My favourite Buffy scene is that time Buffy swandove off some scaffolding and died to save the world (a lot). I remember that when this happened I didn’t exactly know how TV worked yet and believed for a solid ten minutes after watching the episode, that this might actually be the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - surprise!
I was in bits. I was snotty, snivelly, wet, sobbed, tissuey pieces of human. And still whenever I listen to the score from the scene I feel kind of like I might be going to vomit (in the best possible way). I watched the scene over and over on my VHS tape and tried to process what had happened, because even though after going online I realized that the show would be back and that therefore Buffy would be back… it still seemed inconceivable that it had happened. That she had died and been buried. That she could be gone.
I guess even though I knew it wouldn’t be permanent it still felt permanent, which might have something to do with the fact that I over-identified frighteningly with every character on this show, and so their little faces when they took in the sight of Buffy, appropriately and unrealistically pristine in her actually-dead-ness… I cried for them. I felt what they felt. I knew how much they loved that girl because I loved her too.
And because I was over-identifying with Buffy herself more than anybody else… I felt how much she needed this. I felt how much it mattered to her to be allowed, finally, to just die.
Because she had a reason, finally. She had a really good reason to die. And as long as she didn’t think about how many years it might be till Faith died and another slayer was called, she could tell herself it was allowed. She was allowed to lay down her arms. She was allowed to quit. She had to tell herself that.
It hit me hard as she turned slowly and as we flashed back to It’s just like mine, and Because it’s always got to be blood, and Death is your gift: just how much Buffy loved Dawn and just how badly she needed her to be okay.
I know a lot of people complained about Dawn being added to the cast, but honestly, I never had a problem with her. Like. At all. She didn’t irritate me once? And I loved her chemistry with Buffy and just the way she livened things up and had us WTFing all over the place. But when we found out where she came from, when we saw how little that mattered to Buffy or Joyce or anybody… that was the part that really stunned me with its beauty.
Buffy loved Dawn. Like a sister. Like more than a sister. She was a part of her. Dawn, in Buffy’s lit-up eyes, in that moment when she realized she had found an escape hatch, was the part of Buffy herself that she could save. Without fighting anymore. Without struggling. Without hurting. She would die. Dawn would live. Nothing else mattered.
And honestly, you guys, honestly.
That voiceover? I will never not hear the patterns of it in my head when I think of this scene. I will never not be floored by the soft, solid tone of Buffy’s voice - by the perfect length of her pauses - by Tell Giles I… Tell Giles I figured it out. Never. And Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face is just fucking unbelievable. Someone tell me how this girl didn’t get an Emmy for playing Buffy Summers when she’s standing on scaffolding contemplating her death and looking like that about it. The fragility, the deep-down peace, the hoped hopelessness, the sense that finally, for once - forever - for all time - everything is falling into place. And I’m okay. All of that is on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face. And I’m pretty sure that till the day I die I will be able to close my eyes and picture it: the face, the moment - the scene that proved television could be an earth-shattering thing.
I made several people who had never seen Buffy before including my mother watch this scene right after it aired, because I was that convinced it would change their lives. It didn’t. I knew it wouldn’t. I knew I would just get funny looks and shrugs and okay, sure, it’s a teen show about vampires though? And yet I still made them watch it (my mother twice, even as she began to “worry”). Which is a testament to just how ridiculous it made me.
How ridiculous it still, to this day, makes me.
Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.
Excuse me while I sob up the insides of my toes. Because of this scene. Because of the fact that I am not Joss Whedon.
People who don’t love BUFFY and don’t think this show is honestly one of the most brilliant things ever created can go sit in a corner and never enjoy a single moment in their life again. Don’t complain, you brought it upon yourself. Now go.