Friday, July 9, 2010

#16: Joyce

With an amazing 56 episodes across each of the first six seasons (she doesn't appear in Season Seven; the First appears in her body on two occasions), Buffy's mother Joyce is a comforting and familiar presence, going all the way back to the second scene of Joss Whedon's series début “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, speaking her first word before even Buffy does), so much so that her premature death (from a brain aneurysm; one of only two natural deaths in the whole show) signals the main shift in the whole series, and in Buffy's character, from child to adult. Being that Joyce was such a regular presence, it's perhaps a surprise that Kristine Sutherland was never a member of the main cast.

Or perhaps not: for such a regular presence, Joyce very rarely had much significance to the plot, appearing mostly in a few brief scenes per episode. Of those 56 episodes, fully 46 are minor. There are only ten episodes where this character makes it onto the top five. At number five, there's “Becoming, Part Two”, where Joyce learns Buffy is the slayer, “No Place Like Home”, where Buffy enters into a trance expecting to find magic affecting Joyce's health, and “I Was Made to Love You”, the episode in which Joyce dies. Joyce's only number fours are “School Hard”, where she is trapped in the school and threatens Spike with an axe, and “Ted”, where her relationship with the titular character still brings her no higher than number four on the list. “Bad Eggs”, where she is possessed by the same creature that possesses much of the rest of the cast, and “Band Candy”, where she reverts to being a teenager and has a relationship with Giles, are her number-three appearances. Her only number-two appearances are in Season Three, “Dead Man's Party”, one of the only episodes to really qualify as a 'Joyce episode', where she deals with Buffy's absence over the summer (at 789, her largest word count), and “Gingerbread”, where she witnesses the apparent murder of two children and is moved to form 'MOO', cracking down on witches and slayers. Joyce's sole number one is “Listening to Fear”, where a significant percentage of her 776 words consists of rambling monologues caused by her brain tumour.

Joyce is the sixth highest-ranking character in season one, where she appears in seven of twelve episodes and says 1304 words. While she's dropped to eight place in season two, she says more than twice as many words: 2748 in 12 episodes. Season three sees her at ninth place, with 3297 words in an amazing fifteen episodes. Season four is set largely at the University of California Sunnydale, where Buffy is living in a dorm, so we see much less of Joyce: a mere 620 words across five episodes. Obviously she's not in the top ten for that season, but surprisingly nor is she in the top ten for season four, where she speaks 2731 words across 16 episodes.

As noted above, The First takes Joyce's form twice in Season Seven, once to Dawn and once to Buffy. Those are not included in Joyce's word-count, but there are three posthumous appearances which are: one, 52 words in “The Body”, the groundbreaking and brutal episode devoted to the aftermath of Joyce's death, in a Christmas flashback and in a fantasy in Buffy's mind (her lifeless body is also never far from the camera). Two, 48 words in Buffy's mindspace in “Weight of the World”. Three, 231 words in “Normal Again”, where an alternate reality in Buffy's addled mind has both of her parents visiting her in an asylum.

  • Overall ranking: #16
  • Ranking on Buffy: #11
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 10,931
    • Season 1: 1304
    • Season 2: 2748
    • Season 3: 3297
    • Season 4: 620
    • Season 5: 2731
    • Season 6: 231
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 56
    • Ranking #1: 1
    • Ranking #2: 2
    • Ranking #3: 2
    • Ranking #4: 2
    • Ranking #5: 3
    • Minor: 46
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