Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 5 Episode 20


Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM May 08, 2001 on The WB
out of 10
User Rating
482 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

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.

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  • To be completely honest, "Spiral" is a pretty big disappointment.

    I was expecting another layered and complex episode with some impressive action sequences. What I got instead was an episode with suspect plot logic and utterly ridiculous set pieces that border on goofy, which is not cool. With all that said, there's still much plot progression, some great subtle character moments, and some chilling exposition that lay the stakes on the line. This entire episode is basically one big action scene after another with a big chunk of exposition in the middle of it. That'd be okay if it was done with some more sensibility.

    The opening scene, though, has plenty sensibility and is super cool to boot. Glory blasting through the wall and running incredibly fast through some doors at UC Sunnydale is a sweet visual effect. After Buffy and Dawn barely escape Glory thanks to Willow's useful forcefield spell and a truck, it quickly becomes obvious that the Scoobies can't stop her forever. So what's Buffy's idea to save them? Apparently to cram everyone in a winnebago that can't go past 35 mph and is about to fall apart. Simply packing them all up in two smaller but faster cars would have done the trick and avoided all the problems that follow. This idea by the writers was mistakenly taken for laughs when it should have been taken seriously, like Buffy is. I can overlook small plot contrivances but this is a huge one.

    While I'm dwelling on the negative I might as well get it all out of my system. How in the world did the Knights manage to get their whole little stupid army over to Sunnydale... with horses... looking like that? These guys look like they came out of a Xena episode. What is going on here? Also, how'd the Knights find the winnebago let alone catch up with it? Ugh... I'm sorry but there's just too much stupidity in plotting for me to excuse any of it. I expect more from Buffy, a lot more. But wait! It doesn't end! We get to see their general guy run into Buffy's makeshift stronghold with only one guard! At this point I don't even think I need to mention how utterly one-dimensional this group is. When Glory slaughters all of them at the end of the episode and that one guy gasps out, all melodramatic-like, "the all I can do is cheer. Thank you Glory for killing those, as Spike elogantly puts it, "role-playing It's such a shame the writers couldn't intelligently work the Knights into the plot and it represents one of the big missed opportunities this season.

    Okay, take a breath. With all that disappointment off my chest, I can actually start talking about some of the stuff I loved. Yes, there is stuff I loved. First is a fascinating parallel between Dawn and Ben that's developing. Both of them have manufactured existences and are victims of circumstances having to make the best of their respective situations. We see Ben constantly saying that this is his life and that he's going to do whatever it takes to keep it. At this point he's not quite willing to kill Dawn to save himself, but he's not ruling it out. Dawn on the other hand doesn't want to hurt anyone and is kind of helpless to do much of anything about her situation.

    Like Spike told Dawn before and Ben told himself before, it doesn't matter much how you got here, it's what you do now that matters. Both Dawn and Ben started out in the same boat, but in these final episodes we see Dawn pulling more towards being willing to sacrifice herself rather than see others hurt and Ben going the exact opposite way. The beginning of this split is played excellently for tension while Ben is helping an injured Giles.

    Another well-done aspect of this episode is everything surrounding Buffy's attitude. We see a cold, depressed, and scared Buffy who just gets bombarded by one disaster after another without being given time to process what's happening and make good decisions. When they first load up in the winnebago and everyone objects to Spike being there, Buffy just yells out, "Look this isn't a discussion! He stays! Get over it!" She's right, they need him helping them--they need anyone willing to help them. This makes Buffy go even further into isolation, locking herself in the back room. Later on Dawn comes in and does something that's been way overdue: thanking Buffy for all the amazing stuff done for her. Although Buffy appreciates the sentiment, it's not nearly enough to break her away from the reality of the situation. Tearing up a bit she says, "It just keeps coming. Glory. Riley. Tara. Things have really been piling up on Buffy this season, and she's about to snap.

    Another brief moment of comfort for Buffy is when an injured Giles also essentially thanks her for everything she's done. He tells her, "What I've always admired... Being able to place your heart above all else. I'm so proud of you. You've come so far. You're everything a Watcher... everything I could have hoped I'm glad Buffy heard this directly from Giles and wasn't left implied any longer. They've been through so much together, it feels right for it to finally be verbalized.

    As things continue to get more dire towards the end of the episode, Buffy begins taking this attitude of 'everyone's going to make it' which, while admirable, is hardly practical and something in future seasons she'll realize. This extends to Buffy genuinely promising not to let anything happen to Dawn. Nearly immediately after this promise Ben, who was called to help the injured Giles, transforms into Glory right in front of everyone and starts crazily tearing the place up going after Dawn. Buffy can't stop her, Glory snags Dawn, kills all the Knights outside Willow's cool protective bubble, and vanishes thereby shattering Buffy's promise to Dawn. Understandably, this is when Buffy completely shuts down and goes into a catatonic shock. Pieces have been coming together all season to build to this moment and here it finally happens. More good character continuity.

    A few other bits that I found on the positive side of things include Xander helping Spike light his cigarette, finally showing some acceptance and gratitude for Spike's help which has been long overdue though understandably absent until now. I also really enjoyed getting a ton of background on what exactly the Key is and what the stakes are if Glory succeeds. It's amusing that Glory could care less about harming the world, it just so happens that's a side effect of getting her back home. If the Key is activated it will cause "The walls separating realities will crumble, dimensions will bleed into each other. Order will be overthrown and the universe will tumble into chaos. All dark. Pretty heavy stuff, though it's great that at least Dawn finally knows why everyone's out to kill her.

    During this exposition from the Knight General, Gregor, we discover they seem to have blind devotion in the name of God. Whether or not this is the Christian God or some other is unknown, but no sane God would ever will an innocent to be murdered, which is the case Buffy makes. The Knights reek of religious hijacking which actually has some interesting parallels to how terrorists are molesting the Muslim religion. Whether or not this was intended by the writers I am unsure of. All I know is that the writing team kind of left the exploration of this topic in the air, as it is not discussed again nor does Gregor even have a response to Buffy's initial plea.

    In the end my feelings are a big mixed bag on this episode. There's some stuff to genuinely like while there's almost as much to be repulsed by, mostly involving the entirely dumb and one-dimensional Knights. The action scenes prove to be pretty enjoyable when I could look past all plausibility issues, and I feel the character moments outweigh the negatives just enough to keep this one out of the C-range, but barely. Those negatives do drag the episode down a fair amount though. It's just a shame this late in the stretch the writers couldn't nail down a consistently explosive multi-part finale.moreless
  • Time to get out of dodge


    The Good;

    Buffy fighting medieval knights on top of a mobile home. Again you never get this on Dawson's Creek!

    The Bad;

    Once again the budget can't really keep up with the concept. Also you can see it's a dummy when Buffy carries 'Dawn' (as indeed it is in many scenes at the end of Aliens because Sigourney had hurt her back)

    Best line;

    Xander; We got company and they brought a crusade!


    The scene between Dawn and Buffy in the camper van really brings home to you how much her life can 'Suck beyond the telling of it'.

    Kinky dinky;

    The female minion fancies Ben. Shouldn't she fancy other 'hobbits with leprosy?'

    Captain Subtext;

    Xander helps Spike light his cigarette. Dawn observes that Glory has 'nice feet'. Ben observes terrible things happen to good people. Well, they're certainly going to happen to him.

    Guantanamo Bay;

    Gregor captured and occasionally hit by the Scoobs.

    Scoobies to the ER;

    Giles speared. Spike's hands cut.

    Apocalypses; 5,

    Scoobies in bondage: Dawn tied up

    Buffy: 8

    Giles: 4

    Cordy: 5

    Will: 3

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 4

    Oz: 1

    Faith: 3

    Joyce: 1

    Wes: 1

    Xander; 1

    Dawn; 2

    Scoobies knocked out:

    Buffy: 16

    Giles: 10

    Cordy: 6

    Xander: 8

    Will: 5

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 6

    Oz: 3

    Faith: 1

    Joyce: 3

    Wes: 1


    Kills: Buffy kills at least one knight

    Buffy: 95 vamps, 32 demons, 6 monsters, 4 humans, 1 werewolf, 1 spirit warrior & a robot

    Giles: 5 vamps, 1 demon

    Cordy: 3 vamps, a demon

    Will: 6 vamps

    Angel: 3 vamps, 1 demon, 1 human

    Oz: 3 vamps, 1 zombie

    Faith: 16 vamps, 5 demons, 3 humans

    Xander: 5 vamps, 2 zombies, a demon, a demon

    Anya: 1 vamp and a demon

    Riley; 18 vamps + 7 demons

    Buffybot; 1 vamp

    Spike; 1 vamp and 1 demon

    Scoobies go evil:

    Giles: 1

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 1

    Angel: 1

    Oz: 1

    Joyce: 1

    Xander: 3

    Alternate scoobies:

    Buffy: 6

    Giles: 3

    Cordy: 1

    Will: 2

    Jenny: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 2

    Joyce: 2

    Xander: 3

    Recurring characters killed: 9

    Jesse, Flutie, Jenny, Kendra, Larry, Snyder, Professor Walsh, Forrest, McNamara, Joyce

    Sunnydale deaths;


    Total number of scoobies: 7 from now on Spike an instrinsic part of the group

    Giles, Xander, Willow, Buffy, Anya, Tara, Spike

    Xander demon magnet: 5(6?)

    Preying Mantis Lady, Inca Mummy Girl, Drusilla, VampWillow, Anya (arguably Buffy & Faith with their demon essences?), Dracula?

    Scoobies shot:

    Giles: 2

    Angel: 3

    Oz: 4

    Riley; 1

    Notches on Scooby bedpost:

    Giles: 2; Joyce & Olivia, possibly Jenny and 3xDraccy babes?

    Cordy: 1?

    Buffy: 3 confirmed; Angel, Parker,Riley, 1 possible, Dracula(?)

    Angel: 1;Buffy

    Joyce: 1;Giles, 2 possible, Ted and Dracula(?)

    Oz: 3; Groupie, Willow & Verucca

    Faith:2 ;Xander, Riley

    Xander: 2; Faith, Anya

    Willow: 2;Oz and Tara

    Riley; 3; Buffy, Sandy and unnamed vampwhore

    Questions and observations;

    Willow seems to have got over her fear of horses and now doesn't want Buffy to hurt them. Xander doesn't travel well. Anya knows this but you wonder how? I for one agree with Buffy's strategy, they can't fight Glory, Tara's already been hurt, time to get the hell out of dodge! The knights actually seem pretty good guys if they weren't trying to kill Dawn, all they want to do is stop Glory which seems a reasonable idea. But they should have taken Mr Trick's advice and got some Uzis. Of course Gregor is played by the same actor who murdered Tru's mother in Eliza Dushku's show Tru Calling (Riley's friend Forrest also guest starring as did Clare Kramer and Cobie Smulders, the girl who plays Robin on Alysson Hannigan's show How I Met Your Mother). Gregor actually plays the part of Basil Exposition pretty well, Glory knows him so he's survived an encounter with her before. The camper van with the windows blocked out reminds me of the excellent Kathryn Bigelow vampire film Near Dark. Poor Buffy, it really does just keep coming and coming. Why does Ben come to the Scoobs if he knows he's a threat to Dawn? Note both Summers girls have their darkside. Why don't they go to The Council or Angel Investigations for help?

    Marks out of 10; 8/10 for the chase sequence alone

  • Spiral

    Spiral was a perfect episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer combining urgency, action, drama and humor. This is one of my favorite episodes. It was cool to see Glory using her strengths to get the key. What really made this episode awesome was when Buffy was fighting on top of the mobile home against the Knights of Byzantium. She was in perfect form, and really showcased her abilities. We also saw Willow using some Magic which is always cool. In this episode we learn exactly what the Key is for, and its devestating power. Glory has the Key and the Knights of Byzantium were slaughtered by the Beast, and we were left with Buffy looking like she accepted defeat. I can't wait to watch what happens next!!!!!moreless
  • Season 5, Episode 20.

    Buffy, Dawn, Willow, and Tara narrowly escape Glory's attack at the college. They decide they cannot fight Glory's power, and head out of town in Spike's RV. However, escaping isn't as easy as they think. I liked this episode. The beginning was amazing. I loved it. Plus, Ben is hot. But I liked seeing them in fear and everything. It's the first time that she's ever run away. I like that they waited till the end of this season, considering it was supposed to be the final one. :) The end was so sad! It was like Buffy knew she couldn't help Dawn. :( Good episode. :)moreless
  • Horsies and Role-playing rejects. Buffy is on a roll!

    I can't say I like the Renaissance Fair costumes and in my opinion, without them 'Spiral' would have been a much better episode, but nonetheless it's still pretty great. Buffy realizes she may not be able to stop Glory, and tries to escape Sunnydale with Dawn, Spike and the rest of the gang, but that doesn't work out after the funny-dressing people with horses find out their location and vow to kill Dawn.

    The episode has some really amazing scenes and everything I love about Buffy is there. So much happens in it that I don't even know how to begin. Glory gets hit by a truck, Ben thinks about killing Dawn, there's a trailer, crazy people, flaming arrows, a big battle, great fight scenes and big revelations about Glorificus's endgame and her alter-ego Ben. The Buffy writers really outdid themselves on this one and you won't be disappointed, except for the so-bad-it-hurts outfits. The acting is once again great and Michelle Trachtenberg and SMG are really impressive throughout the story. There is also a bit of comedy (yep, Anya again) and even Xander-and-Spike bonding time.

    Awesome episode, as usual.moreless
Wade Williams

Wade Williams

General Gregor

Guest Star

Karim Prince

Karim Prince


Guest Star

Justin Gorence

Justin Gorence


Guest Star

Clare Kramer

Clare Kramer


Recurring Role

Charlie Weber

Charlie Weber


Recurring Role

Amber Benson

Amber Benson


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (13)

    • Nitpick: The gang sees Ben turn into Glory (for Dawn, the second time), but it won't register until "The Weight of the World" for the Scoobies to realize that Ben is Glory.

    • Goof: When Buffy goes up through the roof hatch she is facing forward with Spike seen behind her holding the sword blade. The scene changes to outside on the RV roof and suddenly she is turned facing the Knight who stabbed the sword into the roof.

    • Goof: When Glory's minions are reading the Runes, you can see that the minion casting the Runes only has makeup covering her hands.

    • Goof: When Glory is chasing Buffy and Dawn you can clearly see the "Dawn" Buffy is carrying is a dummy.

    • Nitpick: The Knights of Byzantium seemed to know that the key was Dawn, but they were only told that it was "A shiny little girl", and they seemed to discount Buffy, Willow, and Anya.

    • Nitpick: The Knights miss a perfect opportunity to defeat the Scoobies. They are there when the RV crashes yet they suddenly disappear as the gang leaves the RV and just as suddenly reappear after the Scoobies get inside the abandoned garage.

    • Nitpick: It would seem impossible that two dozen or more men on horseback in flat, open country could approach and attack the RV without being seen, yet the Knights do just that.

    • Goof: Out of the window, when Giles is driving, if you look close enough, you can see that the background looks like a large rock and the RV is in the same place and it is merely rocking.

    • Goof: When the Knights are moving out from the valley, as the camera moves upwards, you can clearly see a crew member at the side of the screen in a red jumper with an earpiece.

    • Goof: After Anya uses that frying pan on a knight, and Buffy throws the knight off the RV, Buffy's stunt double's face is seen clearly.

    • Goof: Buffy is seen spin-kicking a knight in the face while on the RV, however she is too far away from his face, and he turns too soon.

    • Goof: When Giles is driving the RV you can see him go past the same fire hydrant twice, once going towards the right of the screen, and another going the other direction.

    • Goof: When Buffy is fighting the Knights on top of the motor home she is wearing flat shoes. But when she is in the gas station talking to the leader of the Knights she is wearing high-heeled boots.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Glory: I really hate it when people touch my things. Any last words, slay-runt?
      Buffy: Just one... Truck. (a truck slams into Glory)

    • Dawn: I think Anya's gonna try to cook. Wanna come watch the tears and recriminations?

    • Buffy: (Willow puts up a barrier to keep the Knights of Byzantium from getting in) Will... how long will it hold?
      Willow: Half a day, maybe. (She looks out through the wood and sees two people chanting away) Or until Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it.

    • (A guy breaks the window of the RV but Anya keeps hitting him with a frying pan and he falls out)
      Anya: Not a piano... but hey...

    • Anya: Piano!
      Xander: Because that's what we used to kill that big demon that one time. No wait, that was a rocket launcher. An, what are you talking about?
      Anya: We should drop a piano on her. Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment.

    • Xander: Would you give it a rest or...
      Spike: Or what? You gonna toss your cookies on my shoes?

    • Spike: Buckle up, kids. Daddy's puttin' the hammer down.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Xander:Because that's what we used to kill that big demon that one time! No wait, that-that was a rocket launcher.

      Xander makes reference to the Judge from Season 2 and the means they used to kill him

    • Despite stating several times, including episodes after this one, that Buffy has never killed a human no matter how bad the circumstance, this episode seems to show otherwise. When Buffy is on the roof of the RV fighting two of the Knights of Byzantium, she throws and axe into the chest of one of the Knights. While the Knights have been known to use magical methods, by all accounts they are only human, so throwing an axe into the chest of one should kill him and end the notion that Buffy has never killed a human.

    • Although it had been suggested before for other Big Bads, this is the first (and only) time that Buffy and the Scoobies actually try to run away and hide from the Big Bad.


    • (Regarding the invisible wall Willow creates to keep the Knights out)
      Buffy: Will... how long should it hold?
      Willow: Half a day... maybe. Or until Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it.
      Heckle and Jeckle are characters from an American cartoon series from the 1950's. They were two magpies and acted a bit like a cross between Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, two more well-known cartoon characters.

    • Xander: (to Spike) Give it a rest or... you can be undead man walking.
      This is a play on the term "Dead man walking," a phrase that is used to refer to prisoners on Death Row (sentenced to execution.) It was also the title of a 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, about a convicted killer on Death Row and nun who befriends him.

    • Anya: We should drop a piano on her. Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment.
      The 'creepy cartoon rabbit' in question is Bugs Bunny, and the 'nice man' is Elmer Fudd. Bugs is just one of many Warner Brothers characters who like to drop pianos on their enemies.

    • Giles: Yes, or perhaps we could paint a convincing tunnel on the side of a mountain.
      Wile E. Coyote is one of several Warner Brothers characters to try this trick. He paints a tunnel on a mountain to trap the Roadrunner, who of course runs straight through it and out the other side, but Wile E. always hits the mountain when he tries it.