As Buffy the Vampire Slayer began its new life on UPN after five years on the WB, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) herself returned to the living thanks to the necromancy of her friend Willow (Alyson Hannigan). Her back-from-the-dead depression setting a darker tone for the series, the Chosen One faced new responsibilities as de facto parent of sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). The show's producers have accurately described the theme of the sixth season as "real life is the 'big bad.'" Depression, addiction, relationship wreckage, and dead-end jobs did more to plague the Slayer than the actual bad guys, a trio of nerdy ex-Sunnydale students who fashioned themselves as super-villains. Previous guest stars Danny Strong, as Jonathan, and Adam Busch, as Warren, were joined by newcomer Tom Lenk, as Andrew; their endless Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars banter provided the bulk of the season's comic relief even as their attempts at villainy grew darker and more successful. Meanwhile, in the celebrated episode "Once More, With Feeling," series creator Joss Whedon fulfilled a lifelong ambition to write a musical. Falling under the spell of an all-singing, all-dancing demon, Buffy and the Scoobies found themselves bursting into song to declaim their innermost feelings. The big revelations included the reservations Xander (Nicholas Brendan) and Anya (Emma Caulfield) felt about their impending marriage; the fact that Willow had manipulated the memories of her girlfriend, Tara (Amber Benson); and the anger Buffy felt when her friends' resurrection spell plucked her not from hellish torment, but from peaceful reward.
With Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) heading back to England in an attempt at tough love, an isolated Buffy turned to the smitten Spike (James Marsters) for comfort. The graphic depiction of the pair's twisted sexual relationship proved controversial, especially to Gellar, who later complained that she found the portrayal degrading. Gay-rights activists, who had long praised the show's depiction of lesbian love between Willow and Tara, raised even bigger objections to the climactic story line. After spending the season attempting to recover from her highly metaphorical addiction to magic, Willow went mad and nearly destroyed the world to avenge Tara's death at the hands of über-geek Warren. An affectionate riff on the classic "Dark Phoenix" saga in Whedon's beloved X-Men comics, this "Dark Willow" story line -- including a promotional spot that declared "Hell hath no fury...like a Wiccan scorned" -- struck some viewers as a sad capitulation to pop culture's "crazy lesbian killer" stereotype. Not that things went very well for the show's heterosexual romances, either. Xander left Anya at the alter, leading her to resume her role as a vengeance demon. And Spike, dumped by Buffy, attempted to rape her, then endured a series of supernatural trials to earn back his human soul and become worthy of her love. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi