All the Way

Season Six, Episode Six

What's it all about?

All the Way: The Review

Miss Direction

All the Waybegins as an apparent step back, a revival of one of the original features of the show's premise, the slightly skewed, fractured fairy tale view of a tried and true monster movie cliche. The first and second seasons ran through a number of these standards, the possessed ventriloquist's dummy (Puppet Show), the living mummy (Inca Mummy Girl), Frankenstein's monster (Some Assembly Required), not to mention the wolfman, etc. In the teaser, All the Wayappears to take a shot at doing the same thing with the evil toy maker.

It might have worked, but there is no way to know, as that part of the story is only incidental. The evil toy maker is really a nice old man who becomes a victim of a couple of vampires, new friends of Dawn. Instead, the theme changes to one about Dawn as an alternative reality Buffy. This, too, might have worked, except that the story itself by which the theme is explored is nothing more than a set of sketches that are periodically interrupted by yet other off-theme sketches that contribute nothing to the story. Moreover, there is no "real" to Dawn's "me", and to borrow from Buffy's history to illustrate the paucity of Dawn's own history is pointless: in the end, it doesn't matter. If this is a way of dealing with Dawn's identity problems, then it is an insipid failure.

Shallow teen

The episode begins innocently enough with the humorous scene in the Magic Box. Xander's impersonation of a pirate might or might not bring to mind Larry's magical costume from Halloween. If it does, it isn't clear that it has any meaning as an allusion. Giles' hope that Xander might poke some magical object that would transport him to another dimension in which there was a 50 foot Giles who might stomp on him seems rather extreme and reckless, given the propensity for wish fulfillment that has been shown in previous episodes.Buffy pointedly reminds the viewers that past episodes with the Halloween theme have involved the Scoobies very personally in hijinks of a threatening kind, which cruelly serves to build expectations. Buffy's encounter with Spike in the basement at least has the charm of revealing something of Buffy's repressed feelings about Spike. Willow's diatribe about stereotyping of witches is self-serving, and is exposed as such immediately by her about face when an appealing mini-me approaches her. Willow's self-righteousness and paranoia are pile driven into the episode without any relevance shown to the central story of Dawn's misadventures. The episode isn't about Willow, however, although it might have been to its profit. But it's all about Dawn.

There's is so little to tell about Dawn, however, that another large portion of the episode is devoted to Xander's long postponed announcement of the engagement and the extemporaneous celebration that follows. In fact, if the episode were not about Dawn or Willow, one might reasonably conclude that it was all about Xander's sensations of drowning as he contemplates the fact of the impending marriage. The episode recapitulates Xander's arguments against the publication of their engagement, this time after the cat has been let out of the bag. Who in the audience didn't already know that he was not ready to be married and the multitude of reasons for that unreadiness? But the occasion does give Willow the chance to quarrel with Tara about the unnecessary reliance upon magic that Willow has evinced. Still, the episode is really about Dawn.

Well, what about Dawn, then? She lies to Giles, Willow, and Buffy about her intention to sleep over with Janice. The viewers are reminded that Buffy and the Scoobies used to lie to their parents in the same manner. That would be all well and good as a reminder, if the situations were similar. The Scoobies lied so that they could save the world, kill monsters, and perform other services for an blissfully ignorant populace. Dawn lies so that she can pick up guys. The guys in question turn out to be vampires, which makes her irresponsibility all the more egregious. But this is an examination of the alternative-world Buffy, after all, so there must be some point to the contrast. As a result of the lie, Dawn participates in mindless vandalism and the robbery and murder of an innocent man, Mr. Kaltenbach, the harmless toy maker. Even when she learns that her boyfriend is a vampire, the fate of Kaltenbach does not bother her. So much for arousing any sympathy for Dawn, the alienated teenaged sister who is overshadowed by the Slayer. This isn't Badlands. Of course, the comparison of Buffy's love for Angel with Dawn's brief crush on her vampire beau can't be allowed to pass without gratuitous notice from Dawn. That Buffy has to point out that it really was different makes the comparison even more outrageous and unflattering. Dawn isn't an alternative-world Buffy. We have seen the alternative-world Buffy twice already, once in The Wishand again in the person Faith. Buffy in any world or version is not the sniveling Dawn. If the premise of Halloween is to dress up as somebody else without consequences, as Buffy told Willow in Halloween,then Dawn's choice of Buffy as a costume character is all wrong. But the reprise tour of Sunnydale's teen hangouts does give Willow and Tara a chance to argue again about Willow's unwarranted and potentially dangerous use of magic. The magical date rape spell that Willow casts upon Tara closes the episode with its most powerful moment. Stiil, the episode isn't about Willow.

In Sum.

In the end, what is All the Wayabout? On the face of it, the object appears to have been to make some of the familiar characters look unattractive, and to make Dawn in particular even more unappealing, all for the purpose of some later unspecific eventuality. From out of the analysis, the net effect is to bore the viewers. Nothing and nobody goes all the way, least of all the episode itself, which meanders about the screen and then sinks ineffectually into the desert sand of random banter. So what? Did ME set out to increase sympathy for Dawn by showing that she had no life of her own, and was reduced by fate or decision to mimic the events of Buffy's life? (Killing the vampire with a Number 2 pencil, as Buffy did in the teaser of Band Candy,is another example of this referral without reinterpretation.) The viewers already knew that Dawn had no real history. Emphasizing that knowledge accomplishes nothing except the exasperation of the audience. One inadvertent accomplishment can be counted, to wit, Dawn has been rendered contemptible. But the fact that the producers can't come up with an interesting episode about Dawn, even when they sit down to that very task, is the most damning indictment of the character's vacuity that could be brought.

For an episode that pretended to follow in the tradition of the show, All the Way was nothing but pretense, much like Dawn herself. Starting with the title, redolent with potential allusions to the use of song titles in the past (i.e., Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, I Only Have Eyes for You, Who Are You?), it promised a return to form, but it gave only the shadow.

Horace LaBadie

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