Note: Insert standard spoiler warning of your choice here!
Season Six of BUFFY is the show's most controversial by far. Sarah Michelle Gellar has stated that she found the mid-season episodes between her and Spike to be degrading and unpleasant and many fans would agree with her. This was the season that Joss Whedon left the show as the day-to-day show runner and turned over the reins to Marti Noxon, though he nonetheless remained deeply involved with the show, supervising the story arcs and individual episodes, as well as writing and directing several episodes.
There is no question that Season Six contained some very memorable moments. There is also little question that the season had some weak episodes--especially at around the two-thirds mark--as well as some not-very-popular story arcs. The least popular aspects of the show was the self-destructive tendencies and actions of all the major characters and the lameness of the show's "big bads," the geek threesome known as The Trio. But in fact, the Big Bad of Season Six is each individual against him or herself. Buffy, struggling with her inadvertent removal from heaven by Willow, suffers economic difficulties, eventually taking a fast food job, eventually numbing herself with a demeaning sexual relationship with Spike. Willow becomes more and more addicted to using magic, to the point that it first threatens to destroy her relationships and eventually the world. Xander, fearful that his impending marriage to Anya cold lead to the same kind of family that he grew up in, leaves Anya a the altar. Anya, crushed by being deserted by Xander, reverts to being a vengeance demon. Dawn's kleptomania gets out of control until the others discover her problem. Giles makes an error by going back to England, imagining that Buffy needs to learn to live on her own. Only Tara does not engage in self-destructive behavior, but her accidental killing spurs Willow's killing spree at the end of the season. The season's motto could be: We have met the enemy and he is us.
There are titular villains. Warren, the robot-constructing geek from Season Five's "I Was Made to Love You," Jonathan, the geek who first appeared in the BUFFY pilot (he was considered for the role of Xander before Nicholas Brendon got the job), and Andrew, whose brother was involved in a flying monkey incident no one seems to remember, team up to take over Sunnydale. They are uber dorks, obsessed with the whole panoply of comic book culture and Star War action figures. Though them manage to pull off some stunts, apart from Warren's accidental killing of both his ex-girlfriend and Willow, they are a pretty silly lot. They are more like perpetual comic relief. BUFFY was always trying to do new things and I applaud them for doing so (the effort to always be fresh was one of the reasons it was such a great show), but I think it is safe to say that having them as the Big Bads was a bit of a mistake. In the end, their greatest contribution was in providing victims for Willow's rampage at season's end. Indeed, the single most horrifying moment in the history of the show had to be the terrible instance in which Willow, after catching and briefly torturing Warren for killing Tara, magically removes his entire epidermis. Not just on BUFFY, apart from some moments in THE SOPRANOS, I know no more terrible instance in the history of TV. Clearly they wanted to demonstrate just how far Willow had gone.
Although the season's story arcs were not especially satisfying, there were a number of unforgettable episodes. The season begins with a great sequence of episodes, as Willow with the assistance of Tara, Xander, and Anya raise Buffy, who had died a mystical death at the end of Season Five, from the dead. Their fear, based largely on Angel's being sent to a hell dimension at the end of Season Two, was that Buffy was suffering unspeakable torture in a different hell dimension. But we later learn that she was, in fact, in a place of great peace and repose, a place she could only describe as "heaven." The first six episodes see Buffy struggling to deal with her return to a place that now felt like hell. All these early episodes, even if not strong all the way through, contain at least some great moments.
Then come Episodes 7 and 8, not just the best episodes of the season, but among the best in the run of the show. "Once More, with Feeling" is often cited as the very best episode of BUFFY, and to those who wish the show had ended at the end of Season Five, my response is always, "Would you really have wanted for there never to have been "Once More, With Feeling?" This was the musical episode and while many shows have attempted musical episodes, this one stands far above what any other show has either attempted or achieved. What is amazing is how fine the episode was despite not having a world of musical talent on the show. Only Anthony Stewart Head (who had taken over the lead in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW in London in the original production and sung on albums by his brother Murray, the original Judas in JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR), James Marsters (who headed his own rock band), and Amber Benson (who played Tara) had especially good voices. Though not a trained singer, Sarah Michelle Gellar nonetheless acquitted herself quite well both singing and dancing, and Michelle Trachtenberg, though not a singer, put her dance training to good use. Joss Whedon contributed a very fine group of songs. In one of the best guest appearances in the run of the show, veteran Broadway hoofer Hinton Battle (perhaps best known as the Scarecrow in the entire run of THE WIZ on Broadway) played the demon Sweet, who was accidentally summoned to Sunnydale, and who was responsible for the singing and dancing afflicting everyone. The most amazing thing about the episode was the way that the songs advanced every story arc in the show and greatly accelerated the action. The best songs were Buffy's Disneyesque "Going Through the Motions" that started the episode; Tara's singing of "Under Your Spell" to Willow (ironic in that she learned she was literally being controlled by Willow through magic); Spike's passionate expression of his love/hate for Buffy in "Rest in Peace"; the wonderful duet between Tara and Giles; and the great production number that preceded the battle-that-never-occurred with Sweet, "Walk Through the Fire." Not should also be made of Anya's great bit in an early group number in which the Scoobies are trying to figure out why everyone is singing and dancing. After singing that she has a theory that it "must be bunnies," the group very ignores her only to have her scream in a great hard rock voice:
Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposed
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses
And what's with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!
The popularity of the episode can be seen in the fact that it is the only episode to have its script published separately and the soundtrack has been released on compact disc.
"Once More, with Feeling" was followed by "Tabula Rasa," probably the funniest episode ever on BUFFY. After Tara catches Willow manipulating their relationship through the use of magic, Willow complicates things by attempting once more to make them all forget that she had used magic to control others. But the spell misfires and instead everyone in the group, including Willow, forgets who they are. The scene in which everyone tries to figure out who they are is a classic, the best part being Spike, who has been going about in a dreadful suit as a disguise to escape a loan shark (a demon with literally the head of a shark, the only really awful note in an otherwise stunning episode), deciding that his is Giles's son and that his name is Randy. When Buffy finds no ID, she tellingly decides that everyone should call her Joan, with echoes of St. Joan in her choice.
Unfortunately, while there are few out and out bad episodes, there are few absolutely stunning episodes until the ones that end the season. The one major exception is "Normal Again," which resembles many of the alternative reality stories of Philip K. Dick. Buffy is injected with some venom by a demon she fights, and the result is that she imagines that she is actually in a mental institution where she has been fantasizing for several years that she was a vampire slayer in a town called Sunnydale. Or is reality breaking through to make her cease fantasizing for a while. We fans, of course, can't imagine that all six seasons were a delusion, but it is nonetheless a brilliant episode.
Although I don't believe that this is one of BUFFY's best seasons, I can't give this less than five stars simply because even during this season BUFFY remained one of the most brilliant shows on TV. Not everything in the season succeeded, but they nevertheless continually strove to produce a special show. The show took risks; they never played things safe. The problem with taking risks is that sometimes things don't work out. Still, all in all this was a season with more to delight over than to regret.
on November 9, 2003
The Sixth Season of Buffy was indeed different. A lot of people seem to have had a problem with the darkness of the season, the emphasis on real life problems. However, I think the creation of the trio was brilliant. This season was all about exploring how the characters responded to real life challenges, as was the case with the trio. What made them so brilliant was the viewer could trace the devolution of the trio from mischivious to truly evil. They were normal people, a trio to match the early trio of Buffy, Xander, and Willow who allowed their greed and discontent to consume them, especially Warren. I found the trio truly chilling, if only because of all the monsters on Buffy, they were the only ones that were a glimpse of what a human being could become in reality.
Moreover, this season had many of the best episodes of the series. Once More, With Feeling is brilliant, I think in anyone's estimation. Tabula Rasa also is very funny. The finale of the season was a slam dunk, and Xander's yellow crayon speech was incredibly poignant. All the characters faced their inner demons by the seasons end; some triumphed, others were left in the following season to pick up the pieces from their disastrous choices.
I also can't wait for Season 7 to be out on DVD
on September 26, 2003
Season Six, to alot of fans, was a disaster train wreck! But don't be fooled by their analysis of this season because its one of the best seasons ever of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"! This is the season that took risks, and triumphed unnoticed by the fans, except a few. This season is misunderstood by many who first viewed it and therefore they disliked it, just like they disliked the final season,(Season Seven), but it wasn't because of the stories of this season, it was the gap of broadcasting that ruined the flow of the storyline, and therefore, this season needs another glance again, without interruption, and you'll understand what the point of this season was all about.
Many say it was dark, and yes it was the darkest feeling season since Season Two, and later Season Seven, but life itself, can get dark sometimes, and this was the point the series 6th year was trying to point out. If you've noticed, every season's theme has a metaphor in them, and this year was having the Scooby Gang bracing their darkest storm that could be thrown at them.
How is that? You may say, well, I'll tell you...
Ever since the very first episode, we've grown to love these wacky fun loving kids! In the First Season, it was the introduction period, the Slayer, her Watcher and friends gathering in the library, fighting monster of the week big baddies, along with school issues every teenager at one time or another will find theirselves in, plus a trial of a Slayer. In the Second Season it grew larger, they had to battle not only school, but love hormones, a lover gone bad, new annual baddies, like Spike and Drusilla,and the death of a close one, and trials of a Slayer. In the Third Season, still it was school, a rogue Slayer named Faith, a baddie named "the Mayor", and trials of departing loves and trials of a Slayer. The Fourth Season was college life, new baddie named Adam, and a government containment place for studies of demons, and again trials of a Slayer. The Fifth Season was departure childhood, going into adulthood, and fighting a big baddie named Glory, and the death of a dear one they'd miss forever, and also introduction of a sister. And now Season Six takes them farther, somewhere that the Scoobies had never faced before....and that was "life"!
Every year they've faced bad things, but they were never in a position of being left alone, to survive on their own, and to be a grown up. Someone here mentioned that its been six years later since they started their adventures, and that they were adults now, and they needed to center their lives as adults, and that person was right. It was time to move onward, brace whats ahead, no matter what lie uncharted. We had to see how these characters would react, if they were put in a position to where they'd hit rock bottom, to see how they'd reach the top again, to see really, how much strength they really have, besides magic, or mysttical slayer powers, and thats the storm one must face, to overcome their trials with triumph.
In this season, Buffy had to quit her hopes of returning to college, and get a real life job to pay the bills, make sure Dawn doesn't get taken away from her care, and at one point, she comments that her mother was the super woman of the family on how she couldn't believe she could do all the stuff that Joyce did! Xander has to confront the word "commitment" as he gets prepared to marry the woman he loves, and Willow has to overcome her craving for magic, which she deals with throughout the season by trying to give it up. The point, they each failed, they hit the bottom of the boat, as Buffy fell into depression, had an affair with Spike, (who in this season overcomes some major points in his life too), Xander's fear of turining into his father, leaves him leaving Anya at the altar, later turning her in the way of vengeance again, and Willow, she gets the sour lemon, as she gains Tara back,(who left her because of Willow's crave of magic), but she also loses Tara in the one of the most vicious and real murders of the series, which drives Willow into becoming evil with rage, and almost destroying the world. At the end of the season, all of them faces their problems, and they begin the start of rebuilding what they lost as they hit rock bottom througthout the season, as Buffy and Spike seperate, he goes to get a soul, she tries to tear down her gap with Dawn that they made during the season, and Xander and Willow come to terms with theirselves as they each step out of the eye of their own inner demons, their storms!
This season has great episodes! There's "Bargining", "Once More,With Feeling", "Dead Things", "Normal Again", "Seeing Red", and "Villains" to "Two to Go' & 'Grave". Each actor portrailed each character to heart so much, that their feelings grabbed ahold to you, as if you were the one's who were going through them as well! Also,do know that this season is *very graphical* in some scenes, this was the most *provocative season* in the series whole 7 year run. There is a few gruesome scenes in some episodes, and some very [physical] in tone,(especially with the Spike and Buffy, and Willow and Tara romantic storylines), but they were to make a point, that was needed for the story of the season.
It's a great and wonderful, powerful season,with a powerful message that was overlooked, this season took dangerous risks, and truimphed with their goal. Also know that this season is the *only* season that centers the Slayer and the Scooby Gang around the true hard cold life that we all may face once we reach adulthood, if not already. Many fans should charish this season to heart, it was indeed an unheard, unreconized, classic season for the series! I love this season! Enjoy, you won't regret it!
on May 12, 2004
Season Six of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will not go down as the most celebrated in the series run. But it has already earned a well-deserved reputation as the most darkly adult of them all. A couple of episodes were of truly standout quality, including the Diego Gutierrez-penned psychological set piece "Normal Again" and the oft-praised, Emmy-robbed Joss Whedon musical extravaganza "Once More, With Feeling," which will have you under its spell. There were even a couple of quirky surprise episodes where Buffy lived up to its earlier comedic form, most notably in the episodes "Life Serial" and "Tabula Rasa."
The season started in a difficult place--Buffy's resurrection by her well-meaning friends pulled her out of heaven into the "hell" of Earth--and things never really got better, as the characters began a season-long slide into miasma. Long-time viewers of the show will be able to understand fully the heart-rending moments such as Giles' departure (twice), Xander's continuing troubles with Anya, and the shocking death of a major character in the season's nineteenth episode, "Seeing Red." But enough background material is presented in context that even newer viewers will be able to fathom the significance inherent in these moments. (I should know...this season was my first introduction to the Buffyverse.) They can also grimace as the show's characters, clearly coming apart at the seams, begin to act entirely abnormally...as two healthy relationships grind to a shuddering halt, a third--clearly unhealthy for both participants, though desired by both--explodes on the screen with violent and graphic power, finally culiminating in a shocking attempted rape.
With its themes of growing into adulthood, the denial of reality, the dangers of addiction, and learning to let go of what was, "Buffy" Season Six attempted more than any season of the show to that date. If it occasionally sputtered and faltered along the way, I think the fault can be laid at the door of overambition--not due to the fact that the cast and crew were "goin' through the motions." And for every uneven development, there are some truly excellent ones--the delicious creepy ambience that turns blood-curdlingly real in "Dead Things," Buffy's stunning revelation at the close of "AfterLife," and the final climax in "Grave" (which strains credulity but which manages to affect nonetheless) are all examples of the season's most memorable moments.
Two major characters die. Two old friends return. And there's a snazzy demon named Sweet who loves jazz. If you're a longtime fan, or just curious about the '90s cult phenomenon that was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," you owe it to yourself to pick up this set. You'll love it. I've got a feeling...
on April 15, 2004
Buffy's move from the WB to UPN ushered in an era of lesser quality. While many people feel that the major issue with this season is that it's too dark, I feel that it's not the darkness where the show makes a major stumble, but in the stories. Over the course of the season we're faced with multiple false epiphanies by Buffy, non-sensical changes to established canon (most notably the dramatic shift from the subtle metaphor of magic=sex in Season 4 to the blatant magic=drugs in this season), and subpar characterization, such as the non-use of Xander for most of the season. Arcs that could have been great have terrible execution. Willow's descent in darkness is set-up well, but when the trigger is pulled in the two-parter Smashed/Wrecked, it just feels false. The sight of Alyson Hannigan having to act through withdrawl is almost painful to watch. Similarly, the wedding arc between Xander and Anya is pushed to the side until it comes to an unsurprising conclusion that, in the end, has little impact overall.
The production values also take a hit, with the moster design turning subpar, the lighting becoming almost too bright, a shrinking number of sets (Get used to seeing Buffy's house and the Magic Box a lot), as well as the growing feeling that Sunnydale is populated only by the Scoobies.
Which is not to say that the season is without merit. Once More With Feeling is a tremendous hour of television, and almost makes the purchase worthwhile for just that episode alone. Normal Again is a wonderfully dark look at what would happen if Buffy were to go insane and turn on her friends. Life Serial is a wonderfully comic episode (the Mummy hand sequence in particular) that is sure to evoke more than a few laughs. Even the worst episodes of the season had a few moments that displayed the old greatness of the series.
While this season certainly did not live up to the previous seasons, it still remains above average viewing.
Seasons One through Five of Buffy were very close to universally enjoyable: to see them was to love them. Many erstwhile Buffy fans, on the other hand, dislike season Six. Having died at the end of Season Five, Buffy's friends resurrect her at the beginning of the season, and the recurring question is: Did she come back "right"? In Seasons One through Five, the monsters Buffy and the Scooby Gang are all external, but in Season Six, although there is a relatively minor threat posed by the dorky would-be villains Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew, all the genuine monsters are internal. Traumatized by her unexpected removal from what she suspects was heaven, Buffy spends the entire season exploring her own dark pages.
Many Buffy fans (including my daughter) were uncomfortable with the darkness, with Buffy's self-destructive behavior, with her less-than-heroic behavior. But I loved this season as much as any. It is a different Buffy, an older Buffy, a Buffy who struggles with life's everyday problems, not always successfully. If the first three seasons was high school Buffy, and the fourth and fifth seasons were college Buffy, then the sixth season was adult Buffy. I haven't conducted a scientific survey, but I have a very strong suspicion that this season appeals far more strongly to Buffy's older viewers. Younger fans may not feel as acutely Buffy's dilemmas about whether to pay the phone bill or the electric bill, how to placate a social worker to keep Dawn from becoming a ward of the state, or her struggle to see past a sea of petty problems to regain a glimpse of the grander scheme of things, but most adults will.
Not only Buffy, but all of the Scooby's go to some very dark places. Dawn struggles with a serious shoplifting problem. Willow becomes more and more dependent upon magic, to the point of addiction. Xander leaves Anya at the altar, leaving their relationship in shambles and wrecking both of their lives. Giles senses that he is in the way of Buffy's growing up, and with great reluctance decides to leave and return to England. Spike becomes more and more obsessed with Buffy, and after their brief but enormously self-destructive affair, attempts to rape her and leaves Sunnydale to change radically his entire existence (and as we learn in Season Seven, he succeeds). Tara, troubled by Willow's growing dependence on magic, leaves her, and shortly after reconciling with her, is accidentally killed, sparking Willow's emotional and spiritual breakdown. The season, however, ends on a note of hope. Although Willow comes excruciatingly close to destroying the planet out of her agony at Tara's death, she is diverted by Xander's love and friendship. Although Buffy has spent the year struggling with rediscovering a desire to live, at the end of the season she decides that she does, and expresses to Dawn a desire to show her many of the things that makes life important. Spike finds a salvation that quite nearly drives him insane, in being granted a soul by after surviving a series of trials. Only Anya ends the season in an unbearable place.
Despite the darkness of the season as a whole, there are nonetheless many spectacular moments and some hysterically funny ones. The highpoint of the season is unquestionably the seventh episode, the justly celebrated musical "Once More, With Feeling." Many television shows have attempted musical versions of the show, but none have even remotely approached the excellence of this episode. The songs are all at least good, and some are quite good indeed. All the performers do their own singing. Sarah Michelle Gellar does a pretty decent job singing her songs, but several display excellent voices, especially Anthony Head (Giles), James Marsters (Spike), and Amber Benson (Tara). Dawn sings lightly, but demonstrates some surprising dance ability, obviously the result of some formal training. The brilliance of the episode isn't merely the competent musical numbers, but the fact that each one carries the plot forward far more effectively than a nonmusical show would have. We learn that all are under the spell of a musical demon, played brilliantly by Broadway song and dance man Hinton Battle (the Scarecrow in the original stage version of THE WIZ), and must reveal their deepest feelings in song.
The episode that follows "Once More, With Feeling" is "Tabla Rasa," arguably the funniest in all of Buffy. A spell that Willow casts goes awry, and all the gang while at the Magic Box temporarily lose their memories, including their memories of one another and their own identity. The scene where all awake, trying to figure out who they all are, is hysterical, especially Spike's realization that he, like Giles, is a "Nancy boy" and their conclusion that he must be Giles's son "Randy" (deducted from a label in the coat he is wearing). Buffy tellingly decides that her name must be "Joan" (with obvious overtones of another great female hero, Joan of Arc), and discovers that she must be a superhero because she is "wicked strong."
The season as a whole has both many terrifying moments and many funny ones. Buff's appearing in her Doublemeat Palace fast-food uniform combines both. Willow's apotheosis as the darkest of evil sorceresses in the final episodes is very nearly overwhelming, and is completely evil when, after skinning Warren alive for having killed Tara, she looks at her friends before going off to complete her revenge against Jonathan and Andrew and says, "Two to go."
on July 3, 2004
In retrospect, this is really one of the most daring and psychologically-complex seasons of any series in recent memory. It's not as relentlessly bleak as some make it out to be: the show's wit (in its verbal expressiveness and postmodern satire) remains firmly intact, but it's generally more subdued, and registers at a slightly lower pitch than previous seasons.
The pervading theme is the willingness, or lack thereof, to accept responsibility for one's life, and the struggle inherent to that. Buffy's beautifully epic self-sacrifice in Season 5's "The Gift" takes on a whole new meaning in "After Life", when after being resurrected through by her friends through darks magicks, she reveals, in private, that she'd been torn out of a perfectly blissful state (heaven?!) to face a "hard and bright and violent" world once more. That her sacrifice could also be read as a suicide attempt lends a great deal of emotional depth and insight into what surely would have been a gimmicky, meaningless stunt in most TV writers' hands. The storyline is profoundly existential, dealing with depression, self-loathing, and self-destructive tendencies in a refreshingly frank manner. Most people struggle with the mundance rituals of everyday life quite often, but imagine being perfectly at peace, and then being forced to contend with not only the mindless routine, but also the more violent aspects of society, on a daily basis. Those who complained that the show hit the same dramatic beats too many times seem to miss the point: depression (clinical or otherwise) can take up residence in a person and essentially become a part of them. The same can be said of addiction, which brings us to Willow's plight.
Upon "dabbling" in magicks, Willow soon began to define herself through them. Self-esteem was always a big issue for this young woman, and through the years, her confidence seemed to rise in almost direct proportion to her skills in witchcraft, to the point where she developed a strong dependency on the latter, in that she didn't feel "complete", or even useful to the group, without them. Many viewers voiced outrage that power and addiction were, as Buffy (in her earlier years) might put it, "unmixey things", that it wasn't a perfect metaphor, but the similarities were clear enough to ground her character in an emotional reality, rather than rendering Willow a "power-hungry madwoman", as a more simplistic, less resonant series might have. In both cases, good (moral or logical) judgment tends to be compromised, life is (temporarily) made to seem easier or more manageable, and a state of euphoria often overwhelms. That said, by Season 6, a clear dilineation between Dark (typically "evil" and destructive) and Light (typically "good", noble, productive) Magicks was emerging, with the former being mostly representative of the self-destructive, addictive Willow persona, and the latter being something for her to strive towards, a rather disimilar entity. However, as with anything in the Buffy universe (and heck, the world in general), moral ambiguity is everpresent: the nature and/or original intent of power can often be subverted and/or undermined by its use (see
Willow in "All The Way" and "Smashed"), which brings us back to Buffy.
Since her return to the "living", Buffy has become so emotionally numb -- undead, if you will -- that she seeks solace in the company of her former vampire nemesis, Spike, who knows a thing or two about rising from the grave. Soon after which begins a (self-) destructive, aggressively physical relationship between the two, a dark exploration of Buffy's inherent self-loathing and desperate attempt to "feel" again, and Spike's (again, desperate) willingness to take advantage of the situation. Buffy even questions whether or not she was brought back fully human, which would possibly explain her emotional state and questionable actions. Sufficed to say, there are no easy answers for her or the audience, other than this relationship is not going to end well. But there's some levity on the horizon, in the form of three man-boys who will do just about anything to avoid accepting responsibility for their lives.
After Season Five, the question remained: where do you go, regarding villainous threats, after Buffy and the gang have toppled a God (Glory)? The series' writing staff chose to internalize the conflict by having the Scoobys' worst enemies be themselves, and having the "villains" be a comic outlet for the overall theme. Buffy's arch-nemesis...is...ees are a trio of misfits determined to rule Sunnydale by any means imaginable (magic, demons, technology), and through conscious efforts to "test" the Slayer (without actually being seen), end up mostly just annoying her. Their modus operandi (freeze/invisibility rays, space-and-time shifters, etc.) is completely outrageous, but the series has never placed much emphasis on hard physical science, but rather used fantastical means to get to the emotional heart of a situation, and the same holds true here. Eventually, the Trio's actions result in a series of tragedies and dire consequences, converging with the ultimate "villain" of Season 6.
Giles is a phantom presence during the season, having a distinct emotional impact through his physical absence for much of the year, leaving Buffy mentor- and (surrogate-) father-less, stuggling to deal with personal and financial problems, not to mention a kid sister who desperately wants to be a part of her life, to little avail. Xander and Anya's conflict (wedding plans) is comparatively minor, but gains considerable dramatic weight as the season progresses, and at least one proves most pivotal in the season climax.
As episodes go, the Musical, entitled "Once More, With Feeling" is a clear standout: the musical styles creator Joss Whedon adopts are remarkably wide and varied, and in addition to being very clever and catchy, many of the numbers carry a great deal of emotional resonance. Despite obvious vocal limitations amongst many of the cast members, the songs they're given play to their personal strengths, and they're so full of touching character insight and razor-sharp wit that vocal imperfections hardly become an issue. Equally impressive is how the episode advances all the current storylines, containing five episodes' worth of character and plot development in one fifty-minute show.
Other personal favourites of this reviewer include the dark, devastating "After Life", the brilliantly editted meditation on moral responsibility, "Dead Things", the ultimate meta-episode, "Normal Again", and the harrowing final foor episodes,
"Seeing Red"/"Villains"/"Two To Go"/"Grave", in which all the characters face the consequences of their choices in life.
Season Six possesses on of the most emotionally raw, and psychologically intense, arcs in the history of the series, and holds together extremely well on a conceptual level. Though individual episodes many not seem as distinct as in previous seasons, the overall storyline is creatively conceived, and very well executed. The dialogue remains smart, edgy, and knowing, the characterisations rich and nuanced, and the plotting endlessly inventive and multilayered. I'd recommend it to anyone with an appreciation for fantasy-based storytelling grounded in an honest, complex emotional reality (and how rare is that, when you think about it?). And contrary to what many say, there's plenty of hopeful light amidst the darkness...just look a little closer and you're sure to see it.
The most purely enjoyable extra in the boxed set is writer David Fury's behind-the-scenes documentary on the Musical, which is very candid and highly amusing. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences panel starts off entertaining but soon devolves into a cast and crew fawning session, mostly due to the mediator's unwillingness to step up with new questions at regular intervals and/or allow audience members to participate. The A&E TVography is competent, but places too much emphasis on the series' inception, devoting too much screen time to Season 1 and glossing over the superior seasons that followed wihout much insight or perspective.
As for the commentaries, Joss Whedon's on "Once More With Feeling" is (as per usual) witty and thorough, whilst Noxon and Fury's on "Bargaining" is refreshingly honest and self-deprecating. The "Normal Again" commentary by Joss's former assistant Diego Gutierrez and director Rick Rosenthal is particularly insightful into Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting methods, the controversial nature of the episode, and the process involved with reality/unreality juxtaposition.
If you're a devoted BtVS fan, you either already own this set or will soon. If you're new to the series, and intrigued by the buzz surrounding it and/or the subject matter, know that, in this reviewer's eyes (I've seen every episode at least four times), the series truly hit its stride at the midway point of Season 2 ("Surprise"/"Innocence") and was consistently strong for the remainder of its run. This season, though emotionally overwhelming for some viewers, was no exception.
on July 28, 2005
This is the "dark" season of Buffy, the "darkest the show ever got." Or so the majority of reviews on here would have you believe. I disagree. Season Six of Buffy is not dark. It's DARK COMEDY.
There's a huge difference between the two, but, just to lay my opinion on the line before we get into the meat of the review, I'll say this: I'm one of the few who really enjoyed Season Four. Why, when so many Buffy fans hated it? Because it was adult in nature, because it didn't operate in a world of black and white. Season Five diluted this adult feel with the appearance and focus on pre-teen Dawn; whereas so many Buffy fans adored Season Five, I mostly disliked it. And whereas most of them disliked Season Six, I liked it a lot, and I'm sure you know why: because it returned to the adult nature that was so refreshing in Season Four.
But back to the dark/dark comedy debate. Let's look at the facts. Season Six features Buffy coming back to life, and she's not so happy her heart's beating once again. Dark? Sure, but is it as dark as Buffy, you know, DYING at the end of Season Five? Season Six also features the death of a major character. Of course that's dark, but one must bear in mind that this death comes late in the season, and it's a fast death, whereas Season Five featured Buffy's mother dying of a brain tumor, a long and painful death which lasted over several episodes. Let's also not forget the episodes which followed, each of which meditated morbidly upon her death (Season Five's "The Body" being the prime representative). Season Six features Willow being seduced by dark magick. That's definitely dark, but is it as dark as young Dawn discovering in Season Five that she'd only existed for a few months, and then defiantly slashing her own wrists to see if she was real? Oh wait, I forgot. Buffy has to work in a fast-food joint to pay the bills in Season Six. So obviously this really IS the "darkest" season.
Do you see the skewed reasoning yet? These Buffy fans are claiming that flipping burgers and trying to make ends meet is not only darker than dying slowly and painfully of a brain tumor, but also than the main character dying in the last episode of the season. Flawed logic; the same sort of flawed logic which claimed that Season Four wasn't any good, just because it was different from the preceding three, teen-focused seasons.
Season Five was the true "dark" season, and where many of its episodes became mired in melodrama (witness Buffy actually breaking down in the penultimate episode of Season Five), Season Six featured a welcome return of the Simpsons-esque comedy so prevalent in Season Four. This is most notable in the character Spike. In Season Four he was at his best, trading insults with the Scoobies while secretly working against them. Season Five found Spike devolved into a lovesick puppy, reduced to giving Dawn "there, there, little Bit" pep talks every episode as he pined away for her big sister. Season Six sees Spike once again an antihero; once he gets his paws on Buffy (who sleeps with Spike only because it makes her feel alive) he becomes one of the most lecherous characters in television history. He holds it over Buffy's head that at any moment he could spoil her secret to the Scoobies, and strives to sway her to the dark side more successfully than Faith was able to in Season Three. But the laughs don't just rest with Spike; Season Six is filled with dark comedy, from Xander and Anya's bizarre demon-filled wedding to the villainous "Trio" arguing over geek culture while plotting Buffy's death.
This brings me to another point: the Trio. Hated by most Buffy fans, the Trio will always be voted the "worst villains ever on Buffy." Three geeks who collect toys and dabble in sorcery; how could they compete with the main villains of past seasons? But that's the point. Where else could the Buffy producers go, after having their hero battle a god in Season Five? Instead of trying to one-up Glory in the power department, they went the other route, and had Buffy face off against a pack of nerds. A brave decision, and one that went over most fans, but I appreciated it, because to tell the truth, I really liked the Trio. Probably all of us have wondered what it would be like to be a supervillain. The Trio carry this dream out, and the results are always humorous to watch.
The first season on the UPN network, Season Six had a bigger budget, most of which seems to have gone to better special effects, costuming, and makeup. There's no noticeable difference in the production quality; watching this on DVD, you wouldn't really notice any differences between Seasons Five and Six, so for that reason the move from the WB to UPN was unnoticeable in terms of production. There was also no change in the quality of the cast: as always, acting is uniformly excellent in Season Six. My only complaint would be that some of the characters don't have much to do. Xander and Anya do little more than plan their wedding throughout most of the season, and Dawn brings nothing to the table. In fact, Dawn's useless presence this season only reinforces my opinion that she should have died in Season Five, instead of Buffy. Not only would that have given Dawn the opportunity to actually DO something for others, instead of whine all the time, it would also have provided all sorts of avenues for the writers to pursue; who knows how Buffy would react, with both her mother and her sister dead?
There are a spate of great episodes this season: "Bargaining," the two-parter that opens Season Six, starts off strong with a group of Hell's Angel demons (featuring some great makeup for the demons) taking over Sunnydale, and also impresses in that Gellar is on-screen throughout the first part, but we don't think of her as Buffy, as her portrayal of the Buffybot really makes her seem like a different character. Great acting; just more evidence of what a talented actress Gellar really is. "Doublemeat Palace" is another episode I enjoyed a lot, though most Buffy fans apparently hated it; it's a Season One episode with a bigger budget, as Buffy gets a job flipping burgers but soon finds a monster on the premises. Lots of comedy in this one, included a very Simpsons-esque training video Buffy has to watch.
Another episode that stands out is "Wrecked," which, beyond its overbearing (and too unsubtle) "magick as drugs" subtext, features some far-out and very cool "tripping" sequences, as Willow surfs on dark magick. Another good one (and another Season One-type episode) is "Older and Far Away," in which the Scoobies are trapped in the Summers residence, which leads to lots of laughs. "Tabula Rasa" is another standout episode: the Scoobies have their memories erased, and have to piece together who they are; this leads to the one and only appearance of "Joan the Vampire Slayer," who thinks a vampire with a soul sounds like a stupid idea.
To tell the truth, I can't think of a single episode this season that I didn't enjoy, save perhaps "All the Way," the Halloween episode, which focused on Dawn for an hour, before realizing too late the character has little to offer other than constant whining. The only other thing I can complain about is that some of Willow and Tara's magick this season looks a bit too much like the junk you'll see in "Charmed;" all they do is wave their hand, and computer graphics knock their opponents down. Makes me miss the old days of magick on Buffy, when characters would actually recite rituals. Still fantasy, sure, but at least more believable than the superheroic stuff you'll occasionally see this season.
My five favorite episodes of the season (in order of airdate):
1. Life Serial: A funny, quirky comedy that harkens back to the show's golden days. Of course, it's a Jane Espenson script, which explains a lot - the woman was the best writer the show had. Buffy goes from ill-fated job to job, all the while haunted by the devious Trio. Eventually she turns to drinking hard liquor and hanging out in seedy bars with Spike; Buffy's "blugh" noises every time she takes a shot of whiskey are the funniest thing in an episode filled with laughs.
2. Once More, With Feeling: I thought I'd hate it, but I mostly loved it. Some of the songs are a bit too long and there could've been a bit more variety in the musical styles, but overall, this is a bold and entertaining episode, one of the very best. The only episode Whedon wrote and directed all season, it runs several minutes long and is the most cinematic the show ever got. Plus, the episode is in widescreen! (Too bad the whole set isn't.) The story concerns a demon who comes to Sunnydale and causes everyone to sing spontaneously; wackiness and great television ensues.
3. Gone: An unusual choice, but I couldn't help but love it. Buffy barely appears (rumor has it that Gellar wanted a break after "Once More, With Feeling"), but this episode is not only light-hearted, but also full of laughs. Turned invisible by the Trio, Buffy takes a situation that would freak most people out, and instead yuks it up. Really, this is the most endearing Buffy's been for years: pulling practical jokes on her friends and paying Spike an illicit visit while Xander cluelessly watches on.
4. Normal Again: One of the best episodes of the entire series. What if the Buffyverse wasn't "real," but instead the psychotic delusions of Buffy Summers? Poisoned by a demon, Buffy begins to hallucinate that she's really in a mental hospital, where she's been interred for the past 6 years, imagining the previous six seasons. But what if it isn't the demon's poison creating these hallucinations - what if the poison instead has allowed her to see reality? Cleverly poking fun at Season Six itself by unfavorably comparing it to earlier seasons, Normal Again is a psychological thriller that takes Buffy into new realms. A solid classic, it ends on a bold note, offering no real answers.
5. Two To Go/Grave: Aired as a two-parter, though not intended as such when the episodes were filmed, the final two episodes of the season pack a great one-two punch. The main villain of the season is revealed (you probably already know that it's Willow; the DVD box even gives it away), Giles returns, and lots of action and magickal chaos ensues. The end is a bit clichéd, as Buffy and Dawn happily walk off into what looks like a Coke commercial, but who can complain when you get to see Buffy and Dark Willow trying to beat each other to death?
The DVD set is of pristine audio and video quality, though again it's fullscreen, while the European release is widescreen. Creator Joss Whedon has endlessly claimed that Buffy was intended to be seen in fullscreen; hence the US release follows his wishes. But one can't deny the cinematic quality of "Once More, With Feeling," which is presented on this set in widescreen, and wonder how the rest of the series would look in the same format. It also appears that, despite Whedon's statements, the Director of Photography often framed shots in a way that would benefit from widescreen presentation; several viewers of the overseas releases claim that many details are revealed in the widescreen prints, all of which are hidden by the fullscreen aspect. However, before you rush out to buy expensive, imported Buffy DVD sets in widescreen, bear in mind that they are available as PAL only. Not only will you need a multiregion DVD player to play those discs, but also PAL runs a few seconds faster than NTSC, so the voices you know and love from Buffy will sound different. Willow in particular sounds really weird on the foreign releases, her voice sped up and unrecognizable from Alyson Hannigan's real voice.
Long story short: Season Six is unjustly reviled. I think it's one of the better seasons in the series' history, and a lot of these "Season Six sucks!" sentiments are just knee-jerk reactions. Season Six of Buffy is dark comedy entertainment for adults.
on September 28, 2003
After Buffy's death at the end of season five,it was clear Buffy's sixth season would be very different.And it was.Season six is Buffy's most daring and most disturbing season.This season is way too mature for people who think it's a bad idea to have a season with no big bad and no real big story arc.Instead it's a big character study.In fact,this is THE season for character development.Buffy,Xander,Willow,etc.They all suffer a lot during season six.There are so many great episodes in season six and so few bad episodes.People hate this season not because it's full of bad episodes.They hate it because it's too brutally honest and misses many of the elements Buffy normally has.I actually would put this season ahead of all the others except three and five.
This season has a lot of huge drama like Tara's death or Willow turning evil.And there are episodes like Doublemeat Palace that are a whole lot better than people think.I admit the season gets too repetitive in its middle chunk but it does get back on track and most of it is amazingly daring and honest.Some people actually hate this season not because of the darkness but because of how inconsistent it is.I don't think it's very inconsistent.There's stuff to like in every episode and it's a nice change of pace after the roller-coaster that is season five.Season six rules.Get it.I just wish it came way before July 2004.I noticed a lot of people started to love season four after they saw it on dvd and I hope the same happens with season six.Of course the best thing about season six is the Musical episode Once More With Feeling.Probably the best single hour of Buffy it is.
on September 23, 2004
Fans complained that the season was too dark. I found it absolutley necessary. Think about it: Buffy comes back from heaven and all of a sudden it's la la la la la... The show has always been very realistic in portraying it's characters and at this point of their lives, everyday is a constant struggle, esp. for Buffy. Her destructive relationship with Spike is one of the most interesting the show has ever seen. While the villians brought a certain lightness to the show, Warren turned out to be very dangerous. We watched as Willow dealt with her addiction to magic and Anya's frustration over her wedding to Xander... these were two of the most powerful aspects of this season. I think people underestimate Emma Caulfield's work on the show. She brings such a bubbly personality but can be heartbreaking as well. The tragedy that happens at the end of the season that sets up an arc with 'Bad Willow' comes as such a shock and is so devestating to watch. It was nice to see that Xander saved the world instead of Buffy. It made much more sense. Also, Giles's return at the end of the season is terrific. Oh, and did I mention the musical episode, "Once More with Feeling"? Only a show like 'Buffy' could pull that off and it's quite incredible. Through song, the characters are allowed to express feelings they wouldn't be able to normally. Ah, Joss Whedon is genius.