Episode Title: The Body
Original Air Date: February 27th 2001
“No, I mean, it’s a myth that it’s a myth. There is a Santa Claus.” – Anya
So this was one of the episodes I was dreading having to cover, not because its a bad episode, infact it might be one of the most important episodes in the whole series as following on from the stinger of the previous episode here we get to rewatch Buffy return home to find her mother slumped on the couch having died from a brain aneurysm.
Joyce’s death came as a major surprise to fans of the show especially when she’d always been such a background presence on the show, helping to keep Buffy grounded especially when her slaying duties were putting a strain on her and while Joyce might not always have known how to handle her daughters calling she was always there for her. As such to have her ripped out only makes her departure all the more emotional, more so when the episode highlights just how much she meant to the group aswell.
Outside of a vampire attack in the morgue at the end of the episode this is not an action packed episode and really one for the established fans, as I can’t really see what a newcomer to the series might get from this episode, other than watching a group of 20 something dealing with death. This aspect in particular is an interesting one to examine as here we have a group who encounter death on a weekly basis leaving them seemingly immune to such sights it would seem, so to see them trying to deal with the fallout of a death so close to each of them.
The other aspect which makes her death so notable is that this really is the first time the group have had to deal with the death of an innocent as Joyce was always on the sidelines of the war which has raged between the Scoobies and the darkness which the Hellmouth attracts. Worse still there is no evil for Buffy to take revenge on due to her death coming from natural causes than anything associated with Glory.
While the group each deal with Joyce’s death in their own way its equally an event which threatens to divide the group with Anya unable to process her own feelings which are often confused enough at the best of times from her conversion from vengeance demon to human, but this is awhole other batch of extreme emotions she has to try and process much to the annoyance of Willow. Tara and Xander meanwhile are left to play peacekeepers to keep the group from imploding though we do get a glimpse of Xander’s dark side as he takes out his frustration on the dorm room wall. Tara equally gets to share possibly her closest moment with Buffy as the two bond over the loss of their mothers in a scene which made Tara finally seem more of the group than she has in along time.
Surprisingly the one member we don’t get to see deal with this news is Spike, especially when he also shared a connection with Joyce when she provided him a sympathetic ear as well as their shared love of the soap opera “Passions”. At the same his absence can be linked to his exile from the group after Buffy discovered the crush he had on her and him appearing her would no doubt mean unwanted aggravation having to be worked into the episode, when this episode works best running on raw emotions though there is still that wonder about how much he would have ultimately cared.
The real standout performance here though belongs to Sarah Michelle Geller whose discover of her dead mother is still as haunting and emotional as the first time I saw it and its a real journey that she takes us on as Buffy is not only forced to deal with the death of her mother, but also the realisation that she is now more than ever the one responsible for looking after Dawn a role and sub-plot which only grow to be more prominent over the course of these final seasons.
A powerful episode for the fans, but far from the best episode for the newcomers to start with this episode really has lost nothing over the years while remaining a pivotal moment for the series with Buffy now having to become more than the hot chick who chases the monsters and instead a surrogate parent as well as being that much more alone in this world.
Next Episode: Forever