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Discussion of 5.16 "The Body" - Aired 2/27/01 (WB-US)

The Bronze

Rogue Demon Hunter
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Black Thorn
I've just watched this episode after dragging out my re-watch for nearly a year. It's a truly incredible piece of television. It's so real. The quiet really gets to you. Without the music all you're left with is the emotions everyone is feeling.

There are moments throughout the episode that just hit you hard. Every actor and character portrays a side to the grief and the shock that you can relate to. Watching Buffy accept it in stages is heart breaking and just what it was like for me.

Xander's mixture of anger, grief and helplessness is so well thought out and portrayed. Seeing Willow struggling with her own grief and also wanting to be there for Buffy is very touching.

I think the vampire at the end was a good call. Although on the one hand it takes you out of real life which is against the run of the episode on the other it reminds you that the world will carry on as before regardless of the pain your in.

It's a truly brilliant episode and a great achievement for everyone involved. That said it's also probably the hardest thing to watch and not something I can enjoy.
 

GwenRaiden

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Just rewatched The Body, even though I never look forward to it, I do enjoy it for what it is.

The camerawork and sound has a documentary feel to it; when the paramedics are at Buffy's house, Buffy looks so small compared to them. When Xander's car is pulling up to Willow and Tara's, the shot out the window and all the way into the room to join Tara talking to Willow, and back out the window to see Xander's car getting a ticket. The same can be said for the scene at Dawn's classroom, with the other students watching on, and the lack of sound outside the classroom. (I could go on and on). It makes you feel present, each moment passes (realistically) painfully slow.

The lack of sound in general just makes you feel uneasy as BtVS is quite loud and fast show. When Xander smashes his hand into the wall I always jump.

Anya and Tara working in this episode as the yin and yang of knowing and grief.

Plus I only just noticed Kelli Garner appearing in this episode. How odd.
 

melody pond

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I'm watching BtVS for the first time, and I just saw this episode...and it really, really got to me. Enough that I needed to seek out a forum where I could process this with other people that would understand what's just happened. I don't know anyone else going through this show right now so everything is new to me as I see it, no spoilers, and so when I got to Joyce's death...I was shocked. I didn't see why it was relevant to the plot, and Joyce was so central, and I thought it couldn't be happening. When Buffy fantasized about the paramedics suddenly reviving her and saying it was a miracle, etc, I was so relieved, because it all made sense again...and then the rug was torn out from under me. Again.

I didn't expect this to get so real. I didn't expect it to hurt. And I guess that's what I'm realizing: We like stories - books, television, movies - because humans get to control them. Suddenly, problems have a clear solution. Demons can be fought. Everything has a meaning. It's comforting, because in our own lives everything is so much less obvious. We don't get a clear arc. So it feels good to get swept up in a world in which problems and answers can be identified, plans can be carried out, and everything is more or less okay when the credits roll. Or even if it's not, we at the very least know why. When death happens on TV, it's because a character is unimportant, or because their death needs to move the plot forward in some way. It comes with sad violin music, so we know what to feel. It's packaged in a way that makes it possible to deal with.

So this episode felt...unfair, in a way. Not what I'd signed up for. It was shocking, and disconcerting. Joyce is central to the show, to Buffy's life, and we don't get a warning, or a reason why it happens. I kept instinctively searching for one - maybe it was Glory, and now Buffy has to get revenge! Maybe Spike is going to show up and help things, somehow, and be accepted again! or...or... - but there was nothing. No helpful "point". Because, in reality, that's not how things are. People die. Important people. Central people. Suddenly, and without warning, and with no one around to give you a soundtrack or explain to you how you're supposed to take it or what's supposed to happen next. It doesn't support any clear story arc. You can't fight it. You can't turn it into a moral lesson, or justify its occurrence.

Joyce's death felt arbitrary, and unjust, and too soon. It was upsetting, and it left me in confusion. That's why, to me, this episode was so, so brilliant: it took me through the experience of death, in a way that was starkly real.

A small postscript - I am grateful for this episode, too, because it brought forth memories of my own - like the death of my mother's cousin this summer, eating dinner with me one hour and suddenly gone the next - as well as reminding me of others' stories and pain. A good friend of mine lost her father three years ago, when he was murdered in the middle of the night during a home invasion, and thanks to this episode I am beginning to have a better inkling of what that may have been like for her.
 
The Bronze
The Bronze
This is a great first post and you've captured the episode perfectly. It's incredibly hard hitting.

Give Us A Kiss

Fuffy Apologist
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Sineya
This is the only episode really terrifying for me.
I didn't find 'The Body' terrifying.

I never had anyone close to me die before so I had trouble connecting to the concept of the episode if anything...

However, I still thought it was pretty well made and I loved Anya's reaction to Joyce's death, along with the Twillow kiss ;)
 

YummySushiPJs

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Hello Melody Pond (Doctor Who fan, I'm guessing?)

Yes "The Body" is probably the coldest, rawest, hardest-to-watch episode in the entire series. And it's terrifying. And it's brilliant.

It's a complete surprise for people who watch the show unspoiled. Nothing can prepare you for it. I remember just sitting and staring at the screen like this o_O:( for 45 minutes.

The worst/best(?) bit for me is after Buffy has been in a bit of a daze, she yells at Giles "We're not supposed to move the body" and then the look of complete shock and horror coming over her face as reality hits her. Gets me every time. SMG did great.
 

Scary and Veiny

Darth Rosenberg
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I think it's one of the best episodes acting-wise, but one of the hardest for me to watch. I've been rewatching the entire series while introducing a friend to it and it was really hard to get through this episode. It is, as many have said, very real. (And for me very close to home, as I just lost my own mother to cancer a little over a year ago.)

I can't even think about Anya's speech about not understanding death without getting tears in my eyes.

I swear I had more to say but this is a difficult episode to talk about for me.
 

Antho

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I just finished watching this one and I have no words ! Every time I see it I feel empty, sad, frightened and a little angry. The fact is sometimes I forget that death exists and when I remember it I'm scared because I know that death could take me or people I love at any times without warning and it makes me melancholy. I lost my grandparents lasts years and I recall having terrible thoughts. I was wondering "Why them ? Why not criminals ? Why not bad people ?" It's a bit unfair ! Is it horrible to think that ?

The Body is a dramatic, shocking episode, in every sense of the words. I watched it today and I could see it twenty years later and it will always have the same impact on me. I would feel the same emotions, with the same intensity, same depth as if it were the first time I saw it. Why ? Because Death is the theme of the episode, and this is a phenomenon which is timeless, affects everyone in a often sudden way, and it puts us face the harsh reality of the life !

A bereavement has several stages. All are illustrated by the different characters :

Step 1 : Denial :
The refusal to see the reality. At the beginning, Buffy is completely devastated, she doesn't admit the situation and she doesn't express her feelings immediatly. She imagines her mother breathe again, in the ambulance, and alive at the hospital. Unfortunatly, she is shocked and all of this is only the representation of her denial. She doesn't want confront reality so she denies it. Another example is the fact she shows respect and she is polite towards the doctors whereas, normally, if she would be truly conscious of the situation she coudn't be as civilized and say "goodbye" "good luck" even "thank you" , she coudn't be so calm, she would be more expressive ! It's only when Giles arrives and rushes to the body of Joyce that Buffy reacts by saying " "we are not supposed to move the body" and it's the element that takes/gets her out of her reflection and she finally aggrees to see things as they are. She collapses in the arm of Giles, who acts like a father for her, exteriorizing all her pain.


When Buffy announces the terrible new to Dawn, she doesn't believe her : "It's not true". She cries and all her classmates look her through the window. I think that it's a way to show that people sympathize to pain but they don't feel it in the same way and they can't totally understand, it's like two different worlds ! Throughout the episode, Dawn seems to not believe at Joyce's death and she wants to see the body to be persuaded. When she finally sees it, it's the moment where she face up to reality !



Step 2 : Anger :
Alex who initially contains himself, but who gradually leaves everything out. He throws the fault on the doctors, which is normal from my point of view, because we often tend to find someone to blame. But of course, medicine is not an infallible science, and doctors are human, and so in this kind of case, as they say "error is human", although if it is hardly forgivable in some cases. Another sign of anger is when Alex evacuate his frustration by punching the wall, a way to provoke and feel something other than he already feels, even if it is for a short time.

Step 3 : Bargaining : Anya faces a situation she doesn't know and she doesn't know how to deal with it. When she was a demon she had eternity so she certainly didn't feel concerned by death. Now, she realizes that she is human and vulnerable, she can die and that afraid her. I would also say that as a demon she gave death and as human she confronts it, really not the same thing ! For her, die it's a human's thing, a human's weakness and she does not understand the reasons. She asks the right questions, that we all ask ourselves : "Why" she tries to bargain with fate : "Why she can not get back in it and not be dead" she doesn't comprehend human's reality and why we submit. It is a speech full of truthful questions, but unfortunately there are no real answers.



Step 4 : Depression : Willow expresses great sadness. She constantly puts her choices in question, she is really nervous ! She can't decide which sweater she wants to wear, not the purple because that symbolize royalty, not the pink because it's too happy, she finds all she have inapropriate for such circumstances, she doesn't know what to wear, she is undecided and a little in distress. It's only when Tara kisses her (first kiss between them) that she finally surpasses this state.



Step 5 : Acceptance :
Tara is the representation. I find her more calm than all the others, more "posed", she supports all of them, she really shows a great strength, as if she had already accepted the death of Joyce. I found it very touching, the scene where she confides to Buffy. We understand that if Tara reacts in a healthier way, it is because she has already passed through this test/event (i'm not sure about what word I should use) and that's why she knows what Buffy and Dawn and even all the others endure, even if as she says it's an experience that everyone lives a little diferently !



I also notice all the details of the life that I would describe as insignificant like Alex's fine or Dawn crying for a boy. It proves that we give too much importance to things which are not worth it !
And about the vampire in the end, it's only a way to say "Life continue, World is still moving outside" !
And of course the episode ends with a phrase from Dawn, a question that probably haunts all of us: "Where'd she go?"

"The Body" is a complete episode which shows all the phases of bereavement and there is no music and it's more realistic like that. The actors are all, without exception, excellent !
 
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Give Us A Kiss

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Poor Buffy, finding the body of her own mother :(

Buffy is having flashbacks to fun times where her mom was there...

Willow likes having her tummy rubbed ??? that's cute.

Cajun pie ???

The pie fell :(

Buffy is calling 911, she's freaked out :(

The CPR didn't help either :(

They are getting no pulse, no nothing...:(

Buffy, your mom is dead, I'm very sorry :(

Is vomiting a normal response to hearing bad news ??? o_O

Giles, it's too late :(

Dawn, you are about to receive even worse news...:(

Dawn, you can show your face.

Dawn, Kirstie is your typical high school snoot who is ungrateful and acts like she's god's gift to the world :mad:

Buffy, you could have just said that she died without being ambiguous...

greif, greif everywhere :(

Willow, just choose something black and depressing.

Tillow kiss :D

Anya, we don't tell that to others :rolleyes:

Xander bitching about the doctors, it's a known fact that they screw up sometimes...

Anya, that's morbid...

Anya :(

Anya found the blue sweater :)

Xander punched the wall, I once punched a wall, it was painful :(

The autopsy, this is painful to watch :(

Anya hugged Giles :eek:

At least she passed away peacefully...

Dawn's meltdown was understandable.

Buffy, you are grieving, it will take time :(

Buffy and Tara, bonding over the loss of a parent :(

Dawn, don't go in...

Dawn, don't do this to yourself :(

Vampire :eek:

I guess Buffy has a motherly instinct now.

Dawn, it's her :(

Next time: Angel comes for a visit.
 

Priceless

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I wanted to skip this on my re-watch, but I don't skip. Everything that can be said has been said. But I cried, so I thought I'd write. When Buffy shouts at Giles 'We're not supposed to move the body'. When she has to tell Dawn their mum is dead. Xander kissing Willow. Anya not understanding, and not understanding that no-one understands. Tara 'It's always different . . . it's always sudden'. Dawn's hand reaching. It's a perfect episode, but so hard to watch.
 
Antho
Antho
so so hard to watch

GraceK

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I am unmoved my Anya's speech. I'm probably the only one, but it annoyed me more than anything else. It's a beautiful speech, and it gets to the heart of grief very well. But Anya???really???? This woman has a body count higher than anyone else....she has reveled and LOVED her killing of men...she still talks about it with joy. Am I supposed to believe she doesn't understand Death ??? That's laughable.

"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 anymore. 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, well, 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."

How does she not know why??? She has murdered thousands of people and she doesn't "get" death? I feel this speech is supposed to make her seem humane or something, but she comes off as almost mentally challenged. Wow Anya, it took a woman you barely spoke to to die of natural causes for you to feel confused. Goody for you!!
 

Priceless

Scooby
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I am unmoved my Anya's speech. I'm probably the only one, but it annoyed me more than anything else. It's a beautiful speech, and it gets to the heart of grief very well. But Anya???really???? This woman has a body count higher than anyone else....she has reveled and LOVED her killing of men...she still talks about it with joy. Am I supposed to believe she doesn't understand Death ??? That's laughable.

"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 anymore. 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, well, 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."

How does she not know why??? She has murdered thousands of people and she doesn't "get" death? I feel this speech is supposed to make her seem humane or something, but she comes off as almost mentally challenged. Wow Anya, it took a woman you barely spoke to to die of natural causes for you to feel confused. Goody for you!!
She was a demon when she killed people and she never cared about anyone she kiled, she absolutely believed they deserved the vengeance she dealt them. Joyce is different, Anya knew her, she died of a disease anyone could get and die from. This is the first person Anya had ever seen die a natural death, it must have been quite shocking for her. And she also saw Xander was suffering and she cared about Xander, that was new for her. She couldn't understand how to make things better for Xander and the people he cared about.
 
W

WillowFromBuffy

Guest
Once on the forehead, thrice on the lips. Wait ... did somebody die?
I am unmoved my Anya's speech. I'm probably the only one, but it annoyed me more than anything else. It's a beautiful speech, and it gets to the heart of grief very well. But Anya???really???? This woman has a body count higher than anyone else....she has reveled and LOVED her killing of men...she still talks about it with joy. Am I supposed to believe she doesn't understand Death ??? That's laughable.

"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 anymore. 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, well, 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."

How does she not know why??? She has murdered thousands of people and she doesn't "get" death? I feel this speech is supposed to make her seem humane or something, but she comes off as almost mentally challenged. Wow Anya, it took a woman you barely spoke to to die of natural causes for you to feel confused. Goody for you!!
Think of it as her Jonathan moment.
 

Athene

Scooby
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Sineya
I thought that Anya's speech was emotional because it reminds me of how a small child would deal with grief. However when you think about it, it's Anya, who has 100x the years and experience of a small child, it just sounds stupid to me.
 

DeadlyDuo

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How does she not know why??? She has murdered thousands of people and she doesn't "get" death? I feel this speech is supposed to make her seem humane or something, but she comes off as almost mentally challenged. Wow Anya, it took a woman you barely spoke to to die of natural causes for you to feel confused. Goody for you!!
I'm guessing Anya's finding that being on the receiving end of death is different from dealing it. Joyce was a name not a number so for Anya it's not just knocking a piece off a chessboard but there was an actual person and now there isn't.

I agree though that the speech might have been better coming from a different character, not just because of Anya's kill count, but because she didn't really know Joyce on a deep emotional level. Even Spike had a more emotional connection to Joyce than Anya did.

"I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore" sounds more like a simplistic version of a vampire being sired and rising from the grave, they were dead and now they're not. If that had been Anya's sole experience of death (vampires) then it makes sense that she would think that, but she's been dealing death for years so it does seem unbelievable that she would have that view.

Maybe the speech would've been better coming from Dawn?
 

Athene

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I'm guessing Anya's finding that being on the receiving end of death is different from dealing it. Joyce was a name not a number so for Anya it's not just knocking a piece off a chessboard but there was an actual person and now there isn't.

I agree though that the speech might have been better coming from a different character, not just because of Anya's kill count, but because she didn't really know Joyce on a deep emotional level. Even Spike had a more emotional connection to Joyce than Anya did.

"I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore" sounds more like a simplistic version of a vampire being sired and rising from the grave, they were dead and now they're not. If that had been Anya's sole experience of death (vampires) then it makes sense that she would think that, but she's been dealing death for years so it does seem unbelievable that she would have that view.

Maybe the speech would've been better coming from Dawn?
It would have been better coming from Spike but even then it sounds odd, Spike's not stupid enough to actually wonder why Joyce can't just get up again. It sounds like what a little kid would say if someone close to them died.
 

DeadlyDuo

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It would have been better coming from Spike but even then it sounds odd, Spike's not stupid enough to actually wonder why Joyce can't just get up again. It sounds like what a little kid would say if someone close to them died.
Agreed which is why it might've been better coming from Dawn. However, it would just be another thing that made Dawn look like a moron as it would be something a little kid would say not a teenager, just like the way Dawn eats ice cream.
 

GraceK

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n't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore" sounds more like a simplistic version of a vampire being sired and rising from the grave, they were dead and now they're not. If that had been Anya's sole experience of death (vampires) then it makes sense that she would think that, but she's been dealing death for years so it does seem unbelievable that she would have that view.
This is my biggest problem with that speech, and with Anya in general. She's 1000 years old...she was intelligent and savvy enough to become a Gucci wearing high schooler with knowledge of utility's and blend in seamlessly.....her flashbacks show her discussing communism with a sharp appreciation...clearly she's no idiot. Yet the writers , depending on what laugh they are going for make her almost infantile at times. Her character seems to de evolve each season. Season 3 Anya and season 5 anya are almost 2 different personalities. They took what could have been a very powerful, interesting and multi layered woman and reduced her to comic relief . That whole speech in the Body, meant to make her look humane and the "face of grief" just made her look simple minded.
 
W

WillowFromBuffy

Guest
This is my biggest problem with that speech, and with Anya in general. She's 1000 years old...she was intelligent and savvy enough to become a Gucci wearing high schooler with knowledge of utility's and blend in seamlessly.....her flashbacks show her discussing communism with a sharp appreciation...clearly she's no idiot. Yet the writers , depending on what laugh they are going for make her almost infantile at times. Her character seems to de evolve each season. Season 3 Anya and season 5 anya are almost 2 different personalities. They took what could have been a very powerful, interesting and multi layered woman and reduced her to comic relief . That whole speech in the Body, meant to make her look humane and the "face of grief" just made her look simple minded.
Is it possible that Anya has Asperger's or at least is somewhere at the edge of the bell curve on the autism scale? It would explain her love for money, her understanding of theoretical systems, her problems with empathy, the seeming inconsistency of her intelligence, as well as many of her other traits.

Anya's way of killing people is very depersonalised compared to Spike. Spike went toe to toe with slayers, knowing very well that it was either him or them. Anya flung some spells at people she did not know or care about. It is the Stanley Milgram version of killing.
 
jls
jls
Such a good insight.
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