Buffy 5×17: Forever

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: Marti Noxon | Aired: 04/17/2001]

We’re not watching the same Buffy anymore. With the move into Act III (now through S7) we find that the series has changed drastically in tone. “Forever” is the launching point of this new era and it proves to be an underrated, important, and dark episode which often gets overshadowed by [“5x16″] . Two primary things are happening here. The first is Buffy trying to cope with the wave of responsibilities forced on her, and the other is Dawn attempting to ressurect Joyce through black magic. With the exception of a clunky fight scene, both of these threads work together exceptionally well and force Buffy to face the emotion she’s trying to bottle up in order to get things done.

Before I talk about anything else I want to mention how much I enjoyed the attention paid to how everyone responds to Joyce’s sudden death. Willow is visiting her mom a lot, Spike brings flowers for Joyce, and Giles turns on the same music him and Joyce listened to during “Band Candy” [3×06] while under the candy curse. These are all beautiful little touches and nods to continuity that just feel right and that a lesser show would completely ignore. I really love that “Forever” doesn’t forget about these important little character nuances, as it really helps bring home how real these characters are.

Anyway, the episode begins in a funeral home where Buffy has to pick out a coffin for her mom’s funeral. The coffin salesman says some extremely pretentious things to her that make it obvious all he cares about is getting Buffy’s money. I also went through this despicable price gouging when my grandmother died. These funeral homes are out to gain extra money by taking advantage of your sorrow. It’s sick and very painful, although when I say this I can’t speak for all funeral homes. This entire introduction scene already shows how cut off Buffy is from her emotions. Now that her mom’s gone, all of these enormous and new responsibilities have been thrusted upon her. Buffy’s only way to cope is to blot out all emotion and just get things done. In essence, much of the shock and numbness witnessed in “The Body” [5×16] is still present for her, but now only her.

All Buffy can see right now is what must be done in the next couple minutes. After a wicked cool fade to black in the cemetary that is a literal metaphor for how quickly her life has also turned dark, she tells Angel “The funeral was… it was brutal. But it’s tomorrow that I’m worried about.” Angel replies, “What’s tomorrow?” Buffy answers, “That’s exactly what I don’t know.” Nothing is certain anymore in Buffy’s future. She’s abruptly entered adulthood and no longer has anyone to help guide her through though those rough first years where one doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing or where they’re headed. Having a strong family who can help provide a roadmap for you makes this period of life significantly easier. Without it? Void space.

With all her immediate responsibilities, funeral et al., Buffy hasn’t yet realized her biggest responsbility of all: Dawn. Buffy is now functionally Dawn’s mother, and Buffy is in no way ready or prepared for this responsibility as we can see in ample doses from now through S6. This is the beginning of a really rough time for Buffy and she’s going to have to feel her way through it. Angel points out, “You’ll find your way. I mean not all at once, but…” and he’s completely right. This is a process that will take quite a bit of time for Buffy. For now all that exists is mass confusion and immediate pressures. I’m tremendously happy that Angel showed up to at least offer Buffy one night of love, comfort, and guidance. The reprise of the Buffy/Angel theme song was beautifully worked in–I adore Angel beyond words for showing up here.

While Buffy is going through all of this, Dawn spends most of the episode trying to resurrect Joyce. For the integrity of the series I’m grateful Dawn fails (and that we don’t even see ZombieJoyce). What this really leads into is the final, very tear-filled, scene where Dawn cannot believe she hasn’t seen Buffy cry and that she feels Buffy has been purposely avoiding her. Of course, the truth couldn’t be further from the truth, of which Buffy explains: “Dawn, I’ve been working, I’ve been busy because I have to … I have to do these things, ’cause, ’cause when I stop, then she’s really gone. And I’m trying, Dawn, I am really trying to take care of things. But I don’t even know what I’m doing! Mom always knew.” Dawn says, “Nobody’s asking you to be mom.” Buffy replies, “Well who’s gonna be if I’m not? Huh, Dawn? Have you even thought about that!? Who’s gonna make things better? Who’s gonna take care of us? … I didn’t mean to push you away, I didn’t. I just, I couldn’t let you see me… Oh god, Dawny. I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I’m scared!” At this point the two of them collapse on the floor hugging while weeping, and their pain is palpable. Buffy’s inner numbness finally cracks and what’s left is a big, teary mess.

Before wrapping up I want to mention a couple more important tidbits. First of all is the beautiful speech Anya has about sex and life, which is in complete contrast yet directly tied to her confusion about death in “The Body” [5×16] . Here she says, “Well she [Joyce] got me thinking, about how people die all the time and how they get born too and how you kinda need one so that you can have the other. And when I think about it that way it makes death a little less sad, sex a little more exciting … I just think I understand sex more now. It’s not just about two bodies smooshing together. It’s about life. It’s about making life … I’m not ready to make life with you [Xander]. But I could. We could. Life could out of our love and our smooshing and that’s beautiful. It all makes me feel we’re a part of something bigger. Like I’m more awake somehow.” Anya pretty much just said my analysis for me there. What a beautiful realization for Anya to make and then share with Xander. This is fantastic stuff.

Even after all the great stuff loaded in “Forever,” there’s some juicy development for Willow as well. Dawn begs Willow and Tara for help in ressurecting Joyce. Tara leads the charge in telling Dawn that, firstmost, “we [witches] don’t mess with life and death” and second that they couldn’t even if they wanted to. We see a consistent opinion on the matter from Tara, that “witches can’t be allowed to alter the fabric of life for selfish reasons.” As Tara is talking we can see very clearly that Willow is not seeing things the way Tara is and doesn’t even seem to understand why Tara thinks trying a ressurection spell would be so bad. Willow plays along with Tara even though she clearly doesn’t agree, which is why she takes the initiative in helping Dawn get the information she needs that will lead to finding the required spell. This is a huge indication of Willow’s impaired judgement and of what is to follow for her.

As a whole “Forever” is an extremely good episode. It loses some points for there still being no proactive moves from Glory. What, she just conveniently stops going after Buffy for information about the Key because we have to spend screen time on Joyce’s death and other character topics? Sorry, doesn’t fly for me. The plot must be blended together better with the character threads. Aside from that issue and a couple smaller ones, though, there’s nothing but good here. This is a vital and powerful episode that needs to be looked at a bit more closely before seeing the value in it. Once found, though, there’s a whole lot of value here.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Dawn’s klepto problem begins here.
+ Spike helping Dawn again just because he knows she’ll be safer with him.
+ The Doc is fairly creepy and awkward.
+ Dawn invokes Osiris, a lord of dark magic with some resurrection capabilities (e.g. Osiris is used to bring Buffy back to life in “Bargaining Pt. 1” [6×01] ).
+ Why’d Ben do such a crappy job killing Jinx?
+ The entire fight with the Gora demon is very silly-looking.




56 thoughts on “Buffy 5×17: Forever”

  1. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on January 10, 2007.]

    what I love of the B/A-scene is, that Angel doesn’t force himself on B., as another certain character did, not so long ago.

    And something I wanted to point out: Anya is (next to Tara) the “least affected” by Joyce’s death, and that’s why I love it so much, that she has the two speeches; the “no-sense”-making scene and the “sense”-making scene; because to have a moral by anyone even a little bit closer I would have hated the ep.

    And with moral I mean, this thing “okay, x is dead, and we had to learn a lesson, and learned it”, which you can find easily on any other show, and the ones learning the lesson being the closest to the deceased ones…


  2. [Note: pjc posted this comment on January 10, 2007.]

    As Ben is Ben long enough to hold an intern’s scary hours at least for the moment, I excused the Glory inactivity.


  3. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on January 12, 2007.]

    As Ben is Ben long enough to hold an intern’s scary hours at least for the moment, I excused the Glory inactivity.

    Actually, I think that is a pretty good explanation. However, I do agree with Mike about his attempt to kill Jinx being pretty sloppy. I always put it down to his impulsive personality, but for a medical type, it was surprisingly ineffective.

    I can’t believe you have Dawn’s klepto problem beginning here as a plus.

    Me neither. What were you thinking, Mike? 😉


  4. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on January 12, 2007.]

    I’m really glad you gave this a ninety, Mike. That’s the grade it deserves, and I’ve always thought that it was really underrated. The character interaction is perfect, and surprisingly deep and complex.


  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 12, 2007.]

    Dawn’s stealing problem beginning in an attempt to help ressurect her mom is an interesting way for that problem to begin. I agree it doesn’t work very well in subsequent episodes, but here it does.


  6. [Note: Dingdongalistic posted this comment on January 12, 2007.]

    Dawn’s stealing problem beginning in an attempt to help ressurect her mom is an interesting way for that problem to begin. I agree it doesn’t work very well in subsequent episodes, but here it does.

    I wasn’t being overly serious – I’d say it was pretty interesting in “Forever”.


  7. [Note: Nix posted this comment on July 10, 2007.]

    Osiris is, of course, the ancient Egyptian god of death, also associated with rebirth and fertility: another of those regularly resurrected gods closely associated with the turning of the seasons.

    His use in this ritual is entirely apt. It’s not a random name plucked out of the air. (He’s also one of the *oldest* gods about which anything is known at all.)


  8. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 27, 2007.]

    Great review, mike. You really gave it the rating it deserves. The episode is so dark but amazing. I also love that small touch with Giles, listening to the same music they listened in Band Candy. This one is another cryfest for me. Amazing.


  9. [Note: Plain Simple posted this comment on February 28, 2008.]

    Indeed Osiris is the old Egyptian god. Isn’t he also the one Willow omplores to bring Tara back when she dies? It makes a lot of sense to use his name in resurrection incantations I guess.


  10. [Note: Steph posted this comment on July 14, 2008.]

    This episode reminds me GREATLY of a story I read in high school entitled “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs.

    Here’s the plot summary for that story.

    Heedless of the Sergeant Major’s warnings about the cursed nature of the monkey’s paw, Mr. White, encouraged by his son, Herbert, carelessly asks for £200 for the house payment. They do not get the money straight away and so they all think the talisman is a joke. However, his wish is granted, but in a horrific manner: he receives a payment of £200 compensation as the result of the death of his son Herbert, who is “caught in the machinery” and mangled at his workplace.

    Following their son’s funeral, Mrs. White tries to convince her husband to wish their son back to life, which he reluctantly does. Nothing happens and the couple, crushed by the disappointment, retire to bed.

    Later, they hear a knocking at the door. The wife realizes that Herbert had to journey from the cemetery to their house, accounting for the delay. She rushes downstairs to open the door, but Mr. White has been seized by terror, recognizing the horrible creature that must wait upon their doorstep suddenly makes a third wish, and the knocking at the door ceases before Mrs. White can open it in time to see her son.

    Do you think Marti Noxon had this story in mind while writing and directing this episode?


  11. [Note: macuga posted this comment on August 5, 2008.]

    Steph: exactly. This is a variant on the classic “hero attempts to resurrect deceased loved one, who comes back horribly wrong.”

    Personally, it reminded me of Stephen King’s “Pet Semetery” (which I watched at 13 and gave me nightmares for a year or so afterwards!). Of course, as you’d expect from a King story, the deceased ones actually *do* come back–they’re not mercifully banished at the last minute. First the slain pet cat comes back, then the doctor’s child, and finally his wife (who is initially killed by his demon child).

    When I watched this episode, I was powerfully reminded of Pet Semetery. And I was *so* grateful they didn’t actually show us zombie-Joyce! That would have been unnecessarily traumatic.


  12. [Note: macuga posted this comment on August 5, 2008.]

    RE Osiris: it seems the writers of “Buffy” and “Angel” enjoy using the names of old deities, but then demoting them to “merely” a demon or other lesser power. Osiris was lord of the dead, and one of the most powerful Egyptian gods (second only to Ra). I doubt he’d allow himself to be bullied by Willow, as occurs in S6.


  13. [Note: Paula posted this comment on March 10, 2009.]

    A fun thing about this show is how those who have been watching it and paying attention can here immediately tell that we’re not dealing with some harmless old man when Spike and Dawn enter Doc’s apartment. A vampire doesn’t need invitation to enter? Demon inhabitant much? Dawn must have been very distracted indeed not to get it before the growling and the scary eyes (which I do buy, no problem).


  14. [Note: Guido posted this comment on March 13, 2009.]

    I was saddened by Willow’s decision to help Dawn. There’s something deeper than simple naivete brewing. After all, her selfishness and reckless disregard for consequences nearly destroys all of humanity in “Grave.” I never fully understood how she got there. We see the incremental steps, but nothing about Willow the charming teenager fully explains, in my mind, Willow the veiny, vengeful witch bitch. Was her childhood too repressive? Did she grow up too fast? Was she under too much pressure to be perfect? Was she teased and tormented one too many times in school? Is this Cordelia’s fault? 🙂 What is the ultimate “theory of Willow” that explains this?


  15. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 31, 2009.]

    I never saw Willow’s actions here as part of her path to Dark Willow. I thought she was actually trying to help Dawn understand about death and resurrection, like she told Tara. Did anyone else think so, or is it just me?


  16. [Note: Tara posted this comment on June 5, 2009.]

    What was interesting to me is the different ways Willow and Tara respond to Dawn’s wish to resurrect Dawn. Tara immediately and strongly emphasises how morally wrong it is to mess with life and death, Willow however, only says that such a spell would be unlikely to work. It really highlights how different their attitudes to magic and ways of thinking have become and nicely sets up Season 6.


  17. [Note: Krista posted this comment on July 23, 2009.]

    I am a Buffy and Angel fan! I was very happy to see Angel come back. He stil loves her even though they must be separated. A very beautiul scene. Very comforting yet extremely sad.


  18. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 24, 2009.]

    I never thought Willow’s actions were selfishly motivated; I always saw them as seeing someone she cared about in pain and wanting to help that person.

    Hated Xander getting in Spike’s face about Spike bringing flowers, but loved Spike defending what he was doing:

    SPIKE: I liked the lady. Understand, monkey boy? She was decent. (Xander and Willow exchange a look) She didn’t put on airs. She always had a nice cuppa for me.

    Willow looks sympathetic.

    SPIKE: And she never treated me like a freak.
    XANDER: Her mistake.
    SPIKE: (scoffs) Think what you want.

    He throws the flowers to the ground and stomps off.

    XANDER: Un … believable.

    Willow looks at Xander, bends to pick up the flowers.

    XANDER: The guy thinks he can put on a big show and con Buffy into being his sex monkey.
    WILLOW: (looking at flowers) Xander… (he looks at her) He didn’t leave a card.

    However the Ghora demon didn’t really seem all that realistic and the eggs looked like Nerf footballs.


  19. [Note: Kate posted this comment on September 5, 2009.]

    Anyone else think Angel was acting a bit out of character? A bit colder and a bit more evil than usual? Just a bitty bit- I think it might of been a subtle hint at what last happened in ‘Epiphany’ in Angel, and how they aren’t pretending that didn’t happen on Buffy.


  20. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on November 16, 2009.]

    Why would Spike help Dawn do something so stupid? Sure, he can protect her, but I don’t think he would help as much as he did. The Doc was cool and he had a tale, which reminded me of the giant cobra that could seek out The Key. This was something I thought about when he pulled a strand of her hair and studied it then when his eyes blackened when he looked into her eyes.

    I liked the scenes with Giles listening to ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’, and Buffy’s heartfelt speech to Dawn about the future.

    For me this episode was somewhere around a 75 or so.

    Side note: Notice how the fluid inside the Gora egg was similar to the telepathic demon’s blood in ‘Earshot’.


  21. [Note: Beth posted this comment on May 19, 2010.]

    This episode has some nice bits – my favorites are Spike bringing the flowers, Buffy standing at the grave and Buffy and Dawn letting it out – but it doesn’t really work as a cohesive whole for me. Additionally, I thought the plot dragged a bit and the demon of course unfortunately recalled some of the SFX of early seasons. I also found Angel a bit offputting – perhaps it is correct that this is deliberate in order to allow for his arc in AtS season two, but feels underwhelming after the high of seeing him show up by her side. It’s more of an 80 for me, but I appreciate the reasons that people love it.


  22. [Note: Susan posted this comment on September 13, 2010.]

    I liked that Angel came back just to offer genuine support and comfort to Buffy. I didn’t like it at all when he came back in Season 7, and I always thought his behaviour there was really out of character. But to me, his appearance in this episode felt just right.


  23. [Note: Shumuno posted this comment on September 19, 2010.]

    Great review – This is personally one of my favourite eps.

    I love how it sets up a few themes for future eps – Willow’s misunderstanding of how carefully magic should be used, Dawn stealing, Buffy essentially becoming her parent, Spike doing good things for no credit.

    The Doc -to me anyway- was incredibly creepy. The scariest villains are always the ones who hint more than show, and the whole ‘nice guy’ act just made him all the more unsettling, because it’s truly difficult to determine what’s going on in that (obv not human) head of his. ZombieJoyce was also creepy, and I’m sooo happy they didn’t show her, as this would’ve totally ruined the feeling.

    And I would say the Angel cameo is the best we ever see from him on BtvS. No arguments, no fighting, no despair- only subtle, sweet and touching interaction between Sarah and David. You can just… feel the love between them, and the horrible knowledge that it won’t carry past the night. The reprised theme was also beautiful.

    Lastly, the little touches you pointed out really make this a moving ep. (I hadn’t even noticed the choice of song that Giles was listening to until I read your review). The Spike fight didn’t really bother me one way or another to be honest.

    Perhaps I’m going a little overkill here, but I would personally give it a 95.


  24. [Note: Kat posted this comment on September 20, 2010.]

    Thank you, other people who finally give this episode the credit it deserves! So many others just bash this episode which I never understood why. Is it as great as The Body? No. But is it a good follow-up? Yes. I loved seeing Spike go with Dawn and do it just because he “can’t stand to see Summers’ women take it so hard on the chin.” It really shows just how much he has evolved. And can I say, Spike can come babysit me anytime he wants. Moving on…What I think really brings the episode all together is the ending. We see Buffy have an absolute meltdown and the last image sort of leaves you with the feeling that you really do have two young girls utterly lost now expected to make it on their own. Like you’ve said, setting the tone for the rest of the season and the next.


  25. [Note: Jared posted this comment on February 9, 2011.]

    As much as I like Angel coming back here, I have to wonder why he can’t stick around by this point? He left so she could lead a normal life, which very clearly won’t be happening, so there’s really no reason he has to leave again instead of helping her with Dawn etc. I’ve yet to see AtS so perhaps it makes more sense when you factor in some events in that series, but his Season 3 reasoning certainly doesn’t apply anymore. It would’ve made everything much easier for her if he stayed.


  26. [Note: Neil posted this comment on April 13, 2011.]

    Wow Joel Grey!! Top actor, I forgot that he appeared in this series, (its almost 10 years since I last watched it.)

    It’s a credit to Joss Wheedon that such actors want to appear on his shows.


  27. [Note: Brian posted this comment on September 23, 2011.]

    I just watched this for the first time ever. As I make my way through Buffy for the first time ever.

    “The Body” was the stomach punch. This episode is that lingering nasty feeling that sticks around for an hour afterwards. In other words, in the first few minutes, I felt like “oh God, another depressing episode of Buffy” and then I realized – GENIUS. Any other show would have reverted to normal Buffy (or normal crap show). But like real loss, the grief sticks around far longer than is comfortable. And I LOVE how Dawn’s resurrection project is that initial stage of grief – denial – where we all refuse to believe the truth for a long time before it finally hits.


  28. [Note: Liz posted this comment on November 14, 2011.]

    One of my favorite bits that you mentioned above was the scene with Giles listening to the song from Band Candy. I’d watched this episode a couple times before, and didn’t catch this, but this time a gasped at this bit and rushed over to make sure it was recognized in reviews for this episode and bask in the absolute BRILLIANCE of the continuity of the show. There is a reason why this show is my favorite of all time, no competition.


  29. [Note: Dan posted this comment on November 20, 2011.]

    One thing I found interesting was that I was more afraid of Zombie Joyce than any villain in all seven seasons. I think it was that stomach-gnawing combination of uncertainty and sacrilege. When Buffy opens the door and you hear that demonic sound…

    Gets me every time.


  30. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on November 24, 2011.]

    Unfortunately my opinion of ‘Forever’ has not changed. I still don’t like Willow helping Dawn with the magic book. Even if she didn’t think it would be dangerous she still knew that Dawn wanted to try a spell and she gives her the starting point anyway.

    In the cave scene I actually felt more sorry for the Gora demon. Someone comes in and takes your eggs and stabs you while you were just resting.

    The final scene is fantastic and I always wonder what Joyce was would have looked like. It is played as if she would have been a zombie but there was a small chance she could have been Joyce.


  31. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 1, 2011.]

    Dan: I agree about Zombie Joyce. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really recovered from Pet Sematary, but the thought of Zombie Joyce terrified me. Even though I was 99.9% sure she’d be gone by the time the door opened, I still had to watch the scene through my fingers.


  32. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 4, 2011.]

    Just rewatched this epi.

    Just have two comments…SMG can pull off tears better than any actress on TV. She never misses on those money scenes, like the final one of this epi.

    And zombie Joyce was insanely creepy.

    After the disappointment of the whole soapopera-ish Joyce dies from a brain tumor storyline, the final scene of this episode provided at least some emotional payoff for me.


  33. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 12, 2011.]

    Forever was and is a powerful episode which is over shadowed by the intense episode The Body, in this episode we see the characters getting on with their lives, the sharp pain that we saw in The Body has diluted to a dull ache like in life this is the way it is.

    The importance of this episode is notable from the title; death is forever. Its permanent. This is important especially with Buffy being resurrected in season six. This episode establishes some crucial foreshadowing, Willow being more lenient towards resurrection foreshadows the season six opener.

    Dawn’s inherent defying of death is prominent in this episode, we as an audience resonate with her on this. It is a common somewhat iconic notion acceptance is one of the final stages in grief and this is poignantly clear in this episode. The characters are busy reframing their existence after Joyce’s passing, Anya is beginning to understand that sex is about more than well a primal act, Giles is re-evaluating and honouring Joyce when he listens to the record by the Cream he and Joyce listened to in Band Candy where as WIllow is writing a journal to ensure there is some kind of record of her life. These scenes make Dawn’s ability to skulk about in the shadows stealing things more believable.

    Dawn’s night about town has was given more creditability when Spiked joined her, his accompanying her in her endeavouring to resurrect Joyce enables us to see Spike’s reaction to Joyce’s death. He is doing it partly for his feelings for Buffy but he proclaiming he doesn’t want any credit and failing to leave a name with the flowers shows him in a good light, looking retrospectively his actions are understandable and not quintessential in the least, Joyce has always treated Spike with respect; as if he was a man. Season two episode Becoming pt 2 she sits with him and makes small talk, ignoring or perhaps not registering that he is a demon. Season 3 episode lover’s walk she listens and advises Spike regarding to his getting Dru back. Season four and five have shared similar scenes.

    Buffy has been finding it difficult this episode, She seems to be in ignorance of Dawn and her new status as parental figure, something which she will continue to feel her way through in the season six. This episode establishes a new series arch for Buffy and her character growth. The end scene when she finally lets Dawn in, and takes notice of her is heart wrenching. Buffy although at the beginning declares what Dawn is doing is dangerous that she won’t be Joyce is her being logical but this is quickly subverted when there is a knock on the door, the defences and the rules she has built up of how strong she has to be crumble as whimpers ‘mommy’ its palpable that Buffy needs her mom, that she isn’t ready for this new responsibility – Its Dawn who takes the risk to life in the world without her mother, an act which gives a whole new weight to her character.

    This episode although contains a volley of scenes and events is one that is deafening when it comes to putting across its message. Very powerful, the aftermath of the body is portrayed with care.


  34. [Note: CathyG posted this comment on August 10, 2012.]

    Great review.Loved this episode. Just for the last scene alone. My heart broke for the two of them. I cried right along with them as they sobbed together on the floor.

    Great show. And great performances by all.


  35. [Note: Shask. posted this comment on October 9, 2012.]

    Dawn is so damn annoying. I never paid much attentio, but now that I do, I understand why people hates her.


  36. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 31, 2012.]

    lol at the comment above mine. I really like this episode. Especially when Buffy says “mommy?” and Dawn rips the picture. Thank GOD. She’s occasionally smart. I’ll never understand how Dawn gets so unsupervised. It’s definitely terrible that WIllow wasn’t listening to Tara, a huge foreshadowing.


  37. [Note: sarah posted this comment on January 4, 2013.]

    I wish Angel stayed. Buffy and Angel’s talk in this episode showed that Buffy clearly loves Angel and always will. She can still tell him anything. They have a deep connection and are soulmates


  38. [Note: Rick posted this comment on January 5, 2014.]

    I love that Angel came. My very favorite part of their conversation is when Buffy says:

    BUFFY: You better go.
    ANGEL: (another sigh) I’m sorry.
    BUFFY: (firmly) No. I’m so grateful that you came, Angel. I didn’t think I was gonna be able to make it through the night.
    ANGEL: (looks up at the sky) Well, we still have a few more minutes until I have to go.
    BUFFY: Good.

    This is such a mature reaction for Buffy. She knows Angel can’t stay, and this little cocoon of solace between them is fleeting and temporary, and she could let herself be swallowed by anxiety about the future after Angel leaves, but instead she focuses on the gratitude she feels that he was there, and it was better for a little while. I love that.


  39. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 23, 2014.]

    Perhaps Ben can’t kill Jinx because he is influenced a bit by Glory? After all, later she is influenced by him and does not kill some people.


  40. [Note: QuarkisSnyder posted this comment on July 31, 2014.]

    I didn’t understand why the monster didn’t chase Dawn and Spike. I didn’t understand why it was sitting on unfertilized eggs.

    The resurrection theme was interesting. It foreshadowed Willow bringing Buffy back because she has no respect for what should be the limits of power. But also, if anyone, including a no talent kid, can raise a zombie (or whatever) then why aren’t people doing it all the time? Didn’t make a lot of sense.


  41. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on August 13, 2014.]

    This is an episode that just had to happen. Dawn being Dawn; of course she would race off and try to do something impulsive; not that I blame her for it – because I don’t. It must be so difficult, first she finds out that she’s a blob of energy and not a real person at all, and then she loses her mother. Terrible. She was bound to do feel testy. If the writers didn’t address the question of resurrecting Joyce, on a show where the dead run around in pretty much every episode would be strange.

    Buffy has been thrown into instant adulthood. She has to take care of a newfangled sister; her slayer duties and her future without her mother’s guidance. SMG in tears just gets me everytime. If the parting scene doesn’t get to you, then your name is probably Satan.

    I also love the way each character reacts to Joyce’s death. It all feels so authentic and gradual. Every character is taking the news of her death in their own, perfectly sensible way. Buffy is keeping herself busy with planning and scheduling and making calls, Dawn is complaining and crying and will do anything she can do bring her dead mother back, Willow is visiting her mom a lot more and she’s even keeping a note of things, just in case. Even Xander is visiting Willow’s mom! Spike brings Joyce flowers, and what more can the poor guy do? Anya is still having sex, but she’s learnt to appreciate it — and life itself, a lot more. Giles is listening to the same song he and Joyce listened to in “Band Candy”, reflecting and drinking his pain away. They are all simply subtle nods, but done so brilliantly that you can’t help but be affected. Zombie Joyce, just the thought of something like that, is very scary. Joyce was always a very optimistic, bright, kind character – one that wasn’t easy to dislike. So imagining that Joyce all dead, evil and zombie-like. Chills! Yikes. Thank GOD they didn’t show us her face. The CGI with the snake monster was bad, but special effects are the last thing I look for when the story is strong and resonating, so I forgive this. Especially on BtVS. I liked the ambiguity around the creepy old man; how we never find out exactly what he was. I liked seeing Spike and Dawn working together. I love the contrasting expressions on Willow and Tara’s faces when Dawn reveals her master idea. And, I really like it when Buffy tells Dawn, “Well, who’s gonna be if I’m not? Huh, Dawn? Have you even thought about that? Who’s gonna make this better? Who’s gonna take care of us?” Her voice cracks a little here. I swear it was one of the saddest moments on Buffy, and Buffy has a loot of sad moments. Anyway, all in all, I am glad to see that this episode got the recognition and score that it deserved. This is no “The Body”, but it is an apt follow-up. 🙂


  42. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    There’s good stuff in this episode, but I also have major problems with it. I (mostly) like the scene at the end between Dawn and Buffy (though I admittedly find Dawn’s repeated tendency to react to emotional turmoil by lashing out at Buffy a bit irritating), and I also like lots of the more “incidental” stuff along the way (the Spike/flowers scene, for example, and various other character moments). But I don’t like this episode’s handling of the whole “raising the dead” thing.

    Sure, we’re given the definite impression that Joyce either was a zombie or in some other way was probably “coming back wrong”–but what’s less clear is exactly why. Are we to believe that it was possible to raise Joyce “right” but that something about the spell “went wrong”? Or, alternatively, are we to believe that (as later episodes suggest) there is just no genuine bringing-back of someone who died a natural death? And if it’s the latter, then why does no one–not Tara, not Spike (who claims to know all about the “infamous” book/spell Dawn is working on), not the creepy old guy they go to for info–no one just flat-out tell her that what she’s attempting can’t be done? They all warn her, admonish her, hint that it *might* not work or that what she raises *might* not be entirely Joyce–but no one lays it out for her as a flat-out impossibility. This creates the impression that we’re to believe that maybe it could work–and that, I just don’t buy. The spell was way too easy–nothing like what Willow does in “Bargaining.” Okay, they had to get an egg from a demon; big deal. Dawn isn’t even a witch and has never done a spell before. There was no real sense of messing with dark and dangerous forces, except in the matter of what exactly it was that got raised by the spell. Way too casual and easy.

    Secondly–and I know lots of you on this site just see this differently from me–but I really don’t buy Willow’s role here. Actually, the issue is a bit broader than that. The episode tries to plant the seed that Willow is reckless about magic and lacks a proper respect for the ideal of not “messing with the natural order of things” that Tara emphasizes–but it doesn’t really make a case for why raising the dead is different from other magic, and something that witches shouldn’t even attempt. When Dawn points out that all spells mess with the natural order of things, Tara has no compelling answer; she just changes tacks and says something like “but we don’t mess with life and death.” Okay–but why? Either there really are good reasons for not doing so–in which case Willow’s subsequent behavior is inexcusable–or there aren’t, in which case the attempt to foreshadow and build to Willow’s future recklessness falls flat.

    Even if I overlook the sloppy handling of the “why shouldn’t we try to bring back the dead” issue, though, and just accept the premise that doing so (at least in this case) is real bad–then, as I said, I really don’t buy Willow’s actions. Despite what the scene with her, Tara, and Dawn was trying to do to show us the differences between Willow’s and Tara’s take on the issue, Willow’s initial reaction to Dawn’s “I want to bring her back” idea was not much different from Tara’s–she immediately started trying to dissuade Dawn from going there. Why would she change her mind? And even if she did–to a) go behind Tara’s back, and b) not even stop to think how Buffy would react, and c) encourage an impulsive, grieving, and totally inexperienced young girl to delve into bigger and more questionable magics than she herself has ever attempted…? No way. I know I seem to be in the minority around here with my dislike of and (especially) difficulty buying into the whole amoral, reckless, gradual-descent-into-darkness characterization of Willow that starts getting forshadowed in season three, rears up periodically throughout season 4, and keeps building thereafter up to all the stuff in season six–but in the minority or no, I just can’t reconcile it with the Willow I knew and loved from the first few seasons (and, honestly, most of the next few as well, except in those episodes where the writers are trying to push her in this direction).


  43. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    And if it’s the latter, then why does no one–not Tara, not Spike (who claims to know all about the “infamous” book/spell Dawn is working on), not the creepy old guy they go to for info–no one just flat-out tell her that what she’s attempting can’t be done? They all warn her, admonish her, hint that it *might* not work or that what she raises *might* not be entirely Joyce–but no one lays it out for her as a flat-out impossibility.

    Tara wants Dawn to accept that her mother is gone; “you shouldn’t raise your mother from the dead” is a much better argument than “well, there just isn’t magic for that.” Spike wants to console Dawn, and he liked Joyce anyway. And Doc would be a pretty shitty apothecary if he said his wares probably wouldn’t work.


  44. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on August 18, 2014.]

    I have to disagree. If I were dead set on doing something that might not be a great idea (like, say, raising the dead), being told “you really shouldn’t do that” would not dissuade me nearly as effectively as being told (by someone far more knowledgeable than myself) “sorry, it’s just not possible.” As for Spike, I don’t understand why liking Joyce would incline him to help Dawn with a project that he knows can’t succeed. I might accept that he plays along in a misguided attempt to “console” Dawn (let her try and feel like she’s at least doing something), and I might even accept that he doesn’t know for sure if it can work or not–but these possibilities apply only to Spike. And the Doc–well, if raising Joyce “right” just isn’t possible, then it’s not a question of his wares “probably” not working–they definitely won’t work. Not mentioning this tidbit makes him an unscrupulous apothecary–though, admittedly, maybe that’s what he is.

    Even if it could be explained away by pointing to character motives, though (and at least in Tara’s case, I really don’t think it can), the episode definitely gives the impression that there’s ambiguity/uncertainty as to whether or not Joyce can be raised–and this seems, moreover, to be deliberate, not accidental, on the episode’s part. Since this is inconsistent with later stuff–and also makes raising the dead seem way too easy–I still feel like the issue was very poorly handled here.


  45. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on December 30, 2014.]

    Does anyone think it is possible that the Angel that we see here could be a hallucination. I mean he does seem more of an idealized version of the man than the one we’ve seen in the past two-ish seasons of his spinoff. Also there is the fact that he only shows up when Buffy is alone and doesn’t bother to see how everybody else is doing. Also if I recall in Chosen Angel doesn’t seem to be aware that Spike was hanging around the Scooby Gang and even if he did know before that point you think he would have wanted a conversation with him at least.


  46. [Note: Foxman posted this comment on February 14, 2015.]

    I can’t say that “Forever” is in my top three if favorite episodes in the series, but I am so pleased that this review recognizes that it is, perhaps, undercut and overshadowed by “The Body”. Both are really wonderfully done vignettes on grief and loss – and whole “The Body” treats the subject with incredible deftness and artistry that earns its designation as one of the best episodes of television ever, “Forever” still has some amazingly resonant moments that represent the turning point in the series’ tone.

    When you think about the series in aggregate, the fact that these two episodes are standouts the way that they are, its really quite incredible. There is a lot of grief in Buffy, and it does get some attention in the show up to this point: of course you get the loss of romantic partners, like Angel and Riley (even Parker, although that is handled poorly) and Oz, as well as Jenny’s death. Even the divorce of Buffy’s parents get screen time. But this is the first time we really see the permanence of loss, and how much gravity, confusion, and rage it can cause people. The show is never the same after these episodes.

    Where the previous episode deals in the really jarring way that loss displaces people – “The Body” is disorienting and bizarre as much as it is gut wrenching – this episode really leans into the despair that the loss of a parent, one of the few parental figures in the show, causes. It’s such an honest look at what grief entails – not just sadness, but terror, too, for what your life can be when you really are navigating it alone. When you consider that fact against the larger themes of isolation and self-reliance present in the show, this episode is even more powerful. The audience is given lots of evidence to this point that Buffy is strong and capable, and yet her comments that she can, “stick wood in vampires, but Mom was the strong one in real life,” also have a ring of fidelity – even recognizing that Joyce wasn’t the perfect parent.

    Angel’s inclusion here is wonderfully handled – I often see him as a proxy for the audience here – he’s seen what she can handle and he knows she’ll find her way. He’s also there to point out that there are people to help her, one of the hallmarks of Buffy’s Slayerness and a big premise of the show. Of course the flip side of that reality is that Buffy often pushes away from that help or experiences alienation from her friends because if her uniqueness, and that is really present in this episode as well.

    The ending dialogue is pure perfection, of course, and so wonderfully ties a bow on the episode, while setting up future treatment of the same themes. Buffy’s assertion that she couldn’t let Dawn see her so vulnerable is both incredibly human and entirely related to her nature as a Slayer and now a parent – she has to stay ahead of her own frailties to do her job saving the world and Dawn. At the same time, that isn’t entirely possible. The closing line, “Who’s gonna take care of us?” almost always moves me to tears – not only is it a chillingly faithful representation of grief, but it also perfectly sums the utter devastation of the loss for Buffy and Dawn. It’s not just the loss of a loved one, it’s the eternal absence of someone who represented protection and support and guidance. It’s not important how good of a parent Joyce actually was – but the way that her daughters regarded her and the void that she’s left.

    A worthy re-examining of the themes of “The Body” from a slightly different lens, and well worth the grade you gave!


  47. [Note: ethanj31 posted this comment on August 13, 2015.]

    Wow, years down the road and still getting posts! 🙂 Just something I noticed from the mentions of Osiris. I was wondering how this would have worked (Osiris refuses to bring back Tara due to violating laws of natural passing and Joyce was also clearly taken by natural order). However, what I want to point out instead is Willow’s growth marked by Osiris dealings. Here she only knows of him/it but no attempts. With Buffy, Willow is using a ritual with parts and urns and special stuff To call on him. But by the time of Tara’s death, Willow actually has the power to face-to-face with Osiris, no rituals necessary. Amazing to see how much power she gains in just a year.

    Btw, Mikejer, absolutely love your reviews of Buffy. Really changed how much I love the show and specific episodes.


  48. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 14, 2015.]

    Spike helps Dawn because he knows what the Summers sisters are like. Dawn is going to try to do what she’s doing with or without anyone’s help, so he tags along to protect her more than anything. The dead giveaway is when he actually says it to her.

    I’m not sure why Doc’s motivations are relevant – he’s a shady occultist, possibly a demon and we later find out a Glorificus worshipper. He does mention that what Dawn wants is unlikely to be what she actually gets.

    The spell Dawn uses is clearly a less powerful one than is later used by Willow to resurrect Buffy. It raises the dead, but doesn’t restore them to what they once were. We’ve seen before that it’s possible and not particularly difficult to raise zombies (‘The Zeppo’) who remember their former lives – Dawn doesn’t even achieve that here. She raised their mother as a basic zombie and once she heard the knocking, realised that she shouldn’t have done it.

    When Willow casts a true resurrection spell in ‘Bargaining’, it’s quite an ordeal and requires a more involved ritual than seen in this episode. So the episode is not inconsistent – these are different spells/forms of magic. What Tara meant was that trying to undo death via magic is simply inadvisable both morally and practically. The reason nobody tells Dawn that it can’t be done is because it can, with hugely varying degrees of success and almost always very dubious reasons.

    I’m not sure why you don’t buy Willow’s recklessness – what Dawn does is exactly what Willow would do in her position, and does do only a few episodes later. Tara knows that it’s reckless and dangerous but Willow’s attitude to magic has always been a little too blase. Willow feels like magic is just a tool for her to use and makes sure Dawn gets the information she needs, because Willow rarely acknowledges that magic is dangerous, even after many failed or awry spells. Willow’s gradual shift in attitude as she discovers and then gains power via magic is linked to her self-esteem – as her magical confidence grows it becomes more and more a replacement for real personal confidence. She comes to express this confidence through magic rather than following Tara’s lead and being respectful of that power. Her use (and abuse) of magical power is not amoral at first, but gradually gets worse and worse as she comes to believe that she really can wield enormous power with no consequences. She’s unable to see the negatives even when they happen (such as in ‘Something Blue’).


  49. [Note: Wolf posted this comment on April 19, 2016.]

    Just a small detail that I noticed and loved but I don’t see mentioned anywhere… Did anyone else tune into the song doc was whistling? It’s the theme of “Peter and the Wolf” and it’s played for Peter’s character as he’s wandering innocently in the woods and about to be set upon by the wolf.

    It’s such good forshadowing for the episode and doc’s future role in the series – it gives me creepy chills every time!


  50. [Note: Sirena posted this comment on November 17, 2016.]

    Hi Wolf,

    Reading your comment made me think back to the moment when the old man pulls a strand of Dawn’s hair from her head. He looks at the strand and says that Dawn has “good genes” or “strong genes.” Is it possible that he was able to see past the spell and recognize Dawn’s true form?


  51. [Note: Poltargyst posted this comment on February 14, 2017.]

    I was watching Epiphany and wondering if anyone knew about Joyce. I’m so glad Angel came to see Buffy. Unlike previous posters, I didn’t see Angel as dark at all (or a hallucination), just kind, caring, and supportive of Buffy. At any rate, as a result of Epiphany, Angel is no longer dark.

    As for the questions raised by the Flying Water Fowl, my take is that it is indeed possible to raise someone from the dead whole and good as new. However, it is VERY difficult with such a high chance of failure and I’m guessing a number of nasty possible outcomes if you don’t do it right, that you almost have to be a real master of magic to pull it off. So the people around Dawn tell her it’s not a good idea, that she will likely fail, but none of them can honestly tell her it can’t be done because it can. Unlikely for her, but who knows?

    Willow helping Dawn shows she’s still on the road to her magic addiction. Willow thinks magic can be used to solve everything. Magic is her go-to solution. She just doesn’t think about possible negative consequences so has no qualms (as she should) about helping Dawn. I’m surprised she didn’t try raising Joyce herself, but maybe she actually didn’t think of it or didn’t want to come into conflict with Tara.


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