Temporary reprieve from the difficulties of life allow Buffy to feel free in Gone (episode 11). The Trio creates an invisible ray (yes, really) and accidentally zaps Buffy, allowing her to run away from her life and have some fun – even if it’s destructive and dangerous. But when faced with death (again) Buffy realizes she wants to live and fights the Trio, finally discovering that Jonathan, Warren and Andrew are hatching plans to destroy—and annoy—her.
Seeing Sunnydale’s slayer in a fast-food work uniform is both hilarious and disturbing and in Doublemeat Palace (episode 12) Buffy sports the outfit while investigating mysterious deaths. Suspecting a ‘Soylent Green’ situation, Buffy discovers the deaths of employees reveal a more shocking secret. Anya receives a visit from an old demon friend, Halfrek (Kali Rocha, Teachers, Grey’s Anatomy) who questions Anya’s engagement to Xander. And Buffy continues to secretly get closer to Spike. Lies, addictions, terrible jobs and doubts are all explored in this amusing episode.
Taking a very dark turn, Dead Things (episode 13) examines exploitation, mind-control and destructive behaviour. The Trio uses a mind control spell to use Warren’s ex-girlfriend Katrina (Amelinda Embry, Scrubs), as a sex slave, resulting in a deadly outcome. Pinning their mistake on Buffy, the Trio watches as she slowly begins to lose her mind and her resolve. While Buffy deals with this situation, Spike tells her, “you try to be with [your friends] but you always end up in the dark. With me.” Not able to handle her secret, Buffy implores Tara to help her, confessing her situation and breaking down in an emotionally powerful scene. Hurting the one you love, insecurity, doubt, misogyny and violence are examined in this episode.
Older and Far Away (episode 14) is a Dawn-centric episode that follows her through her lonely day as she tries to reach out; only finding comfort in her compulsive stealing. An awkward birthday party for Buffy gives Dawn her ultimate wish: no one can leave the house. Ever. As a sword-yielding demon terrorizes the gang and their guests, Buffy discovers Dawn’s secret. Anya is annoyed to find out her old vengeance demon friend, Halfrek, is behind the spell. Being present, stealing and time are themes in this amusing and quietly sad episode.
Adventure returns to Sunnydale in the form of a hunky soldier. Riley (Marc Blucas, Necessary Roughness), comes back to town to request Buffy’s help in As You Were (episode 15). As they race through town searching for a deadly demon that is hatching an army of monsters, Buffy discovers that Riley is married to a kick-ass army woman, Sam (Ivana Milicevic, Casino Royale, Banshee). Buffy’s strange relationship with Spike is contrasted with Riley’s solid union, prompting Buffy to finally face her choices. “The wheel never stops turning, Buffy. You’re up, you’re down. Doesn’t change what you are. And you’re a hell of a woman,” Riley reminds her. And with that, Buffy finally gets closure and delivers a strong message to Spike. Revealing darkness, self-sabotage, endings and finding purpose all play a part in Buffy’s character arc.
A white dress, flowers and a roomful of human and demons announce the wedding of Xander and Anya in Hell’s Bells (episode 16). But when an old man claiming to be from the future visits Xander, doubt and pain creep in on the happy couple. In a tragic ending, everyone faces loss and the realization that every relationship is incredibly fragile. An old boss makes Anya a tempting offer as the gang reels from the consequence of a hard decision. Delving deep into the psyche of the slayer, Normal Again (episode 17) finds Buffy’s mental state being questioned. The Trio conjures a demon that pierces Buffy with a poison to play with her mind. Transported to a world where she’s a mental patient who has made up ‘vampires’, a shocking revelation from Buffy adds doubt to her mental state. Confused, she puts her life—and her friends—in danger to discover the truth. “You have a world of strength in you, you just have to find it again,” Buffy’s mother reminds her. The last scene of the episode is dark, haunting and sad as themes of losing one’s mind, escape, fighting, and friendship are explored in this fascinating episode.
In Entropy (episode 18), Anya returns to town wishing pain upon Xander but when she fails, she chooses comfort in the arms of Xander’s enemy. As The Trio’s hidden cameras are discovered, so are secrets, uncovering the gang’s past and present betrayals. As hearts break around them, Tara and Willow sweetly re-unite. Pain, secrets, vengeance, loss, shame, and healing are all explored. Packed with shocking events and intense emotions, Seeing Red (episode 19) finds Willow and Tara celebrating their union as Buffy deals with the consequence of her secret revealed to her friends. “I can never trust you enough for love. Love like that doesn’t last,” Buffy tells Spike and he responds with a violent and emotionally scarring act. Warren steals a rare orb making him virtually invincible and a formidable opponent for Buffy. When Warren escapes using a jet pack (yes, really), he seeks revenge against Buffy with a gun, causing massive loss and irreversible damage. And as Buffy lies injured, contemplating her life, Spike leaves town on a mission to deal with his damaging actions. Power, losing control, dominance, trust, death, and violence against women are all explored in this explosive and deeply emotional episode.
Some things cannot be returned and when Willow asks the god of the underworld for one more favour, she’s denied. Villians (episode 20) finds Willow dealing with death and loss through a deep, strong thirst for vengeance. Accessing her dark magic, she goes on a rampage for Warren as Xander and Buffy race to stop her. “I will not let Willow destroy herself,” Buffy vows, but is too late when they come across Willow’s shocking act. The episode swirls with themes of loss, grief, revenge, and dark forces. Filled with rage and juiced on her dark magic, Willow continues her revenge mission in Two to Go (episode 21). Taunting Dawn and Anya, angry Willow goes toe-to-toe with Buffy in the Magic Shop, destroying everything in her path. Meanwhile, Spike arrives in Africa to undergo a series of excruciating tests by a demon to “make him like he once was.” As Willow gets closer to destroying the slayer, she’s suddenly stopped and contained by Giles, who arrives just in time.
In the sixth season finale, Grave (episode 22), the gang must battle the demons within themselves as Willow’s rage and power threatens to destroy them all. “Uh oh. Daddy’s home. I’m in wicked trouble now,” Willow taunts Giles as he tries to contain her with borrowed magic. Buffy is rendered immobile as she and Dawn are trapped deep in a hole in the earth. When Willow’s final flourish involves destroying a world without Tara, Xander’s unconditional love and friendship help Willow—and the gang—touch their humanity, giving them all a newfound hope. And finally, in a dark cave on the other side of the world, Spike finally endures his last test and gets what he asked for—the one thing that can save him and bring him a lifetime of pain. Love, light, choices, energy, family, and having a soul all wrap up the climatic season ender.
Emotional, dark and challenging, the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer explored the raw feelings of loss, grief, and sorrow. With hidden secrets and addictions plaguing characters, the gang became splintered. Each episode explored the pain of making difficult choices while still entertaining the viewers with a healthy dose of humour, supernatural hijinks and snappy dialogue. Fighting internal and underworld-y demons, the gang emerged from their 22-episode journey bruised and weary but with a new understanding of love, regeneration, and the potential of new beginnings.