Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buffy Season 6 (spoiler alert, is of course, mandatory)

So, for the dark season. This season inspires many different emotions among fans- among some it is hated, and others it is loved. Its very grim, and often depressing. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Buffy had had 5 seasons at this point, , and this show was a drama, not a comfort blanket, so the writers wanted to explore somewhere dark. That's fine, as long as it is well written and interesting. Season 6 succeeds there... for the most part.

Buffy is back from the dead, and, as we soon find out, not from hell, but torn out from heaven. This is a brilliant idea, and leads to a season of Buffy trying to find her way. She feels like her time is over- she fought the good fight, and was ready to move on, but now she is dragged back to earth to come back again. This works well, and she sinks into a stupor which cuts her off from her friends, leading her to turn to Spike, because she does not feel worthy of anything else. Here is my first issue: Spike was built up as a champion in season 5. Yes, he still had elements of darkness, but he became a trusted warrior. Yet now he is used as a metaphor for how far Buffy has sunk, so they need to build him up as a monster. This is ok, but its more than a little jarring, especially when you consider the start of the season: Spike racked with guilt over his failure to save Buffy.

The other big arc of the season belongs to Willow, who ultimately proves to bring the final climax. The slow work of showing her build an addiction to the power that magic gives her, the need to be someone else, driven by her low self esteem, means she becomes more and more dependent on magic. Tara, seeing this, is driven away by Willow trying to control every aspect of her life, including Tara's mind. This is brilliant, and with Tara's death, you have Willow finally giving up on what she was, and becoming something else, the personification of her self loathing for her ineffectual ways. It works very well, and the final showdown with Giles is, of course, bloody brilliant. Sadly, the writers went too far with the magic addiction arc, with the ridiculous episode where Amy, no longer a rat, suddenly knows of an extremely powerful warlock with drug-like magic powers. Its pathetic, unsubtle, and unnecessary.

Xander and Anya spend most of the season leading up to the wedding. Now I'm afraid this bit did make me mad. While I stated earlier that Buffy should be free to go as dark as it wants, I am going to happily contradict myself and say that the choice to make the wedding fail was stupid. Xander is frightened away from the wedding because of a possible future, where he acts like his father, and while I understand where that comes from, he has shown time and time again that not only is he not like his father, he is far more mature. Anya and Xander's relationship never felt rushed, it felt natural and organic, and to take away the one fun element of the entire season was more than a bit soul crushing.

A failing for this series was the departure of Giles. He decides to leave because he feels like Buffy needs to stand on her own. Its silly, and certainly doesn't make sense in light of Buffy's confession that she was booted from heaven. However, the actor wanted to leave, so it was the best they could do without killing him off, so I'm willing to be a bit forgiving on that front.

One notable thing about this season is that despite the dire tone, theres actually a lot of humour. The villains being three geeky idiots is lovely, and their plot initially is very amusing, but also does go to a very dark place towards the end. This twist actually feels more natural, as people without any connection to reality are finally brought back to earth as they realise that their actions do indeed have consequences. Lovely stuff.

The best episode is, of course, Once More With Feeling. The idea of making a musical episode is a lovely one, but it is not just played for laughs. Each song tells us a story about the characters, and this episode in one fell swoop gets Tara to realise that Willow has been enchanting her (making I'm Under Your Spell EXTREMELY creepy), Giles decide to leave, Buffy to admit that she was in heaven, and Spike and Buffy's first kiss. That the songs are catchy and funny is an added bonus to what is probably the best episode of Buffy ever made.

The funniest episode is Tabula Rasa, with a lovely amnesia plot leading to amusing misunderstandings, and then resulting in that horribly tragic ending, as Tara finally leaves Willow. In second place is Life Serial, which has Buffy dealing with the trio messing with her. The trio bantering is truly a joy to watch, and this episode gives it the most focus.

The worst episode? Smashed, a ridiculous episode with Amy having knowledge that she simply shouldn't have, and the absurd magic/crack metaphor.

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