(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the complete series of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, and one comic.)
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the cult classic supernatural series that remains popular to this day, and in the age of online streaming, continues to find a new audience. Buffy set the standard for all similar series that followed, and few can yet claim to have surpassed it.
#Buffy and its spin-off show, #Angel, could make you smile, laugh and cheer, yet both are often most remembered for the moments that made you cry. Here are some of the most heartbreaking moments from the Buffyverse.
1. 'I Don't Wanna Die' ( 'Buffy' Season 1, Ep 12)
Angel and Giles are horrified when they realize that Buffy has overheard them discussing a prophecy foretelling her death in her upcoming battle against ancient vampire The Master. For a moment or two, Buffy seems to be taking things well, but this doesn't last long. She quickly switches from angry — uselessly attempting to quit her job as Slayer — to sad and afraid. She tells Giles that she does not want to die, silently begging him to find another way.
This scene remains iconic in Buffy history, establishing the series as a character-driven story rather than simple teen horror fluff.
2. Drusilla Kills Kendra ( 'Buffy' Season 2, Ep 21)
Overcoming a slightly rocky start due to their different approaches to slaying, Buffy eventually bonds with Kendra, the new Slayer called after her temporary death in Season 1. In the first part of the Season 2 finale, "Becoming," Buffy races back to the school library to rescue her friends from an unexpected attack from the psychotic Drusilla, but she arrives too late, finding Kendra dead by Drusilla's hand, and her other friends either injured or missing. To make matters worse, Buffy is then wrongfully arrested for Kendra's murder.
Kendra's death is both heartbreaking and significant in the series overall narrative. It paves the way for the introduction of Faith in Season 3, and also gives viewers their first hint that The Watcher's Council may not be the entirely positive force it had been portrayed as up until that point. To them, Kendra was a perfect example of what a Slayer should be: Raised and trained by her Watcher from childhood to always follow the Council's instructions.
While her martial arts form was almost perfect, Kendra's sheltered upbringing left her sorely lacking in social skills, and her strict adherence to her by-the-book training leaves her with an inability to think for herself and improvise in battle as both Buffy and Faith do so well. This inability to think for herself left Kendra's mind weak, making her a perfect target for Dru's hypnosis, directly leading to her death.
3. Buffy Is Forced To Kill Angel ('Buffy' Season 2, Ep 22)
Throughout most of Season 2, Buffy must deal with Angelus, Angel's evil counterpart, after he loses his soul. While Jenny Calendar and (later) Willow desperately work on a ritual to restore said Soul, Angelus, Spike and Drusilla concoct an evil plan to awaken the demon Acathla. This would open a portal that would suck every being on Earth — human, demon or otherwise — straight into Hell. The only way to stop this is to kill whomever began the process of opening the portal. In the midst of a climactic final battle between Buffy and Angelus, Willow's soul-restoring ritual succeeds. Buffy and Angel share a heartwarming reunion — until Buffy notices that the portal is opening behind him. It is too late; Buffy kisses Angel, tells him to close his eyes, and runs him through with a sword. She then watches, devastated, as he is pulled into the closing portal.
This event forever changes the Buffy/Angel relationship. While Angel returns the following season — and they eventually reunite as a couple — they do so with a subtle awareness that their relationship cannot last forever, however strong their love may be.
4. 'You Have A Father's Love For The Child' ('Buffy' Season 3, Ep 12)
After Buffy's Father cancels an annual trip to the Ice-Capades for her birthday, while still leaving her with two tickets, she attempts to ask Giles to go with her instead. Giles is distracted at the time, and understandably so. Soon after, he sedates Buffy and strips her of her powers before she is forced into her Cruciamentum — a brutal test in which she is locked in a building with an extremely strong and mentally unstable vampire, and must defeat it while in a severely weakened state. While Buffy survives, she is angry at Giles for placing in that situation. Meanwhile, Giles is fired for failing his half of the test: He loves Buffy too much.
"You have a Father's love for the child. That is useless to the cause." — Quentin Travers.
After this, it takes some time for Buffy's relationship with Giles to fully recover. Adding to this, she is forever more prone to question him.
5. Cordelia's Heartbreak ('Buffy' Season 3, Ep 8)
Cordelia and Oz spend the majority of the episode "Lover's Walk" searching for their kidnapped significant others, Xander and Willow, unaware that the pair had been cheating on them with each other. The truth is revealed when Cordy and Oz burst in to rescue them, only to find them in a passionate embrace. Cordy falls through the floor and is seriously injured soon after, leading Xander to realize how much he cares about her. He visits her in the hospital to beg forgiveness, but Cordy rejects him, heartbroken by his betrayal. In later episodes, she attempts to hide this heartbreak by returning to her previous place among the popular crowd, only to have her old "friends" reject her.
While Cordelia and Xander do eventually salvage some sort of friendship, the dynamic between her and the rest of the Scooby Gang was forever changed. The real tragedy in all this? Xander was never aware how much Cordy really loved him.
6. Buffy And Angel Share One Perfect Day, But Only Angel Remembers It. ('Angel' Season 1, Ep 8)
After Buffy arrives in Los Angeles to admonish Angel for not letting her see him when he returned to Sunnydale to prevent an unpleasant vision from coming to pass, the former lovers are, of course, drawn into a battle with a Mohra demon. This demon's blood has restorative properties, and some drips into a cut on Angel's hand, with the unexpected result of turning him human.
As a human, the main obstacle that kept Angel apart from Buffy is gone. The pair spend a perfect day together, making love and eating ice cream, but it was not to last. Angel sets off alone to take out the revived Mohra demon, but is no match for it without his vampire strength, and Buffy comes very close to serious injury when she arrives to rescue him. Angel realizes that the added worry of protecting him raises Buffy's chance of death. With a heavy heart, he asks that the Oracles rewind time, and he destroys the Mohra before it can restore him.
Angel remembers their perfect day together, but Buffy never will.
7. Doyle's Sacrifice ('Angel' Season 1, Ep 9)
While still dealing with the loss of his human life with Buffy in the previous episode, Angel finds himself declared the savior of a large family of human/demon hybrids being hunted by full-blood demons wishing to purify their line. Angel concocts a plan to get the hybrids on a boat to safety before the purebloods can activate a device that would kill any non-pure being, including Angel and half-demon Doyle. They are too late, and the device begins to charge. Sharing a bittersweet first/last kiss with Cordy, Doyle leaps onto the machine to shut it down, but is killed in the process, revealing himself as the hybrids' true savior.
While Doyle only spent a short time on the series, the character's presence is felt long after he is gone. The real-life death of Doyle actor, Glenn Quinn, only adds to the heartbreak.
8. Faith's Breakdown ('Angel' Season 1, Ep 18)
A contract has been put out on Angel's life, and Faith, The Dark Slayer, is the assassin. The pair engage in a short cat and mouse game, culminating in a blowout battle in the rain. Multiple times throughout the fight, Angel repeats this phrase:
"I know what you want, Faith. I'm not going to do it."
Viewers are briefly left wondering what "it" is, until Faith breaks down in Angel's arms, begging him to kill her. She feels the weight of all she has done, and knows there is no coming back. If nothing else, "Five By Five," "Sanctuary," and Faith's multi-episode stint in Season 4 are the reason why Buffy fans should also watch Angel. It is the only way to fully understand The Dark Slayer's redemption arc.
9. The Death Of Joyce Summers ('Buffy' Season 5, Ep 16)
When Buffy finds her beloved mother, Joyce, dead, it sends shock waves through the tight-knit Scooby Gang. While she had suffered through the symptoms of a brain tumor earlier in the season, it had seemed she was on the mend.
"The Body" is both wonderful and terrible television, for the heartbreakingly real way in which it portrays the aftermath of the unexpected death of a loved one. If you have never seen this episode, I highly recommend it, Buffy fan or not.
10. Buffy's Sacrifice ('Buffy' Season 5, Ep 22)
Once again, a portal to hell is opened after the gang fails to stop a ritual needing the blood of "The Key," i.e. Buffy's sister, Dawn. Dawn intends to stop the portal by throwing herself into it. Instead, Buffy chooses to sacrifice herself as they share the same blood. Dawn, now the sole surviving Summers, as well as the rest of the Scooby Gang, are left shattered by the Slayer's loss.
As what once could have been the series finale, this scene remains as soul-crushing as it did when it first aired. "Sacrifice," is a perfect theme for the scene, both uplifting, and deeply sad, one of the all-time great pieces of television score.
11. Buffy Reveals That She'd Been In Heaven ('Buffy' Season 6, Ep 7)
For the early part of Season 6, Willow and the rest of the Scooby Gang are riding high, congratulating themselves for having saved Buffy from eternity in a hell dimension. In one of the final numbers of the #musical episode, however, they are all brought crashing down when Buffy reveals that they had in fact pulled her out of heaven instead.
While Season 6 as a whole is quite bleak, this was the point where things took a definite turn for the worse.
12. Darla Sacrifices Herself For Baby Connor ('Angel' Season 3, Ep 9)
Following the miracle conception of their son, Angel's sire, Darla, finds herself sharing a soul with the baby boy, and therefore feeling human emotions. The strongest of those emotions is fear that she will hurt her son after his birth (when she will lose the soul they share, along with the love she feels for him). As Darla's labor begins, her fear reaches its peak. Darla stakes herself, leaving her newborn baby boy behind as she crumbles to dust.
"This child.. It's the one good thing we ever did together. You make sure to tell him that." — Darla, before staking herself.
Darla, as we learned when her full history unfolded over the course of both series, was a tragic character. This scene gives her an equally tragic end, while also transforming her from villain to hero in her final moments.
13. Dawn Finds Tara's Body ('Buffy' Season 6, Ep 20)
While the moment of Tara's death is shocking, it is what comes after that veers into truly heartbreaking territory. While Buffy and Xander are at the hospital (and later pursuing the vengeful Willow), Dawn is briefly forgotten. Upon remembering her little sister, Buffy races home to find a teary-eyed Dawn curled in the corner of Willow's room, watching over Tara's dead body.
"I didn't want to leave her alone" — Dawn
This moment is made even more heartbreaking when you remember that, after helping Willow care for her in the months before Buffy's resurrection, Tara is the second maternal figure that Dawn has lost.
14. Xander Saves Willow ('Buffy' Season 6, Ep 22)
Following Tara's death, Willow sets off on a dark-magic-fueled rampage of revenge, eventually culminating in an attempt to bring on the end of the world. Xander arrives in a last-ditch effort to stop her. Willow eventually breaks down in his arms, sobbing.
Willow's character is forever changed after this point, carrying constant guilt for everything she did while under the influence of the magicks. In later comics, it is also revealed that Willow still carries blame on herself for Tara's death, having been the one to bring her into Buffy's dangerous world.
15. Buffy Is Kicked Out ('Buffy' Season 7, Ep 19)
After a raid on the evil priest Caleb's hideout goes horribly wrong, the blame is placed squarely on Buffy. Both the potential slayers and the Scooby Gang opt to send Buffy away (therefore kicking her out of her own House), with the potentials quickly proclaiming Faith their new leader. While the potentials' reaction is almost understandable, seeing Xander, Willow and Giles turn on Buffy so quickly after all they have been through together is hard to watch.
16. Spike's Sacrifice ('Buffy' Season 7, Ep 22)
In the final minutes of "Chosen," the grand finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the magical amulet that Spike is wearing begins to glow, emitting beams of light that cause everything around our heroes to crumble. While the surviving potentials and members of the Scooby Gang rush to escape, Spike becomes aware that there is no escape for him. To make the group's actions worthwhile, he must stay behind and let the amulet completely destroy the Hellmouth. Before departing, Buffy holds Spike's hand, telling him she loves him.
"No you don't. But thanks for saying it." — Spike
The fact that Spike died believing that Buffy didn't love him is truly sad. To this day, fans continue to debate over whether or not Buffy truly was lying.
17. Cordelia's Goodbye ('Angel' Season 5, Ep 12)
Angel is on a high after defeating Lindsey, his confidence boosted by Cordelia's presence after she woke up from the coma she had been left in the previous season. Cordy is pleased by Angel's happiness, but seems unusually sad. After giving Angel one last pep talk, the pair finally share a kiss before Cordy quietly leaves the office. Moments later, Angel receives a phone call: Cordelia has died. She never really woke from her coma, and was only ever there in spirit.
After the huge journey the character went on from Buffy to Angel, to lose Cordy in such a sudden and tragic fashion was a devastating blow for fans.
18. Losing Fred ('Angel' Season 5, Ep 15)
After a long period of Wesley loving Fred from afar, the pair have finally come together as a couple. Sadly, their happiness is not to last. Fred becomes infected by the spirit of an ancient demonic god, Illyria, which begins to begins to destroy Fred from the inside out in order to use her body as its host. Fred dies in Wesley's arms, and Illyria is reborn.
"Wesley...why can't I stay?" — Fred
Many of Angel's characters are imperfect heroes, seeking redemption for past misdeeds or failures. This was not true for Winifred Burkle. Fred was the team's one true innocent, and seeing her die so terribly is one of the show's most hard to watch moments.
19. 'Would You Like Me To Lie To You Now?' ('Angel' Season 5, Ep 22)
During Angel's grand finale, Wesley suffers a mortal wound while battling the Warlock Cyvus Vail. By the time Illyria locates him, he has moments left to live. After earlier promising that she would no longer "lie" by using Fred's face, she asks him if he would like her to lie now. The following scene occurs:
Illyria: "Would you like me to lie to you now?"
Wes: "Yes. Thank you, yes."
[Illyria morphs into Fred]
Wes: "Hello there."
Illyria: [as Fred] "Oh Wesley. My Wesley."
Wes: "Fred, I've missed you."
Illyria: "It's gonna be okay. It won't hurt much longer and then you'll be where I am."
Illyria: "We'll be together."
Wes: "I-I love you."
Illyria: "I love you. My love. Oh, my love."
The true tragedy of this scene is that, although a heavenly realm has been shown to exist in the Buffyverse, Wesley will not find Fred there, as her soul was destroyed during Illyria's possession of her body.
20. Bonus Comic Moment: Angel Kills Giles, 'Last Gleaming' 'Buffy: Season 8'
In the final issues of Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Angel, while under the influence of Twilight, murders Giles by snapping his neck — the same way he had killed Giles's love, Jenny Calendar, back in Season 2. Buffy and the remaining members of the Scooby Gang are devastated by the loss of their mentor and Father-figure. Angel, once free from Twilight's thrall, is equally devastated by what he has done.
Giles's death is easily the most shocking moment to have occurred in the comics so far, with the consequences still being felt through the more recent Season 10 comics. While Giles has been restored to life, he is not quite the same.
Which heartbreaking Buffyverse moment affected you most?