Once More, With Feeling is one of the top five episodes of the series. Tabula Rasa is in the top ten. Wrecked is one of the ten worst episodes, and I’m not a big fan of either Doublemeat Palace (although it’s not as bad as some people say) or Hell’s Bells.
A big focus of criticism was Willow’s story arc. Personally I was OK with it in the course of the season and IMHO it was explained very satisfactorily by Giles in the opening ep of season 7. I had no problem with the idea of manipulating vast amounts of magic having addictive properties. Throughout the series it was made clear that using dark forces was dangerous. Willow got in over her head and abused the magic rather than using it. My feeling was generally that the gross manipulation of energy was what was most harmful, with the more ritualized usage through the casting of spells being much less dangerous. Then Giles in season 7 pretty much confirmed for me that viewpoint with his discussion of how it was power rather than magic that was addictive. I’ve heard that dismissed as a cheap fix in response to the hatred of the magic=drugs arc but regardless I was OK with it.
Season 6 is my favorite of the later seasons, which is odd, because I didn’t like the Willow arc, and I don’t like Tara, and they were both major parts of the season. But, like Otto said, the season had Once More with Feeling, and Tabula Rasa, and also had Normal Again, which sort of subverted the whole series.
While it is my least favorite season, there’s no such thing as bad buffy to me. I never saw the huge problem with the magic abuse arc…can someone explain to me why it is so generally hated by internet fans? Besides ONCE MORE WITH FEELING i don’t really find any season 6 episodes to be stand out and i don’t really see what all the praise for TABULA RASA is all about, it’s the same concept the have done so many times before (characters forget who they are due to magic and wackiness ensues).
The Main thing you’ll hear about season 6 is it is incredibly dark, all the characters seem to be in a pretty bad place all year (especially buffy post-ressurection) which i think is ok for one season. Some fans really didn’t like the suddenly depressing tone so Joss tried to significantly brighten up the seventh season. With all this said i find it easy to tell that this was the year Joss really gave up the reins to Marti Noxon … it shows. The dialogue doesn’t seem to be quite as crisp as years past and by this time some of the show may seem a little played out…although if you are a buffy fan the magic is still there and the DVD set is worth it for OMWF alone.
I think one of the big problems a lot of people had with season six was that the ‘big bad’ seemed to be comic relief for most of the season. The three nerdlings seemed like quite a comedown after the glory of… well… Glory.
Of course, things didn’t turn out exactly as we might have thought, which is what we look for in a good show, isn’t it?
As far as good points, the aforementioned OMWF and Tabula Rasa are fun, but I loved ‘Normal Again’. That one still has me questioning things.
Tabula Rasa is really a geek episode. I first saw it when it aired and I had only recently started watching the show. I hated it. It was trite and silly without being fun. But the next time I saw it I had become more of a Buffy geek and I enjoyed it much more.
Buffy has this thing where every season there is a Little Bad and and a Big Bad.
The Troika was always the little bad. Willow was the Big Bad of season 6. She tried to destroy the world in the last episode of the season. She was the Big Bad.
Is Normal Again the mental hospital one? I hated that one. I’ve seen that plot done better. And how can the delusions of girl in a psych ward…have a spin-off series?
I don’t get that, myself. Sure the Trio was stooge-like for a while, but it changed for me when [spoiler]Warren killed Katrina.
I did highly resent Andrew being made into a good guy in Season 7 when he is a murderer. Was I supposed to be placated by his crying at the end of “Storyteller”? I wasn’t! I guess he kinda redeemed himself by fighting in the finale, but I still wish he had bought it instead of Anya. I love Tom Lenk, just hate the character.[/spoiler]
Oh, more than that. There’s almost always a traitor as well. And a victim whose death propels the season in a new direction. Of course, the First Season doesn’t fit the formula, being a runt of a season.
I must say that Season 6 plays much better on DVD than it did spaced out over the course of half a year on TV. My problem with it was that it was poorly structured. You want to have a season of downers? That’s cool. But there still has to be SOME hope and SOME light. The episode that killed the arc of the season for me was Hell’s Bells. That was totally needless, and just meanspirited.
It would have been more satisfyingly dramatic to have had that be a glimmer of hope, a possible sign that the season had turned a corner – Buffy had let go of Spike, Willow was away from magic and back with Tara, let Xander and Anya marry; everything’s okay, everyone’s approaching a happy place, or at least leaving behind their major mistakes. And then you pull the rug out from under them with Seeing Red. That would have been more satisfying than constant funk throughout the year. And it would have made the death of Tara more shocking. As it was, the entire thing became a “Buffy the Happiness Slayer” cliche.
I don’t mean to knock the Three Nerds myself. I quite liked their whole arc. I’m just mentioning some of the stuff that I’ve heard other people say, and I understand where they are coming from. They even made the joke themselves, in Normal Again.
Even when they did get serious, it was always more of a desperate ‘omigod I can’t believe I’m doing this’ kind of action on their part. Especially in the example cited by Amanita . There was a nerd out of his element and over his head.
And yes, Wasabee , Normal Again is the mental hospital one. It had it’s cheesy moments, but the little ending bit was great.
No, I blame Joss for not keeping Marti Noxon on a tight leash.
I’m kind of neutral on the “magick as crack” arc.
But I hated the Spuffy storyline.
Spike had been growing as a character for a season and a half, trying to make himself into someone Buffy could love. Then, Buffy decides to start shagging him because it’s the only thing that makes her feel “alive”. Or is it a subconscious way of getting back at her friends for dragging her out of Heeeaaaavvvven? Either way, this woman who is supposed to be the Archtypal Strong Woman keeps her relationship with Spike secret, when she’s caught with him by Riley, she responds by beating him up. When he tries to stop her from throwing her life away by turning herself in to the police when she thinks she’s killed Katrina, she responds by beating him up. She threatens to beat him up if he tells her friends about them. But he’s always there for her whenever she wants a shag. Then, Spike comes off like a sleaze in some of the season’s later episodes, especially in “Older and Far Away”. I mean, OK, so he realizes that the only thing he’s ever going to get from Buffy is sex, but does he have to come off like the guy in the back alley in a trenchcoat when he comes asking for the sex? Basically, Marti Noxon turned Buffy into the ultimate abusive boyfriend, while at the same time trying to portray Spike as a “bad boyfriend”.
Then there was the AR… probably the most hated scene in the history of the show.
I think Marti Noxon has a lot of personal issues that she never worked through. She used the show as a forum for airing her own dirty laundry. I watched the show because I enjoyed it- it was fun until Marti took over. Then we got a season of “Being Marti Malkovitch”.
I didn’t like season six. That said, I think it was the most daring Buffy season because it attempted to do large what previous seasons had only done on an episode by episode basis–take one theme and play it out on as many levels as possible, from the hoplessly mundane to the epically supernatural.
Season six is all about violation, and the relationship between violation and death. Is compeling someone worse than killing them? What if you compel them out of love? Is compulsion ever acceptable? How do you decide? To what degree are you responnsible for your actions if you are compelled? If you allow yourself to be vunerable to compulsion?
Season six doesn’t really answer any of these questions, but they are played out again and again by all the major charecters. Watch who is violating whom and why and the season clicks into some sort of harmony.
While there was much about season 6 that was dark, there was also a fair amount that was not. There were goofy and light moments and episodes as well. The early “3 nerds” moments, Once More with Feeling and Tabula Rasa. Although I saw interviews where Joss “said” that they were brightening up the 7th season I didn’t see any evidence of it.
Man, there’s lots of stuff I want to say about your post but there’s only so much I want to type, so I’ll focus on this bit and maybe pick up on some of the rest of it later. I would put forth the idea that Spike has no idea how to “ask for sex” other than in a creepy way. Think about his known history with women. There’s his mother, which while non-sexual was pretty incestuous. Cecily, the unrequited and non-sexual love. Drusilla, hardly a normal woman by any lights. Harmony, the rebound slut. And Buffy, who was a mess. Oh, and of course wham-bam-thank you An(ya). He was presumably a virgin before Drusilla. He hasn’t the vaguest notion of what it means to be in a healthy sexual relationship and for over 100 years if he wanted something he took it. Not to mention that throughout S6 he was still evil. I felt his approach to sex and the AR were pretty solidly in character. After that AR he knew that he could no longer be what he was and so went off to Africa.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees it this way. Although I’d put more emphasis on ‘He was EVIL’ than just a sidemention. (Forgive me if I’m misinterpretting you here.) I’d place it as an equally (at least) important factor to his insanely disfunctional romantic/sexual history as to why it made sense for him to have done it. He was on his way to redemption, but he wasn’t there yet - in fact, as you say, the AR was a major turning point on that road.
Midway through season six is when I first started watching Buffy; therefore I did not perceive the grave shift in tone that was apparently so off-putting to many of the show’s long-time viewers. Through the magic of basic cable, I’ve now seen just about every Buffy episode, and while I can understand the criticisms of this season, it’s still has a special place in my heart.
In “bargaining”, the season began with Willow sticking a hard pointy thing into an innocent little woodland creature, and we are left with the image of the Buffybot tied and spreadeagled–a classic bondage/rape image.
Tara’s rape by Willow–considering that from the very beginning (remember the rose?) spellcasting = sex for the two of them, casting spells on Tara against her will is pretty clearly rape.
“All the Way”, (the episode where Dawn sets herself up to be romanced and then attacked by a vampire) is both a parody of after school specials about date rape and a serious look at the issue.
There are other things that are more of a stretch, but which I think fit the same theme, given the many images of violation and compulsion:
Raising Buffy without her consent.
The compulsion in “Once more with Feeling”
“Normal Again” is all about people wanting the people they love to be different from how they are.
Throughout the season there is this persistient thread of people who are not entirely evil doing the one thing we have always thought of --and are taught–is irrevocably evil.