“Okay this is awkward, but here goes: I’m sorry I cast a spell on you that turned you into a giant, a centaur, and a creepy porcelain doll.” – Kenny
Oh dear! Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday. She’s went from a giant, to a centaur, to a… living doll. In a creepy room covered with dolls, an old man is rummaging through his tool kit. He takes out a small knife, and the doll in his hand begins pleading, “Not again.” He moves the knife towards her face, revealing that it’s Dawn, in doll form. There’s a crack on her porcelain head. She asks how long he’s going to keep doing this, and he replies, “I told you. Until you’re safe.
Back at Slayer HQ, Buffy and crew are gearing up for battle against a splinter army of vampires. Buffy is worried about Dawn’s absence, and her current shape-shifty escapades. But they don’t have time to look for her right now, Buffy has a castle and an army of Slayers to protect from the oncoming vamp attack. Xander assures Buffy that he has an inside man on the case. That man is Andrew, and he’s gone undercover as a college student to try and figure out how to help Dawn. Back at the creepy dollhouse, Dawn is planning a breakout. But all the other spooky dolls gang up on her, telling her she can never leave. The impeding vamp attack turns out to be a meagre handful of “shaky-looking pub buddies”, and the Slayer army take them out with ease. With the threat alleviated, Buffy and Xander set off to find Dawn.
Xander: …My point being, you had more people to talk to than Dawn does now when you were her age. Your Mom, Giles, Me, Will…
Buffy: I also had a lot of people worrying about me, all the time. I wanted things to be different for Dawn.
Xander: They are different. It’s weird, it’s almost like she’s a whole different person. Because, oh, she is. And as for people worrying about you: you were almost killed, a lot. Twice for reals. So the worry: not unjustified.
Buffy tells Xander it’s time to start worrying about Dawn. The centaur tracks they'd been following abruptly disappeared. Xander realises what this means. The third transmogrification has taken place. Buffy tells Xander to have Willow transport the Thricewise immediately. It’s time to put an end to his games. Buffy questions how dangerous Kenny really is, and Xander explains that he was, apparently, a nice guy until Dawn slept with his roommate. Buffy feels guilty that she didn’t know this.
Meanwhile, our Geppetto wannabe, asks Dawn not to be angry at the other dolls. He says it’s not their fault. They aren’t like her. They don’t have souls. They just do whatever he tells them. Dawn tries to reason with him, “If you know I have a soul, then you have to let me go.” He insists that he’s keeping her for her own protection, “You could get hurt. That’s what I’m keeping you safe from. Cracking open that porcelain face.” The crack on her head appears to be mended. It turns out he’d been fixing her, not cutting her.
Andrew is still trying to pump Kenny for info. Willow and the other Slayers are watching via hidden camera. Kenny realises Andrew is up to something. He can see that Andrew is placing totems around the room, he asks why he’s doing this, but before Andrew can answer, Willow and a crew of Slayers teleport to their location. Before they can grab him, Kenny takes on his demon form and flees the scene. As Buffy and Xander continue their hunt, they are interrupted by a small, gnome-like, woodland creature. Buffy questions the creature.
Buffy: No, No, No, you do not get to talk to me about breaking the truce between wood folk and humans when you’ve been trailing us for half an hour. Teeny-tiny people tracks. Disappeared. Where’d they go?
When the creature fails to comply, Buffy throws it away. They hear a window crash, and realise she's smashed a nearby window by throwing the creature. They move through the trees and find the old man’s cottage. Dawn see’s Buffy through the window and decides that this is her chance to break out of the valley of the dolls. Before Buffy can charge the cottage, Kenny appears in Demon form. He tells Buffy he never meant for things to go this far. The pair join forces and rescue Dawn. When Dawn see’s Kenny, she apologises, and suddenly, Poof! She’s human again. Buffy grabs the old man, but all his dolls beg her not to hurt him. They tell her that the old man keeps them safe. Buffy decides it’s time to go home. But not before Dawn and Kenny have a heart to heart.
Kenny: Okay this is awkward, but here goes: I’m sorry I cast a spell on you that turned you into a giant, a centaur, and a creepy porcelain doll.
Dawn: If I hadn’t said “I’m sorry,” what would have happened? Would I just keep turning into different beings endlessly?
Kenny: Not endlessly. I would have called it off when it got to the horned fire snails.
Dawn apologises again for sleeping with his roommate. Kenny says that he’s sorry too and the pair say farewell. When Dawn gets home, the heart to hearts continue, this time it’s Buffy’s turn (See Buffy Speak of the Week). They make a promise to work on their relationship and decide to spend the rest of the day hanging out and watching TV.
The Watchers Files
Living Doll was written by Doug Petrie and features artwork by Georges Jeanty and Jo Chen.
I have to admit, I was glad when this story arc finally wrapped up. It felt a little filler and over the top, and I could never imagine it occurring on the show. However, it did culminate in an intimate scene between Buffy and Dawn that spoke volumes on their complicated sibling dynamic. (See Buffy Speak of the Week).
In rereading this season, I can’t believe this story arc took twenty-five issues to resolve. I would’ve enjoyed it more, if it had played out over the course of one volume or a couple of issues. It often felt tacked on to everything else that’s been going on this season. But when you break it down, there’s some interesting themes and character bits underneath. It’s a cute storyline, it just took way to long to deliver.
I’ve come to appreciate and empathise with Dawn’s character more with each rewatch/reread. Sure, she was angsty, but with good reason most of the time. She also had some solid comedic moments that are usually overlooked or forgotten.
Honey, I shrunk the Summers Girls!
Georges Jeanty and Jo Chen’s artwork was consistently stunning. It really brought these comics to life and kept the franchise alive in our imaginations after the TV series ended. I remember the excitement I felt with each cover reveal. I’d try to dissect what it meant in terms of plot for the season. Interestingly, Jeanty pays homage to a previous Chen cover for this issue. In ‘The Long Way Home, Part Four’ Jo Chen depicted a giant Dawn holding Buffy in the palm of her hand. Here, we see the image reversed, as Georges Jeanty depicts Buffy holding Dawn in doll form.
Buffy Speak of the Week
For me, the best dialogue in this issue took place on the very last page. As I said previously, this story arc felt a little filler, but it did present an interesting insight into Buffy and Dawn’s relationship, and how they both view one another. Dawn has often acted out to get her sisters attention. Buffy’s time is something she’s always had to compete for. Being a slayer and saving the world is no easy task. Add to that, relationships, and the responsibilities of being a sister/parental figure, and you have your work cut out for you. Buffy has always feared that her love is not enough to sustain healthy relationships with those she loves most. She has been forced to make personal sacrifices since she was sixteen years old. It’s a complicated sibling dynamic with a lot of envy at play. Dawn see’s Buffy as this glamorous heroine, admired by all, she has never fully understood the weight that comes with such responsibility. Meanwhile, Dawn has something Buffy has always desperately craved, freedom. Even though this arc wasn’t my favourite, it was almost worth it for this beautiful scene by Doug Petrie.
Dawn: I knew Kenny was a thricewise. Dated him anyway. Pissed him off. Pause for requisite told you so…
Buffy: Told you so.
Dawn: And did it anyway. Maybe I wanted you to save me. A few years ago, you were the only slayer, I was your only sister. Now I’m surrounded by, like, a thousand sorta-little-sisters I can’t possibly compete with. They fight in your army, they all come equipped with fancy new superpowers and would literally die to get your attention. It sucks.
Buffy: Sounds like. But turning yourself into a giant, a horsey, and a ragdoll is beyond your normal passive aggressive.
Dawn: Could have been worse. Fire snails. Just sayin’.
Buffy: You’re right. About all of it. But – and I love saying this – you’re wrong about one thing. I got a thousand soldiers. Only one sister. I can’t keep her safe and it makes me crazy. But I love her. I love my sister to death.
Slayer Rating: 3/5