Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Buffy Rewatch Week 34

5.16 The Body

Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 266-268.

And on Angel, this week’s episode is:

2.16 Epiphany

Where do I begin?

When I first saw this episode, I was 27 years old. I had both parents, I even had all my grandparents. I’d had some losses, but they hadn’t been earth-shattering to my life. I was rather lucky. I watched this episode in a sort of coma, unable to move or think or react throughout the hour (which, sadly, was broken up by commercial breaks… thank god now for DVD players). At the end of the hour, I looked at my husband, he looked at me, and he said, “Rewind. Let’s watch it again.” The second time through was a very different experience, where now the reality was sinking in.

Joyce was dead.

Those little visual tricks of Joss’s (Joyce taking a gasping breath, telling Buffy how glad she was that she made it on time, etc.) were nothing more than tricks now. Joyce was dead, and she wasn’t coming back. THIS time I had the visceral reaction, this time I was crying along with everyone else.

This second time – and every time since – that fruit punch speech has devastated me. I defy anyone to watch that one with a dry eye.

Now, during the rewatch, I have no grandparents left, I’ve seen friends lose their parents, I’ve watched friends get sick, some dying far, far too young, I’ve known the fear of being in a sudden dangerous situation and thinking, “oh my god, what will happen to my children?!” and so I watched this episode in an entirely different way all over again.

“The Body” is a play in four acts. There is absolutely no non-diegetic music whatsoever; instead Joss Whedon presents death, warts and all. With all of the horrible sounds – and silence – that are left when a person dies.

It really does feel like a play, too, with a single set in each act, covering off each aspect of death. In my book I analyze how the episode represents the various stages of grief, and I won’t run through that again here, but instead I’ll look at the episode itself.

The teaser is a repeat of the ending of the previous episode, with Buffy walking in and saying in her tiny little child-like voice, “Mommy?”

Act One takes place in the house, with all awful noises and moments and feelings and shock that take place. Gellar turns in a stunning performance as her confusion, shock, and horror all pass over her face without Buffy saying much of anything. There’s the moment where she first rushes over and shakes and shakes and SHAKES Joyce for a terribly long time, while we at home already feel our hearts breaking, knowing Joyce isn’t waking up no matter how much she shakes her. We watch her futilely attempting CPR, and we reel back with the horror of her cracking Joyce’s rib with her Slayer strength. Whedon employs several little tricks, where we think for a moment that Joyce may actually be alive when she gasps and begins talking, or when we see the paramedic’s mouth only, as if Buffy is too stunned to hear what he’s saying, just staring at his mouth without taking in the words. She throws the door open at one point and stares into the backyard, hearing the birds and children and a sun that dares to keep shining as if the world doesn’t understand that HER MOTHER IS DEAD for god’s sakes. It’s a moment anyone can relate to, either after suffering the death of a loved one or some catastrophic incident that has changed our lives. HOW could this world continue to go on as if nothing has just happened?? I love when Giles comes in like it’s any other episode, looking for Glory and rushing to Joyce’s side, but when he realizes this is not supernatural, and that Buffy just lost her mommy, he runs to shield Buffy from seeing everything… but he’s far too late.

Act Two is at Dawn’s school, with Dawn complaining that her life is horrible and NOTHING COULD BE WORSE THAN BEING CALLED A FREAK and she goes to art class and must paint the negative space around a body. It’s a brilliant metaphor, considering the space of negativity that surrounds Joyce’s dead body at this point and everyone’s inability to deal with it. Buffy comes in, tells Dawn, and Dawn falls apart, realizing there are worse things than being called a freak.

Act Three is at Willow’s dorm room, where Willow can’t find the right thing to wear, Tara remains a little detached from the others (knowing what Buffy is going through but not wanting to impose on a very close-knit situation of friends), Anya asks innocent questions as a four-year-old would. But where we could indulge the four-year-old and use the distraction to almost make ourselves feel better about things, coming from Anya these questions seem entirely inappropriate. Until she does the fruit punch speech. “Fruit punch mouth” made me laugh my head off at the end of season 1. Now fruit punch makes me cry. Every. Damn. Time. And then Xander puts his fist through a wall. He represents anger, Willow the heightened sensitivity of not wanting to make the situation worse, Tara represents calm, and Anya utter confusion and misunderstanding.

Act Four takes place at the morgue, and we watch the everyday chit-chat of friends trying to talk around what’s really happening and not knowing what to say without sounding trite, Buffy cold to the world around her, Dawn angry, Tara finally admitting what happened to her, the others overcompensating for being clumsy and unsure around their best friend. And then Dawn heads to the room where her mother’s body lay. I said this in my book, but I remember when I first saw the episode I was a little put out that the vampire thing was thrown in there and thought it fell flat, but immediately on that second viewing I realized no, it was absolutely necessary. Life goes on, she’ll still be the Slayer, the world of the undead won’t stop to give Buffy mourning time. All Dawn wants is to touch her, to feel the cold skin, to know without a doubt that her mother really is dead. And she will touch her and make that discovery, and no doubt melt into her sisters arms in a wave of sobs… but that moment is private, not for our eyes, and Joss cuts away just as the hand is about to touch Joyce’s face.

It’s an extraordinary piece of filmmaking in so many ways, and over the years has become immensely influential. The camera angles, the writing, the stark way the entire piece was presented has been used in The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and any other highly stylized television show. In case you were a little confused by that opening scene with the gang all together having Christmas dinner, it was put there because Joss didn’t want the opening producer/acting/writing credits to be placed over the scene of Buffy reacting to her mother’s body, so he added this little set piece and the credits fly rather quickly over it.

Notice also that the latter three acts all begin with images of “the body.” It’s no longer Joyce – she should be in the living room with her arms around Buffy, reassuring her that everything’s OK. She should be at Dawn’s school breaking bad news to her, not Buffy. She should be with Buffy’s friends and talking them through these tough life moments and telling Willow the colour of her shirt doesn’t matter. She should be sitting by Buffy on the couch in the morgue with her arm around her, squeezing her tightly.

But she can’t. She’s gone. Joyce is gone and all that’s left is a body that’s being zipped into a body bag, that’s having a piece of lingerie cut off it, that’s being autopsied. These tiny little moments where we see Joyce – eyes constantly open, a conscious decision Joss made when filming – are what raise this episode even further.

It’s probably been 7 or 8 years since I last watched this episode, and this is the first time I cried from beginning to end. I don’t think I stopped once – not even when Dawnie was being a bit of a turd. I choked out a little laugh when Willow threatened fisticuffs, but the tears didn’t stop flowing.

Still one of my favourite hours of television, if not my absolute favourite.

This Rewatch has featured some incredible minds in the world of pop culture studies, and my guest hosts have done an amazing job of analyzing the episodes and pulling out themes and ideas each week. But “The Body” is something that not only demands critical analysis (and I’ve got my favourite husband-and-wife academic team coming up shortly to do that for us) but it’s one of those episodes we feel. Each week I try to infuse the emotional side of the commentary into the write-ups, talking about my personal reaction to the episodes. But for “The Body,” I couldn’t do that from experience.

While, as mentioned, I’ve been lucky that I still have all my parents (knock on wood), some of my friends haven’t been so fortunate. My best friend Sue – who I talk about all the time on here, who is my sci-fi convention sidekick and the pal who accompanies me to every Slayage – lost her father to cancer 13 years ago, shortly after the two of us were out of university. Her dad was the coolest – he was from England, had shared pints with Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck, had rubbed shoulders with the Kray twins, and had so many stories I could listen to him talk all day. I’ll never forget the time that Sue and I were in her basement watching U2’s Rattle & Hum, and when Bono gives this REALLY long preachy speech (the one that ends, “Am I buggin’ ya? Don’t mean to bug ya…”) her dad was standing in one corner of the room doing something and he started shouting back at the television like he was a member of a Baptist congregation. “You tell ‘em! You got it, brother!” Sue and I were in stitches. It’s my favourite memory of him. He was awesome.

And then he got sick.

Sue and I had been best friends throughout high school and university, but drifted apart afterwards as our lives diverged and went in different directions. I found out through the grapevine that her dad had passed away, and I didn’t even know he’d been sick; I felt awful, to say the least. It was through this tragedy that we reconnected and are closer today than we’ve ever been before.

She’s been following the Rewatch from the beginning (and has the joy of rewatching the episodes with a first-time viewer!). I delicately asked her a few weeks ago if she might share with us what it’s like to watch this episode, having been through a similar loss, and she graciously accepted the challenge. So I’m pleased and proud to present Suzanne Kingshott this week, my best friend, my kindred spirit, and the one to bring the heart to the Rewatch (for the record, you made me cry, Suzie)…

Joss Whedon’s ‘The Body’ is the most honest episode of television I have ever watched. I can’t believe how he was able to write such a powerful episode and address everything that one feels upon the death of someone close to them. The emotions, the dialogue, the soundtrack and even the camera shots and editing of the episode as a whole, all strive to convey the fickleness of life, the ultimate finality of death and the very complex and emotional healing process one goes through after losing a loved one.

The opening scene with Buffy finding her mom is so heartbreaking, but even more heartbreaking still is seeing the look on her face when the fact that her mother really is dead is sinking in. I feel like that whole opening scene is like being in slow motion and I think that that adds to the feeling of how surreal this event in her life is. I remember feeling that way when my dad had passed. I actually was with him during his last moments. Time seemed to go on forever for the rest of the day. Nothing seemed real. You get this weird feeling of detachment from the rest of the world – it’s like you’re in a bubble or haze all by yourself. I kept thinking that he was going to turn up at home and call my name or say something funny and all would be right with the world. I couldn’t comprehend that he was really gone. The whole idea that I would never speak to him again about the book he was reading or drive to the store with him again or watch EastEnders with him or sit at the table in the morning and have a cup of tea with him (which is all so reminiscent of Anya’s fruit punch speech) was kind of absurd because he’d been in palliative care for quite a few weeks, so I really hadn’t done any of those normal everyday things with him for a while. Buffy’s thought of the alternative outcome where she reaches her mother and the paramedics get her breathing again and everything turns out fine is so real to me. I remember that I kept thinking that my father’s death was all a dream and that I’d wake up and everything would be okay and life would go on as usual.

Buffy’s realization about the difference between her mother and her mother’s body was also interesting. I remember after my dad passed, the nurses came in and said that we could spend as much time as we liked with him (with the underlying understand that eventually they would have to deal with his body) and I have a difficult time remembering how long I sat with him. I had to go through that process of distinguishing my father as I knew him in my heart and mind from the body left behind – to realize that my dad as I knew him was no longer there. I went about making a call to tell a close friend about my dad’s passing and I remember looking at this clock in the hospital ceiling with its red lights reading 8:11 – I don’t know why I remember the time but I remember staring at this every day object like it was something foreign to me just like Buffy does with the phone keypad. I’m sure that I also made little sense to the person on the other end of the phone even though I remember trying to keep a false sense of calm as Buffy does.

I found it really interesting in the episode that Buffy’s mind reverts quite quickly to her happy memory of a Christmas past with her mother because it took me quite a while to be able to look back on nice memories without breaking down in tears. Eventually there came a point in my grief where I felt comforted in remembering the good times I had with my dad and all the wonderful memories of him in my life. Once I was able to stop dwelling on the period of time when he was ill and passed away, I was able to reminisce with less pain.

But there lies a little difference between my situation and Buffy’s – her mother’s death was sudden, my dad’s was not. Which brings me to the scene with Buffy and Tara in the hospital when Tara tells Buffy about her mother’s death. Buffy asks Tara if her mother’s death was sudden and Tara says “no and yes, it’s always sudden”. After watching my father go through a prolonged illness and die, I thought to myself – “well you knew it was coming, why are you so surprised?” – and then it dawned on me that it doesn’t matter what you think is coming or even what you’re told is coming and should know is coming, you are not any more prepared for the final outcome – you cannot conceive that the person who has been there through your whole life will suddenly be gone one day. After my dad’s death, I had many minutes and hours of guilty feelings thinking that I could have done more, said more, been there more…after a while, I had to realize that it was what it was – I had never dealt with this before (as Buffy also remarks to Tara). The scene that Buffy has with Tara is my favourite in the episode because their conversation is so honest. Death is discussed openly and they admit that there are no easy answers when dealing with the death of a loved one. Tara says that you have thoughts and reactions that you can’t understand and that death is always different – no two people who have experienced the death of someone close to them handle it in the same way. She is able to give Buffy more comfort and insight than anyone else because she understands how lost one feels after losing someone you love. However, don’t get me wrong, all the other things that your friends do to try and help comfort you are just as valid – the most important thing is having those who care about you around and there when you need them most – even if you don’t speak to each other.

I can’t imagine how my friends felt about the situation me and my family were going through. I’m sure that it’s difficult for everyone in trying to figure out how to interact with and comfort someone who’s just suffered a great loss. Sadly I’ve been to several funerals since my father’s and I feel a fool at times because I find myself saying the same trite, conventional comments that everyone says quoting variations of “it’s for the best” (if they were suffering from an illness) and “time heals all wounds” and how sorry I am and how sad it all is. I barely even remember my father’s funeral. It was all a blur. I couldn’t tell you who was there outside of a handful of people but I felt comforted and supported because of the people that were there. I was able to feel the love and good wishes surrounding me and my family during that horrible time. The scene with Xander and Anya going up to get Tara and Willow to go to the hospital underlines that idea. Nothing seems appropriate and there’s a general awkwardness to everything. You know as friends it is your duty to be there and support the person who has suffered the loss more greatly than you even if in the moment you feel useless or you overcompensate - you have to find the strength to hold in your own grief in order to help your friend overcome theirs.

In my experience, I find that the hardest period of time in dealing with a recent death of a loved one is not necessarily the event itself or the funeral or the days between the two (because ultimately you are numb and basically a walking zombie), but the days and weeks and months after the funeral. This is the time when you need people around the most because this is when you need to accept what has happened, make peace with it and move on. You need to get back into reality and the regular routine of life and living. And that’s what is really hard to get over – life going on without someone who was such a big part of your life. I remember going back to my job after my father’s death. I was a part-time cashier in a grocery store. It was very difficult to get back into every day routines. I remember one day in particular, it was my first week back and I greeted a customer as usual “good morning how are you?” and then had to listen to them complain about the weather and the price of milk and the whole time I’m screaming in my head “at least your father hasn’t just died of cancer”. Everything else in life, all the little annoyances and petty gripes we all have each and every day just seemed so incredibly insignificant to me. You also look back on things that used to make you angry or upset you and realize how trivial those things were in comparison to this awful life-changing event you’ve just gone through (such as Dawn being upset about kids spreading rumours about her at school – in her mind at that point in time prior to finding out about her mother’s death that was the most awful thing that had happened to her). It is so hard after the funeral to watch everyone around you go back to their daily lives and move on and essentially seem to forget about you and your pain – but life must go on. And that’s where the advice of “take things one day at a time” kicks in – it’s the only way you can survive for quite a while after the death of a loved one. It’s so hard to believe at the time, but one day I found myself suddenly getting through a whole day without crying, without thinking “why me?”, without getting angry. Eventually you reach a day where you realize you didn’t even think of that horrible period in your life for one moment and you feel the guilt swell up in your heart and soul but you realize that that doesn’t mean you don’t miss them, it just means you’re coping with the loss. In your heart I knew that this is what my dad would want – all parents want their kids to be happy and to never be in any pain. It’s at this stage in your grief when you are ready for the wonderful memories to flood back and you feel able to reminisce with family and friends all your “remember whens” and “as my dad would have saids” – and that is a tribute to the loved one you’ve lost all in itself.

Another coping mechanism that is so evident in this episode is Buffy’s need to be strong and go on in order to care and protect her younger sister. I found that I did much the same thing by focusing my energies on my younger brother and sister and making sure that they were all right and trying to make things “normal” again for them. In this way, I was able to delay my own grief for a short while, however, your personal grief does eventually catch up with you – you can’t avoid it – you have to deal with it in one way or another. You need to find your own sense of closure, your own peace of mind and it’s your family and friends who are the key to your survival, just as they are for Buffy.

Watching this episode again, for the first time since it originally aired, I feel comforted in a strange sort of way. Yes, there are very sad and upsetting moments and times when I cried, but as someone who has gone through losing a person very dear to their heart, there is a comfort in seeing the stages of grief laid out in such a frank and honest way. I can totally relate to everything each one of the characters goes through. There are no fake or contrived moments in this episode and there is no need to overdramatize the events or the actions of the characters. There is comfort in knowing that everything I went through after my dad’s death was normal, that all my feelings and actions and thoughts were valid and that I am not alone in dealing with my grief in these ways. In the end, I didn’t handle the situation any better or any worse than anyone else. I remember bracing myself emotionally the first time I watched the episode when it aired. I knew what was coming and I purposely kept myself emotionally detached when I watched the episode. I was unable to think or talk about the episode for fear of breaking down emotionally since it had only been a few years after my dad’s death. At the end of the day the loss of a loved one, especially a parent when you are at such a young age, is very devastating and changes the course of your life forever. It’s being able to find the strength to deal with your grief and continue with your life that pays tribute to the memory of one gone. I believe that my dad is very proud of me and my siblings and the way with which we have dealt with his death and how we have continued to achieve our goals in life and carry on despite feeling the loss of his physical presence every day.

Thank you, Sue. I believe with all my heart your dad is crazy proud of you, just like he always was. Love you.

And now, Dale and Ensley Guffey. Ensley’s been on here before, talking about The Zeppo, Bad Girls, and Consequences. His wife, Dale, I first encountered at the 2008 Slayage conference. I talked about her on here and her wonderful southern accent that I enjoyed listening to as she gave one of the papers. She is the author of Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon (as K. Dale Koontz), and one of the funniest people at the conference every year. On top of teaching film studies, Dale has two blogs: Mockingbird's Nest and Unfettered Brilliance. Ensley blogs at Solomon Mao's, and check out his recent Watcher Junior article here. These two are fabulous together (at their recent wedding, the cake topper was Buffy in the prom dress and jacket and Captain John Sheridan), and I asked if they might consider a week to tackle as a team. They chose “The Body,” and have decided to present their commentary in a very new and exciting way for the Rewatch. Take it away, Dale and Ensley!

“And Now We All Hurt”: C’mon Over and Watch ‘The Body’ With Us
K. Dale Koontz and Ensley F. Guffey

“The Body” is not the easiest episode to write about and as such it’s been written about a lot. For those who might be interested, we recommend Whedon’s own commentary on the episode, and the relevant sections in Rhonda Wilcox’s Why Buffy Matters; Matthew Pateman’s The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Lavery and Wilcox’s Fighting the Forces; and Edwards, Rambo, and South’s Buffy Goes Dark FOR STARTERS!! Those are tough acts to follow, so we decided to do something different. Since this series is all about (re)watching BtVS, we thought we’d invite you into our livingroom to watch it with us. We set up our camera, hit “play” and then kept hitting “pause” to talk about what we were watching, and to make the kitten dance for the camera. The results (edited to make us seem smarter and more polished of speech than we actually are) follow. We hope you enjoy.

Dale: So – the big reveal has already been made. One of the things I’m always looking for is color, and here we see Joyce in this kind of beige and grey. The last time we saw her, she was in this vibrant long dress, she’s going out on this date, she’s so excited and she’s bantering with Buffy, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.

Ensley: Things are finally starting to work out for her.

D: And then . . . we go here.

(Buffy comes in, wearing red. Sees vibrant bouquet from Joyce’s date.)

D: Buffy calls Joyce “flower-getting lady” at the very start of the episode; it’s a painful reminder that the only flowers Joyce is ever going to get again are funeral bouquets.

E: Buffy’s voice is so small when she says “Mommy?” The way her voice breaks there.

D: That always gets me.

(Credits roll. Holiday dinner memory.)

D: Look at all the color, the candlelight.

(Anya reveals that Santa exists and he disembowels children)

D: Even in an alternative reality – that’s Anya. This is one of my very favorite Anya episodes and in that holiday memory scene, Anya is telling the truth, that Santa – that it’s a myth it’s a myth – and she sounds very self-possessed and very confident and very blunt. And she’s gonna have the bluntness later on that we all want, but it’s a different side of Anya.

E: Right.

(Happy memories of joking in the kitchen with parent figures Joyce/Giles – tease about band candy – then pie slips and we’re looking at Joyce’s too-still face.)

E: Ohh – nice. Nice hand-held camera work.

D: See how jerky it is?

E: And cool, calm, collected Buffy is just - -

D: Gone.

E: And we just have 8 year old Buffy.

(Buffy on phone with 911.)

D: Something that’s been pointed out again and again is – there is no music.

(Zoom in on body, reverse to Buffy’s face.)

E: Nice.

D: Pulling her skirt back down?

E: Right. There’s something – a dead body, it’s somehow already so exposed. It’s just so – empty. And the added insult of something like a skirt that’s scrunched up too high; it’s just so much more indecent somehow than if somebody had just fallen asleep on the couch and the skirt was hiked up in their sleep.

D: Well, this is one of those episodes that I both love and I hate. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have really strong emotions about this episode and it’s because – this is not an episode that’s about vampires. This is about—there’s nothing here that we can read as metaphor or symbol. It makes so many people so very, very uncomfortable.

E: This really is just a child dealing with the death of a parent. I’m really noticing the camerawork this time around and the different techniques used, like the long shot of the phone’s number pad.

(EMTs work – go into “miracle daydream,” then cut to living room with dead Joyce)

D: I hate Whedon.

E: But that’s how it is. I mean . . . yeah, you kind of hate Whedon for it, but this is actually one of the reasons I love this episode: because this is how it is. I remember when Dad got sick; it was that kind of thing. There were these flash daydreams, kind of, with everything going on, that everything would be fine. Doctors would be able to fix him and life would go back to what it was.

(Talk with EMT – Buffy’s so small)

E: The camerawork deliberately makes her look small. You forget how small Gellar actually is and the camera angles and positioning is designed to emphasize and even overemphasize that because you’re not dealing with the Slayer here. You’re dealing with the very young woman who’s just facing this horrible and utterly normal thing. The way they shot over the EMT’s shoulder makes her seem smaller and therefore more vulnerable.

(Buffy – “Good luck” to the departing EMTs.)

D: Hmmf.

E: ‘Cause you feel like you ought to say something, that you have to say something.

(Buffy throws up, wind chimes)

E: I like that. The wind chimes.


D: I love this part. It shows how ordinary life is going on.

E: Because when you’re in that situation, it really feels like the world should be stopped, because your world has. I mean, it’s just – you’re psychically shattering and that things are going on normally is just incomprehensible.

D: I think the wind chimes are good for that because it’s rhythmic but it’s also kind of a broken sound. (Paper towel) And Buffy has to clean up, because now there’s no one else to do it.

(Buffy “We’re not supposed to move the body!”)

E: Oh, God.

D: She feels so disloyal and the shock of realizing she said “the body” instead of “mom” or “her.”

E: That first realization.

D: And no one closes her eyes.

E: I don’t think you actually can.

D: But it’s a trope from TV and from movies. Whedon’s shattering quite a few of those with this episode. The transition to Dawn in the bathroom is classic Whedon misdirection. It seems like she already knows about her mother’s death, but actually she’s angsting over high school crap.

(Dawn to cute boy in art class: “And there’s just way more important stuff going on.”)

D: And that’s just a perfect line. I always thought the “negative space” idea was just inspired. In this case, it’s what happens to these two when Joyce isn’t there.

E: I always kind of read that as liminal space – because you do divide it into life when Joyce was alive, and life after. I think for most humans, and I know for me, it’s life while your parents are still alive and life after.

D: Buffy’s always been really good about taking those big moments. I remember when I first discovered Buffy, so much is made about when she and Angel first sleep together, moment of perfect contentment, he loses his soul, and it’s a lovely metaphor for something that most girls have felt, which is – the guy changes. But that’s what makes this episode so powerful – there isn’t any symbolism, there isn’t any metaphor – it’s stripped down. It’s raw.

E: It’s so rarely done in television that you have such an honest look at loss. It really is. On a side note, Sunnydale High School is a really nice school! I understand for what’s coming up, why we need the windows, but still – that’s a really nice school.

D: Not to mention – you try having them draw from a nude in a North Cackalacky school, and...

E: Well, it is California. Before California went broke.

(Dawn to Buffy: “Something’s going on. Tell me what’s going on.”)

D: Careful what you wish for.

(Joyce on slab in morgue. Open eyes, clothes being cut off for the autopsy. The sound of shears.)

E: More hand held camera work. Utter silence.

(Willow’s indecision about what to wear.)

D: She (Hannigan) does this so well.

(Willow: “Why can’t I just dress like a grown-up? Can’t I be a grown-up?”)

E: That’s a nice line.

D: This is actually the first Willow/Tara kiss. Whedon says he wanted it to not be a big deal. It seems logical here, as if it just grew organically out of Tara’s need to offer comfort to Willow, and I like that Tara says “we” can do this.

E: I think for a lot of these characters – for everybody – this is a transition between childhood and adulthood.

D: College traditionally is that bridge – of time, if not necessarily of experience.

E: Yeah, it is, but I think there’s something more here. The death of a parent brings with it this sudden realization that you have to be a grown-up. That the grown-ups are gone and they’re not going to be there. I love Willow’s line here: “Can’t I be a grown-up?” It just encapsulates all of that.

(Xander and Anya arrive in room – Anya is asking for direction – “What will we be expected to do?” No answer.)

E: I like that in the end Willow dresses like Willow.

D: I never paid attention to that.

(Xander’s rant looking for something to blame)

E: Desperate need to find somebody to blame.

D: To have something to do.

(Willow to Xander – “It just happened.”)

E: And that’s what’s so hard.

(Willow: Because it’s not okay for you to be asking these things! Anya: But I don’t understand!)

D: And I love Anya a little for that speech.

E: Oh yeah! I love Anya a lot for that speech!

D: One of the things Whedon does so well here – and that Anya really wants to know: What am I supposed to do? What rituals do I observe? Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? Is that the “helpful thing to do?” Literally, they all deal with it in different ways.

E: I really like Anya’s bit because – if a child could articulate all of its confusion and bewilderment at such a time – that would be it.

(Xander punches wall, business of getting his hand out, which is cut and bloody. Tara says, “It hurts,” and she and Xander share a moment.)

D: You know, that’s something he said at the beginning of the last episode when he’s “Puffy Xander” and he’s saying it as a joke in that one. After Buffy’s been beating him up for practice, he says something about, “No, no, I can tell I’m alive because of the pain.”

E: Oh, yeah. That moment between Xander and Tara. That was nice. There for a couple of years, there was a dent in the emergency room at Cleveland Memorial Hospital. I did the same thing.

D: In a wall??

E: Yeah. Only time I’ve ever done anything like that in my life. I’m not sure how much of it was genuine frustration and how much of it was, well, this is what you do if you’re a man. You punch things. On a side note – Xander is very “70s Xander” in this one. He’s got the shaggy 70s hair, he’s got the suede jacket going on, and these weird greenish-yellow pants. Check him out – he’s very 70s Xander.

D: Yeah. He’s all earth tones. And you know, my dorm room was never that nice.

(Canted angles – everything’s off-kilter. Pans out of room to see Xander’s car getting ticketed.)

E: Life goes on.

(Come up on Joyce’s face as doctor concludes autopsy.)

D: The autopsy doc: busiest man in Sunnydale.

E: Isn’t that the truth?

(Waiting room – hugs, small talk.)

D: Just cliché and cliché. But you have to say something.

E: Yeah.

(Anya: “I wish that Joyce didn’t die. Because she was nice. And now we all hurt.” She’s trying SO HARD. Buffy seems to get it, even though the rest are uncomfortable with her bluntness.)

E: Another moment of honesty from Anya.

(Gang goes off to the vending machines.)

D: Another way you can tell it was made in California. Southerners would have had casseroles and hard-boiled eggs by now. There would’ve been a devilled-egg plate in that lounge by now.

(Tara & Buffy on couch, side by side)

E: This is a good bit.

D: Yes. When they’re side by side, that’s really amazing. All though this, we see Buffy as being filmed as being very small. She has her shoulders bowed in and see – Tara is always the one who’s ducking her head and not wanting to talk, and here – Tara’s the one who’s looking like the stronger woman. She’s not looking at Buffy, but – Tara has gone through it and she’s about to help. I never noticed that before.

(Tara “It’s always sudden.”)

E: That’s how it was with Dad.

(Dawn sneaks into morgue.)

D: You know, as often as Dawn annoys me –

E: Which is often.

D: Which is often, this I get. As weird as that is, this I actually get.

E: For her, it’s not real until she sees the body.

D: Here Buffy’s in that red and Dawn’s in this ice-blue.

E: And I noticed that Tara’s in a sort of soothing blue.

(New vamp rises from morgue slab.)

E: (sigh) Sunnydale. Ew. Naked vampire.

D: What’s the cliché here – Unlife goes on?

(Buffy goes in search of Dawn.)

D: Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday.

E: Buffy’s spider-sense is tingling.

D: How truly weird is it that normalcy means she’s fighting vampires? No quipping here either.

E: And no fight music. And Buffy’s not fighting too well – this is a new vamp, she should be done by now.

D: How does she kill this one? I forget.

E: I don’t – bone saw! Slow, but it’ll do.

(Dawn and Buffy both on floor, Dawn rises to stare at her mother’s uncovered body.)

E: That’s nice camera work.

(Dawn doesn’t actually touch Joyce – cut to credits before contact is made.)

D: It’s an amazing episode.

E: Oh, yeah. It really is.

D: I think it’s also a standout – I can name some other episodes that break my heart, but I think one of the reasons that this is such a standout is there is no quipping in here.

E: And again, it really is an unusual episode of television for being such an honest, unvarnished look at loss.

D: Joyce is, in a way, the mom to all the Scoobies. We know with the possible exception of Cordelia, who’s left the show at this point, none of them come from happy families, so they spend an awful lot of time at Buffy’s house.

E: One of the things that make this episode so powerful is that we don’t see Joyce die. We’re with Buffy. We come in and we find her. That’s unusual in television for a character we know. One of the things that speculative fiction does very, very well is – oddly enough – realism. There’s one vampire in this, granted, but that’s it. It’s very much an essay into realism – even Buffy’s flashbacks are realism. Like Tara says, it’s the crazy thoughts.

D: You feel like you’re losing it.

E: Right.

D: In the formula that we’re used to, especially if it’s a beloved character, there are a few standard things that happen. Either they go out in a blaze of glory, or you at least see some kind of look of shock on their face as they reach for the phone, but then after the body is discovered… if they go out in a blaze of glory, okay, that’s the impetus to swear revenge. Here, there’s nothing to swear revenge on – that’s one of the things that gets Xander so frustrated.

E: That there’s no one to blame. Because honestly, despite what Xander says, stuff does just happen.

D: Yeah. And that’s a part of life that just sucks. If they don’t go out in a blaze of glory, then usually, the next scene is the funeral. You don’t see all of this. You don’t see the indecision and the confusion, the desperation you see especially in Willow and Anya – you want to do things right, but you don’t know what right is. Willow, who we haven’t seen dither this much since Season One, can’t even decide what shirt to wear.

E: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Willow dither that much.

D: Certainly not like that – not over clothes.

E: It strikes home to me because I know all this. I know the crazy thoughts, the things that make you think you’re losing it, those flash fantasies and the lips that move and make no sense, the urge to punch something – I know all of that. There’s such an urge to self-flagellate. It’s a brilliant episode and I admire Whedon for this, I always have. I can’t think of any other episode of a television show that ever looked at this quite so directly. Again, I think what Whedon does with sound and the absence thereof – at some points, it’s not even “no music,” it’s the complete absence of sound.

D: That’s an echo – ha, residual sound – of what’s going on inside. Because you’re in your own head; you’re not hearing anything anyway. It would be completely silent. Something else you said – this episode is one of those events that’s a clear dividing line.

E: You got before and you’ve got after. With Joyce and without Joyce. And I like that Whedon excluded Spike and Angel from this episode. I like that this is about ordinary people dealing with an ordinary thing.

D: Yeah. This is not the time for me to learn how vampires deal with death.

E: And it’s not about how a Slayer deals with death, either. It’s about how Buffy deals with death. It’s a very, very human episode.

D: Anya’s speech gets me every time, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen this episode.

E: There are several points in this one that get me.

D: What else? Because there are a couple that get me. Hearing Buffy say, “Mommy?” and hearing that crack when she performs CPR.

E: That exchange between Willow and Tara when Willow’s just blithering and you have those few seconds of silence when Xander and Anya pull up. That whole scene in the beginning where Buffy is just completely at a loss for what to do – that always gets me, because it’s so real. You don’t know what to do; you’re an 8-year-old kid again who doesn’t know what to do and all the CPR classes fly right out of your head.

D: Yeah, Buffy can do a flying spin kick but doesn’t remember how to do CPR.

E: Because it doesn’t matter at that point if you’re a superhero or not – you’re just another human being in a world of pain that you can’t even begin to process. And I like that Buffy is very small at that point; that even her voice is so very small.

D: Nobody’s big in that moment, not even the Slayer.

Thank you, Dale and Ensley!

Next week: You will be entertained by the two Nikkis -- myself and Nikki Fuller! Episodes are:

5.17 Forever
5.18 Intervention
5.19 Tough Love

Angel episodes are:

2.17 Disharmony
2.18 Dead End
2.19 Belonging

See you then!


Marebabe said...

Before I read that Joss Whedon’s mother had died from a brain aneurism, I felt certain that “The Body” had been written from memory. Everything about it had such a ring of truth. Only one omission stood out for me. At no time did anyone mention Buffy and Dawn’s Dad. I realize that, when you only have 42 minutes to tell a story, some things get cut or have to be glossed over. But as I watched this heartbreaking episode, especially the second time through, I thought, “Where’s Hank?” In every other way, I thought this episode was absolutely perfect. (Maybe we’ll see him at Joyce’s funeral?)

Willow’s quest for the blue sweater. *sad face* Anya’s words of condolence. *watery smile* She so perfectly expressed, in plain words, the essence of what every spoken, unspoken, or written condolence message seeks to convey. Well done, Anya.

After reading Nikki’s chapter on this episode, I quickly read the Wikipedia article, too. Nikki, you are mentioned twice in that Wikipedia article. See? You’re regarded as an authority!

Colleen/redeem147 said...

The first time I saw this episode, I called my friend Ed and told him not to watch Buffy that week. He had just found his father on his favourite TV watching chair in much the same way Buffy finds Joyce. Like Buffy, he was left alone in the house with the body, waiting for the coroner.

At the time, I was Dawn's teacher. I had been teaching a pre-school class and the husband of one of the parent helpers came into the room and took her out into the hall to tell her that her mother had died. I don't need to hear Dawn. I know what the scream sounds like.

Now I see this episode differently. It was my brother who called 911 when he found my father lying on the living room floor. I never did see his body - he was cremated after being examined. Heart failure. Though the more cathartic Joss moment for me happens in the movie Serenity - sudden, pointless death.

A few notes on the episode.

Buffy has seen death so many times. Now she knows it.

A side note - I'm with Anya. Santa is evil. Like clowns.

Buffy pulls down Joyce's skirt, but there is no dignity in death. Soon her clothes will be cut off her.

Buffy has to clean up her own sick - there's no mommy to do it for her.

The vampire seems intrusive, but the true horror is in the reality of the episode. Joss mentions on the commentary that he wanted the makeup on the vampire to look like an actual corpse, not what we've seen before.

And in all the somber hour - I had to laugh when Xander said that the Avengers have to get with assembling. Joss is currently assembling them. :)

Dusk said...

What gets me:
Buffy's final scream of MOM! My own mother had a stroke when I was 12, she survived and everything still works, my Dad saw most of it, but that scream was mine.

The miracle fantasy, also a personal expirence during my scare. That is what convinced this was made by some

Alyson crying, that part of the script could easily come across as shallow, she makes it part of the mourning process.

Anya' speech.

I am among the youngest in my family, I've been to funerals for relatives, many of whom were in there nineties. Tara's right it still feels sudden.

The Question Mark said...

There's SO much that could be said here, so I'll just mention my 2 biggest comments:

I've been loving Anya more and more since she debuted on the series, but her speech in this episode seals the deal. The whole episode was great, but it wasn't until Anya broke down that I actually got severely choked up. She is just such a fascinating character, the way she sees things.

I have a fear of vomiting. When I start feeling nauseous, I tense up, I start to shake and sweat uncontrollably, and my face turns as pale as a corpse's.
After Buffy threw up, her back was to the camera for a few moments, until she stepped outside, and all of a sudden they cut to a close-up of her face.
This moment actually made me gasp out loud.
She looked absolutely, PERFECTLY like a person who has just been through a great deal of fear AND nausea. Kudos to the make-up department on that one, I still can't get over how authentic she looked. I was convinced that Sarah Gellar actually induced her own gag reflex, it couldn't have been more realistic.

Witness Aria said...

The Body: Absolutely, harshly incredible.

Epiphany: Just a quite comment about Angel this week. It contains my one of my favorite lines in all of Angel, when he's explaining his realization to Kate. Just brilliant.

kluu said...

Other than the two different sketches that dawn had in her art class, this was the greatest TV episode I can remember ever watching. I tear up to the point of actual sobs everytime I watch it.

Page48 said...

I have to watch episodes like "The Body" alone, cuz I'm almost guaranteed to weep like a fire hydrant from wire to wire. It's my Buffy and I'll cry if I want to.

While I can tear up on demand for beautifully crafted fiction, such as TB, I tend not to experience the same reaction to personal loss in real life. My father (and a year earlier, my best friend) died almost a decade ago, and I've yet to shed a tear in either case. It's not that their deaths didn't affect me, it's just that tears weren't part of the equation.

I can't personally relate to the kinds of reactions that we see here with Buffy and Dawn, but I suspect that their relative youth (compared to me at the time of my most important losses) likely has much to do with that. And, of course, I didn't find my father dead at home, so therefore didn't have to deal with 911 calls or pulling my kid sister out of school.

What I do notice in these real life loss situations is that the people in my life who have died, frequently have cameos in my dreams, even all these years later.

I remember precious little (if anything) that was said to me after my father's death. I have to consider this a blessing, since it suggests that others likely remember little of the drivel that may have poured out of my mouth when roles were reversed.

No Spike in this episode. It's hard to imagine how he could have been used tastefully, but I kind of wish they had found a way to include him, since it was such a landmark episode in the series.

I think it was perfectly alright to have a vamp go after Dawnie in the morgue. This is the story of The Slayer, after all. Conspicuous by its absence was the usual witty banter (or any banter at all) between Slayer and Slayee.

Okay Edge, play the blues.

Christina B said...

I literally had to prepare myself throughout the day for tonight's rewatch...and it was still hard to watch.
I think this second viewing was even harder than the first, knowing what was coming next and without the commercials to break it up for me.

I lost my dad 11 years ago, so I too am viewing The Body with the eyes of a child who's missing her daddy.

My dads passing wasn't 'sudden' (he died of liver cirrhosis a few weeks after he was diagnosed) , but since I lived 6 hours away and had a family of my own, I wasn't called to his hospital bedside until his last day.

I was there with him, one of his hands in mine and my other hand holding my brother's across my father's body, as he took his last few breaths.

As he did, I once again became a scared 5 year old girl and I watched as my brother seemed to shrink and change into his 4 year old self.

The nurses asked us if we wanted time alone with my dad, and I declined. I felt right after he was gone that it wasn't HIM anymore. He wasn't there.
My brother didn't feel the same, and he chose to say goodbye.
The sounds I heard from my brother, alone in that hospital room with my dad, tore my heart out. To this day, I can't think of that without sobbing (as I'm doing as I type this).

I remember standing in the hallway, alone (my parents were divorced so mom wasn't there), looking up and down the corridor thinking, "What happens now? What do I do now?"
I can relate to Anya in this episode, for the first time.

Earlier that day, I had called a couple my parents were close to when we were kids to let them know my dad wasn't going to last much longer and to let them know they were welcome to come and say goodbye.
After the divorce and my dads drinking got bad, he lost touch with this couple, but when I was little, they were like second parents to me and I know they still loved him very much.

As I was standing in that hallway, alone and scared, listening to my brother's horrible cries and sobs, that couple walked toward me, down the hallway.

I ran, as a five year old would, and fell into their arms. They had to hold me up...and they did.
And they held my brother up too, when Mr. G went into my dads hospital room and took him away from 'The Body'.

I'm not a religious person, but something sent those people in at the exact time we needed them, and they held us as we finally realized our dad was really, truly gone, as Giles did with Buffy.

I don't think I'll watch 'The Body' again. I'm glad I saw it this second time, and I'm glad I'm able to share my thoughts and feelings on it here, with Nikki and you all.

But, for me, it's just that one episode that's best left alone after you've gotten all you can from it.

I'll leave my thoughts on 'Epiphany' a little later. :)

JS said...

this is a difficult episode to write about

JS said...

I share the feeling of inadequacy when attempting to write something original or some new observation about this episode, but it is so affecting I cannot help but share.

The first line that gets me choked up – “We’re not supposed to move the body”, when she realizes what she has said, and Giles is there for her. I put my hand to my mouth, like Buffy. That blank stare image of Joyce is so jarring (as intended) and can choke me up at any time. For some reason I cannot help but say, “Oh Joyce” out loud, even if I am alone.

The Christmas scene seems just too happy, but then Anya brings us back to reality with the Santa myth myth. And Tara is cute when she says Willow likes it when she…stops explaining things. The scene in the kitchen is painful to watch, the reference to band candy reminding us of the connection Giles and Joyce had, and then the scream that immediately cuts to Joyce’s blank face. I catch my breath.

The red sweater is iconic, and I noticed the band aid. For all the times Buffy gets beat up, does she ever don a band aid? I have to concur that the fantasy of an alternate outcome is something I’ve experienced with my step-daughter a couple of years back when the ER doc tried to explain to us that she was probably going to die. I felt there must have been something I could have said or done to make this not be true. OK, I’ve got the message, let me go back and fix it. But then the reality staring at you brings you back. This rang true, like everything else in the episode. (BTW, the docs were wrong, and she is thriving today.)

They convey the surrealism with the phone and the lips authentically. And every time someone says she suffered very little pain, I wonder why they don’t say she didn’t have any pain. What is the difference? If you are going to lie, why not go all the way?

Dawn – even the first time around, I didn’t believe that Dawn knew about her mother in the bathroom scene. Considering her previous dramatic reactions to things, this was way too tame to be a reaction to anything more serious than a boy. We know she’s a screamer. That back pack is way too small to be useful. And I love the references to the negative space, and when she says to Kevin that there’s way more important stuff going on. We didn’t need to hear the conversation to know what was said.

JS said...

The juxtaposition of the sound of the scissors cutting through Joyce’s slip, and the total silence with Xander and Anya, individually, in the car, was noticeable.

Willow’s logic on what is wrong with her wardrobe - why do all of my shirts have to have stupid things on them? Can’t I just be a grown up? The kiss, the beautiful kiss. And what young woman says, Joyce liked it so?

How is it possible for Alyson Hannigan to be so cute and so gut wrenching at the same time? Anya’s speech is the second part I cannot get through without choking up.

The interesting thing to watch with the four of them in the room is just how alone each of them feels. They stand there, looking at each other, or around, and have their arms wrapped around themselves. The pain is personal. And as you said, Nikki, the look on Tara’s face is a perfect reflection of her remembering her mother’s death. It makes total sense on re-watch.

The only blood we see is Xander’s – that and the pain is how he knows he’s alive. He smiles at the pain. They still manage to have Anya be funny – “Xander cried at the apartment, it was weird”, and “Xander decided that he blames the wall.” And Xander – “That’s what we do, we help Buffy.”

I love the way Anya hugs Giles at the hospital, like a kid. Buffy understands Anya, and takes what she has to offer graciously.

Just a few episodes ago, Buffy cried on Tara’s shoulder about the stability of Xander and Anya’s relationship (really about Riley) and now she’s leaning on her again.

I was also taken aback the first time with the vamp, but it makes sense to remind us that vamps are a part of the slayer’s every day life, just like the sunshine, and the sound of the children playing, and the chimes, in spite of Joyce’s death.

The resignation/acceptance Buffy has as Dawn approaches the body – It’s not her, she’s gone. Dawn – Where’d she go? That question can not be answered to Dawn’s satisfaction.

My only nitpick – how does Dawn know which body is her mother’s?

This is an amazing experiential episode, and as Nikki said, anyone who’s had some major loss in their lives can relate to most if not all of what is portrayed. I wished I hadn’t know Joyce was going to die the first time around, but it takes nothing away on re-watch, and I miss her.

Missy said...

Sooo I cried during Sue's write-up....and I'm sure your Father is VERY Proud of you.

Everyone has a story...Joss makes that point in the commentary.

My story ...only differs from Buffy's in one place... it was my Grandfather.
The illness that was being treated(Lung Cancer)
The threat of a brain hemorrhage(Which did take his life)
The period of time when things looked like they may work out for the best(Wishful thinking)
I was there when it happened...I heard it...I saw it happen and *I* changed.

It was December 20th 1999
I was staying at my Grandparents house with my Mother and younger brother,We'd been hoping to celebrate Christmas with him one last time(just days befor the doctor had said he'd POSSIBLY-You never hear it as lie,Which Buffy shows- make it past Christmas)
Because he was unable to walk independently for the last few days he was sleeping in a lazyboy in the lounge room,my mother was on a couch next to him and I was in the adjacent room..which had no door.
We'd all bunkered down for the night around 1ish am.
"IT" HAPPPENED.(It was 2:20am btw,Clocks standout alot,huh?...like marking the time would prove he lived at all)

I was almost 11yrs old(3months later I would be and I'd also be living in my own little world,cutoff from everything because of it)and had never lost anyone...least of all the man I'd call the only father figure I had.
I didn't cry....everyone was..but I never did.The ME from 2days ago was gone...*I* just wasn't there.
I honestly don't remember a word that was said from that moment on right through the funeral...I don't even remember my birthday and as previously stated it was 3months later.(I do remember one sentence but it's far too personal to write here)

As for the epsiode itself,it has become one of MY most watched BtVS episodes.

I adore everything about it...the acting,the writing,the camera work...it's a masterpiece and deserves to be watched.

A fellow BtVS Fan(and unfortunately former best friend)use to recite the Anya 'I Don't Understand' Speech just because she knew I would breakdown.And I still do...it is my favourite(and least fave;because of what it does to me)scene in the episode.

It breaks my heart to see the Scoobies lost without Joyce...newbies will come to see the hole she leaves in each of their lives.
The Scoobies and the show in general aren't the same after Joyce's Death.

Efthymia said...

Oh dear dear dear...
I didn't rewatch this episode. I was about to go for my summer holidays, so I just couldn't. And the thing is, I didn't have to: ever since my first watch, I remember this episode perfectly. I believe that even a person who has never watched a single BtVS episode, who doesn't even know the show exists, would be heartbroken and probably crying if they watched "The Body".

Willow and Anya are the ones that always get to me, and I can't help but weep hard every time. Even Dawn, who I usually want to stomp on, has me feeling so sad for her and makes me want to cry.

After having watched this a first time, it's not just this one episode that's hard to rewatch; it's also the part in "Restless" where Joyce is half-buried in a wall, or the line "I hope it's a funny aneurism", or the moment in "Band Candy" when they're listening records in Giles' house.


Missy said...

As for 'Epiphany'
If it weren't for the wrapup of the Thrid Eye Demon story I'd actually love this episode ALOT more.

And Angel's epiphany should be a way of life...the world would be better for it.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

My only nitpick – how does Dawn know which body is her mother’s?

I think it's the only one shaped like her.

Quarks said...

I must confess that when I first heard about this episode I was a little sceptical. I knew that Joyce died, from the end of 'I Was Made to Love You' and I knew that many people considered this to be one of the best 'Buffy' episodes, but I was doubtful. It was only Joyce, right? I mean sure she's a nice character but I don't care for her like I do Buffy and Willow and the others.

Then I watched the episode.

In some ways, the genius of this episode is that we, as an audience, aren't really mourning for Joyce as we watch it. We're mourning for Buffy and Dawn and all the Scoobies. Joyce was the closest thing the gang had to a maternal figure, with Giles as the paternal figure. She was Buffy and Dawn's mother, and in many ways she was more of a mother to Willow and Xander than their own parents. I always remember the scene in 'Passion' where Buffy and Willow find out about Jenny's death, and Joyce is the one who comforts Willow. From what we have seen of Willow's mother, I can't really imagine her doing that.

I am fortunate that I have not lost anybody close to me in my life so far (at least, not when I have been old enough to remember it now), so when I watch this episode I don't relate to it from personal experience. But the way which this episode is filmed and acted and written means that it still affects me. I really feel for the characters, and there are so many moments in this episode which make me tear up.

One 'interesting' thing about this episode is the characters which don't appear in it. Ben and Glory aren't in this episode, because it is focusing on the more human aspects of the show and the emotion, and not the plot of the Season. Spike doesn't appear, arguably for similar reasons, but also perhaps because he as been alive for long enough that he has dealt with loss before. And perhaps because he doesn't have a soul. Another person who is fairly lacking in this episode is Giles. He does appear, but his screen time in negligible compared to the others. This, I would argue, is because he is the adult of the group, and this episode wanted to focus on dealing with real grief for the first time. This episode probably wouldn't have been nearly as powerful as Giles had been in it a lot, because it may have felt as though even though the Scoobies had lost one parental figure they still had one left, while with the amount Giles is in the episode it shows how much he cares for Buffy and the gang, but also has him in the background enough that the Scoobies have to be grown-ups themselves and can't just rely on their father figure.

@Marebabe: I think that there is a fairly good reason why Hank wasn't mentioned in this episode. In 'Family' Buffy told Giles that he was living in Spain with his secretary and that when she called him about Joyce's illness he didn't do anything to help. In many ways Giles has replaced Hank as Buffy and Dawn's father, shown by how Giles is the first person (after the paramedics) that Buffy calls. Hank isn't mentioned in this episode because they consider Giles their father more than him.

Does anybody else think that Dawn's art teacher looks quite similar to Kristine Sutherland (Joyce)?

Quarks said...


My favourite section of this episode is the section with Willow, Xander, Anya and Tara. Anya's 'fruit punch' speech is, in my opinion, one of, if not the best moment of the series. All the actors and actresses put in a stellar performance in this episode, and Emma Caulfield is no exception. This is arguably the first episode where we really see the human side of Anya, and not just the hilarious 1000-year-old ex-demon. It's been so long since Anya has had to deal with death of somebody she cared about, if she ever has, that when it happens she doesn't know how to react. She doesn't understand what is happening, or how she is supposed to behave, and when she asks about it nobody will answer her. She is also quite possible feeling a certain amount of guilt. Now that somebody she cares about has died, and she is hurting, she appreciates the hurt that she caused other people in her demon days. Unlike other characters in the show, Anya hasn't been searching for redemption for all the things she has done, and this episode perhaps gives us an insight into why. Before now, she couldn't comprehend death or the pain it caused, so to a certain degree she perhaps didn't see that what she was doing was wrong. Now, she realises the pain she has caused. There is no doubt that what she experiences in this episode will have a significant impact on her in the future.

Another things which I really like about this episode is Willow and Tara's first broadcast kiss. The show doesn't make a spectacle of it, it just fits it in with the mood of the episode. Fantastically done.

The conversation between Tara and Buffy is another fantastic scene in this episode. Tara is the least emotional of all the characters in this episode, because, as well as the fact that she didn't know Joyce as well as the other, she had dealt with losing her mother before. And because of that, her role in this episode is to comfort all of those who haven't had to deal with anything like this, especially Buffy. She doesn't pretend to understand what is going on in Buffy's head, because she knows it will be different to what she felt, but she does let Buffy know that she isn't alone and that she is there is she needs someone to talk to. Recently, I have been re-reading some of my favourite chapters of 'Harry Potter', and I couldn't help but think of this scene with Tara and Buffy when I read the conversation between Harry and Luna after Sirius's death. Luna was the only person really able to comfort Harry, because she had lost her mother. In many ways, it seems that the people who are best able to comfort somebody after a loved one's death are those who have had to deal with it themselves.

In my opinion, this is the best episode of 'Buffy' in the whole series. The acting is phenomenal, the writing is incredible, and the entire episode captures the emotion of the situation fantastically well. I have no idea how this episode didn't win an Emmy.

Marebabe said...

Regarding Joss Whedon’s commentary on this episode, is it in any way spoilery? I’ve pretty much skipped all the extras on my DVDs so far, because the one time I ventured in, I got spoiled on some future story points. I figure I’ll check them out next year, after this big rewatch is over. So, how about it? Is it safe for a n00b like myself to listen to Joss’ commentary on this episode?

@Efthymia: You said that ever since the first time you saw “The Body”, you remembered it perfectly. Me, too. That is extremely unusual for me, as my memory is more or less like a sieve! But as I watched this episode the second time, it seemed as familiar to me as the Pilot of LOST, which I’ve seen maybe a dozen times. Something about “The Body” caused it to be seared into my memory.

@Quarks: See my sieve reference above. I had completely forgotten that Buffy mentioned her Dad now lives in Spain. So, it’s perfectly reasonable that he couldn’t magically beam to Sunnydale to render aid and comfort to his daughters. However, because most funerals take place 4-or-so days after a person dies, I’m still expecting to see him on the day of the funeral.

Marebabe said...

Since everyone is sharing, I’ll share. *Deep breath* Aside from many, many funerals for aunts, uncles, friends, etc. in my life, I’ve been through 3 really stunning losses. The first was my Father, in 1971 when I was 15. He died very suddenly, leaving a wife and 4 minor children. He went to work on the day he died, had a heart attack, and was gone in about 3 hours. I had a very delayed reaction, never crying, even in private, until the night before his funeral. Then, in front of a crowd of people gathered for the wake, I had a huge, blubbery meltdown. Sheesh. Couldn’t I have picked a more private moment for that? I guess not.

The second was my brother, Tom, in 1994. His death was of the long, drawn-out variety. He had leukemia, and his journey from diagnosis to the end of his life took 20 months. He also left a wife and 4 minor children. My reactions then were more of what you’d expect, quietly crying off and on for days.

The third may have been the hardest. In 1996, I got pregnant for the one and only time in my life, but it was a tubal pregnancy. Our child was doomed from the moment of conception, and at 3 ½ weeks gestation, I underwent emergency surgery to remove it. I vividly remember a kind woman (maybe a hospital chaplain?) who brought me a beautiful silk flower arrangement with a tiny, gold baby ring tied to one of the ribbons. She offered to talk to me, offering counsel and support. I had to ask her to stop, to please leave, because her kindness and sympathy were making me cry, and it hurt too much – physically, because of the surgical incision – to cry. That was a wretched experience, probably the worst of my life.

And now here’s the shocker. I watched “The Body” completely dry-eyed. There’s some sort of weird disconnect in my brain that often keeps me out of step with the people around me. I rarely cry at sad stuff in movies and TV, but it’s the BEAUTIFUL stuff that always gets to me, making me sniffle and reach for the Kleenex. There are exceptions, of course. People who remember Nikki’s LOST rewatch might recall that when Juliet fell down that bottomless shaft and Sawyer was sobbing with grief, I was sobbing, too, all the way through the commercial break that followed.

Delayed reactions can sneak up on me, ambushing me at times that I least expect. On the 1-year anniversary of the surgery to remove the tubal pregnancy, I dissolved into tears (publicly) and couldn’t stop for over an hour. I realized during that weepy episode that some of my grief was for my baby, some of it was for my Dad, and some of it was for my brother. The ache CAN be pushed down and buried (not recommended), and in time the hurt heals (sort of), but does it ever go away completely? I think not. And in conclusion, death sucks.

Come on. Group hug.

Christina B said...

Okay, 'Epiphany'. I didn't get it.

I watched it on the heels of 'The Body', which wasn't such a great idea.

Angel is Angel again, hooray. And I get that he's had an epiphany and he remembers WHO he is and why he does what he does...But what made him have the epiphany?

Was it waking up with Darla next to him and realizing how low he'd fallen?
Was it realizing that he hadn't become Angelus after sleeping with her because he didn't truly love her (I'm assuming here that Angel only becomes Angelus after being intimate with someone he loves. Is that right?)?

The episode was just okay. It wasn't great and it didn't suck.

Lindsay still really bugs me, as does Kate. I'll be glad when they're both just gone. ;)

I'm falling more and more in love with The Host, though. I really really hope we get to see him throughout the series. I'd LOVE an episode where we find out more about him!

I am glad that the gang in back together. I loved the end when Cordi asked why she wasn't on the floor after her vision and Angel just said, "I've got you." (paraphrased?).
That was perfect. He's got her and he always will. :)

Dusk said...

@Marebabe: Can't remember exactly but I'd hold of on the commentary until it's done to be safe. I know a Season 4 episode has commentary spoilers for stuff in Season 6.

@Christina There's a great thread on this in Buffy's IMDB Board and is on page 5 as I type this, but I don't reccomend going there because it talks about his Season 2as a whole.

The best way I can put what others have said is Darla was with Angelus for most of the things he feels remorse over, to give help to someone with a soul that has also done many of the same atrocities he had done, gave him a clear purpose that he had control over. Plus his guilt she is suffering because she was brought back as a tool against him, and the loyalty and bond they had compeled him to believe it was the right thing to save her even if he dies.

When she accepts she will die as human he thinks he can see the light at the end of his own tunnel.

When she's turned into a monster, he breaks. Thinking if someone so close to redemption can have it taken away from them so fast, what is the piont of anything he does to help the helpless? His little chat with Bernard, er....Holland also made his good fight pointless if his villians don't even always die properly, how can he end his journey? With Buffy, most of the time if the demon is dead she's done until the next new problem. Angel doesn't really have that luxury.

While he was trying to save Darla, in the back of his mind, his pain of remorse, his anger at Darla for making him what he was, his rage at being cursed with a soul much like human Darla, and his fustration at being used by things he has no control or real understanding of their goals or methods W&H, PTB, prophecies was building and needed to be released.

After hearing Holland, he was ready to give up the good fight and seemed to believe sex made him loose his soul. He got his release but was sickened with himself, and relized their will still be good people in distress like Kate, who need a champion and helping them is right and he should not fight the good fight alone, it makes him weak, so he goes back to his friends.

Nikki Stafford said...

Wow, guys. I feel like we're a bit like the Scoobies here, banding together to share our own experiences. Thank you for the courage it's taken so many of you to come out and tell us how you came to this episode.

I had that feeling with The Body, and knew this week's guest commentary had to be different than other weeks. It's not an episode to be analyzed and picked apart. It certainly has those elements, because Joss has done a brilliant job of thinking through everything so carefully. But it's an episode that we watch and immediately relate to in some way and we feel it in a deeply personal way.

I tend to do my writeups a week or so in advance, and had written about how I hadn't really experienced what Buffy went through yet (knock on wood). And then last week I had a scare where I hadn't heard from my mom for days and ended up sending someone over to check on her (coincidentally, the very friend Sue who you heard from this week!) and dispatching the police to break into her house. She was fine, thank god, but I remember having this strange moment between sobs as I sat by my phone waiting for the next update where I thought, is this some sort of cosmic comeuppance because I said I hadn't gone through this?

My story had a happy ending, but I know the range of emotions I went through that day, and it was horrific.

For me the most upsetting death has been that of my grandmother. I remember seeing her at Christmas, this spry, youthful, amazing woman (the kind of grandma who was supposed to live to 100, who would be at my children's weddings) and my daughter was brand new, just four months old, and I was talking to her about my other grandparents and how I worried every time I saw them would be the last time, because they were becoming so ill in their old age. She told me to just enjoy every time I saw them and remember all of the happy things from those conversations.

It was the last time I spoke to her.

A month later, she died very suddenly of some sort of blood clot (I still don't quite understand what had happened, but it was some sort of reaction to a medication for a relatively minor thing she'd undergone) and I remember it being SO awful. Being the writer in the family, I gave the eulogy a few days later. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but also one of the most cathartic. I loved talking about her and telling people my stories. The room was packed to the gills with people who knew and loved her (they had people in a back overflow room, which is rare) and they laughed and laughed at the stories... and I missed her terribly. I still miss her terribly, all the time.

Thank you to all of you for these stories. They are wonderful and sad and you're making me cry, and I just feel so blessed to have so many wonderful readers on here.

Madman007 said...

Just joined in here. Been a Buffy fan from Day 1 - 144. But I have to comment on The Body.
There is no version of media, film, TV, or otherwise, that comes close to showing the after effects of a death of a loved one better than The Body. Most shows would just show a funeral and be done with it. Joss gives you the details. The fantasy sequence of saving Joyce. The little sounds of children playing as you realize they are gone and will remember forever. The out of focus camera not showing the head of the EMT telling you they died. That alone is what exactly happens.
And then there is Anya's speech. If you don't shed one tear at this you can't be human.
A few months before this episode aired, my stepfather died of cancer. He didn't die the same way as Joyce, but it didn't matter. The small details of the realization that they are truly gone were there. And the question still remains.
Where do they go?
[fade to black]