Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Six Review
Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer picks things up where the previous season left off, with Buffy (Gellar) dead and buried and now rotting in her grave leaving the Buffy Bot to maintain calm in the restless town of Sunnydale. Meanwhile Willow (Hannigan) and the Scooby Gang are working on a plan to bring Buffy back from the dead using magic and some very powerful witchcraft. Terrified that her best friend has been trapped in an unspeakable hell dimension for the past six months Willow enlists the power of Osiris, persuades the gang that the time is right and clumsily brings a dazed slayer back into the world. One question remains, did Buffy really want to be brought back? The answer is ‘probably not’ as the weary slayer later reveals to Spike (Marsters) she was in a place best described as heaven, a peaceful and happy time for her that she decides her friends can never know of. They do of course subsequently discover her secret in one of the most memorable episodes of any season, the musical extravaganza ‘Once More with Feeling’ where the gang are forced to express their inner most feelings to each other through song and dance.
The big bad of Season Six was a mixture of three nerds playing at super villains called the ‘Trio’ who team up to take over Sunnydale and to get rid of Buffy. The other trauma in this season is reserved for the Scooby Gang. Buffy is struggling to adapt to life again, she feels out of place and detached from the world and in desperation she turns to former foe Spike for physical comfort. Willow took a dramatic turn this season going dark through abuse of her magical powers which made for some dramatic twists and turns throughout the entire season. Xander (Brendon) and Anya (Caulfield) characters do not change much, but their relationship takes a significant turn during the year, finally Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn, (Trachtenberg) continues to whine away constantly throughout the season.
Episode Guide (1-22)
Please note that this episode guide contains spoilers for both this and previous Buffy seasons - if you wish to avoid these spoilers please jump to the next section.
1/2. Bargaining Parts 1 & 2 – The gang hopes to bring Buffy back from the dead with a magic spell. But they’re hindered by a group of motorcycle riding demons terrorizing Sunnydale. Buffy claws her way out of her own grave and must come to the aid of her friends.
3. Afterlife – As Buffy attempts to adjust to life after being resurrected, she and her friends battle a demon that may have ‘hitched a ride’ with Buffy as she crossed into our world from another dimension.
4. Flooded – Buffy tries to shoulder grown up responsibilities like running a household. A teenage trio, Andrew, Jonathan and Warren band together and use a demon’s unworldly strength to rob a bank.
5. Life Serial – Buffy’s Powers are tested by Andrew, Jonathan and Warren, who seek to expose and exploit her weaknesses in an effort to ultimately destroy her.
6. All the Way – On Halloween, Dawn experiences her first kiss… only to discover that the object of her affection has a deadly secret; Xander announces his engagement to Anya; Tara worries about Willow’s reliance on magic.
7. Once More With Feeling – In this musical extravaganza, people throughout Sunnydale find themselves bursting into song and flame, when a demon summoned from beyond attempts to make Dawn his bride.
8. Tabula Rasa – One of Willow’s magic spells goes awry, causing Buffy and her friends to forget who they are.
9. Smashed – Willow uses magic to turn Amy the rat into her old self; Jonathan, Warren and Andre use a freeze gun to steal a diamond from a museum; Spike discovers something unexpected about Buffy.
10. Wrecked – Amy introduces Willow to a warlock whose powerful black magic proves addictive; Buffy and Spike deal with the aftermath of their night of passion.
11. Gone – A social services worker threatens to take guardianship of Dawn. Meanwhile, Jonathan, Warren and Andrew’s latest gadget makes Buffy invisible and threatens to turn her molecular structure into goo.
12. Doublemeat Palace – When Buffy takes a job at a fast food restaurant, she comes to believe that disappearing co-workers and the secret ingredient to the restaurant’s hamburger patties may be connected.
13. Dead Things – When Jonathan, Warren and Andrew accidentally kill a young woman, they concoct a plan to pin the death on Buffy.
14. Older and Far Away – Buffy suspects Dawn may be to blame when a spell of unknown origin traps partygoers inside Buffy’s house with a sword-wielding monster.
15. As You Were – Buffy’s old boyfriend, Riley Finn, shows up unexpectedly as he tracks a demon about to hatch eggs that could wipe out Sunnydale.
16. Hell’s Bells – Anya and Xander’s wedding is thrown into turmoil when a man claiming to be Xander’s future self turns up at the ceremony.
17. Normal Again – Warren, Jonathan and Andrew unleash a demon whose powers make Buffy believe that her friends are figments of her imagination.
18. Entropy – Anya returns to Sunnydale with vengeance on her mind… and ends up hurting Xander in a way she never expected.
19. Seeing Red – When magic crystals infuse Warren with superhuman strength, he and his friends embark on a crime spree – leading to a confrontation with Buffy that ends in tragedy.
20. Villains – When Willow embraces the black arts to avenge Tara’s death, she uses her enormous power to track down Warren – despite Buffy’s strong feeling about targeting humans.
21. Two To Go – Fuelled by powerful Black Magic, Willow targets Andrew and Jonathan for destruction – leading to a spectacular battle between Buffy and Willow; in Africa, Spike faces off against a seemingly unstoppable foe as he seeks to rid himself of the implant chip.
22. Grave – After sucking all the magical energy out of Giles, an incredibly powerful Willow sets off to destroy the world; meanwhile, Buffy and Dawn fight off deadly creatures after they’re trapped inside a pit.
The standout episodes of season six have to be the season opener ‘Bargaining’, where the gang attempt to bring Buffy back to life. ‘Al the Way’ was a good attempt at showing Dawn’s increasing maturity. Gone was an enjoyable episode as Buffy’s invisibility made for some much needed comedy to return to the season. ‘Doublemeat Palace’ although not the greatest episode it did give us a chance to see Buffy with a real job. ‘Hell’s Bells delivered another dose of comedy into the season plus it was the Xander – Anya marriage episode. The final three episodes ‘Villains’, ‘Two To Go’ and Grave were also pivotal episodes within the season as they rounded off story arcs and brought the series to a spectacular conclusion.
The cast were all excellent, Sarah Michelle Gellar continued to excel in her portrayal of Buffy, while Michelle Trachtenberg continued to grow increasingly well into the character of Dawn in her second season. James Marsters was impressive as Spike, who at times was menacing and evil and other times he was caring and funny. Nicholas Brendon’s Xander continued to be the funny one of the group and ultimately ended up saving the world. Alyson Hannigan was excellent at bringing Willow’s dramatic twists and turns to the screen and Amber Benson was given some comedy this year in her role as Tara. Finally, Anthony Stewart Head remained as wonderful as ever in the role of Giles despite only making Guest appearances in Season Six.
Overall it is still a show that is highly entertaining within a season that was slightly disappointing due to the exploration of darker themes, which at times made it quite depressing to watch but having said that the it did have its lighter moments along with plot revelations that were unmissable for any Buffy fan.
All 22 Episodes of Season Six packaged in the now customary book style casing that has been used since Season 2 and the discs are easy to remove from the box without damaging them. The Menus are fine and are easy to navigate.
The picture is framed correctly at 1.78:1, this is an excellent transfer. The actual picture quality is the best so far. It is a very sharp anamorphic transfer there is now very little sign of smearing and the black level is a lot more solid than previous sets. I think that the colours now seem more vibrant and are firmly locked in place, overall an excellent presentation.
In terms of sound we have the now familiar Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro Logic Soundtrack. It’s a fairly rich soundtrack with clear dialog, rich music and the occasional surround effect that create a good ambience that adds to the atmosphere and your enjoyment of the show. I personally would have loved to have a Buffy set with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as while the current soundtrack does its job well it lacks the punch on the surround effects whereas a 5.1 soundtrack would improve this. I think it would be good if they had a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the final box set for Season Seven.
First up is a Commentary for Bargaining by Marti Noxon and David Fury. The commentary does not start until a massive ‘previously’ has finished. Marti and David are the writers of this two part opener which was originally shown in two parts on TV but on here it is one big episode. It’s very ambitious of them to try a two part commentary but it works very well, pay particular attention for their comments on George Lucas’ visit to the set. Marti and David are good together on this commentary and keep the pace up right until the end. It’s a fun and interesting commentary and definitely worth a listen.
Commentary for the Musical Episode Once More with Feeling by Joss Whedon. This has to be one of the best episodes of Buffy ever. This is an excellent commentary mainly because Joss is so enthusiastic about musicals and his passion for this episode in particular shines through everything he says. He talks very fast from start to finish and you learn about each song and the composition and choreography that went into each number and how each number suited the actor’s abilities.
David Fury’s ‘Behind the scenes of Once More with Feeling’ documentary. This runs for about 28 minutes and is much better than your average behind the scenes documentary. It shows behind the scenes footage of the cast recording their songs and practicing their dance routines. This is a great insight into the creation of this groundbreaking episode from the mastermind that is Joss Whedon, excellent one of the best Buffy extras ever.
Three Karaoke sing alongs: This is a bit of a novelty for a DVD. You can sing along to 3 songs from the musical: I’ve Got a Theory/Bunnies/We’re Together, I’ll Never Tell and Walk Through The Fire.
Easter egg: This is a hidden extra that lasts for about one and a half minutes and is a news piece on the record signing of the soundtrack album at a Tower Records store. You access it by going into the language selection menu on the episode menu and then pressing up from the resume episode button to reveal a purple Buffy symbol press enter and you can access the Easter egg.
First up is a commentary for Smashed by Drew Z. Greenberg, the writer of this episode. It is a slightly subdued commentary with interesting things to say but the comments from Drew are a bit sporadic. However for anyone interested in screen writing his comments on the art of screenwriting are insightful.
Next up is perhaps the best Buffy extra so far and very unique to any DVD released so far. Entitled the ‘Academy of Arts and Sciences Panel discussion’, this one hour feature was aired on American TV before the start of Season Seven. It features actors James Marsters (Spike), Alyson Hannigan (Willow), Nicholas Brendon (Xander), Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn), series Creator Joss Whedon and other crew members, who are interviewed on stage before an audience regarding the shows phenomenal success. In particular they are asked about the musical episode and lots of other thing that I won’t give away here. What I sense most from watching this is how passionate everyone who works on Buffy is about the show and this shines throughout the hour that the programme runs for. It is a funny and insightful look at the series and congratulations must go to Fox for its inclusion. One word of warning you might like to wait until you’ve watched the entire season before watching this as it does give away what happens in Season Six.
Finally there are trailers for Angel Season 1, 2 & 3 and Buffy Season 2, 3, 4 & 5 as well as the trailer for the original Buffy movie.
Behind the Scenes Featurette – ‘Buffy Goes to Work’. This is much more like the sort of extra that has featured on previous box sets. It lasts for about five minutes and starts out by underlining the need for Buffy to go out to work because she is broke from all the medical bills she had to pay to look after her mother and now that her mother is dead she needs the money to keep her house and support her sister Dawn. However the fun of this extra comes towards the end when cast and crew talk about their first jobs and what they would do if they didn’t work on Buffy, very revealing stuff.
This disc also contains a little Easter egg as DVD ROM content for your PC/MAC. It is the shooting schedule for the episode ‘Normal Again’.
Commentary for Hell’s Bells by David Solomon and Rebecca Rand Kirshner. This is a fun and fast moving commentary and the two of them work well together. I like their revealing comments like when they shot this episode it was sunny but they used fake rain, Anya’s wedding dress cost $5,000 and it took 5 fittings to get it right and there was a lot of improvisation e.g. Buffy juggling at the wedding to keep the guests entertained wasn’t in the script.
Commentary for Normal Again by Rick Rosenthal and Diego Gutierrez. This was both the director’s and writer’s first episode of Buffy and you can tell they are enthusiastic about this episode. It is quite a dry commentary but the two work well together and they go into great detail about the episode and what they have to say is interesting. They tell you a lot about the meaning of the episode and it questions whether perhaps Buffy had dreamt the past six years up as it moves between her time in Sunnydale now and the other half of the story about the possibility that the mental institution that she finds herself in is in fact the reality and it makes you think that by the end of the episode both of these realities could be true.
Commentary for Grave by James Contner and David Fury. This again is quite a dry commentary but it is very interesting as it reveals how certain things were done in this episode. The two people seem to be having fun and they work well together. One original idea for the end of season battle was to fight the dragon that Glory released at the end of Season Five but it was dropped because it was too expensive. They also talk about things that were slightly different in the first draft like when Buffy and Dawn fell into the ground it was into the sewers and the monsters they fought came out of tar instead of the earth in the finished script. Ultimately in the end this episode is about the power of love with Xander saving Willow and Buffy realizing that Dawn isn’t her kid sister anymore, and that she wants to see her sister grow up, and rather than trying to protect her from the world she wants to show her sister the world, which makes her happy as she now has the choice to climb out of the ground whereas before when her friends tried to bring her back she didn’t. The end scenes of this episode are beautifully acted by all and the commentary is well worth a listen.
Featurette – Season 6 Overview – Life is the Big Bad. This season there was no major monster for Buffy to fight it was just life itself. It was about the characters not being kids anymore and entering the grown up world and accepting the responsibilities of real life, counter to this the main villains of the series the Trio found it difficult to grow up. Everyone in the gang had to face their own traumas this season. Buffy found it hard to readjust to life after being brought back from a place where she was at peace. Dawn was starting to become a young woman but everyone else was too busy to notice, she also longed for her sister to stay with her. Willow’s abuse of Magic was shown as an addiction that was taken too far i.e. she killed a human. Xander was worried about marrying his ex demon bride Anya, but he ultimately becomes the hero of Season 6. For the first time ever he has power that previously was only reserved for Willow who was a Witch and Buffy who was the Slayer. In the end it was Xander’s love for his best friend Willow that was the only thing powerful enough to stop her from destroying the world. This documentary runs for 30 mins and I would advise you not to watch it until you have seen all the episodes as there is too much revealed. It is a good documentary as it explores the meaning behind the season which makes it well worth watching.
Featurette – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Television with a bite. The original vision for Buffy was to create a show that would live in people’s imaginations and that it would be a show that every boy and girl needs to see. The idea was to take the girl who usually screams and gets killed in all those horror movies and turn the idea upside down by making her into this strong female character, who was designed to be an icon and not just a TV show. This runs for about 45 minutes and gives you an overview of the entire Buffy phenomenon from conception right up to Season Seven. The great thing about this documentary is that we finally get to hear from Buffy herself Sarah Michelle Gellar who talks about her role as Buffy, how she got the role and how she originally approached the slayer’s character. I’m delighted that we finally get to hear from Sarah because that was one of the things that was seriously lacking from previous box sets.
Outtakes reel – Nearly three minutes of the usual gaffs and goofs of the cast messing up their lines.
Season 6 is by far the most grown up season of Buffy so far. The cast are all excellent and while for some this season was disappointing and depressing because of the darker themes it is still a very good season of a show that is still undoubtedly entertaining. I would recommend that if you’re new to Buffy you should try an earlier series to introduce you to the characters, if you are a fan however I cannot recommend this highly enough and the extras in this season are far and away the best yet for a Buffy box set.