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January 24 2012

Anya's Death: One of the Most Undignified? io9's Charlie Jane Anders counts down the top ten most "undignified" deaths in "sci-fi and fantasy" movie/TV history, and cites Anya's unfortunate demise in "Chosen" as one that particularly takes the cake.

I'm sorry but... Damn it! It's because Whedon like to slay the best characters and let the annoying ones alive, e.g. Andrew Wells!
I understand that death is a very inevitable thing in Buffyverse and no one is safe, but accept the fact that the best characters died and unbearable new ones took their place is something impossible to do.
Anya died and Andrew don't.
Sends me to hell and I still don't get it.
Thing is, that's "realistic". Very few people IRL get to go out in a blaze of glory, throwing themselves on a grenade or whatever. Most people in battle die quick, random deaths.
It's only because so much fiction has conditioned us to expect a build up to a death that we feel "cheated" if it doesn't happen.

The death of Reese in TSCC was a great one. Just the sort of shoot out we've seen dozens of times before, just in this one Derek walks round the wrong corner and its over. Or course they knew they were bringing him back...
zz9 - I'd totally buy that IF Joss hadn't already started suspending his own rules to be dramatic.

That death, to me, is the single most egregious example of doing not much with a meaty event. As an audience, suspension of disbelief was already being tested by watching thousands of Turuk-Han (previously one of which it took Buffy multiple attempts to kill) not simply overrun the Slayers in the Hellmouth. Or that Giles, Wood, Xander, Dawn, and Andrew aren't also killed. In the end, as someone who enjoys stories, I felt cheated because I was already aware in the story that I was allowing the creator to cheat for dramatic purposes and THEN was denied dramatic payoff. You lose the "realism" card when you do that.

If the scene with Xander and Andrew had possessed a modicum of staying power, maybe it would have been ok. But to me, it just wasn't that good.

A better example of what you're talking about would be Ballard from Dollhouse, because no rules are being violated and we DO get dramatic payoff a few scenes later even though the death itself is actually extremely mundane.

I actually did a spit take when I read #1 having sat through the Plinkett Reviews Star Trek: Generations.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-01-25 10:39 ]
Our Twitter followers disagreed with the question.

Some reactions - her death was "poignant", she "fought to the end", "died fighting on the side of good and it felt right to me" and "Not at all, i was a satisfied Anya fan."
It would have been just another pointless death if it weren't for the scene at the hospital with Andrew where she explains why she decides to stay and fight, this time. In the course of a few seasons, she discovered that there were things more important than her life, she decided to fight for those things, and she died fighting. How is that not dramatic?
The "how can they defeat the baddie when Buffy struggled to cope with one" issue is one I have no problem with. The one Turuk-Han that Buffy struggled to defeat was presumably the best they had to offer. The rest down the hellmouth were the rank and file. Someone invading the US would struggle to beat Chuck Norris but then have no real problem dealing with a hundred random guys on the street.Just because Chuck Norris is the first guy you have to fight you shouldn't assume the entire population of the US can fight like Chuck Norris.

/Little know fact. When Chuck Norris does pushups he is in fact pushing the Earth down.
Undignified? Yes. It was. Death often is. I thought it was perfect.
"The one Turuk-Han that Buffy struggled to defeat was presumably the best they had to offer" I see nothing in the text to support that statement.

I thought Anya's death was pointless. It was less of a plot device than Tara's was. Poor Tara, was every any character treated so poorly? She lost agency (Willow's spell), lost her mind, and then lost her life to a random bullet. All for a plot pivot.
I liked Anya's death much more than Fred's, which I thought was overly melodramatic. Sometimes even heroes get random, meaningless deaths.

(it does, however, eat away some of the impact of the scene that Joss used the same surprise!death gimmick with Tara, Joyce and Wash as well)
I must say I agree a little bit with this - Anya's death had the least emotional impact on me of any of the many recurring characters killed off in the course of seven seasons: Jesse, Jenny, Tara, Jonathan, even the Buffy-bot's death wrung more heart ache from me than Anya's, and not because I didn't love the character. There was a short pain when Xander called for her, but then he was cracking jokes half an hour later. There just wasn't time to deal properly with her death. It seemed unnecessary - or only necessary because someone HAD to die. Joss is such a master at killing his characters, but this is the weakest kill in the 'verse imho.
Should we have gotten a longer wind down after Sunnydale got swallowed? Might have been anti-climactic and felt maudlin, but getting a glimpse of where the different characters were headed and more time to fully acknowledge Anya's death... I might have liked to have seen that too. I dunno.

Other unceremonious deaths... Ana Lucia Cortez. Favorite character on the show and yet the producers thought that offing her was so pointless that they had to kill off Libby immediately afterward to achieve an emotional impact. (And to punish all DUIs equally I suppose.) The show continued on with scarcely a shrug afterwards... and that's about when I stopped watching.

[ edited by BringItOn5x5 on 2012-01-25 15:45 ]
What was missing in both Anya and Spike's deaths was the reaction of the other characters.
What made the deaths of Joyce, Buffy, and even Angel in Becoming so meaningful was the reaction of the other character.
I was ready for Angel to die by the end of Becoming, but cried because I felt Buffy's grief.
I wasn't that attached to Joyce but the other character's responses to her death (a whole episode devoted to it) made it tragic.
I pretty much figured Buffy's death in The Gift wouldn't be permanent but Spike falling to his knees and crying made me burst into tears. Still does on re-watch.
At the end of Chosen we got smiles and jokes. It made all the difference in the world no matter how much I loved the characters who died.

[ edited by Xane on 2012-01-25 16:27 ]
I figured Anya died in battle, that's a death worthy of her status. There wasn't time to do a Lord-of-the-Rings-style dramatic slow-motion final scene for her.

As far as the hordes of previously-thought-to-be-nearly-unkillable vampires, that's known as the "Inverse Ninja Law," or the "Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu."

TV Tropes describes the Turok-Han vampires as suffering from "Villain Decay," not unlike Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons.

TVGO: Why was Anya marked for death?
Whedon: I wanted to kill somebody, and I wanted to do it brutally and suddenly and never really pay it off. I wanted a death that was a real middle-of-the-battle death the opposite of the Spike death, [which was] perfect, noble. And Emma had made it clear that she really was not interested in coming back. I think things with Fox weren't great and she felt ill-used not by the show. She had a good time making the show, I think. But she was ready to move on. But it was tough [killing her off]. The last shot before we wrapped her was that shot where she gets sliced. And it's very weird to play your death and go, "Okay, I'm done."


Does life go on after Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It does for Emma Caulfield, the babe behind Sunnydale's late she-demon Anya. "I had been ready to go for a while [for various] reasons," she tells TV Guide Online, cryptically. "It had nothing to do with [series creator] Joss Whedon; I love him. There were just certain politics around there that made it very difficult to grow."

For me, the key moment of Anya's death is that it allows Andrew some redemption, by telling Xander "how it should have happened." Does he deserve it? Of course not. Few people who need redemption ever do.

As for the Turok-Han... well, why does Buffy always lose to a Big Bad and then come back stronger? Sometimes it's because she's figured out a new tactic... but usually it's because she's feeling stronger. (What changed between her fights against Sunday? She talked with Xander, that's it.) And the new Slayers had never, ever felt stronger than in that moment.

It's one of the show's more subtle methods of empowering, and while on one level it's totally unrealistic, on another level it's the most realistic thing about it. Remember the whole show is one giant metaphor. The demons are internal. And take it from one who knows: when you're fighting the demons inside your head, feeling stronger really does help you beat them.

...ahem. Sorry. Got sidetracked there. Yeah, Anya went down kinda fast...
My problem Simon, isn't what Joss intended. It was the dramatic reality of what was presented. I "get" the idea of a pointless death. My ire gets raised, when you play with your rules to be dramatic and THEN try to shoehorn in anti-dramatic events at the same time.

To me, this is cross-purpose storytelling. As a viewer, it comes across the same way as if someone wrote the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), but Mikael Blomqvist spent half his time cracking insensitive, sexist, Andrew Dice Clay jokes. It confuses the mood and Salander's attraction wouldn't make sense. Likewise, when an extended Scoob dies and I've seen The Body and Seeing Red, a scene like Anya's aftermath is extremely jarring for its lack of real power. Not because "it happens", but because as a viewer I've been conditioned to believe the Scooby Gang would react with more than, "M'Kay." It felt like, cynically, they needed something for Andrew to do. And I HATE when I get cynical while watching something.

My problem, is that I was thumped out of "story experiencing mode" into "story analysis mode" the first time I viewed it because of how the story was told. Rework a few scenes, and I may not have had that problem.

I didn't even mention that I do like the episode. But that missed opportunity will always be a massive negative on an otherwise great attempt at the "epic" ending.
I think one of my biggest problems with Anya's death is that no one else noticed. Xander asked Andrew if he'd seen her, and Andrew told him she died fighting. Xander cracked "That's my girl - always doing the stupid thing," which is entirely keeping with his loving exasperation with her...well, always doing the stupid thing.

But then no one else asks! Buffy doesn't ask Xander if Anya made it out, Willow - his best friend since Kindergarten - doesn't ask what happened to his fiancee. Not one of the Scoobies even seems to notice she's missing.

There should have been a moment at the crater for a headcount and then "a moment of silence for those who fell" (Which probably would've been recommended by Giles) and then they could move to "What now?" instead of just...ignoring the battle deaths.
I thought Anya's death screamed of reality, pointless with no payoff. I do however question the decision to pair Andrew and Anya in the fight. The weakest members together? That never gelled with me. And as for Xander, some people react differently to death.
I think the handling of Anya's death was one of the show's biggest weaknesses. I don't buy the "realism" defense. First, given the complete lack of reaction or other emotion from the rest of the scoobies, I don't think it was realistic at all. And in any event, it should go without saying that a show like Buffy is not judged on its "realism," but rather, on whether it "works" dramatically. Anya's afterthought death fails that test, in my opinion.
My biggest disappointment with Anya's death was that D'Hoffryn promised her he would be there for it, and unless I blinked, I didn't see him. I remember thinking at the time even a two second cameo would have done me.
Yeah, they can't have every death take all day especially in a combat situation like that. Also who's she supposed to have her death moment with. Andrew?
Reminds me of a death in Terminator:SCC. A robot isn't going to slowly kill you and give everyone a moment to react.
She was 1100+ years old and spent the majority of her long life torturing mortals. Which doesn't mean I adored her any less, especially after "Selfless," but with that context mostly I really liked that she died in a fight she would've run away from not too long ago. It was a nice end to her arc, to die defending humanity.

It was a brutal death, but so was Amanda's. It didn't bother me that we don't see people mourn them when everyone else has just barely escaped the battle their friends died in, which literally took the entire town out with it. It's fitting for an episode that basically ends on a note of "Hey, we survived. Now what?" The show ends in that moment when you realize you've survived but not started to process what that really means, for the people who did and the people who didn't.
"I see nothing in the text to support that statement"
Dana, there isn't anything in the text. But the First sent that one Turok to fight Buffy. Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume she'd send the strongest? If, to carry on my Chuck Norris line, the US had to send someone to deal with a fearsome fighter wouldn't you pick Chuck rather than any random, average, guy on the street?
We've seen from the very start that some vampires are great fighters and some aren't so good. It just seems common sense to accept that the same applies to the Turok Hans.
about the first Turok Han, remember that Buffy hadn't slept for a couple of days the first time they fight underground and yet she staked him in less than a minute: he doesn't die just because she didn't know yet she had to use much more force. Then, even more tired and convinced he can't be staked, she gets a very serious beating, so serious Giles is talking about internal injuries. She finally kills him in the showdown. That takes all she has but at that point it's not all she normally has: she was even more tired and still recovering from her previous injuries. So, no matter how strong that first Ubervamp was, Buffy was diminished in a number of ways.

That said, I wish that in Chosen the human characters had only fought the bringers and just used clever tricks to keep a couple of vamps away (like Dawn does: that was excellent). That's what seriously undermines the ubervamps for me, the humans being able to face them.
zz9- I am ***waitforit*** the biggest reader response guy there is; I know there are myriad readings of the text and I cannot argue yours based on anything but noting that there is nothing in the text to support your thought- you can argue it the way you do, but I just don't see it. Even if that was the best, were all the remaining hordes so much more inferior?

But in the end, here's the thing- it was not even really just a plot device- it was Joss taking into account Emma did not want back in, so he wrote her out. That's all it was. Nothing else. He just used that; if Emma wanted in, it would never have happened.
Well, he also said that somebody had to die, but it couldn't be one of the Core Four, killing Andrew would have been too satisfying, Faith's way more interesting alive and still looking for redemption, and so forth. It's like why Willow went bad in S6: he wanted it to be one of our inner circle, so Willow was the only real candidate.
I recall reading somewhere he thought about using Xander, but I would need someone like quotergal to find it...... and I also could be way wrong....
Dana, my whole point was there does not need to be anything in the text. It is simply logic, just as it would be IRL. Go back to The Harvest. The Master sent Luke, his strongest, after Buffy. He didn't send Random Minion #4. Buffy struggled to defeat Luke but dealt with Minion #4 without a second thought during the Power Walk with the theme tune in the background.
Couldn't have been Xander. Xander is the audience stand-in guy, which is why he never got powers other than his army skills, and why those got nerfed quickly. You kill Xander or have him go evil, and you're basically either killing the audience or turning the Fan Base into the Big Bad...

That's not to say Joss didn't think of it, but I'd lay money that this is why he didn't do it.
zz9- I can just as easily theorize that they sent a weak Turok Han just to test Buffy. Makes sense, right? Use the data to find the best fighter, as a test? Sure, you can argue your point; I respectfully just do not see it.

METAI- I do recall Joss having the idea of making Xander evil, but going with Willow. But I am old and my memory is failing me...
Dana, is there an example of an enemy of Buffy sending their weakest fighter to test her? Apart from The Trio who did a lot of just stupid stuff I can't think of any. A weak opponent would not stretch Buffy and give much data. Aircraft makers do not test new planes by subjecting them to a little bit of stress, they test them until they break.
And accepting both possibilities, my suggestion is still therefore a valid possibility. I don't need to know that a event in the plot was the only possible explanation, just that it is a reasonable and plausible one.

When anyone wants to kill Buffy they have generally sent their best fighter or one with the best skills to defeat her. In seems reasonable that the First would do the same and pick the strongest Turok Han.
As has also been pointed out, it is hardly the first time that Buffy has lost to an enemy she later beats. Luke, The Master, Sunday, Glory, Angelus, even Spike.
viewingfigures: Ooo, thanks for reminding me of that. Great hook for my own "Children of the Dale" 'verse when i bring Anya back; I have it that D'Hoffryn, seekign revnege, has her grabbed by a henchdemon, taken to the netherworld, magically healed there beofre she's brian-dead, revived, and tortured for a a coupel eyars before he gets tired of it and sends her back to earth with a warning that if she seeks out Xander he'll be killed. (I have to bring back at *least* 6 people to justify my futrefics and I don't weant a single auper-powered repetitive explanation!)

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