Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The saddest hour of TV

I usually only talk about movies, but I have been known to delve into TV talk from time to time (as I'm sure you all know and love my Beverly Hills, 90210 season recaps!) I've been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I'm listening to two different podcasts that discuss each episode. One of the podcasts is alternating between Buffy and Angel (which is my first time watching) so they just finished the fifth season while the other podcast is almost done with the series. That one is the Buffy Rewatch. Both hosts have seen the show before, but keep it spoiler free. They have a very structured podcast where they discuss external and internal references (such as pop culture references and references to past episodes), the fashion, and Buffy firsts and lasts (this is the first time we are introduced to a certain character, this is the last time we ever see this location).

The other one, PotentialCast, is a group of four people who are often joined by a guest. Only of of them has seen the entire series and the others are watching it for the very first time...and are trying to be spoiler-free as possible. They kind of go all over the place when discussing each episode and can get a bit off topic which can get annoying, but it's always great to hear their reactions at certain key moments. They have listener feedback and voice mails and rate the episodes and say their favorite quotes.

I started watching and listening to the podcasts in mid 2011 and I've only just finished the fifth season, so as you can see, with two seasons left, I still have a ways to go. I first watched the entire series in just a few short months from late 2004-early 2005. This time around, when I got to season 5, I was kind of dreading it...and season 5 is actually a pretty good season (although I am partial to seasons 2 and 3). 

Let me just pause here to warn everyone that I am about to reveal a huge major spoiler, although if you don't know about this spoiler, I would be very shocked, Buffy fan or not! I feel like I found about this spoiler the night the episode aired in 2001 even though I didn't watch it until 2005! (But I do slightly spoil other things that aren't people's deaths!)

Of course I am referring to Buffy's mother's death. Joyce Summers was just an ancillary character and while she and Buffy had a nice mother/daughter relationship (even though there was that time when she kicked Buffy out of the house....not cool, Joyce, not cool!), there have been more prominent mother/daughter relationships in other TV shows. (I never watched Gilmore Girls, but considering the two main characters are mother and daughter, I would assume that would be one of them!) Joyce was featured heavily in a few earlier episodes ("School Hard"and "Ted" are ones that come to mind), but she didn't have a character arc until season 5...which is she starts getting sick, is diagnosed with a brain tumor, gets operated on, finds out her youngest daughter isn't really a human, starts dating again, dies. You know, in a nutshell!

"The Body", the episode that deals with her death, is not only probably the saddest hour of TV ever, but also probably the hardest TV episode to watch. I was dreading watching this again! And it had been nine years since I had last seen it! It's a very good, well-done episode, but perhaps a little too well-done as it is a little TOO real. The cliffhanger from the previous episode has Buffy coming home and finding her mom dead on the couch with the creepy bonus of having her eyes open. And her, "Mom...Mom.....Mommy?" is so heartbreakingly sad! The cold open of "The Body" begins right where we left off and  during the opening credits, we see a happier time when Joyce was alive during Christmas dinner with her family and Buffy's friends. This was only thrown in the episode so they didn't have to show the credits during the very serious scenes of Buffy reacting to finding her mother dead. I have never watched the commentary, but apparently that is what Joss Whedon tells the audience.

I have (fortunately!) never been in a horrible situation like this, but I can only imagine my reaction being very similar to Buffy's: confused, in shock, terrified, numb, all rolled into one. When she calls 9-1-1 to tell them her mom's not breathing, the operator asks her if she's administrated CPR and Buffy replies that she forgot how to do it and panics when she breaks one of her mom's ribs while pressing down on her. She tells the operator her mom is cold and the reply is, "The body is cold?" to which Buffy exclaims, "No, my mom is cold!"

There are deliberate camera choices such as a lingering shot on the phone's buttons as Buffy stares at it, Buffy talking to an EMT and only showing the bottom half of his face on screen, Buffy leaving the room in a daze to throw up and going outside for a few seconds to get fresh air. It is a very surreal scene. It also feels very voyeuristic - like you are actually watching this young woman reacting to her mother's death and you feel like you are prying. It's certainly how I felt! I think it is suppose to be a very uncomfortable situation for the viewer.

There is no music at all in this episode and it is very jarring because you know something is missing and TV shows without music just seem odd and disconnected. Something interesting about this episode is that you could watch it without having to see any other episode before it. You may not know who Buffy's friends are and you might not get Anya's heartbreaking speech about not understanding why Joyce had to die since she herself was not born originally human (like Dawn!) and does not understand the concept of mortality. That speech made me bawl like a baby and I don't even like Anya! The scene where Buffy has to tell her sister always got me the most the first time I saw this episode (and the second time will also be my last time watching it!)

The only thing that takes me out of this episode (and reminds me what show I'm watching!) is the vampire at the end. They didn't have anything of the supernatural sort until that moment at the end and it was like they threw the vampire in there as an afterthought.

Sarah Michelle Gellar knocks it out of the park in this episode and it is a shame she wasn't even nominated for an Emmy!

No comments:

Post a Comment