Hello and welcome to my first ever Buffy Season Review, freely adapted from similar Star Trek models. It's split into 3 parts: Part 1) I'll re-review all 22 episodes of this season and change my marks if the episode hasn't aged well or if I was just too harsh first time. I'm also going to use decimal points as I don't see many episodes changing that greatly; Part 2) This will be my character analysis and looking at what worked and what didn't, plus my awards for the season and finally Part 3) will be speculation about Season 7 and where I think the characters should go. On with the show then!
So, the final scores are as follows: When I first reviewed the episodes, the scores added up to 74 out of a possible 110. Looking back over them, my revised scores are 71.8 out of 110. A drop of 2.2 isn't bad really. But it's not great either. For the record an average season would be 66/110, so although the Season scored higher than that, it's still not brilliant.
And here we come to the Analysis part of the Review. Waffling and lots of writing are ahead - you have been warned. I think the best way to do this is to take each character at a time and no doubt comments on the Season as a whole will come out anyway. Anything that I don't get around to mentioning I'll put at the end.
So, lets start off with the main character then - Clem. No, I'm just joshing of course. Once you've dried you're tears of laughter (and they are laughter tears, right. Right?) we can look at how one Buffy Anne Summers faired this year. In a sense, I like what they (the writers) did with her. She was dead after all. And they resurrected her. I was worried that she would be back to normal after 3 episodes and it would never be mentioned again. But no, the whole Season was all about her trying to feel alive and understand her place in the scheme of things. You could argue this has been done before in Prophecy Girl, and you'd be right. The fall out from that was for one episode and things sort of went back to normal. But this was a bit different. Buffy was under the ground for 3 months, her body decaying. That's bound to f--k you up slightly. But this is where the balance was lost. Yes, she's miserable. We get that. But the writers kept throwing misery after misery at her. No money, she can't get back into Uni, she's in a dead end job flipping burgers, she hates life, her ex boyfriend is happy as Larry, her surrogate father has abandoned her, she's distant from her sister and friends and finally she ends up having sex with a vampire to feel alive who tries to rape her. It was relentless, grinding and not very enjoyable to watch. There were no episodes where she and the viewers came up for air. I for one felt suffocated after a while and almost groaned when it was time to turn on the TV. What new hell had the writers devised for Buffy this week? You need to have the lighthearted moments, the comedy episodes in amongst the darkness. Balance was what this Season lacked. BtVS has always walked a fine line between comedy, drama and fantasy. It fell too far into drama and suffered as a result. However, it's not all bad. In the last couple of episodes Buffy started to actually be more like the one of old. Reaching for solutions instead of a fresh helping of angst. I understand that the point of all this misery was so Buffy could be even more alive by the final episode. But 22 episodes to get there? No, it was way too long and was in my opinion a mistake. Did her character evolve during the Season? Yes, in the sense that she was very unhappy and by the end she had learned to love life and treat Dawn as an equal. But, this is more like Buffy circa Season 1-3 so I'm not convinced it's moving forward. A question I'm asking every character is justify yourself. Why were you in this Season and if you were missing would things change? Buffy wasn't really crucial this year. She fought Warren but didn't catch him, She didn't stop the end of the world and Tara still died. In fact you could argue that Warren would never have gone to the house with the gun, never fired wildly and never killed Tara if Buffy was still dead. That's more to do with Willow though. But really, all she's done this year is shag Spike and be unhappy. She wasn't essential. However, I'm very confident we're going to see a different Buffy next year and Dawn will be more important, but I'll talk more about that in Part 3. Suffice to say that this year was not a strong showing for Buffy apart from the last episode. Watching someone wade through their own version of Hell for half a year does not entertaining viewing make and I will in all honesty be unlikely to watch many episodes of Year 6 relating to Buffy.
And so onto Spike. There's a certain symmetry in this Season about Spike in the sense that I really liked him for the first couple of episodes and the last two. But everything in between just fell flat for me. What did he do this year? Shag Buffy non stop, then when she realised she was using him he turned on her and tried to rape her. This is not the character development I wanted to see. After the attempted rape I truly didn't see how the character could come back and be likeable. But the writers may actually have done the right thing. I still and will always think the bathroom scene was unnecessary and ugly. But it's done now. We can't change it. But what it did do was give Spike a genuinely believable reason to endure the trials and get his Soul back. And in the process becomes a different character. He was so disgusted and shocked with what he tried to do that it was the perfect catalyst for him to go and change. This is of course assuming that he does indeed have his soul back. It's not improbable that the writers will pull a fast one and do something else with him. But I hope he does have his soul back. He truly will be a different person, with the memories of Spike, but now with a human conscience. Of course, he still has a lot of work to do when he gets back, but I'll talk about that in Part 3. So, was this a good year for Spike? I don't think so, beyond the aforementioned start and finish of the year. He was a lovesick fool in Season 5 and he was a lovesick loser in Season 6. Was he crucial this year? Not really. He wasn't present for the Finale and really just shagged Buffy all year in secret. If he hadn't been caught shaggin' Anya, he would have had negligible impact on the story this Season. For me, he hasn't had a good year but I'm confident this will change.
Willow was of course very important this Season. She was kind of the axis for the whole year as all her decisions had consequences. However, there's no getting away from the fact that the Magic abuse = Drug abuse was far too unsubtle. Worse than that, it was wrapped up in double time. Only really 2 episodes were devoted to her really getting hooked on junk and coming off it just as quick. That was the only real misfire however. Raising Buffy from the dead using dark magic was very intriguing as was Giles being furious with her. Mind wiping Tara was another step into the deep end and it was all building nicely. Then you had Smashed/Wrecked which really derailed the whole thing. A couple of incidents later in the Season showed her struggling slightly, but until Tara died that was it. I wish the writers (now referred to as TPTB) had continued the slow decent into magic abuse throughout the entire Season. It would have been much more subtle and less jarring than the 24 hour detox solution. Another mistake was bringing Amy back as a powerful junkie witch with connections to a 'magic' dealer. There was absolutely no indication that Amy had any such inclinations. Yes, she sometimes dabbled in slightly dark magic, but no way was she stoned and failing to show for classes. I respect the nod to continuity and as a long term fan I appreciated it but Amy the rat was more a running joke than anything else. And where did she disappear? She just kind of vanished. Anyway, the finale with Xander really made me remember why I like the character so much. Crying on Xanders shoulder and finally releasing her grip on the dark magic was a beautiful scene. Was Willow crucial to the Season? You better believe it! She raised Buffy from the dead, nearly got Dawn killed, split with Tara, got back together again and tried to destroy the world. Take her away and the whole Season basically doesn't happen. It's also interesting to note that Willow indirectly got Tara killed as I mentioned before. If she hadn't raised Buffy, Warren wouldn't have accidentally shot Tara and Willow herself wouldn't have killed a human being. She was warned there might be a price and by god there was. I suspect she was feeling guilty as much as furious when she went dark. Next year she will presumably be stripped of her powers somehow and will possibly be slightly withdrawn and humble. A lot like Willow Season 1. Is this character development though? I'm not sure. It's more a case of full circle. But I think the character will be a lot more likeable next year.
The Xan man didn't really have a good year, apart from the finale when he helped save Willow and the World. He effectively disappeared for the whole year, almost always joined at the hip with Anya. And because Anya has brilliant comedic timing, Xander was actually slightly superfluous when it came to jokes. So what did he do this year? Be nervous about the wedding, then at the last second do a runner and eventually fall into a pit of despair. I thought an obvious episode would have been a stag night with him, Spike and Clem. An opportunity lost. Ironically, once he was separated from Anya and became miserable, he got funnier lines and became more interesting. The self pity thing and blaming himself for Tara's death was a bit too much for me, but he is a lot better by himself than with Anya. Was he crucial this year? No, until the final 10 minutes. And that was the point as Xander himself realised that he was useless all year but got to be the hero at the very end. Like I've said before, as a short story arc, great, but 22 episodes of depressed nervous Xander is a waste of a character.
Of course Xander & Anya weren't the first couple to split up this year. Willow and Tara did it earlier. And boy, what a difference. For the first time since she joined the show, Tara finally got some screen time alone with other characters and had room to breathe. In S4 she had just joined and wasn't crucial, S5 had her being lobotomised in a rather blatant attempt I feel to reduce the cast slightly in the final battles, but this year she really bloomed. From the musical onwards she simply became genuinely enjoyable to watch and really developed a personality. Her best moments were being a mother figure to Dawn, but especially Buffy. She was the first and only one Buffy confided her 'secret' too and it became clear that The Summers girls were really depending on Tara. She also saved everyone when Buffy thought she was in an asylum. She had gone from the Birthday girl who no one knew what to get to the matriarch of the home. Great stuff. And then she was shot and killed. Not so great stuff. But I have to admit that I'm not really angry at TPTB for this move (unlike the Spike/Buffy rape). It was the only thing that could really have caused Willow to go melt down and there were rumours from the start of the Season that she would be killed off. And it was undeniably dramatic stuff. So yeah, it was probably the right move. And realistically, the Series will probably end next year so Tara's story only ended 1 year earlier than the rest. Still, undeniably sad though. Was Tara crucial to the season? She was in the sense that Willow would never have gone critical in such a fashion, Buffy would have had no one to confide in and Dawn wouldn't have a mother figure. She didn't do that much exactly, but the season would have been even more depressing without her, so to my mind, she was essential really.
The old Ripper was of course relegated to Special Guest Star status since he was only in half the season. I must confess, Giles was wasted in Season 4, and he kind of found his feet in S5, but there was always that feeling of 'why is he still here?' He's not a watcher, Buffy doesn't need trained anymore and it's not surprising he would feel restless. But his actually timing when he left was awful. Willow dabbling in dark magic, Buffy resurrected from the dead and no Joyce to look after Dawn. Plus let's not forget he killed Ben, a human being. What about some fall out from that? Worst timing ever. But I still didn't think he'd be missed that much. Boy was I wrong. Giles is a crucial part of the Scoobies and his absence was felt in so many ways this Season. There just didn't seem to be any character willing to step up and fill the vacuum. My pick was Xander, but that went up in flames. Only when Tara split from Willow was it properly filled. But seeing Giles come back at the end...very cool indeed. Or course, it's probably going to be the same next year as well, with Giles only being in a few episodes, but I'll speculate about that later. Giles was crucial in that he was a Trojan horse in the Finale and gave Willow the chance to feel again and he is actually the only character who did indeed vanish for 10 episodes or so his absence could be measured for real. He's crucial in the same sense as Tara. Giles was needed this Season to be a father figure trying to look after his children as their lives fell apart. The fact he wasn't led to more angst than was necessary this Season.
And so we come to the 2 characters deserving of the 'most wasted opportunity' award. First up: Anya. She should have come so good this year. Giles was leaving and giving her the reins of the Magic shop, the cast was at it's smallest for years and she & Xander were getting married. So what went wrong? Simple; she had f--k all to do all year apart from fret over the wedding and become more and more grating as the season went on. It pains me to say this, as Anya is usually very funny indeed, but at one point I wanted all the spoilers to be wrong and for her to die. That's how much she was irritating me. Plus she really overshadowed Xander this season and the two effectively became one character. It was only after the split and she became a demon again that she started to come good. And she was brilliant in the finale. But that doesn't make up for a whole season of nothing. Was she crucial this season? Was she f--k! Nothing would have gone differently this season if she were absent. A real waste, but the finale gives me hope and I'll comment on that later. I've also got to add, what was the deal with the hairstyles this year? I swear, every 2 episodes it changed. It wasn't bad (well, slightly distracting maybe) but why the constant change?
Last and unfortunately least, we come to Dawn. Young Dawny did not enjoy a good second year. Apart, of course, from the last episode when everything miraculously came good. But the rest of the Season? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. She was wasted in every sense of the word. Her big story line? She was stealing stuff. That's it. Seriously. She was caught. She stopped. That's it. Possibly the worst and most pointless storyline in the history of Buffy, and I'm including dodgy beer from Season 4. What else? Oh yeah, she became increasingly whiny and was convinced Buffy hated the world and her. That's it. She had one episode devoted to her that wasn't all that good unfortunately. I mean, it's just such a f--king waste! Here we have a young girl who used to be the most powerful object in the universe. Are you telling me there's no stories from that? What about hidden powers, the monks wanting her back, bad guys convinced that she still has access to dimensions. What do we get? Shoplifting. Maybe it was all a joke. I know I was crying with laughter. Season 5 couldn't have existed without Dawn. Season 6 would probably have been better without her. It's the old saying: you ain't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Apart from the Finale of course. That gives me real hope but I'll talk about that later. As far as Season 6 goes for Dawn, fagedaboudit. What a waste.
So what else happened in Season 6. We had the worst villains ever in the form of the Nerd Troika Warren, Jonathon and Andrew. They were good as a kind of joke for a few episodes, but a whole season? And Warren gradually turning into a psycho wasn't really all that great fun to watch. It did give Jonathon a chance to really be a part of a Season, but I still feel they were a mistake. I understand that trying to top Glory would be impossible from a power level point of view. But if you're going to do 'real life' issues then just drop the bad guys. They're not necessary. It was a joke stretched to far and led once again to a rather average season.
The crossover that never was also hurt the season. Now I know that this wasn't the writer's fault as no guest star crossovers were allowed, but it still sucked. We should have seen Angel's reaction to Buffy coming back to life. And what about the wedding? No Cordy? No Giles for that matter either. How many people want Ripper to meet up with Wesley? Man, that would be some shocker for Giles to see the changes. And Angels kid? What would Buffy say about that? Y'see, this is one of the problems of spinning off a show so early in the life span of the Parent show. These are questions that should be answered and no matter how hard they try to divorce the two shows, they're still tied tightly together.
Was the Season all bad then? Off course not. The Musical is one of the finest hours of television ever produced. Truly, that was a gem that outshone almost any other episode of Buffy. Normal Again was great stuff as well, asking challenging questions and almost breaking down the fourth wall. But too many episodes were simply average or seemed better than they were because of the quality surrounding them. Joss has publicly said that he is still heavily involved in Buffy and I don't doubt that. As much as the image of Joss watching Tara die on TV and splurting out his tea in surprise amuses me, it simply ain't true. Nothing happens on the show without his consent, but it's the details. Little things that he would have done to make a good episode great. The lack of scripts and directing from this year also gave the feel of him stepping back, not to mention sharing the Exec. Producer role with Marti Noxon. I guess the question is if Joss was as heavily involved with this Season as he was in Season 2, would it have been better? You'd still have the same themes, same story arcs so what would change? Everything. Yes, the basic theme for the season would be fixed, but the mistakes that were made this year would have been spotted far earlier or at least limited. The little touches, that's were the difference would have been made. Would I still dislike this Season even if Joss was 100% committed? Maybe I would. But it would have been nice to find out. And that is almost my last word on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6.
My last thoughts on Season 6 (or Season Sex as some wag named it on the wastelands of Usenet) are my awards for the Season:
Best Writer: David Fury - Dave's script for Bargaining part 2 still leaves me cold, but almost everything else was great. And Grave was simply brilliant, if only for the scene between Willow and Xander.
Runner up: Joss Whedon - I know, it's outrageous having a writer who wrote only 1 episode but what an episode! Nobody writes these characters better than Whedon. It's that simple.
Worst Writer: Jane Espenson - And it's mainly for the horror show that's Doublemeat Palace. Jane's a great writer who has written some of my favourite episodes in the past and will almost certainly do so again. But this was a misfire and is still the worst episode of the Season so she gets the wooden spoon.
Runner up: Steven S DeKnight - Steve tended to get slated in newsgroups, mainly because he seemed to always be writing the 'controversial' episodes, but he's a good writer. However, he did pen the second worst episode of the Season, namely All The Way, a total disaster that only had the Willow subplot going for it. Plus I love the Halloween episodes and he ruined the nice (admittedly small) run that was going.
Best Actor: Sarah Michelle Gellar - Yeah, yeah, I know. Big shock. But as much as I hated Buffy's storyline this year is was probably an actor's dream and she took it and ran with it. I always believed Buffy really was going through hell, so ironically if Buffy was played by a poorer actor then I might have had a better time this year. But I totally bought SMG's portrayal of a young woman having the year from hell and she thoroughly deserves it.
Runner up: Alyson Hannigan - James Marsters was good as well this year, but Aly takes it. She's totally believable as someone getting addicted to magic and it's not her fault the writers dropped the ball during the one day detox. But she really shone as Dark Willow, a truly excellent portrayal of someone so far gone there seemed no way back.
Worst Actor: Emma Caulfield - This was a hard one as the cast are almost uniformly excellent. And Emma really wasn't bad this season. But her portrayal of Anya after the Musical gradually started to grate on my nerves and I'm not sure it was meant to be intentional (which is why Michelle Trachtenberg isn't here). In a sense, it's not bad acting, but the persona she decided to adopt for these episodes just started to rub me the wrong way and that's why she's here.
Runner up: Nick Brendon - It goes without saying that Nicks a great actor. But this year he faded from the screen and seemed more a background guy than a core member of the show. Of course, having no real scenes for a run of 5 episodes didn't help and he started to shine near the end of the season. But there just didn't seem to be the presence there usually is when he's on camera.
Best Episode: Once More, With Feeling - No surprise really, the musical rescued the entire Season and stands up there with the best Buffy/Angel ever produced. It's the sheer balls of the thing that really impresses and almost makes up for the lack of any other Joss episodes. Almost.
Runner up: Normal Again - The only other episode for contention was Dead Things, but that loses something on repeated viewing. This one still shines and that ending is undeniably spooky as the fans wonder what if...The mention of it again in Grave made me wonder if she was still in that dream world. Great stuff.
Worst Episode: Doublemeat Palace - This really does just bore me. I'm sorry, but sitting through this again is a chore and that's surely one of the greatest reasons why it's so bad.
Runner up: All The Way - No real surprise. The same reasons still apply that I wrote in my review. Go read them.
Best Character: Tara - Yep, I sure as hell didn't expect her either but Tara really shone this year. From developing a backbone through to becoming a mother figure for Buffy & Dawn she totally came good. And at least she left with a bang instead of doing a Riley.
Runner up: Giles - It is indeed very cheeky to say that a character that was absent for half the Season is my second favourite character. But he has so badly missed it wasn't even funny. And his return must rank as one of the best entrances ever.
Worst Character: Dawn - 3 words. What a waste. 3 months before Season 6 she's the most powerful force in the universe and is capable of destroying entire universes. This year, she's a shoplifter and a poor one at that. Give me a break.
Runner up: Anya - Pretty much the same reasons that I wrote for Dawn apply here. Mainly, a missed opportunity. Anya really should have matured this Season. Instead, she just started to irritate me, though she was indeed great in the Finale. But the damage had already been done.
Best Scene: When Xander tells Willow he loves her and she gradually loses her darkness (Grave) - This almost made the entire season worthwhile as these 2 characters who have been there since day 1 manage to save each other. Truly emotional stuff and genuinely a beautiful moment.
Runner up: When Buffy and Dawn walk arm in arm out of the graveyard and into the sunlight (Grave) - It's so important that Buffy stopped trying to hide the world from Dawn. She should be showing her the delights on offer and this scene established that things would be different from now on.
Worst Scene: The attempted rape by Spike on Buffy (Seeing Red) - Ugly, nasty and brutal. But almost worse than that, totally unnecessary from a story point of view. After Buffy split from Spike and she called him William it was over. Spike seemed to accept it for the next couple of episodes. He wasn't happy and he was frustrated but he accepted it. Then out of the blue he turns savagely on the one person he swore not to hurt. I hated the scene than and I still hate it now.
Runner up: When the gang loses their memory in the Magic Shop (Tabula Rasa) - A very funny scene with misunderstandings and comical reactions. Probably the funniest moment in the Season
And with that we draw a close to the Analysis part of the Season Review. We now leave Season 6 and look ahead to Season 7. Where do we go from here indeed?
This will probably be the shortest part of the whole Season Review as it's simply guessing. There's been no spoilers or indications regarding which way S7 is going to go. However, that's not going to stop me having a go!
First up, I think we'll see pretty much everybody be a lot happier next Season. There will still be fights and monsters, but it won't be totally dark. Expect more jokes and less serious issues, more like Season 1. It's also probably going to be the last Season for BtVS. SMG wants to move on and it's not such a bad idea to go out when you're at the top of your game. Giles will almost certainly leave again, but his timing this time is far better and makes much more sense. I'd be surprised if he's not in the last episodes.
Buffy & Dawn will be much closer this year. I think we'll also see Buffy being more of a watcher and Dawn the Slayer in training. The same sort of relationship from Season 1 with Buffy/Rupert, but less restrictive than Giles was. I also think Buffy will leave Sunnydale, but safe in the knowledge that it's protected by Dawn. Which is where a new spin off could come from. It's like other folk have said, Buffys story may be over, but the franchise is still rich with potential.
Willow and Xander will be very close next Season. I doubt Willow will be allowed to keep her Magic and she'll be stripped of them somehow. I also think there may be a romance between these 2 oldest of friends. How will this affect Anya? She'll be part of an uneasy threesome as she wants to help Willow, but wants Xander back as well.
Spike will be practically a new character next Season. He'll have to rebuild bridges he burnt last season and I think he'll be looked on as something of a leper by the gang. But he'll do something heroic and be accepted back into the scoobies. Will he win back Buffys heart? I don't think so, but I think his new found humanity will be enough of a reward for him next year.
Other things that might happen next year: I'd be surprised if Jonathon & Andrew don't show up again. Also, if it is the last Season, expect cameo's from the likes of Ethan, Amy and anyone else who showed up on a regular basis over the years.
Right, that's about it. All that remains is for me to thank the writers, actors and entire crew for putting out such a quality show. I might not have agreed with all the decisions made this year, but I respect the fact that they're taking chances and being experimental. And cheers to you, the person who reads this long and winding document, for giving my rambling thoughts a chance.
Let's hope next Seasons a cracker.