Despite their intentions in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5, the Scoobies may have done more harm than good in bringing Buffy back from the dead.
When The Scooby Gang resurrects the titular character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6, she initially believes she has arrived in hell, all because of a traumatic event from season 1. Buffy awakens in season 6 to find her beloved Sunnydale overrun with Hellions who have set the town ablaze. The destruction and carnage transform Sunnydale into an infernal hellscape, where a bewildered and terrified Buffy presumes that she now must be. But the reason Buffy made this assumption was actually rooted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1.
Pretending the vampire slayer was still alive and well – and fully capable of protecting Sunnydale – overwhelms Willow, Xander, and their fellow Scoobies. Fearing that Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Geller) is also trapped in a hell dimension, they decide to bring Buffy back from the dead. Later in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6, it is revealed that Buffy believes she was instead in heaven and was “ripped out” by her friends. While this, and the state of Sunnydale upon her return, partly explains why Buffy fears that she’s in hell, the full reason was actually explained in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1.
Buffy’s Being Buried Alive In Season 6 Was A Season 1 Callback
During Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1, episode 10, “Nightmares,” Sunnydale residents’ phobias are brought to life, conjured by a comatose child-abuse victim. The season 1 Big Bad, The Master, exploits this opportunity, and upon confronting the slayer, buries Buffy alive. Buffy manages to crawl out of her grave and discovers she has become a vampire. This is revealed to be Buffy’s greatest fear.
Years later when Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) resurrects Buffy, the Scooby Gang neglects to dig up her coffin, meaning that Buffy once again had to crawl out of her own grave. The look of terror on Buffy’s face as she wakes up buried alive is palpable. This recalled Buffy’s greatest fear, which in season 1 came somewhat true. Buffy was terrified of The Master, and would ultimately die (for the first time) at his hands. Waking up in her own coffin brought back Buffy’s earliest slayer-related trauma, and forced her to live through her literal nightmares, so it’s no wonder Buffy intially thought she had been condemned to hell.
How Buffy Being Buried Alive Shaped Buffy The Vampire Slayer Seasons 6 & 7
For the remainder of Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 6 and 7, Buffy loses much of her happy-go-lucky sprightliness. Buffy is clearly traumatized from the switch betwee the warm blissful “heaven” dimension to the unrelenting demon menagerie that comprises Sunnydale. The character struggles to come to terms with this throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6, and only regains some of her sense of humor or happiness briefly when she’s accidentally turned invisible, able to disappear from her crushing and recently reinstated responsibilities. Buffy thought she could finally rest, knowing her mission as the slayer was complete, but this is roundly dashed upon her return.
As Buffy has to reprise her role as the slayer at this time, she does so with the commitment and seriousness of someone who now resents their job, having lost any ability to find some joy in the adventures that accompany it. The quick-witted superhero depicted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1 is gone. This is arguably driven by the trauma caused by the manner of her revival. Being buried alive again cast a hellish tone on Buffy’s perception of her legacy, as to her it seemed making the ultimate sacrifice in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5 was not enough.