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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6 DVD Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6

February 22, 2003

Director: David Grossman, David Solomon, Douglas Petrie, Joss Whedon, David Fury, James A. Contner, ,
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Marsters, Amber Benson, Anthony Stewart Head, ,

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DVD Review

As Buffy the Vampire Slayer headed into its sixth season, the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, took his characters to a much darker place. If there were two overriding themes that took centre stage during this season it was sadness and loss. The Scooby gang resurrected Buffy (Gellar) after she defeated Glory and saved the world but at what cost? Did her friends really stop and think about the consequences of their actions. On the surface, Buffy seems grateful for what they’ve done, but privately, and to Spike (Marsters) of all people, she confides in him a devastating secret. She believes that she was in heaven and that being alive and in Sunnydale is like a living hell for her. As a result, a huge feeling of melancholy hangs over Buffy like a shadow during the entire season.

One way Buffy deals with these feelings is by starting a passionately physical relationship with Spike that is shockingly sadomasochistic in nature. Buffy is confused by this affair and feels tremendous guilt because Spike represents everything she hates and fights against. Sarah Michelle Gellar shows a real depth during this story arc. She really conveys the deep emotional wounds that torment Buffy and how she tries to keep these from her friends. James Marsters adds more layers of complexity to Spike. He has come along way from being a traditional bad guy to an ally of good but on his own terms. Marsters also shows an emotional side to his character. Spike actually needs and loves Buffy despite how she feels about him.

The other major storyline that dominates this season concerns Willow (Hannigan) and her increasing addiction to magic. She abuses her abilities as she uses it to perform the simplest tasks and for frivolous things like creating party decorations instead of using magic for selfless deeds. This causes a rift between her and Tara (Benson) and the couple eventually breaks up as a result. Willow’s magic addiction become more problematic in “Tabula Rasa” when she casts a spell that causes everyone to forget who they are, or, in “Wrecked” when she almost kills Dawn in a car accident. Like a junky, Willow hits rock bottom and must go cold turkey and seek help or continue her self-destructive behaviour.

One of the more disturbing character transformations is that of Warren (Adam Busch) and his lackeys, Andrew (Tom Lenk) and Jonathan (Danny Strong). They start off as bothersome geeks with delusions of grandeur who decide to form a super villain team and bring down Buffy. They seem harmless enough, as evident by the amusing episode, “Gone,” where they create an invisibility ray gun and accidentally zap Buffy. But as the season progresses, their story arc takes a much darker turn in “Dead Things” when Warren accidentally kills his ex-girlfriend and with the help of his friends, covers it up. This is only the tip of the iceberg as Warren becomes much more dangerous than anybody could have possibly imagined.

That is not to say that this season didn’t have its lighter side. “Doublemeat Palace” sees Buffy working at a fast food restaurant where the “special ingredient” on the hamburgers leads to a satirical nod to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. And, of course, there is “Once More with Feeling,” arguably the best Buffy episode ever, that allowed Joss Whedon to indulge in his love of Hollywood musicals. A demon arrives in town looking for Dawn and causes everyone to burst into song and dance routines instead of talking. It’s a brilliantly written and choreographed episode (written and directed by Joss) that showcases the hidden talents of the cast.

Special Features:

Disc One features an audio commentary for “Bargaining Part 1 & 2” by writers Marti Noxon and David Fury. They point out continuity goofs, like Willow’s new found psychic ability that conveniently disappears after this episode. It’s a light, jokey track that sets the tone for most of the other audio commentaries in the set.

The extras for Disc Two, not surprisingly, all focus on the landmark episode, “Once More with Feeling.” This is kicked off by “David Fury’s Behind the Scenes of ‘Once More with Feeling,’” a fun, interesting look at all the detailed planning and hard work that went into making this episode. Between Seasons Five and Six, Joss had written the episode and even made a CD with all of the songs. There is a lot of fascinating on the set and rehearsal footage of the cast learning all of the songs and dance steps.

“This is my verse, hello!—Buffy Karaoke” allows you to sing-a-long with your favorite character on the songs, “I’ve Got a Theory/Bunnies/We’re Together”, “I’ll Never Tell” and “Walk Through the Fire.” This extra was a nice touch.

The man himself, Joss Whedon contributes an entertaining audio commentary for the episode. He explains that doing “Once More with Feeling” was a life-long dream. He talks about the look and style of the episode (i.e. the use of widescreen aspect ratio, bright colours and whimsical humour)—everything was done in the same fashion as the classic Hollywood musicals he grew up with and admired. As always, he has a wonderful wry, self-deprecating sense of humour that makes his track a must-listen for any Buffy fan.

Disc Three contains a so-so audio commentary for the episode “Smashed” by writer Drew Z. Greenberg. One of the best extras on the set is the “Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Panel Discussion.” On June 18, 2002, the Academy hosted “Behind the Scenes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with a panel discussion with some of the cast and crew. Joss’ humourous asides are in full effects as he talks about the origins of the musical episode. This is a fun, entertaining extra as the cast members playfully make fun of each other and Joss.

Disc Four contains one featurette, “Buffy Goes to Work,” which focuses on the “Doublemeat Palace” episode. The cast and crew talk about their first jobs (no surprise: video store, toy store, fast food places, etc.) and their dream jobs (writing for Buffy!). This is a light and funny extra that perfectly suits the tone of the episode itself.

On Disc Five there are two audio commentaries, one for the episode “Hell’s Bells” with director David Solomon and writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner, and the other for “Normal Again” with director Rick Rosenthal and writer Diego Gutierrez. The two men buck the trend of previous non-Joss commentaries and don’t try to be cute and funny, instead opting for informative and interesting as they talk about their first time working on the show.

The final disc contains an audio commentary for the season finale, “Grave” with director James A. Contner and writer David Fury—both Buffy veterans.

There is also an in-depth overview of the season with Joss and the writers talking about how Season Six was all about disillusionment and responsibility. The characters were forced to grow up and be adults. Joss acknowledges that this season is probably the darkest one of the entire run of the show.

There is a brief outtakes reel which features the cast, (actually, mostly Nicholas Brendon) blowing many of their lines.

Finally, there is the excellent A&E Biography episode, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Television with a Bite.” It traces Joss’ humble beginnings as a writer on the Roseanne sitcom and touches briefly on the troubles he had with the Buffy movie. This is an excellent look at the evolution of the show.

This is probably the best presented and assembled box set for the show to date. The transfers for each episode are flawless and there is a nice collection of extras spread out over all six discs that are made and presented in the same tone as the show. While some of the commentaries are a little on the dull side, the extras for the musical episode and the A&E Biography documentary more than make up for it.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 95%

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