Week of Buffy: Day 4, The Body

Week of Buffy: Day 4, The Body

There simply aren’t enough expletives in the English language to do justice to experiencing The Body from season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I first saw it, I was glued to my chair, shocked into silence. It was brutal.

Before you read more, watch this.

The Body may be the single finest episode of television to have been created. It is an approximate 45 minutes of cinematic genius, strung up by its humanity in town square during the 7:00PM broadcast time-slot. This episode is a prime example of accomplished filmmakers demonstrating their prowess and taking no prisoners, and every aspect of the artistic performance was spot on.

Willow and Tara, a visceral scene.
Willow and Tara, a visceral scene.

The acting was appropriately awkward, confused, and gut-wrenchingly distressing, while Sarah Michelle Gellar delivered one of the finest performances she has ever given, as a girl who has just found her mother’s lifeless body in her living room. I can’t even begin to imagine, much less capture, the raw emotion associated not only with the loss, but also with the shock of the encounter itself. The supporting cast each reached deep into the bucket of drama for their performances as well, and nothing came up lacking.

Dawn, trying to understand. Trying to be brave.
Dawn, trying to understand. Trying to be brave.

The finest component of this masterpiece, however, is in the audio. To create the stark and unrelentingly harsh and crisp environment, the episode was made without score or musical soundtrack. The only audio in the episode is dialog and ambient noise. Because of this minimalist approach and staunch attention to detail, the sounds became their own powerful players. The shuffling feet and the silence. The quiet whispers and the tearful mourning. The sounds of the ambulance driving away pierced the screen and my heart sank. For the duration of that episode, I understood.

There’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid.

Anya’s innocent insights drive home the nature of dealing. Suddenly, her humanity has her at a disadvantage and she doesn’t understand how or why. This is undoubtedly the series’ finest moment, and quite possibly for television as well. It is humbling to watch.