Last year while I was in school, I went through the first six seasons of Buffy with a friend whenever we needed to decompress. In a program that was 70% Type A male, it was nice to get a little female-oriented ass kicking in when we could. When we got past Season 5 I warned my friend, who was new to Buffy, that Season 6 was the most universally hated season. As it turned out, we actually liked it quite a bit. Honestly, even when the season originally aired, I wondered why people didn’t like it as much as I did. In the rewatching, I have come to see even more what Joss and company were trying to do.
The typical complaints about Season 6 (which my opponent brings up as well), are Willow’s addiction story line, the crappy villains and the really dark place Buffy went to with Spike. But what I think I appreciated as others did not was the reality: sometimes everything just falls to pieces and you ask yourself: “Where am I going, and why am I in this hand basket?” It’s what people don’t like about those 60’s movies where everyone dies at the end: there’s no light. Buffy always had a light, funny side that was almost completely absent in this season. For me, that spoke to a time in my 20’s where nothing was going right, and I lost who I was. It spoke to that dark part that’s afraid nothing will ever get better.
Buffy sings out her suffering in "Once More With Feeling."
Watching the episodes back to back gave me a new perspective. In terms of the Trio, we see an evolution. They begin as ineffective dorks who replay comic book fantasies. However, when Warren tries to rape Katrina and she calls all the men out, it becomes clear that Jonathan wakes up, Andrew is merely mindless, but I wouldn’t walk down a dark alley with Warren if you paid me. He was scary in a very human way that we didn’t often see on Buffy: totally without conscience, and for no reason. Five seasons of the Master and Glory and their like, and it was Warren, the ineffective geek, who gave me chills.
Spike and Buffy, a destructive relationship -- literally and figuratively.
I’ll admit, Willow’s addiction wasn’t my favorite storyline. I would have preferred it to be about abuse of power, and it was for a time. Wiping Tara’s memory, putting people in other dimensions, even altering the fabric of life and death were things that signaled Willow’s power trip. Why the writers made Rack a dealer and Willow a drugged-out loser is a little confusing. Perhaps they had written themselves into a corner by making once sweet Willow a power-crazy douchebag? Better to make her an addict? (The large amounts of water she drank for two episodes was over the top. Does magic dehydrate you like a rum and diet?)
The one thing that does transcend the debate about whether she was an addict or an asshole is he common thread was that she was out of control. What speaks to me about her storyline is that sometimes you wake up from a situation and realize that you aren’t the person you wanted to be. That maybe, you don’t even like the person you’ve become. That was Willow in Season 6. The tragedy is that she tried to be a good person, but under pressure reverted back because she couldn’t take life anymore.
Xander saves the world with talk of Kindergarten.
In any case, I hope that I have convinced you even a little bit that there are layers to this season that should be appreciated. Joss Whedon’s vision was always to use the fantastical as a metaphor for the reality of life. This season reflects back to us the ugliness we see in ourselves: something we don’t always want to see, but it is nevertheless what we occasionally need to confront.
Read The Opposing View
Buffy, Season 6: A Complete Mess
by K. Burtt