Elated with having Buffy back from the dead, her friends never wonder if she may have been in a better place. Only Spike knows the truth and as Buffy struggles to readjust to life, she begins a relationship with Spike that torments her as much as it brings her fleeting comfort. Yet even as Buffy fears that the magic that brought her back has somehow changed her, Willow's growing reliance on magic is an addiction she can barely control - and one that threatens everyone.
The sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
followed the logic of plot and character development into some gloomy places. The year begins with Buffy being raised from the dead by the friends who miss her, but who fail to understand that a sacrifice taken back is a sacrifice negated. Dragged out of what she believes to have been heavenly bliss, she finds herself "going through the motions" and entering into a relationship with the evil, besotted vampire Spike just to force her emotions. Willow becomes ever more caught up in the temptations of magic; Xander and Anya move towards marriage without ever discussing their reservations; Giles feels he is standing in the way of Buffy's adult independence; Dawn feels neglected. What none of them need is a menace that is, at this point, simply annoying--three high school contemporaries who have turned their hand to magical and high-tech villainy. Added to this is a hungry ghost, an invisibility ray, an amnesia spell and a song-and-dance demon (who acts as rationale for the incomparable musical episode "Once More, with Feeling").
This is a year in which chickens come home to roost: everything from the villainy of the three geeks to Xander's doubts about marriage come to a head, often--as in the case of the impressive wedding episode--through wildly dark humor. The estrangement of the characters from each other--a well-observed portrait of what happens to college pals in their early 20s--comes to a shocking head with the death of a major character and that death's apocalyptic consequences. The series ends on a consoling note which it has, by that point and in spite of imperfections, entirely earned. --Roz Kaveney