I’ve had a love/hate relationship with “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” over the years, but whether or not you enjoy the show, you can’t deny it’s had its fair share of incredible episodes, and memorable moments. Even at its weakest, “Buffy” managed to show its teeth as a remarkable touchstone in genre television, while Joss Whedon was able to explore his ability to finish off popular and important characters. In the end, every move had an importance, and the death of Buffy’s mom Joyce had a particular impact on the life of Buffy and her entire group.
1. The Paramedics – Notice the unusual framing of this shot back and forth between Buffy and the African American paramedic. The shot cuts off the top of his face suggesting zero intimacy. Eye contact requires intimacy and feeling and there are none. The way he consoles and constructs Buffy is cold and impersonal, almost like he’s memorizing a script. And it does nothing to help Buffy. The doctor’s “She felt no pain” speech also hearks of script memorizing.
2. A Beautiful Sweet Miracle – Wouldn’t we all like that moment where at the last second that person in our lives taken away from us… isn’t really dead after all? It’s one big miracle! And we have them for a little longer? Yes, if only life were that kind to us.
3. It has to be a villain? – Buffy wants to believe at some point that a monster had something to do with Joyce’s death. Maybe a vampire or demon or ghoul. Maybe Glory. Sadly, the cold hard fact is that fate played a hand and she is powerless to do nothing. For once she is only human, like she’s always wanted. And she hates it.
4. “I Broke Something” – Buffy is powerful, meaning she has super strength. And the heimlich and CPR requires gentle and restrained force. Her moment of sheer panic and horror manages to break something in Joyce, and she can’t help in this regard. For once her powers are hurting.
5. “Mommy?” – This is a small element, but when Buffy goes, “Mom? Mom? Mom…? Mommy?” This is heartbreaking. It’s that little girl crying for her mom.
6. Joyce’s Body – Her death is not only sad, but the fact that she shows no signs of pain almost seems confusing. Should we be sad that she felt nothing and died, or should we feel happy that she felt nothing and died? No one knows. And her gaze up to the sky paired with her almost calm demeanor and pose is something that suggest she went in peace and the death was too sudden to respond to. Maybe for once she was feeling relieved.
7. Christmas Dinner – Was this a flashback? A call back to a distant memory? Or perhaps just a fantasy Buffy made up in her mind to escape the horror of reality in front of her? Wouldn’t it be nice if she could have saved her mom?
8. Telling Dawn – Dawn is a grating shrill character, but the revelation of Joyce’s death to Dawn in the middle of a “life crisis” is one of the most gut wrenching scenes on the show. Paired with her class watching from the inside out almost incapable of grasping the severity of this tragedy, and it makes Dawn and Buffy feel so distant and in another world from the people in the class behind the glass.
9. Death has no logic – We all want to apply logic to death. All of us. There has to be a reason for every single death. There has to be a reason why good people die. There has to be a reason why good people get sick and die. Most times though… most times… there is no reason. There is no logic. People just die. And Anya can possibly never understand what 99.99 percent of human beings are incapable of comprehending.
10. The Morgue Vampire – The presence of the vampire feels intrusive almost offensive in a way. For the first time these slick vampires are now just disturbances in a very hard time and there simply is no time for vampire hunting. This moment also allows them to see the undead, and the truly dead. There’s a strong distinction between killing a vampire and looking down at a cold lifeless body of someone who cradled you to sleep.