US Airdate on UPN: October 2nd 2001 – May 21st 2002
It’s a year of unrelenting misery as Buffy takes to be resurrected and losing Giles by fornicating with Spike and isolating her friends, Dawn continues to whinge for most of the year as Willow loses Tara and herself in dark magic as the usually joyful Xander and Anya face their own problems. That’s also couple new baddies with three pathetic villains named Jonathan, Warren and Andrew determined to take over Sunnydale. No, I’m not making this up!
Pass The Prozac And Grab A Drink – You Might Need It: Season Six brought a set of new stuff to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These included the show moving from the WB away from spin-off series Angel to less successful network UPN, it also saw Alyson Hannigan get a special “And” credit and the unfortunate departure of Anthony Stewart Head as Giles, who only appears in eight of the 22 episodes in this rather bleak season. This was also one of the few seasons that was also critically reviled by many of the Buffy viewers.
Whether it was a case of ennui with a series that some speculated was destined to end with its fifth year but didn’t or the simple fact some people prefer their fantasy dramas to be nothing but escapist material (doesn’t Charmed fill that requirement?), either way, the level of hatred for Season Six is quite staggering!
Granted there are serious cons to the pros with this darker than usual year but with the exception of one truly terrible episode, Season Six to me is as good as any other season. It’s certainly better than Seasons One, Three or Four and on a par with Season Seven. I was one of those people who mostly liked the season during its debut on Sky One in 2002 and repeated VHS and DVD viewing hasn’t diminished that feeling.
The season opens darkly as it should have with the brilliant Marti Noxon and David Fury penned two parter “Bargaining Parts 1 and 2” which sees the Scoobies coping with Buffy’s death the only way they can – which includes Willow and Tara moving into the Summers household, relying on Spike, lying to the authorities and using the Buffybot to allay suspicion. Everyone more or less deduces that the charade can only be maintained for so long and when Giles leaves Sunnydale, Willow and company decide to raise Buffy from the dead without involving Dawn or Spike.
The shit storm for them though involves a Biker Gang of demons who learn the Buffybot is a machine and decide to terrorise and take over Sunnydale with no actual slayer. They scare the locals senseless, destroy the chirpy robot and botch up the Scoobies resurrection attempts but luckily for the Scoobies, Buffy (in the most disgusting black dress and cavewoman hair) is raised from the dead, kills the Biker Gang and tries to top herself until Dawn manages to stop her, which is one point to a girl who spends most of the year whining incessantly.
Following episode “After Life” throws the notion that bringing Buffy back was wrong (a recurring theme for the year) when a demon from another dimension hitched a lift with the Slayer, while “Flooded” puts Willow and Giles on opposing sides with the former furious that her magical authority is being challenged. The episode is also noteworthy for the introduction of our villains of the season – Jonathan, Warren and Andrew (Tucker’s brother). Gods they aren’t, morons they behave like and an actual threat to the Scoobies they don’t become until the latter half of the year.
For the time being though the three geeks take pleasure in robbing a bank, messing with Buffy’s attempts of normalcy (“Life Serial”) and acquiring diamonds (“Smashed”).
Nerds aside some of the inter-personal stuff with the Scoobies is interesting. Buffy telling Spike about feeling disconnected from her friends and the world sets up the inevitable coupling with the two while the lacklustre “All The Way” gets points for Xander and Anya finally announcing their engagement and the usually in tune with each other Willow and Tara fighting over the former’s abuse of magic.
Getting the highlight and overly discussed “Once More, With Feeling” out of the way (an episode I adored), there’s also Willow’s abuse of magic and the mishandled (in parts) metaphor of drug addiction for it. It gives Alyson Hannigan something gritty to play with but you’re easily siding more with her concerned girlfriend and old friend and by the time you see the amnesiac episode “Tabula Rasa” (one of the funniest too), as sad as Tara dumping Willow is to watch, deep down you hope it’s the kick in the arse that Willow needs to realise that’s she out of control.
Sadly “Smashed” and “Wrecked” with the return of Amy as human only fuels Willow’s magic lust and she’s sooner visiting magic crack houses, getting fused by an ass named Rack and when she endangers Dawn, it’s the wake up call she pays attention to because as concerned as Buffy, Xander and Anya, neither of the three really confront her in the way that Tara and Giles tried and failed to do. Still though these are two cracking episodes and while short on proper character stuff for others, the people focused on are richly rewarded.
For instance, “Smashed” revealed that Spike was physically able to hurt Buffy without pain to his head and a wonderful scrap resulted in a building collapsing and one of the hottest sex scenes in any TV series past or present as Buffy and Spike let their love, hate and lust consume them.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Buffy/Spike shipper but you can’t deny the chemistry Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters as it literally leaps off the screen. It also helps a bunch if you don’t own a rose tinted pair of glasses and quickly realise that this pairing was more the great sex/toxic relationship than true love. We know Buffy doesn’t love Spike and for most of the season, she still doesn’t actually respect him.
It doesn’t help that Spike constantly pressures her for sex, stops by unannounced at times and generally acts like a dick to her, even if Buffy behaves like a total bitch with him at times too. Then again, you never saw Buffy engaging in dogging and bondage with safe as houses Riley or even Angel, so you basically get what you see with her and Spike.
The second half of the season doesn’t exactly lift the bleakness we’ve experienced so far either. Willow struggles not to use magic and Xander and Anya are only funny to an extent, especially when Buffy gets invisible in “Gone”. “Doublemeat Palace” is one of the season’s lighter episode but it’s also the worst with only a Willow/Amy face off as any source of interest because Buffy working in the thankless fast food industry doesn’t raise much excitement. With her strength, she could’ve easily gotten a security job but hey, Joss wanted to lay on the mundanity of life in Season Six.
The previous useless trio of Jonathan, Warren and Andrew thankfully improve in the superb “Dead Things” when a botched rape attempt on Warren’s ex-girlfriend exposes Warren for the evil bastard he truly is, a task which Adam Busch does well with as the more disappointing instalments of “Older And Far Away” and “As You Were” manage to deal with Dawn’s abandonment issues, Riley’s return and the Buffy/Spike break up in a ham fisted way.
“Hells Bells” gives the previous underused Xander and Anya a chance to shine but again the misery kicks in when Xander realises that he isn’t keen on becoming his father and Anya becomes a Vengeance Demon again. “Normal Again” and “Entropy” are no picnics either with everyone learning about Spike and Buffy, the nerds’ surveillances camera being discovered and Buffy hit hard with a hallucination of her life as a Slayer being a set of lies. The only happiness in these episodes are the gentle and much encouraged reunion between Willow and Tara.
In fact Amber Benson and Tara are probably the best things about Season Six. She was the best vocalist in the musical episode, Tara actually confronted Willow about her magic addiction and gave her a consequence for two mind wipes on her and even offered level headed advice to Buffy. Plus she was only Scooby to bother with Dawn all season so when “Seeing Red” opens with Willow and Tara in a post sex embrace, a million cheers can be heard. Despite the episode being my second favourite in the series’ run, it’s also misery filled with a shock attempted rape scene involving Spike and Buffy and that evil son of a bitch Warren does the ultimate nasty by trying to kill Buffy and ends up shooting poor Tara dead.
It isn’t just Willow who feels incandescent fury as not only can you not hate Joss for this particular character death (the hell?) but given how misery induced this season has been, Willow and Tara back together and the former in a more stable mind frame. Instead the season ends explosively with the final three instalments “Villains”, “Two To Go” and “Grave” with Willow going gothic, flaying Warren (don’t expect me to bitch about that – he deserved it), beating the living daylights out of the Scoobies, in particular Buffy, Anya and a returned Giles when she wasn’t trying to end Jonathan and Andrew and then the world. With Buffy rendered useless, it’s Xander and a slightly cringey/touching yellow crayon speech that gets the old Willow back. The only disappointments are Spike’s getting his soul back/ “I thought it was to remove his chip storyline” (I didn’t care) and the writers’ lack of regard for Tara by not having a funeral for the girl. Overall, a character driven season meant a good one in my books.
DVD EXTRAS: Season Six may not be on a par to Season Five but it demolished my favourite season in terms of extras. Okay, there ain’t a commentary for “Seeing Red”, which annoyed me but both Marti Noxon and David Fury are on fine form for their yak track for “Bargaining” and Joss clearly loved writing/directing/practically composing the brilliant “Once More With Feeling”. Both Drew Z. Greenberg and Rebecca Rand Kirshner fail to disappoint with their thoughts on season turning episodes “Smashed” and “Hells Bells”, then again neither did Rick Rosenthal and Diego Gutierrez for “Normal Again”. The commentaries are then rounded with David Fury and James A. Contner for “Grave”. Other goodies in this season included a fantastic overview, the cast interviewed at “The Academy of Television Arts and Science Panel”, which is quite lengthy. Disc 4 also has cast and crew muse over previous employment in “Buffy Goes To Work”, while “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Television With A Bite” delves into the series cultural impact before the final disc rounds things off with pretty standard “Outtakes”.
EPISODE RATING FROM 1 TO 10:
6x01: Bargaining Part 1= 9/10, 6x02: Bargaining Part 2 = 9/10,
6x03: After Life = 8/10, 6x04: Flooded = 7/10,
6x05: Life Serial = 7/10, 6x06: All The Way = 6/10,
6x07: Once More With Feeling = 10/10, 6x08: Tabula Rasa = 9/10,
6x09: Smashed = 10/10, 6x10: Wrecked = 8/10,
6x11: Gone = 7/10, 6x12: Doublemeat Palace = 5/10,
6x13: Dead Things = 9/10, 6x14: Older And Far Away = 7/10,
6x15: As You Were = 7/10, 6x16: Hells Bells = 9/10,
6x17: Normal Again = 8/10, 6x18: Entropy = 8/10,
6x19: Seeing Red = 10/10, 6x20: Villains = 8/10,
6x21: Two To Go = 9/10, 6x22: Grave = 9/10.
Season Six is currently both available on VHS and DVD.