Monday, February 27, 2006

Guiltless Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Body

I've really gotten into 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' these past few months. At its best the show is both hysterically funny and unbelievably tense. As a matter of fact I think the show's creators tried to push the tension a bit too much in the latter seasons of the show but thats a topic for another article. Today I wanted to write about "The Body", a very well known episode from season 5.

Now if you haven't seen Buffy yet . . .

First of all what are you waiting for? I readily admit I took entirely too long to give this show a shot. This is a very cool series, well worth the time and effort to watch the entire run. It is pretty addicting though, so be careful.

Second of all, I want to put out a very serious SPOILER WARNING. Don't read beneath this paragraph if you have any desire to see the show in the future. Unlike the case with my "Family Stone" review, the show is a good deal more entertaining than this review will be.

Ok, now that the niceties have been dealt with . . .

I've been wanting to write about this episode ever since I saw it about a month ago. It hasn't so much lingered in my head as it did smack me in the face to remind me of some harsh realities at the time. This episode features almost no plot or character development, just the raw emotions of a group of friends in a realistic situation none of them want to be a part of. Not the kind of entertainment I usually go for but it works here, it works big time.

Vampire slayer Buffy Summers comes home one day to find her mother's lifeless body lying on the couch. What follows are the mundane, arduous tasks that must be done following the death of a loved one. Paramedics are called, family and friends are notified. Just a lot of time is spent waiting, staring into space, and feeling like crap. Sounds fun doesn't it? It isn't, and this episode captures that perfectly.

Tears: 11
I didn't cry once during this episode. I was too distracted by my heart rubbing against the pit of my stomach and the overwhelming sense of numbness associated with that. It's the feeling I've felt too often these past few months as I've lost my father and my sister in-law. It wasn't usually about tears, it was more about fear, and regrets, and a general discomfort with myself; not knowing how to act. This is the only piece of 'entertainment' I've ever seen that captures that feeling. This is intended as praise, but I'm not particularly keen on experiencing such feelings again.

Bizareness: 7
The existence of this episode is bizarre all by itself. The fact that this is an episode of a network television show is incredibly weird.

Investment: 11
This is what TV has all over the movies. When a show is done well, as Buffy has been, it creates fuller, richer characters than movies ever could. I would probably never choose to watch a movie about nothing more than the excruciating hours following a character's death. But I'd sit through a TV episode about that if I was sufficiently invested in the characters. Fortunately 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' features some great characters, who had 80 or so episodes by this time to invest me in their lives and welfare. All of the Buffy regulars: Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya, and Tara are here performing scenes so realistically uncomfortable I couldn't help but feel for them.

Resonance: 11
This episode definitely meant something to me. The aforementioned smack in the face was the reality that most everyone has dealt with a situation like this one in their lives. I mean, heck they even made a Buffy episode about how much life sucks when you lose someone! It was oddly comforting.

Dread: 4
There is some dread here to be sure. However, once it's established that Buffy's mom is indeed dead, the dread kinda diminishes and turns to the overwhelming sadness and discomfort I've described above. There is even a vampire that appears late in the episode but he's treated as an afterthought and produces no dread.

Immersion: 9
I felt a part of this world. The pacing is painfully slow, allowing the discomfort to permeate completely. The dialogue was not particularly snappy or well timed, adding to the bleak realism.

Final word:
An incredibly effective episode (three 11's!!!!!) I'm not sure I ever need to see again. Sad, disturbing, and uncomfortable, don't say I didn't warn you.


Linda Sheridan said...

I had watched Buffy for a time several years ago, but not in a while. I haven't seen this episode, but I read your comments all the way through. I still want to see 'The Body' anyway, and will consider myself father's death three years ago still strikes me when I least expect it-and for me too, there's lingering regrets, thoughts on how things could have turned out different.

Lauren said...

I cried quite a bit watching this episode. I teared up even thinking about it as I read your review. I've often said that the quality of entertainment I look for from books, movies and television is different. Not better or worse, just different. But I think your point about the investment in characters making you willing to sit through something you might not choose to experience otherwise is right-on.

Roe said...

I honestly don't know if I could sit through something like this, but your review is brilliant. It sounds like an amazing episode. And I agree with Lauren, you make an excellent point about TV having an edge over movies in that we are willing to go through these experiences with a cast of a TV because we've essentially built a relationship with them over time.

Stacey said...

I finally watched it, and it was wrenching, even though I knew what it was about, it was extremely painful. It was so real.

The part where Willow was changing her clothes wasn't funny, it reminded me of when Adam's mom died. I just didn't know what to do, or what was right.

Chris said...

Glad you finally saw it Stace.

Yeah that part was particularly disturbing. The other part that comes to mind is when they are all sitting in the hospital basically killing uncomfortable time. Anya really comes into her own as a character at that point I thought, saying things that make total sense but are just impossible to accept in that situation.

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