TV - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Six

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

steven harris investigates how the death of Buffy has affected all her friends, before she is reborn because Sarah Michelle Gellar is invincible...

Posthumously on Buffy. Because she’s dead. End of Season Five dead and buried, not end of Season One temporarily dead for a little bit. Bye bye Slayer, hello 22 episodes of blank screen and soft music.

No, not blank screen and soft music, the other one – hello magical resurrection by her friends. Hello downward spiral into self-ostracising behaviours and depression because Buffy’s friends brought her back not from Hell, as they’d imagined, but something altogether more heavenly and peaceful.

A darker, more resentful Slayer is just the beginning of the downbeat vibe to this season. Anya and Xander’s relationship progresses to a point of no-return when he jilts her at the altar. Tara breaks up with Willow when the red-headed one begins to become over-dependent on magic in her everyday life. Giles leaves for England, feeling he has no role left to play as Buffy takes on adult responsibilities with Dawn whose teenage rebellion includes kleptomania as well as the more expected sullen argumentativeness.

Oh and three ubernerds gang up to take on the placebo role of Big Bad for the series: Jonathon, an old High School associate who is unique amongst non_Scoobies in having appeared in all seven seasons; Warren, the sexbot-building techno-twonk with a potentially fatal case of misogyny; and Andrew, a fey, easily-led pillock with some skills at conjuring up demons.

While The Trio do cause problems for Buffy and pals it is the progression from teenagers into young adulthood that causes most of the serious issues in what is the heaviest, least snappy pun-filled season. Apart from Once More With Feeling, a one-off episode in which a demon hexes the whole of Sunnydale so that they spontaneously burst into song all the time, lyrically revealing secrets that viewers are already aware of but the protagonists have been keeping from one another. Hee hee, funny idea. Except for the dancing oneself into a flaming ball of death at some stage if you get too swept up in the performance. It’s Whedon’s only credit as writer on the series, the series creator once again breaking boundaries and defying conventions within his already unique take on the television drama serial.

After this comic interlude things become blacker still, the trough coming with Rick Rosenthal’s episode in which The Trio throw a demonic mojo that makes Buffy believe she is in a mental asylum and that the events of the previous few years are delusions, her friends imaginary, her grip on reality utterly lost. Buffy’s apparent hope of returning to normality again – a normality in which her mother is still alive, her parents are still together and Dawn does not exist – is to kill her imaginary friends. Fortunately she does not manage to do so and ends up back in Sunnydale as it was before the episode began. Or does she? The final scene shows Buffy giving it the full thousand yards of staring from inside an asylum cell.

Whedon loved the ambiguity and postmodern self-reference of this take on the ridiculousness of every element of the Buffyverse if taken out of the context of that ‘verse. One might argue that the rebooted Doctor Who throws up such moments on a regular basis with all the nods to past storylines or digs at the costumes and mannerisms of previous regenerations of The Doctor but in truth these have been a feature of the UK show since the 1970s so Buffy was following rather than leading on this occasion.

Turns out the Big Bad of the season is not The Trio after all. Warren is the only genuinely deranged member of that gang, as proven by the comic nature of most interactions between Jonathon and Andrew. Warren shows his displeasure at being thwarted time and again by the Slayer by fetching a handgun and shooting her. A stray bullet also hits Tara who has only just reconciled with a now magic-free Willow.

Tara dies. Buffy does not as Willow jumps straight off the magic wagon, first to bargain for Tara’s life – denied because it was not caused by magical forces – then to remove the bullet from Buffy’s body with witchy cleverness, then to seek out Rack, a demonic chap who had added to her addictive problems in the first place by juicing her up with power beyond her capability at the time. She returns the favour by draining him of everything he has got, killing him then going all black-haired, black-eyed and psychotic.

Bad Willow wants revenge on the Trio. She starts with Warren and while Anya, Buffy and Xander reach her they are too late to prevent her removing the flesh from Warren’s body, which kills him (I said his misogyny was potentially fatal). This pushes her even further over the edge ad she heads off to find the other two. Shouldn’t be too hard to find them as they’re already in custody for the final crime that Buffy had thwarted.

The two get away, a bit. Willow and Buffy fight, a bit. Anya hides and mutters a continual counter-curse to stop the worst effects of Willow’s magic although it cannot prevent her making herself as strong as Superbitch, which she names Buffy. Tee hee again. Only no because this witch basically decides that the entire world must be destroyed for its own good. And that’s after Giles has returned with some borrowed magics from an English coven which have allowed the Scoobs to survive a little longer.

In the end it is love that saves the day once more. The love between the two who have known one another longest, Xander and Willow. As her best friend he decides that if he can’t stop her from ending the world then he can’t think of a better place to die than by her side even if she’s turned all evil and stuff. This touchingly truthful connection pulls Willow back from the darkness enough to let her weep with grief and more genuinely human responses to the death of her girlfriend than wanting to flay people alive and kill all other people.

Phew. No-one dies. Except all the people and vampires who died, au naturel. And I haven’t even mentioned that Buffy and Spike boink a lot in this season. Yup, for reals. He’s found himself so in love with her that he ends the series by sodding off to Africa to try to win his soul back from a demon thing in a cave. She’s found herself in such a cycle of self-loathing that not only does she end up working in a burger joint but she sees a mutually abusive relationship with Spike as logical punishment for an ingrate who wishes her friends had not brought her back from death.

Only, just at the end, when it looks like Willow is going to delete the entirety of everything, Buffy realises she no longer aches to be dead again and wants to live to see her friends and her sister grow up some more. And to kill vampires rather than shag any more of them. Probably.