Dawn Summers

Dawn Summers
Buffy the Vampire Slayer character
First appearance "Buffy vs. Dracula"
Created by Joss Whedon
Portrayed by Michelle Trachtenberg
Affiliation Scooby Gang

Dawn Summers is a fictional character created by Joss Whedon and introduced by Marti Noxon and David Fury on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Michelle Trachtenberg. She made her debut in the premiere episode of the show's fifth season, and subsequently appeared in every episode of its remaining three seasons. Within the series, Dawn is the little sister of main character Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a girl chosen by fate to be a vampire Slayer. Whedon introduced Dawn to the series because he wanted to introduce a character with whom Buffy could have an intensely emotional non-romantic relationship.

After years of foreshadowing by Whedon, Dawn was introduced at the start of the fifth season as part of a large retcon—characters accepted Dawn's presence as if she had always been there, and as if Buffy always had a sister. As the series went on, the significance of Dawn's arrival is revealed to the series' other characters and they come to understand that she has not always been Buffy's sister, or indeed a sentient being—Dawn had originally been the mystical 'key' to unlocking dimensions, and was made into Buffy's sister so the Slayer would protect her. Dawn is, however, a real girl, Buffy's biological sister, and has real memories of her childhood. She struggles in a very real human way when she discovers the truth about her origins, and later endures problems with self-harm and kleptomania. The show's sixth and seventh seasons, as well as its canonical comic book continuation, follow Dawn's journey towards adulthood.




Dawn is first introduced as Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) little sister at the end of Buffy season five premiere "Buffy vs. Dracula", despite Buffy having been previously established as an only child. Initially, the mystery of Dawn's sudden existence is not acknowledged in the series, with the other characters accepting her as a part of the status quo. Four episodes later Buffy discovers Dawn is in fact a mystical object known as The Key; a group of monks transformed The Key into human form and sent it to the Slayer for protection from the villainous Glory (Clare Kramer). The memories of Buffy and her associates were altered, along with relevant records, so that they believed her to have always existed as Buffy's sister. She is shown to look up greatly to Willow and Tara and have a crush on Xander. She also has a close relationship with Spike, who appears keen to protect her. When Dawn learns of her origin, she resorts to self-harm and runs away from home, until Buffy assures her they are real sisters no matter what, securing it with a blood oath. Her relationship with Buffy, having been portrayed with a typical sister dynamic in the first half of the season, changes when she discovers what she is. The two become closer as Dawn becomes Buffy's sole focus once she drops out from college to protect her, going as far as to warn her friends she is prepared to kill anyone who attempts to go near Dawn in the finale. Dawn suffers more pain when her mother (Kristine Sutherland) dies unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm, which leads to Dawn resorting to black magic to try to bring her back from the grave, an action she immediately reverses upon realizing the consequences of her actions. It is eventually revealed Dawn's purpose as The Key is to open portals to alternate dimensions, a power the hell-god Glory wishes to exploit to return home. When Glory successfully uses Dawn's blood to break down the dimensional barriers, Buffy sacrifices her own life, realizing that their blood is now the same, to end the apocalypse and save Dawn.

The following season opening sees Dawn struggle with abandonment issues, as well as her escalating kleptomania. Having been devastated by her sister's death, Dawn is overjoyed when Willow (Alyson Hannigan) casts a spell to bring her back to life. However, with Buffy spiralling into a deep depression, Dawn feels highly neglected and is often seen alone and seeking attention from her sister as well as other members of the group. She later experiences her first kiss with a vampire named Justin, whom she is reluctantly forced to stake (her first vampire kill) when he tries to turn her. Dawn's isolation from the other characters reaches its apex when she inadvertently makes a wish to the vengeance demon Halfrek (Kali Rocha) which results in them becoming temporarily trapped inside the Summers house. Everyone is eventually freed when Halfrek reverses the spell, and Dawn's kleptomania and feelings of neglect by her friends and family are exposed. Buffy vows to mend their relationsip and starts spending more time with her sister whilst still trying to shield her from her life as a slayer much to Dawn's disappointment as she is eager to help Buffy in her duties. While helping Buffy battle demons in the season finale, Dawn proves herself to be capable in a fight, finally earning her sister's respect and a promise to train her.

In the final season, Dawn becomes more grown-up and a full-fledged member of the "Scooby Gang" as witnessed in the first few episodes as she aids Buffy and Xander during Willow's absence and is trained by Buffy in combat. Falling victim to a love spell in the episode "Him", she displays dangerous behavior such as attacking people and trying to commit suicide to prove her "love" for classmate RJ Brooks. While home alone one night, Dawn is forced to perform a solo exorcism to protect what she believes to be her mother from a demon, though it is revealed to be The First Evil attempting to cause Dawn to doubt her bond with Buffy, which she does for several episodes following this. Dawn's feelings of neglect begin to resurface as Buffy spends time training the potentials now living in their home. After wrongly believing herself to be a Potential Slayer, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) explains to Dawn that being normal is perhaps the hardest burden of all, as nobody understands the pain of being overlooked–as he has been in Dawn's shoes. Dawn then falls into a watcher-esque role offering the group answers from research, such as ways to communicate with The Bringers and translating texts given to Buffy in a 'slayer keepsake'. When Buffy tricks her into leaving town before the impending apocalypse, Dawn adamantly returns to fight against the First, during which she battles alongside Xander and once again proves her worth by killing several Ubervamps and survives. Dawn was intended to appear in the Angel episode "The Girl in Question", but Michelle Trachtenberg was unavailable for filming, so Andrew Wells (played by Tom Lenk) replaced her.[1]


In the comic book Buffy Season Eight, Dawn goes through a series of bizarre physical changes.

In the canonical comic book continuation to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (2007–present), it is revealed that Buffy and Dawn's relationship has been strained and conflicted since the events of "Chosen." Sometime before the series begins, Dawn becomes a giant, which Buffy believes is the result of losing her virginity to a "thricewise demon" named Kenny. Later in the series however, Dawn confides in Xander she in fact slept with Kenny's roommate and her becoming a giant was due to a spell cast by Kenny. As a giant, Dawn's personal issues are forced to take a back seat while she finds interaction between friends and family more strained. In battles however, her gigantism shows some utility; she is able to assist fighting Amy in "The Long Way Home", and rampages through Tokyo to distract their enemies in "Wolves at the Gate".

In "Time of Your Life, Part One" she shrinks to normal size again, but then turns into a centaur. Xander surmises she will likely experience a third such transformation before she can return to normal. In "Living Doll", the twenty-fifth issue of the series, Dawn undergoes her final transformation into a living doll and is kidnapped by a disturbed dollmaker for her 'protection'. Buffy, Willow, Andrew and the Slayers manage to locate Kenny and confront him about the curse, but he flees, only to show up later alongside Buffy to rescue Dawn. After she apologizes to Kenny, the spell is instantly broken and she becomes regular size again. The two have a heart-to-heart talk before parting ways again, where she explains she wasn't ready for sex with Kenny because of how intensely she liked him. At the end of the story, Dawn and Buffy mend their underlying issues, particularly that Buffy is now responsible for hundreds of Slayers and cannot devote her attention to Dawn. Buffy discovers Dawn kissing Xander in "Predators and Prey"; the pair had grown closer over the course of Season Eight. In the final issue, Xander and Dawn have settled into an apartment together in San Francisco, where they let Buffy live until she finds her own place.

Dawn also appeared in "After These Messages... We'll Be Right Back!", which centers on the plot of the unproduced animated series. A variant cover shown by Georges Jeanty features the original Season One cast (including Cordelia and Angel), along with a pre-teen version of Dawn.

Concept and creation

The arrival of Dawn Summers is foreshadowed in cryptic dream sequences in both the Season Three finale "Graduation Day, Part Two" and the Season Four episode "This Year's Girl", in which a still-comatose Faith says, while making a bed with Buffy in her bedroom, "Little sis coming, I know." Buffy replies, "So much to do before she gets here."(the first appearance of Dawn is in Buffy's room) In the season four finale, "Restless", Tara warns Buffy to "be back before Dawn."

According to Buffy creator Joss Whedon, the introduction of Dawn in Season Five was partly so protagonist Buffy Summers could experience a "really important, intense emotional relationship" with someone other than a boyfriend. "She's as intense as she was in Season Two with Angelus, but it's about her sister," Whedon says. "To me that was really beautiful."[2] Trachtenberg says she was thrust into the role without knowing much about Dawn's personality; she describes her initial meeting with Joss Whedon as "Alright, welcome to the cast, you're a teenager, you're a Key, have fun."[3]


In the beginning of season five Dawn is portrayed as younger than her age of fourteen. She is seen to be immature and klutzy, breaking objects and keeping diaries. Buffy and Joyce also appear to treat her thus as they are shown finding someone to babysit her, something they later become relaxed with as seen in the episode There's No Place Like Home. Joss Whedon stated that Dawn was originally going to be a younger character, with the writing reflecting this, but after Sarah Michelle Gellar suggested Trachtenberg for the role they raised her age.

Responding to fan complaints of Dawn being whiny throughout Season Six, Joss Whedon says, "I scratched my head. I was like, 'Excuse me, she's been abandoned by about six parental figures. The girl has huge issues.'" However, he acknowledges that he and the writers hit "the same note for a while... We needed to make some changes."[4] Whedon has expressed regret over not being able to go further with Dawn's character in season seven, but, as he says, "You get into a situation that you do like to stand alone [but] 'Dawn Goes on a Date' is not something that people would really sit for."[4]

Author Nikki Stafford saw the season seven episode "Potential" as an example of Dawn's growing maturity. She praises the character for taking charge and accepting the possibility she might be a Potential Slayer, and for quietly stepping back when she turns out to be wrong, without revealing how disappointed she really is. Stafford states, "Dawn has come a long way from the annoying adolescent she was in season five, and the screechy, difficult teen she was in season six ("get out, Get Out, GET OUT!"). She is a mature young woman, the same age as Buffy was in season one, but she is handling her problems with even more grace and acceptance than her older sister did."[5]


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  1. ^ "The Girl in Question" commentary
  2. ^ Miller, Laura (May 20, 2003), The man behind the Slayer, http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/tv/int/2003/05/20/whedon/index.html?pn=3, retrieved 07//17/2007 
  3. ^ Dawning glory Interview with Michelle Trachtenberg, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/buffy/interviews/trachtenberg/page2.shtml, retrieved 07//18/2007 
  4. ^ a b P., Ken (June 23, 2003), An Interview with Joss Whedon, http://movies.ign.com/articles/425/425492p9.html, retrieved 07//18/2007 
  5. ^ Stafford, Nikki (2007), Bite Me!: The Unofficial Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toronto: ECW Press, pp. 338, ISBN 1550228072 

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