Taking a break from the Charmed comics to look at a season of Buffy. I realise the last season of Buffy I reviewed was season 2, so the whole chronological order thing has gone right out the window… but it’s my blog, so there!
If you’ve ever been on Buffy fan boards, it doesn’t take long to notice the polarising effect that season 6 had on the fanbase. Opinion on this season is probably more split than with any other season of Buffy. You’ll find just as many people telling you that it’s the best season as you will people telling you that it was the worst thing to ever happen to the series. But I don’t care what they think, I care what I think, my blog, remember? So let’s jump right into season 6.
Season 5 ended with Buffy sacrificing her life to save Dawn and the world from massive world-ending mess of portals that hell-god Glory left behind before kicking the bucket herself. This season we start with a two parter, in which the remaining Scoobies resurrect Buffy; assuming that her soul must be in a hell dimension.
Joss and the writers say that the big bad of season six is life itself and with that in mind, this season is kind of hard to review as a whole. A lot of different things go on within the ensemble cast and this is the year where the Scoobies are probably separated the most doing their own thing. So I’m going to go through each character and review their arcs until we get to the point where they all reunite.
Buffy is resurrected and spends the first part of the season hiding the fact that she was actually in a heavenly dimension from her friends. Naturally, this leaves Buffy depressed, deciding that earth is hell in comparison to the happy place she was in before being ripped out by her friends. The only person Buffy tells about this is Spike and from this point on, he becomes her fuck buddy. Spike is in love with her (or obsessed, or both, you decide), as was established in season 5, but for Buffy, it’s really just a case of needing to feel something. This becomes a sort of addiction for Buffy, she has a lot of guilt about it but keeps going back to him. Guilt because she thinks it’s wrong for her to be sleeping with a soulless vamp, but also guilt because she’s well aware how Spike feels for her, but uses him anyway. This story raised a lot of questions for me, mainly in regard to what not having a soul means. Spike’s feelings towards Buffy do seem more than just straight-up obsessive lust, he really does seem to care for her; which I was sort of under the impression shouldn’t be possible if you don’t have a soul. However, we do see how dangerous Spike’s soul-free feelings can be when he attempts to rape her, in what is probably one of the most disturbing scenes in the series…although both Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters sell the hell out of it as usual. Realising the line he’s crossed, Spike runs off to a cave to find a demon who can restore his soul. I get the reasoning behind this, but he does realise that people with souls still do horrible things like rape, right? This is my issue with the whole soul/no soul thing. It’s implied that with a soul, he’ll be capable of loving Buffy properly, but to me that kind of takes too much of the responsibility away from Spike himself. It was also established with Angel that vamps don’t feel bad about the horrible stuff they do until their souls are restored, but Spike clearly had guilt and other feelings that contradict that this season.
Xander’s story this season mainly centers around his and Anya’s upcoming wedding. Up until the wedding, they actually seem like the only stable characters in the series… or as stable as Anya can be anyway. This all lands in the crapper though when the wedding day arrives. Shown visions of a horrible fake future by a demon who wants revenge on Anya, Xander freaks out and tells a wedding dress clad Anya that he can’t get married. This is in part due to Xander’s fear of ending up like his parents and from what we see of them, I can’t exactly blame him. However, I’m not letting Xander off the hook. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t force yourself into a marriage you don’t feel comfortable about… but walking out of the church leaving a devastated Anya to explain everything to the guests and send them home by herself, that’s a shitty thing to do Xander, I don’t care how quirky and lovable you usually are. This ends with Anya reclaiming her Vengeance Demon powers. She wants to use them to get revenge on Xander, but can’t because her wish magic only works for other people. She does however end up sleeping with Spike when they are both in need of solace, leading to Buffy’s secret rumpy pumpy being revealed and further fractures in the group. Xander does have a wonderful moment in the finale, but I’ll be saving that for the Willow portion of this review.
Dawn’s character arc centers around her abandonment issues. Having lost her mum and her sister in one year, then having Giles move back and forth so much; she’s kind of damaged this season. She starts stealing things, which is eventually revealed. In one of the most Dawn-centric episodes of the season, “Older and Far Away”, Dawn makes a wish to a guidance counsellor that people stop leaving her. The counsellor turns out to be Anya’s old vengeance demon friend Halfrek and the result is everyone being trapped inside the house. Tensions rise and Buffy finally has to confront Dawn about how she’s been feeling. However, Dawn’s biggest moment this season is probably in the finale, when she tells Buffy to stop trying to protect her from the world because everyone is dying around her anyway! She helps Buffy slay demons and this is a defining moment for Dawn. This starts Dawn on a path towards being a young woman rather than a child and for what it’s worth, I really like her next season. Took a lot of whining and screaming, but she got there.
Giles, ah good ol’ Giles. This is the first season in which Giles isn’t a main character. They come up with some contrived story about Giles wanting Buffy to be her own adult so that Giles doesn’t have to be killed off… not that I wanted him killed off, but the reasoning feels kind of forced. He leaves in the premiere, which I suppose makes sense having no slayer to watch anymore, but then comes back when she’s resurrected, only to leave again when the whole heaven thing is revealed. He really builds up his frequent flyer miles this season. He returns for the finale to kick some ass, but that’s another thing I’ll be saving for the Willow portion. Having such a lack of Giles takes some getting used to. I appreciate the idea of having the now adult scoobies out in the world without our favourite watcher’s guidance, but it’s not the same without him. He is missed. Also, he didn’t come back for Xander and Anya’s wedding? Really? I guess it was a good job in hindsight, but come on.
Let’s talk antagonists. This season we have a very different breed of bad guy. The nerd trio made up of Warren, Jonathon and Andrew. Warren we met in season 5, he’s the one who created the Buffy Bot. Jonathon we know from Sunnydale high and the Superstar episode; the sympathetic dork who just wants friends. Andrew is new, but happens to be Tucker’s brother (Tucker was the guy who set the Hell Hounds loose at the Sunnydale prom.) The trio make it their mission to take down the slayer, dreaming of being super villains. Warren is best with machinery and gadgets, Andrew knows a lot about demonology and can summon various nasties and Jonathon has some witchcraft ability. Things get bigger than Jonathon and Andrew bargain for when Warren murders his ex and then proceeds to murder Tara (intending to kill Buffy). It’s actually interesting to see their spiral down from petty criminals to pretty sinister killers, well, Warren anyway. Not everyone liked them, but after a series of powerful demons, vampires and Gods in the big bad role, having a group of mortals was an interesting way to go.
Now, finally we get to Willow. If you’re a Willow fan, then you’re in luck, because this season is definitely the most Willowy of the show. Willow leads the resurrection of Buffy, probably the biggest display of her power thus far. She’s able to do this because Buffy’s death was a mystical one. This leads to Willow being on a major power trip and eventually becoming addicted to magic. Now, this is probably the biggest reason for this season being so polarising. Not everyone liked this storyline. I’m on the fence about it. I like the idea, but the execution…less so. The story starts with Willow getting hooked because of the power she has. Her addiction is about abuse of power. This makes complete sense considering the amount of power she’s developed. Like an addiction, Willow ends up hurting the people she cares about because of this power abuse; most notably, messing with her girlfriend Tara’s memory, not once, but twice. She no longer respects boundaries or the essence of magic, because she no longer feels she has to. I really like how the story starts, it was a natural development for Willow’s character, a good way to create turbulence in her relationship with Tara and it’s well written. Joss doesn’t try to avoid making Willow look bad this season. There are parts this season where Willow has the potential to be very unlikable and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we’ll all hate her forever; it’s just realistic to her story and her downward spiral. They could have continued this abuse of power; had her become just as destructive and still had her end up where she was in the finale. Unfortunately, midway through the season, this story takes an odd turn which fans and I felt a little unsure about.
Buffy is known for using the supernatural world to craft intelligent metaphors for real life; it was arguably one of the show’s greatest appeals, next to sexy vamps. This season Joss gets a little heavy handed with that and it looses a lot of the subtlety we came to expect from the show. Willow brings back old witch buddy Amy and is led to a magic crack house. Yes…you read right… a magic crack house! Willow goes to this place where magic dealer Rack gets her high on magic. Magic gets you high now. Problem is, there’s no metaphor here. Magic isn’t a metaphor for drugs anymore, magic just IS a drug at this point. They’re in a magic crack house getting stoned for God’s sake! There’s even a hilarious scene in which Amy breaks into Buffy’s house to steal a stash of sage. It isn’t played for comedy, it’s meant to be dead serious. I half expected Willow to bust in with a gun screaming “Where’s the fuckin’ coriander?!!”
Willow goes cold turkey and eventually makes up with Tara, only for Tara to be caught in the crossfire when Warren tries to kill Buffy. Willow naturally loses it and absorbs all the magic books at The Magic Box to get revenge on the nerd trio. This is part of why I think the abuse of power story should have been stuck with; because that’s where she’s back at in the finale. Sure there’s a scene where she absorbs Giles’ magic and gets a buzz, but that’s not the reason she’s doing it; she wants the power; she’s on a mission. Willow flays Warren alive and goes for Andrew and Jonathon. Willow will kill anyone who gets in her way and determined not to let Willow kill again, Buffy is forced to fight her best friend. This is a huge moment for these two and for fans. Buffy kind of gets her ass kicked, but before Willow can kill her, Giles returns, enthused with the power of an English coven. Tension with Giles and Willow grew after the resurrection as Giles was the only one that really took Willow’s casual attitude to huge magic seriously, so seeing them fight is pretty epic. They destroy the Magic Box and Willow absorbs Giles’ magic, after which she leaves to destroy the world.
So…who saves the day? Who has the power? ….Xander. Yep, this season doesn’t end with a massive fight to the death. It ends with Xander telling Willow he loves her and as corny as it sounds, it’s great! This is the first big Willow-Xander scene since the high school years and it’s an incredibly well acted scene by both actors. Willow breaks down in Xander’s arms and the dark mojo leaves her system without killing her, which they feared it might
So, how did I feel about this season? Season 6 is actually my second favourite season of the show. It’s probably the darkest season of the series and I personally like my show’s dark. It does however have it’s light, comedic moments like Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa. It has that balance and it probably wouldn’t feel like Buffy without it. Sure I was unsure about Willow’s addiction story line, but I do love the Dark Willow arc that it concludes with. Much of this season is saved, in my opinion, by Alyson Hannigan’s acting. She really gets to show off what she can do this season and boy does she rise to the challenge. It’s a shame that Tara died, because I felt like she was only just really becoming her own character this season and I was really starting to like her a lot… but I understand why it had to happen for the finale; I can’t think of anything else that would have driven Willow over the edge to such an extent.
I loved the musical and can still remember all the song lyrics. I missed Giles, but was glad to see him in the finale. Speaking of the finale… I’m going to say something very controversial here. I kind of wish Willow had died. It’s not that I don’t like her, I do, I like her a lot actually. But think about it…
Xander does his speech, Willow breaks down in his arms, the magic leaves her system and the stress on her body takes its toll. Xander holds his best friend in his arms. De-magiced Willow smiles at Xander, a tear trickling down her cheek and simply says “Thank you”. Xander whispers “I love you” one last time before Willow closes her eyes. Xander weeps with his best friend in his arms.
Season 7 would have brought the group back together. First mourning the friend they lost and then learning to carry on without her. As a result, the final season would have been magic light after such a magic heavy season, focusing more on slayers fighting vampires. The First would ruffle everyone’s feathers by appearing as both Joyce and Willow, leading to a determined Scoobie gang fighting the ultimate evil, spurred on by the memories of the people they’ve lost. Slayer strength and slayer strength alone wins the final battle. The series ends with a montage of past characters, with Kristine Sutherland and Alyson Hannigan sharing a speech off screen over it that ends on Buffy’s face looking into the horizon and the last narration, a nod to Buffy’s previous speech: “Be brave, live…for me.” Buffy smiles.
Okay, so that was indulgent of me, but I would’ve liked it. I did like the way this season ended… I guess my feelings are just tainted a little by the direction Willow went in season 7.
Overall, this was a very strong season which I really enjoyed. It ended with the Scoobies coming back together, as it should be and opened up a lot of new stories for season 7 for everyone. With the climax of this season, you can tell the story is heading towards a conclusion.
Oh and if you’re wondering why I haven’t said much about “Once More With Feeling”, that will have a review of it’s own. This has gotten crazy long as it is. Later guys.