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She does seem to lose some of her softness at that point. Considering the arc of season 1 could be read as a journey to accept adulthood and adult responsibility, it's understandable that she would lose some of what made her childlike when she choses to take on the the role of the slayer and dies in the process.
Of course the dark side of this is shown in the first episode of the second season where she expresses her trauma by attempting to alienate her friends. Buffy continues to struggle with her slayer self throughout the rest of the series.
I think she conquered death and feels a little invincible. Though this feeling clearly didn't last, she believed she already lost once and was incapable of losing again. It's like she was on this "I can defeat anything" adrenaline rush. Though I don't think she felt different from it long term.
However, after When She Was Bad, Buffy grows up a lot, and if anything "changed" her, especially mentally, it was crushing The Master's bones.
Let's stop and think for a minute about how insane the title of this thread would sound anywhere else.
Did dying change Buffy? No, the screenwriters changed Buffy. She went from transplanted valley girl to someone a little more adult because the series needed the drama to be more adult and not like "Sabrina the Teenage Witch". As for being different, the story demanded someone progressing into adulthood, so she was changed.
I would say that dying made Buffy stronger, and more determined to give herself over to her Slayer role, but I didn't think she was any more maturer, and behaved very much as she was expected to for her age in the following season
Not sure... (surprise!)
I mean, how can dying not change you? Even if it's just for a short moment.
Especially in this case when stuff like her slayer status actually changes and it's a part of the prophecy and all that.
But I've always thought that the changes we do see is more down to her decision to go and face the master knowing it would mean her dying rather than the actually dying.
Look, there are two return from Death scenarios. Jesus and Orpheus. Either you overcame death and are now stronger than when you left, or you lose the will to live, knowing that whatever happens, your loved ones are dead, and all too soon, you will be as well. It's considered very poor writing to go the Phoenix Down route. Except for Walsh. If another Firefly product is made, and Walsh just shows up like Kenny, I would not be opposed to it.
In answer to the thread title, yes she did change. As noted above she said I feel better.
But it was all the other changes that her death scene brought that improved the show.
When Angel pulled Buffy from the water he looked as though he was breathing,
he sounded as though he was breathing yet,
he said he had no breathing; the directing and editing and continuation was really bad.
The scriptwriters were forced to get better and not write in those crap statements to try and make themselves look good ie,
when the master said he had a soul. There are some vampire related tales you just don't alter.
Buffy's dying had far reaching implications.
Did anyone else notice that the actors abilities in how they acted got better.