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“The Body.” Buffy returns home to find her mother dead on the couch of a brain aneurysm. The style, direction, and acting in the episode won critical acclaim. Buffy, her sister, and their friends must cope with the natural death of beloved Joyce Summers — as opposed to the supernatural deaths of many other characters in the past — and try to understand how their lives will continue. The episode contains no music, and a disorienting camera-style adds to the mental confusion and despair of the Scoobies. Death here is real, not figurative. (Original air-date: February 27, 2001)
- Episode 16 of Season 5
- Written and directed by “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon
- Production code: 5ABB16
Reviews of “The Body”:
Andrew Gilstrap at PopMatters: “I’m not sure, though, that the show itself came to terms with death until its fifth season, when Buffy’s mother, Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), died of an aneurysm. That episode, “The Body,” is possibly the finest hour of television I’ve seen, bar none. It concentrates on the aftermath of Joyce’s death, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) finding the body and going into shock, of her friends failing to cope with it in various ways. It is an incredibly moving episode, one that finally admits that you don’t walk away from death unscathed. It also shows that, for all the group’s slaying experience, they really weren’t prepared for death when it stole a loved one.”
David Bianculli of the New York Daily News: “Tonight’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will impress you. It also will haunt you – but not in the normal way associated with this still-evolving, still-achieving series.”
Joyce Millman in Salon: “Even if “Buffy” gets stiffed in every other Emmy category this year, “The Body” should convince the nominating committee that Gellar is for real… The spooky stillness and the long, spacey pauses in conversation as characters struggled to articulate their feelings exaggerated the sense of time elongating and standing still. I can’t remember the last time I saw a more wrenching portrayal of the shock of loss.”