Season 5 starts off with a bang. The introduction of Dawn is disconcerting. Clearly, the audience knows she’s not really supposed to be there, but the Scoobies don’t seem to notice. The only thing different is that Buffy seems more domestically tense than usual.
So, cut to season five’s opener, “Buffy vs. Dracula,” where Dawn is finally introduced after hinting at her arrival for two seasons. Enter the Dark Prince, Dracula himself, who inevitably has heard of Buffy. Both Xander and Buffy are under Drac’s thrall, Giles ends up making time with the Dracy babes, while Anya is locked in a closet, and Willow and Tara are in the background doing research. Spike’s role is not important. Right before the credits role, Dawn appears, and the world changes. You can almost clearly see the exact moment in time when the change happens, and whether or not this was Joss Whedon’s intention, I’m not sure, but it can be seen. Buffy goes into Joyce’s room to say she and Riley are going out…there’s a split second as Joyce is putting on her earings right before she says anything that we see a change in her. It’s very subtle, but clear that something has changed, and a moment later, we see Dawn in Buffy’s room. This is the beginning of the end, as some might call it.
On another note, the first appearance of Joyce’s impending doom is during a Xander-specific episode called “The Replacement.” Buffy and Dawn are arguing about being in Buffy’s room. Enter Joyce. She claims to have a daughter-induced headache, but sarcastically seems pleased that they have finally learned to share, even if it is sharing the blame for giving her a headache. What soon will happen is the appearance of a tumor, that turns out to be Joyce’s demise. I’m not really looking forward to moving on with this season because halfway through, Joyce is no longer around, as she passes away in “The Body.” Makes me cry every time.