Saturday, 25 August 2012


The first 12 minutes of the episode

WRITER: Joss Whedon

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon


Buffy comes home to find her mom apparently lifeless on the couch. Shocked she calls 911 who tell her to do CPR while they send the paramendics. Buffy does, desperately trying to revive Joyce. But she gets no reaction. Buffy also calls Giles, telling him he needs to come right away. Soon the paramedics arrive. They do their best...but to no avail. The lead paramedic gives Buffy the terrible news – her mom has died. He offers his condolences and says that someone will be there soon to take the body away for a proper investigation in to the cause of death. The paramedics go, leaving Buffy all alone in the house, all alone with the Body. She wanders the house in silence, in shock. She is sick on the floor. She opens the back door and listens to the sounds of everyday life outside. Giles quickly arrives, fearful that Glory has launched another attack. He sees Joyce’s prone body. Buffy manages to tell him what happened and Giles comforts his young slayer. We go on to see the rest of the Scoobies dealing with the news. They are all clearly shocked, grieving, angry, with poor Anya not seeming to understand any of it. She doesn’t understand how this can be the absolute end of someone. But the worst comes as Buffy goes to the school to tell Dawn. Buffy pulls her little sister out of art class, the teenager’s friends watching silently through a window as the news is broken, watching as poor Dawn collapses in grief. Later, at the hospital, the doctor confirms to Buffy that Joyce died from an aneurysm – a complication from her surgery. He says it would have been quick and painless. While Buffy and the doctor have been talking, Dawn has snuck off to find her mother’s body. She is confused and curious about death, about what happens next. In the morgue she sees Joyce’s body lying on the table…but another body suddenly gets up from a neighbouring table: a vampire. The newly risen vamp goes to attack Dawn. Luckily Buffy arrives just in time and saves her sister, quickly finishing off the monster. The episode ends with Dawn and Buffy, sat together on the cold mortuary floor, looking at Joyce’s body. Buffy tells her sister that their mom is not there, that she has gone. But Dawn wants to know where Joyce has gone, her hand slowly moving forward, looking to touch her mother one last time.


For once there isn’t one. It is all up there on the screen. It’s about how we deal when death comes a calling. It’s about the banality, the weirdness of those first few minutes and hours, about how shock and disbelief plays with our minds, with our perceptions of place and time. There are no life lessons learned in The Body, no big truths uncovered. Simply, it is all about "the black ashes in your mouth numbness of death" as Joss described it.


Real life. Real death.


If you’ve seen it then you will know why.

Quite simply The Body is one of the greatest pieces of television ever produced. It is a stripped down and painfully honest piece of drama that shows us the reality (or un-reality) of a traumatic and terrible event the likes of which we will all unfortunately experience at some point or another. I have experienced it in a very similar circumstance to Buffy.

The power of Joss’s episode is that it is absolutely accurate, devastatingly so, drawing on his own personal experience. That is why it resonates, why it works, why it hurts. Everything shown is honest and true in the worst of ways such as how in the immediate aftermath the world becomes a strange otherworldly place where flashes of wish fulfilment fantasy try to push back the tide of awful reality. How the tiniest details suddenly become huge. How we question, how we struggle to understand, to comprehend, to make sense of things.

There is no music in The Body. No score. There is only dialogue and ambient sounds often cranked up in places – wind chimmes, children playing, birdsong, traffic etc. The worst being the loud snap when Buffy accidentally breaks her mother’s rib while doing CPR. But most of all there is silence. Long stretches of deafening silence. People standing or sitting around, not knowing what to say or do, struggling for words, to know what to say, how to behave. An odd situation for a show famed for its continual witty wordsmithery.

And then there are the performances.

Well, you all know by now that I think highly of SMG. She is the powerful centre of the show. And in this episode, she is quite brilliant. She has to display such deep and believable levels of shock, grief, anger, comfort. And she does it achingly well. This is the most stripped down, vulnerable, and utterly human the character of Buffy Summers has ever been, or will ever be. Seeing her paled face and big haunted eyes in extreme close up as she stands on the doorstep, in the sun, listening to passing sounds of life, is deeply unsettling. Following behind her small, fragile looking figure as she staggers through the silent house then collapses and vomits on the floor is distressing. I mean, she’s the hero. Strong, Clever. Witty. Ready to handle anything… except this. All of the performances are great but deserving of extra praise is Emma Caulfield. Anya’s genuinely confused and upset reaction to realising Joyce will never again get to enjoy all the simple little things in life that people enjoy is heartbreaking. In that one short monologue she captures the episode perfectly. If you aren’t fighting to hold back tears by that point then you have a heart of stone.

If there were any justice in the world The Body would have won a whole heap of Emmy awards, including for writing, direction and performance by SMG. As it turned out it wasn’t nominated for a single one, much to the amazement of television critics right across the US who’d been openly calling for awards recognition for the episode. But Joss always said he never made this show to get awards. He made it so that he could play around with genre conventions and explore themes and ideas that interested him as well as to create characters that people could identify with and possibly gain something from. And he certainly succeeded.

The Body is my personal favourite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is possibly my favourite piece of television ever, possibly even my favourite piece of drama from any medium. But I find it hard to watch. The first time I saw it I’d already had a similar experience to Buffy. Now I’ve had two. The second one being almost identical to what happens in the episode. Now it is very hard to watch. Almost too hard. But I continue to watch it from time to time because it is a great piece of drama that transcends its medium, its genre. It deserves to be watched. The Body was made by someone working from their own personal experience, someone showing us that the weird reactions, the strange things that we think and do in those first few hours are perfectly normal. And that despite how isolated we feel in that darkest time, we are not alone.

Thank you Joss.


It doesn’t


Anya’s monologue


Buffy: Mom? Whadya doin'? Mom? ... Mom? ... Mommy?

Buffy (shouts to Giles): We're not supposed to move the body! (She puts her hand over her mouth, in shock.)

Tara: We can be strong.
Willow: Strong like an Amazon?

Anya: 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 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. (She puts her hand over her face, crying.)

Xander: We'll go, we'll deal, we'll help. That's what we do. We help Buffy.

Anya (loudly): I wish that Joyce didn't die...
Everyone looks at her.
Anya (more softly):...because she was nice. And now we all hurt.
Xander: Anya, ever the wordsmith.
Buffy (to Anya, meaning it): Thank you.

Buffy: Everybody wants to help. I don't even know if I'm... here. I don't know what's going on. Never done this. (pauses) That's just an amazingly dumb thing to say. Obviously I've never done this before.
Tara (softly): I have. My mother died when I was seventeen.

Dawn (looking at Joyce's body): Is she cold?
Buffy: It's not her... it's not her... she's gone.
Dawn (softly): Where'd she go?


There is no "Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer" at the beginning of this episode. And there is no music of any kind.

The episode starts with a flashback scene feat. Joyce, Buffy and the gang having Christmas dinner as Joss didn’t want the credits playing over the story proper.

This episode features Willow and Tara’s first on-screen kiss. It is a throwaway moment of quick comfort and not played as a big deal. Originally the WB balked at having them kiss but Joss insisted, saying it was the natural thing for them to do in the scene. It was the one and only time he threatened the network that he’d leave the show if he didn’t get his way. Thankfully they quickly relented.

Joss lost his own mother in a similar way to Buffy. The episode stems primarily from his personal experience.

Some have criticised the inclusion of the vampire in the final sequence at the morgue. I also always felt it was kind of an odd and jarring inclusion. But Joss has explained that it is there to signify that despite this awful tragedy, life goes on. And for Buffy, life in Sunnydale means vampires and demons. There is no escape from it. I also think that the vampire is another expression of death, of a dead body. And that when Buffy slays it she is slaying death itself in a way she couldn’t for her mom.


5+ (out of 5)

Thursday, 23 August 2012


April the robot
Cute robot April

WRITER: Jane Espenson

DIRECTOR: James A. Contner


A beautiful and slightly odd young woman comes to town asking everyone she meets if they have seen Warren. The girl, whose name is April, says that Warren is her boyfriend and that he has gone missing. At a party, April does the rounds asking every guest if they have seen Warren. When she gets to Spike, the vamp hits on her, whispering something suggestive to which April takes offence….and promptly picks him up and throws him through a window…much to the delight of a watching Buffy. After some investigations, Buffy and the gang discover that April is in fact a robot who was created by a guy called Warren Meers as the ‘perfect’ girlfriend. But not long after, Warren met a real girl called Katrina and the pair hooked up. Leaving April shut in a closet Warren and the oblivious Katrina then moved away, Warren thinking April’s battery would eventually run down. But it hasn’t, not yet. And April means to find him so that they can be together again. Things come to a head when a desperate Warren, wanting to get away from April, tells her he is in love with Buffy. April reacts furiously and attacks the unwitting Buffster. However April’s batteries are almost dry and the fight soon peters out. A dying April can't understand what she did wrong, as she was the perfect girlfriend. And before long, poor rejected April, left sitting on a swing, Buffy holding her hand, is dead. Elsewhere Spike finds Warren and demands he build him a robot Buffy. Then, as the episode ends, Buffy arrives at her home looking for her mom only to make a terrible discovery.


Loneliness and the pain of rejection and of unrequited love. When you believe that you’ve done everything you can possibly do to make someone love you, when you’ve been everything they wanted you to be….only to discover that it isn’t enough and that love doesn’t work like that.


Well, it could be April, but it isn’t. She doesn’t hurt anyone, not really. She is far too sympathetic. She is the victim here. No, the real bad guy is Warren - the selfish, shallow and soon to be discovered criminal misogynist.


I, Robot. Introducing a full-on sci-fi concept in to the show in the form of a man made and perfectly human looking robot is on one hand weird and disconcerting but on the other hand a stroke of nutty genius. But it isn’t new. The John Ritter starring episode ‘Ted’ back in season 2 first gave us human looking robots in Buffy. The show enjoys mixing popular sci-fi tropes with its more usual horror/supernatural ones. It’s part of the reason the show is so much fun. I mean, last season we got ray guns and cyborgs too. Cool.

April. Playing robot April is Shonda Farr who does a great job – all sweet and chirpy innocence with sudden explosions of violence. She’s great. She’s also very, very cute. A fact both Xander and Willow acknowledge. April is the victim here and her situation and eventual fate is sad…even if she is just circuits and motors…very, very attractive circuits and motors.

Puffy Xander. Buffy training violently at the start of the episode, venting her frustrations on an unseen punch bag, which is soon revealed to be a winded and pained Xander wearing a big padded suit, is most amusing.

Traumatised Giles. After babysitting Dawn for an evening while Joyce and Buffy are out, Giles is mercifully relieved to be set free from the torment a young teenage girl can inflict with her terrible music and relentless talk about boys.

That final scene.


It doesn’t suck. It’s a solid episode, nicely written, nicely played and the underlying theme is quite a good one but overall it is fairly run of the mill stuff. The script is amusing and poignant in places but it just never quite gets up there.


The final scene.


Buffy: Oh! Puffy Xander, uh, I'm sorry, I got... guess I got carried away. Are you okay?
Xander: I'm alive. I can tell 'cause of the pain.

Xander: Buffy, do you ever think the reason you haven't found a great relationship on the Hellmouth is because it's a Hellmouth?

Joyce: He's a nice, normal guy. Okay?
Buffy: I think I've heard of those.

Tara: I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing.

Xander (dancing with Buffy): How you doing, having o' the fun?
Buffy: You know, I am. Dancing with you is way better than trying to hook up with some good-looking guy.
Xander: I think I liked it better when you were kicking me in my puffy groin.

Spike: You threw me through a window! What's that about?
April: You cannot make those suggestions to me. I have a boyfriend. Warren is my boyfriend.
Spike: You know what? My bleeding sympathies to Warren!

Buffy: I don't know about you guys, but I've had it with super-strong little women who aren't me.

Giles: Dear god, Buffy, there's only so much I can take. We're going to have to change the system. A fourteen-year-old's too old to be babysat, and it's not fair on her.
Buffy: What'd she make you do?
Giles: Um, well, we listened to aggressively cheerful music sung by people chosen for their ability to dance. Then we ate cookie dough, and talked about boys.
Buffy (laughing): I'm sorry. I'm very very sorry, but if it makes you feel any better, my "fun time Buffy party night" involved watching a robot throw Spike through a window, so if you wanna trade... no... wait... I wouldn't give that memory up for anything.

Buffy (seeing her mother lifeless on the couch): Mom? Mom? (In a small voice) Mommy?


Originally it was intended for Britney Spears to play the role of April the jilted love bot. Britney was a Buffy fan but the deal fell through. Thankfully. Celeb gimmicks are NOT required in this show.


A lovely 3 (out of 5)


WRITER: David Fury

DIRECTOR: Daniel Attias


A train pulls in to Sunnydale station. All its passengers are dead, drained of blood. Buffy investigates, knowing that a vampire was to blame. Meanwhile Dawn hangs out with Spike who she thinks is cool and who she has a bit of a crush on. But she soon works out that he is in love with her sister. She tells Buffy this, much to the Slayer’s horror. And so Buff goes and confronts Spike who finally admits it to her. Buff, appalled, tells him to stay away from her. Soon, though, the new vamp in town makes herself known: Drusilla. She’s back and looking to put the old family back together with newly vamped Darla back in LA and Angel primed to turn evil again. Despite his chip it seems that Spike is tempted but he bluffs both Dru and Buff and knocks them both out and chains them both up in his crypt where he intends to prove his love to Buffy by staking Dru for her. But Buff is less than impressed….and then Harmony, Spike’s current girlfriend turns up, looking for payback. Ouch!


Love makes you do the Whacky as Buff herself once said. And it certainly does here to poor old Spike. Caught in a love and loyalty trap between his old paramour and sire, the mad as a box of frogs Drusilla, and the girl he’s fallen head over heels for, his one time sworn enemy, the Buffster. Add in the poor used and abused Harmony and Spike has got himself in a pretty pickle here. His solution is…uh…interesting and makes sense in his brain: finally dispose of his past to prove what his future can be with the one he truly loves. Only it doesn’t quite work out that way for poor William, the sensitive, permanently love struck poet.




James Marsters. This is a Spike episode. It’s all about him, who he is, what he is feeling, what he is prepared to do about it. And James is as great as ever. Whether he’s telling scary stories by candlelight to Dawn, drinking bourbon and singing along to The Ramones, declaring his love to Buff, or having a full-on rant at the two most important women in his life (who he’s just chained up in his crypt) for making his life so sodding miserable, he’s a powerhouse.

Spike and Harmony’s sexcapades. Love how Spike gets Harm to dress up like Buffy and role play being her, hunting him, trying to stake him, before he goes and grabs her for some, ahem, action.

Juliette Landau. I know she gets a hard time from a lot of fans. And, yes, the accent still sucks, and the craziness can be kinda grating, but Juliette always manages to make Dru truly creepy and disconcerting. I like her. I’m a Dru fan. And seeing the old double act back together (if only briefly) is pretty cool.


The story is fine and all but there are better Spike (and Dru) episodes out there. Good but not that memorable.

Why the heck does Buff let Dru just walk out of Spike’s crypt? Why didn’t she call Spike’s bluff when she was chained up and get him to stake Dru once and for all? I’m glad Dru is still around but it doesn’t make a whole heap of sense. Dru is a true monster. But Buff just lets her go. And come to think of it, if she hates Spike as much as she says she does, why doesn’t she just stake him too and be done? We can only assume that somewhere deep down she does have some feelings for him. Either that or she is just using him because she knows he is strong and good in a fight. Maybe a bit of both.


The happy, fluffy ending Spike gives to the scary story he’s telling Dawn when Buffy suddenly turns up. Most amusing.


Xander: Hey, evil dead, you're in my seat.
(Spike mutters and leaves)
Anya: Xander, I think you may have hurt his feelings.
Xander: (dismissive) You should never hurt the feelings of a brutal killer. (Reconsiders) You know, that's actually some pretty good advice.

Xander: The point is, I work hard for that money.
Spike: And you're saying I didn't?
Xander: You stole it!
Spike: And you're making it into very hard work!

Dawn: I feel safe with you.
Spike (chokes on his beer): Take that back!

Buffy: These vamps have been here for a while. They've nested.
Spike: So, you're saying they're a couple of poofters?

Harmony: What the heck is this? Who is— Oh wait, I get it. Our little sex game was just the beginning. Now you've gone and picked up some cheap queen of the damned to dress up like your precious Droodzilla. Well, you'd better not be thinking what I think you're thinking, because my answer is the same as always — no threesomes unless it's boy-boy-girl. Or Charlize Theron.

Spike (shouting): Aaaarrrggghh! Gaaagggghhhhhh! What the bleeding hell is wrong with you bloody women? What the hell does it take? Why do you bitches torture me?
Buffy: (dryly) Which question do you want me to answer first?


The Crush takes place after the Angel episode Redefinition in which Angel, having gone bad but not soulless, traps Darla and Dru and sets them on fire. Hence the scars on Dru in this ep.


Hardly crushing. 2.5 (out of 5)