End of Season 6 (6.12 - 6.22)
6.12 DoubleMeat Palace
Unusually, we start with some description of events we haven't seen - visiting the trio's den only to find they're gone.
BUFFY: Wow. They're all so identical.
MANNY: Yeah. They all start to look the same to me too.
BUFFY: Oh, no, not the employees, the, the chicken slices.
There's a scary demon, which Willow kills after discovering that the burgers are made of cellulose with science. It's a simple episode and very slow-paced and lacking in peril or fun, although the script does try.
6.13 Dead Things
Buffy and Spike are at it every episode, and now the trio are looking for sex slaves. Well, I guess they're all that particular age.
SPIKE: Do you even like me?
Warren is getting seriously creepy though.
XANDER: You've been going at it too hard, Buffy. We hardly ever see you, what with slinging the double meat and pounding the big evil.
ANYA: You are looking a little pounded. Just around the eyes.
Creepiness is being taken to a new level, actually.
SPIKE: That's not your world. You belong in the shadows... with me.
After the banality and slowness of the last episode, this one is full of questioning relationships. And time-distorting demons and Tara's back so that's good too.
ANDREW: We really got away with murder. That's... kinda cool...
I think we're clear now that Warren is evil, Andrew is within sight of it, but Jonathan's not really with them.
BUFFY: Using him? What's okay about that?
TARA: It's not that simple.
BUFFY: It is! It's wrong. I'm wrong. Tell me that I'm wrong, please... please don't forgive me, please...
6.14 Older and Far Away
How long have the credits ended with "and Alyson Hannigan as Willow"? Since Giles left? She's not really carrying the weight he did - this is the character who only influenced events in two or three episodes in season 5, and so far this season has mostly done bad things.
XANDER: So, who's coming, you invite anyone else?
BUFFY: Just you guys. Willow, Tara. The gang. Oh, and Sophie from work. What? Like I'm one of those losers who can't make friends outside her tight little circle? No. I'm friendly. We bonded instantly. Peas in a pod. Bonded peas.
ANYA: Really? Um, what's Sophie's last name?
BUFFY: Okay, shut up.
It's Buffy's birthday again, reminding us of the good old days with Giles around to explain everything. This time we have Spike's friend Clem and two human friends who oddly contribute virtually nothing. One of them gets injured but we never see him again after he goes to hospital, or find out whether he survived.
DAWN: God! I didn't do anything! I wish I had. I'm glad you're trapped. How else can I get anybody to spend any time with me?
I'm not the only one reminded of the old days:
SPIKE: So, you ever think about not celebrating a birthday? Just to try it, I mean.
There's some very odd dialogue where Tara taunts Spike - uncharacteristically bold of Tara. Willow's only contribution in this episode is to refuse to help with magic.
This episode typifies what I don't like about season 6.
- Buffy is miserable with her crappy fast-food job
- Willow is miserable about not being able to do magic
- Xander and Anya are stressed about the wedding
- Spike is frustrated by being used by Buffy and having to keep it secret
- Tara is unhappy with Willow and having to keep Buffy/Spike secret
- Giles is presumably still unhappy about being unable to help Buffy
- Angel doesn't even show up one single time
- Dawn is miserable about being alone and ignored by everyone
- the three guests are unhappy about being stuck in the house
Absolutely everyone in the show is miserable. It makes for miserable watching. In earlier seasons they balanced it out, one character having problems (usually Buffy) while another had something good happening. In this season it's just relentless misery.
6.15 As You Were
WILLOW: You know, when I was little, I used to spend hours imagining what my wedding to Xander would be like. And now I look at them I just think... Nya-ha-ha!
This episode has fun in a way that the birthday episode was absolutely missing. The Dawn/vengeance demon thing was a good idea, they just forgot to bring the fun.
BUFFY: Welcome to the Double Meat Palace, how may I help... you.
Still, the sucky life Buffy's been leading probably helps us welcome the sight of Riley.
RILEY: I want to explain, I just don't have time. I've been up for 48 hours straight tracking something bad, and now it's come to Sunnydale.
BUFFY: My hat has a cow.
Clearly this episode is written by someone who knows how to write Buffy's voice. (I'm still resisting looking up the actual writer credits.) There's even a sexual tension thing going on. Even after Riley's wife shows up.
WILLOW: Well, that's the beauty! You can't, but I can. Please. Let me carry the hate for the both of us.
BUFFY: Go nuts.
DAWN: So. What brings you back to town after you left suddenly with no word?
Despite only appearing in this one episode, Sam is made far more use of than the completely unmemorable two friends characters from the previous one.
SAM: I gotta tell you, Buffy, I'm a little bit intimidated. I mean, patrolling with the real live Slayer, you're like... Santa Claus, or Buddha or something.
BUFFY: Fat and jolly?
6.16 Hell's Bells
We meet Xander's parents for what I'm pretty sure is the first time, apart from the silhouette of his father at the top of the stairs in Restless.
BUFFY: You and Anya give me hope. It's like you two are proof that there's light at the end of this very long, long, nasty tunnel.
The wedding is at the "Sunnydale Bison's Lodge", another venue we haven't seen before. Sunnydale just keeps on growing.
D'HOFFRYN: May the love we celebrate today avoid an almost inevitable decline.
It's a rare Xander-centric episode and he does pretty well at carrying it. But he's overshadowed by Anya's performance, both as thirty-years-later Anya and as jilted-bride Anya.
SPIKE: It's nice to watch you be happy. For them, even. I don't see it a lot. You glow.
BUFFY: That's because the dress is radioactive.
I remembered it as another misery-all-round episode but actually it's not quite that bad. Buffy and Spike, and Willow and Tara, are getting better while things are getting worse for Xander and Anya. And I feel differently watching it as a married person than I did when it first aired. Love is sad, and marriage is scary. No wonder young people nowadays are increasingly just not doing it.
6.17 Normal Again
Before the credits, the nerds are bickering (without the previous humour) and Buffy's losing a fight against Andrew's demon; after, Willow's seeing Tara getting on with her life, and Buffy's the only employee of the Doublemeat Palace not wearing a hat for some reason.
BUFFY: Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen.
And Xander's looking for Anya, who's gone. It's looking like one of those joyless episodes. Even if I do get a little thrill from seeing Buffy's mom and dad again.
XANDER: What? You think this isn't real just because of all the vampires and demons and ex-vengeance demons and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?
Spike's a key factor in the plot but not very much a presence.
SPIKE: Oh balls. You didn't say he was a glarghk guhl kashma'nik.
XANDER: That's because I can't say glarg...
And there's yet more you're-not-my-sister suffering for Dawn. That's getting so tedious - it's been going on for over a year.
BUFFY: What's more real? A sick girl in an institution? Or some type of supergirl, chosen to fight demons and save
The first time I saw this episode, I hated the ending - it ends with the institution, not Sunnydale, which I thought implied that the institution was the real world after all. But now I see that Buffy hasn't had the antidote yet, so she's still fighting its existence. Without that objection, it's an intellectually interesting step along Buffy's journey back to finding herself which this season charts; but it's still joyless.
Warren is plotting with Andrew against Jonathan, reminding us that they're evil. We get to see a busy shopping street in Sunnydale that has a lot more shops than the street with Espresso Pump. Apart from that it's mostly supposed to be about forgiveness I think, specifically the scoobies forgiving Xander/Buffy for jilting Anya/shagging Spike.
SPIKE: I've never stooped that low, and I'm an evil, soulless thing. According to some people.
According to Xander, but in a much later scene so I guess this episode got mucked around by a script editor. Still, the flirtation between Anya and Spike is kind of fun (even though Willow hacking into the cameras is a bit laboured).
WARREN: Is that-
ANDREW: He is so cool.
Spike and Anya "moving on" by hooking up isn't entirely plausible and seems a bit too necessary to make the plot work. But at least it's amusing - they are the amusing characters, after all.
TARA: Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard. You can't ever put them back the way they were.
The ending is a very odd emotional contrast, cutting from Anya/Xander and Buffy/Spike falling apart to Willow and Tara.
TARA: There's just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again, on both sides. You have to learn if... if we're even the same people we were, if you can fit in each other's lives. It's a long, important process, and... can we just skip it? Can you just be kissing me now?
Apparently lesbians are allowed to actually kiss now - after all these years of Willow and Tara having to have the lights out and the making of stupid jokes about giving up men. That gives it all the more impact besides being well written and rather beautiful anyway.
6.19 Seeing Red
Just in case there was anything they hadn't yet done to make sure we care about Tara, she's featured in her own little section of the opening credits for the first time.
SPIKE: Must still be a bit of the evil left in me after all.
The "after all" is interesting. Spike thought he was evil long after he started helping the slayer when he could be hurting her.
CLEM: The Slayer, huh? Gosh. (shaking head) She break up with you again?
SPIKE: We were never together. Not really. She'd never lower herself that far.
CLEM: She's a sweet girl, Spike, but hey... issues. And no wonder, with the whole coming back from the grave and whatnot.
Season 6 in a nutshell: issues. All round.
ANDREW: Kill her, kill her!
The distinction is being made ever clearer between Jonathan and Andrew. It's a shame Jonathan never gets any credit for saving Buffy's life in this episode. But while Andrew is evil, and has only failed to kill anyone so far due to not being as competent as Warren, he does retain a certain virginal innocence which makes him not, overall, as unsympathetic.
ANDREW: How could he do this to me? He promised we'd be together, but he was just using me. He never really loved - uh - hanging out with us.
There's a touching scene when Buffy and Xander make up, but it starts with Buffy poking around her garden for cameras with a stick, and a line which made me spray wine out of my mouth:
XANDER: Time for the Spring poking already?
Tara's back to a couple of glimpses in the credits. Buffy gets taken to an improbably public operating theatre, to be operated on without anasthesia.
XANDER: You've got to stop doing this. This dying thing's funny once, maybe twice.
This is a much more pacey episode than we've had for a long time. There's a funny scene with Warren in a demon bar, and a pretty cool scene where Willow sucks dark magicks out of books and it turns her hair black. It's on a bigger canvas, going beyond Sunnydale to chase Warren.
WILLOW: It's a robot.
Saw that one coming.
There's a discussion about why it's wrong to kill humans which seems vaguely familiar. Didn't Giles have to go through this last time round?
Spike's apparently in Africa, already; that was quick.
Willow torturing Warren is mildly alarming, because it's Willow, but it's made clear that he's seriously evil, and his agony isn't honestly very convincing. Then she flays him and he bursts into flames so quickly that you barely even see it. The first time I saw this episode I think I wasn't entirely sure what happened until it's made clear in the dialogue.
6.21 Two to Go
Weirdly, it's not Giles doing the "Previously..." voice-over, it's Xander.
ANDREW: Ohmigod, Warren!
JONATHAN: Ohmigod, me!
Still, we're clear that while Andrew is evil (if relatively innocent), Jonathan is still the vulnerable kid we saw in high school.
JONATHAN: I still can't believe that was Willow. I mean, I've known her almost as long as you guys. Willow was... you know. She packed her own lunches and wore floods and was always... just Willow.
I had to google floods to find out they are trousers which stop at the ankle. Can't say I ever noticed them. Of course when Buffy was first shown, google did not know everything and references like this remained opaque.
JONATHAN: And do what?
ANDREW: Start over. We can be a duo, you and me. You can even be the leader, I swear, I'll take orders. I like taking orders. Just tell me what to do.
They're working very hard to make Andrew a pathetic character - even at this point in the series the scoobies are still saying "Jonathan and that other one".
WILLOW: Let me tell you something about Willow. She's a loser. And she always has been. People picked on Willow in junior high school, high school, up until college, with her stupid mousy ways. And now Willow's a junkie. The only thing Willow was ever good for... the only thing I had going for me... were the moments - just moments - when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful. And that will never happen again.
Whereas Willow has a proper reason for being evil.
BUFFY: Are we really gonna do this?
WILLOW: Come on, this is a huge deal for me! Six years as a side man, and now I get to be the slayer.
BUFFY: A killer isn't a Slayer. Being a Slayer means something you can't conceive of.
And so we have the epic battle between Buffy and Willow? OK, never saw that coming - Willow is the big bad and the trio were just a misdirect.
GILES: I'd like to test that theory.
Yay, Buffy is much better with Giles around to explain things:
GILES: There's an extremely powerful coven in Devon. They sensed the rise of a dangerous magical force here in Sunnydale. A dark force, fuelled by grief.
Plus he has a sane reaction to the suckiness of this year: laugh at it as absurd.
WILLOW: Fly, my pretty, fly. See what I did there?
I think the title of this episode is there to draw our attention to the fact that Buffy ends this season as she started it, in a hole in the ground. Buffy has to have a swordfight, but for once it's nothing to do with saving the world and that's up to Xander.
BUFFY: Things have really sucked lately. But it's all gonna change.
I think that's a little message from the writers to the Buffy fans there. That, plus the series ending on Spike, make it clear that unlike every previous season, where there was always an ending that could stand as the final ending of the story, this is to be continued...