Last night, we finished up Disc Two of Season Six.
These two episodes – “Once More, with Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa”, are remarkable – in two different ways.
For one thing, they are both wonderful and lively. Joss generally follows a light episode with a darker, or stronger, one; in this case, he gives us two that (generally) make us smile.
And let me be plain spoken here – when I say “wonderful and lively”, that pleasant compliment really only applies to the second one; “Once More, with Feeling” is the best episode of anything, ever.
That sounds like the sort of thing that a fifteen year old might say about something he just found that’s “really cool”; but this was the ninth or tenth time that I’ve seen it (it’s my eighth time through the series, but I’ve watched this one a time or two by itself).
OMwF is a punch in the gut while being covered with goosebumps; it’s crying with pathos while laughing hysterically while tapping one’s feet; it’s amazement at perfection in writing and production while enjoying the range of talent and skill of the individual actors.
And when I say “tapping one’s feet” – this is a musical episode. All of the characters sing and dance, and do so very, very well. And each of the numbers – and there are a lot of them – comes from a different musical style, so the range of songs is dizzying and rejuvenating – but every so often, one of the singers will be reprising an earlier number in a duet with the current number, so it all works, and all works together.
And it all forces the various story arcs along just marvelously.
I can’t say enough about OMwF, so I’ll stop now.
Tabula Rasa, on the other hand, is a pure comedic tour de force; it’s a natural delight. The setup is natural, and it moves from hilarity to hilarity…until it doesn’t.
Because, at the end of TR, we’ve entered the darkness.
Season Six is like a gauntlet; I know going into it that I’m going to have to watch everybody hurt. It’s been said that the “Big Bad” in Season Six is life itself, and that’s very true; all of the characters have great suffering, and the viewer has to suffer along with them.
And all of the flaws and situations involved in the suffering are set up at the end of Tabula Rasa – Giles is leaving. Dawn is stealing. Willow is deep into her magical addiction, and she and Tara have broken up. Xander’s terror at getting married is coming to the forefront while Anya’s dependency on him deepens.
And Buffy has begun her destructive relationship with Spike.
It’s like Joss is saying, with these two episodes in rapid succession – “Okay, folks. Hope you enjoyed these episodes, because now – THE FUN IS OVER!”
One might wonder, since I know how painful the rest of the season is, just why I’ll go ahead and watch it. And the only answer I can give is this – if they have to go through it, then I have to go through it with them.
That’s what Joss Whedon does. He makes you care.
Sometimes, too much.