Dissecting Buffy’s two best Episodes

Posted: December 17, 2015 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article, Revenant
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Before there was Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, there was another franchise that centered around everyone’s favorite bloodsucking supernatural monsters. That was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A show well and truly a product of the 1990’s, sometimes it was just cheesy. Sometimes it was just a guilty pleasure. Sometimes… it was brilliant.

The two episodes of Buffy most often singled out for praise are season 4’s Hush and season 5’s The Body. Here, I’m going to dissect just why both of these very different episodes stand as shining examples of supernatural, YA fiction done right.

15 year old spoilers, by the way.


 

Hush

“Hush” takes place right smack in the middle of Buffy’s television run, being midway through the fourth season. However, it’s often listed as the go to “entry” episode for Buffy. (Think “Blink” from Doctor Who.) “Hush” was born when writer/director/Nerd King Joss Whedon noticed most of the critics who reviewed his show noted that the strongest part of the show was his witty dialogue. So naturally, he decided to make an episode where there was as little dialogue as possible.

Seven minutes into the episode, fairy tale creatures referred to as “The Gentlemen” come into the town of Sunnyvale. They steal all the voices of everyone in the town, leaving them free to glide around from home to home and, uh, well… creep viewers the hell out. They take scalpels, restrain their victim, and then cut their hearts out. Without a voice, as Ridley Scott will tell you, no one can hear you scream.

Creepy factor: 11.

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So our heroes have to figure out how to defeat the Gentlemen but can’t talk with each other. And in an era before texting, that’s a little harder than it would be now. Their solutions involve whiteboards and mouthing. And for almost the rest of the episode’s 42-ish minute runtime, there’s absolutely no talking. Joss Whedon cut out the thing he’s best known for and created the creepiest, darkest episode ever of his show. The writing’s great of course, but “Hush’s” effects still hold up as well. As I said, Buffy can get pretty cheesy. But The Gentlemen remain convincingly terrifying today.

The lesson here to all you writers out there: Challenge yourself! Figure out what your biggest strength is in writing, then write a story where you forbid yourself from doing it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself making something you’d never even thought of.


 

The Body

No music. No vampires, outside of a 30 second scene most likely network-mandated. No supernatural gobbledygook or chosen one prophecies to worry about.

“The Body” is about pure, human, grief.

Our title character returns home after school one day and finds her mother dead. There’s a frantic rush by paramedics to save her, but they don’t. Despite the fantasies Whedon shows going on in Buffy’s head, her mother doesn’t have a miraculous resuscitation. And there’s no witch magic to bring her back. She’s dead and dead and dead and won’t be coming back.

The whole episode is only coping with the death of a loved one. (And then the aforementioned network-mandated vampire that’s in the episode for like 30 seconds.) And near the middle of the episode, there’s a scene where Anya, a woman formerly immortal only recently turned human, has to cope with the reality of death- both to others and herself.

But I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we all go through this. I mean, I knew her, and now she’s- there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she can’t just get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid! It’s mortal, and stupid… I was having fruit punch and I thought, ‘well Joyce will not have any more fruit punch. Ever. And she’ll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.

Whedon combined something that can only exist in genre fiction (an immortal woman turning mortal) and combined it with something universally human to create a scene that only works in Young Adult fiction. That’s why “The Body” is so damn powerful.


revenant final

This post is a part of VAMPIRE WEEK, in celebration and support of my YA vampire novella, REVENANT, which is available on amazon now for $1.50. Free if you have Kindle Unlimited!

 US store

UK store!

 

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Comments
  1. alexraphael says:

    Two of my very favourite episodes too.

    Like

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