Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BtVS Season 5: The Body

Let me tell you about one of the best episodes of television, ever.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in Season Five, had an episode called 'The Body'. Now, however dark Buffy had gotten, as a show, before, it was all monsters and evil. 'Fun', unrealistic things. Sure, they were metaphors, much of the time, for real life problems, but still. Most of us don't worry about vampires or a Hellmouth opening up and sucking our school into oblivion.

But The Body is all about human suffering, and 'children' (only in quotes because the majority of them are college age, but still children in many ways) dealing with death and loss and 'what now?'

Buffy, our heroine, comes home. Now, you should know that her mother, Joyce, has survived a *lot* over the years. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and, very recently, a brain tumour. She's recovered from that, dating, moving on with her life. So. Buffy comes home, sees flowers that Joyce's boyfriend has sent over, and yells hello. Then she starts talking up the stairs, thinking that's where her mother is. But we, the viewer, can see, fuzzily in the background, her mother laying sprawled on the couch.

Finally, Buffy turns and sees her there. And she *knows* there's something very wrong. You can see Joyce is dead, but Buffy, her daughter, doesn't want to believe it. She stands there, eyes welling up with tears: 'Mom? Mom? Mommy?' Because even when you're an adult, that is still your mommy.

The whole episode is *brilliant*, and it makes you want to *cry*. Which I *do* through so much of it. The flashbacks to happy times, with the whole Scooby family together, happy. The fantasies that Buffy randomly has of having been in time to *do something* that saves her mother, even though she's told over and over again that there was nothing to be done. (For the record, Joyce dies of an aneurysm. Again, brilliant - natural death in this show is more painful than the other deaths we've seen.)

When the 911 operator refers to Joyce as 'the body' (Buffy, even though she won't admit it, has said enough that the operator realizes that Joyce is dead), Buffy corrects her, 'no, my *mom*' and wants to know if she should make her warm, if that will help...Buffy calling Giles, her father figure, tugging her mom's skirt down just a little bit, because it's her *mom*, and then, after the paramedics leave (leaving her with the body, because they've declared her dead and they have an emergency and the coroner is on the way) wandering into another room to vomit.

The show is *silent*, on the music front. There's no score for the majority of the ep. Just like real life, there's no soundtrack for our pain.

Buffy having to tell Giles, having to tell her sister Dawn. All of the Scoobies' reaction to Joyce's death. Joyce, who has been there for them all since the beginning. It's heart wrenching.

The, in my opinion, best lines are given to Anya, who is Xander's girlfriend. Anya, because I assume most of you don't know this, is only recently human. She was a demon for the past 1500 years, and so she asks a lot of weird questions, and doesn't quite *get* why humans react to things. And she's been doing this through the ep, and you just assume that it's her usual thoughtlessness and lack of comprehension, until the four friends are all in a dorm room, with Willow trying to figure out appropriate clothing (it's her way of trying to deal - nothing seems *right*, and she can't find this sweater that Joyce had liked, and it's not vanity, it's her trying to focus on something other than Joyce being dead). Anyway, Willow yells at Anya, and this is what Anya says:

'But I don't understand. I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean I knew her and then she's...there's just a body. And I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead any more. It's stupid. It's mortal. And stupid. And...and Xander's crying and not talking. And- and I was having fruit punch and I thought, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever. And she'll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever. And no one will explain to me *why*.'

And at the end, Dawn keeps wanting to see her, and sneaks into the morgue, and there's a fight with a vampire, and in the fight, Dawn trips and accidentally pulls the sheet off of her mother. After Buffy's killed the vampire, they both notice, and they're staring, and:

'Is she cold?'

'It's not her. It's not her. She's gone.'

'Where'd she go?'

And it ends with a shot of Dawn's hand reaching out to touch her mother's cheek.

Um, yeah. Guess what I've been watching?


  1. This and "Hush" might be the best Buffy episodes. This episode makes me bawl like a baby. I've seen it a bunch (I own all the seasons) and I still can't get over it. Brilliant Mr. Whedon, brilliant.

  2. LK,

    *nods* Hush was also excellent, but, for me, this is far and away the best episode of Buffy.

    I cry every single time. I too, have all the seasons, and I rewatch them every so often, and every time, I get to this one, and it's like I've forgotten how powerful it is until I'm right there, crying again, even though I know it's coming.

    This is an episode I can point to for all those people who say that Buffy was just a silly show. This is brilliance. This is why Whedon is a television icon. :)

  3. Susanne,


    Surely you jest. :)

  4. I did not remember all this. It's been quite awhile since I watched this, even though I own season 5. Probably because it made me cry so much too. I still remember Dawn and Anya's reactions from seeing it years ago, but that's pretty much all I remember. Even those two parts I just think about it and my eyes are all watery now. I might have to force myself to watch the rest of it, when I'm either feeling brave or like crying would be cathartic.

    Thanks for the sad, sad reminder. Joss is so brilliant. Brilliant and cruel.

  5. Sanil,

    Those are two of the most powerful parts of the ep, so I'm not surprised they're what stuck with you.

    Joss is brilliant. He and Kripke both. Though I have to give Joss more brilliance-cred, since he's had multiple shows that were awesome (despite not getting the love from the networks), and Kripke has (as of yet) only had Supernatural.


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