Apropos of Nothing in Particular: A Rant about Season Six of Buffy (many years after the fact)

I recently caught a couple of Buffy episodes from season six, Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa.  These are probably the best episodes in what was a thoroughly disappointing season.  Once More With Feeling is wonderful.  Joss Wheedon is truly a renaissance man, turning out a musical episode while running both Buffy and Angel.  The cast is game as well.  Even though their singing leaves a bit (a lot) to be desired, they give it their best shot.  And the songs are surprisingly catchy.  I've been singing snatches of songs – "give me something to sing about," "I will walk through the fire," "I wish I could stay," etc, etc – for the last week. 

But it also reveals the shoddy characterisations that wrecked the later seasons.  For example, Giles decides that the best way to help Buffy is to leave her alone with her struggle to belong in the world again.  I don't buy that at all.  And the whole Willow/Tara one true love crap just hurts me.  Tara doesn't exist as her own character, she's only there as a vehicle for Willow's plot.  Female characters on tv and in movies often serve no function but to reflect whichever man they're in relationship with, and it's disheartening to see this dynamic played out even in a depiction of a lesbian relationship.  And then there's Spike.  And Buffy.  And Spike and Buffy.  I don't think the writers ever quite decided what to do with Spike.  He veers between villain and noble hero depending on who wrote the particular episode and it's all rather whiplash-inducing.

It's telling I think, that Tabula Rasa, the only fun episode of the season, involved erasing everyone's memories.  If you have to wipe everything that you've already written in order to free up your characters, you've probably taken some wrong turns along the way.  And, even then, the comedy relies on fans' insider knowledge rather than on the actual happenings in the episode.  It's all too too meta with Willow's repetition of her "I think I'm kinda gay" line from season three, and Buffy and Spike's conversation about how lame the idea of a vampire with a soul is.

However, the fact that I'm even thinking about the series, years after it ended its initial run, says something about just how good it was.  I was (am) all the more annoyed about the last few seasons because the first three seasons and parts of season four were so wonderful.  They broke my show and I was pissed about it.

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2 Responses to Apropos of Nothing in Particular: A Rant about Season Six of Buffy (many years after the fact)

  1. Anya's Mom says:

    Oh, no, Janette, I'm afraid I have to disagree! We are huge Buffy fans having watched the entire series start to finish countless times. While I agree that season 6 was difficult I don't think that it broke the series. It was a pit of depression, for sure, but I think it also started to address that the Scoobies were growing up. Too often tv shows forget to age their characters. I think when Giles left it was meant to free Buffy from the helpless position that she was sinking into. It was totally difficult to watch and it kind of made you hate Giles a bit, but none of the Buffy characters are perfect and the writers are not afraid to show their flaws, which is what made the show so stellar. I hate the Buffy/Spike situation, too. When Buffy lets Spike violate her (as I see it) in the Bronze it makes me sick to my stomach, but again I get what the writers were doing with that plot line. I think the back and forth between good Spike bad Spike is very intentional. The audience isn't supposed to know what to think about Spike, is he good or is he bad? This is a question we also have to answer (unsatisfactorily usually) everyday in the "real world". This is an issue that is followed through on in the last season of Angel, too.Ok, one last point and then I will give up on my hijacking of your blog! I hear people often say that seasons 1-3 were the best. I have to respectfully disagree. I actually dislike season 1 the most of all of the seasons. The writing, acting, effects were all substandard in comparison to later seasons. I also think that season 4 is very underrated. Some of our favorite quotable episodes come from season 4. We even watch the Thanksgiving episode from season 4 every Thanksgiving as part of our holiday tradition. Season 5 also has some amazing work, too. The Body is an absolutely amazing episode and one that can make me cry just by thinking of it. If I ever teach another Human Development class I am going to show that episode when we get to death and dying!Ack, sorry that was way more than I'm sure you needed or wanted to know about my opinions of Buffy! Once I get going it's hard to get me to stop! 😉

  2. Janette says:

    Hey there. Great comment/post 🙂 I'm always up for a good Buffy discussion so feel free to write as much as you like.Your comment
    sent me off to clarify my thoughts about what exactly is wrong with
    season six for me. I think we agree about the thematic content of the
    season. About the Scoobies growing up and the way Buffy uses her
    sexuality to work through her angst about her life. And, like you, I
    say yay for the writers taking on those sometimes confronting issues.But,
    season six fails for me at the level of story. It felt to me like a collection of ideas
    (often great ideas) and events (like Tara's death and the wedding) with
    no narrative through line to pull them together. The episodes just
    hopped from one thing to the next with the writers pulling ridiculous
    things like that temple out of their hats as needed without regard to
    probability or internal consistency. I felt like I was watching the tv
    version of all those herky jerky student essays I used to have to
    grade, essays with a randomly-selected idea per paragraph and no real
    logical connection or progression between the paragraphs.All the
    earlier seasons had a strong narrative arc with foreshadowing and
    continuity and events building from week to week even in the filler and
    monster of the week episodes. But in season six all those narrative
    subtleties disappeared, leaving the thematic concerns (and the
    characters for that matter) flopping around like stranded fish.

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