Buffy Debate: "The Body" doesn't hold up (Open Spoilers)

Like every other Buffy fan in the world, I was blown away by “The Body” when it first aired. But as I’ve rewatched it several times since then (along with every other Buffy episode) and I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t really hold up as an episode.

Yes, it’s well acted and yes, some of the reactions to death are very true to life, bu the episode just feels, well, lifeless when you rewatch it. It’s a good episode that should be watched once by every Buffy fan, but I think there’s nothing to gain by watching it a second time.

And Anya’s breakdown about the concept of death has always seemed very strange to me coming from a former Vengeance Demon.

Can’t help much with this one since I refuse to watch that episode again. The first time was impact enough, thank you very much.

Still a great episode. The lifeless feel probably has to do with the deliberate decision not to have a music track. It does make it feel like it’s dragging, but that’s part of the point.

I’ve always hated the vampire fight in the morgue at the end… it seemed like someone told Joss “You have to have SOMETHING happen in the episode.”

Point, meet Justin; Justin, here’s the point.

Seriously, it’s supposed to feel lifeless. It looks and feels exactly what it looks and feels like in real life when someone who you love very much dies. The sound of the children playing next door is deafening and out of place when you never noticed it before. The lights are too bright, the birds won’t stop their damn chirping and wouldn’t it be nice if everything would just slow down for a minute and let you think?! But at the same time, everything takes so long and now I’m puking and where are the paper towels and ohmigod Mom’s dead, she’s really dead and oh, here are the paper towels, I’m going to use most of them and I should buy more or Mom will be ma---- no, Mom won’t be mad I used all the paper towels to clean up puke on the carpet in the room we never use because SHE’S DEAD. Oh, my god. Mom’s dead. Dead. What?

Of course, it’s never ever going to have the same impact the second time you watch it, just like the second death you go through is never, quite, going to have the same impact as the first. It’s always different, it’s not that you get used to it but, as Tara says, “it’s always unexpected.”

And then at the end, just when you finally start to begin to initiate the process of feeling like maybe things will be okay again, a vampire tries to kill your little sister, and life is back to normal. Or as normal as it can ever be.

Ooh, I disagree. I thought the vampire fight kind of made the episode - or at least, made it real (bizarre as that sounds!). You know, in most TV, when someone dies, the world just stops. The afterward is the picturesque funeral, or the viscerally satisfying moment of vengeance, or the contemplative lesson learned.

But in real life, when someone you love dies, everything keeps going. The daily bullshit is still there, staring you in the face, and you need to grieve and mourn and support your loved ones but you also need to kill the vampires that need killing, because the vampires don’t stop because your mommy died.

Loved that.

Oh, I got the point (and can more than relate), but I fear you’ve been slightly whooshed.

“Lifeless” was my bad attempt at a funny pun for boring.

Oh, no I got it. I just think it was completely intentional and “boring” in a good, naturalistic way that I’ve never seen attempted in movies or television before. That was the genius of it. Of course Joss can do maudlin heartstring plucking graveside scenes (see: “The Message” from Firefly) or glorious death of a hero (see: Buffy (twice), Wesley’s death in Angel, et al.), but so, frankly, can any of a gazillion writer/directors. What made this unique and gorram amazing was how little Hollywoodizing it got, and it was still one of the most captivating hours of television ever.

But yeah, I admit if I’m jonesing for a Buffy fix, it’s not going to be the episode I choose to rewatch in isolation. But I think it retains its brilliance in continuity, and I’d never skip it while rewatching the season as a whole.

I don’t think Anya’s reaction is odd. She was a vengeance demon for almost a thousand years. For a thousand years, she was above everybody else. Their deaths were meaningless to her–they were ants. Worse than that, they were vile, cheating, worthless ants. Do you feel any twinge of your own mortality when you step on an ant? Do you squash a spider and immediately think, “Fuck, one day, I’m going to die.” Anya never had to fear that, never had to consider the consequences of her own cruelty, never had to think that sooner, or later, it would be her.

Except, she’s all human now.

Everybody on the show was with what it meant to be alive, but Anya dealt with it by going to a very pragmatic place. “Money leads to security, and security leads to happiness. I should have money.” “I look pretty now. My looks will fade. I should find somebody to love me now.” “Joyce has died suddenly. One day I’m going to die…” There’s nothing after that. There’s no way to fix that. Money won’t fix it. Being pretty won’t fix it. Being married won’t fix it. It’s the end of everybody’s story, which is more or less what season 5 was about (and probably why S6 and S7 failed).

There was no room in Anya’s word for her own mortality after being immortal. Which is actually why I thought she was going to die long before we got spoilers for Chosen. There was no other way for her story to end, since she’s been, in a way, coming to grips with death for nearly 1000 years.

I agree with Justin. The first time watching it, I was so caught up in everything that it seemed like this great, amazing episode.

And I should say that in general, any episode of Buffy is way up there in terms of quality TV. So even if I say a particular Buffy episode isn’t that great, I still think it’s much better nearly everything else out there.

Given that, when I saw “The Body” recently, I was surprised that it wasn’t as amazing as I remembered. The scene(s) in the dorm room seem so needlessly long. I don’t know if I think Anya’s reaction is unusual … but I don’t think we need to see it on screen, either, because it doesn’t throw any additional light on Anya, or Joyce, or Joyce’s death. There’s no value added.

In contrast, I still think the Tara/Buffy scene in the hospital is great – it’s so short, but moves much more information, insight and emotion. Overall though, it doesn’t stand out for me as an above-average episode of Buffy. It doesn’t stand out as a great death-of-a-beloved-character-on-TV episode either.

Yeah, but the problem with that theory is that the scene isn’t written that way and the scene isn’t played that way.

Which is very moving, except that Anya knows damn well why Joyce can’t get back in her body and not be dead anymore. She was mortal for over a decade and has to have experienced plenty of death, of people and animals. And she’s been killing mortals for a thousand years, none of whom so far as we know could get back into their bodies and not be dead anymore. Now, Anya might have meant that she doesn’t understand why a good person like Joyce has to die since in Anya’s worldview the people who ended up dead by her hand deserved it. But that’s not how the scene actually went.

So while I disagree with most of what’s been said about the ep not holding up I have to agree that Anya’s big scene doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s part and parcel with the overall inconsistent way that Anya’s character was presented. We meet her in S3 as a Vengeance Demon with enough modern pop culture savvy to interact with a variety of people, recognize a Prada bag and W magazine, and retains that sophistication in subsequent S3 appearances. Then starting in S4 she’s lost all of that and she’s this woman-child who knows nothing of how the world works, no apparent concept of how money works (although she apparently has resources enough to obtain food, clothing and shelter) and no understanding of how human death works despite having caused untold human deaths.

Bingo. Part of the genius.

*emphasis added

I’ve seen it probably half a dozen times and never fail to sniffle or shed at least a single tear each time.

I’ve never liked that episode. Does nothing for me.

Anya’s actions are perfectly in character, for season 5 Anya. Now, season 5 Anya may make no sense at all given her backstory, given season 3 Anya, etc. (although I suspect that kind of stuff can be fanwanked easily enough). But in the context of who Anya is at that point of time, I think it makes perfect sense.

Anya lives in a world with vampires, demons, and all other kinds of immortals, where death really is “mortal and stupid”. On top of all that, she’s just starting the grieving process. Why shouldn’t she have a illogical, silly reaction?

Good observation. I know when my mom unexpectedly died, I didn’t listen to music for almost a month afterwards. And I am the type that always has music playing, especially in the car. Whoever wrote/co-wrote this episode doubtless lost a close loved one.