In the sixth series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
the show's writers followed the logic of plot and character development into some gloomy places. It 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; but to move the interest of this over to a crudely explicit analogy with addiction and rehab was a point where the show seemed to be underlining too emphatically its usual deft, angst-ridden metaphors. The complicated relationship between Buffy and the bleached-blond vampire Spike was far more successfully handled. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays sexual self-disgust with as much skill as any other emotion she has had to perform and James Marsters is as elegantly ruthless and obsessive as ever. Meanwhile, 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").
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 year ends on a consoling note, which it has, by that point and in spite of imperfections, entirely earned. Roz Kaveney