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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