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There’s one season in Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s seven-year run that divides its fandom: season 6. This was the year that creator Joss Whedon stepped away as showrunner (executive producer Marti Noxon took over the duties while Whedon remained an EP), the show moved from The WB to UPN due to budget issues, and the tone of Buffy became quite bleak. Tara (Amber Benson) was killed and sent Willow (Alyson Hannigan) down a path of vengeance and dark magic. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) entered a sexual relationship with Spike (James Marsters) that climaxed with him nearly raping her.
Much as there are fans and detractors of the season, the Buffy team also has a differing of opinions. “I’ve always said that season 6 was not my favorite,” says Gellar. “I felt it betrayed who she was. Even just getting to talk to Joss and be able to get his opinion was not as easy when he’s not upstairs. He had three shows. He had Angel and Firefly so that was hard. But he made sure to dedicate the time to season 7 and that was his promise to me: that we would right all the wrongs and he kept that promise.”
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Whedon, on the other hand, is proud of what the season showed and felt that it was representative of a theme the show tackled often: power. “I love season 6,” he says. “Marti and I wanted to talk about an unhealthy relationship. It was borderline abusive until it actually became abusive. It was on both sides. It wasn’t just that she was with someone dark—she found the darkness within herself. This has to do with the consequences of power.”