BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON SIX BOXSET

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Review By Paul Mount, 4.5 out of 5

(Released in the UK on 12th May 2003)

Season Six was a difficult, turbulent time for Buffy the TV character and for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, the iconoclastic American fantasy TV series. For many hardcore fans it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For the more casual viewer it all became a bit too much, too far removed from the bright, fluffy little action comedy show they’d found so intriguing a few years before. Suddenly Buffy and her chums were adults with all the angst and misery adulthood so often entails. Now though, it’s time to reassess it on this marvellous new six-disc boxset from Fox, the best BUFFY release yet and right up there on a par with the recently-released season 3 release of companion series ANGEL.

Season Six of BUFFY is a dark and dangerous place. As one of the fascinating DVD featurettes points out, life itself is the ‘big bad’ in the series ?with a trio of irritating nerds thrown in for good measure. Buffy, who valiantly sacrificed herself for the sake of her sister Dawn at the end of the season five, is magically brought back to life by witchy Willow. But all is not well; Buffy was actually quite happy being dead, having apparently found herself in some blissful heaven-dimension. Dragged out of paradise and forced to confront yet again the mortal coil and all its tribulations leaves her a little bitter and a little confused. This is the thrust of the series; Buffy’s supernatural opponents are, for once, the side-issuse. And this is the genius of the season, the point that many of the show’s fans missed entirely. Buffy is now, as never before, all about life. It’s no longer about cheerleading, first boyfriends, inappropriate crushes and going to college. Season Six tackles head on the problems of being an adult in a confusing modern world. Not only has Buffy to come to terms with being alive again, she has to be a surrogate mother to the increasingly-wayward Dawn, she has to be a home-owner, she has to find a job. It’s hardly any wonder that the jokes don’t come thick and fast this year.

Things aren’t much better for the rest of the gang either. Willow’s magical powers are growing day by day and both Tara and Giles are well aware of the risks. Anya and Xander are probably the world’s worst star-crossed lovers and Spike has an unhealthy obsession with Buffy, once his bitterest enemy. Over the course of these twenty-two fascinating, absorbing episodes, we see Buffy and her friends (they’re our friends too, of course) make mistake after mistake as they roll towards another potential apocalypse.

Much of BUFFY Season Six is difficult viewing. Good TV often is. It’s painful to watch these people slowly being crushed by the weight of growing up but it’s exhilarating to see them ultimately triumph, battered and bruised at the end of the series. There are many, many highlights along the way ?you already know all about the awesome musical episode ‘Once More, With Feeling’ ?but what about its comedy coda, the hilarious ‘Tabula Rasa’, possibly the most laugh-out-loud BUFFY episode ever? Then there’s the pulsating season opener ‘Bargaining’ where Buffy is pulled back to life just as Sunnydale is invaded by biker demons. Loose ends are tied up when Buffy’s ex Riley (Marc Blucas) returns to Sunnydale in ‘As You Were’ and there’s probably a whole WEDDINGS FROM HELL series in the events of ‘Hell’s Bells’. Towards the end of the season an already-dark selection of episodes becomes distinctly pitch-black as one of the regulars is brutally murdered, Spike and Buffy’s physical relationship turns nasty and Willow finally goes over the edge. It’s fair to say there’s not many laughs to be had in the final four episodes of this batch.

It’s a difficult, demanding season of BUFFY and in some ways an uncomfortable one. But, as always, it’s remarkable television and the fans who didn’t like it or gave up watching probably never really understood what the show was about anyway.

THE DISCS: The BUFFY boxsets just get better and better ?and this is easily the best yet. Shiny transfers of the episodes are accompanied by some truly special special features. The commentaries are as interesting as ever ?particularly Joss Whedon on his musical episode ?and there are extensive documentaries on the genesis and history of the series as a whole, an overview of the season, a BUFFY at work featurette, outtakes and the usual slew of trailers. Best of all though are David Fury’s video diary of the making of ‘Once More, With Feeling’ and a warm and witty hour-long stage discussion by the majority of the cast and crew. Another essential purchase, dammit.

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