When Buffy dove off a metal tower to her death at the end of Season 5, fans mourned. The Slayer wasn't just leaving Earth, she was leaving The WB. UPN would revive her in the fall to be sure, but would she ever be the same? Or would the network best known for Star Trek and professional wrestling turn our girl into some kind of intergalactic, demon-fighting zombie? Now that the show's first season on UPN has wrapped up, it seems the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Some things have changed. The writing was touch and go all season, and some of the bad guys (remember the shark demon?) would have seemed more at home on Saturday Night Live. Warren and his buddies were whiny wannabes, paling in comparison to previous villains like Glory, Season 5's bitch-goddess. But Season 6 has also featured some of the most amazing Buffy episodes yet. "Smashed" showed us Buffy and Spike lost in passion as a building collapsed around them. In "Once More, With Feeling" the gang danced their way through the Broadway musical version of life in Sunnydale. "Normal Again" tempted Buffy with an alternate reality where she would be tucked safely away in a mental institution. These shows reminded the viewers how good Buffy can be, just when it was starting to seem like the series might be losing its edge.
During the season finale, however, the show appeared to be as big a mess as the main characters' lives. Was Willow going to destroy herself? Was Giles going to die? The mere thought of either character disappearing for good lead to some stressful commercial breaks. In true season finale style, the show left several big questions unanswered. Never mind the runaway geeks, what is going to happen to Willow? What's next for Spike? Is Giles going to stick around? There won't be any definite answers until the fall (mark your calendar -- Season 7 starts September 24th!), but as for the biggest question of all, the answer is clear:
Will Buffy survive on UPN? This girl has beaten demons, witches, and death itself. She can handle a few network executives. Even if Buffy runs into problems along the way, it's not like she'll have to face them alone. She has her friends, her sister, and oh yeah, a whole bunch of fans on her side. It looks like Willow and Spike will be back next season. So will we.
Photos: Top, Mitchell Haaseth