It’s been a while – quite a while, actually – since I wrote a Buffy season summary.
We’re up to season 6, which in my opinion is quite a strange one. Not bad, but strange. I loved season 5 so much, I loved the energy of it and the way the characters grow. The introduction of a completely new character, a sister for Buffy, is in my opinion genius!
I think for me, this season is all about the lowest points of our characters. They all hit some form of rock bottom.
Buffy is depressed because her own friends tore her out of what they think was a hell dimension. She ignores her friends problems, and sleeps with Spike; she tries to shift her responsibilities onto Giles; She neglects Dawn; and she refuses to open to anyone. She goes through a lot pain. She goes through certain stages. A sort of denial for a few episodes. We as an audience are led to believe that at first she is just struggling to adjust, but then she reveals to Spike that she was in heaven. Her friends can never know. She attempts then to “move on”, choosing to in fact keep it in and cut herself off. She admits to her friends that the reason she is behaving the way she is, is that they expelled her from heaven, in the fantastic episode Once More With Feeling. Still feeling empty she turns to Spike, refusing to admit that she would allow herself to be that vulnerable, particularly with Spike, she pushes herself further away. She is out late hours, avoids confrontation with her friends, and even gets a job to try and pay the bills! A job that takes her away from home between patrols. No matter what distraction she finds for herself, she doesn’t stop sleeping with Spike. She is disgusted with herself, angry and yet it’s the only time she feels anything. When she finally starts to get a bit of perspective in her life – he might care for her and make her feel, but he has it in him to do wrong. It isn’t until the end of the season, when she is finally aware of her other friends heartache and pain, that she realizes that she’s been given an extra chance at life and has to face a an evil bigger than any she has ever seen. “Dark Willow” created from the fury, anger and vengeance Willow feels when Warren accidentally shoots and kills Tara. Despite her revelation, I think we can all agree that she’s never quite the same again.
Willow’s downward spiral is slightly different to Buffy’s. Already down at the start of the season after the loss of Buffy and trying to cope with the Buffy-Bot, she decides to bring Buffy back. This makes her feel powerful and is the start of something dangerous. She starts to act angry towards her friends, daring them to judge and defy her. She feels angry that Buffy isn’t more grateful for being alive. She starts to abuse magic like a drug, staying out late all night and being tapped out the next morning to do anything. This puts pressure on her relationship with Tara. She can’t go a week without magic, using it to attempt to cover up her mistakes, wiping the whole gangs memories when it backfires. This forces Tara to leave her, who is shocked and disgusted that her lover and best friend would do something to violate her mind after having drained by Glory. As she continues down her spiral, she endangers Dawn, causing her to become injured. This is her stopping point. Through a struggle that again seems to be just like coming off a drug addiction cold turkey. She starts making peace with her friends and even finds her way back to Tara. In a heart-wrenching moment, Tara is ripped away from her. Willow instantly looses control, demanding that the greater forces bring her back, and she refused. She turns to the dark side and becomes the worst version of herself. She seeks revenge, killing Warren; she almost kills Giles and she forces Buffy and Dawn to fight for their lives. She feels the worlds pain and suffering and determines to end it.
Xander and Anya finally reveal their engagement, something that seems to almost loom over the group rather excite them. As the big day approaches, we see that the stress is is causing various strains on them, but never in the world think that this couple wouldn’t make it. Come the big day and of course, a demon takes Xander on a journey to the “future” showing him that if they marry on this day, their lives will be filled with misery and hate. It’s just a trick from one of Anya’s scorned ex-lovers, but of course it makes Xander realize his doubts, something that had previously been hinted at in the episode Once More With Feeling, when Xander summons Sweet, the all singing, all dancing demon because he wanted to know if they would have a happy ending. This leads them each down their own bad path, although Xander seems to cope with his a little better. He disappears for a few days to have his own space, then and upon returning starts the healing process with his friend. He attempts to reconcile with Anya, but in her hurt and misery she has returned to what she knows best – vengeance.
Dawn suffers with feeling lonely, like Buffy – or anyone else for that matter – wants to be around her. She used to be this force of ancient energy that needed to be protected by everyone around her. She was once important, with the ability to end the world. Now she’s an ordinary teenage girl, no special powers, and no need for protection. To compensate for this, she steals from the Magic Box – and other shops, we find out later – doing so meaning that she punishing her friends and family, while making herself feel important.
Giles notices that Buffy turns away from her friends, and that she shirks her responsibilities. He is angry at Willow for being careless with her magic. He seems to notice everyone else s downfalls, but feels that running away instead of helping, is the solution. Giles has a constant struggle with feeling needed and but when he is needed for the wrong reasons, he also struggles. Upon his leaving, he misses out on the manor downward spirals of the group and returns in an attempt to clean up after them, forcing him to battle it out with Dark Willow, something that we never would have foreseen in the early years of Buffy.
Spike is still struggling with being in love with Buffy. Once she starts sleeping with him, this gets worse. He is convinced that her feelings go deeper than just sex. We all feel for Spike. Why can’t Buffy give him a chance? Because her friends wouldn’t understand? They didn’t understand when she got back together with Angel but she still did it. Hasn’t he proven himself to be a good man? He helped her friends whilst she was dead, and repeatedly took care of Dawn. He still has his demon side though. From doing things like playing cards for kittens, to Suvolte demon eggs and denying it. Eventually though, Buffy finds a way to tell him why she can’t love him in what I think is one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever had to watch in a Buffy episode. After a particularly bad night for Buffy, Spike comes to the house. He might not have the intention to do so at first, but he attempts to rape her. Although she seems to struggle against his strength, she manages to get him off. In an instant he realizes what he’s done, leading him to flee Sunnydale in the hope to become the man he once was. When he returns in the next season, he is the second vampire with a soul to grace our screens.
Keeping in the theme with Buffy, there are certain metaphors that lie within this season, for things that we come across when we are growing up. If we glance back to season two, we saw the consequences of having sex in high school – a risk of pregnancy and STDS in reality – explored by Angel turning into a monster. We now see magic used to represent drug addiction and the awful things that come with it – your body suffers, you start to push your friends away, you have to try and become sober, your body suffers and finally we have death.
Although Tara’s death is link directly to Willow’s magic addiction, in some ways it is. Warren attempt to shoot Buffy, misses and hits Tara. He shoots Buffy because she defeats him easily, every time. In the natural order of the universe though, Buffy shouldn’t even be there for Warren to even shoot. If Willow hadn’t have brought Buffy back, she wouldn’t have lost Tara. It’s a strange sort of payment – her girlfriend in exchange for her best friend.
All in all, I think season 6 is a great one. It has some wonderful episodes, the highlights being Bargaining 1 & 2, Life Serial, Once More With Feeling, Tabula Rasa, Dead Things, Older and Far Away, Hells Bells, Normal Again, Seeing Red, Villains, Two To Go and Grave
Who our “big bad” is, is a debate that Buffy fans all around seem to love having. The majority deny Willow as a “big bad” and claim it falls to the Trio. Some say its both. Some say that ulitmately Dark Willow is the big bad, and the Trio to pose any threat whatsoever.
In my opinion, it’s a bit of both. The Trio are a in pain for Buffy throughout the season, but they hardly any kind of big bad. However, they – or more Warren – create Dark Willow. To me, if Angelous can be season two’s big bad, then Dark Willow can be season 6s. After all, she is the dark side of an otherwise good character. She kills for revenge, but would kill her friends if it go in the way. She almost kills Giles after all! While putting Angel’s soul back into him is what brings him back, a little bit of love and humanity – plus Giles giving her an overdose of power – brings out red haired Wicca-who-wonta back to us.
I suppose the difference between Angelous and Dark Willow is that their justifications to end the world are both very different. Angelous wants to do it for fun, Dark Willow wants to do it to end the suffering of everyone on earth.
One approach I’ve not seen as of yet, is that maybe the big bad here isn’t a person or a demon or a witch or a vampire. Maybe it’s a thing. Maybe it’s dark magic.
Until next time, thank you for reading!