Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2: BargainingPart 1
Written by Marti Noxon; Directed by David Grossman
Written by David Fury; Directed by David Grossman
And so Buffy begins its sixth season, considered by many to be, at the time, the worst. Season 7 pretty much put paid to any notion that Season 6 was as bad as it could get, but that's certainly how it looked back then. I have to admit that the two-part opener has a lot in its favour, although the fact that it's too long, with too much padding and exposition, is certainly not in its favour. It's pretty clear that a lot of this episode was clearly designed to clue UPN viewers into what was going on in a show they might not have been familiar with. Willow and Tara are sticking their tongues down each others' throats all the time (because, hey, they're gay, and do gay things with each other), Xander is wacky and silly but not particularly funny, Anya is inappropriately cheerful and likes money, and at one point Tara actually utters the line "He used to live there, remember?", when the gang are wondering if Giles will be okay back in England. Good god, I know UPN was supposed to attract a big stoner crowd, but I find it hard to believe anyone couldn't work out that Giles came from England.
Yes, Giles leaves. Anthony Head was fed up hanging around with anorexic American brats, so he decided to go back to England to hang around with his own brats (i.e. his children). That's fair enough, and the writers had to work around this problem, but they sure as hell did a terrible job with the character's motivation. Basically, despite the fact that the gang are severely struggling to keep the local vampire population down in Buffy's absence, Giles decides he isn't needed and so buggers off. Guess they now know who his favourite was, huh? I recently read a post on a Buffy-related forum that pointed out an interesting parallel between Joss Whedon and Giles in this season. Both "fathers" watched their "child" (Buffy the character; Buffy the show) die (when Buffy leapt into the portal; when the WB cancelled the show); the child was then brought back to life (Buffy by her friends; the show when it found new life on UPN); the father then didn't stick around to serve as a dutiful parent (Giles abandoning Buffy to return to England; Whedon going off to do other things).
Oh, and if they want to pretend to the local demons that Buffy isn't dead (using the Buffybot as a stand-in), it would help if there wasn't a giant tombstone in the graveyard saying "Buffy Anne Summers, 1981-2001" on it.
Otherwise, there are a number of definite good points about this two-parter. Once it gets going, it's pretty exciting, and the "hell on earth" that the resurrected Buffy finds herself faced with is effective. The biker demons that invade Sunnydale are also kinda neat, but slightly naff at the same time - are we really to believe that these hideous monsters drive around the highways of California, whooping and playing loud music, and no-one finds the sight strange? And the ordeal Willow goes through during the resurrection is strong stuff, despite the sometimes naff special effects. So yeah, as season premieres go, this is one of the better ones, although the dodgy character motivations and plot holes are already creeping in.
Overall rating: 7/10 for Part 1, 8/10 for Part 2.
Next time: After Life.