"The Real Me" revolves around Dawn. Being the Slayer's little sister isn't easy and Dawn often feels ignored. Buffy is committed to training with Giles again and to learning more about her Slayerness. Dawn is a constant annoyance to her and she feels resentful that Dawn is always tagging along. When they arrive at the Magic Box to pick up some books, they find the owner murdered and supplies stolen. To make matters worse, a strange guy outside the Magic Box confronts Dawn and insists that she doesn't belong. Dawn is upset and confused by his words. Giles is impressed with the store, though, and since the proprietor is dead and all, he decides to buy it.
It turns out that Harmony is the one who raided the Magic Box. She's declared herself the Slayer's new nemesis and is determined to kill Buffy. She tries attacking the Summers' house, but Buffy's not home. Annoyed and frustrated, Harmony heads back to the cemetery where she runs into Spike. He inadvertently gives her a plan to kidnap one of the Scoobie gang and hold them hostage until Buffy shows up. Harmony snatches Dawn and Buffy has to track her sister down and save her.
"The Real Me" actually deals with two characters struggling to find their own identities, while being overshadowed by their much stronger "mentors." There's Dawn, who constantly feels second-best when she compares herself to Buffy. She uses her journals as an outlet to express her own thoughts and feelings. She acts out to get attention so that she will feel "visible" and more than just the Slayer's little sister. And there's Harmony, who's idea of evilness has been shaped by Spike. Now that they've broken up, she's desperately trying to stand on her own two feet and to run her own gang of Black Hats. Unfortunately, Harm doesn't know how to be break away from Spike's legacy. She's going after Buffy because that's what Spike always does and he's her primary example of how a vampire should behave. Both Dawn and Harmony insist that they are just being themselves, and that they're different than/free from Buffy and Spike. Yet, neither woman has truly found their "real me"s, yet. They are still just reacting to Buffy and Spike.
There are some good parts to this episode. I love Harmony. Her inept attempts at evilness, passion for sparkly clothes and unicorn obsession are just hilarious. I get such a kick out of watching her argue with Xander and boss around her "minions." Buffy's reaction to the dreaded "Harmony Gang" is pretty much what we're all thinking. Harmony's relationship with Spike is also great. Staking attempts aside, he has a soft spot for the "Littlest Vampire." (Angel does, too, eventually making Harmony his secretary over on season five of "Angel") When Spike lectures Harmony to stay away from Buffy in this episode, it's because he worried that the Slayer will hurt Harm. Also, I'm glad the Giles has found a new job. He really has been at loose ends since the high school blew up in season three. (On a side note, I really wish we could have seen him watching "Passions" with Spike last season. Giles + soap operas = funny.) The Magic Box will serve as the Scoobies unofficial hang out for the couple years and it works much better than Giles' apartment did in season four. Really, the Magic Box replaces the old Sunnydale High library as the show's default setting.
On the down side, there's Dawn. I imagine that somewhere, out in the vast recesses of time and space, Dawn has some fans. I've never met them, but I'm sure that they must exist. So, I hope that I'm not offending anyone when I say that, personally, I find Dawn to be one of the most annoying characters ever to appear in the Buffyverse. (She might have qualified as THE worst character, if not for the Potentials in season seven and Connor over on "Angel." Most days, I actually hate them more than Dawn. But, I digress...) Dawn's main purpose on the show is to get kidnapped, run away, cry that no one understands her and act all clumsy and "cute." Let me stress that I don't blame the actress for Dawn's shortcomings. I blame the writing and the character herself. Maybe she would be more tolerable if we hadn't seen Buffy, Willow, Cordy and Xander battling vampires when they were just a year or so older than Dawn. As it is, the rest of the cast constantly coddling Dawn makes the character seem selfish and whiny.
My favorite part of the episode: Giles' new car. Giles: "It seduced me. All red and sporty." Buffy: "Little two-doored tramp."