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Season 6 Review
Review by Mikelangelo Marinaro (MikeJer)
Posted on January 22, 2009 / Last Updated on January 30, 2014
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Spoiler Warning!
This is a retrospective review and may contain spoilers from anywhere in the series. Read at your own peril.
Introduction

Sometimes I think about what my life would be like had I been completely happy in each and every moment leading up to the one now. Would I be a happier person because of it? Well, it's hard to say. I suppose I'd need to quantify what "happy" really meant to me. Too much of a good thing can eventually become boring. Without the struggles I've had throughout my life (which, to be clear, are nothing compared to some), I can say with confidence I wouldn't be the person I am today. I wouldn't have the drive and determination that I do. I wouldn't have the need to create that I do. I also think I wouldn't be a very useful person to have around. Sure, I want to be "happy," but I can't help but think being satisfied is something much more difficult to attain and much more rewarding to experience. The road to satisfaction is often riddled with struggle -- that's what makes the end so satisfying!

This thought brings me to the oft deplored sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know there are many people out there who hate this season, and for a myriad of reasons: too much darkness, claims of poor writing, lack of humor, mishandled characters, and more. Some of these complaints have a bit of merit, but I feel that most of them do not. I'm not going to lie to all of you: this is a flawed season of television. That being said, it might just be the most daring and risky I've ever seen. Never before or since have I seen a show willing to go so far, so realistically far, to show the depths of depression to a group of established, likeable characters. I can sympathize with those who say that it can be depressing to watch, because it can be. This is definitely best viewed in a condensed time period.

However, I feel this is the perfect season to explore much darker themes, as we've got an established group of innately moral (besides Spike, but he's moving towards the light) and likeable, yet complex characters. This means there's little risk of having the audience unsympathetic to the characters' plight, while being able to explore the established flaws of these people in great depth. The tone of the season feels very naturally placed to me within the overall schema of the show.

When I first saw the season, it brought me to tears at several key points, but I was also literally filled with hope and a renewed sense of excitement for the characters and the series as a whole by the end of it. I've mentioned this before in a couple of my episode reviews, but without the contrast between light and dark, it becomes impossible to differentiate between them. Translated into TV terms, without showing the reality of darkness in our world and occasionally in our souls, we cannot possibly appreciate the beauty that stands in opposition of it. To show anything different sums up to television that feels fake to me. Additionally, television that doesn't have extremely well-developed and at least relatively entertaining characters always struggles to find a place in my heart. The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have always had my heart. I care for them, I like them, and I'm rooting for them.

Season 6 contains quite a few episodes with troubled plots, yet I must cheer for these same episodes because they still generally give me a lot to think about. This has caused me to have a much more difficult time awarding appropiate scores. I can't give the season full marks because it just doesn't put the complete package together, like S5 did, but I am utterly thrilled to have witnessed it and to have seen these writers go where few have gone before. I would always rather watch a show that's aiming for something huge and only partially succeeding at it over a show that aims for nothing, and succeeds completely at it (the vast majority of television, people). With this in mind, this is the season of Buffy I have the most respect for, and it may be my favorite season for it.

To further what I've already said, S6 is also the most complex of the entire series' run. The gray areas explored through Spike and Buffy's relationship were expertly crafted -- intelligent, riveting, challenging, sad, and emotional. However, where Spike and Buffy's journey wildly succeeded, Willow's unfortunately did not. What started out as an extremely promising continuation of her development got led wildly astray, and easily represents one of the biggest mistakes of the entire series.

Overview

S6 opens with an utterly riveting three-part opener that climaxes in "After Life" [6x03] -- a darkly quiet and sad piece that kicks off the themes of the season. "Flooded" [6x04] through "All the Way" [6x06] deal with the reality of the young adult world of rules and responsibilties that everyone wants to avoid. It's in the famous musical, "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], where what's been secretly burning away Buffy's soul bursts out into the open. Spike is the one that gives Buffy a reason to stay alive with a spark of emotion: lust.

This lust boils over in "Smashed" [6x09] when Giles is gone and a fight with Spike leads to something destructively more. In "Wrecked" [6x10] we see Willow go off the deep end with her apparent "addiction" to magic overriding everything else in her life. in "Gone" [6x11] Willow realizes she has a hope of recovery and Buffy comes to learn that she really doesn't want to die. That discovery, though, doesn't address the new fractures that have been opened by her conduct with Spike. These fractures are brought to light in a revealing manner with the psychologically rich "Dead Things" [6x13], which also reveals an emerging villain in Warren.

With Buffy now beginning to recognize the damage her relationship with Spike is causing her, she struggles to put a stop to it, but finally does in "As You Were" [6x15]. Although she's taken the right step forward, her wounds are still open and her depression still something weighing heavily on her. This feeling isn't helped when her "light at the end of the tunnel," Xander and Anya's on-the-surface great relationship and near marriage, doesn't pan out due to a far too delayed vital moment of self realization from Xander.

Finally, in "Normal Again" [6x17], Buffy must directly face her depression by deciding to painfully turn down a world inside her own head that is so much brighter and hopeful than her real life. This incredibly painful decision allows Buffy to completely return to reality, pull out of her depression, and begin to repair the relationships around her. Although this process begins in "Entropy" [6x18], tragedy soon interrupts her in "Seeing Red" [6x19] as Warren flips out, shoots Buffy, and murders Tara.

This act causes Willow to ditch everything she's been holding back and entirely integrate herself with black magic. Feeding off rage and hate, Willow literally tears Warren apart ("Villains" [6x20]) and begins to lose it. Her targets shift to Jonathan and Andrew, followed by Buffy and a returned Giles, who are standing in her way. Giles' last hope works, as he lets Willow suck his borrowed power dry. This natural magic acts as a catalyst of Willow's emotions, which gives Xander -- lifelong best friend to Willow -- the opportunity to either save her or die by her. Fortunately, it's the former. As Willow finally begins to grieve for Tara's death and for what she's done, Buffy pulls herself out of the ground again, but this time to the dawn of a new day and a renewed sense of joy and purpose in life. In the season of darkness, love prevails.

Cons
  • Willow's inconsistent character arc.
  • The significant mid-season quality drought.
  • Too many sub-par plots.
  • Dawn. I like the character, but the writers gave her next to nothing to do but justifiably complain.

Although S6 doesn't have the overall quality problems people tend to claim, I can understand the feeling that there are. This season took a lot of risks -- many of which paid off. Some of them, though, did not. As much as I applaud the risks some of the mid-season episodes took with the characters, they just didn't come together as a whole very well. The biggest problem of the season by far, though, is the mishandling of Willow's multi-season character arc.

The Willow "magic as drugs" slip-up really brings down what otherwise would have been an extremely stellar season character-wise. Throughout the entire series, Willow's biggest character flaw had always been her hunger for power and knowledge. Here in the middle of S6, though, we're told it's something entirely different. This hurts so much because the one aspect of this series I treasure the most -- and is most important to me, by far -- is the consistent and intimate evolution of a wonderful group of characters. When the writers' slip in this area, I really feel it. I'll get into the specifics of this large mistake when I talk about Willow down below. In short: it single-handedly costed the season an A-range grade.

The other thing of note is the odd concentration of overall mediocre episodes containing some fairly dire plots. Although you're not going to see me complain about an episode's plot too often (because I just don't care about plot when compared to the characters), episodes like "Older and Far Away" [6x14] and "As You Were" [6x15] really don't inspire my good graces. I really believe the writers could have and should have thought some of these mid-season plots through a little better. With that said, I'd like to point out something frequently overlooked about this season. Are there some mediocre episodes? Yep. But how many are there really? When I first looked at the season breakdown I was a little taken back by how few C-range grades there were compared to how many I felt there were. Was my perception that far off?

This season feels like it has a ton of mediocre episodes, while in reality this is an illusion created by the fact that nearly all of these episodes are clustered around the middle of the season. Being so close together tends to amplify their effect, but if we take a step back and realize this, the truth is that this season has a lot more overall consistency than its given credit for. That being said, the middle of this season is the worst episode drought since S1! Without "Dead Things" [6x13] breaking all these episodes up, the middle of the season would be nearly a complete loss.

If there's one character besides Willow this season that I felt wasn't handled right, it was Dawn. Well, let me partially take that back. It's not that I felt Dawn was handled poorly, but much more so that I felt she wasn't utilized as much as she could have been. I've always had sympathy for Dawn, and I still do in this season. However, Dawn's lack of action to solve her problems -- while relatively understandable -- ended up making it difficult to root for her. It really didn't help that the writers didn't seem to have any real arc for her this season either, aside from "Dawn is lonely, Dawn's in pain, and Dawn wants to be treated like an adult." I did love Buffy's realization about her in "Grave" [6x22], but it was too little too late for this season.

One last thing that also gives me a little pause about this season is that the character arcs -- aside from Buffy and Spike -- just weren't quite as fluid and tight as they were in S5. It's really hard to ascertain any particular start or end point for the arcs of Xander, Anya, Tara, and Dawn. While I think all of the characters besides Dawn and Willow got very solid development, it just didn't feel well structured within the season. This isn't a major complaint as much of a small quibble, but I think it's worth noting.

Pros
  • Buffy's return from heaven into living hell.
  • Buffy seeking out Spike for a spark of feeling.
  • Buffy's rediscovery of herself, and the beauty of life.
  • "After Life" [6x03], "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], "Dead Things" [6x13], and "Normal Again" [6x17].
  • An intense, emotional, and fascinating psychological exploration of the characters.
  • The writers taking risks left and right, many of which paid off.

There's no doubt in my mind that the major highlight of this season is everything involving Buffy and Spike's journey and overall development. The season opens with a Buffyless Scooby gang that is doing a surprisingly good job at not only fighting the forces of evil, but also making everyone believe Buffy's still alive (via the Buffybot). "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01] had me completely hooked with Willow's determination, leadership, and impending darkness. I think I would have even enjoyed seeing more episodes explore the other characters with Buffy out of the picture. That's not the direction the writers wanted to go though, which is alright by me considering what we got.

When Buffy returns from the dead, we thankfully don't return to the status quo in a matter or a few episodes or, for that matter, one episode (oh other shows and how you disappoint me). "After Life" [6x03] provides us with a dark, depressing, somber, and painful look into Buffy's wandering meaningless-feeling renewed life. This isn't someone who's been saved from an eternity in hell, like the Scoobies foolishly convince themselves of, but rather someone who's been pulled out of a blissful heaven, where "I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time... didn't mean anything... nothing had form ... but I was still me, you know? And I was warm... and I was loved... and I was finished. Complete." This emotionally heart-breaking speech sets up the season's focus and themes.

What is that theme, you may ask. Well, I believe it to be what happens when you've experienced the final blow to childhood innocence ("The Gift" [5x22] for the Scoobies). When Buffy says she was "complete," I can't help but think of the feeling when you just get done with school and are dumped out into the real workforce for the first time. Many people end up in places where they have no friends, no family, no strong relationships to speak of, and just a general aimlessness on what the meaning of life is and what they should be doing with it. Although Buffy's entire situation is fantasy, the brilliance of this show is that the fantasy plays as an allegory and a metaphor of real life situations. This is what I believe Joss Whedon has always meant when told us the show was about "rocket launchers [the fantasy] and emotional resonance [the reality]."

Buffy's depression is in full force all the way until "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], where she makes a decision that allows her to feel something, despite any consequences it may cause down the line. This decision was, of course, initiating a largely sexually-charged relationship with Spike. Without getting into the details too much here (I will in Buffy's section below), I'll just say that their journey led Buffy down the path of self-loathing, neglection of others, and a whole lot of pain and confusion. While this did help her start to move past her raw depression, what replaced it wasn't much better.

Through all this hardship, though, Buffy thankfully finally makes the extremely difficult decision to break off her tie to Spike and reclaim her life. All this culminates in the emotional and character-driven "Normal Again" [6x17], an episode I really love for not shying away from some extremely dark and difficult subjects and emotions while simultaneously developing Buffy in the process. Buffy's arc this season is definitely the big pull for me and was executed with near-perfection.

Woven throughout the season at critical points were also some of the best episodes of the entire series. It comes as no surprise that these episodes largely focused on the major turning points in Buffy's near season-long arc. "After Life" [6x03] is quiet darkness at its best, "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] speaks for itself (although if you want more evidence, read my review of it), "Dead Things" [6x13] is one of the most psychologically complex and intense episodic pieces I've ever witnessed, and "Normal Again" [6x17] puts me into an emotional tailspin -- all episodes very deserving of their perfect scores.

This brings me to a general praise I have that even goes beyond Buffy's arc, and that's the sheer undiluted emotion that's poured into the scripts and then onto the actors' faces. Watching this season, especially in quick-succession, often leaves me with a very wet face afterwards. Through those tears comes the big smile and hope I feel when the end arrives and I see Xander hugging Willow for dear life along with Buffy reaching for the daylight again, filled with a renewed sense of excitement and purpose in life. I'm not one to easily get emotionally invested with television (or movie) characters, but this series, like no other, has the ability to emotionally bring me to my knees. This ability is on display this season like no other.

The final thing I want to touch on is the risks the writers took with the direction they went this season. A realistic depiction of depression focused on the main character of the show? Yup. Spending an entire season dealing with the fallout of Buffy's death in the previous season's finale? Yep. Seeing around four seasons of character build-up hit an emotionally arousing climax? Yep! Seeing all the characters move completely past their years as children and move full-on into adulthood? Yes, indeed. Having a side villain consisting of mere delusional human geeks desiring control and power? Oh yeah. Seeing Xander's multi-season insecurities bite him in the ass? Uh huh. Seeing Buffy finally taken off Xander's pedestal? Yes. Seeing another main character permanently killed off? You better believe it. In summary: wow.

Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer really does have a lot to admire. Although I sympathize with some of the people who have problems with it, some of which are valid, I simply can't contain my respect for a show that has run this long and is still willing to take big risks; still willing to challenge its audience; still willing to explore territory the show has never explored before. Whether you love the season or hate it, I hope I've made the initial case to allow you to at least respect it. Now, though, it's time for me to present the rest of my case: character development.

Buffy

Would Buffy's death at the end of "The Gift" [5x22] have been a great ending to the series? Although no doubt a tremendously poignant end to S5, I don't feel "The Gift" [5x22] was the perfect end to the series. I feel, metaphorically at least, "Chosen" [7x22] actually accomplishes this better. One reason why is because by the end of S7 Buffy is a much more mature, smart, and experienced individual. She is also a much more well-rounded and complex character. The pain she experiences throughout S6 helps build her into the person we see in S7 that is strong enough to lead a small army. In the end, I feel her journey here is a valuable one, and one that is complemented by S7 very nicely.

Buffy goes through a heart-wrenching journey this season, consisting of resurrection, failed reintegration, revelation, addiction, dispair, reflection, change, and rejuvenation. This whole experience was brought on by her well-meaning but short-sided friends, who far too casually decided to bring her back from the dead. Only Willow really knew the extent of what they were doing, but already her growing abuse of magic was blinding her better judgement.

Although resurrection from the dead is obviously a fantastical concept for all of us, the metaphor at which it is getting at is very real. As pointed out earlier, I believe the true intent of the season is to give us viewers a window into which we can observe the loss of innocence at he hands of the tumultuous transition from childhood to adulthood. Some individuals are able to handle this transition in our lives with relative ease (e.g. me), while others burgeon into adulthood subconciously kicking and screaming. But, as Whedon himself describes the season, "Oh, grow up!" Easier said than done, big guy, especially when you're a vampire slayer that's just been pulled out of Heaven! Although this theme is very relevant to every character this season, Buffy's arc is, by far, the most defined, complex, and engaging implementation of it.

When Buffy rises from her own grave in "Bargaining," there's already no doubt that she left a piece of herself behind. What immediately follows her is shock, confusion, and then finally overwhelming sadness. Buffy's response to being alive again is excellently summed up by her facial response to Dawn's opposing excitement at the very end of "Bargaining Pt. 2" [6x02]. In fact, Buffy initially thinks this world -- our world -- is Hell itself. I guess in contrast to where she's been, it may seem pretty close, but it's a startling acknowledgement nonetheless.

This daze that Buffy's in lingers through the opening arc, and gets the spotlight in the wondrous "After Life" (6x03), which intimately explores the psychological state Buffy is now forced to deal with. As she comes back into contact with the life she left behind, the pain she feels only begins to mount. This culminates into a pretty substantial depression and a lack of a will to live. This feeling is derived from multiple sources: the fact she's spent a long time in a much happier place, being reminded that her original biological family is now non-existent, and having absolutely no guidance as to what her purpose is anymore. Although Giles can offer her a little help in these troubled times he, nor anyone else, can fill that hole where Buffy's innocence once was. Only time and the understanding of a new purpose can truly guide Buffy to salvation now.

Over the next couple of episodes, we see Buffy valiantly attempting to reintegrate into the world around her, desperately trying to recapture her sense of purpose and normality. "Flooded" [6x04] tackles the mundane realities of adult living that no one enjoys dealing with, such as house repairs, insurance, loans, etc. while "Life Serial" [6x05] takes on Buffy's attempt to get the money to actually allow her to deal with them. Unfortunately, her quick attempts to solve these problems don't really work out for her -- only a long-term solution will. It's actually somewhat ironic that Buffy yearns for the "normality" of her previous life, despite the fact that while living that life, it didn't seen normal at all to her. For the first three seasons of the show, Buffy frequently complained about the lack of a normal life due to the burden of her calling. I guess this just goes to show that we should all try to appreciate what we have in life, because it can be quickly and easily taken away from us.

It's not until the amazing "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] that Buffy fully realizes the full extent of her depression. Sweet is able to easily ensnare her in his songs, using her lack of desire to live and growing anger about her situation to consume her. This episode really covers a lot of ground, as it not only allows Buffy to finally burst out with what she's been trying to keep inside since the moment of her resurrection, but it also excellently sets up what's to come. Even though Spike saves her from doing herself in, Buffy is still filled with a tremendous apathy for life. In light of this, she searches for a scapegoat -- a distraction -- for her misery, so she capitalizes on her predominantly lusty feelings for Spike. "Tabula Rasa" [6x08] futhers this agenda even further. Unfortunately, letting herself 'go' with Spike leads to a much different kind of pain: addiction and self loathing.

"Smashed" [6x09], in what's somewhat of a microcosm of the entire season, touches on many aspects of Buffy's journey all at once. Things move along when Spike realizes he can hurt Buffy without his head exploding. At first glance, you'd think that this would concern Buffy and cause her to be even more wary around him. Instead, mostly due to the state she is in, the fact he can hurt her actually turns her on. So she takes the initiative and, appropiately, in the middle of a fight, jumps Spike's bones (much to his surprise). This begins a mini-arc with a central theme of addiction that spans "Smashed" [6x09] to "Doublemeat Palace" [6x12].

We can see very early on in "Wrecked" [6x10] that her sexual attachment to Spike is forming into this addiction. Here she's simply cold and cruel to Spike, even going as far as telling him "A vampire got me hot. One. But he's gone. You're just... You're just convenient." "Wrecked" [6x10] is an episode with addiction very much on its mind. We see Willow get completely lost in her addiction to magic, which parallels Buffy's situation. These are both friends that can't see each other anymore; friends that are only bound at this point by their problems. Although Willow recognizes she's on the wrong path and makes an attempt to alter her course, Buffy's nowhere close to the point of even trying -- in fact, she's just getting started. As Buffy points out to Giles in "Grave" [6x22], "She was [abusing the magics] - and I barely even noticed." This is on full display in "Wrecked" [6x10].

Still working through her addiction, we see Buffy make another attempt at escaping from her feelings, friends, and, well, life. Although not technically being suicidal, Buffy's desire to be "Gone" [6x11] certainly reminds us that this girl hates her life, is now ashamed of her actions, and wants to escape from it. This temporary gig quickly doesn't work out the way she hoped it would, as real life and real people catch up to her. Dawn is shocked by her cavelier attitude towards serious matters. It takes a message on the answering machine telling her she could die from this invisibility to shock her into realizing that she truly doesn't want to be dead anymore -- an important realization, but still by no means the cure to her current woes. I did genuinely appreciate this closure to the suicide thread running through the first part of the season. I also applaud the writers' gusty move to realistically persist it for this long. These feelings don't just go away after a week.

Although Buffy thinks she's still having a great time using Spike to work out her sexual fantasies, even that appears to be wearing thin on her in "Doublemeat Palace" [6x12]. This episode does an excellent job using working at a fast food joint as a metaphor for her more systemic depression, which is beginning to really weigh heavy on her. Buffy's job at the Doublemeat Palace, especially in her current situation, is soul crushing. With Spike beginning to lose her interest as a glorified sex toy, her true emotions start to become unmasked to her. This is the moment when she begins to loath herself and her behavior, and falls into the pit of dispair.

Although I feel, as a moment in time, Buffy disposing of her antidote in "Normal Again" [6x17] is where she hits rock bottom, the period of time in which she hits rock bottom is definitely the entirety of "Dead Things" [6x13]. This episode is an extremely compelling and complex look into the psychological motives that are fueling Buffy's angst. Although wanting to turn away from Spike ("no"), she continues to let him in anyway. At Buffy's lowest moment -- beating Spike to a bloody pulp in a rage over how much she hates herself -- I can see flashes of Faith circa S3-S4.

The parallel continues when Buffy thinks she killed a human, only instead of acting out in a murderous rampage, as Faith did, Buffy goes inside herself and tries to lock herself up and wallow in herself for eternity. Fortunately for her, and us, Spike slows her down enough to let luck or some force of good allow her to overhear that tidbit about Katrina from the police. This leads to the heart-breaking final scene of the episode in which Buffy confesses to Tara and completely breaks down. Although painful, this open admission of her behavior and actions is the first step in her recovery.

Although a flawed episode, I enjoy watching "As You Were" [6x15] for the well-timed effect it has on Buffy. It's very much an episode of reflection for Buffy in that she sees the success Riley's made for himself and is briefly reminded of what she used to feel. Riley is precisely the jump-start she needed to begin to take charge of her situation instead of allowing it to continue. When she respectfully breaks it off with Spike at the end of the episode, I can't help but cheer for her. That relationship was only hurting both her and Spike -- it wasn't fair to the both of them, whether they realized it at the time or not. I also appreciate Riley for his very respectful and non-judgemental comments to Buffy over what he's seen. This is precisely the motivator Buffy needed to make a change.

All of this development beautifully sets up the emotional climax of the season, where Buffy is given one last "out" in "Normal Again" [6x17] -- a permanent retreat into her own mind, where she envisions both of her parents as still alive, happy, and together (we know early in the series that their divorce really hurt her). At first, she is torn between what is reality and what is not. All it takes, though, are some brought up memories of her painful past and a poorly timed ultimatum from Spike to make her decision to inhabit the world inside her own mind. It's devastating to see someone prefer to be a sick girl in a mental institution over having to face her actual life, day in and day out. That's the burder of life, though, isn't it? Whether we're living happy lives or sad lives, we have to go on living. Spike's words from "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] seem to resonate now more than ever: "Life's not a song/Life isn't bliss/Life is just this/It's living."

Although Spike's words were the savior of Buffy then, it's Buffy's memories of her mother that are her savior now. Joyce tells Buffy the exact thing she needed to hear at this moment in time, from the only person who could say it: "Be strong, baby, okay? I know you're afraid, I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people who love you. Your dad and I we have all the faith in the world in you. We'll always be with you. You've got a world of strength in your heart, I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself." Beautiful! I'm also a big fan of how we can see and feel the relief Buffy experiences after this breakthrough in the surprisingly strong "Entropy" [6x18].

Although the end of the season predominantly features Willow, I found myself very pleased with the coda to Buffy's arc we got in "Grave" [6x22] that is the literal resurrection of herself. This plays as a wonderful book-end to the resurrection of her body in "Bargaining Pt. 2" [6x02]. Buffy's overall S6 arc is very powerful and moving, along with being incredibly well designed, developed, and directed. This is the one area of the season I feel is utterly flawless. This arc succeeds so much for me not only because of how well done it is, but also because of how not stylized it is. What we have on display here is very realistic, raw, and sad, but by the end is optmistic, empowering, and exciting. This arc is yet another example of Buffy's willingness to take risks and break out of its own parameters.

I sympathize with the complaints that this season is very difficult to watch... because at times it is. It's difficult for me, too, to see Buffy in depression and pain. But I can't deny that it makes me cheer that much louder when she -- sans flashiness -- realistically works through her pain to regain that excitement and purpose in life she once had. That purpose being a renewed sense of dedication to the Scooby family along with, more importantly, an epiphany about Dawn's potential in her life. It's in this moment that she fully regains the connection she felt to Dawn when sacrificing herself in "The Gift" [5x22] and begins to see the potential for the lasting satisfaction that life can still bring her. Buffy's truly back, only now she's a fully realized adult!

Willow

One of the overall themes of this season is addiction, which is most evident in regard to Willow's arc. The concept of a Willow being "addicted" to magic is an excellent one, and is one that is built upon through "Tabula Rasa" [6x08]. Where this arc goes awry is when the writers decide to slam us over the head with a blatant metaphor of magic subbing in for drugs. This begins to be obvious in "Smashed" [6x09], really falls off the rails in "Wrecked" [6x10], and doesn't recover until the end of the season. I don't have an inherent problem with the writers wanting to explore drug addiction, but I really dislike the idea and implementation of it here. Plus I'd still have rather seen a more broad study of addiction in general, keeping Willow's character flaws (i.e. "power hungry") in close context -- look at the brilliant Requiem for a Dream for a great example of the approach I'd have preferred here in S6.

The season opens with a Willow who's fully in command of the group. There are several moments in the three-part season opener ("Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01] through "After Life" [6x03]) that remind us that her confidence in this role is largely based around her magical abilities -- not her core personality. I still maintain that Willow's salvation lies in looking back at the small but vitally important growth she had way back in S2's excellent "Halloween" [2x06]. This episode proves that Willow is fully capable of being the leader, being helpful, and being vital to the group without the use of magic. But, as we see later in S2, this is not the path she starts on -- magic was simply too alluring in its outright power and accessibility. This makes me appreciate how well the writers have naturally evolved Willow's flaws over the years, as she likely wouldn't be as exciting of a character to watch had she grown in the healthy way from the start. Magic took over, and what we're left with is here. The sad truth about entertainment is that sometimes what's best for the show isn't what's best for the character.

Some early S6 moments that excellently set the tone for Willow's arc include how she hides the details of Buffy's resurrection from Tara and the entire group ("Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01]), the resurrection spell itself, selfishly wanting thanks from a newly resurrected Buffy who clearly isn't at all right, and abruptly breaking away from a combined spell with Tara because she was being slowed down by the 'help' ("After Life" [6x03]). I also feel the need to make note of the balance provided in Willow's characterization here. She is not yet completely consumed with her magic, and still cares deeply for Buffy along with those around her. The proof of this is when she breaks down in tears when she believes all hope of bringing Buffy back is lost ("Bargaining Pt. 2" [6x02]).

This perfect setup is adeptly developed in "Flooded" [6x04] where we find a Willow who snaps at Giles for insulting her magical prowess. It's really at this moment when Giles, and the audience, realizes just how scary she's truly gotten. Willow quickly defuses this argument, trying her best to backstep the outburst so Giles doesn't get too concerned -- but the damage is already done. This moment is an important setup for what comes next: the selective memory wipe of a fight Willow has with Tara in "All the Way" [6x06]. This is the first intentional act of violence on her friends, and is a shocking one at that. As Tara will thankfully point out in "Tabula Rasa" [6x08], "How could you Willow? You could you after what Glory did to me? ... To violate my mind like that." Tara's pain comes from not only the memory wipe, but also in what she has to do because of it.

Now, with Tara out of her day-to-day life, Willow completely loses control of herself. It's at this point in the season when Willow's arc begins to head in the wrong direction. The silly magic antics in "Smashed" [6x09] really get the sour train rolling, which is a shame because otherwise it's a very good episode. The writers could have gone in a whole myriad of directions at this point in the season. Why they those a long-winded drug metaphor is beyond me. I really would have preferred to have seen Willow continue to gradually lose sight of who she is, tyring to control the Scooby Gang with a self-justified sense of superiority. With a Scooby Gang increasingly getting less and less tolerant of her behavior, she could have left the group entirely and had a branch of the season off to herself.

What if Willow tried to use her power to control an army of her own -- one that's ambiguous in nature and only superficially built out of Willow's desire to "do good." This, later in the season, could have been used to cause a clash with Buffy that leads to someone important to get seriously hurt or killed. All of this potentially could have made the end of the season that much more powerful, with Xander still saving the day. Additionally, this would have created more opportunites to interact with Buffy's arc, and also have interesting connotations in regard to the leadership role Buffy plays in S7.

Rather than seeing something like I just described, we instead get "Wrecked" [6x10]: the low point of the season due to how it takes Willow's character development in the wrong direction and taints the next five or so episodes because of it (with the exception of "Dead Things" [6x13]). This is not only the cold turkey phase of Willow's "magic" addiction, but sadly of her arc as well. A large reason why many of the mid-season episodes (mostly "Wrecked" [6x10] through "As You Were" [6x15]) struggled to keep afloat -- besides the obviously troubled plots -- was due to Willow acting like someone trying to recover from a drug addiction... and that's pretty much it for her arc. Willow is not the focus of any of these episodes and all the tension built up from earlier in the season is simply lost to the void. Thankfully we had Willow's interactions with Tara to keep an inkling of interest around.

The only thing remotely interesting to begin to happen as the season passes its mid-way point is Willow's gradual reconnection to Tara. We see them bump into each other in "Dead Things" [6x13], and it's clear they both really want to reconnect. This then eventually leads to a coffee date and then back to full-on reconnection in "Entropy" [6x18]. Of course all of this goes to hell in "Seeing Red" [6x19] when Tara gets murdered by Warren.

These final episodes, fortunately, abruptly grabbed my attention and got me really interested in what was happening with Willow again. What transpires at the end of this season is a flood of emotions. Just in "Villains" [6x20] alone we see complete shock, anger, and then an icy cold detachment from herself. By the time Warren is disposed of -- her emotions not sated -- "Two to Go" [6x21] gives her rage an outlet as she wrongly goes after Jonathan and Andrew. At this point Willow just wants to hurt people. Finally, in "Grave" [6x22], Xander is able to tap into what's left of her humanity thanks to a booster shot of light magic from a newly returned Giles, which allows her to finally let all that buried pain be released thereby allowing the grieving process to truly begin.

As a whole, S6 offers Willow a superb beginning and a highly entertaining end, but the writers really dropped the ball on the middle of the season in what should have been one of the most potent section of episodes in the entire series. So while this fact hurts the season a lot more than I'd have liked, there's still a lot of great material for Willow in S6 -- just look around the edges.

Xander

Early in "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01] we get caught up on the state of Xander's marriage proposal to Anya at the end of S5. Although still planning to get married, Xander's essentially forced Anya not to tell anyone else about it. Although I can sympathize with his desire not to be inappropiate in a time of great loss, by time "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01] rolls around, a summer later, I think I side with Anya in that "Happy news in hard times is a good thing." Xander's not postponing the announcement because of Buffy's death and pending resurrection -- these are all just excuses to buy himself more time from truly being stuck. Having all of his friends hold him to that commitment is clearly a factor here.

Anya is surprisingly patient and is able to contain her excitement for their marriage all the way until, well, "All the Way" [6x06]. One of the highlights of this episode was Xander's spur-of-the-moment announcement to the entire group that he and Anya were getting married. But, really, who wouldn't fall for Anya's dance of capitalistic superiority? Although definitely coming as a bit of a shock to everyone, they are all very supportive of and excited for the both of them.

It's just a shame that both his proposal to Anya in "The Gift" [5x22] -- which was a very genuine moment -- and his announcement to the group here were both wrong decisions. Although it's certainly possible the two of them could have made it work, I'm pleased the season didn't just conveniently forget about all of Xander's established issues from years past. I have a hard time blaming Xander for wanting to take his relationship with Anya to the next level; wanting to be ready for everything marriage should be. But wanting to be ready for something doesn't mean you are ready for it, not by a long shot. This is one thing Xander and Dawn actually have in common this season.

"Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] takes a decent stab at starting to get the two of them talking about this out in the open. Some of these insecurities, from both of them, burst out into glorious song. What's interesting is that Anya pretty much shoves off these worries as not much of a big deal, while it feels like it has more of an effect on Xander. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with these thoughts and feelings right here, Xander instead just wants to kill the demon so that no more of his thoughts will come pouring out to Anya. He boxes up those concerns for a later time. Although it would be painful to deal with this now, we all know "Hell's Bells" [6x16] is the alternative.

Leading up to "Hell's Bells" [6x16], there were a number of subtle moments that continue to foreshadow the inevitable. One in particular I tend to remember is a moment at the beginning of "Doublemeat Palace" [6x12]. Anya is rambling on about money, as usual, and Xander responds to it with, "Welcome to today's episode of 'Go Money Go!' I hear it daily." Willow then chimes in with the zinger: "Yep, for the rest of your life." The look on Xander's face as he's chewing his popcorn is both very funny, very informative, and, in retrospect, quite sad.

When Xander breaks off their engagement at the last second in "Hell's Bells" [6x16], it's painful for everyone involved. Although I feel Xander is completely at fault for not confronting his inner demons earlier, when the signs were evident to him, I still feel he made the right decision to not get married when it finally sunk in that he wasn't ready. I really wish more people would realize that they really don't have the maturity to make marriage work. I think there'd be a lot more long, happier marriages if that were the case. So I respect Xander for his decision, but I abhor him for his timing -- waiting to the last second is never the way to go.

After this painful break-up, we see a Xander who is genuinely lost yet still very much cares for Anya. He really learned something about himself in this process, but it will take some time for all of it to fully sink in. One immediate benefit of this gained self-awareness is that it ties in with his other thread this season: taking Buffy off the pedastal he's had her on since well, frankly, "Welcome to the Hellmouth" [1x01]. Although he gets to this point with some big revelations about Buffy in the underrated "Entropy" [6x18], I'd like to take a few moments first to look at how bad his blind eye to all things Buffy had gotten.

Although Xander did, to his credit, have qualms about Willow's plan to resurrect Buffy, we see shortly afterwards that he's glad they did it. From this point on he actively turns a blind eye (no pun intended there) towards the suffering Buffy is in, which is obvious from anyone who looks hard enough for it. All the Scoobies were so blinded in their belief that they pulled her out of a hell dimension that it even informed the way they viewed her mental state. Spike at least had a little intuition to know that something was off, but the rest didn't even want to consider the opposite.

What's amazing to me is that, even when they all find out about the truth of what's going on with Buffy, Xander still tries to shirk the blame. He makes his views extremely clear in "Tabula Rasa" [6x08]: "Maybe we were [selfish]. I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead. It's... too mind-boggling. So I've decided to simplify the whole thing. Me like Buffy. Buffy's alive, so, me glad." This sentence informs how Xander approaches Buffy from that point on.

In "Gone" [6x11], Spike and Buffy are getting a little heated in the kitchen as Xander walks in on them. Xander just assumes Buffy wanted nothing to do with Spike's advances and that "Only a complete loser would ever hook up with [Spike]. Well, unless she's a simpleton like Harmony, or a, or a nut sack like Drusilla-" Later (in the same episode) in Spike's crypt, Xander doesn't put the pieces together because his mind just isn't going there. Buffy's beyond anything like this to him, so the thought that she may actually be fooling around with Spike literally doesn't even cross his mind.

This goes on until "Entropy" [6x18], in which Spike succinctly reveals everything to Xander (and Anya). The realization that Buffy is not the saint he's always made her out to be, but rather a human being who can make big mistakes like the rest of us, is utterly crushing to him. This, as I mentioned, completely ties in with his overall growth as a person and as an adult. In "Seeing Red" [6x19], we see a Xander drained of much of the life and fun he once possessed, even resorting to wasting away the moning with a handful of beer cans.

It's only after Xander sees the pain Buffy's relationship with Spike has caused her -- seing the aftermath of Spike's attempted rape -- that he begins to realize the situation's much more complex than he ever realized. They have a great discussion about this at the end of "Seeing Red" [6x19], and are thankfully able to reconcile with each other and move past their respective wounds. Now, more than ever before, do these two have a real connection and adult understanding of each other. This new foundation of maturity very much sets up where they start in S7.

I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the fact that Xander saved the world this season! Go Xander! I think this ending works on several levels. First, despite everything that's happened, Xander and Willow's friendship is the longest-running in the series. Second, I feel that everything Xander learned this season, as detailed above, and the maturity he gained throughout these experiences, very much contributed to why he had to be the person up on that cliff to save Willow from herself. I feel this is an inspired end to the season, and an inspired end to Xander's growth this season. Xander ends the season a real superhero, and I'm very happy about it. Although I definitely would have appreciated even a little bit more insight from Xander's point of view throughout the season, I am still quite pleased with what is there.

Giles

Giles doesn't really have much of an arc in S6, which doesn't really come as a big surprise considering he's only in a handful of episodes. One thing I occasionally think about is if Giles' leaving the Scoobies was the right decision (putting aside the fact that the actor likely wasn't available). I will say that it was definitely in character, as I've made the case for in some of my episode reviews, and I found his absence did allow for a lot of relatively quick character maturity that otherwise would have taken much longer if he was around to always deal with messy situations.

So that leaves us with the development Giles did get in the time he had. In S5, we saw him return to his roots and re-devote his life to helping Buffy become a better slayer. With Buffy now dead, we see him in a little bit of anguish over the decisions he made that, regardless of his best effort, ended in Buffy's death. In a poignant conversation with the BuffyBot, the big questions of "why I am still here?" and "do I still have a life to go back to?" are more relevant than ever. "Restless" [4x22] showed us that there's a divide in Giles between wanting to take control of his life again and his steadfast devotion to Buffy. With Buffy gone, Giles' choice seems pretty clear. This is why he leaves in "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01].

When he returns to Sunnydale in "Flooded" [6x04], he's initially shocked but still obviously pleased to see Buffy alive again. This joy very quickly mutates into caution and then concern and worry. Willow's actions aren't fooling him one bit, and he calls her out on the possibilities of what Buffy might be dealing with. The predominant theme for Giles over the next four episodes is how he is very torn in deciding how he can best help Buffy in her struggling situation. The end of "Life Serial" [6x05] reminds us just how wonderful of a man Giles can be. After Buffy struggles to fit into a regular job on her first attempts (the Trio's tests make her feel worse than she should), Giles gives her a check to allow her to be able to take a little bit of time to get herself together. In addition to that, he's there for her and actively trying to help.

"All the Way" [6x06] is really an eye-opening experience for Giles though. Dawn gets herself into trouble on Halloween night and, naturally, Giles expects Buffy to make sure Dawn learns from this experience. The problem here is that Buffy isn't really interested in disciplining Dawn anymore, so she leaves it to Giles to take care of. Giles is both disappointed with Buffy and a little angry at Dawn.

It's this moment where he realizes Buffy will not live up to any of her responsibilities as long as he is around to deal with them for her all the time. And, clearly, Giles can't just ignore these things while waiting for Buffy to snap out of it. He gets the final confirmation on his feelings in "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] when Buffy just tells him, in regard to Dawn's Halloween adventures, "Oh, I thought you took care of that." The song Giles sings, "Standing" (or "standing in the way") is very much about the tough decision he has to make -- leaving Buffy so she can grow. In "Tabula Rasa" [6x08], he leaves, and Buffy is not happy about it.

Flash forward now to "Grave" [6x22] where Giles has returned to deal with the Willow situation. Buffy and Giles have a great conversation in the back training room in which they come to a mutual understanding about each others' mistakes. Clearly, Giles now has some reservations about the decision he made. He tells Buffy "I should never have left." She responds, "No... you were right to leave. We're just... stupid." Giles amusingly comes back, "I know you're all stupid. I should never have abandoned you ... Sometimes the most adult thing you can do is ask for help when you need it."

Although Giles didn't develop much this season, his (lack of) presence had a huge impact on the rest of the characters, and the audience. I think that his absence for a good part of the season made for more of an interesting ride than if he had stuck around during all that happened. With that said I think, on a personal level, that he probably made a mistake by leaving, as he freely admits now in "Grave" [6x22]. An unfortunate side-effect of his departure is that his relationship with Buffy is never again as tight as it was, which is very sad indeed. This change in the nature of their relationship will play a large role in S7.

Spike

Spike grew as a character a ton during S5, and S6 doesn't appear to even be trying to top it. Instead, the season stops Spike in place and explores the heck out of him through his responses to Buffy's troubles over the course of the season. Due to this exploration, Spike learns a lot of fundamentally troubled things about who he is right now -- things that lead to changes that will forever effect him. Want specifics? Read on! :)

In "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01] we see a Spike who is still beating himself up over what happened on the tower in "The Gift" [5x22]. It's clear he still hasn't emotionally recovered from Buffy's death. Spike made a promise to Buffy that he would protect Dawn no matter what happened, so here he is, true to his word. Spike tells Dawn, "No. I'm not leaving you... to get hurt. Not again." He's always been a bit of a romantic at heart, so seeing him essentially babysitting Dawn full-time doesn't come as a surprise to me in the least, although that shouldn't lessen how awesome it is.

The problem with this cozy little set up is that, in "After Life" [6x03], Buffy returns. Now what!? Spike is expectedly surprised, supportive, and then eventually a little concerned. Buffy's revelation about her other-worldly whereabouts blindsides Spike -- he hasn't the slightest clue how to respond to it. Despite that, he tries to respond nonetheless, even evoking a rare chuckle out of her in "Flooded" [6x04].

It's in "Life Serial" [6x05] that Spike starts trying to get Buffy to indulge in her darker side. He enourages her to leave her old life behind and not hold herself to those standards anymore. Spike's always seen this side of her, but he uses this opportunity to push this side of her out and to the surface. He tells Buffy, "You're not a schoolgirl. You're not a shop girl. You're a creature of the darkness. Like me. Try on my world. See how good it feels." Although I'm sure Spike thinks he's doing a great thing by doing this, he obviously doesn't have the moral capacity to know how wrong he is. "Life Serial" [6x05], although fairly innocuous in of itself, is what plants the initial seeds of their impending twisted sexual relationship.

Spike only has to wait until "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07] to get the beginning of what he's wanted for over a year now, although it's not under the circumstances he would have ever imagined or even realizes now. The sexual tension building up explodes in "Smashed" [6x09] where a huge, violent fight between them ends with the two of them rolling around together. This big turning point was only made possible by the revelation that Spike can now hit Buffy without his head exploding -- a side-effect of the resurrection spell used to bring Buffy back. Knowing that Spike can hurt her actually turns Buffy on, an effect Spike also did not expect.

A moment that turns out to be signifant in the scope of Spike's journey this season is when, in "Smashed" [6x09] Spike, thinking he can kill again, tries to murder a young girl. Although the chip fires off, we can see that he still would have done it if he wasn't stopped! To his credit, he did have to work himself up to bite the girl, but he went for her nonetheless. At several points in the season, the writers go out of their way to make sure we remember that Spike is still a soulless being capable of great evil.

I think what makes us need to be reminded of this is what makes Spike such a wonderfully complex character. He's not a straight-up villain, but he's not a straight-up good guy either. Living in this gray area eventually starts to drive Spike insane by the end of the series -- he needs clarity in nature and purpose, even if the struggle between both sides will always be a part of him. His lack of a soul prevents him from obtaining redemption and forgiveness, while the chip prevents him from being a monster again. Either way, he's not being allowed to make choices completely of his own will.

It's never more obvious than in "Wrecked" [6x10] that Buffy's just using Spike to scratch an itch, and not much more. Although over the course of their time spent together Buffy will, indeed, grow more attached to Spike, I don't believe she loves him at any point during this season. This creates a fascinating situation where Spike is increasingly getting fed-up with the way Buffy is treating him, but yet would still take the abuse just because he likes the sex and wants to be with her in any way he can.

As "Dead Things" [6x13] shows us, though, Spike's not the only one being abused here. Knowingly or not, Spike is not doing much to help Buffy out of her struggles. He keeps trying to pull her further into darkness at a time when she desperately needs to be shown the light again. At one point Spike even tells her to just forget about all her friends so she can join him in the dark. Not exactly a healthy approach to the situation! By the time "As You Were" [6x15] rolls around, Riley shows Buffy a glimpse of that light she so desparately needed to see, so she respectfully breaks it off with Spike, even going as far as calling him "William" -- a nice little reminder of Spike's soul and a hint of what's to come.

The break-off really throws Spike for a loop. He genuinely doesn't fully understand why Buffy broke it off and why there was any problem with their relationship. When Buffy starts hallucinating she's in a mental instituion in "Normal Again" [6x17], Spike -- not taking her condition remotely seriously -- gets completely fed up with the entire situaiton and throws an ultimatum at her: if she doesn't tell her friends about their involvement together, he will. Of course, this causes Buffy to want to retreat into fantasty even further. Spike is really not helping anyone at this point. In his confusion and pain, he goes to Anya for a numbing spell and instead gets solace sex.

I found the move to have Spike and Anya briefly get it on in "Entropy" [6x18] extremely inspired. It totally made sense based on where the characters were at this point in the season but, more importantly, it makes complete sense based on the amicable conversations they've had in the past. I always remember a particular moment between them in "Where the Wild Things Are" [4x18] where Anya discusses relationships. She says to Spike, "Seen a thousand relationships. First there's the love, and sex, and then there's nothing left but the vengeance. That's how it works." Talk about foreshadowing!

This encounter obviously causes a whole slew of problems, most of which involve Buffy and Spike's relationship being made public to the Scoobies. This sends Spike into a tailspin leading him to a desperate attempt to physically connect with Buffy again. He confuses himself into an attempted rape, which obviously completely destroys any chance he may have ever had with her. The scene that most effectively translates Spike's neverending frustrations is towards the end of "Seeing Red" [6x19], in which he tells a visiting Clem, "Everything always used to be so clear. Slayer, vampire! Vampire kills slayer, sucks her dry, picks his teeth with her bones ... But with Buffy... it isn't supposed to be this way! It won't let me be a monster. And I can't be a man. I'm nothing."

The only source of action left for Spike is a staking or change. Spike, ever the fighter that he is, chooses change in "Grave" [6x22]. And what crazy change he gets! Although he knows he's fighting for his soul, he doesn't really have any idea what that truly means yet. That's what makes this decision so powerful and unbelievable. For a soulless creature to change to the point of wanting to fight for his soul is simply incredible. The Spike we see in S7 is not the same being as the Spike of before. What an amazing journey this character has been on!

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with what we got from Spike this season. Although I have a hard time picking favorites on this series, Spike has definitely got to be one of my favorite television characters ever. I also need to mention that this character would not be as awesome as he is without the phenomenal acting pouring out of the wonderful James Marsters. Fantastic work!

Dawn

I like Dawn. There, I said it! Wow, what a relief to be out in the open with that! Wait... I hear the Buffy fanbase arriving. Shit! So... the more and more I've attempted to be involved in the Buffy fandom over the last few years, the more and more I've wanted to run away from it. With the exception of a handful of smart and kind individuals (and most of the people that visit this site), the ruckus people cause over Dawn has frustrated and annoyed me to the point where I really do want to become completely anti-social and return to playing Counter-Strike for five hours a day (you didn't read that). At least in Counter-Strike there's a button you can click on to mute all the annoying screeching coming from the players shooting at you... on your own team. I hate to break it to all of you, but Dawn is not that annoying! Hating on this character has become a verifiable fad in the Buffy fandom, and I'm really sick of it.

So those of you expecting to read a several page rant, with caps-lock on, about how much Dawn needs to "shut up" can stop reading this right now. Instead, you'll get from me what you've always gotten from me: a level-headed look at a character's season-long journey. That journey begins in "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01], where we see a very lonely, sad Dawn. The scene where she crawls into bed with the BuffyBot and hugs it is very moving, and speaks volumes to what Dawn's going through.

Buffy obviously returns to her, but she soon realizes that while Buffy may be back in body, she's certainly not back in spirit. This leads Dawn to seek out connection on her own, which leads us to "All the Way" [6x06]. This episode tackles Dawn's growing interest in becoming an adult of her own, even though she's clearly not ready for all that that entails. It's somewhat ironic that she's so oblivious to the fact that the pain she sees in the friends around her is stemming from being swamped by the adult world.

In "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], Sweet's sensual dance with her runs with this, as he knows precisely what she's feeling inside. Although she has feelings that are wanting to burst out into the open, she in no way has the maturity yet to deal with the result of acting on those feelings. The fact all these other people are bursting into flame because of their emotions goes to show many adults can't even handle it. What's also problematic here is that a demon has a better grip on what Dawn's feeling right now than her own friends and family. Not good.

So, as an outlet for her frustration, she decides to steal things. "Older and Far Away" [6x14] takes a look at how everyone around Dawn is so caught up in their own crap, they can't hear Dawn's cries of loneliness and pain. While true, Dawn's not seeing the reverse either. With all that said, I have a lot of sympathy for the girl. Take a moment to consider everything that's happened to her in the last year. That's enough to traumatize anyone, let alone a young teenage girl. This is why, when Buffy finally makes the decision to start including Dawn in her entire life in "Grave" [6x22], slayer duties included, I jumped for joy. This sets up Dawn's S7 arc and gives her something big to share with her sister and Scooby friends. I just think this development was long overdue.

This leads me to some complaints I have about how Dawn was written this season. Instead of being flushed out as a character of her own, we instead see her used as a device to show how much trouble other characters are in. Besides tickling the surface of Dawn as a person, all we got is her being used as a piece on a game board. This is what's truly a shame. I like Dawn, but I believe the writers failed at making me love her, like I do with all the other characters. Thankfully, S7 is an improvement for her. All I ask is that everyone please stop the hate on Dawn. If she's not your favorite character, so be it, but don't have an aneurysm everytime she speaks.

Tara

Tara has always been a character I've enjoyed watching. I have to admit, though, that she hasn't been one of the better developed characters. To S6's credit, Tara gets the most development she's ever gotten. Her death in "Seeing Red" [6x19] angered a good many fans, and I understand why. Even though Tara's not the only character I love (as it is for some people in the fandom), I still felt the pain of her death as well. This brings us to the question of why Whedon likes to kill off so many of his beloved characters. This topic warrants its own article, so all I will say now is that, at least in Buffy, I feel most of the character deaths served a greater purpose in the story, Tara included. Could Whedon have found a way to get Willow to the place she went without this happening? I really don't know, but what transpires is largely effective. If all the characters we love couldn't die, then what are the stakes? What are the Scoobies even fighting for?

It's interesting that the bulk of Tara's development comes as a result of her separation from Willow, who has been abusing magic and is crossing important lines. The creepy moment when Willow breaks away from a joint spell with Tara in "After Life" [6x03] leads to a scene when Tara confronts Willow, in "All the Way" [6x06], about how Willow thinks all her problems can be solved with magic now. This results in a fight between them. Working through problems like this is normal in a relationship. Wiping the memory of the fight from your partner's mind is not normal in a relationship though! That Willow would do this to Tara after what Glory did to her in "Tough Love" [5x19] -- something Tara points out later -- is shocking.

After Tara finds out about this violation of her mind in "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], she confronts Willow about it in "Tabula Rasa" [6x08], giving her one last chance to prove she can let the magic go. Less than a day after Willow promises to stop, she breaks her promise, which leads to another magic-related disaster involving memory loss. This is justifiably the last straw for Tara, so she leaves Willow.

While Tara is on her own, though, a lot of interesting things happen. She makes some new friends, strengthens her bond with Dawn even more ("Wrecked" [6x10]), is there for Buffy who is in desperate need of a real friend ("Dead Things" [6x13]), and even defends a Willow who is later on the mends ("Older and Far Away" [6x14]). During all of this season, but even more so towards the end, we see a Tara with complete confidence in herself that is willing to speak up even when it might be painful. This newfound strength in herself is what, I feel, gives her the ability to forgive Willow in "Entropy" [6x18] and reconnect.

In addition to all that I've already mentioned, Tara's sense of humor really started to come out of its shell this season. I think Tara had some of the funniest moments of the season. One moment in particular that always gives me a smile when I think about it is in "Older and Far Away" [6x14]. She asks Spike, "A muscle cramp? In your... pants?" and then later follows up and asks, "How's that cramp Spike? Still bothering you? ... Maybe you, uh, wanna put some ice on it." Although I enjoyed Tara when she was introduced in S4, I didn't come to love her until S6. So, while Tara didn't get some huge arc of her own, she came a long way... and I will most definitely miss her. Goodbye, Tara!

Anya

As should be no surprise to anyone at this point, I think Anya rocks. With that said, this is probably her worst year in terms of both character development and humor. Anya's character threads can pretty much be summed up by two things: the build-up to the marriage followed by the vengeance that follows it not happening.

Right from the get-go, in "Bargaining Pt. 1" [6x01], we can see that Anya is frustrated by Xander's inability to tell everyone about their engagement. Athough Anya is largely oblivious to the internal demons Xander has up his sleeves, these lurking problems become more and more obvious as the season progresses. Anya really has learned how to love, as shown by the years of experience as a vengeance demon no longer being relevant to her relationship.

By the time "Hell's Bells" [6x16] rolls around, Anya is still quite surprised by Xander's actions. Even though Xander knows the visions he saw were a concentrated nightmare version of what his life with Anya could have ended up like, it's enough to force him into realizing he's not ready to take that risk yet. He's simply too young, and still has issues to work out. As much as I was rooting for the two of them to make this work, I always kind of knew there was no way it was going happen. Also of no surprise to me is Anya's attempt to return to the vengeance fold after this happens. I say "attempt," because very soon afterwards we find out that Anya really can't fully be who she was before -- she's changed. "Entropy" [6x18] takes a direct look at Anya's pain and her attempt to get back at Xander. After an episode's worth of trying, Anya finally gets her literal wish (from Spike) and turns it down. This is definitely still Anya we're dealing with, not Anyanka.

A conversation in "Two to Go" [6x21] sums up where Anya and Xander stand with each other now. Anya tells Xander she can't hurt him, to which he responds, "Right, 'cause you varnishing the table with Spike -- how could that possibly have hurt?" Anya quietly replies, "That wasn't vengeance. It was solace. Look, I really can't hurt you, so I'm just gonna have to settle for hating you." The good news in all of this is that the two of them do find a way to work through this in S7.

Speaking of S7, it begins with an Anya continuing to have issues getting back into the swing of her vengeance gig. "Selfless" [7x05] then goes on to confront all of the issues surrounding her, and then some.

The Trio

Almost every season of Buffy has a villain that is tailored to themes of the season and often acts as a counterpoint to what's going on with the Scoobies. Season 6 is no different in this way, with the Trio being perfectly placed as a group of male young adults who are acting anything but adults. While the Scoobies are struggling accepting themselves in the adult world, the Trio's solution to the pain is to completely avoid it. Why work for something when you can get it for free? Why ask for something when you can take it? These are the central ideas in the Trio's scheme to "take over Sunnydale." I feel that the Trio definitely work as the best thematic villain in the entire series, and are only hampered by a few overly silly moments and the extremely long wait to see what they're really capable of -- which happens in "Dead Things" [6x13].

"Flooded" [6x04] introduces the Trio as a group of comic book geeks bent on not actually working and moving on with their lives post high school. Their self proclaimed "mission statement" consists of the following: "Control The Weather, Miniaturize Fort Knox, Conjure Fake I.D.s, Shrink Ray, Girls, Girls, The Gorilla Thing, and Workable Prototype Jetpacks." In "Flooded" [6x04] they're able to successfully con a brute demon into robbing a bank for them. One thing to note is that, even in this introduction episode, there's a sense that Warren is different than the others -- he doesn't have a problem with Buffy ending up dead.

What's funny to me is that the Trio's undoing is essentially outlined in "Life Serial" [6x05]. At the end of this episode, they genuinely believe they easily threw Buffy off her game with their little tests, even though they have no clue what's actually going on in her life right now. Underestimating Buffy is always a poor move, and the Trio will find this out later in the season.

Although, as already pointed out, there's definitely something different about Warren right from the start, it's not until "Gone" [6x11] when he officially starts to become creepy. What starts off as a fairly innocuous plan to make themselves invisible so they can check out naked girls turns into something much more complicated when Buffy instead gets hit by their invisibility ray. Both Jonathan and Andrew (entertainingly referred to as "what's his name" throughout the season) don't want to hurt Buffy, but Warren goes around their backs and tries to get Buffy killed. This plays as a nice setup to what happens next.

"Dead Things" [6x13] represents a huge turning point for the Trio and fully outs Warren as the only real villain in the group. Although Warren's definitely a secondary villain, taking back seat to the Scooby Gang's own personal troubles, he gets credible here as both a misogynist and a murderer. What Warren does to Katrina is not only awful for her, but it also betrays Warren's own growth at the hands of that relationship. As I pointed out in my review, "Warren has just turned Katrina into the very thing he ran away from: the AprilBot from "I Was Made to Love You" [5x15]. This robs him of the very reason why he ditched the bot: Katrina's life and personality." If the Trio wasn't interesting enough before, this episode made me start to care about what they were up to. They had my full attention now.

The fallout from the murder of Katrina turns out to be from within the group, not outside of it. We can see, in "Normal Again" [6x17], that Jonathan is traumatized by what he's been a part of, and desperately wants to get away from a dangerous Warren and a complicit Andrew. Although he tries to sever his ties with the others, he's too scared to actually make a move. Jonathan finally makes his decision when it counted, and helped Buffy defeat a suped-up Warren in "Seeing Red" [6x19]. Unfortunately, Warren returns to Buffy's house later with a gun and shoots up the place. This leads to a lot of skin loss for Warren, as we actually witness in "Villains" [6x20]. With Warren, a villain to the end, out of the picture, Jonathan sticks to his morals and does everything he can to help the Scoobies now, while Andrew keeps making bad calls. It's clear that Jonathan has finally grown as a person, but Andrew still has a ways to go and isn't yet much of an individual.

We leave the Trio, now the Duo, running off to Mexico in fright. All in all, I have to admit that Warren turned out to be a pretty effective villain, much to my surprise. In the end, I really enjoy the Trio's antics and find them to be an extremely effective villain for this particular season. At times they entertained me, while at other times they creeped me out. They also had quite the little season-long arc of their own, and each of the three characters grew in a unique way. Plus... "Timothy Dalton should get an Oscar and beat Sean Connery over the head with it!"

Conclusion

I love S6. Being as objective as I can, though, I realize that it has some notable flaws and does not deserve an A-range grade. The direction they took Willow mid-season really changed the course of what could have been one of the best seasons of the series. I still maintain that S6 is the most daring season, containing many of the riskiest moves the series ever made along with some of the most deeply probing episodes.

I'm discovering more and more that I have a love for shows that dig into characters' minds and explore the psychological aspects of what makes them who they are. This season is practically a treasure chest filled with episodes that do just that, with "After Life" [6x03], "Once More, with Feeling" [6x07], "Dead Things" [6x13], and "Normal Again" [6x17] leading the charge.

What defines the best aspects of the season for me is really everything surrounding Buffy's return from a heavenly place and subsequent rediscovery of herself. This leads her through a lot of confusing times, including being depressed enough to have no will to live, submitting herself to a largely lust-filled relationship with Spike, and not being there for Dawn or for any of her friends really, who could have also used a helpful hand this season.

S6 is an important journey for the characters; a journey of discovery about themselves. All the characters ended the season in a much more mature place, now ready to tackle bigger challenges than they would have ever been prepared to face before. When the end of "Grave" [6x22] arrives, it's like being baptized of pain -- I feel rejuvenated again. It is with this exciting feeling that I am going into S7. Although S7 is not one of my very favorites seasons, I hope to make a case for it being still a very good season, with many of the series' best episodes in it. So join me as I walk into S7. All I ask is for all of you to keep an open mind! :)

Awards
    • A+ (): 4 episode(s)
    • A (90-99): 5 episode(s)
    • B (75-89): 7 episode(s)
    • C (60-74): 6 episode(s)
    • D (50-59): 0 episode(s)
    • F (0-49): 0 episode(s)

    Average Episode Score
    85/100B+
    N/A

    DEPTH
    N/A

    EMOTION
    N/A

    CHARACTER
    N/A

    PLOT

    Season Score
    89/100B+
    N/A

    DEPTH
    N/A

    EMOTION
    N/A

    CHARACTER
    N/A

    PLOT


    Comments (109)
    All Comments | Link1 | CharliJan 22, 2009
    Good to see another season review :)
    All Comments | Link2 | CharliJan 22, 2009
    Definitely my favourite
    All Comments | Link3 | Suzanne BJan 22, 2009
    I'm so excited to see another review! Bring on season 7!
    All Comments | Link4 | Tom_Jan 22, 2009
    I also love season 6. As you said, many of the risks the writers took paid off. As a TV season, I would say Buffy season 4 is more entertaining than season 6. But season 6 has more depth. It's flawed, but at the same time, brilliant. I love it!!!

    I was disappointed with your [double] choice for Surprise Hit. I would go with Tabula Rasa, or maybe Hell's Bells. Agreed with all the other awards.

    Also, you said "The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have always had my heart." Really? They lost me during season 7. Specially Spike. OK, they won me back around Touched, but still. Watched in a condensed time or not, season 7 is mostly painful with people being mediocre.
    All Comments | Link5 | SanjuroJan 22, 2009
    Season 6 is my absolute favorite season, but objectively I'd have to put it at least third behind S5 and 3. But I think it took all the emotion of the end runs of S2 and 5 and spread them out over a whole season. It was ballsy and beautiful and (apart from that ridiculous drug metaphor) real. I won't hear a word against it. Unless that word is about As You Were.
    All Comments | Link6 | Ryan-R.B. | WRITERJan 22, 2009
    Season Six is the worst television ever produced, Marti Noxon is a harlot, your grammar is questionable and I don't like your hair.
    All Comments | Link7 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJan 22, 2009
    Your site is comin' off my Links page because of that! :p
    All Comments | Link8 | JoshJan 22, 2009
    I'm also a Season 6 lover. It and Season 5 are my absolute favorite seasons. This review was really really good, and I totally agree with the score. I also loved your suggestions for different directions they could've taken Willow's story... the Willow's army thing would've been awesome to see.

    Love, love, love this site.
    All Comments | Link9 | PaulaJan 23, 2009
    Very thoughtful and thorough season review! I've yet to re-watch S6 in its entirety, but for the sheer guts it's pretty close to my favorite season.

    And it may be because I first watched the show when I was already over 30 (and went quickly through the whole show, thanks to DVDs), but I have about as little time for Dawn haters as you. (Most fandoms are pretty scary if you look into them deep enough, but stuff like this is IMO sheer childishness.) She's not my favorite character and she could have gotten more thorough character arches, but as a teenager and a little sister and someone going through the sort of scary things and losses that Dawn encounters, she's well written and acted.
    All Comments | Link10 | buffyholicJan 23, 2009
    Thanks for this amazing review, mike. It was well worth the wait! You pinpointed exactly what I love and dislike in S6. Two of my main reasons why I love it is Buffy and just the path they chose, daring risks.
    Your review also illustrates my love for the season and characters. I gotta admit that we have similar tastes in some episodes and characters.

    All Comments | Link11 | DigificWriterJan 23, 2009
    Great review. S6 is and will forever remain my favorite season of the series, and your review does a great job of illustrating why.

    I do have a question, though: where did you get the idea that Willow's character arc and her addiction to magic is based on a hunger for power? There is nowhere - that I can find, anyway - in any of the previous seasons where this is even implied. The one defining factor in Willow's arc in this season and in previous seasons is insecurity, not some suppressed desire for power.
    All Comments | Link12 | AimeeJan 23, 2009
    Wow, I hadn't been to this site before, but your review was very well written and thought out, and I think I'm going to have to go look at the rest of your stuff when I have time.

    And for the record, I LOVE Dawn! :-P
    All Comments | Link13 | BigBad47Jan 23, 2009
    I'm sorry...I have to disagree.

    You're review was thorough, and while I disagree with some of it, I'm not going to discuss some of your opinions, because each of us has a right to our opnions and there's no sayin who's right or wrong.

    The problem with S6 is simply the uneven nature of the overall season arc, and specifically with some individual episodes.

    Let me try to explain:

    In S6 we, the audience, are given many tough issues to deal with, i.e. Drug Addiction, Shop Lifting, The Death of a Loved One, The End of a Engagement, Suicide (Buffy's attemtp to kill herself in OMWF). While trying to digest these heavy issue, we are then presented with the patently ridiculous, i.e. The Doublemeat Palace, Kitten Poker and a Loan Shark Demon with an actual Shark's Head.

    Think about...

    The auience is unable to put thier feet securely down in one "world" as they are always being ripped from the solemn and disturbing and stuffed into silly humor and slapstick.

    One of the best things about BtVS was the humor, so I'm not suggesting that it should not be there. I'm only saying that the flavor of humor did not mix with the depth of seriousness that we're asked to travel down into as an audience.

    Take "Tabula Rasa" for example. In his episode we are asked to trust Buffy's realization that slaying isn't so bad (she comes to this conclusion while fighting Vampires as Joan the Super Hero). This is a serious moment and important moment because it's one that starts Buffy's turn from hopelessness back to normal. In the same episode theaudience is then given the worst villain (next to 'Wig Lady', another bad choice in S6) ever on Buffy -- The Loan Shark Demon. He's chasing Spike, who owes him...not money but kittens. Funny yes...well placed within an episode and storyline...no.

    Even the villains can be looked at through this light. The Trio starts off as a goofiing, roleplaying (I'm a gmaer myslef, so no insult meant), free-porn searching group of misfits. By the end of the season we are asked to take Warren seriosuly as a threat to Buffy. It's a stretch, a tough one.

    So, in my opinion, it's not the dark nature of S6 that makes the audience uncomfortable. It's the subconscious unevenness that keeps the audience off-blance and unable to connect as they did in previous and future seasons.
    All Comments | Link14 | DolorosaJan 23, 2009
    This is a fantastic review of an unjustly underappreciated season. I rewatch S6 the least of any season because it is so unremittingly grim. (I can hardly bear to watch 'Normal Again', it breaks my heart so much.) However, for all its bleakness, season six is one of the most beautifully life-affirming seasons of Buffy, and you've done an excellent job of articulating this here.
    All Comments | Link15 | IanGJan 23, 2009
    I hope you don't take offense at this but IMHO you make the same mistake many do in your analysis of Willow's arc in S6. IMHO the addiction mini arc was actually a bait and switch which covered up her actual psychological problems which re-emerged at the end with Tara's death. The fact that the characters (as well as many viewers) thought her problems were a physical addiction led to them treating it as such, but this was a mistake because overall her problem wasn't physical but psychological. Therefore their efforts in helping her didn't take and she exploded at the end. I admit it could have been executed better because its obviously not clear.
    All Comments | Link16 | saltyweeksJan 23, 2009
    Great review, I always love to read them from you.

    S6 has always been my favorite, and you touched on all the points why. But truly, I recognized from the start that it is a season heavily geared toward character development fans (especially those who like likable characters thrust into dark places) and less toward plot-oriented folks or those who prefer their favorite characters to remain static amid chaotic and/or depressing times.

    I think Alison did a great job (taking such an established character and turning her completely into an addict is hard to do with any credibility) but I also agree that the simplicity of the "magic is heroin" journey would have been better handled if the real theme was "magic is power, and power is addicting." The first theme is not clearly established in the Buffyverse (otherwise there would be magic addicts aplenty throughout Buffy and Angel) while the second idea is often shown in the Buffyverse with the unintended consequences magic and its power can have (heck, even young Giles went through that trip).

    You can see, and will probably touch on, some of the problems the writers had dealing with this in S7. Since it has NOT been established in Buffy that magic is a powerfully intoxicating drug just as dangerous as abused substances, they have to backtrack. By the beginning of S7 the magic is suddenly "in" Willow-- Giles even tells her directly that she does NOT have an addiction-- so that she doesn't have to make the difficult choices involving such and the character gets to remain involved in the plot.

    She does, however, still have to deal with the consequences of power in S7 which is likely where they should have stayed in S6. After all, if "magic is heroin" then S7 is unrealistic and sends a dangerous message, since few people come half-way back from being total addicts and none of them come out the other side enlightened by using the substance itself (as Willow does at the end of the series).

    Still, I think the fact that it is as effective as it is (as far as emotional moments in the series go) can be attributed to the strength of the Willow character, Joss' overall approach to her, and good acting.

    I, too, like Warren as a villain. A realistic, human-type villain in several seasons would not have worked, but having just the one and associating him with gun violence was pretty effective.

    Thanks for the review!
    All Comments | Link17 | dimancheJan 23, 2009
    It's so neat to see a new review up and, as per usual, it's a great one. I LOVE that you appreciate After Life as much as I do; a very underrated episode. In fact, I think it might currently be my favorite. This season is my second favorite as it thoroughly explores two of my three favorite characters in the Buffyverse: Buffy and Spike (the third would be Wesley). I'm so proud of both of them at the end of Grave; Buffy, for being such a strong, brave and inspiring person, and Spike, well, for the same reasons, really.
    I agree that by the middle of the season some things start to go wrong but I've noticed that I still seem to enjoy it more than most people. I actually quite like Older and Far Away; although it's a less than stellar episode, it doesn't bore me.
    I'm glad you took a moment to defend Dawn, as I too feel that her character doesn't nearly deserve all the criticism thrown at her. She is often compared to Connor, who is an even more loathed character, but I've always sympathized with both of them. With the kind of stuff they went through (and I think a lot of people fail to really grasp this), how could I not?

    Can't wait for the s7 reviews!

    Oh, also, you've been linked over at Whedonesque:
    http://whedonesque.com/comments/18771

    Congrats :)
    All Comments | Link18 | ErmineJan 23, 2009
    Thanks for the great review! It's obvious that you 'get' the season and understand what makes it unique when compared to the rest of the series. However, I just don't see what the problem with the drug metaphor is -- your suggestion for an alternative arc sounds like boring superhero posturing to me. Could it be that as a Northern European, I've simply heard fewer lectures of the "kids, don't smoke pot" kind and, as a consequence, don't feel lectured to here?

    To me, it seems natural that after a tough breakup an insecure person would 'hit the bottle', so to speak, rather than lash out. I think that Willow's low self-esteem is a much more dominant characteristic of hers than her lust for power, and it feels perfectly plausible that only a cataclysmic event such as Tara's death could make her power-hungry id come out on the open.

    Not trying to pick a fight, just curious -- am I missing something here?
    All Comments | Link19 | MarshalJan 23, 2009
    Hey Mike, I haven't read your season review yet, I will soon when I have adequate time, but I just wanted to say congrats for getting on Whedonesque!
    All Comments | Link20 | MrBJan 23, 2009
    My main problem with S6 was always a story-structural one. The end of the season seemed tacked on because there was no build-up to it. There was NO indication that Willow was going to be the bringer of the apocalypse.

    It felt cheap and "gotcha" to me. Even the very poor handling of Adam as bringer was better than this.

    The world didn't have to almost end this season. As the danger was personal, so could have been the resolution of the season. But it is BtVS, and as such, I guess it does need its' "Rocket Launchers".

    This may have been a worse plot problem than the dreaded magic as drug thing.

    Tom
    All Comments | Link21 | JavJan 23, 2009
    Another excellent season overview. I love your thoroughness in continuing to look at all the characters through each season, and also love the discussion you continue to generate with your reviews, because I always find some excellent, different perspectives in these comments. I'll probably have more to say when I get around to re-watching the season myself, since I always find it too easy to agree with an analysis/review without remembering how I really feel as I actually view it.
    All Comments | Link22 | AdamJan 23, 2009
    You're totally right that this season is best watched in a condensed time frame. Watching it over the course of the year, I really struggled to enjoy it. But when I got the DVD and watched it all at once, I finally got it. I'd disagree with your "Worst ep" award. The worst ep in the season is easily "As Your Were." It deserves at least a D and perhaps an F on your scale.

    Thanks for the cool website!
    All Comments | Link23 | KevinJan 24, 2009
    This is a terrific, subjective look at one of the show's best seasons. A lot of people can't get past the things that dragged it down - Willow's mid-season arc, Dawn's lack of development - but there's so much good stuff going on that it's a mistake to underrate it. I think you gave it a perfect score. Thank you for thinking about this more clearly than most.
    All Comments | Link24 | SivJan 24, 2009
    I don´t like season six.The worst season of the series.
    All Comments | Link25 | meliJan 24, 2009
    I finally got into Buffy _way_ after it ended, and I loved season six. I was surprised and confused to hear, in the DVD commentaries and interviews, people referring to it much more negatively than I felt about it. I guess I wasn't around for all the criticism when it was airing, and didn't have the downtime between episodes. My experience may support your point about watching them in quick succession (Of course I watched the whole box set manically-- talk about addiction!)
    It's refreshing, then, to read your review and know that I'm not totally weird in my opinion, and I appreciated your insights. It makes me curious about the other Buffy reviews you've written...

    oh saturday, the plans I had for you may be waylaid...
    All Comments | Link26 | Ryan-R.B. | WRITERJan 24, 2009
    Siv: The clarity and depth of your parsimony, sir, is matched only by the quality of your hair.
    All Comments | Link27 | llinnaeJan 24, 2009
    Great review, Mike, once again! I, as a huge season 6 fan, agree with most of what you said and just want to say thanks for taking the time and energy to write this. I havent found a site that even compares to the level of analysis your site brings us Buffy fans! Look forward to season 7!
    All Comments | Link28 | SaroJan 24, 2009
    That was a fantastic review. Season Six is easily my favorite season and is one of the most daring seasons of television ever. I also admire you for fighting on the behalf of Dawn, the most under-appreciated character of the Buffyverse. But a few things I disagree with, even though I fully understand your reasoning and respect your opinions.

    - Dawn's arc is frequently criticized as being underutilized by the writers but I really think it was done right. After her being central to the arc in S5, this year had to bring Dawn down to earth. The fact is Dawn is useless (in terms of the scoobies, not the show) and doesn't even have the inherent importance of being the key anymore so her arc keeps in the season's theme of "you have to go on living". Her lack of an arc is really her arc because she has no sense of place, no purpose and is frankly a burden to everyone around her as sad as it is to say. This is all rectified in Season Seven of course in Potential when it's realized that she is not to inherit Buffy's place in the group but actually Xander's.

    - I am also alone in thinking that the drug arc was actually used quite well and that Wrecked was a pretty decent episode. The reason for this is that her power-lust was taken as far as it could go. If it was pushed any further it would have just been out of character so it was put down for a second and picked up at the end of the season when Tara died which is the only thing that could really push her over the edge that much. What happened mid-season is that her magic began to overtake her identity. She began to feel that she was nothing without her magic which cut her off from Tara and her friends. This is where the drug-metaphor came from because drug addiction is something that takes over a person and strips them of their own sense-of-self until it's the drug dependance talking not the person. This was a natural continuation of what was happening to Willow already. It did jump ship metaphor-wise but I think it did so successfully and placed the right explorations in the right places.
    All Comments | Link29 | SeleneJan 25, 2009
    I can't condemn 'Two To Go' as the worst episode of the season because in one brief exchange between Willow and Buffy, we not only get a clear delineation of the the character of Willow, but also the revelation of how Willow truly thinks of herself:

    WILLOW: (scoffs) Let me tell you something about Willow. (advancing toward Buffy) She's a loser. And she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college. With her stupid mousy ways. And now? Willow's a junkie.
    BUFFY: I can help.
    WILLOW: The only thing Willow was ever good for...

    She pauses, drops the bitter sarcasm and grows pensive.

    WILLOW: ...the only thing I had going for me ... were the moments - just moments - when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful. (grimly) And that will never happen again.

    That exchange and Alyson Hannigan's delivery of it brings me to tears every time.

    We discover that Willow's seeming confidence because of her magickal abilities is just a shell, a mask covering her lack of self-confidence and her continued dislike of herself. It shows and integral part of the character of Willow; that she tended to define herself by her relationships with others. Her 'addiction' to power is only a cover for the general powerlessness she'd been subjected to all her life (i.e. her parents' general neglect of her, her inabaility to get Xander to love her, her inability to make Oz stay...) Willow is the most intelligent of the Scoobies, with the exception of Giles, yet she is in many ways the most emotionally damaged. Aside from s3's fluking with Xander (which I felt wildly out of character, even with her lifelong crush on him) she's always done the right thing, yet never gets the credit or any form of reward for it. So it's no real surprise that she would become addicted to power and go over the edge because of it. She's 'given' all her life; the magick finally allows her to 'take.' The one thing I never understood was why no one ever called Giles to tell him of Willow's addiction. Everyone was aware of his dealings with dark magicks in his past; you would have thought that Tara or Xander would have at least called him to discuss how to help her. But no one did. He knew nothing about it until the coven told him about her total meltdown. Did no one think that he might have been able to help her?
    All Comments | Link30 | Darth BunnyJan 25, 2009
    Selene, excellent thoughts, but first, a few corrections.

    1. 'Two to Go' isn't listed as the worst episode; that goes to 'wrecked'. 'Two to Go' is listed as the Biggest Disappointment, in that there were high exceptions for it, especially after the brilliant 'Villains', but 'Two to Go' failed to live up to those exceptions. That one portion of the episode you mentioned is great, but everything after that fails to deliver (according to Mike). I can't go into detail, but just read Mike's review of the episode to understand why 'Two to Go' didn't get a higher score.

    2. What you say about the others contacting Giles is true, and something I honestly haven't thought of. However, I can say it was a two-way street; Giles is just as much to blame.

    "He knew nothing about it until the coven told him about her total meltdown." Not true; throughout the series Giles was the one person to tell Willow to slow down. 'Becoming part 1', 'Faith, Hope and Trick', 'Something Blue', leading up to 'Flooded' where Willow threatens Giles. I'd say, aside from Tara, Giles was the one person who could have put the brakes down. Granted, he left for Buffy's sake, but before he did, he should have warned Buffy, Xander, Tara, anyone, about the argument in 'Flooded'. His failure to do so despite the fact he knew what was occurring with Willow was a major factor in Willow's decent.
    All Comments | Link31 | SeleneJan 26, 2009
    I agree that Giles shoulders some of the blame, but what I meant is why didn't someone call Giles after "Wrecked" when Willow decided to go cold turkey. He knew she was getting in over her head, but was unaware she was off on a 'binge' with Amy. Giles undoubtedly would have known that stopping completely the way Willow did was the wrong way to go; possibly even brought her to the coven then and prevented the events of the last 4 episodes. Of course, that wouldn't have worked storyline-wise, but it would have made sense for Tara or Xander or even Dawn to call Giles.
    All Comments | Link32 | PaulaJan 26, 2009
    One may argue that Giles should have at least had another serious talk with Willow before he left (maybe he counted on Tara leaving her to wake her up), but as to why no one consulted him later on, I'd like to make a few points:

    * Giles had very much said it aloud that he was leaving because the Scoobies needed to learn to tackle their problems on their own.
    * Both Buffy and Xander were more than a bit in denial about Willow having a serious problem with magic in the first place until "Wrecked". Which was when Willow herself acknowledged the problem and decided to quit magic, which she stuck to, too. From "Gone" until the end of "Seeing Red", she's getting better all the time, and I don't think anybody thought she particularly needed Giles's help with it.
    * Both Buffy and Xander were occupied by problems of their own, and Buffy in particular had a guilty secret she probably didn't want even Giles to discover - she probably felt she wasn't handling her life at all so well as Giles expected her to be able to, and so wasn't too keen to get him back in Sunnydale or get in touch with him, even.
    * All the bad stuff following the end of "Seeing Red" happened in a very quick succession. This might have been the time to alert Giles, all right, but if the Scoobies thought about it they probably also thought that the situation was so acute that it would take him too much time to get back to be particularly useful.
    All Comments | Link33 | RichieJan 26, 2009
    Nice review, agree with all of it, but still wish they had kept Anya and Xander together, not meant to be though...

    Buffy's season arc was brilliant as you said, only I didn't really realise this was the highlight of the season till you pointed it out, so well done! Not to mention lusty - cold showers all round after some of those Buffy/Spike scenes!

    I'm at a bit of a loss as to why some people on this site seems to think this is the best season though - yeah, it's dark and daring, but come on, watch this back to back with season 5 like I just have and there is no competition. Yes it pushes the TV boundaries, but superior, a big NOPE!

    Anyway, mike, judging by the number of comments in the last few days, I'd like to take this opportunity to say -

    *** ROLL ON SEASON 7! ***

    I never liked it when it was first broadcast, but I hope your reviews can make me appreciate it a bit more.

    All Comments | Link34 | RosieJan 28, 2009
    The Willow "magic as drugs" slip-up really brings down what otherwise would have been an extremely stellar season character-wise. Throughout the entire series, Willow's biggest character flaw had always been her hunger for power and knowledge. Here in the middle of S6, though, we're told it's something entirely different. This hurts so much because the one aspect of this series I treasure the most -- and is most important to me, by far -- is the consistent and intimate evolution of a wonderful group of characters. When the writers' slip in this area, I really feel it. I'll get into the specifics of this large mistake when I talk about Willow down below. In short: it single-handedly costed the season an A-range grade.


    I don't think many fans truly understood what addiction was really about. Also, I feel that your judgement of Willow's character and Season 6 character arc was really off the mark.

    I get the feeling that you had adopted the Scoobies' assessment of Willow's addiction of magic. They had assumed - quite wrongly - that Willow's use of magic was some kind of addiction that had sprung up from no where. They felt that as long as Willow stopped using magic, everything would be hunky dory. As Whedon proved at the end of S6 and later S7, Willow's magic addiction was a product of her own personal insecurities. This has been obvious since S1, when she latched herself onto helping Buffy fight supernatural bad guys.

    Willow was always using something or someone to hid from her insecurities - whether it was her role as a Scooby, her computer skills, her romances with Oz and Tara, and Xander's views of her. If there is one thing she used more to hide from her insecurities - and upon which she became addicted to - it was her role as a witch and use of magic. This was especially apparent since S3 and it finally blew up in her face in S6.

    I'm only surprised that you had never noticed this.

    All Comments | Link35 | Suzanne BFeb 2, 2009
    I've always loved season 6. I believe almost everyone goes through a dark place in their life, usually when they grow up (or in some cases, are FORCED to grow up). I have been there myself. So to see someone as strong as Buffy get pulled into darkess (pulled out of heaven), struggle to find meaning and feeling (her 'relationship' with Spike), then go towards the light and get through it (breaking it off with Spike and reconnecting with Dawn and her friends) really spoke to me. It told me these writers really understand how we humans work, what makes us tick, and how we hurt. It's painful to watch sometimes, but it works.

    I'm really looking forward to the season 7 reviews. I didn't feel the season was very strong, and I'm anxious to see your take on it. I love to watch an episode, then come read your review. You usually point out at least one thing I missed, and that just makes the show all the better for me. So I'm hoping you help me appreciate season 7 more.

    Thanks for these reviews!

    All Comments | Link36 | LeeluFeb 7, 2009
    Hey, you aren't alone in your affinity for Dawn. I always liked her, too. She's bright, energetic, spunky, and fun. Yes, she whines and bitches a bit, but that's what normal teenage girls do. No one seemed to mind much when Buffy would act like a bitch, etc., so why all the complaining about Dawn?

    Oh, just on a quick side note: does anyone else feel that "Real Me" reminded them of "Harriet the Spy"? Not that that's a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoyed that episode. It just really made me think of that movie (and yes, I know she was Harriet).

    I also firmly agree with you about the handling of Willow's "addiction." It never really felt right to me. I know they've been heavily foreshadowing serious trouble for her in this area for quite some time now, but the way they finally carried it out was kind of a surprise to me (not the Dark Willow stuff, but the "Wrecked" type stuff, I mean). Honestly, it kind of felt a bit heavy-handed, preachy, and cliched to me.

    I'm very glad we both agree on how awesome Anya is. She absolutely tickles me pink. I actually like Cordelia, as well, though she's much more intentionally mean, etc. I think both kind of remind me of myself. haha I don't really always have much of a "filter" when I speak. I often end up being more blunt, and perhaps callous, than I mean to be.
    All Comments | Link37 | UrsusFeb 25, 2009
    I loved the "High School Geeks Gone Bad" theme of Season 6, and how both Warren and WIllow had at their very core a need for control that was manifested through technology and magic, respectively. Buffy has always been and always will be on some level about power, I think, and for one season at least we got to see characters other than Buffy dealing with power or the lack thereof. That this is tied to emotional maturity as well is beautiful.

    The problem with Season 6, as has been stated, is the at times poor execution of the main theme. I agree that the "addiction" theme and its recovery sapped the life out of several episodes and detracted from what could have been a better season.

    Nonetheless, penetrating character insights are always better than random Monster of the Week episodes, and we had plenty of the former in this season. I like this season better than season 5, and possibly better than season 4.
    All Comments | Link38 | BethMay 13, 2009
    First of all, I LOVE your reviews and your analysis, even when I don't agree with them, I can understand where YOU are coming from.

    In any case, I love Season Six more each time I watch it, which is only three times, but still. The first time was when it aired, and yes, it was painful to watch. I almost gave up on the show when "Wrecked" aired, I hated the magic/drugs metaphor with a passion and still do. The second time was last year when I watched all the seasons in a row, and I realized that the season wasn't as bad as I remembered, especially if you watch the episodes close together. Finally, I just finished watching Season Six again over a couple of days - I started with just wanting to watch Bargaining Part 1 and 2 and then got so involved in the season again I couldn't stop.

    This season is extremely hard to watch at times, especially if you love the characters. Their pain is intense and the empathy you feel for them can make you depressed as well. Also, you get angry at the characters for their actions like you would if your friends did the same things. Buffy especially angered me during the season, way more than Willow or Xander - her self-absorption and self-destruction was so painful to watch. I'll admit that part of this is because I love Spike as a character and, even though intellectually I know he's a terrible choice for Buffy, emotionally I want them together and the way she approaches their "relationship" sets it up for failure. I admire the writers for sticking to her journey and making the viewers uncomfortable and emotionally "wrecked" a little.

    Thankfully, the cast is superb and is great at playing sadness, anger and despair. Alyson Hannigan as usual can break your heart in an instant - even her reaction to Buffy's revalation at the end of "Once More With Feeling" breaks me up. Emma's performance in "Hell's Bells" and "Entropy" was also devastating. And don't get me started on Tony's performance of "Rest in Peace" and the airport scene when he's leaving. Sob! (I do tend to get weepy with this show - even hearing the music from "The Gift" puts tears in my eyes, and I'm a blubbering mess at the end of "Becoming Part 2".)

    A shout out to one of my favorite episodes of the series, "Tabula Rasa." I admit, as you said, it was slow in the middle quarter, but I don't think there is a funnier episode and the ending is very sad. I do like the funny, though!

    Anyway, thanks for this review and I look forward to your Season Seven review - I still am not sure what I think about that season.
    All Comments | Link39 | BethMay 14, 2009
    Oops, I meant Tony's performance of "Standing"
    All Comments | Link40 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERMay 16, 2009
    Thanks to everyone who has commented on this review! All your comments are interesting and appreciated.

    Beth, thanks for the kind words and for sharing your opinion. :)
    All Comments | Link41 | GrahamOzJun 4, 2009
    First post here. Love reading your reviews, especially the sense of connection to others admiring the brilliance at work (well, mostly brilliance). Watching Buffy for the 3rd time, just finished S6.

    You bring up a great point about this show: "I'm not one to easily get emotionally invested with television (or movie) characters, but this series, like no other, has the ability to emotionally bring me to my knees. This ability is on display this season like no other."

    There are other brilliant shows, and dramas out there (see HBO), but none have come close to Buffy in the ability to draw me in. I discovered Buffy first on DVD (after Firefly which prompted me to buy Buffy), and the emotional turmoil (and general emotional torture of Buffy) from mid S5 through S6 are almost unparalleled - especially watching them the first time over the course of a few days was as emotionally draining experience as I've ever had from TV (or film).

    I do like season 6, probably because I watched it first on DVD as a whole, but I really understand why people don't. Season 6 drops all pretense of being "the Vampire Slayer" show - about supernatural nasties and big bads - and really intensely concentrates on everyone battling *personal* demons. It is certainly not light entertainment. If I was watching Buffy just as a fantasy/supernatural/action TV with witty/funny dialogue I'd be disappointed with Season 6 as well. You really need to have an emotional connection to the characters as more than just story telling devices.

    The most common dismissal I read about BtVS S6 is as one big "drugs are bad, ok, we get it already!" morality tale - the biggest flaw of the season. I completely agree with the 'magic junkie' theme feeling so wrong. Magic (in Buffy) isn't bad or wrong - it was never suggested that Tara's use/study of magic was bad (and certainly good witches/covens are mentioned) - but where you derive the power from and how you use it IS important and can be very wrong. I kept wondering why no one, especially Tara, talked about this - it was always 'using too much', not 'using it the wrong way'. It seems like such a basic concept to completely overlook/disregard.

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. A theme replayed throughout human history. This would have been the perfect continuation of the meek/powerless to confident/powerful Willow arc we've seen throughout the series. Leading to the somewhat cliched but appropriate "with great power comes great responsibility", rather than "power/magic is bad" (which doesn't fit in with the series). This also really ties in to the (excellent) Faith arc - where she is corrupted by power.

    I don't mind Dawn as a character - a plus being her helping to keep Buffy 'grounded' - but I think the biggest problem is that the character feels discordant in relation to the rest of the cast & show. A whiney, bratty teenager in a show thats never been about whiney, bratty teenagers (nor teenage shenanigans). She was introduced as a plot/story device, and it seems like the writers wouldn't, or couldn't, fully go past that. Dawns rather large emotional problems weren't treated/explored very well (by the writers).

    The Buffy depression and Buffy/Spike arc(s) was mostly fantastically (and convincingly) done. When Buffy tells spike she was in heaven, and describes it, was one of those real 'wow' moments (and emotional gut punches).

    I know BtVS generally avoids religion/spirituality (exception being crosses and holy water), but I thought a major topic that wasn't explored properly was Buffy having been IN heaven (not just being pulled of it).

    Surely if anything can give real affirmation to Buffy & the scoobies, it was Buffy being in heaven. It feels natural (without religion coming into it), to them and to us the audience, that Buffy/Scoobies are on mission, are fighting for good, 'fighting the good fight' as it were. It was just somewhat surprising that Buffy being in heaven (and pulled out) was only used to depress the hell of out everyone. This is a 'meaning of life' deal, a possible 'ultimate question' answer - and it was basically ignored.

    I could go on, but that'll do for now. Really look forward to you finishing S7.
    All Comments | Link42 | EvilMemoryJun 12, 2009
    I agree with BigBad47, the mood of the season was kinda hard to take. The characters would be making jokes while some really serious stuff was happening to them and it would make them come across as exuberant and obnoxious (especially with Xander and Willow, even at times when they were drop dead pathetic they were still being funny). I have to say, they felt allot more like "adults" in the 2nd season than the 6th.
    All Comments | Link43 | endive3Jul 1, 2009
    i love season 6 with a burning passion.
    it is hands down my favorite season. i have a hard time with people saying that they hate it.
    i watch it again, and again, and again.
    you review is amazing.
    All Comments | Link44 | forthesafetyofpuppiesFeb 11, 2010 @ 3:15am
    I applaud your lauding of the sumptuous S.6 (and the associated supporting comments).

    Some of the lambasting of the Willow/drug metaphor is definitely warranted. However, the other central metaphor; Buffy viewing Earth as Hell (as spelt out in soliloquy at the end of After Life), is the most beautifully desperate metaphor the show ever found. Whereas circa Seasons 1-3, Hell was merely that dullful teacher-infected building she has to chew on a her pencil in for 7 hours each day, it's now everyone and everything around her. It's a metaphor they also dabble with over on Angey, right before he slips between the sheets with Darla.

    Tisn't without it's flaws, of course; Noxon's metaphor-to-the-bollocks approach, some gruesomely grimace-inducing lines ("Woah, whose your dealer?" springs sickeningly to mind), several week mid-season eps, a slight dip in production value, a Joss-free finale, the absence of Giles' grounding presence (although necessary); also, Season 7 suffers. The writers carved themselves a mammoth task, recovering characters from such dark, plundered depths whilst stretching interweaving stories onto such an elongated canvas (as a 22 ep season) is borderline impossible.

    To sturdily surmise, S.6 is the finest and most devastating depiction of utter and abject existential breakdown as has ever been crafted for film or TV (or literature, Dostoyevsky & Kafka aside). :)
    All Comments | Link45 | MaxApr 17, 2010 @ 8:03am
    The absence of Giles for large chunks seriously hurts this series and in my opinion, Giles as we know him, never returned after Buffy died (and even slightly before that). Admittedly, I may be a little biased as an Englishman.

    S6 is still a good/great season in my opinion. No episodes that score below a C- and it has one of the best episodes (if not the best) in the entire show with OMWF. I'm not very sentimental and have never cried at the movies and never really understood it when people have. But, I watched OMWF with my girlfriend and when Buffy revealed to the crowd that she may have been in "heaven" I choked up. ermm....time to go drink some beer and hammer up some drywall...lol

    You realise what a great show Buffy was when a season like this can be slated!
    All Comments | Link46 | G1000May 31, 2010 @ 6:20am
    I'd rank this as the second-best of th first six seasons, behind season 5 and slightly ahead of seasons 3&4. I really fail to get how this gets a B+, while season 2 (with an average episode grade lower than the average episode grade of this season) gets an A-. I realize that season concluded with a bang ("Passion", "Innocence", both parts of "Becoming"), but there were a lot of really bad episodes (particularly in the first half). I can't see giving that season anything higher than a B. This one was really good, though. The only terrible episode was "Doublemeat Palace".
    All Comments | Link47 | Sam LMay 31, 2010 @ 7:50am
    Dear Rosie and G1000,
    Both of you seem to disagree with MikeJer pretty frequently. Why don't you guys start your own Buffy review websites, since both of you clearly seem to know much better than "the fans" do -- i.e. the rest of us (which includes Mike, apparently). Maybe your enlightened viewpoints will show us the errors of our ways.
    All Comments | Link48 | ShannonJun 2, 2010 @ 5:33pm
    Sam, buddy, chill - let's not be one of those sites where people can't disagree with the reviewer/author. I've been finding G1000's progress through the series and opinions on the episodes to be good reading; plus it's nice to get some differing opinions around here. I do, however, happen to agree with his/her comment here - I don't think Season 2 deserves all the accolades it gets, and do think that both S5 and S6 surpass S2. S2 had some wonderful episodes, and arguably the best arc in the whole series, but there were also A LOT of clunkers in that season - I think G1000 has a valid point here, although I know that Mike is taking more into account in his overall season grades than just the average episode grades.
    All Comments | Link49 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJun 2, 2010 @ 7:18pm
    Shannon's right. Everyone should feel absolutely free to disagree with me (or anyone else here) without any pressure. I only ask that when you disagree with someone's substantiated opinion of an episode (or a particular topic), please back it up with a counter-argument so we can actually have a debate. Just saying "I can't believe you rated this an 'A' and that a 'B'" doesn't contribute anything to the discussion. However if you debate particular points I've made and offer justification for your opinions, then that's great!

    It's always a little bit frustrating to have someone disagree with you by making blanket statements about the topic without actually debating the specific points being made. It leaves you wondering if the person even read your point of view, or if they're just stating theirs with nothing to back it up.
    All Comments | Link50 | MerryJun 4, 2010 @ 6:31pm
    Not gonna lie, I wasn't a huge fan of S6 the first time I viewed it (my favorite part of the season was seeing Spike walking around without a shirt half the time). I missed the lighthearted funny BtVS, and allowed myself to overlook all the great stuff that went on in S6 outside of the mediocre plots and lack of humor. Sometime after my first viewing of the series I found this website, so on the second viewing of the series I read each review after I viewed each episode. There was a lot of deeper stuff going on in S6 that I hadn't appreciated the first viewing, and having it pointed out made me LOVE S6. Still not my favorite (will always be S2) and I only hate Dawn a little bit less than before, but it's definitely moved up a few slots on my list.
    All Comments | Link51 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJun 4, 2010 @ 7:35pm
    Thanks for sharing your story, Merry. I'm so glad that I was able to help someone come to appreciate such an under-appreciated season. Besides filling my own need to organize my thoughts, stories like yours are part of what make reviewing so rewarding. :)
    All Comments | Link52 | Sam LJun 6, 2010 @ 8:20am
    Shannon & Mike, you're both right and I didn't really take the time to articulate my point. Oops. Mike did it pretty well (as he always does), with the point about just saying "I can't believe you graded this episode like that" without backing it up. That's what I'd been noticing but I didn't point it out. Look, I'm a First Amendment freak and totally believe in open discourse; I just find it a tad disrespectful to the person running the site when someone says something along the lines of "You're crazy, you don't know what you're talking about" to the moderator, and then refuses to back it up with evidence.

    Anyway, I've gone on long enough so I'm going to drop this now... and chill, as Shannon suggests.
    All Comments | Link53 | G1000Jun 8, 2010 @ 7:49pm
    Sam, if you're interested, I did review every episode of "Buffy" on my blog at ramblingsofg1000.blogspot.com/

    They're not nearly as detailed as mikejer's reviews. I really don't know how he is able to analyze a series with this much depth and detail. It's pretty amazing (the review of "Restless" in particular is something remarkable). But I do have reviews up, and they're not bad (if I do say so myself).

    Note: my grading scale doesn't assign perfect scores. So an A is as high as it gets.

    And Saro, you're not alone in thinking Willow's "addiction" doesn't really deserve all the hate it gets. I too think it was a necessary part of Willow's seven-year journey. This is my second-favorite season overall, after the brilliant season 5. It's incredibly consistent (apart from the awful "Doublemeat Palace") and contains some of the best episodes in the series (including the immortal "Once More, with Feeling"). I really loved the shift from "Big Bads" to a more intimate focus on the characters.
    All Comments | Link54 | Big Time JamesSep 15, 2010 @ 1:45am
    S6 was awful. Simply awful. I have been rewatching it with my son the last couple of months, and it is truly a chore now for us to get through each episode (we're only halfway done... that's how slow it's going).

    The hamhanded magic-as-drugs thing (with a dealer and tripping on the ceiling and etc.) was just laughably idiotic. And of course, it did not fit seasons 1-5 and their presentation of magic AT ALL. Senseless.

    The cliche leave-her-at-the-altar melodrama was an eye-roller, and also not believable (at least as presented). It sure happens in soap operas a lot though. And I guess that's what Buffy became.

    The cliche of having Tara get back with Willow JUST IN TIME to be killed. Embarrassing writing.

    Riley married someone 8 months after leaving Buffy?!?!? And his wife says about getting over Buffy: "It took time..." And the thing is, it was not intended as a comedic line (though I laughed quite a lot when she said it).

    That entire Riley episode served no other purpose than to drag Buffy through the mud of humiliation. As most of the season did.

    "Daring"? "Risky"? Sure. But. Here's the problem... if I want to see a depiction of depression and humiliation, "Buffy" is not where I come, and these writers (let alone the directors and editors) are incapable of doing it well anyway. If you like this sort of thing, let me recommend "Breaking the Waves" (a masterpiece), "The Sweet Hereafter", "Dogville," "Leaving Las Vegas." All great movies.

    Marti Noxon and crew trying to pull it off? A complete joke.

    "Once More With Feeling" is one of the highlights of the entire series. But the rest of season 6 was terrible television, and the death knell of the series.
    All Comments | Link55 | Big Time JamesSep 15, 2010 @ 1:50am
    About Dawn:

    This character and their writing of her is simply indefensible. You spend a lot of time "defending" her without giving one solid reason to do so.

    You write: "Instead of being flushed out as a character of her own, we instead see her used as a device to show how much trouble other characters are in. Besides tickling the surface of Dawn as a person, all we got is her being used as a piece on a game board. This is what's truly a shame. I like Dawn, but I believe the writers failed at making me love her, like I do with all the other characters."

    So you admit she is poorly written. Not delivered by the writers as a person. So what is it, exactly, that you "like" about her? The actress? Her wardrobe? Her hairdos? Or just the fact that she is a character on a show you fetishize?
    All Comments | Link56 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERNov 30, 2010 @ 1:14pm
    James, I think you need to calm down a bit.

    If you read my entire text on Dawn, I never said that the material she got was poorly written. I said she was under-utilized within the season and served more as a function of those around her rather than getting enough focus on her own issues. Dawn still had a story of her own in the season, which I outlined in the review, but I agree that it was sketched a little broadly and without the kind of attention it probably deserved.

    The initial two-paragraph defense of Dawn was more a response to how annoying it is to have people yelling "shut up Dawn" at the screen (when watching with them) even when she's not talking, rather than as a direct assessment of her character arc within the season, which I then go on to analyze.

    With that said, I do find Dawn to be a very sympathetic character because when I put myself in her shoes I honestly don't think I would have handled all that she went through all that much better at that age. I like the character's personality most of the time and that's ultimately a product of the writers. There's a difference between a character who is well drawn and one who is actually evolved. It's the latter I had some problems with in S6, not so much the former.

    My review is pretty comprehensive in terms of outlining what I felt worked and didn't work in the season. In the end I found myself overall impressed with the results, flaws and all. I respect that the season didn't work for you, but it most certainly did for me for all the reasons I outlined in the review itself.

    This site exists as an extension of my appreciation and enjoyment of this series. I strongly advise you to refrain from personal attacks. I welcome good debate on the points I've made, but I don't welcome being attacked for simply offering my own analysis on something I enjoy. No one's forcing you to read these reviews.
    All Comments | Link57 | JonnyDec 22, 2010 @ 2:22am
    I like Dawn a lot but agree with Mike that she was let down by what she was given to do this season. And yet some of the small scenes she does get I found so beautiful, like the scene Mike mentions in Bargaining Pt 1 where she curls up with the Buffy Bot. She is just a kid who has lost the two most important people in her life - 3 if you count her missing father. I can't imagine what that would feel like to a 15 year old. Tara is probably the only person who really has time for Dawn this season, and then Dawn has to deal with coming across Tara's body on her own. All that would be enough to put me in therapy for years but instead Lessons shows she has become a bright, bubbly, resourceful young woman.

    I thought I hadn't enjoyed this season much the first time around but re-watching I realise how many episodes are among my favourites: Normal Again is my second favourite episode after The Body. I still have problems with my least favourite all-time episode (As you were) but I even appreciate this a bit more after reading Mike's review. Thanks for the great reviews Mike.
    All Comments | Link58 | CoyoteBuffyFanDec 30, 2010 @ 10:39pm
    Great review! I probably don't rate S6 as highly as you do but I did like it overall.

    I really agree with something that you said at the beginning of the review. The reason that the writers could take these characters on such a journey for this season is because we are so attached to them after the first 5 seasons. We are able to see some huge flaws from them now and still love them. They could not have tackled such things earlier because of this.

    I also like Dawn (although I admit she does annoy me at times).

    I also agree with most of your episode "awards" with some exceptions:

    Worst: As You Were - Sam---ugh!

    Most Disappointing - Again, I'd have to go with As You Were. The return of Riley could have been so much better! I almost said Hells Bells here because I would have loved for Anya and Xander to actually get married but upon further reflection, I love the "Anya as Vengeance Demon again" angle.

    Most Boring - (I actually liked Older and Far Away!). I'd have to go with Doublemeat Palace. Pretty ho hum episode if you ask me.SV
    All Comments | Link59 | CoyoteBuffyFanDec 30, 2010 @ 10:41pm
    Oh, and Season 7 was easily my least favorite season. There are still some very good episodes and some really great scenes but just overall it was really disappointing for me. I can't wait to see if my perspective on this changes after reading your reviews!
    All Comments | Link60 | JohnnyWJan 1, 2011 @ 11:38pm
    Great season review, I think you really nailed what was successful, and what wasn't so successful. It's so nice to see it broken down so perfectly. Well done!

    One thing: I do think your review reads a little defensively, and possibly is tainted towards pre-empting a negative response, or factoring in what you imagine to be "other people's" opinions to be, rather than just stating your own. I think it's perfectly ok to complain about the things that didn't work, instead of trying to defend the better moments to what you imagine the average Buffy fan to be. (I, for example, agreed with you almost completely!)

    Buffy's arc was definitely the strongest thing in the season. I too, really felt for Dawn (the poor girl was practically neglected). I didn't hate her, I hated the other characters for talking down to her constantly. It was such an odd choice by the writers considering how wonderfully NON-patronizing the show was to its teenage audience when it first aired. In Season 1, Buffy is the same age as dawn, and it's wonderful how capable and intelligent the gang are shown to be. But when it came to Dawn's turn, everyone talks down to her and mistreats her horribly... and they're never really taken to task for it, either. As you say, she made no progress herself towards rectifying these issues, and her kleptomania sub-plot went nowhere. I really felt like there was a big, important scene missing where Dawn finally got through to someone. Instead it was left to Buffy, in the Season's final moment, to finally acknowledge all of Dawn's issues with her. It was a joyous moment, to be sure, but it was left far too late in the show.

    I also think it was really perceptive of you to pick up on the fact that the middle episodes are the ones that bring it down. I, too, felt confused when thinking back over the season: There were some really great moments, but also a general sense that it wasn't as good, and not much happened. It was an odd situation, remember great moments, but feeling there weren't enough of them. I think your explanation is most probably right.

    I totally agree with your assessment of Willow's arc, too. Why oh why they went for something as uninspired, two-dimensional and overly-simplistic as drug addiction, I'll never know. It was a GIGANTIC misstep and became laughable in some episodes. So sad. There was little or no emotional reason for her addiction, and her "highs" seemed to be completely unrelated to the magic we saw her use. They were literally "gee, I feel-good" highs, not a craving for power being sated. She wasn't even using these highs to escape from pain, so it made little sense that she would chase them, and just felt like a cheap cop-out way of getting her "into magic". Her few words about "power feeling good" did nothing to justify her desire for it.

    I think your suggestion of her trying to do a Paul McCartney and take control over everyone (for their own sake, of course) would have been a much better motivation to get more power. A desire to do good and learn more feels a lot more like Willow, and it could have easily spiralled out of control in the same excellent way that it did in her relationship with Tara.

    Of course, this would have made for some extremely tricky writing: Willow affecting all of the other character's lives, so it probably couldn't have worked.

    What could have worked better, perhaps, could have been a slow erosion of her own personal morals and conscience, as she made excuses for doing things in order to learn more. I digress, this isn't place to spitball ideas, but needless to say, the one they went with was far, far too simplistic.

    The sad fact of the matter is, even if they were still convinced that an "addiction"/"drug" allegory was what they wanted to go for, they still utterly failed by even simplifying _addition_ itself. It became a bundle of cliches, instead of offering any genuine insight into how someone could fall into drug addiction, and still justify it to themselves. Even the world of addition was nothing but well-trodden and unrealistic tropes. It could have been The Corner, or Trainspotting, or The Basketball Diaries, or Requiem for a Dream, but instead the whole thing felt like poorly researched drivel (much like the exploration of Gunn's "gang culture" in Angel).

    This part of the season is so utterly heart-breaking because it could have been done a million times better (and interestingly, I think Joss Whedon might be attempting to do something similar with Season 8 and 9 in the comics).

    Interestingly, I have to agree with Sarah Michelle Gellar's assessment of the season too. Buffy was not herself, and the show _was_ extremely different. Yes, I applaud them for being so daring, but there is no escaping the fact that Buffy no longer felt like Buffy... there was no silver lining anywhere to be found. No wry moments of realisation. Yes, I applaud them for being brave to show desperation so realistically (and it's something I've experienced myself -- and it is horrible), but the function of art is not to document, it's to HELP.

    None of the characters, including Buffy, showed any progression towards dealing with or overcoming their problems... That is, until the very final episode. As you succinctly put it: This was too little, too late -- even if it did feel absolutely, completely joyous when it finally happened. The audience was not offered any tools or ways of coping with these problems, even if they related to them, and I think it's really too easy to capture pain and suffering and not offer a solution.

    People complain about films like Requiem for a Dream for this very reason, but those that love that particular film acknowledge that there _are_ solutions offered in it. In even something as depressing, desperate and unrelenting as that, the audience can learn something about dealing with their own problems by watching it: We all have to experience pain, but it's only when we fight it that we have to experience suffering. If there wasn't this insight then I don't think the story would be worth much at all, to anyone... and in many ways I think the writers on Season 6 almost forgot this until it was too late.

    The one thing I would disagree with in your assessment is The Trio. They were, to me, an incredibly ill-conceived "Big Bad". I remember thinking during some of the earlier episodes, "When does the big bad appear? They're leaving it a little late, aren't they? No wait a minute, these three guys can't actually be the baddie this season... Can they?!". Thankfully they eventually showed their "darker" side, and became more of an actual threat, but they were nothing short of an absolute joke at the beginning. And I have to say, the clunky "geek speak" they injected them with, for comedy purposes, really didn't work for me. (Note to writers: Dropping Star Wars terms into dialogue doesn't make it "geek speak".) Also, there were times when I got SO tired of Andrew being the "cute geek".

    Of course, by the end, things had turned much darker and more in line in the with rest of the season, but boy, was it a misfire at the beginning.

    Still, the season is not a failure, as you point out. There are some incredible moments. The things is: Even when you factor them in, you cannot escape the simple fact: The show has changed a LOT. Buffy was no longer Buffy (both the show and character), and that's a pretty significant flaw, for all its bravery. I think they still could have delved the same depths, but still maintained what made the show "Buffy". Sadly, that didn't happen.

    Of course, you can justify this to yourself by saying that Buffy came back as a different person after her death. So maybe the old show died in Season 5! :)
    All Comments | Link61 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJan 2, 2011 @ 11:03pm
    JohnnyW, thanks for the comment. Your point about the review reading on the defensive side is fair, as I had read so much negativity regarding the season coming into the review that it probably tainted it more than I would have liked. When I polish up the review again at some point, I'll take another look at that.

    As for the season not being the same show as it was, I think that's quite true. The thing is, I can say that about every season of the show. Each season felt entirely unique to the others, which is actually one of the qualities I appreciate the most about it. The character development, however, is (Willow problems aside) quite consistent and probing. It may be an exploration of the darkest aspects of the characters, but it's one that largely stems from what was already hinted at before.

    If you're looking for a single marker that defined a definite change in tone for the show, I'd say that "The Body" is the event that marked the arrival of the final act; the final act being: 'hello, adulthood.'
    All Comments | Link62 | JohnnyWJan 4, 2011 @ 2:55pm
    Thanks for your response, I can see exactly what you mean in regards to 'The Body'. (I consider it the greatest episode of TV ever created, but that's by the by) but let me throw this theory at you, and see what you think: The difference is that Buffy was always about 'coping' (whereas Angel was about 'pushing on'). It was about coping through the hell of high school, coping with responsibility and finally, coping with adulthood... except in Season 6 nobody was coping.

    'The Body' (and the subsequent episodes) are great examples of extreme hardship, with the trademark Buffy 'coping'. They are rough, difficult times, that are not made any less difficult to watch, or heart-rendering, by showing the characters finding ways to cope. (Anya's final speech at the end of 'The Body' is some fans favourite moment of the entire show.)

    In Season 6, people stopped coping. There was no silver lining. Just pain, pain, and more pain. SMG said in her post-Buffy interview that this was what killed Buffy for her, and I have to say, watching it (long before reading her comments), I totally agree. Buffy was no longer the survivor she had been in all the previous seasons.

    In Angel, the equivalent would be either that, a) The team just gave up, or b) They vanquished ALL the bad guys ("job done!"). It just wouldn't BE Angel anymore if either of those things happened, because Angel's primary metaphor what about pushing on through everything (as perfectly exemplified by the show's final scene).

    Still, I do take on your point that, taken as part of a larger story, Season 6 of Buffy does explore the darkest areas of the characters in a very indepth way. I just wish it hadn't felt as if someone had lost track of the ball while they were doing it.
    All Comments | Link63 | NathanJan 14, 2011 @ 2:04pm
    Just wanted to say season six is (along with season five my favourite season) my favourite season. i to don't understand why people had such a problem with it.
    All Comments | Link64 | JaredFeb 11, 2011 @ 12:40am
    Having just finished Season 6 last night, I'd like to quickly add on to a few things you've said here...

    I absolutely agree that the inconsistencies in Willow's arc really hurt it, and was perhaps what hurt the season the most for me. The drug addiction metaphor was, for lack of a better word, lame, and the execution was extremely heavy handed and over-the-top. It would've been fine if it was a bit more subtle, but the way they portrayed it was far too blatant and uninspired for my liking. I would have preferred they spent more time exploring Willow's motivations than using an 'addiction' cop-out.

    As unpopular as my opinion here will be... In Season 5, I found that Dawn quickly became one of my favourite characters. I found the story of her entire life being a lie to be really sad, and I honestly thought all her 'annoying' moments were really cute and funny, although I must admit that the writers did a poor job of characterizing a girl her age, as she behaves a fair bit younger than she's supposed to be, particularly at the start of Season 5.

    Anyway, my point is, I came in to Season 6 as a fan of the character with no idea why she was hated, and left the season completely understanding why the fanbase tends to reject her. Although I could sympathise with her problems, the way the writers had her express them made her seem selfish and immature rather than genuinely hurting. She felt very 'tacked on' in the majority of her appearances and was given little to no direction throughout the 22 episodes of season 6. Extremely disappointing, and I really hope they fix this in Season 7 (which I've yet to see) following her promising finale scene with Buffy.

    Those two character complaints aside, I really enjoyed most of this season. I appreciated the risks they took to keep the show fresh and I very much enjoyed the direction they took Buffy's resurrection, which wasn't at all glossed over like I expected it to be. The Trio also ended up being much better than expected, particularly towards the end of the season. I can understand why some people would find the season too 'depressing' compared to the previous 5, but I think it was an important step in continuing the growth of the characters and showing new sides to them rather than re-treading old ground. The season is definitely flawed but it was far from bad in my mind. I agree with your B+ rating and would rank the seasons as 2, 5, 3, 6, 4, 1 at this point in time.

    Enjoy your reviews btw, they've made me appreciate several episodes a lot more than I did when I first watched them. :)
    All Comments | Link65 | JaredFeb 11, 2011 @ 12:44am
    Oh, one last thing... I think this season is much better watched on DVD than on television. The weak stretch of episodes in the middle can be rushed through in a couple of days rather than being disappointed for a month or more in a row. I think anybody who disliked it when it first aired might gain a better appreciation of it if they re-watched it already knowing the direction it goes and without having to wait so long for the episodes to pick up in quality.
    All Comments | Link66 | fray-adjacentFeb 16, 2011 @ 2:38pm
    Jared: agreed about Dawn in S6. When I discuss her character with friends (most of whom hate her), I always have to remind them that in the course of one year she learned her entire history (a history which included being abandoned by a parent) was a lie and she experienced the death of *two* mother figures. Then a few months later yet another mother figure (Tara) leaves, and Buffy is ignoring her. Like Joss once said, "her abandonment issues have abandonment issues." But you make a great point that the writers don't portray this in a way that makes her sympathetic, instead she comes off as whiney. My personal experience being that real people complain as much about traffic jams as Dawn does about these deep personal traumas, I don't mind so much, but I think that's in spite of the writers' portrayal.
    All Comments | Link67 | firstMar 6, 2011 @ 5:01pm
    I hated S6. I never liked the human villains (the trio). I'd have preferred more supernatural villains. Moreover, Warren was a very annoying character. One more reason to hate S6 is how they had to kill Tara. Although I understand the logic behind it, I still hate it very much.
    All Comments | Link68 | rebeccaSep 10, 2011 @ 4:56pm
    I enjoy this site very much. I watched Buffy here and there when I was in high school - no DVR back then so i missed many episodes, but i always loved the show. I recently got back into it because I started DVR recording the reruns and decided to buy Season 6 and Season 7 because those were the ones I missed all of the episodes. I owe that to this site because when I read the Season 6 review from Mike, it made me want to go out and see it right away!

    I agree with basically everything you write! BUT the one thing many people don't like is the Willow and drug metaphor and that's where I disagree the most. ANYONE can get addicted to drugs. It isn't "out of character" for her at all. The magic thing had been growing and growing through seasons. Then it became something she seemed like she couldn't do without - Tara noticed that. She would use magic so many times a day - to change clothes and put on makeup, the computer - everyday little things that slowly throughout the years became a routine for her. That's how drug addiction starts - it begins as something you do here and there, then you enjoy it and start doing it more and more slowly during a time period.

    When Tara gave her the ultimatum of sorts that she had do stop magic for a certain amount of time, of COURSE willow said that would be easy! She doesn't think she had a problem yet, just like anyone who has gone too deep without even noticing with drugs. She can't even go ONE DAY without doing some magic. That's exactly how it gets for someone who has become addicted to something. So when Tara breaks up with her - well then there's the PERFECT opportunity to dive in deeper! She's so upset and in despair - that's when you make even more bad decisions.

    When someone is addicted to drugs, when something bad happens like a breakup, they do more and more to numb the pain. So willow going with Amy and diving deeper into the dark stuff is COMPLETELY realistic!! Tara is gone and Buffy is oblivious because of her issues, so there's no one to suspect anything and no one to keep an eye on her. Going to the invisible drug den/crack house to get so high and happy is totally plausible when someone is knee deep in addiction. She is in so much hurt and pain that she wants the euphoric feeling of the magic/drugs to numb it.

    I know all this because Im a recovering drug addict. I was a great student, goodie goodie type like willow. I barely drank or did drugs. It started out innocent, once every few months doing pain pills and long story short, after a couple years it grew into an addiction. I know EXACTLY what Willow felt like. The withdrwals (mentally and physically), thinking you're fine and you don't have a problem, wanting to escape FEELING anything...

    Anyway, for "normies" like you, maybe you dont get the Willow thing this season. But for anyone who has had an addiction - to see the progress to where she got seems completely plausible. Hopefully maybe this could change your view on it. Thanks!
    All Comments | Link69 | x factorDec 6, 2011 @ 3:33am
    I've been very critical of the show after season 3. There is a huge drop in quality after season 3 in terms of story/character development.

    I find that the only reason why I rewatch seasons 4-7 nowadays is to admire the acting (primarily SMG but also the others) and savor the moments when the writers overcome their serious errors in story/character development with spectacular scenes (such as the ending scene in Forever) or episodes (such as OMWF).

    The show jumped the shark with the ridiculous insertion of Dawn, a character that was forced on to fans - we were TOLD by the writers that we should care about Dawn. No. The writers have to EARN our investment in the characters, like they did in season 1 with Buffy, Willow, Giles, Xander, etc.

    I like MT and i enjoy certain individual scenes with her. But she cannot overcome the fundamental flaw of her existence.

    And coming right on top of this shark jump is the second shoe to drop - the utterly ridiculous Buffy/Spike affair. I dont care if Buffy came back from heaven or hell or lost everyone she loved. Buffy would never ever have a "relationship" with a serial killer, or even slept with one. If Buffy felt needy or needed to feel alive, there were a MILLION other guys who arent mass murderers held back by a computer chip to sleep with.

    That is what Spike was, until season 7 when he finally got his soul. We all know the real reason for the B/S stuff had nothing to do with artistic integrity - it had everything to do with $$$. Two amazing actors with sizzling onscreen chemistry = saving the jobs of the actors and crew of Buffy. There were some outstanding scenes related to the B/S drama, but it cost this show its soul. SMG pretty much lays it out there herself with her comments.

    Season 6 would work for another show but not for Buffy. The show showed its frayed edges in season 4, then lost its direction in season 5, and season 6, it lost its soul.
    All Comments | Link70 | Gemma Dec 20, 2011 @ 2:24pm
    Please don't be offended but X Factor i 100% disagree with your comments regarding season 4-7. They are starting to encroach on being a little rude. I value your having an opinion but there maybe a better way to put them across.

    I personally enjoyed Season 4; the humour and the growing of the characters, going to college or getting a job. The characters were searching for direction. I felt the same when i was at university. I grant you the main plot was flawed as there wasn't a great deal of development with the initiative, i think Mike mentions this in his review.
    Season five i liked albeit not as much as the others; i am in a minority on this with a lot of fans. Its just my personal preference. Dawn though was a character i came to like after some time, especially watching the shows retrospectively. Dawn was a poignant character and plot device for season 5, she did resonate with me after the episode Blood Ties. I find your comment about the show being about money deficient and unfounded. As for Buffy being with Spike, yes the Buffy from season one would never had done it, nor would the Buffy in season three but what needs to be made palpable is that Buffy is never the same Buffy after season 1 she has lost her naivety about morality and then likewise when she kills Angel, she changes again. Buffy finds a connection with Spike, both in dark places, both the darker side to the world, Both crawled from their own graves.
    All Comments | Link71 | AlexDec 21, 2011 @ 2:34am
    Gemma, your comments are always a pleasure to read but I really feel the need to thank you for this one. You've summed up my own feelings more eloquently than I ever could!

    I think you've completely nailed it with the last part about the differences between Season One Buffy and Season Six Buffy. No, the 16 year old Buffy from Season One would not have slept with Spike. But by Season Six she had changed and grown up. Even your average 20-something is very different from their 16 year old self, and your average 20-something hasn't been through even a tenth of what Buffy has been through during the last six years. To me, the Buffy/Spike relationship makes absolutely perfect sense for both parties, and I really welcome it. And no, x-factor, before you say it, that's not because I'm a 'B/S shipper who enjoys watching characters drown in their own filth'.
    All Comments | Link72 | Gemma Dec 21, 2011 @ 2:49am
    Alex,

    Thank you for the compliment.

    I too am in favour of the B/S relationship. I think the reason being is that at the time it starts up Buffy is alone although she is surrounded by all her close friends and sister; no one has gone through the things she has, she literally died and her feelings of being cut off are justified. She can't alleviate her pain but finds a sort of kinship with Spike. His escalating feelings for Buffy is something that she needs.

    I particularly liked the episode Buffy went to Tara, she has encroaching feelings of dirtiness and wrong behaviour. In my opinion was hoping that she had come back wrong and then the decisions she had been making could be accounted for and that she wouldn't be responsible for them, Buffy is amenable for such explanation.
    The final scene of that episode i really resonate with Buffy and the conversation she has with Tara is conducive for her to take some responsibility to know that she has done these things with her own will. It helps her to move on and i think plants the seed for As You Were when she finally ends things with Spike.

    I think in all honesty i am much more in favour in the B/S relationship than the B/A one. Purely for the character development we get with both Buffy and Spike. Not that i don't like the earlier relationship but one vampire being constantly introspective about things is enough!
    All Comments | Link73 | x factorDec 28, 2011 @ 2:50pm
    Sorry, Alex, I stand by my comments. Saying that people "change" is just a copout and an excuse for storylines and character developments that make no sense.

    People who are depressed don't seek out things to make themselves feel alive, especially rough, violent sex with psychopaths. One of the trademark symptoms of severe depression is LACK OF INTEREST IN SEX. People who are depressed can barely get out of bed in the morning - now, we're supposed to believe that Buffy is actively seeking out this completely out of character rough sex that she would never actually engage in even when she was NOT depressed??? lol. I dont know what hack psychiatrist Noxon and Joss hired to consult on this issue but that man should have his medical license revoked!!

    In addition, people who seek out rough degrading violent sex with psychopaths, people filled with that much selfloathing and self hate, are people who've been chronically abused, molested, people with extremely low self-esteem. Have we had any evidence at all to indicate that Buffy suffered from this kind of abuse in the past?

    Then let's look at it from another level. Let's assume there are some individuals who freely choose to live a very promiscuous lifestyle, or who are into S&M or public exhibitionist sex. That's fine too. They dont do it because they feel degraded or want to feel degraded like Buffy implies. So given all this, has Buffy ever done anything in the past to indicate that she would ever be into this kind of sex? Of course not. Whether healthy or depressed, Buffy getting involved with a psychopathic monster would never ever happen.

    You know what actually is believable? Buffy acting out of grief with Angel in Forever. Now that moment was utterly and completely natural and extremely realistic. That is how Buffy would respond to emotional trauma - seek comfort in someone she "loves more than anything in this world".

    This podBuffy of season six just is NOT believable in the slightest when it comes to Spike.
    All Comments | Link74 | keekeyDec 28, 2011 @ 10:46pm
    Hi x factor, For me the Buffy/Spike relationship is understandable in that (in my opinion) Buffy isn't simply depressed after her return from death, she's really, really ticked off too. She's mad that her friends ripped her out of heaven, she's mad that she just had a ton of financial problems dumped in her lap, she's mad that Giles is leaving Sunnydale, etc.

    In Flooded, there's a scene where Willow gets excited because Buffy finally expresses an emotion and, significantly, the emotion Buffy has just expressed is anger. When Willow points this out to Buffy and tries to get Buffy to open up more (by jokingly suggesting things that would involve Buffy being angry with HER), Buffy immediately shuts back down. I think Buffy's afraid and ashamed of how mad she actually is with Willow and her other friends because she knows they thought they were helping her. She also feels that she has to protect them from the truth of what they actually did, which further upsets her. And so, she has a lot of bottled up anger in early Season 6 that she doesn't want to unleash on her friends.

    But she can unleash it on Spike. Buffy's grown increasingly friendly with him but their typical interaction has always been conflict so he's also a comfortable target to vent at. He's soulless and still essentially evil and Buffy probably should have staked him years ago so she can justify to herself that he really deserves worse treatment than anything she's going to dish out. I guess I don't find their rough treatment of each other all that out of character (like it would be for, say, Xander and Cordelia or Willow and Tara)--Spike and Buffy both enjoy fighting, there have been previous references to each of them finding fighting to be an aphrodesiac, and they obviously each have a pretty high pain threshold. So, yes, I think their Season 6 relationship is unhealthy but not really out of character. And I think there are a lot of other factors that go into their relationship--I think there's real attraction and affinity between the two--but I definitely see a lot of their Season 6 relationship on Buffy's part as a way to work through her anger issues post-being ripped out of heaven.

    For me the scene that sums up Buffy and Spike in Season 6 is the one towards the end of Smashed where they're yelling at each other about who's more pathetic and confused. Spike's a vampire with a chip (and an inappropriate crush) who can't be a "real" vampire anymore and Buffy's a human who's a Slayer and so can't be just a normal human. They're both very, very dissatisfied with their situations at that point. I like how the rest of Season 6 and 7 shows each of them gradually accepting and eventually embracing the hand they've each been dealt (and, in the process, developing a real relationship based on love and respect for each other).

    That said, even though I liked Season 6 a lot, I understand why it's a polarizing season. There are episodes in Season 6 that even I probably won't re-watch because they're just too depressing--and I don't know that I would say that of any other season (except for The Body in Season 5).
    All Comments | Link75 | AlexJan 5, 2012 @ 2:50am
    x factor, I really object to your sweepting generalisations about 'people with severe depression'. Of course I don't know anything about you, and maybe you actually have some kind of professional psychiatric expertise, but either way I kind of find them to be in pretty poor taste, and actually bordering on offensive.

    I'm no doctor or psychiatrist but I have known enough people with severe depression (including immediate family members) to know that you can't make such generalisations. Yes, loss of libido is ONE OF the possible symptoms of depression. This, however, does not mean that EVERYONE with depression will lose interest in sex. I have known 'people with depression' who have cheated on their partners or made other bad choices in their sex lives, but according to you that just 'wouldn't happen' because 'people with depression' don't like sex.

    Similarly, not everyone who suffers from depression 'can barely get out of bed in the morning'. It takes many, many forms and just because SOME person experience particular symptoms does not mean that you HAVE to have those symptoms to be suffering from depression. Can we get that straight, please?

    In addition, comparing Buffy's situation to that of other 'people who are depressed' is a little redundant anyway. How many of those people have super powers and a lifelong duty to go out and kill things every night? How many of those people have died, gone to heaven and been resurrected months later? To me, Buffy's dissatisfaction with the world that she's come back to, combined with her inherantly violent way of life, do go some way towards explaining her actions in Season Six. Disagree if you want to, but please don't try to tell me that 'she's depressed so she wouldn't act like that'.

    Now, if you want to argue that you think Buffy's behaviour is out of character based on what you've seen of her in earlier seasons, then that's fine and I can respect that. But personally, I think we HAVE seen hints that Buffy might be interested in this kind of sexual relationship. Remember the whole 'hungry and horny' thing, which related slaying to sex? And in 'Buffy vs. Dracula' we saw her lying in bed with Riley, but unable to sleep until she'd gone out and killed something, suggesting (to me, anyway) that she needs something more from her relationship. In any case, Buffy's still very young and has pretty limited sexual experience - who knows what she might or might not decide that she's into? Of course, eventually she decides that the relationship with Spike is unhealthy, and calls it off, but that doesn't mean that it was OOC for it ever to have happened in the first place.

    After that incredibly long rant, all I'm asking of you really is just to respect that other people have opinions too, and just because they aren't the same as yours doesn't simply make them 'wrong'. Can you at least try to understand that?
    All Comments | Link76 | x factorJan 5, 2012 @ 12:20pm
    Alex...Look, I know you want to believe that B/S season 6 is "believable" but it's just factually not.

    You will never find "bizarre, completely out of character rough S/M exhibitionist sex with psychopath" in any list of symptoms that doctors will watch for when it comes to depression.

    You COULD argue that a person who actually WAS into that kind of sex with psychopaths when he/she was not depressed may not completely lose interest in it when he or she falls into depression. But has Buffy EVER been shown to be interested in this? Ever?

    B/S sex as a result of her depression is not believable on any level, whether medical or storyline-wise.
    All Comments | Link77 | AlexJan 5, 2012 @ 2:05pm
    Excuse me, I don't WANT to believe anything, I DO believe it. And you don't. And that's fine with me, but for some reason you are determined to keep telling me I'm wrong. I am being completely respectful of your opinion but you are being downright rude now, and to be honest I don't think I can be bothered to argue with you much more. But, here goes nothing...

    Firstly, your descriptions of Buffy and Spike's sexual encounters as 'bizarre' and 'out of character' are pretty darned subjective, don't you think? I've already made it clear that I don't find them 'bizarre' or 'out of character', and many people here seem to agree (and I'm sure just as many people don't). If you can't see that YOUR opinion on a matter is not the ONLY opinion then personally I don't think there is any point in me, or anyone else, having a discussion with you. Which would be a real shame, because there's usually a lot of great discussion and debate on this site.

    Secondly, I find your suggestion that it's somehow abnormal for people to enjoy 'rough sex' or S&M downright naive, to be honest. It's something that plenty of people enjoy, and they don't have to have been molested or abused in order to want such a thing! I've asked you before to explain why you have such a problem with it. I'm sure Anya and Xander say something about using 'chains' during sex at some point - do you think they're twisted, abused freaks for doing so too?

    Thirdly, you ask 'has Buffy EVER been shown to be interested in this? Ever?' Well, frankly, I wouldn't claim to know what she's into in bed. Before Spike, we saw Buffy in how many sex scenes? And how many of those were 'first time' sex with a new partner? How do we know what she and Riley might have been doing a year into their relationship? Just because she doesn't walk around in spiked heels carrying a whip doesn't mean that she can't enjoy a little kink behind closed doors.

    Finally, to repeatedly refer to Spike simply as 'a psychopath' is to ignore a good 5 seasons' worth of careful character development! It's clear you don't like the character (and that you really like Angel), but please stop completely shutting your eyes to everything that people DO like about Spike. I think you have me pegged as a B/S shipper or a big Spike fangirl, and believe me I'm not. But with all characters and story lines on the show, I try to approach them fairly even if I'm not immediately their biggest fan. And, whether you like it or not, this one works for me.

    I'll say that again. Buffy and Spike's relationship in S6 is believable FOR ME. You don't buy it? Cool. But there is no way you are going to 'factually' stop me from relating to and appreciating that relationship.
    All Comments | Link78 | x factorJan 6, 2012 @ 4:57pm
    It's not abnormal to enjoy bizarre rough or S&M type sex. I never said that. You should read more carefully - i said its completely OUT OF CHARACTER for BUFFY to enjoy that kind of sex. When has there ever been even the slightest bit of evidence to contradict this statement?

    In fact i went out of my way to state that kinky sex is FINE if folks want to do it. lol. Gotta read more carefully, bro.

    And no, I am not a b/a shipper. I was a B/X shipper in the beginning though that faded away. The only ship that i ship is C/A, yet I am objective enough to admit that turning Cordy into Saint Cordy of late season 3 was not the right way to get the two of them to become attracted to each other.

    And I am also objective enough that despite my B/X and C/A leanings, I would have no problems with a B/A reunion if that ever happened. Especially when compared to the ridiculous, asinine, completely unrealistic relationship that was B/S in season 6.

    See, I am not infatuated with Spike like you and others are. I actually really enjoy his character most of the time, and i even loved watching him and Buffy doing the liplock in Something Blue, for example. But the absurd relationship that was portrayed in season 6???? lol. No. And the way Spike was used by the writers in season 7??? Another big fat no.

    For me, what's most important are the characters and their characterizations. If the writers had ever LAID THE FOUNDATION for B/S in season 6 (by showing us a Buffy that had suffered from abuse in the past, or a Buffy that was into rough sex with soulless psycopaths) then it could have worked - except that you run into the massive problem of how the writers actually set up B/S - that Buffy was depressed, distant, and cutoff after being ripped out of heaven and she needed Spike to "feel alive" - which doesnt jibe at all with what a depressed person is really like.

    So no matter which way you cut it, Spike and Buffy would have never had that relationship. Joss and Noxon did a terrible job setting it up and so what results is something totally unbelievable.
    All Comments | Link79 | OdonJan 6, 2012 @ 10:51pm
    Buffy has always had to restrain herself with past lovers, who don't match her stamina or ability to heal (except Angel, but that was her first time) but with Spike she can afford to let herself go sexually, not least because she's not worried about keeping his good opinion the morning after. There's been more than enough evidence in past episodes to show that violence turns Buffy on (see the Buffy/Riley combat scenes in "The I in Team" and "Where The Wild Things Are") and their sexual relationship starts in the middle of them fighting each other. The one thing that's new is the bondage aspect, but it's hardly strange that Buffy might experiment, and notable that it's this experience that causes her to ask Tara if she's "come back wrong", showing that she's not entirely comfortable with it.
    All Comments | Link80 | x factorJan 7, 2012 @ 11:00am
    Slaying most likely does make her horny as implied by season 3. But concluding from that that it leads to the kind of violent sex, SM, exhibitionism, and cycle of sexualized selfhate and degradation that Buffy went through in season 6 is extremely erroneous logic. lol. Getting horny from slaying means you want to **** - where does it imply anything more than that?

    Buffy has always been portrayed as fairly conservative when it comes to sex. When has it ever been stated that she had to restrain herself with past lovers? Or that she was interested in experimenting? I'm definitely not a Riley fan but has it ever been implied that she wasnt satisfied sexually by him?

    And then add to all this the actual extremely flawed rationale that the writers used to justify b/s was that Buffy was depressed and distant and cutoff and wanted to "feel alive" - had nothing to do with experimentation or restraining herself from past lovers. I've already explained why this rationale fails as well.
    All Comments | Link81 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJan 7, 2012 @ 11:38am
    x factor, Alex's opinion is that it wasn't out of character because Buffy went through traumatic experiences over the years and changed. Spike is also not the same character that enters the show in Season 2 -- he's also changed. You have a different view, and there's no problem with that. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. It's in how strong our arguments are that determines which opinion has more credibility than another. The problem here is why you have such a difficult time understanding this.

    Just about everything you blame Alex for in your last comment is completely contradictory to what Alex just said. It's extremely ironic for you to tell someone else that they need to read more carefully considering your habit of ignoring what people have written.

    Here's the bottom line: If you don't stop being so antagonistic with just about every single person that disagrees with your opinion, then I will be forced to take action. I've put up with your tone thus far only because I'm not in the habit of removing comments, but you have had many opportunities across several different reviews to cool things down a notch and listen to what people are telling you, and you haven't changed a bit. Start being more respectful of opposing opinions or I'll be forced to remove your comments from here on out. Consider this a warning.
    All Comments | Link82 | AlexJan 8, 2012 @ 3:08am
    Mike, thank you. I was starting to wonder if I was just expressing myself very badly. It's good to know that someone at least is reading what I actually said.

    x factor, I think I'm done with this. You make the same point over and over, and when I actually take the time to respond and put across a different point of view you completely ignore it and just re-state your own opinion. For example, in your last comment you asked 'When has it ever been stated ... that she was interested in experimenting? I'm definitely not a Riley fan but has it ever been implied that she wasnt satisfied sexually by him?', both points which I already answered in my comment beforehand and which you totally ignored. I now feel like it's a total waste of my time to try and have a discussion with you, because you don't seem to want to discuss anything at all - you just want somewhere to vent your own views to anyone who'll listen.

    I also explicitly said that I am not a big Spike fangirl (and please note, that's fangirl, so stop calling me 'bro') but you're just sticking to your own assumptions nonetheless. And I'm done with it.
    All Comments | Link83 | fray-adjacentJan 8, 2012 @ 6:30pm
    To chime in, one of the great aspects of this site is its ability to maintain a culture of healthy and respectful debate. People disagree, sometimes quite strongly, but don't resort to name-calling and psychoanalysing someone they've never even met in order to express that disagreement. So thanks to Mike and Alex for trying to maintain that culture here and in other comment threads. :)
    All Comments | Link84 | AlexJan 9, 2012 @ 1:20am
    Well said, fray! It really just comes down to the difference between saying 'I disagree' and 'you're wrong'. People might think that's just semantics, but it really is important to recognise that differing opinions don't mean that one of those opinions is wrong.

    I've seen plenty of disagreements on this site, and been involved in a few myself. But few, if any, of the people involved ever came out with a statement like 'look, I know you want to believe that, but you're just wrong', or accused someone else of being 'infatuated' with a character they'd barely written two sentences about.
    All Comments | Link85 | AlexJan 9, 2012 @ 5:01am
    Anyway, I’d like to respond to something different now. Rebecca, sorry I’m so late to respond to your comment – I hope you’re still reading!

    Firstly, thank you for sharing your personal experience with us. I can imagine it may not be the easiest thing to talk about, but I’m glad you did because it’s really interesting to hear from someone who’s actually been in that situation, and to hear that you find Willow’s story so believable.

    Personally, I do have a bit of a problem with the way this storyline is handled, although I don’t hate it as much as others seem to. I don’t have a problem with the idea of Willow becoming addicted, though. I agree that her downward spiral in this season is very believable and makes sense in the context of who she is and what she’s been through. I do find it slightly odd that the idea of getting addicted to magic is never raised in the previous seasons, where magic was often used as a metaphor for Willow’s sexuality, but I’m happy to go along with it.

    What I do find harder to stomach is the way the ‘drug metaphor’ is actually handled. Rather than simply being able to draw parallels between magic and drug addiction, it often feels like Willow is actually being portrayed as a drug addict, in ways which don’t always make a lot of sense to me. The ‘rush’ she gets from magic is a fairly new concept, and it’s taken to extremes when she starts acting like she’s drunk or high as a result (e.g. the car crash). She experiences a physical ‘hangover’ after a night of magic use, and her ‘withdrawal’ is characterised by shaking, sweating and constant thirst. None of these things have ever been alluded to before as consequences of using magic, and they kind of make me feel like I’m being beaten over the head with this so-called metaphor. It really doesn’t need to be so unsubtle! And then we have the ‘magic junkies’ queued up outside Rack’s door, desperate for a ‘fix’... does ‘magic = drugs’ really need to be spelled out so obviously?

    There are many others scenes, particularly the ‘intervention’ scenes, which could almost have been taken word-for-word from another TV show featuring a drug addict. But I think that some of these actually make an effective point: addiction is addiction, and ultimately leads people down the same path no matter what its subject actually is. So while I think I understand what they were trying to do here, I think they could have trusted us to get the point without being so heavy-handed, and without resorting to quite so many TV clichés.

    In summary, I pretty much agree with Mike, although I’d perhaps argue that the problem is not so much in Willow’s characterization but in the portrayal of the addiction itself. Willow’s addiction to magic is a great idea for a storyline, but the execution is horrible and really not what I’d expect from BtVS as a show.
    All Comments | Link86 | XavierMay 2, 2012 @ 9:15pm
    S6 is pretty much one of my favorites. It's sooo dark, I love it! Also, I connected to it on such a personal level, and that's why I admire it so much. Dark Willow was such a great addition to the Big Bads of BtVS that it left me wanting more of her. Like the reviewer said, the writers took great risks, and many of them paid off.
    All Comments | Link87 | NewSpockAug 19, 2012 @ 3:20am
    Agree with most of this review, although I would rate it lower because of its one big problem:

    The biggest problem of this season is as stated Willow's magic/addiction-lame-copout. It really ruined the whole Willow-story-arc that was built up from season 1 on, the arc that shows Willow striving for knowledge and ever more power. It was really heartbreaking to see it completely ruined with that analogy in the mid of season 6.

    The other problem I saw was that Buffy continued this sex-based relationship with Spike for too long. She really should have come out of it earlier.

    Then there are of course some episodes that we could completely have lived without.

    And the starting-episodes had the problem with the demon-gang publically wreaking havoc in Sunnydale which was imho completely idiotic to do considering the police- and military-force they would have drawn in.

    But then we have this imho awesome third episode where this ghost-demon came along with Buffy from the beyond, and the magical "Once more with feeling"-episode.

    So yes, it's a mixed bag but still managing to be on the good side of things overall.
    All Comments | Link88 | TheShanshuProphecyOct 18, 2012 @ 4:27am
    Wow!
    What a great summation of a great season - beautifully written - thanks for taking the time to do this (ok, i'm a few years late but the sentiment remains).

    Season 6 has always been my favourite season since my first slayerfest many years ago - mainly because of the reason/s you state - it's daring and dark and allows the light (when it comes) to shine a bit more brightly. I love the complexity of character and relationship development and devolving that happens and that many aspects of previous seasons finally come to a head - it's great writing and great viewing & I am always so confused by those who don't like it.

    People watch Whedon shows because they are innovative TV & then complain when they are indeed innovative and daring.

    I also son't take as much umbrance with the Willow/magic metaphor as others do - yes it could have been more subtle and/or insightful but I don't have a problem linking the magic to issues of power as Willow uses the magic to be(come) powerful so, on that level, for me, it works.

    Thanks again.
    All Comments | Link89 | LouisaOct 18, 2012 @ 2:43pm
    I don't agree that Willow's hunger for knowledge and power were her biggest character flaw. I think her biggest character flaw was her out of control need for a quick fix to anything she didn't like. She wanted unpleasant emotions to go "poof." When Tara left her, she wanted that pain to go "poof." But the same magic that brought Buffy back couldn't bring Tara back. I think the bad Willow lasted too long. It bothered me that Buffy was as reactive but ineffective as she was, making the odd coincidence of Giles + Xander the thing that saves the world, while Buffy's stuck in a hole with Dawn. I suppose the point is that slaying Willow was never going to be the solution. I didn't find the new day at the end very satisfying as a conclusion to this very dark season. I did like Spike getting his soul. Great twist. But for all it's problems, it's still Buffy. Seasons 6 and 7, whatever my complaints, I'm glad they figured out a way to destroy the hellmouth and let (most of) the characters live on with something like a future. I'm glad it didn't end with season 5. So I guess that means I should stop griping.
    All Comments | Link90 | TheShanshuProphecyOct 19, 2012 @ 3:37am
    Replying to Louisa (#89)
    "I don't agree that Willow's hunger for knowledge and power were her biggest character flaw. I think her biggest character flaw was her out of control need for a quick fix to anything she didn't like. She wanted unpleasant emotions to go "poof." "

    This is an issue of power/control - ie Willow wanted to control these things/have power over them
    All Comments | Link91 | Ryan ONeilNov 19, 2012 @ 10:16am
    Dawn/Willow connections

    Dawn curls up with the BuffyBot, Willow inflates some clothing Tara left behind
    Willow steals Buffy's sacrifice, Dawn starts stealing almost anything

    (and they both get poisoned in S7)
    All Comments | Link92 | HAJan 7, 2013 @ 7:32am
    Found this site after a recent rewatch of the series, and just want to say that I love it. I've been going back through and rewatching a few episodes before moving on for a bit (I'm sure I'll come back to it because it is Buffy and well, I love it), so I'm glad I found this site, as it is really interesting to see the viewpoints of others.

    I actually really liked season 6. As someone who went through a period of severe depression after a traumatic life experience, where even the people who I loved the most had no idea how bad it was, I found the Buffy story line to be extremely believable. I also made choices that were extremely out of character in an effort to "feel" something. When those closest to me found out, they thought I had lost my mind and berated me, rather then trying to be there and help/understand. None of them could understand because they had never experienced the numbness/inability to feel that I was experiencing. I hated myself for what I was doing, but couldn't stop because it was, in a way, addicting to feel that spark of feeling again. While I was able to finally pull myself out of it, it was quite a difficult process and of course, I couldn't undo the stuff I had done. I still don't like to think/talk about it (which is why I find the fact that Buffy never really wants to go in to details with her friends about how abusive her relationship with Spike was believable). I think this season really accurately showed how some people can act when they are severely depressed, and found the Buffy/Spike relationship to be completely in character with where Buffy was at that moment in time.

    I think it was hard for people to watch, and I also think it was hard for the actors at points to agree with the story line (SMG in particular, after reading some of her comments about how she felt it was out of character for Buffy to do some of the things she did...when you are severely depressed, it is "normal" to do things that are WAY OOC, but since she hasn't really been there, she wouldn't know), but, I can't think of a more realistic portrayal of someone struggling with severe depression then this. I guess that is why I appreciated this season so much.

    Anyway, I feel I am repeating myself and not making much sense, so I'll end there, but just wanted to add why it resonated with me so much. Thanks for the great site Mike.
    All Comments | Link93 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJan 7, 2013 @ 3:51pm
    Replying to HA (#92)
    Thanks for the comment!

    I totally agree with you. Though, at least in Buffy's case, I'd be hesitant to actually call it "OOC" -- that implies poor character writing. So here's a clarification: knowing Buffy's history, struggles, and underlying psychology that had been explored up until Season 6, I think it's apparent that she is capable of this kind of behavior under the right circumstances. Being yanked abruptly out of Heaven, and back into this tumultuous world? Yikes! Circumstances! That kind of trauma (metaphorical for being abruptly/prematurely thrown into adulthood) would be/is enough to throw most people into depression.

    Buffy definitely wasn't acting normal during Season 6, but it's certainly within the bounds of characterization. I just wanted to make that subtle distinction. But I get what you were trying to say, and agree. :)

    Thanks again!
    All Comments | Link94 | ArachneaMar 19, 2013 @ 4:33am
    I had forgotten to take a look at your season review and I enjoyed your analysis.

    By reading your episodes reviews, I thought you had totally rejected the idea of addiction for Willow and now I see we're not in total disagreement: the symptoms of her addiction to magic were very well portrayed, "smashed" included, in the first third of the season. Then came "Wrecked" that ruined the wonderful arc that was building: when you are on the path of curing addiction, the product is not the focus (it can be physically, but that's not the core of the problem), the reasons for becoming an addict in the first place should be the focus: in this case, self-deprecation, self-loathing, cravings for control, power, a way to escape pain (conflicts, mourning) and need for recognition. So, the message sent to the viewers is badly portrayed, because the writers chose to focus on the magic, not on Willow's true problem.

    Again, thank you for bringing Dawn into the light. I really believe that she was one of the strongest persons on the show: yes she whines (for good reasons), yes she steals (to get attention) but those are really lesser crimes ! Nobody in the usual fanbase seem to realize how awful Dawn's life has been. From the realisation that she was not born "real" and that everything around her is a lie, she still has the memories of a divorce and living in the shadow of her sister. Then, she's the target of a Goddess and nearly dies. Her mom dies, her sister dies, her father is nowhere to be seen. Her sister comes back and she realizes Buffy doesn't give a damn about her since her return. The only adult male figure in her life leaves. Her new mother figure (Tara) dies. Her second mother figure (Willow) tries to kill her, Buffy tries to kill her. Before that, she relives the divorce of her parents with the separation of Tara and Willow. Her first crush (Xander) leaves her wife-to-be at the altar. I mean, she had all the reasons in the world to go into depression, have a breakdown or worse.
    Instead, she will have the heart to forgive everyone and take them back in her heart. We'll see later that she will mature and learn, she will accept to be just human: if that's not strength, I don't know what is. That's why I love Dawn, even though I would have liked a better writing about her suffering and how she coped.

    Some things I didn't like were some contrived scenes showed to make Buffy's ordeal even more gruesome. Although it works on a level, because usually, when you get to a real state of depression, things around you have a tendency to go wrong. That's why the Trio worked most of the time: they weren't the big bad, they were factors in an equation to make things worse. They wouldn't have lasted one episode in previous seasons: here, it emphasize the depth of the confusion within the group.

    Now, about the core of the Season, Buffy and Spike.
    First, I'd like to state this in reaction to some comments: Buffy/Spike relation was not, in any way, a SM relation. The basis of SM is based on trust, with consenting parties who usually sign a contract. The objective of practicing SM is pleasure. If one of the parties doesn't trust the other to respect the contract, then it becomes abuse. Those who enjoy this practice come from very different backgrounds, but the majority haven't lived through abuse (actually, you won't find many formerly abused taking pleasure in SM). Most of them live very ordinary lives, enjoying now and then a particular form of entertainment.

    Now, what is depicted in the Buffy/Spike relation is totally different: it's related to a dysfunction in behaviour due to depression, usually more seen in borderline pathologies. This particular illness - as opposed to feeling low or light depression - doesn't necessarily lead to apathy. In some cases, it's the contrary, like over-working. But the important point is, it can lead to auto-mutilation, which means hurting oneself to feel something, usually to make you remember that you're alive. Sometimes you even "black-out" and don't remember how or why you physically hurt yourself. The only thing that disturbed me was Buffy's oblivion for those she used to care about: a long-time depression (as opposed to a short-term crisis in which you're completely closed) doesn't necessarily make you blind. Actually, it usually makes you more aware of your friends' sufferings.

    In this season, Buffy lacks some of the most basics in life: emotions and purpose. The only person capable of partially giving her that is Spike: she's physically attracted, he gives her lust; He loves her or more accurately, he craves her, looks for her, wants her. She feels needed, accepted and wanted even if it's in a twisted way for both of them. She keeps going to him not because she's addicted, but because he's the only person to fill some of her basic needs, including the sense of danger (adrenaline) and equality (strength). He's also the only one she feels she can use without consequences for him, she despises what Spike represents, thus he can be used as a convenience.

    It's also interesting to see that the moment she realizes she doesn't want to die (even though she's still afraid of living), she starts to realize that what Spike gives her is not enough, but she's still drawn to him because she hasn't found an alternative yet. Also, when you're that far gone, getting out of a twisted pattern that gives a sense of normality (routine), it takes time to recover. So, "As You Were" wasn't the best of episodes, but was the necessary slap (check on reality) to make Buffy snap out of the pattern.

    I'd also like to mention that it isn't OOC, because in the first seasons, Buffy's ways to cope with her problems have never been well-thought or down-to-earth, plus she's not fond of asking for help. But what made this terrible relation so interesting was the opposite reasons Spike and Buffy had to thrive in it. It led them both to do horrible actions, but also to self-realization that built their story-arcs to their path to redemption and to healing.

    In conclusion, it's not my favorite season but it fits the progression and pattern of the show with themes like transition, changes, powerlessness, obstacles in life, with powerful messages in the end. Love in all its forms can open your eyes to the beauty of what's around you; all the characters finally decide to take the bridle and be in charge: be the master of their own lives as opposed to let events be in charge of them.
    I'm sorry, this was a long comment and I could have been even longer, but this season is often misunderstood because it taps into dark emotions/behaviors and I wanted to state why I love it, despite some of its flaws.
    All Comments | Link95 | Mott1Apr 9, 2013 @ 11:09am
    Let me just state I love this site, agreeing with most of the The odd thing I found about watching s6 again (I'm enjoying watching s1 through to s7 in chronological order) is the amount of humour in it, in comparison to the more mature themes of s5, which though compelling had a grimness almost from the beginning. The ghost of Joyce Summers seemed to hang over the whole season, and it's very heavy-going after the often-farcical s4.

    If s5 was about family, illusion and loss, s6 is much more melodramatic and is clearly concerned with unhealthy addictions, be they narcotic (magic) or sexual. But despite the gloom and doom of the ultimately doomed Buffy/Spike, Anya/Xander and Tara/Willow relationships, I thought the 1st half had quite a lot of laughs - once the heroine had crawled out of the grave, that is(!) Even Buffy's dead-end jobs provide a more lighthearted continuation of the 'going through the motions' theme.

    'Once More With Feeling' has plenty of giggles and a game cast giving the songs their all, imbuing them with real character despite some of the cast being more gifted vocalists than others (take a bow, Mr Head and Ms Benson!) and 'Tabula Rasa' also has plenty of comedy as the characters forget who they are and start from scratch, whilst throughout the series the Trio - until Warren oversteps the mark - provide lots of mirth too. The 2nd half is more gloomy, granted, with its spiral of violence, spite and malice ending in bloodshed and one of the show's most OTT and heartrending endings. But wasn't BTVS ever thus? :)
    All Comments | Link96 | WaverlyMay 18, 2013 @ 10:15am
    This is a difficult season to rate for me. It's among my least favourite but I admire, and a great deal of the time enjoy, the journey the writers put the characters through. On what seems to be the most contentious point with S6, whether or not Buffy acted out of character, I have to come down on the 'nay' side. I always thought what she'd been through could believably put anyone into a spiral of depression and drive them into an abusive relationship but reading Mike's review of When She was Bad recently made me realise there was definitely precedent for Buffy's actions in S6. If she was ready to fight Angel and get all grindy with Xander after being dead for a few minutes in Prophecy Girl, just think how much more her post traumatic stress will have affected her after being dead for months and being dragged out of heaven.

    That being said, I think there are a few weaknesses which, in my own humble opinion, drag the season to among the show's worst:

    1. Willow turned dark too late. I think this was a missed opportunity as having to face off against Willow for a longer period could have been managed in the same manner that Angel became the Big Bad in mid S2, and could have delivered just as much conflict and emotional resonance. Instead, I think the lack of a major league nemesis (I don't think the Trio counts as such) left the season without the usual structure.

    2. Pacing and balance. This falls under the 'too depressing' complaint, I suppose. I don't have anything against things getting depressing (a good exorcising of emotion through fiction can be extremely rewarding), but I just felt that every character was down at the same time for a large portion of the season when one or two characters remaining light-hearted would have given a bit more balance.

    3. The magic as drugs metaphor. Far, far too on the nose for me.

    4. My final criticism is the worst. I can forgive S6 the former three weaknesses but the fourth is more difficult: season six contains the only episodes in the show's entire run that I think just aren't very good quality, not only measured against other BtVS episodes but also against other shows'. These were also the only episodes in the entire show that I found myself bored during. These would be: 'Gone', 'Doublemeat Palace' and 'All the Way'. I think that feeling of surprise at not actually enjoying an episode of BtVs is what, more than anything else, leaves a not-so-great taste in my mouth from this season.

    All that being said, there is a lot to give credit for and I agree with Mike in most of the points where he does so here. Not one of my faves but still a worthy addition to the canon,, IMHO.
    All Comments | Link97 | WCRobinsonJul 31, 2013 @ 9:32am
    This is my third favourite season after S2 and S5. I love the dark, serious themes and the Trio work brilliantly alongside those themes, as the complete opposites - they don't want to work to make their lives good.

    One thing, Mike: I have realised that if they had got the Willow arc completely right - I still think it was handled quite well, with the final few episodes in particular being thrilling - your scores for this season could have been amazing.

    The middle part of the season could have had several A's with better characterization, and the final 3 or 4 episodes would all be potential P scores. Imagine that! It could have beaten S5 in your scores.
    All Comments | Link98 | MikeJer | CREATOR/WRITERJul 31, 2013 @ 3:10pm
    Oh, I totally agree! If the mid-season struggles, particularly surrounding Willow, were done much better, this season would have easily been an A-/A and may have competed with Season 5 for the best of the whole show. Season 6 is still one of my favorite seasons, right up there with Season 5, but objectively it's not at the same level as 5, for sure, and probably 2 and 3 as well. Close, but not quite there.
    All Comments | Link99 | LoveroftheBufferJan 2, 2014 @ 4:08am
    I have to agree with the flaws. The 'addiction' arc for willow was (to me) just a cheap metaphor for drugs. Riley's wife has to be the worst character in the Buffyverse, she really wasn't needed in the episode. However, Season 6 has to be my favourite season(along with season 5) because despite its flaws it told some excellent stories practically 'Normal Again' as I found this more heart breaking than Charmed 'Brain Drain'. I really enjoyed this season especially the last three episode arc. Alyson Hannigan showed she can act just as well as Sarah. Sarah was truly amazing this season because even with simple facial expression in the second episode you could feel her pain. I think this was Anyas,Spikes,Dawns and Xanders worst season as they weren't main characters and there presence didn't seem to be needed. I think this was tara's best season even if it was bittersweet. Once again mike great review!
    All Comments | Link100 | LoveroftheBufferJan 2, 2014 @ 4:11am
    One last note. Really enjoyed Buffy and Spike's relationship even if it was just sexual for Buffy, I enjoyed seeing spike get his wish. It got a lot better in season 7
    All Comments | Link101 | ericas623Mar 5, 2014 @ 8:34am
    I noticed some people feel the Trio is not believable and part of the reason they believe this season doesn't work. I just want to point out the placement of the trio was completely intentional and fitting given the other storylines. The idea behind it is that, in a different season, Warren and co. Would never have made it this far in the season, but Buffy and her friends are so distracted with their own problems that it opened a window. That's why the real Big Bad of this season is, not only Dark Willow, but also their inner demons, which is the season's theme.
    All Comments | Link102 | FirewalkwithmeMar 5, 2014 @ 12:48pm
    Yes, season 6 is really about deconstructing our heroic characters that were so uh...heroic in the season 5 finale. Buffy died to save the world and all the other Scoobies threw themselves into battle and played their part.

    In season 6 though they have to deal with their own demons and there is no unifying bad guy that they can all team up against to save the world. It´s almost pathetic that Buffy has to deal with the likes of Andrew, Jonathan and Warren but interestingly enough the latter causes the most damage to the gang with the exception of Angelus. That´s what I love about the trio though. They are all misguided, delusional nerds who aren´t willing to work for their pleasures but rather just enjoy them without caring about the real world implications. But they have the money and the knowledge to get what they want and that idea is kind of terrifying to me. Without Buffy putting an end to their shemes they might have caused even more damage to the population. I mean they already tried to rape a girl and got away with murder. There are many monsters and demons on "Buffy" but I somehow find Warren and his cold-blooded nature, his power over the weak-minded Andrew and (at least in the beginning) Jonathan and his justifications for doing what he does the most scary thing about the show because he´s still a human being with a soul.
    All Comments | Link103 | ericas623Mar 19, 2014 @ 6:15am
    Exactly. While it further emphasizes how off their game the Scoobies are this season, the major threat posed by Warren and the Trio is somewhat pathetic. I feel this is acknowledged by the writers during the season finale in the running joke where Warren alludes to the Trio expecting others have heard of them only to find no one has in fact. In addition to being hilarious, it underscores the importance of the fact that, in any other season, Buffy would have defeated Warren and co.in a single episode.

    This is why season 6 works so well for me. It's also significant that, although Warren is a misogynist creep, Andrew and Jonathan are not actually "evil masterminds," but as Katrina calls it, boys playing as men. Andrew and Jonathan are naively unaware of the destructive implications of their actions, evidenced by their genuine surprise at learning that manipulating Katrina's mind constituted attempted rape.
    All Comments | Link104 | RiderofapcoalypseSep 15, 2014 @ 8:34am
    Hello All,

    Mike, I have to pleasantly disagree with your rating for this season. I think this season is at least an A-. The only thing looking back now is, this season felt like it lacked the supernatural aura of earlier seasons. It's difficult to put into words, but I think this season was a bit to heavy on the 'slice of life/real life' theme. But with that said, I have very little con's/negative things to say about season 6:
    - After seeing Buffy lift that beam which takes two guys to lift while working for Xander's foreman, it shows clearly that she should be in construction/deconstruction and not flipping burgers. (there's also something to be said about mugging vamps before staking them but that's a whole other thing)
    - Although it was the catalyst for 'Sith Willow', I really hated Tara's death. I think that Sith Willow could have worked in a way where Willow went through hell and high water to resurrect Tara. The same book absorbing, axe resistant Sith Willow, doing whatever it takes and going through whomever stands in her way to get Tara back. I was just as excited about Willow and Tara getting back together as Dawn was. And then Tara get's shot...When Willow summoned Osiris I was yelling at my tv in a drunken rage with Willow. "Bring her back you Zordon wannabe! BRING..HER..BACK!".
    - Dark Willow trying to destroy the world...what is it with bad guys and trying to destroy the world? It just doesn't make sense. Why destroy the world when your still in it?
    - Xander's 'Care Bear Stare'. It's the Xander countdown 5,4,3,2,1...Xander saves the world with a hug...actually...that can work. It does seem pretty stupid on paper, but The season did show how Sith Willow was almost possessed by a different entity which controlled her. So Xander showing Sith Willow love to help normal Willow overpower her evil side and emerge...actually makes sense. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Xander Harris saved the world with a hug and it makes sense.

    Now with those small negatives out of the way. This season was amazing. It goes to show that the supporting cast in any group, whether it be on tv or even your own circle of friends, can be your big gun. It also shows that Willow must have incredible amounts of willpower and self control to not have given into magical temptation in the past.

    Thanks
    RiderofApcoalypse
    All Comments | Link105 | Anonymous Oct 11, 2014 @ 12:07pm
    Are there any inappropriate episodes?
    All Comments | Link106 | Freudian VampireOct 11, 2014 @ 12:29pm
    Define inappropriate.
    All Comments | Link107 | Anonymous Oct 11, 2014 @ 1:09pm
    By inappropriate I mean very sexual and just episodes where sex is an issue.
    All Comments | Link108 | Freudian VampireOct 11, 2014 @ 2:07pm
    That's pretty frequent this season. "Smashed", "Wrecked", "Gone", "Dead Things" and "Seeing Red" in particular stand out.
    All Comments | Link109 | Anonymous Oct 11, 2014 @ 2:23pm
    Thank you! Really appreciate it!
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