Anybody who was surprised to see Joss Whedon writing one of the best comics being put out by “the House of Ideas” or Marvel Comics for those not in the know, must not have seen Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I haven’t talked about this yet but I’ve often thought while going through the seasons of Buffy that she is Whedon’s representation of a really good Spider-Man story. She’s superhuman, she makes snarky remarks while beating down the bad guys, and she has some real terrible luck with romance. With the whole fast regeneration thing there is room for a Wolverine argument too, especially since Whedon is writing Astonishing X-Men now. The Buffy series, outside of all the Marvel Comics references, and there are many, (Sgt. Rock, Avengers Assemble, to name a few) tonally feels like a story that could have been told in the pages of a Marvel book. Although there are some DC references, especially in season six (Justice League, Lex Luthor) the series doesn’t have that utopian otherworldly sci-fi feel that is common to DC books. I bring this up now because for Whedon was telling his Dark Phoenix or House of M (not sure about the release dates on those since I read House of M in reprinted graphic novels) story in season six with Willow. A friend of mine said to me not long ago that he felt that Buffy was the mainstream favorite and Willow was the favorite of true fan boys. That theory seems to hold with me because I consider my self a true fan boy and Willow has always been my favorite. Gellar did an amazing job on the series and really turned my opinion around of her as an actress but Alyson Hannigan is constantly hilarious, emotional, and well, she’s cute too! So finally, after the crappy treatment of her breakup with Oz, she gets a fair story arc here in season six.
At the end of season five Buffy died to save the world from impending doom. The gang struggled to move on without her with limited success, with the help of Spike. Knowing what happened to Angel when he died in a similar way to Buffy Willow became more and more worried over where Buffy’s soul ended up. Over the summer she had been gathering ingredients and working on a spell to resurrect Buffy. She told only the people she had too until the night she would do the spell at Buffy’s grave. The spell was a challenge for her, nearly ripping her apart and interrupted by a band of demons. To the gang it had seemed not to work but in fact it did and Buffy awoke still buried in her casket. Over the season premiere two parter she is reintroduced in a feral state, running totally on instinct at first barely speaking but fighting when she had too. Finally her senses come back fully but she doesn’t seem completely normal. She’s distracted and sad for someone who was brought back from a demon dimension of unending torture. Eventually Buffy admits to Spike, in a moving scene, that she in fact wasn’t being tortured in death, that she was in what must be Heaven. For the first time she was completely relaxed and she knew her friends were going to be fine. Then suddenly she was torn from that place and brought back to a world of death and constant danger. In her mind she was brought back to Hell. Over the next several episodes Buffy tries to rediscover herself and forget what she has lost without telling her friends what she was going through. She tries to go back to college but that doesn’t seem to fit and finally she ends up working at a fast food place just to pay the bills. This is a side to Buffy we’ve seen before, when she first came to Sunnydale, when she started college, but never to this extreme. Buffy also finally realizes she is attracted to Spike and in the episode “Smashed” they have a steamy and destructive sex scene that really works as an allegory to the relationship that was to come.
As Buffy finally starts to settle back into this world and who she is Willow’s story arc begins. Willow is using magic for everything; even the most minor of tasks and Tara believes she is doing it too much. The thing that brought them together is becoming a wedge in their relationship. This leads us up to another of those innovative episodes that Joss Whedon has dome each season of the series starting back in season two. The episode of which I speak, “Once More With Feeling” is definitely the most unique episode of the Buffy series. In this episode a demon is accidentally summoned by Dawn that forces everyone in Sunnydale to break out in song and dance. The performances eventually get so extreme that the performer bursts into flame. This is a pretty creative way for Joss to have an excuse to write a musical. The episode is shot in lavish widescreen and cut to resemble a classic musical. The songs all reveal hidden secrets about those that sing them. Through the music Buffy’s fears about how Spike feels about her are confirmed. Trouble in the paradise of Xander and Anya’s relationship is also made prevalent and most importantly Buffy reveals her secret about where she was when she was dead to everyone. The songs are just horrible and only a couple of the actors can actually carry a tune so that just makes it all even funnier. Two scenes for me stand out; Spike singing a fluffy show tune while doing his tough guy strut through town was hilarious, and at the end when Buffy is fighting a bunch of demons Giles tells two of the girls that she needs backup and they leap behind her and start singing. That is gold my friends, pure comedy gold.
Willow is devastated to know that she is responsible for dragging Buffy back from Heaven rather than a Hell and she is hurt over the fight with Tara so she falls back into her comfort zone; she casts a spell. The spell was supposed to make Buffy and Tara forget what she had done to them but it instead made the whole gang forget everything about themselves and each other. Tara finally breaks up with Willow fearing that Willow has become addicted to doing magic. Willow sitting alone ion her room realizes that she has the ability to turn the rat they’ve had for a pet back into human form. Once done Willow and Amy hit the town doing frivolous magic the whole way. Amy takes Willow to a Warlock who deals magic like a drug dealer and Willow is quickly hooked. At the end Willow crashes and decides that she is done with magic, she has to be.
While Willow’s story continues to grow a few other stories do get some attention this season. In the episode “Older and Far Away” Dawn’s plea for attention from her sister and her sister’s friends is answered by a vengeance demon that is friends with Anya. The demon casts a spell that locks everyone in Buffy’s house. Dawn feels out of place, neglected, and alone and this theme is returned to often for Dawn. In this episode Tara and Willow rediscover each other. Tara is happy to see a magic free Willow and the spark between them returns. Another story that gets attention is the marriage of Xander and Anya in the episode “Hells Bells”. At the wedding Xander is tricked by a demon seeking revenge on Anya into believing that a future with Anya would lead to misery and violence. Even when Xander discovers that the story isn’t real his observations of his own mother and father make him feel that maybe he isn’t ready to be married. Anya’s lonely walk up the aisle is one of her best moments in the series.
The main villain or villains in this case play into the climax of the season and of willow’s story arc. Overall the season is pretty dark, and oddly the villains play in stark contrast. They are a group of young genius nerds that are funnier than ominous and they never seem to be a challenge for Buffy. They never bring any real suspense to the season until the final couple of episodes. After Buffy defeated the villains for good one of them shows up at her house humiliated once again, just as he must’ve been over and over in high school. This time he is armed though and he shoots both Buffy and Tara before running away. Tara dies on the spot and Buffy is taken to the hospital. Willow calls on a demon to save Tara but tells her that it cannot be done, that she has done this once before and she’ll never be able to do it again. Her anger and need for revenge allow the magic to literally consume her. Her hair and eyes turn black and every bit of power she wields comes into play. She goes to the hospital and saves Buffy and then tears a hole through Sunnydale after her girlfriend’s killer. Buffy and crew try to stop her and even Giles who left several episodes back to allow Buffy to fend for herself returns with borrowed power from a bunch of witches to try and stop Willow.
Willow gets her revenge on Warren, literally ripping his skin off then burning him down to ash. But Giles infects her with a batch of good magic that he hoped would allow her to see the good in people and return her to normal. Instead she was suddenly able to feel everyone’s pain and she decided that the only way to stop it was destroy the world. A simple ting stopped her though. The normally useless, when it comes to power anyway, Xander appears to her and tells her he loves her. She fights him at first but the unconditional love of her best friend brings her back. Willow’s story arc in this season features some of her best scenes in the series.
Spike’s cliffhanger ending added a fantastic DAMN! moment at the end of the last episode. He went to an African demon seeking help to remove the chip that kept him from being a complete vampire. He was put through several trials in order to “become the man he once was” and “give Buffy what she deserves”. In the closing moments he passed the challenges and the demon granted his wish, by returning Spike’s soul to him.
While season six is still not on par with two and three, the Willow story makes it a very strong contender. The villains are really the weakness to the season. They are definitely humorous but they don’t add any epic drama to the story and as dark as the season is overall they just feel out of place. They would have made excellent sidekicks to some much more ominous villain. Other than that though there’s not much to complain about. There’s a ton of really great emotional moments in this season and one of the riskiest episodes of any series I’ve seen. These damn villains just don’t live up to those in previous seasons. Even Glory was scarier than these guys!