I've finished Season 6 of Buffy. I liked Seasons 4 and 5 better than most people, I think (although they were weaker than seasons 2 and 3), but Season 6 is a mess, and I've been thinking about why it didn't work.
1. Inadequate season-long plot arc. Will Shetterly says that the villains were underpowered. Buffy and the Scoobies knocked off a god in Season 5, how could they top that? I disagree that the nerds were necessarily inadequate to the task. The nerds could have been great villains. You want gods? They're gamers, let them level up. I'd love nerd gods, funny, evil, fastidious and bumbling all at once. But it never happened. Overall, they were woefully underused. They're used in a meaningful way in only about one episode in three. Their plot arc never gets airspeed, it just sort of bumps along the runway until it finally blows up at the end.
2. Too much intra-Scoobie conflict. Buffy vs Spike. Willow vs. Tara. Xander vs. Anya. Dawn vs. everyone. Joss, or one of the other staff, mentioned in the commentary track to the "Helpless" episode that fans hated it when there was conflict within the Scoobies, when one of the Scoobies went bad. The fans wanted to see them all on the same wavelength, cooperating to Fight Evil. But that way lay boredom, said Joss. He's right: there has to be some friction or edginess to drive relationships. But Season 6 was nothing but friction and edginess. There was no stable center, especially with Giles gone. The Scoobies tore themselves apart. The fans want a sentai show. They don't want Lord of the Flies. If you won't hit me for quoting Nancy Kress again: every work of fiction makes promises to the reader early on. It must keep those promises, or the reader will feel betrayed. Season 6 didn't keep the show's promises. In part, because of—
3. Not enough rocket launchers. In his commentary track to the "Innocence" episode, Joss says that he is all about "emotional resonance and rocket launchers." The problem with Party of Five, he said, was lots of emotional resonance—but not enough rocket launchers. And that's one of the problems with BtVS Season 6. Lots of soap opera angst, not enough sensawunda. I need sensawunda, folks. Call me shallow, but I like genre. I need more than just spaceships blowing up, but a spaceship has to blow up now and then (and it has to be important to the story, not mere sciffy window dressing on a non-sciffy story), or I'll find some other entertainment. The show almost lost its sciffy properties in Season 6. Taking the demons to a wedding doesn't cut it, if they're going to act like goofy relatives and not like demons. (I know, that's the metaphor, but it has to work on both levels.)
Why did all of this bad stuff happen? Who knows, but I've got a couple of guesses.
4. Not enough Joss. Take a look at the number of shows Joss wrote or directed in the different seasons. In Season 6, one single episode: the legendary, glorious, immortal, "Once More With Feeling." But that's all. Shetterly says that there are few memorable lines in Season 6. I'd guess Joss's absence is why. The other writers say that the lines that fans always remember are usually Joss's, even when most of the script was written by someone else. Joss is a genius, the soul of the show, and when Joss's hand isn't on the tiller, the show founders.
5. Each man kills the thing he loves. I have no way to prove this, but it is my suspicion that Joss, and probably the other writers and directors, were sick of the show and sick of the fans by Season 6. How else do you explain the "Normal Again" episode, which strongly implies that the whole Buffyverse continuity is nothing more than a psychotic delusion, and which openly insults the show's fans for preferring a fantasy where Buffy-like things happen, to reality? I think the show's personnel were overworked and burned out by this point, and lashing out in frustration.
Then there's the whole drugs == magic metaphor that everyone agrees didn't work. And I was never convinced by Evil Willow. Dammit, those aren't veins on her face, they're obviously make-up pencil. Maybe that was supposed to get by on low-res broadcast TV, but it doesn't fly on DVD. And the pantsuit? I'm sorry, she looked like a gothy Mary Tyler Moore. Moreover, although I love Alyson Hannigan, she couldn't convincingly act evil. Maybe she needed better direction; maybe it's just not in her range. Whatever the reason, Evil Willow never convinced me.
And to add insult to injury (or is it the other way around?) the compression engineering for Season 6's DVD's sucked. The black level was set so high that the (many) dark scenes dissolve into gray mud. No, it's not a problem with my video system or my ambient light control.
愚連隊== gurentai == (noun) gang of young toughs
|Bottom radical is 'heart/feelings'.(心), top radical is a character only found in Chinese, here acting phonetically to express 'unclear'. This character originally meant 'unclear/incomprehensible feelings', which evolved into the meaning of 'foolish feelings', and just 'foolish'. Henshall suggests taking the top radical as a combination of 'insect' (虫), 'field' (田), with the middle portion as 'long legs', and as a mnemonic: 'Long-legged insect in field gives foolish feelings.'|