In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer. It’s a hell of an opening line, it certainly grabbed my attention and kept it.
Anyone who knows me or has spent at least 10 minutes talking to me has probably had to listen to me gush, if not wax philosophical about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to watch, it’s a great romp through a world with monsters and demons, filled with equal parts drama and campy humor. I’ll argue anyone who says it’s not Joss Whedon’s best work. I’m more than happy to lend out my box set to anyone who needs convincing.
I have this sort of unpopular opinion about BTVS. When ranking seasons of the show more often than not fans tend to put season 6 toward the bottom. I think the bad rap is undeserved. People hate it, maybe it’s the major tonal shift from light comedy to more of a dark drama, maybe it’s the character deaths, or maybe they aren’t a fan of the musical episode (kidding! I’ve never met someone who isn’t in love with ‘Once More With Feeling’). Personally I think it might be one of the all around best seasons of the show.
Hear me out, it has it’s issues and uncomfortable moments; Buffy spends the majority of the season clinically depressed, Willow is dealing with an addiction, the marriage fiasco, Giles leaves and Dawn is well… a teenager, enough said. But in a world where we’re used to watching the scooby gang take on every flavor of demon, monster, and apocalypse, watching them face mundane human horrors is refreshing and a reminder that maybe I don’t have to be the Slayer to slay a few demons of my own.
Buffy spends most of the season battling depression, a fight I am more than familiar with. Having recently become unemployed I can identify with how Buffy must feel after being brought back to life, only to be faced with the mounting pile of bills and responsibilities that come with the whole entering adulthood thing. She finds herself stuck working at the Double Meat Palace and doing her patrols just going through the motions of what is expected of her (she sings as much in the musical episode).
When depression hits, it’s easy to feel like everyone around you is moving forward successful and happy, while you’re just sort of stuck. For Buffy she’s employed at a job she hates while she watches her friends go on to college or get career bumps, make wedding plans, and then her ex shows up to throw what looks to be a perfect life and relationship in her face. Depression can make pushing through a routine hard, but Buffy does it anyway, she gets a job and focuses on solving things one problem at a time. She even eventually comes to lean on those around her for emotional support.
Watching her break down and then slowly build herself back up into the badass heroine that comes roaring back in season 7 is a reminder that being hurt isn’t an indicator of strength but the ability to get through the hurt is certainly all about strength. If Buffy can fight her inner demons on top of the actual demons, I can certainly get through an unfortunate rough patch.
Many fans found themselves underwhelmed by the big villain of the season, which to be fair, after a giant snake demon, a killer cyborg and a god from a hell dimension, this seasons ‘Big Bad’ of three nerds trying to be super villains just isn’t all that big or bad. To those people I say: you’re missing the real villain. And no I’m not talking about dark-veiny-evil Willow either. The real ‘Big Bad’ this time is emotional pain. Everything dark and broody that happens can be connected to people being unwilling or unable to deal with emotional pain.
Willow spends half the season with a spiraling addiction to dark magic that she manages to quit cold turkey only to have all of that careful control ripped away by grief. Without a way to handle her emotions she lashes out at everyone she feels is responsible for causing her pain. It eventually boils to the point that she sees ending the world as the only way to stop not just her pain but everyones.
Much like real world depression and grief, it isn’t magic that brings Willow back from the edge of utter destruction, it’s people, or rather a person. If you’ve watched the show you’re probably familiar with Xander’s crayon speech. It’s the human connection, her best friend reminding her that she is loved, that helps Willow to ground her pain and face it. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who keeps tabs on me and knows how help me pull myself out of my own depression slumps. It’s a reminder that we need to surround ourselves with people who help foster inner strength.
So yeah, while season 6 can be dark and uncomfortable and sad, it serves as a way to show the more human strength of the characters. What makes it uncomfortable is what makes it relatable, the emotional pain is something everyone can see in themselves whether they want to or not. Watching it reflected back on us through people that are supposed to be more than human makes me feel strong. We too can conquer the bad feelings and prove ourselves the heroes of our own stories. Even if we aren’t fighting off hell gods and snake demons, we’re still strong. So, you know, if the apocalypse comes… beep me.