Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 6b)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday. 

<--Season 6a  Season 7a-->

Buckle up! It is time to go down the tubes of despair, self-pity, and self-destruction with the characters we were led to love for the past six years…

Actually, to be quite fair and honest, I have to admit that I liked this season a lot more this time than the first time I watched it. It has been years too. I had actually re-watched the whole series a few years ago and skipped right over this season altogether then. The “threat” this year is largely real life. And it is true that I usually prefer science fiction and fantasy stories for escapist fun even while they are metaphorically commenting on real life issues. That is why this season is still easily my least favorite. But the issues it deals with are dealt with in an honest and perceptive way.

14. Older and Far Away

Dawn is being an annoying 15 year old girl again. When she wishes that no one would leave her and that people would be forced to pay attention to her, she happens to do so in front of a demon that grants wishes. So we (once again) have a Buffy birthday party that goes wrong. No one can leave even though they want to and it gets pretty annoying actually. The one laugh out loud moment comes when Anya calls on the demon (a former co-worker of hers from her vengeance days) to appear. She explains the situation and intends to leave them all to rot in it, but since she too cannot leave without lifting the curse—problem solved.

15. As You Were

Buffy had made a lot of progress in letting go of her destructive relationship with Spike in the first half of the season when she realized that it was not something wrong in her nature driving her to him. She is quickly driven back to Spike when Riley shows up having happily moved on. He is married and has everything seemingly “together” while she is completely messed up. Is she ever going to break free?

16. Hells Bells

Xander makes possibly the most annoying choice in the history of TV relationships. At first it looks like he is being warned away from a terrible future, but then it is all revealed to be a lie. At this point, Xander should proceed as planned. Five minutes after this episode ends he will think that as well, but the writers need every character this year to be more messed up than is really believable based on what we have seen from them thus far.

17. Normal Again

This is storytelling manipulation at its best! In one 45 minute sequence, the writers manage to make everything that has happened in the past 6 years the unbelievable fantasy that it would be in real life. It has all been in Buffy’s sick mind—the vampires, the apocalypses, the heroics—they even make the gutsy choice to end the episode with the whole Buffyverse in doubt.

Beyond all of that, however, this is the point where Buffy finally comes out of the funk she has been in since… well about this time in the previous season. Appropriately enough it was her mother’s death that sent her into the helpless spiral in which she has been spinning. Now it is her mother (or a mental projection of her?) that brings her out.

18. Entropy

Spike and Anya ignore all the warning signs and end up dulling the pain they are in with a moment of passion. Since the moment coincides with the point that the Scoobies realize they have been monitored by the Troika, everyone gets to see the “moment” occur live. This pushes all the dirty laundry that has been piling up all season into the open to be dealt with. At the same time, Willow and Tara resume their relationship.

19. Seeing Red

The silly threat of the Troika is finally dealt with, but Warren escapes. Actually, the silliness has lessened over the season. The truly evil nature of our “silly” appetites and desires for power has been revealed in the trio of characters. Jonathan has come to his senses and sees the bad that they have become. Andrew is blind in his hero worship of Warren. Warren has been revealed to be a sociopath.

Spike tries to force Buffy back into a relationship, but realizes only too late that what he attempting is rape. That sends him off on an unspecified quest. Meanwhile, Warren tries something that many a monster should have tried years ago—taking care of the Slayer with a gun. Fortunately his shots are wild and Buffy is not fatally wounded, unfortunately Tara is. All of the control Willow has achieved over her tendency towards magic is destroyed in an instant.

20. Villains

Willow goes completely dark, absorbs all the dark magic knowledge at her disposal, and becomes the “big bad” of the season. She is driven to kill those she thinks responsible for the death of Tara.

There is a good conversation between Xander, Dawn and Buffy about limitations and justice in creation:

Buffy: We need to find Willow.
Xander: Yeah, she's really off the wagon, big-time. Warren's a dead man if she finds him.
Dawn: Good!
Buffy: Dawn, don't say that.
Dawn: Why not? I'd do it myself if I could.
Buffy: Because you don't really feel that way.
Dawn: Yes, I do! And you should too. He killed Tara, and he nearly killed you. He needs to pay!
Xander: Out of the mouths of babes.
Buffy: Xander!
Xander: I'm just saying he's just as bad as any murderous vampire you've sent to dustville.
Buffy: Being a Slayer doesn't give me a license to kill. Warren's human.
Dawn: So?
Buffy: So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him.
Xander: Yeah, and we all know how well those rules work.
Buffy: Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Look, we can't control the universe. If we were supposed to then the magic wouldn't change Willow the way it does. And, we'd be able to bring Tara back. There are limits to what we can do. There should be. Willow doesn't want to believe that. And now she's messing with dark forces that want to hurt her. All of us.  

This is an important moment in the season and the series. It clarifies the battle that is being waged and the ethics of magic in the Buffyverse. Evil can be something that seeks to destroy, hurt or kill; but it can also be the refusal to submit to the way things are or accept the aspects of the universe that we can’t control. That is why magic is dangerous at best and wrong at worst in the Buffyverse.

This is a good parallel to reality, where sin is both doing evil and refusing to accept God’s control. The essence of Biblical faith is submitting control to the master of the universe and learning to live in the way that He desires. Some have tried to force their understanding of the way things should be upon the world. Even when they do so out of an understanding of good, the methods used to force change—violence, religious or political power, or all three in concert—can be wrong.

At any rate, they fail to stop Willow and she kills Warren.

21. Two to Go and 22. Grave

Just when it seems that the group are powerless against Willow, Giles shows up with a different form of magic. Willow defeats him too and absorbs his magic. However, with it she feels the suffering of everyone in the world. In her dark state of mind, though, she decides to ease the suffering of the world by obliterating it.

Love saves the world in the end. Xander gets to Willow before she can destroy the world, and the magic Giles brought causes Willow to feel again. The love Xander shows at the bitter end breaks down her nihilistic resolve and she falls to the ground overcome with remorse. The Prayer of St. Francis is sung over the images that end the season. It is a fitting sentiment coming out of this season of self-absorption and pity as the characters have learned something about their true place in the world serving others.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

Oh, and one more thing. That quest that Spike undertook when he left town? He went to regain his soul. After “pretending” not to be a monster for the past two seasons, he no longer is one. Nice example of the “new creation” picture.

Here is the once again excelent trailer from Buffyverse Trailers:

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