Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s sixth season has always been a thorn in its fandom’s side. It was a little darker, a little meaner, and a little too different from what came before for the entrenched base to accept.
Now critics have begun reevaluating the season, with Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson writing that “Season 6 of Buffy carries more powerful resonance than any other moment in the show's history.” Marti Noxon, who moved up the ranks from writer to showrunner that season, weathered much of the backlash personally — even jokingly adding, “I ruined Buffy and I will RUIN YOU TOO” on her Twitter bio. But, in an interview with Vulture, Noxon is confident much of the season holds up — though she’s not without her regrets.
When speaking about how Buffy holds up a few decades after ending, Noxon said that she’s not quite sure. “I was so afraid that Buffy was going to be the height of my career and that I would never emerge fully as a creator myself, so it’s actually been weirdly painful to go back and watch it,” Noxon said, “because I was working so wholly to try to meld into the voice of Joss and this genre that was a little bit foreign to me, because I was kind of a straight drama writer. I haven’t revisited it very much. I think parts of it hold up really well, and other parts are a little rickety!”
Fans seem to have thought the same thing, but acknowledging the weaker parts of the work might give some closer to longtime watchers who may have felt like they started watching a different show.
So what were the “rickety” parts? “There were parts of Season 6 where I feel we went too far,” Noxon said. “We pushed into some categories that almost felt sadistic and that Buffy was volunteering for things that were beyond just ‘bad choices’ and were almost irresponsible for the character.”
After saying that these bad choices may have come from a personal place, trying to make Buffy a more nuanced character by taking from real demons, Noxon continued, saying, “I think that killing Tara was — in retrospect, of all the people, did she have to die?” Most fans would agree, as that decision was one of the most controversial in the show's run.
There may be a few narrative regrets floating around Noxon’s head, but her season of Buffy still holds a special place in the canon, if not for being the best season of the show, for being the one to challenge audiences most.