"She saved the world. A lot."
And she died a couple of times, too. But SPOILER ALERT ... really, all the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer either gave their lives or lost people they loved throughout the seven seasons of the series as they battled evil that for some reason or another really wanted to destroy the world.
The series was funny and sad and silly and smart and joyous and, yes, heartbreaking. I've put together a list of 15 times Buffy broke my heart (thanks, Joss Whedon!), a pain I can still feel 20 years later. There are many more moments, big and small, and I loved and hated them all, but these are the important ones to me. I've put these in the order they ran in the series with my very "favorite" moment at the end.
"Giles, I'm 16 years old. I don't wanna die."
"Prophecy Girl” (Episode 1.12)
And yet she does die, the first time, in this very episode. Up to this point, Buffy hadn't realized that being a Slayer meant she would die young. She was 16 and a superhero. Why would she think about dying? But her realization that even Giles and all his resources and books couldn't help her survive the Master is devastating. Luckily after the Master kills Buffy, Xander is able to revive her. That death in the first season changes everything for Buffy. It's the point where she grows up. And that event changes things for the series too because another Slayer is activated, so there no longer is only one Slayer.
BONUS NOTE: Buffy was actually killed three times, if you include the Anya's alternate vengeance demon timeline when the Master kills Buffy.
Angel breaks Buffy's heart
"Innocence" (Episode 2.14)
After Buffy and Angel finally spend the night together, Angel's moment of happiness activates his gypsy curse, which rips away his soul and turns him back into Angelus. And Angelus is all about causing Buffy pain when he tells her their night together was no big deal. While the gypsy storyline made no sense at all – Why would the gypsies make his punishment for "one true moment of happiness" be to lose his soul again, which would mean he would become a killing machine again. What's the point of that? Wouldn't there be better ways to torment him for finding happiness that wouldn't turn a vicious vampire on the loose? -- the final result made Angelus the most dangerous and scary Big Bad Buffy faced throughout the series.
Angelus leaves Giles a present
"Passion" (Episode 2.17)
In what was the most shocking moment in the series, Angelus kills Jenny Calendar. In his efforts to torment Buffy and her friends, he sets the scene for Giles with candles and roses, leading him to think he's in for a romantic night with Jenny. Unfortunately it all leads to her dead body. Giles is devastated and so are we.
Buffy sacrifices Angel
"Becoming (Part 2)" (Episode 2.22)
In what is arguably the toughest moment of the series, Buffy's left with an impossible choice. She's about to dispatch Angelus to save the world from Acathia, a big stone statue that can come to life and suck the world into Hell. Unfortunately, just as Buffy's about to drive a sword through Angelus' heart, Willow is able to give Angel back his soul with the spell that Jenny left for them. Buffy realizes that Angel is back, but she has no choice. She has to save the world, so she drives the sword through him, sending him to Hell.
"Becoming (Part 2)" (Episode 2.22)
After she saves the world by killing Angel, Buffy's own heart breaks into a thousand pieces. She decides she has to leave Sunnydale, so she leaves a note and takes a bus out of town, leaving behind her mom and her friends.
Faith kills a man
"Bad Girls" (Episode 3.14)
After her emotional devastation in Season 2, it was time for Buffy to let loose a little, and new Slayer Faith showed her the way. Unfortunately, Buffy's wild period lasts about two minutes. Buffy never got to have much fun on the series. Things get serious when Faith accidentally kills the Deputy Mayor thinking he was a vampire. When a shocked Buffy confronts her, Faith tells her she doesn't care that she killed a human and it eventually leads to all-out war between them.
Oz leaves Willow
"Wild at Heart" (Episode 4.6)
Willow's love affair with Oz was easily the sweetest thing we'd seen on the show. But sadly for Willow, Oz was a werewolf and he wasn't in control of his beast. He ended up cheating on Willow with another werewolf, and realized that he needed to get control of himself to be with her. There wasn't anything sadder than watching him leave her as he makes that final decision to drive away.
"The Body" (Episode 5.16)
By Season 5 there had been so many twists and turns that I was beginning to think that Joss Whedon couldn't surprise us any more. I was wrong. When Buffy comes home one day she finds her mother's cold dead body. But it wasn't anything supernatural that killed Joyce. It was an aneurysm due to a tumor. When I saw this episode, I didn't like it. It was too real for fun a show about vampires and demons. But the resulting devastation on everyone from Buffy to Anya resonated throughout the rest of the season. With Joyce gone so suddenly, Buffy had no choice but to face life as an adult.
Buffy dies again
"The Gift" (Episode 5.22)
Buffy's latest Big Bad was Glory, a nasty little hell god who spent Season 5 hunting for the Key (aka Dawn) so she could get back to her dimension. The fact that that would allow Hell to rein on Earth was just another perk for her. With Dawn up on a scaffolding ready to be sacrificed so the hellish portal could be opened, Buffy manages to stop Glory and rushes to her sister's side. But with the portal opening a sacrifice is needed to close it. As Dawn prepares to throw herself into the rift, Buffy stops her and turns and flings herself into the portal instead, closing it. It turns out Buffy was the Key too and she dies. Her tombstone reads, "She saved the world. A lot." Yes, she did.
Yep, it's a musical
"Once More, with Feeling" (Episode 6.7)
It seemed like a silly idea, but it turned out awesome. In fact, it was so awesome, the network let it run a few minutes longer than the normal 60 minutes. In the episode, everyone starts singing and can't stop. And for some of them, the songs reveal how they really feel about things. A demon is at the core of it all, of course. While a lot of truths come out through the episode, the most powerful is when Willow learns that the magic she used to bring Buffy back to life ripped the Slayer out of Heaven. Buffy was finally at peace and her best friend destroyed that for her.
"Seeing Red" (Episode 6.19)
Besides Joyce's death, this one was again just a little too real. Guns weren't used against magical creatures, so when Warren (a human with designs on Sunnydale) decides to kill Buffy with a gun, it's a shock when a stray bullet hits Tara, who's with Willow in her bedroom. The utter surprise of Tara and Willow together and happy one moment and Tara dead the next was heartbreaking. After Oz, the Willow/Tara relationship was so heartfelt and wonderful, I hoped it would survive. But just like Joyce's death, Tara's demise affected everything to come. The devastated Willow took a destructive turn when she embraced the powerful witch within and becomes the actual Big Bad of the season.
A yellow crayon and Xander save the world
"Grave" (Episode 6.22)
Dark Willow emerges after Tara's death and decides to end the world by draining its life energies. As she's about to perform a ritual that will end things, Xander faces Willow alone. He refuses to leave and tells her that if the world's going to end, he wants to be there with her when it happens. He tells her a story about when they were children involving a yellow crayon and it's enough to get through to her. Dark Willow becomes Willow again and this time it was Xander who saved the world.
Xander loses an eye
"Dirty Girls" (Episode 7.18)
Caleb, the First Evil's right-hand man, was a nasty piece of work as he took delight in tormenting anyone he could, especially girls. He orders the deaths of Potential Slayers, the Council and the Watchers, and he's mostly successful in taking them out. He's very powerful and easily defeats Buffy and the Scooby Gang when they face him initially. When Xander tries to fight him, Caleb uses his thumb to gouge out one of his eyes. The main shock here is that Xander, who was not supernatural, managed to survive all manner of battles. When he loses his eye, it's surprising because ... he's Xander. However, the eye patch was cute for the final episodes.
Spike dies ... what are we going to do now?
"Chosen" (Episode 7.22)
In the end, in order to defeat the First Evil and Caleb and close the Hellmouth for good, a sacrifice had to be made. Spike would be the first one to say that he didn't think he'd be the sacrifice, but when it all came down to saving the world and Buffy, he went out like a hero. Buffy told him she loved him, and he told her he knew it wasn't true but that he was glad to hear her say it anyway. In the end, he gave his life to the greater good, at least until he was revived for Angel. And, oh yeah, Anya died, too. And the Big Bads were defeated. And the Hellmouth closed and Sunnydale was gone with nothing left but a big crater. "Yeah, Buffy, what are we going to do now?" With Buffy's final smile and the world filled with new Slayers, she knew that life would never be the same, but in the best possible way. But the thought of a world without Spike ... sad!
Buffy Summers, Class Protector
"The Prom" (Episode 3.20)
There are a lot of different worthy moments throughout the series, but this one was my favorite. After all Buffy had been through (and this was only Season 3), she finally got recognition for what she'd done. When she was given the special award of 'Class Protector' at the prom because of all the lives and therefore "We're proud to say that the Class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history," and it was just awesome. The students knew who she was and what she'd done for them. And she got a little decked-out umbrella.
What Buffy moments broke your heart into a thousand tiny pieces? And what was your single favorite best moment ever? Let us know in the comments!