#2: The Body- Joss Whedon is evil, and I absolutely love him for it. The season 5 episode The Body is the proof. A big part of season 5 is Buffy's mom Joyce going through a health scare with a brain tumor. Buffy, used to fighting off her demons, at first refuses to accept that nothing can be done to help her mom, but slowly accepts the truth. Over the months, Joyce goes through surgery and appears fully healed. In the episode prior to The Body, called I Was Made To Love You, Joyce is back on the dating scene, full head of hair and back at work, full of life and energy. The episode ends with Buffy coming home to find Joyce dead on the couch. The Body starts right where the last episode left off (last scene in previous episode is first here) with Buffy finding Joyce, and it sinks in how evil Joss Whedon truly is.
We spend all season worrying about Joyce, and during I Was Made To Love You, she is back to her old self, doing better in fact than before the tumor! Buffy and Dawn tease her about her hair and outfit, Joyce makes jokes about forgetting her bra in her date's car, and the new guy even sends her flowers the next day. The fact that, for 15 episodes, we watch as Joyce gets sick, recovers, and is then better than ever is what makes her death even more traumatic. If she had just died suddenly, or during her medical scare, yes, it would have been sad, but not shocking. Writing and planning like this is what makes Joss Whedon so incredible.
The acting in The Body is just as good as the planning and writing. Everything from Buffy's jaw gaping slog around her house, her screaming at Giles not to touch "the body", Willow's freaking out about clothing choices, Anya's desperate pleas for someone to explain why Joyce is dead, and Tara's stoic support to all involved are all heart wrenching performances that truly showcase these actor's abilities. And, for the first time, we actually care about Dawn.
There are 4 moments that stand out for me in The Body. The first is when Buffy is on the phone with 911 and has the following conversation with the tech:
Buffy (putting her hand on Joyce): She's cold.
911 Operator (pause): The body's cold?
Buffy: No, my mom! Sh-should I make her warm?
Buffy not equating "the body" with her mother shows how she will not accept what has happened. The second, as I mentioned, is when Giles arrives and Buffy shouts at him as he dashes to check on Joyce, "We're not supposed to move the body!" and slaps her hands over her mouth, finally for the first time truly realizing what is happening. The third moment for me is when Willow and Xander hug in her dorm room. There is nothing special happening, there are many other much more dramatic moments, but the moment these two best friends hug, I lose it. That is my we're-not-supposed-to-move-the
Visually, Joss did a lot with The Body as well. Some shots are framed so perfectly I have a hard time believing he didn't spend hours on each shot. And more subtle queues like Dawn's art project (drawing a picture of what basically looks like a dead woman's body in the same pose as Joyce) are delightfully dark. And the episode ends where so many directors and visionaries would refuse to let it; right before the big moment. Dawn and Buffy lie on the floor of the morgue after dusting a vampire that was in the room with the other bodies. The sheet that covered Joyce's corpse has fallen, and her cold dead body lies on the table. Buffy is frozen in fear. Dawn is wide eyed and curious and reaches slowly to touch her dead mother's skin, and right before she does, fade to black, the end.