It was a Thursday night in 2001. My friends and I were gathered in a dark, dormitory lounge in Ithaca, NY. Ithaca didn’t carry UPN, so my mother would tape three episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on VHS and mail them to me at college so my friends and I could watch. Everyone had heard about this “Buffy musical,” but we were skeptical. A musical? Seriously? Had Joss Whedon lost his damn mind?
And then, Sarah Michelle Gellar sang her first note, and the world changed.
We sat in the dark, delighted by the clever lyrics, stunned by Amber Benson’s beautiful voice, and enthralled with the story. The people of Sunnydale were randomly bursting into song, and sometimes bursting into flame. A demon was forcing everyone to sing their darkest emotional secrets, sometimes in a retro pastiche that’s never going to be a breakaway pop hit. Xander and Anya revealed their mutual fear of getting married, Giles soliloquized about leaving Buffy on her own, and Tara discovered that Willow had been using magic to alter her memory.
In the climactic number “Something To Sing About,” Buffy finally admitted the secret she’d been keeping from her friends this whole time: When they resurrected her at the start of the season, they ripped her out of Heaven, not some Hell dimension.
And of course, this happened:
It was 15 years ago today that “Once More With Feeling” premiered. It was the first time a musical television episode didn’t feel like a gimmick. There was nothing spoofy about it because, although witty, it was produced in complete earnest. There was a reason why people were singing rather than “just because we can do it.” In an episode about a lack of communication, music was a unique way to force that communication. The plot–
Sorry, I’m getting distracted by that GIF.
The plot was deeply integrated into the overall story, and it brought to light the issues these characters had kept inside all season long. It was a pivotal episode to so many storylines. It was the first time the audience learned that Xander had doubts about Anya which culminated in him leaving her at the altar later that season. Giles and Tara both decided that they needed to make the difficult decision to leave loved ones behind. We were all stunned (and delighted and maybe even a little turned on) when Buffy and Spike kissed, which started an entirely new B-plot that was so right yet so wrong. Although as an audience we wanted to see Buffy with Spike, we also knew that she would never love him like he loved her. And at the end of the series, when she tells Spike she loves him, he replies with, “No you don’t. But thanks for saying it.” To this day, it’s still heart-wrenching and beautiful.
15 years later, Buffy fans still remember “Once More With Feeling” fondly. They still rewatch the episode on its own. They still play the soundtracks in their cars. They still sing the songs at karaoke night. They still put on secret underground productions because 20th Century Fox won’t release stage performance rights. They still create ballet choreography for Willow to “Under Your Spell.”
Oh, that’s just me? Hmm.
What made “Once More With Feeling” special to you? Share your favorite moments in the comments!
Image credits: 20th Century Fox