All 22 episodes from the sixth season of the supernatural telefantasy starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, the last surviving vampire slayer. The episodes are: ‘Bargaining: Part 1’, ‘Bargaining: Part 2’, ‘After Life’, ‘Flooded’, ‘Life Serial’, ‘All the Way’, ‘Once More, With Feeling’, ‘Tabula Rasa’, ‘Smashed’, ‘Wrecked’, ‘Gone’, ‘Doublemeat Palace’, ‘Dead Things’, ‘Older and Far Away’, ‘As You Were’, ‘Hell’s Bells’, ‘Normal Again’, ‘Entropy’, ‘Seeing Red’, ‘Villains’, ‘Two to Go’ and ‘Grave’.
The sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer followed the logic of plot and character development into some gloomy places. The year begins with Buffy being raised from the dead by the friends who miss her, but who fail to understand that a sacrifice taken back is a sacrifice negated. Dragged out of what she believes to have been heavenly bliss, she finds herself “going through the motions” and entering into a relationship with the evil, besotted vampire Spike just to force her emotions. Willow becomes ever more caught up in the temptations of magic; Xander and Anya move towards marriage without ever discussing their reservations; Giles feels he is standing in the way of Buffy’s adult independence; Dawn feels neglected. What none of them need is a menace that is, at this point, simply annoying–three high school contemporaries who have turned their hand to magical and high-tech villainy. Added to this is a hungry ghost, an invisibility ray, an amnesia spell and a song-and-dance demon (who acts as rationale for the incomparable musical episode “Once More, with Feeling”). This is a year in which chickens come home to roost: everything from the villainy of the three geeks to Xander’s doubts about marriage come to a head, often–as in the case of the impressive wedding episode–through wildly dark humour. The estrangement of the characters from each other–a well-observed portrait of what happens to college pals in their early 20s–comes to a shocking head with the death of a major character and that death’s apocalyptic consequences. The series ends on a consoling note which it has, by that point and in spite of imperfections, entirely earned. –Roz Kaveney