The Metaphysics of "Checkpoint"
|Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 5 BtVS/season 2 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.|
Gods: We've heard repeated references to "gods" and "goddesses" on the show, e.g., witchcraft spells have called upon the power of goddesses. But who are these beings and how do they fit into the Buffyverse Chain of Being (i.e., human-demon-Oracles-PTB's)? In Shadow, Tara hypothesized that Glory was something much older than demons and sorcerers--something that predated human language, and Willow conjectured that the Dagon's Sphere, which wards off ancient evil, is connected to her. Fan speculation on gods and Glory:
In general, pantheon-based religions don't make any single god[dess] omnipotent; one god can undo another's work, and individual gods have limitations. There's also usually at least one bad seed among them; Loki comes to mind... So maybe the reason Glory's on the mortal plane to begin with is she's the black sheep of her family of gods and pissed off that she's not welcome there. Only to realize that she's not welcome on this plane either -- it would explain her immaturity (PersephoneMoon, 7:51 am Jan 24, 2001).
|The Knights of Byzantium are an ancient order of human warriors, recognizable by a symbol tattooed on their foreheads. Three of them attack Buffy, but are no match for the Slayer. Their goal is to destroy the key before Glory ("The Beast") gets it. In "Blood Ties" Glory's minion Jinx likens the Knights to ants. "Their numbers are few, for the moment. But they'll grow... No matter how many we kill, they'll keep coming, wave after wave." Because Buffy is protecting the key, she is also their enemy.|
Note: The "Byzantium" name suggests a religious affiliation, perhaps Eastern Orthodox Christians. However
...Joss wants to avoid any religious controversies. Hollywood has a tough time writing stories dealing with such matters, so it's easier to stick to imaginary religions or older faiths and gods with relatively few proponents in recent centuries (LenS, Jan 24 13:56 2001).
Evil in "Checkpoint"
Glory decides to intimidate Buffy into telling her where the Key is by paying a visit to her home. Once there, she tries to cajole the information out of Dawn, who is still ignorant of her real identity but determined to figure out Buffy's secrets herself. When Buffy refuses to tell Glory anything, Glory threatens to kill her family and friends until she does.
...At first glance, the Glory/Buffy match-up seems dull in the extreme. Demi-god outstrips superhuman by a long shot. But ...the game of manipulation, the psychological game, is by far the most important. Buffy cannot possibly defeat 1000 Knights of Byzantium and she cannot beat Glory at her own game. Judging from her monologue to the WC, we get a clearer picture of how Buffy may use a different set of tactics and plans to win 'the game' in the future (Aquitaine, 25-Jan-01 11:49).
Good and Moral Ambiguity in "Checkpoint"
Buffy vs. The Watchers: Round Two
|When Giles went to England to get information on Glory, the Watcher's Council saw a way to regain the leverage they lost. They arrive in Sunnydale, close Giles' shop, and inform Buffy that they won't tell her what they know until they do an exhaustive examination of her methods and skills. They threaten to to deport Giles if Buffy does not cooperate. They intimidate her friends with questions. They test Buffy's jujitsu skills in Japanese. What gives them the right to act this way?|
"The council fights evil," Quentin Travers states. "The slayer is the tool by which we fight. It's been that way from the beginning."
With these words, the Council reduces the Chosen One to an object. In Quentin's rhetoric, the Council is primary, the slayer secondary. The Council is the acknowledged agent of Good, the slayer is their (disposable, replaceable) tool. They have every right to act as they are acting (and as they have acted, e.g., Buffy's Cruciamentum and the attempted assassination of Faith). If this slayer is a good little girl, they will allow her to begin taking their orders again.
"She's not your bloody instrument," Giles argues, but his words mean nothing to them. It's Buffy who must "subvert their paradigm". After Buffy is challenged by the Watchers, and her history teacher, and Spike, and Glory, and the Knights of Byzantium she realizes it's no accident that everyone wants to make her feel like she's nothing. They're doing it because the opposite is true. She's the one with the power.
The WC has been there since the beginning of what? ...They certainly couldn't be talkin' about slayers because I don't think that a stuffy group of stoic tea-drinkers was hanging around telling a primordial slayer how to kill demons.... Perhaps Buffy caught onto this and knew that the WC was just b.s.ing their way into her life (DeMoriel, Jan 23 22:02 2001).
Buffy inverts Quentin's so-called "facts":
"You're Watchers. Without a slayer, you're pretty much just watching Masterpiece Theatre."
The Slayer fights evil. They want to be a part of it? Fine. The Watchers are a resource for her--they supply the Slayer with the information and training she needs to do her PTB-appointed duty. With Giles as official paid liaison, of course. You go, Buffster!
...kudos to Buffy for realizing a way out of the Council part of it and standing by the Scoobies. She's always been Reaction-Girl, and now ...[s]he is sincerely more focused, more clear, and less naive than she's been in a long time (Dunlin, Jan 24 12:02 2001).
The Knights of Byzantium are on the side of Good like Buffy, but they disagree about methods. They think the way to defeat Glory is to destroy the key. Buffy was entrusted to protect it. This raises a question--why did the monks preserve the key if it is dangerous in Glory's hands? Why not destroy it? What was its value to the forces of good before it became human?
...it's dangerous assuming the Knights are "evil" because they're against Buffy. They are many players in the game and perhaps some false flags. Buffy took the word of a dying [monk] colored by her own recent fight with Glory (wolfguard, Jan 24 14:02 2001).
The moral ambiguity of Ben
The Metaphysics of "Blood Ties"
The struggle for the Key: The Writings of Tarnis and other Watcher Council sources describe the Key as an energy matrix vibrating at a "dimensional" frequency beyond normal human perception. Only those who can perceive outside reality (e.g., psychics, lunatics, and monsters created from dogs or snakes) can see the Key's true nature.
This ancient "bright green swirly shimmer" is a source of super-powerful energy. People have killed, died, and summoned armies to control it. Tarnis was a twelfth-century founder of the Order of Dagon, a group of (Christian?) monks whose sole purpose was protecting the Key. Crazy Orlando of he Knight of Byzantium tells Dawn of the Key's destructive capabilities. The Knights call the Key "the link [that] must be severed". They believe destroying the Key is the will of "God".
Now Glory has a big girl god Jones for it as well. And both Ben and Orlando know Dawn is the Key. But while Ben wants to hide Dawn from Glory, Orlando will no doubt tell his brethren about Dawn. Orlando and Dawn": Can anyone find a good joke about '70's pop groups in this?
The Key as "living energy"
Dawn's identity crisis
"Is this blood?"
When Dawn gets tired of people hiding things from her, she goes to the Magic Box with Spike to read Giles' notebooks. The truth embroils her the corker of all teen-aged identity problems. She hasn't discovered that she's only a "thing"--a blob of energy. She has a human body and a conscious mind. But she didn't come to her human form the way the rest of us have--via genetic inheritance from other humans. She was transformed from another form six short months ago. The majority of her memories are artificial. It can be argued therefore that she's not "a real human", but she is "real" in the sense that she exists. And she is "human" in the sense that she is currently in the form of a human.
|Equally important to Dawn is her emotional connection to the people around her. When she overhears Buffy mimicking what she imagines Dawn is thinking, "she's not real. We're not her family," Dawn mistakes this for Buffy's real beliefs. She fears that Joyce and Buffy are merely nurturing and protecting her because of her non-human function. Buffy argues that Dawn has "Summers blood", that the monks' spell gave Dawn the genetic make-up of an offspring of Joyce and Hank Summers. Buffy brings her crowbar-wound up to Dawns' knife-wound and intermingles their blood, an ancient rite in many human cultures for uniting two individuals in a sibling bond. The final part of the identity question is whether the Key's purpose is inherently evil. Glory only tells Dawn, vaguely, "...not really. I guess it depends on your point of view."|
According to Giles' sources, Glory is a god who ruled with two other gods over one of the nastier demon dimensions (gods are apparently a metaphysically different kind of being than demons). Glory ended up in our reality in a human form that severely limits her powers. She is immortal and invulnerable, but affected mentally by living on Earth. She keeps her mind intact by extracting neural energy from human beings, specifically those energies that function to keep the different parts of the human brain working together. When she taps this energy, it leaves her victims insane.
When Ben morphs into Glory, Dawn asks Glory if she "is" Ben. While Ben and Glory share the same physical mass, they have different moral sensibilities, an inability to tap into each other's memories, and animosity towards each other. They talk as if they are siblings, but it's an eensie bit more complicated than that. Ben tries to try to counteract Glory's evil, but neither can harm the other because each would have to harm him/herself in the process.
Note: Dawn's failure to tell Buffy about Ben morphing into Glory is due to "something blocking her memory", rather than a lie.
The early warning spell: Willow and Tara use powder to draw runic symbols in a circle around the Magic Box and the Summers' house. When all the symbols are drawn, the circle flashes and disappears. If anything Hellgod-ishly powerful comes within a hundred feet, the spell will cause a siren-like noise.
The teleportation spell: Willow and Tara position themselves on opposite sides of the room and chant. When Glory steps between them, they throw a sparkling dust at her. It clings to her skin and clothes. Willow says:
Translation: Be gone!
and slams her hands together. Glory disintegrates. Willow is unsure where this will send her. Glory reforms half a mile above the ground and plummets to Earth with a tremendous impact. Giles remarks that the spell was a dangerous one for Willow to perform at her level of magical proficiency.
Good in "Blood Ties"
After Dawn runs off, the gang finds her at the hospital in the clutches of Glory's impending brain-suck. The gang have prepared a fighting plan for their next meeting with the mightier-than-thou god, though. The crux of the plan is Willow and Tara's teleportation spell. Spike attacks Glory and gets swatted away. Giles and Xander distract Glory with a crossbow and a crowbar. After Glory sends Xander sailing into Giles, she hurls the crowbar at Dawn. Buffy leaps in the way and gets pierced in the shoulder. Tara and Willow invoke the spell, and its power knocks Willow over. The spell will leave her with lingering headaches that are noticeable enough to concern her friends.
Ethical Quandaries in "Blood Ties"
Was it right to not tell Dawn she was the key before now?
When Dawn learns the truth about herself out of one of Giles' dryly-written notebooks, she is traumatized. Now she knows why crazy people have been calling her a "thing" that "doesn't belong here". Joyce explains that they were going to tell her themselves when she was older. Dawn has enough identity issues as a 14-year old human; it will be tough for her to absorb the profound implications of being an "energy matrix" caught in a struggle between Hell and Earth.
When Buffy confronts Spike about his role in Dawn's discovery, he argues that this wouldn't have happened if she'd been honest with Dawn in the first place. Buffy later concedes to this point, but she doesn't have to. There was no certainty that events would unfold as they did, and Buffy had good reason to keep the truth from Dawn. She is not to blame for Dawn's decision to find out what all the adults were making an effort to keep from her.
The Metaphysics of and Moral Ambiguity in "Crush"
Spike: Kiss or Kill?
Spike's increasingly enamored feelings towards Buffy have sparked a fan debate over whether Buffy should or could ever love Spike. However, a successful argument on either side depends on settling some key questions first, and we don't have definitive answers to them.
The issue between the fans is clearly not (1) can Buffy love a vampire? because she's already done that. Rather, it's (2) can/should Buffy love an evil vampire? Buffy ceased her relationship with Angel when he went evil and rekindled the romance when he was returned with his soul in tact. The soul made all the difference in her actions towards him. Assuming for the moment that Spike is still evil, the smart answer to question (2) is no:
Spike, boyfriend, it raises a lot of moral questions about our characters, about the kind of people they would date. It would speak volumes about Buffy in a negative way, if she were to reciprocate. She is a strong, moral woman, and for her to suddenly go, 'Hey, he is kind of cute,' that would diminish her character ([BtVS/AtS writer] David Fury, Zap2it.com, Feb 9, 2001).
On the other hand, if Spike is becoming genuinely good, Buffy's feelings for him (assuming she has any) would not be much more troublesome than they were with souled Angel. So the issue then becomes
(3) is Spike still evil?
Spike's apparent capability for love cannot answer this definitively. Back when no one questioned his evil, he seemed deeply in love with Drusilla:
"That was the most interesting thing about the character from the very beginning. Whereas he was truly evil, he was also very much in love with the girl" (James Marsters [Spike], Zap2it.com, Feb 9, 2001).
Buffy argues that Spike cannot love without a soul, however, on the show we have seen:
We need more than mere protestations of love. Furthermore, we need more than mere "good" actions. Spike's actions of late have been morally ambiguous--is Spike helping the gang out of altruism or self-interest? In Crush,
The Buffy shrine got it into definite "Fatal Attraction" territory (Hil R., 7:00 pm). ...after he's fondly recalled killing a family, drained a girl's blood, and threatened to sic Dru on Buffy if she doesn't say there's a chance for them, I'm still intrigued by the character, but I can't bring myself to feel sorry for him anymore (Hil R. - 3:45 pm Feb 15, 2001),
can he not see why killing the person who was your love for 100-plus years is not going to be a good recommendation for the person who you want to be your new lover? ...unchaining Buffy rather than allowing Dru to kill her helps - - it would help more if he hadn't put her there in the first place!! (S. Keay, 7:02 am Feb 14, 2001),
None of these actions prove that Spike is as evil as he ever was. We need evidence of his internal, psychological state of mind.
"...Most people ...are guided by, 'you should be good, you're good, you feel good.' And most demons are guided simply by the opposite star. ...Spike ...is getting more and more completely conflicted. But basically his natural bent is towards doing the wrong thing. His court's creating chaos where as in most humans, most humans, is the opposite...." (Joss Whedon, 3/30/01 The 18th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival)
This leaves open the possibility that Spike is on a very long, rocky road to redemption. But this can happen only if (a) redemption is possible for vampires without souls, or, alternatively, if (b) Spike gets/already has a soul:
(4) can an unsouled vampire be redeemed... at all?
Spike's ability to redeem himself without the restoration of William's human soul rests on the muddy issues of where vampire personalities come from and whether vampires have free will. Mortal William seemed to be a gentle, romantic person. But how much of William remains in Spike, and can these traits overcome the predatory and gratuitously violent tendencies of the demon without William's soul? This question has not been answered on the show yet. However:
...my conviction [is] that Spike can never be redeemed... [He is] a murderer who would be killing innocent people were he not suffering from chip affliction (BtVS/AtS writer David Fury, Feb 13 9:48 2001).
For Fury, a soul makes all the difference in whether or not a vampire can be truly redeemed. Unsouled vampires are inherently incapable of seeing the value of good. On this view, Spike has no choice about being evil; he can delude himself that he's good, but it's just his passion doin' the talking. Spike's "good" deeds are the self-serving acts of a demon in the thrall of obsessive, selfish love. Let's call this viewpoint "Fury's Rule": it is having a soul that gives you a choice about whether to do good or evil.
A vampire with a soul is a very different thing.... It is still a choice for Angel. Yes, he's driven by guilt, but he's also driven by a blood-thirst. ...He's not sure if he can [be redeemed], and, 'If I can't be redeemed, what's the point? Why can't I just go killing people?' That's the interesting dilemma for Angel. To afford that kind of conscious choice on a character like Spike would diminish both of them (David Fury, Zap2it.com, Feb 9, 2001).
Some fans agree with this:
..Angel looks on his past actions with a human perspective. He feels a need to atone for what he has done. Spike looks on it with a vampire perspective.... He may not be killing people now, but he hasn't shown a shred of regret over what he has done in the past. That doesn't bode well for the future if he ends up sans-chip (Gudanov, 7:30 am Feb 14, 2001).
Joss Whedon on the soul/no soul distinction
There is an alternative view. Some fans hold that over time, Spike has noticed the benefits of acting non-violently and is changing his own mind about acting good vs. acting evil. Notice that this assumes free will in contradiction to Fury's Rule. Fans who hold this view argue that unsouled Spike is capable of such a transformation because other demons in the Buffyverse (e.g., the Prio or the Host, not Angel) have shown the ability to do good. However, we do not know much about these demons. Were they born good? Did they go through a transformation later in life? How similar is Spike's vampire demon to these beings?
Another alternative view is that Spike already has a soul.
(5) does Spike have a soul?
Spike is a vampire. We've never seen him cursed by a gypsy ritual, so we can assume he does not have a soul in the way Angel does. However, we can still ask:
(1) There is no way to prove or disprove Dawn's statement, because we don't even know what a Buffyverse soul is, metaphysically speaking. All we know is the effect it has--it gives a human or a former human twinges of conscience that they are free to act on or not (this re-opens the debate about whether good demons do what they do because they have souls. This question has also never been answered on the show).
(2) It is unlikely that Spike's chip was designed to have the same effect on him that having a soul would. The chip is Initiative technology. The Initiative was not in the business of altering thoughts and desires, only external behavior. Spike could be, as Fury contends, like an unrepentant serial killer in jail.
On the other hand, Spike is an intelligent, self-aware individual. Couldn't he "develop" a soul from his post-chip experiences?
If the definition of "soul" is ..."the ability to tell right from wrong," the question becomes whether or not a soul-less vampire can develop a conscience from a chip and the example of a woman he wants to be worthy enough to love. Joss &co. are getting into very muzzy territory with the soul issue. Spike currently has what looks like the rudiments of a soul-- bad is what gives him a headache or what Buffy wouldn't want him to do. What develops from this... is a very interesting question. Can technology plant the seed for a soul? (Magdeleine, 3:18 pm Feb 15, 2001).
Spike seems to believe that he is really changing. Drusilla tells him this an illusion. He thinks he is becoming good, but if he were de-chipped, he'd go back to his bad ways:
"Little bit of ...plastic, spiderwebbing out nasty blue shocks. And every one is a lie. Electricity lies, Spike. It tells you you're not a bad dog, but you are."
The jury remains out on Spike.
Drusilla's vision of Spike and the slayer
Is Buffy responsible for Spike's feelings?
Spike tells Dawn about how he murdered a family as if he's telling a scary story around the campfire. Dawn hangs on every word.
...When you are younger and more innocent there is most often a desire to become less innocent. You see it as a sign of growing up. You don't want to be shielded. You don't want to be protected from hearing about life's darker aspects. ...Sure they frighten Dawn, but she wants to prove that she isn't a baby. She wants to prove that she can handle it (ben, 16-Feb-01 03:08).
When Spike dumps Harmony the moment Dru slithers into town, Harmony wises up to him--O.K., wises up again. She thought that if she gave him enough vampy love and affection, he'd change his ways and be nicer to her. Now she realizes this isn't going to happen. Spike has been using her while he was waiting for Buffy to come around.
Evil in "Crush"
Drusilla returns to Sunnydale, warm from the slaughter of her fellow train passengers, to rekindle her romance with Spike and save him from the little knick-knack in his brain. She starts to bring out the monster in her ex-man, then finds herself tied to a post with a stake aimed at her chest. Spike threatens to dust Dru--"his salvation from mediocrity"--in order to prove his love for Buffy. Drusilla decides that Spike is beyond her "help" and leaves town.
I Was Made To Love You
The Metaphysics of "I Was Made To Love You"
Robots: She may look like an attractive young woman with a perpetual smile, but April is a machine, programmed to give her creator emotional support, sex, and puppy-dog devotion. Warren also gave her super-strength for fighting off rivals for her affections, like Spike. How can a young man, however brilliant, create such a complex piece of technology? With a little boost from the Hellmouth's energy. It's happened before.
Moral Ambiguity and Philosophies Represented in "I Was Made To Love You"
|When April is abandoned by her cowardly creator, she goes into tireless "locate_warren" mode, searching for him all over Sunnydale. April uses her super-strength to attack her rivals, guilelessly choking Katrina unconscious trying to force her to "take back" her "lie" about being Warren's girlfriend. Buffy realizes why: April's primary function is to love Warren. Hence, all her actions serve to preserve her relationship with him above all else. When Warren admits he doesn't love April but loves someone else, April's "make_warren_happy" mode is replaced by "combat_mode". She thinks Warren is pointing to Buffy and attacks her "rival". She only stops when her batteries begin to wind down.|
April did everything she was programmed to do, and still Warren rejected her. "I'm only supposed to love him," she says. "If I can't do that ...What do I exist for?" Buffy lets April's power run out rather than contemplate this existential question. If April could be programmed once, couldn't she be reprogrammed to serve a different purpose? Perhaps, but the temptation in inventing things that look like people is to start thinking of people as things.
April is not a toy, Warren Mears insists; he made her to love him. Well, sure, if love = being a Yes-man. OK, a Yes-woman--a nice little Stepford girlfriend who thinks Warren is infallible and who can never fail to respond to his voice (without suffering painful feedback, that is). Warren may have made her because he couldn't get a real girl (before he met Katrina), but as Willow points out, in some ways it's easier to deal with a made-to-order thing you can control than a real woman with her own beliefs, feelings, and interests completely outside your control.
While Warren does find the unpredictable Katrina much less boring, he uses rude bullying tactics to keep her from finding out about April. He still hasn't learned to see his girlfriends as "subjects" rather than "objects". Katrina dumps him when she realizes he's the kind of guy who would build such a creature.
[A] philosophy professor ...challenged the males in class saying, "Do you just want a pretty face, or maybe someone with a certain set of qualities, or are you actually willing to open yourself up to the full subjectivity of another person?" ...Someone who meets our specs sounds great, but we will always know it is not real. There is no real love or life there - only an object meeting our needs. It is interesting to note also, that Warren treated his human girlfriend as an object to order around also - like when he told her to go into the kitchen when Buffy showed up at his door. And that whole thing about "crying being blackmail"? Maybe sometimes, but to be so dismissive of genuine feelings and emotions. Wow, that is pretty cold-blooded (Ryuei, 21-Feb-01 12:50)
When Spike tries to rely on the good will the Scoobies have shown him in the past, he gets anything but. He's no longer welcome in Giles' shop. And when he tries to claim that Buffy misrepresented the events in Crush, Buffy's friends won't listen to his story. Giles shoves Spike around and tells him to get over his obsession with the slayer. Spike's method of "moving on", however, is to get Warren to make him a Buffy-bot to replace his Buffy-mannequin.
Ben seems to understand his predicament, but he isn't going to let that stop him from having a normal human life (including pursuing Glory's enemy as a love interest). Either that, or he's up to something. Glory hopes he's working to get the location of the key from Buffy, but she fears Ben may in fact be allying himself against his own flesh and blood.
Buffy faces a moment of weakness when she finds herself boyfriendless and attracting the attentions of a vampire who gets off on her slayer strength. She wonders if being a slayer is what drove Riley away. She considers down-playing that part of herself if it might help her attract a decent guy who'll stick around for once. April's tragic existence makes her realize the fallacy in this. April did everything her creator wanted her to do, and she still lost him. Buffy decides that rushing into another relationship isn't what she needs. She needs to get in touch with herself and her feelings. That way, when Mr. Right does come along, she'll know--he'll be the guy who loves her for who she is, not who he wants her to be.
Good in "I Was Made To Love You"
When Xander's reaction to Spike getting thrown out a dormitory window is the cost of the repairs, he realizes he's a grown up. He's a bit disconcerted by this. But Xander evidently went and offered his carpentry services to the University to repair it. And he even gives Buffy an enthusiastic lecture on the process while he does it.
Ethical Quandaries in "I Was Made To Love You"
Is Buffy "responsible" for Spike's feelings towards her?
Giles argues that Buffy isn't responsible for what Spike thinks or feels. In order to understand what Giles means by this, we need to distinguish between someone being a "cause" of another person's feelings and someone being "responsible". If you trip and fall and inadvertently knock someone down, you are a cause of their falling down, but you didn't intend it to happen. If you forcibly push them and they fall down, you are responsible for their falling down. One person cannot be responsible for another person's feelings--feelings don't work that way. However, your looks, actions, etc, might bring out feelings in another that they are inclined to feel when they see such looks or such actions. This would happen whether you intended it or not.
Buffy acknowledges that her behavior attracted Spike, but her behavior would not have had this effect on him if Spike wasn't already the type to respond sexually to violence and to have obsessions with slayers long before Buffy was even born.
Buffy was under the assumtion that she and Spike had a working relationship. Spike took all of her dropins and punches as a signal that maybe he had some chance with her. Where she only thought of her dealings with Spike as cash for services, he thought that they were getting close. And to an extent they were. So when Buffy got hit with the idea that Spike loved her she freaked (Rufus, 14-Feb-01 18:45).
This is what Xander means when he says "the problem is not you." Spike must take responsibility for his own feelings. As long as he insists Buffy "brought them out in him", he will believe she owes him something. And every time she says "No, go away", she is simply protesting too much. Is she? Assume for the moment that Buffy doesn't desire Spike, even subconsciously. What could she possibly do to communicate that? Spike has already decided that every "No" she utters means "Yes", and that every punch she throws is foreplay. For now, Buffy must rely on her friends to get her message across.
"Death and disease are things, possibly the only things that Buffy cannot fight." --Giles, KBD
The Slayer comes home to find her mother lying across the couch, unmoving. She calls out to her, shakes her, and attempts CPR on her so vigorously that her strength cracks one of Joyce's ribs. She stands by feeling useless as the paramedics attempt to revive her. She fantasizes that they succeed. She fantasizes being there when her mother collapsed. Joyce thanks her profusely. But death is one evil the Slayer can't fight. Buffy is told over and over that there's nothing she could have done--not even if she'd been at her mother's side when it happened.
Surgical complications: The doctor reports that Joyce had an aneurism--a sudden hemorrhaging of a ruptured arterial vessel--near where the tumor was removed. The doctor told them that this was a danger after Joyce's surgery.
"...there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead." --Anya
When Buffy refers to her mother as "the body", it begins to bring home the reality that the person she called "Mom" isn't going to open her eyes and weakly murmur, "Buffy". Joyce is dead. But hey, so is Angel. And Phantom Dennis. And those wild guys in the Zeppo. Or at least that's what we say.
The difference between being "un-dead" and "dead" is evident in the morgue room. The sheet slides off the vampire as he rises, Joyce's is ripped from her body by the struggle. The vampire stalks Dawn, driven by hunger. The body on the table can't feel its cold limbs, or anything else. The vampire fights vigorously against the Slayer before it is turned to dust. Joyce's body just lies there. And Joyce, for all her faults, was a well-adjusted woman. It's unlikely she'll become a ghost. Furthermore, it would be disrespectful to raise her, like the dead boys in the Zeppo, to stagger about in decomposition. Joyce is simply dead.
Still, the fact remains--death doesn't have quite the finality in the Buffyverse it has in our 'verse. In the Buffyverse, there is clear evidence of spirits--of the personality and consciousness being somehow "detachable" from the body it "inhabits". And we've seen evidence of "places" spirits go when the body dies. Angel's soul went to the Ether from 1753 to 1898 and again in 1998, and then returned to his body. The spirits of James and Grace in IOHEFY ascended into a shimmering light after they were released from their Earthly purgatory.We in the Realverse must ultimately accept these things on faith or settle for a pragmatic, depressing naturalism (also known as materialism) which holds that we are physical beings only, "meat machines" whose conscious minds are the cumulative effect of the intricately complex working and networking of billions of brain cells.
So we might ask: does knowing that something exists beyond death make death easier for the Scoobies? Or harder? On the one hand, they have more assurance than we do that "Joyce" is, indeed, "somewhere else". On the other hand, wherever that place is, Joyce isn't likely to come back from it. And knowing that humans have some sort of spiritual immortality isn't going to make them feel any less angry about the very physical immortals around them--vampires and gods--some of whom can die, although not easily, others who may not ever die. And both who can live a very, very long time.
Good and Moral Ambiguity in "The Body"
"Okay, remember, we're not drawing the object, we're drawing the negative space around the object."
Buffy goes into detached automatic pilot, but to her credit, she is able to tell her sister what happened, and she is alert enough to realize Dawn has been in the hospital bathroom too long. When she sees Dawn in the grip of a vampire, the Slayer finally has something to do. She's not in top fighting form, but she saves her sister.
When Dawn hears the news, she vascillates between denial and grief. The only way she'll truly believe it is to see the body. Buffy doesn't think she should, so Dawn sneaks into the morgue. Before she can gather the courage to lift the sheet, though, she is attacked. The struggle rips the sheet from Joyce's body. While Buffy dusts the vamp, Dawn gets up and sees the truth.
Anya has spoken so casually of death, especially deaths that she caused, and the gang has gotten so used to seeing death that they no longer comment on the horrificness of it. But it is horrific, and nothing brings that home more than the death of a loved one. Death and grief are new lessons for Anya's ever-evolving humanity. She doesn't know what she's "expected" to do as a griever. But she does realize what mortality means in a way that a dislocated shoulder couldn't teach her: Joyce was not an old woman; her life was only half over. It can happen to anyone! While the others struggle to be in control, Anya freely expresses why they are not.
Xander wants someone to blame, something to take his anger out on. "This is ...wrong!" he says, as if Joyce's death is a moral injustice that someone can be punished for, instead of a natural happenstance there was no "larger" meaning to beyond the complications of surgery. He tries to blame Glory, he tries to blame the negligence of the doctors, but none of it works. Glory would have claimed responsibility. The doctors did everything they could to help Joyce. In the end, Xander can only blame the wall.
Willow is a wreck. Even the smallest things are a huge burden. She wants to be in control of her emotions so she can support Buffy, but she's hanging on by a thread. That thread almost breaks when Anya starts talking about Joyce's body. Anya's confusion sounds like typical Anya insensitivity to Willow, and she lashes out. Gradually, as Tara comforts her and Xander's wall-punching gives her something else to focus on, Willow gains a semblance of calm.
Tara has an interesting perspective on events--she did not know Joyce as well as the others, but her own mother died a few years ago. She can relate to Buffy without stoking Buffy's grief. Tara is also the one whose head is clear enough to concentrate on helpful facts in Willow's dorm room. But she can still soothe Willow's manic despair and sympathize with Xander's anguish.
The good of Giles