Written by Kristina
"I have searched the world over for you. I have yearned for you. For a creature whose darkness rivals my own."
~ Dracula "Buffy vs. Dracula"
Season five of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" touched on the darkness that resides in Buffy Summers and her friends, but it wasn't until season six that we, the viewers, were fully exposed to it. Season six was dark, gritty, violent, and at times, explicit. We saw our protagonists - our heroes - knocked off the pedestals they had been set upon by ourselves, as well as each other. At times, the darkness of the season became overwhelming, but sometimes, in order to see the sun again, we must weather the storm.
"Bargaining" allowed us a glimpse into the Scooby Gang's lives without Buffy. Although reluctant to perform the ritual to bring back Buffy, Xander and Anya aided Willow and Tara. In every way, however, it was visible that Willow was in charge, and why not? When Buffy was comatose after Dawn's kidnapping, Willow immediately stepped in charge. I found Willow's decision to exclude both Spike and Giles from the resurrection indicative that she wasn't sure herself the resurrection would work. Defying the laws of nature, Buffy was brought back from where she was. She believed she was in heaven, or somewhere similar, whereas Willow believed she was in some hell dimension.
Buffy's whereabouts during the summer were touched upon briefly, when she revealed her beliefs to Spike. She couldn't bring herself to tell her friends, and suffered, in silence, until Sweet, the singing and dancing demon, arrived in Sunnydale. Under his influence, Buffy would have danced to her fiery death if it were not for Spike.
Up until this point, I was extremely keen on a Buffy/Spike friendship. Spike could have helped Buffy in many ways. He had dug himself out of his grave once, and he understood what it was like to be dead. He honestly mourned Buffy's death, and vowed to protect Dawn. But with their kiss at the end of "OMwF", I knew they were going to create a relationship between them. And as their "relationship" (if you can call it that) grew, Buffy grew closer and closer to touching the darkness within her. She was deceiving her friends, turning to someone she hated, and in the process, hated herself for it. She was spiraling downhill, fast, but her shame prevented her from turning to her friends for help. Giles had left her without a father figure, and the friendship between her, Xander and Willow hadn't been the same since her death.
Tara was the first person Buffy told about her relationship with Spike. With Tara's help, she became a bit stronger, but was still unable to resist visiting Spike, especially when her old flame, Riley, came back to town - with a wife. However, it took Riley's encouragement to convince Buffy that nothing could change who she was.
"Wheel never stops turning, Buffy. You're up, you're down ... it doesn't change what you are. And you are a hell of a woman."
~ Riley "As You Were"
Slowly, she began coming out of the spiral she had been in all season. She began bridging the space that had grown between her and her friends. Just as things were beginning to come together again, once more she plummeted. She had been stung by a demon set upon her by the Geek Troika, and was shown glimpses of another place, where her parents were still together, and she began to believe she had never left the mental institution her parents had placed her in when she first discovered she was a Slayer. Eager to be loved, Buffy tried to getting rid of her friends so she could stay with her parents, but it was Joyce's final words to her that finally convinced her to stay in Sunnydale.
"Buffy, fight it. You're too good to give in, you can beat this thing. Be strong, baby, ok? I know you're afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place sometimes, but you've got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We'll always be with you. You've got... a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself."
~ Joyce "Normal Again"
And once again, Buffy's climb up the slippery slope out of her depression and discontent began again. Before the season ended, she would have to deal with her friends learning about her and Spike, and finally, she and Xander reconciled with each other.
Buffy was not the only member of the Scooby Gang to be knocked down. Willow and Xander both experienced falls from grace. With her increasing magical skills, Willow used her powers more and more. Everyday tasks were done using magic. She would become angry with anyone that confronted her over it. For all intents and purposes, she was addicted to magic. Tara tried pointing this out to her, and Willow wiped her brain of their argument. The truth finally came out in "Once More, with Feeling" and shortly after, Tara left Willow. Willow had to come to grips with her magic use. Indignant, she returned Amy to her human state and went partying with her. It wasn't until Willow seriously hurt Dawn that she knew she had a problem. Amy was no longer welcome at Revello Drive, and Willow began the slow road back to her non-magic using days. It wasn't easy either - there were times when she wanted to take the easy way out, but inevitably, she learned to use the natural talents that she possessed to solve problems and help Buffy track the troika. In the end, she and Tara got together again - a celebration of Willow's success, and a joyful reunion for the couple. Sadly, it was cut short by a stray bullet from Warren's gun.
Willow succumbed to the darkness still left over from her use of dark magics, and went seeking vengeance on Warren, and the two other troika members. This was a huge change from the Willow we had all known before. Yes, back in season four she was going to perform a spell to curse Oz and Veruca, but in the end, she didn't end up going through with it. She couldn't. But now, Willow must have felt as if she had nothing left to lose - the one person in the world that had made her feel worthwhile was gone.
"… the only thing going for me - were those moments - just moments - when Tara would look at me and I was wonderful. And that will never happen again."
~ Willow "Two to Go"
Of course, now that the dust has settled, Willow will have to deal with what she has done, and I honestly have no idea how she will react. Not only is she going to have to come to terms with what she has done, but her friends will also.
Xander's fall from grace wasn't so much supernatural as it was human. Unsure of his marriage to Anya, he didn't want to announce it until "All the Way". In hindsight, after "Hell's Bells", I started wondering if the seed of doubt about marriage had already been planted in Xander's brain over the summer. His parents never got along well - he spent every Christmas sleeping outside to avoid his parents' rows. It did not take much for the man cursed by Anyanka to turn Xander from the idea of marrying her. In fact, I believe that if Xander had only seen himself hurting Anya, he would have seriously doubted the marriage. Sometimes, the one thing we most do not want to become is the thing we do become. Xander had grown up with horrible role models, and he was afraid that he would turn into his father.There was no doubt that Xander still loved Anya very much, and he was shattered when he saw Anya and Spike together in the Magic Shop. Despite her saying that it meant nothing and that she still felt horrible, Xander had a hard time accepting it. And it was made even more difficult for him to believe when he learned that Buffy had been sleeping with Spike. His hero had descended to sleeping with the enemy (again). Without meaning to, Buffy had made a fool of him, because Xander kept telling Spike a person as good as Buffy would not give him the time of day.
In the end, however, Xander and Buffy had reconciled. After drifting apart for most of the season, they began to come together again. And then, Tara was killed. Xander showed his maturity by taking charge of the situation, even though he felt that it was his fault. He had seen Warren's gun before it was raised, and he did nothing to stop him. His feeling of self-worth was lowered, and he doubted the man that he had become.
"You want me to know how useless I am? That it's my fault? Thanks. I already got the memo."
~ Xander "Two to Go"
When he learned that Willow was going to end the world, he went to his childhood friend. What else would he have done? If he couldn't stop her, then he wanted to be the first to go when the world ended. His patience in the end saved the world. The one "normal" member of the Scooby Gang saved the world, not with super powers, but with is love for his best friend. He began the long road to redeeming himself in his own eyes.
As interesting as it was to see this season unfold, it became extremely depressing. It is always difficult to see the characters you look up to experiencing hard times, especially all at once. Yet, I would rather watch a television show that went where other shows fear to tread. This season pushed the envelope about as far as it could go with the relationships, issues, and character growth. It tested the Scooby Gang's bonds, and how far they would go for each other. In the end, they are all stronger for it. Although they may have a long way to go before they come to terms with what they have done this season, they have now each touched their own dark spots, and in the process, learned more about themselves than they knew before.