WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS SHOW ENSUE! Also, if you’re a long-time fan of the show, there will be feels. Get tissues.
“The Body” is the episode that I wish could’ve won an Emmy. Unlike most of the episodes here, this one is an out-and-out tear-jerking, dramatic episode. There isn’t any musical score in this episode, but to me, this episode didn’t need it. Music was necessary in “Hush” because it basically narrated throughout the silent parts. But this episode didn’t need music because the acting and story pretty much told you how to react. Lazy movie writers often use musical score as a manipulative way to tell people how to feel about a scene. Heck, even the theme song playing feels jarring compared to the silence of the rest of the episode. So yeah, in spite of what one of my friends said, I don’t mind the lack of musical score in this episode. The sounds of fans crying their eyes out is enough.
The episode opens where the previous episode left off. Buffy returns home to find that her mom received flowers from a guy named Brian. She calls to her mom about picking up Dawn from school and then looks into the living room to find her mother on the couch, lying down, staring at the ceiling. If you’ve ever watched NCIS or any crime-scene procedural, you already know what happened to Joyce. But that doesn’t make the fallen expression from Buffy’s face any easier to take.
After the opening, we see a flashback to Christmas dinner. It’s the last time that this show would make a reference to Christmas, by the way. It’s a happy memory, with Anya telling Dawn about what Santa Claus is really like and Buffy joking about Giles and Joyce staying away from the band candy. When it cuts back to Joyce’s blank expression and Buffy trying to wake her mother up, it’s really upsetting.
Buffy calls 911 and tries to administer CPR to her mom, not accounting for the fact that her Slayer strength made her break one of her mom’s ribs. When Buffy gets off the phone with 911, she makes another call to Giles. The paramedics come in. Buffy explains that Joyce had a brain tumor that was operated on. Joyce starts coughing and regains consciousness and you think everything’s gonna be okay, but it’s just a cut-away daydream. The paramedics tell Buffy that Joyce is dead due to an aneurysm or a complication from the surgery. They plan to call the coroner’s office to take the body. What’s interesting is that the paramedic’s face isn’t shown as Buffy is looking at him and his tone is seriously cold.
Buffy wanders around the house and vomits in a sitting room between her living room and kitchen. She looks outside to her backyard and the camera shows the despondent expression on her face. The only sound we hear is the windchimes until Giles comes in. When he finds Joyce on the floor, he goes to her until Buffy yells: “We’re not supposed to move the body.” There’s complete silence as Joyce’s body is taken out.
Cut to Dawn crying over a boy teasing her. She and her friend complain about a mean girl who’s spreading rumors about Dawn. Dawn heads into art class, where there’s a class on negative space. The camera makes use of negative space throughout the episode. She starts making conversation with the cute boy next to her when Buffy comes in to deliver the bad news. Negative space is used again as Buffy takes Dawn out to the hallway. Instead of the scene being shown in close-up, we watch the scene through the window of the art classroom and the camera pans to show Dawn’s drawing of the statue, which looks like those dead body outlines from CSI.
The next scene shows Willow and Tara in their dorm room. Willow is trying to decide what to wear. Xander and Anya are on their way to pick them up. Willow breaks down in tears, leading Tara to comfort her with the very first on-screen kiss between the two lovers. Now please don’t fire up the comboxes about LGBT issues. Willow and Tara’s relationship is a major part of this series and no matter what my personal feelings are about gay marriage, I loved them as a couple. And I’ll give Joss credit for showing this kiss as a completely natural thing between Willow and Tara and not just a thing for Sweeps Week.
Xander and Anya arrive. Anya has no idea what to do. Willow, Xander, and Tara wonder if Joyce’s death was caused by the Big Bad of season 5, Glory, but that’s not the case. Xander blames the doctors for not taking care of the post-surgery complications. Anya keeps asking questions that make everyone uncomfortable, but she’s at a loss at understanding how she should deal with everything. Her monologue is one of my favorite moments in this episode because in spite of the fact that Anya’s a former vengeance demon, the things she said are very similar to what it feels like to experience loss for the first time.
Xander punches a hole in the wall and the scene ends with a bit of comic relief as Xander, in his usual comic relief fashion, jokes about the hole in the wall. The gang all heads out as we see a police officer putting a parking ticket on Xander’s car.
At the hospital, the doctor tells Buffy the results of the autopsy. Joyce died of a sudden aneurysm. Even if someone was with her, it would’ve been too late to do anything. There’s a quick scene that shows what might’ve been, but it was just another daydream, another empty wish. The doctor gives Buffy and Giles paperwork to fill out and leaves. Xander, Anya, and Willow all try to find words to comfort Buffy, but decide to go off to find Dawn, who went off to the bathroom. Tara, who lost her mother in the past, is the only one who stays with Buffy. Tara tells Buffy about how she lost her mother and says that she can help if necessary. Buffy asks Tara if her mother’s death was sudden. Tara says “It’s always sudden.”
The last scene of the episode focuses on Dawn in the morgue, looking at her mother’s body. A vampire comes to life. Buffy rescues Dawn from the vampire and the two of them look at their mother’s body. My friend Welshy says that this last scene felt completely unnecessary and I can’t help but agree with him. Yes, this show is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer but aside from the fact that I wish Spike was in this episode to see how he handled Joyce’s death, there was no need for a vampire to come into this episode. This entire episode feels the most realistic and the vampire attack in the end just felt out of place.
“The Body” is a seriously wonderful episode in how everything was written. For me, it portrays how everyone tries to cope and deal with actual death. I don’t know how other people deal with the death of a loved one who died of old age or of cancer or some other kind of slow death, but for me, my first loss was sudden. In spite of the deaths and supernatural stuff that happens in Buffy, there were only two deaths in the show that made me cry. This was one of them. I don’t want to talk about the other one. And don’t guess in the comments either or I’ll be seeing red.
This is not an episode I recommend to casual viewers and most Buffy fans still have a lot of feels when they watch this one. But it’s a mark of a good show when the audience is affected so much by the death of a beloved character.