A Look Back at BtVS ‘Family’

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: 5.06 “Family”

Today’s my birthday. So it only seems natural to avoid writing about the things I really need to (BunheadsDrop Dead Diva) and write about someone else’s birthday. How about the 20th birthday of Tara McClay?

I’ve written about this episode before. But this time, on this day of days when you can think about how you’ve grown up, it only really makes sense to look at how this episode really shows off Tara in all her glory (pardon the Season 5 pun).

When we first met Tara, there wasn’t much to write home about. She was hunched over, quiet, and tended to stick to the shadows. Wallflower isn’t exactly the right word, since I think the Tara of Season 4 would probably prefer to be in another room than sticking to the wall. She was unsure of herself and lacked confidence — so much so that most words out of her mouth came out with a signature stutter. In fact, quite frankly, I didn’t really think much about her.

But throughout Season 4, she became one of the gang. She had a more prominent role, we got to really learn who she was, and before our unseeing eyes, she began to grow in confidence and develop.

Why do I say unseeing? Well, let’s look at “Family.” The Tara at the beginning of the episode is the one we’re used to. There’s no change here. She’s happy and comfortable with Willow. She’s good with the group (though perhaps not completely one of the gang yet). But we don’t really think of that odd character of Season 4 beginnings. We see the character we know.

In fact, we forget about what she used to be with her made-up face and pretty hair until her family arrives. Once she sees them, the stutter is back. She starts to shrink down to what she used to be. And suddenly, we the viewers realize what having the Scoobies around — particularly Willow — has done for Tara. She really grew into a new woman.

We all know the rest of the story (and if you haven’t, I suggest reading my previous post — or even better, watch the episode), and there’s even more to be said about Tara later this season and into the next. But this episode really reveals what just a year with the Scooby gang did for this girl, and it is just so interesting to see how we may not have seen it. We’re used to getting to know someone and starting to like them as they enter a series (Dawn may be an exception). But I just love the subtle way that Tara became the strong, confident Tara, and the great way that growth is revealed on her 20th birthday.

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