This Catch-Up is written by Telaina Eriksen
Year of Release (originally aired): 2001-2002
Rating: TV 14ish
Currently Streaming on Netflix?: Yes.
Spoilers: Moderate (Slightly more than episode descriptions)
I am completely cheating here and I hope my partner in crime doesn’t mind this brief segue into TV land. I’ve been wrestling with Buffy Season 6 for a long time and have never understood how one season of a show can be so wonderful and horrible at the same time. I’ve been watching Season 6 again as I cook. One of the tedious things about trying to prepare healthy food is all the peeling and chopping. So I prop my tablet on the kitchen counter and watch an episode of Buffy while I snap the ends off of green beans, or peel an eggplant or chop an onion. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also do this as I fry chicken (not so healthy) which has to be watched so you’re basically standing out in the kitchen for 20 minutes making sure you don’t start a grease fire.
This is my third (or fourth ?) time through the Buffy series and outside of old re-runs of M*A*S*H, this is the most time I have ever devoted to a TV show. Every reason why I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer has already been stated by someone else—it’s smart, funny, it has demons and vampires but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The cast is amazing and the group dynamic is strong—each character getting to develop, grow, slide backwards and take center stage in different episodes. There is social commentary and a lot to contemplate about the way we see the world. (High school being hell is taken to a whole new level on Buffy.)
Season Six is often vilified as being the worst season of Buffy, the writers lost their way, Joss Whedon (the Avengers guy, young ones) had other projects and wasn’t overseeing the show carefully, etc. But what these couch critics often generalize over is that Season 6 has some of the best episodes in the entire series as well as several other PARTS of episodes that are brilliant.
The two best episodes in Season 6 are Once More with Feeling, where a demon visits Sunnydale and everyone bursts into song and dance, unintentionally revealing their innermost thoughts and feelings to each other, and Normal Again, where a demon infects Buffy with a poison that sends her hurtling into another dimension? reality? a dream world? where she is hospitalized for believing vampires are real and that she is a vampire slayer and her mother is still alive and her parents never divorced. Runner-up episodes include The Doublemeat Palace, where Buffy, a college dropout in desperate need of money, decides the meat in the doublemeat burger may be her co-workers and Bargaining, Part 1 & 2, where Willow raises Buffy from the dead after months in the ground. PARTS of Tabula Rasa, Smashed, Wrecked and Gone are smart and funny. If you add all those up, you simply cannot write off Season 6 as a horrible mistake.
But the parts of Season 6 that are bad, are really, really bad. A loan-shark demon that actually looks like a shark? Ick. Xander leaving Anya at the altar? Totally out of character for him. Giles leaving Buffy just a few months after she is back from the dead? Unbelievable. Buffy not catching the Nerds before they do serious damage? Far-fetched. Spike trying to rape Buffy doesn’t seem very likely either after Glory tortured him the previous season and he refused to roll over on Dawn because he knew it would devastate Buffy. All of these inconsistencies irritate any viewer or fan who has been paying any attention at all to the previous seasons.
Speaking of Dawn, I hate Dawn. With every re-watching of Buffy, I take a deep breath at the end of Season 4 and think, “Oh great. Here comes Dawn.” Dawn, Buffy’s “sister” who started life as a green ball of light/key, is a whiny, nasally, selfish, douche-baggy little brat. I really wanted someone to kill her in Season 5 and solve the Glory problem once and for all. (My hatred of Dawn is equal to my hatred of Jean in the X-Men movies. These characters have no redeeming qualities.) I have never seen Michelle Trachtenberg in anything else but Buffy, but I fear I may have sauce béarnaise syndrome where she is concerned. Dawn whines constantly, “You’re NEVER HERE, Buffy!” Well, you stupid, spoiled bitch, Buffy is working at a nasty fast-food place to support your ass and then patrolling to protect you, and if she gets some from Spike on the side, everybody deserves a little relaxation. So why don’t you just shut up and go get a job, do your homework and make your sister some pancakes for a change?
So all and all, don’t write Season 6 off. Buffy at its worst is still better than 95 percent of what is on TV, both then and now. One of the great things about Netflix is all the TV shows available that you can try out with no financial risk and no commercials. So if you’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I’m looking at you, 20 year olds) give it a try. Even with low-budget werewolf costumes and a faltering Season 6, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.