Top 10 Most Heart-Wrenching Deaths in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I apologize ahead of time, because this will most likely depress everyone reading it.

10. Halfrek in “Selfless” (Season 7, Episode 5)

HalfrekHow it happened: After Anya and Buffy’s epic battle in “Selfless”, an already emotionally tolling episode became even more heavy. D’Hoffryn appeared. Anya asked for her bloody act of vengeance to be undone, willing to give her life and soul up in exchange. D’Hoffryn instead summoned Halfrek.

Halfrek (smiling in surprise): Anya!

Anya (realizing what is about to happen): Hallie!

Halfrek then burst into flames, killed by D’Hoffryn who tells Anya, “Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain.”

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Why it is heart-wrenching: Halfrek was a lovable character from the start. We first saw her vengeance demon self appear in Season 6’s “Older and Far Away”, posing as Dawn’s guidance counselor to grant her a wish. When things got ugly in the house (no one can leave since Dawn wished everyone would stay with her), Anya suspected Halfrek and called her to he house. Halfrek was funny and charming, delivering lines such as:

Oh, and most of us prefer ‘justice demons’, okay? FYI.

She appeared to be more of a kind (in a sense) and easy-going demon rather than a malicious one. Besides, who doesn’t love a demon that does this?

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Halfrek and Anya had a very endearing friendship that spanned across hundreds of years. It is clear that they were close and cared about each other.

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Their closeness makes it all the more sad when Halfrek payed for Anya’s mistakes. Anya clearly wasn’t expecting D’Hoffryn to kill her best friend, and she must have felt overwhelming guilt over it. Granted, Halfrek was a (most likely) 1,000 year old demon who wreaked vengeance upon people, so I guess you can’t feel too bad about her death. It was just unexpected, and knowing Anya’s history with Halfrek, heartbreaking to watch.


9. Kendra Young in “Becoming, Part One” (Season 2, Episode 21)

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IT’S ALSO HER ONLY SHIRT

How it happened: Buffy was deceived by Angelus, wasting time fighting in the graveyard while her friends where being attacked in the library. In said library, Drusilla hypnotizes Kendra, killing her by slitting her neck.

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Why it is heart-wrenching: Poor Kendra 😦 She may have had a bad accent, but she was a brave fighter and stuck it out to help Buffy when it mattered, losing her life in the process. The thing that kills me about this one is the inevitability of it. When Drusilla saunters in, you just know she is going to go after Kendra. What’s even worse is that Buffy is so close to getting there in time, but doesn’t make it. If she had been there to back up Kendra, the girl would’ve kept her life, and Buffy knew it.

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Seriously though get that gun out of Buffy’s face


8. Jonathan Levinson in “Storyteller” (Season 7, Episode 16)

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How it happened: Andrew, goaded by the First in the form of Warren, sacrificed Jonathan by stabbing him , so that his blood would open the Seal of Danzalthar.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: Jonathan was a character that had been in the Buffyverse almost since day one. He was the outcast; the nerd with no friends. We became familiar with him in episodes like “Earshot” and “Superstar”, and he showed himself to be the most sane and human out of The Trio in season 6. Jonathan’s death pulls your heart strings because he was murdered by his friend, whom he trusted. Jonathan was a loner all his life, and he met his end by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His loyalty and willingness to help Andrew is what got him killed. It’s sad because Jonathan had come a long way since his Sunnydale High days. Though he took part in the occasional scheme he was an inherently good person. And let’s not forget, he gave Buffy her Class Protector award.

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7. Jenny Calender in “Passion” (Season 2, Episode 17)

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How it happened: Angelus relentlessly amped up his torture of Buffy and her friends. Things culminated when Jenny, who had been shunned by the group for lying about her identity and intent, attempted to make her errors right by working on the Ritual of Restoration to get Angelus re-ensouled. While Jenny nearly finished of her research, alone in the dark school, Angelus paid her a visit, ruined all of her work, (and any chance of soul restoration) and ruthlessly chased after her, snapping her neck on the school stairwell.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: Jenny Calender was such a wonderful character. She used her tech skills to help out the Scoobies and had a burgeoning romantic relationship with Giles. This all changed when it was revealed that Jenny was from Clan Kalderash (the group that originally ensouled Angelus) sent to watch over Angel. The Scoobies felt betrayed. Jenny attempted to make it up to them by trying to figure out  how to ensoul Angelus. Things began to get better between Jenny and the Scoobies, but there was hardly any time to patch up differences before her abrupt death. Giles still clearly had feelings for Jenny throughout all this, and in “Passion”, he invited her over to his house after she finished up at school. You would think that there is going to be hope for them. Giles stopped at his apartment (after the death of Jenny, but unbeknownst to him) and found a red rose and opera music playing.

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He smiled, thinking that Jenny had set up a surprise for him. It’s sickening to watch, because we all know that this is the deranged work of Angelus. But poor Giles, making his way up the rose-petal covered stairs, was so hopeful, so happy…until he was met with the sight of Jenny’s body, dead, in his room. It’s a very hard scene to watch. Giles was in love with Jenny and to find her dead, without warning, (at the hands of Buffy’s boyfriend, at that) is indescribably terrible.

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Afterwards, Giles went to avenge her death and take down Angelus, and nearly died. The scene where Buffy held Giles afterwards is the most vulnerable and broken down that we ever saw him in the series. He never really recovered from Jenny’s death.

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In my years as a Watcher, I’ve buried…
too many people. Some I knew… most I
didn’t. Jenny is the first one that I’ve loved.


6. Joyce Summers in “The Body” (Season 5, Episode 16)

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How it happened: A complication from Joyce’s brain tumor.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: Stark reality is what made this death so hard. Buffy could save her mom from all kinds of supernatural things, but she couldn’t beat the course of life itself. There was nothing she could have possibly done, and this kills her. It kills the viewer, as we watch Buffy struggle to deal with this loss. Joyce was such a comforting presence since the very first episode of Buffy. She loved her daughters and their friends as if they were her own family. She was kind and understanding, and the only real sense of normalcy and consistency in Buffy’s life. At the end of the day, she always had her mom when things got rough, until reared nature reared it’s ugly head. Buffy was left without the person she needed most. It was  raw, real and deeply heartbreaking. The way that the other Scoobies dealt with the death was also very hard to watch. From Xander’s wall-punching and Willow’s frantic search for the right shirt, to Anya’s famous monologue, the reactions were achingly real, because most of us watching at home felt the exact same way. Joyce was with us from the beginning, and then she wasn’t. It was unfair, and it hurt, but it was life.


5. Spike in “Chosen” (Season 7, Episode 22)

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How it happened: In the final battle against the First and the Turok-Han army, Spike, wearing the amulet of a champion, was consumed by light; the sunlight was channeled through the amulet, dusting the Ubervamps and destroying the Hellmouth. Spike disintegrated along with Sunnydale, leaving a huge hole where the city used to be.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: Spike’s extraordinary journey throughout the series culminated with him truly proving his worthiness as a Scooby and a hero in general by giving up his life to destroy the Hellmouth once and for all. The emotional resonance here lied within Spike’s transformation from Big Bad to good guy. Spike had done a lot post-life as a bloody awful poet…he had been tortured by Glory, hounded by the First, fallen in love with the Slayer, and even gotten his soul back to make him more of a man in Buffy’s eyes. He was nothing but kind to Dawn. He was completely devoted to Buffy and her well-being, and it showed in that moment. Through-out all of Spike’s long life, he’s only been sure of one thing, and that’s Buffy. (See his amazing monologue in Touched.) Which makes this moment utterly breath-taking:

tumblr_n1663ufqgD1tt3vnuo1_500It was beautiful, but also sad at the same time:

Buffy: I love you.

Spike: No you don’t. But thanks for saying it.

Spike was a selfless, brave man (vampire? I don’t know) and it was a fitting hero’s farewell for him. I couldn’t see Spike going out any other way.


4. Anya in “Chosen” (Season 7, Episode 22)

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How it happened: While fighting an onslaught of Bringers, Anya is bisected from behind.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: This one was devastating because it happened in the heat of the moment. Anya was fighting beside Andrew (which, by the way, should have never happened) and was abruptly killed by a Bringer. This was a a brutal death with no pay-off, in the words of Joss Whedon himself. What makes it even more devastating is that her body wasn’t recovered. We only see Xander looking for her as the school collapses.

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Anya deserved a better send-off, and was cheated of one due to the cruelness of battle. Once a vengeance demon, she had shown herself to be a brave, caring person who was always there for her friends when they needed her. I loved Anya’s sense of humor, and her lack of tact. Her journey towards understanding what it meant to be human was a delight to watch, and it was crushing to see her 1,000 year old life end in such an unspectacular way. Man, I need a hug. This list is only getting harder to write.

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3. Angel in “Becoming, Part Two” (Season 2, Episode 22)

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How it happened: After a harrowing sword duel, Buffy gains the upper hand against Angelus and backs him up against the statue of Acathla, At the same time, Willow’s restoration spell succeeds, Angel has returned to himself. However, it is too late: the vortex has already started to open, and can only be closed with Angelus/Angel’s blood. He is confused. Buffy realizes that he is Angel again. After a final kiss, she stabs him with the sword; as he reaches out for her, he is sucked into Hell, closing the portal.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: After two seasons of watching Buffy fall in love with Angel, it was already bad enough seeing him turn on her as Angelus. But seeing her kill the love of her life, even with his soul restored at the last minute? That is the depressing icing on the cake.

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Because of Angelus, Buffy got kicked out of her house, Jenny was murdered, Buffy got expelled, and Kendra died; Angelus effectively ruined Buffy’s life. He was a problem that should have been taken care of earlier, but Buffy understandably could not kill him. She loved Angel. She still loved him as she killed him. It must have took extreme courage and guts for her to finally do it.

Angel: What’s happening?

Buffy: Shh. Don’t worry about it.

Angel: I love you.

Buffy: I love you.

Buffy: Close your eyes.

For the first time, Buffy made an extremely difficult call, putting her Slayer duties above her personal relations and feelings. It was sad for me. as well as Buffy, to realize just how much she had lost at the end of Season 2, as she takes a bus anywhere but Sunnydale, “Full of Grace” playing in the background.

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2. Buffy Summers in “The Gift” (Season 5, Episode 22)

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How it happened: Doc has already begun the blood-letting ritual, cutting Dawn to activate Glory’s portal. The only way to close it is with Summers blood, so Buffy jumps off the tower and sacrifices herself to spare Dawn, and save the world in the process.

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Why it was heart-wrenching: Because Buffy died!! I cried not only because her life had ended, but because of why it did. Buffy was so brave in that moment, embodying everything it means to be a hero. Her unconditional love for her sister and the world she was tasked with protecting was evident in her face, as she realized, with complete clarity, what she had to do.

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The reactions of her friends were equally heartbreaking. Buffy was a daughter, sister, friend and hero, and it was extremely disheartening to see her lying lifeless, knowing that she’d never be able to sugar up on a mocha again, or pun, or anything.

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Of course, we all know that she comes back in Season 6, but she’s never really the same again.

Regardless, it was hard seeing Buffy Summers, who I’d grown attached to after 5 years of battle, heartbreak and victory, reach the expiration date that is marked on all Slayers and fulfill the spirit guide’s words: “Death is your gift.”

Buffy’s beautiful imparting words:

Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will always love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles… tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I’m okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world… is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.


1. Tara Maclay in “Seeing Red” (Season 6, Episode 19)

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How it happened: Warren, armed with a gun, fires shots at Buffy, one hitting Buffy, and a stray bullet hitting and instantly killing Tara, upstairs in the Summers’ house with Willow.

Why it was heart-wrenching: This is a death that never should have happened. Tara was the kindest of them all. She had undergone an amazing transformation, from the shy, unsure girl in “Hush” to a fully functioning member of the Scooby gang in Season 6. She imparted wisdom; her voice of reason and non-judgmental nature made her almost a sort of safe haven for a lot of the Scoobies, most notably Buffy and Dawn outside of Willow.

Tara was there for Buffy when she broke down, offering silent comfort and and strength to her when she confesses about her relationship with Spike.

 

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“It’s okay if you do…and it’s okay if you don’t”

Tara was also Dawn’s mother figure, taking care of her after Buffy’s death and when she came back. Though Willow and Tara were broken up for a bit, Tara still made Dawn a part of her life because she knew Dawn couldn’t bear to lose another person so close to her.

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And of course, Willow. The impact Tara made in Willow’s life can’t really be put into justice through words. The two were completely in love, and arguably had the most stable, healthy relationship in BTVS despite some Season 6 moments. Tara was her rock. She loved Willow unconditionally and Willow loved her back.

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So cute!!

As you are all aware, Willow had some magic issues in S6 which led to her 10 episode long break-up with Tara. In Seeing Red, the finally got back together, making Dawn and many viewers very happy. Amber Benson was even in the credits!

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So you think all is well.

Then, Warren shoots Buffy, with one of the stray bullets hitting Tara clean through her chest, killing her instantly. All she can say is, “Your shirt…”

Willow is beside herself with grief.

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As am I. This is the final straw that makes Willow go completely dark, now that the light of her life is gone.

Willow and Tara were so happy together, and to just have her ripped away like that is near impossible to watch. Dawn’s reaction is heartbreaking as well, huddling near Tara’s body in disbelief, the unfairness of it all crippling her as she once again loses someone she loves.

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Tara had shown herself to be an indispensable, strong and brave character, so it was sad that the writers couldn’t find any other way to make Willow go dark besides killing her off. She was the kindest of them all and deserved better than that…she was just beginning to become more well-rounded and it bums me out that we didn’t get to see more of her. Her presence was sorely missed in Season 7. The rest of the series didn’t feel right without her. She had came along way from that shy girl at the Wicca group meeting.

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101

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Honorable mentions:

The Buffybot

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and all the deaths in “The Wish”, especially Buffy

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Do you agree with the order? Think I missed something important? Comment below!

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About NoelleA

Writer from Franklin, WI.
This entry was posted in Top 10 Lists and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Top 10 Most Heart-Wrenching Deaths in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  1. Mare says:

    I think Cassie should have made this list, despite being a 1-off character. At least give her an honorable mention; that death broke me. And another thing about Tara; she felt like she never really fit in with the Scoobies. She had a few conversations with Dawn about what it’s like to be on the outside of the group, and she never made the opening sequence. Except she did. For the first (and last) time, Tara was in Seeing Red’s opening sequence. She had just found her place in the group, finally become a real part of it, and then she was just dead. That made it so much harder to watch.

    Like

  2. Linda Duncan says:

    You put the Buffybot as an honorable mention, but I cried WAY harder over her than I did Anya. The moment she said “Where did I go?” I just BAWLED. I thought she was referring to the rest of herself. Anya was shocking, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t cry.

    Like

  3. Greg White says:

    The boys killed in the high school AV room in Prophecy Girl to be found by Willow and Cordelia was left out.That was very extremely heartwrenching.

    Like

  4. Lisa says:

    Sorry but Joyce should be #1. Tara’s death was sad but for me Jouce was more important.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jacobsmith16 says:

    I actually really like this list. My list looks a little different, but I think that your reasonings are sound and accurate; it just comes down to personal preference. For me, the saddest deaths go 1. Angel 2. Anya 3. Joyce 4. Tara 5. Buffy 6. Jenny 7. Cassie Newton (Season 7, episode 4 “Help) 8. Kendra 9. Halfrek 10. Spike. I’m not that big a fan of Spike, but everything you’ve said was true. Cassie’s death was similar to Joyce’s death in that it was unavoidable, so it felt like it was opening the scab of Joyce’s death. And her monologue about wanting to live is tear jerking. Great list!

    Like

  6. Diana says:

    More history on Halfrek:

    In the season 6 episode “Older and Far Away”, Halfrek recognizes Spike and calls him by his human name, William. Spike also recognizes Halfrek, but when asked to explain this they both sheepishly deny being acquainted. This implies that Halfrek had previously been Cecily. However, Halfrek once told Anya that she witnessed the Crimean War (circa 1853). The timing of this event would indicate that Halfrek existed as a demon at least three decades prior to the adoption of youthful human form in Cecily. Joss Whedon and Kali Rocha have both made statements that Halfrek and Cecily were indeed the same entity.

    Halfrek later appeared in the non-canonical comic Spike: Old Times, which established that she was ‘on a job’ at the time that William fell for Cecily. The night William became a vampire, she caused the deaths of the rude party-goers who had laughed at William’s poetry.

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    • NoelleKanitz says:

      How interesting! Thanks so much for leaving this comment – I love Halfrek and this history was new to me. I recently rewatched Older and Far Away and I love the shot of Spike’s face when he realizes he knows Halfrek. Amazing story telling! Thank you for the comment 🙂

      Like

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  12. Sara says:

    Totally agree! And now I need a hug too 😦

    Like

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