Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Throwback Thursday - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Body - Review

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Throwback Thursday - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Body - Review

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my all-time favourite shows, along with Charmed which ran in the same era. My last Throwback Thursday was an episode of Charmed so it was only natural for me to pick an episode of Buffy to feature next. I do apologise for yet another episode of Buffy being featured after it was mashed with an episode of Supernatural a few Throwback Thursdays ago. Today wasn't my regularly scheduled throwback but I had to quickly step in as the person scheduled could not make the post.

I debated which episode of Buffy to feature. I have so many favourites from the show, including The Gift and Hush and Once More, with Feeling, but I decided to settle on an episode that had a very long-lasting impression on me. I chose The Body. To me, this is one of the best hours of television I've ever seen.

"Mom? ... Mom?... Mommy?" - Buffy Summers
At the end of the previous episode, I Was Made to Love You, we have Buffy return home after a job well done kicking ass. She sees Joyce on the couch after shouting for her up the stairs. "What're you doing?" Buffy asks Joyce. Such a normal question but the situation soon becomes dire when Buffy goes from saying "mom" to "mommy". Within those few seconds, realisation sets in and Buffy goes from being an independant adult to a child. It's how The Body opens before we are given a flashback to a dinner during Christmas where Joyce hosts the entire Scooby Gang. Tara is there so it must have been very recent since Tara joined one season before. The scene is so normal, different to anything Buffy had done before as the show is about kicking ass against demons and vampires.

When we flash back to the present day, Buffy shakes her mother, shouting at her. She races to the phone and tells an operator about her mum. The camera follows her throughout, no cuts, just a concurrent shot of Buffy finding her mother dead and doing what she can to revive her. Buffy does as the operator instructs to try and save her mom. This is also a huge change for Buffy by getting instructions of what to do from a total human stranger, now becoming dependant on her to save her mother. Buffy does the mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions but fears she broke something as she hears a crack.

"She's cold... No, my mum... Should I make her warm?" -Buffy Summers

Buffy is now returning to the persona of a child. Her mother is dead right before her and she needs her now more than ever to get through this. It's pretty heartbreaking when Buffy confesses that her mother is cold to the operator, and then asks if she should make her warm. That's something a child would say so we can see how much this is affecting Buffy. Realise there's no music whatsoever? No background song or score? It's all raw and real. There is nothing to distract from the silent emotional turmoil Buffy is in. You can see it in her eyes, her face how completely alien this is to her yet she's trying to do something, anything. Just seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar's reactions, or lack there-of, is worthy of the most prestigious awards out there. She makes us feel with very little actually happening on the screen but that's the point. They're not sensationalising this moment. They're making it so painfully real.

The paramedics come and Buffy pulls down Joyce's skirt in respect to her mother. The paramedics start CPR and it all looks hopeless. After some questions, Buffy is holding on so desperately to hope by saying she's been fine after a surgery to get rid of a tumour. After some chest compressions, Joyce coughs and SHE'S ALIVE! I know she isn't really but every single time this part happens, every single damn time I smile because I was hoping just as much as Buffy that she wouldn't be dead! I was impartial to Joyce during the show but this is Buffy's mother and I want her to be alive for Buffy. The false hope in this sequence as we see Joyce rushed to the hospital where she's told everything is going to be okay, that Buffy arrived just in time, was like pulling wax off your chest. It ruins me every time I see this false hope because that's all it was, false. It didn't actually happen. It was all in Buffy's head but we are so drawn into the moment that we want so much for that to have actually happened.

"We're not supposed to move the body" - Buffy Summers

The paramedics tell Buffy her mother was dead a good time before Buffy arrived so there was nothing she could have done. He comforts her by saying she probably felt very little pain. They're leaving Joyce there until the coroner can come and collect her. When the camera goes on the paramedic, we only see up to his nose. The shot is very similar to not being able to make eye contact, or for feeling too small. Buffy probably felt so small. He tells her not to disturb the body. They leave. Buffy seems pretty collected but she's obviously in shock. She calmly walks through the house towards the kitchen. She falls to the ground and is sick on the floor. The sound of being sick is drowned out by the wind chime outside. Buffy opens the back door and sees life going on as normal. Buffy is sweating, she looks sick, yet she still keeps calm.

When Buffy goes to clean up the vomit, Giles arrives. Thinking Glory might have arrived, Buffy tells him the coroner is coming. He's confused but he looks to Joyce on the floor in the living room and rushes to her. Buffy goes after him, saying "no, no, it's too late" but she says it so quietly it's almost as if she doesn't believe it. When she sees Giles touching Joyce, she shouts "we're not supposed to move the body!" It hits her. You can tell it hits her so, so hard in that moment. She's finally fully realised what's happened. Now Giles is there, she's not alone. Saying it out loud, calling Joyce "the body" was what it took for Buffy to accept it.

The whole opening sequence, which lasts around 12 minutes, is one of the most well-written, most heart-breaking opening sequences in television. That slow descent for Buffy realising her mother is dead and there's absolutely nothing she can do about it is a painful thing to watch but so mesmorising at how beautifully shot it was. I don't think Sarah Michelle Gellar has ever acted so amazingly as she did in this episode. Just wow.

"But she's okay?" - Dawn Summers

The next shot we see after Joyce is zipped up is Dawn crying in the school bathroom. We assume she knows, but it turns out the boy she liked just called her a freak in front of everybody. We know that her mother is dead and she doesn't yet and she's crying over something so trivial compared to what's coming. We know it's coming. We know she's going to find out and it's that ticking timebomb that creates even more emotional turmoil for us viewers. When Dawn arrives in class, everything seems normal. Just a regular school day. Dawn is really hitting it off with the boy she likes. Then Buffy arrives as Dawn is drawing during arts class. We see her approaching and Dawn is so unaware. It's breaking my heart just rewatching this. This is the moment that changes both Summers sisters forever.

Buffy takes Dawn out the classroom and wants to go outside but Dawn wants to know what's going on right there and then. Some of the students turn to look, including the girl who has been a bitch behind Dawn's back. In the arts class the students look to see what's happening as Dawn's friend slowly approaches the window. All attention is drawing on this moment. The intensity is overwhelming. Dawn knows something is wrong with Joyce and we don't actually hear the words come out of Buffy's mouth to confirm Joyce's death. Instead, we just see Dawn thrash her arms before breaking down to the floor. Even the arts teacher watches. It's just an absolute tear-jerker to see this all happening, especially in Dawn's school where people can witness the moment Dawn finds out her mother is dead.

"La la la, I don't care..." - Willow Rosenberg

We move to Willow and Tara in their dorm room and Anya and Xander driving to them. Again, everything is deathly silent. Nobody speaks until Tara tells Willow that Anya and Xander have arrived. Willow can't decide what to wear to see Buffy and makes a huge deal out of it but you can understand what's going through her head. Willow wants a specific shirt but can't find it. Willow realises her shirts are inappropriate, that they have stupid designs on them and that she should dress like a grown up. Willow is fractionally breaking down too as we have seen with Buffy and Dawn. Tara tries her best to keep Willow calm by kissing her. It's a very sweet moment. "We can do this" Tara tells Willow.

Anya and Xander arrive at the room and Anya is so confused. Xander tries to rationalise what happened and tries to blame Glory and the doctors. Willow and Xander have a sweet moment. Anya keeps asking questions that gradually annoy Willow. Anya doesn't know what's going to happen next and what will happen with the body. Willow snaps but Anya doesn't know how she is supposed to act or do. This leads to Anya's heartbreaking explanation for asking so many questions. See the quote below.

"But I don't understand. 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 can't just get back in it and not be dead any more. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid, and, and Xander's crying and not talking, 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." - Anya Jenkins

There it is. That quote alone is just awe-inspiring. I mean, we may have thought Anya was being silly for asking those questions, that she's just being silly old Anya but she puts everyone in their place. She's asking because she doesn't understand what's going on and nobody will tell her. Like Buffy, Dawn and Willow, she's reduced to a child. A child doesn't understand death and what's supposed to happen. It's upsetting and heartbreaking and I think I've overused the word heartbreaking but that word just perfectly sums up everything that happens in this episode. It's that age-old question isn't it. Why do people die. Anya finds Willow's blue shirt that she had been looking for and puts it away without realising. That kind of humour really balances the characters. Xander punches through a wall which helped him for a second. For a moment, they all kind of forget and it's nice.

I only wanted to review the reactions of the characters to Joyce's death since the first half an hour deals with that and demonstrates that unique ability Buffy had to really make an impression. The rest of the episode has the Scoobys arrive at the hospital and find out that Joyce's death was completely natural - she died of an aneurism. In a supernatural show, her completely natural death took the characters and the viewers away from the fantasy and forced us to realise that death is real. It can be natural and to see how these characters dealt with that was an eye-opener. They can battle demons and vampires but they can never battle death. Everybody reacts differently and we can see the raw emotions that each of them go through. It's horrible to think a natural character death makes good television but that's not the point here. This episode was so beautifully made - the absence of score and music, the way it was filmed, acted - that is becomes so much more than Joyce's death. Each actor performed brilliantly and Joss Whedon wrote a gorgeous script that deals with death. I don't think any other supernatural show has ever had a more beautiful episode than The Body of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This isn't my favourite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I would love to know what your favourite episode is from the show. Let me know in the comments of your thoughts of The Body, your favourite moments, your favourite episodes, etc. Let's celebrate the legacy that is Buffy.



My first Throwback Thursday from October 2014. Check out the game-changing third season finale, All Hell Breaks Loose, that spelled the end of a Charmed One and seemingly destroyed the Charmed legacy forever. Rest in peace, Prue Halliwell. The power of three will set us free. Blessed be.


Perhaps the most beautifully written episode of television ever, The Body is hailed as a classic and is among some of the cast and crew's favourite episodes of all-time. My second Throwback Thursday and it's an episode that requires us to get the tissues out.


My third Throwback Thursday included all five disaster episodes on the show, including Bang, Something's Coming, City On Fire, Boom Crunch and Down the Block There's a Riot. Take a walk down Wisteria Lane as we reflect on those five infamous episodes.


My fourth Throwback Thursday was of the much-missed show The Secret Circle. I covered the series finale of the show, 'Family', as well as taking a look back at the first season as a whole. This wasn't a perfect show in the least but it still holds a special place in the hearts of its many fans.


My fifth Throwback Thursday was of the CBS supernatural drama Ghost Whisperer, where Melinda Gordon can see and talk to ghosts. She helps them to cross over into the light, and in my featured episodes, she deals with the biggest calamity to happen in Grandview in the double-episode season one finale.


My sixth Throwback Thursday was the ABC drama Revenge, where I take a look back at the episode that started it all - the Pilot. In it, we are welcomed to the Hamptons by the narrating Emily Thorne, who plots wicked schemes to bring down the sinners who wronged her father. The show premiered with this episode in 2011, and ended in 2015.

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV on August 9, 2014 and will be reviewing 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars and Salem in the 2014-15 season. Gavin's favourite shows include Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal and much more. You can contact him at
Recent Reviews (All Reviews)

Recent Throwback Thursday Articles ( All Throwback Thursday Articles )