategy for preventing the Key from falling into Glory's hands. It is
true that all Glory wants is to go home, and that the only reason she's
looking for the Key in this dimension is that she was banished here by
other hellgods... but since she cannot be allowed to use the Key, the Key
must be destroyed before Glory finds it. Which means that Dawn has to
die, because the Knights don't know what Glory's mortal form is, so can't
kill her. Of course, Buffy must prevent this because It's Not Right; but
the fact that she's on the run, unable to protect Dawn -- and then gets
herself and her friends outnumbered and trapped in an abandoned gas
station -- has her questioning her abilities, and barely holding on.

Let's step back and consider this situation, leaving story construction
issues aside for the moment. Is it me, or is the entire situation with
Glory beginning to look a whole lot like an Idiot Plot? ("Idiot
Plot," coined by sf writer and critic James Blish, meaning a story that
can only function as it does if all the characters involved are
idiots.) Consider:

* The hellgods are idiots. After a hellish battle to defeat Glory, which
they apparently barely won, they do not kill her but put some horrible
means of torturing her in motion, leaving open the possibility of a
comeback. Evil Overlord Rule #4: "Shooting is not too good for my

* The monks were idiots. They not only brought the Key into Glory's
reach, they damn near handed it to her, and screwed things up so
badly in their weak effort to hide the key that they put the entire
multiverse at dire risk. Then the one survivor ran to the Key, to tell
the Slayer where he hid it, and in so doing led Glory right to her.
Gregor, the Knights' General, actually makes their dumbness explicit in
a throwaway line. The last version of this, Snyder's explanation of the
Sunnydale PD, was nothing short of beautiful; here, though, the
stupidity is of such a monumentally higher class that I can't help but
think of Dark Helmet's line in SPACEBALLS after he suckers the hero out
of his weapon: "So you see, Lone Star, evil will always triumph --
because good is dumb."

* The Knights are idiots. They know that Glory was grafted into the body
of "a male infant;" presumably they know roughly when this
occurred; they know when Glory (and, by extension, said male
infant) arrived in Sunnydale. Yet despite their keeping a close enough
watch on everything in town to figure out that Dawn is the Key and mount
an assault almost immediately after Glory literally blunders into that
secret, it apparently never occurs once to them that they might keep
an eye on Glory, follow her movements discreetly, and wait for her to
change back into her mortal and killable form. (Even if they're only
shadowing Buffy, they should have known where Glory's hideout was prior
to this episode.)

* The Knights are idiots, again. Let's take a moment to imagine what'll
happen if they do off the Key. There's still a nigh-unkillable
hellgod stuck on Earth. Except now she's stuck here permanently and
she's really pissed off. Way to save the world, boys.

(My radical suggestion: don't stop Glory. Help her. Forget the Key for
a minute: there are multiple ways of moving from one dimension to
another in the Buffyverse; vide the current episodes of ANGEL. There's
no point in wasting time fighting Glory when you can just dump her back
to her old dimension, and let the hellgods deal with her. She's their
problem, after all.)

* Glory is an idiot. She's planning to get back home via a device that
will make the multiverse's myriad dimensions slam into each other with
the force of oversexed sumo wrestlers, resulting in, we're told,
unimaginable destruction and eternal darkness. Admittedly, Her
Delectable Bosominess is a few fruitcakes short of a Christmas, but even
she should be able to realize that this does not exactly leave much for
her to be a god of.

But still, the biggest problem with this episode (and in many ways, this
series and season) for me is the lack of attention being paid to
implications. BTVS has never been good about taking the logical next
step, about asking the questions that screams to be asked... and so while
this season the character of Buffy Summers has been cut, it is only with
the shallowest of slashes. The result may be colorful, but it does not go
to the bone.

For me, the big scene in this episode, the big question, comes in the
scene in which Buffy and the Knights's General, one Gregor, are wrangling
over Dawn. Buffy says that Dawn is a person now, not a Key, so It's Not
Right to kill her. From the script:

Yes. The Key has been transformed.
Given breath. Life.
(sadly, to Buffy)
Yet this makes no difference. The
Key is the link. The link must be
severed. Such is the will of God.

She doesn't remember anything about
being this Key everyone's looking for!
All she remembers is growing up with
a mother and a sister that love her.
What kind of god would demand her
life for something she has no control

Silence. Gregor ventures no response.

Gregor ventures no response?!?!?!! Forgetting for a moment the easy,
cop-out refutation (the Moron Monks were the ones who meddled in cosmic
affairs and conjured the Key into human form; if a sentient being has to
lose her life to save the multiverse, that's their fault -- God not only
had nothing to do with it, He was probably out for a round of skee-ball at
the time!), there's a screamingly obvious answer to Buffy's question that
not only answers her question, but pulls the rug out from under her and
raises the stakes for the character.

What kind of God would require Dawn to make that kind of a sacrifice?

Well, gee, I don't know; maybe *the same kind of God who'd pick an
unsuspecting teenage girl to fight against undead hordes every night of
her life until she dies a violent death?!?*

I think this is one reason the story isn't working for me. We're supposed
to see Buffy as being unquestionably right, standing up against the world,
and admire the hell out of her for that. (That a sorely wounded and
delirious Giles talks Buffy up only drives that point home; when
characters start giving heartfelt testimonials to each other, the hand of
the writer almost always is more heavily felt than is good for the
work.) Then we feel for her at her collapse, get worried for her, get
wrapped up... get, in short, involved. The problem for me is that I'm
not, and I think Gregor's lack of response to Buffy pointed up part of the
reason why.

As it stands, the emotional pain -- and at episode's end, collapse --
incurred by Buffy in her efforts to protect Dawn arises because protecting
Dawn is unquestionably The Right Thing To Do, but it's something Buffy
can't succeed at because the stakes are too high, the opponents too
powerful. Protecting Dawn calls to two of Buffy's instincts: her role as
big sister/caretaker, and her role as Slayer/protector of the innocent,
which she has embraced anew (again) this season. If she fails at
protecting Dawn, she fails to meet the dictates of those two callings.

There are two problems with this. First, it's simple and obvious
stuff. That is an easy criticism, but it's true; this is "pile it on,
watch her break, watch her rise" -- or, as the late producer Don Simpson
called it, "living down in the pits." As character arcs go, it's about as
compelling as Maverick's, in TOP GUN. The hero overcomes
self-doubt; well, yay, but it doesn't make for a fundamental change in the
character, or give us a fundamental new insight into him/her. (Yes,
Maverick learns the virtues of team playing, but he buzzes the tower at
the end -- he's the same ol' Mav!)

The second problem, which I acknowledge is really more of an explication
of the first, is that this sort of crisis does not call the rules of the
game into question. Buffy's internal problems are subordinate to her
external obstacles. This, as I have noted several times with respect to
ANGEL's first season, is a problem, and is innately an inferior kind of

My suggestion, to be perfectly blunt about it -- to make the crisis one
internal to Buffy, and thus more revealing of the character -- is that
Buffy's failure, rather than being an equal failure of both her roles,
Sister and Slayer, should arise from the fundamental problem that *these
two roles are incompatible.* Because in this instance, I think they
are. Like it or not, stopping the end of the multiverse is in the Slayer
job description; and if Glory can't be stopped, then Buffy may have to so
love the universe that she give the life of her only begotten sister. Is
that something Buffy Summers would do? Never in a million years. Is that
something The Slayer would do? Absolutely. Instead, now Our Heroine is
Perfect And Right, and it's the world that's wrong. I don't think that's
particularly compelling in terms of characterization, or in terms of
story. Of course Our Heroine is going to get up and come through -- she's
Perfect And Right, after all.

Given my problems with the story, this is a bit of a petty thing to close
on, but: the fight scene between our heroes in the RV and knights on
horseback, which should be thrilling, largely falls flat, with one or two
momentary exceptions. The fight choreography has been unfortunately
inconsistent this year, ranging from the fantastic to the terrible. Its
biggest and most recurring problem, which returned in spades in this
episode, is a certain stodginess. What made Jeff Pruitt's fight scenes so
good in seasons past was their constant flow; in this episode, as in many
others this season, the fighting is painfully blocky. Instead of
blockpunchkickspindodgeduck, it's block. punch. kick. spin. dodge.
duck. It's just not as exciting, and that's unfortunate, because this
fight should have been much cooler than it was.

That's it for me. See you at the season wrap-up. (I'll still be
reviewing ANGEL, though.)

David Hines
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