A warning before beginning this article: although all of these series are concluded, some for several years, I will provide a spoiler alert for Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, and 8 Simple Rules
for those who are that touchy about learning about major events in shows they haven't watched.
Death. Everyone does it. And television shows often use death for a season's climax, knowing that the loss of a loved character will anguish (but entertain) viewers. But there are few that actually cause audiences to cry. As a TV & movie viewer who tends to prefer suspense films to chick flicks, entertainment rarely moves me to tears. There have been a few times when I have actually wanted to cry in response to an onscreen death but was unable to push pass the lump in my throat to a more obvious display of emotions. But this article is dedication to the few (the very few) television episodes that pushed pass that emotional barrier, that are memorable for having done the impossible (in my mind). Not only have these episodes made me cry during their first viewing, they inspire repeat soggy-tissue performances with repeat viewings.
And so here is a tribute to those amazing TV episodes whose emotional impact leave a bruise on the heart.
Episode Name: "Boy Next Door" (Season 3, Ep 16)
Series: Ally McBeal
A brief overview
For those that never got around to watching the hit show, here is the setup. Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) and Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows) were childhood sweethearts up to law school, when their relationship ended. But Ally gets a job at a friend's law firm, where Billy and his new wife work. Unfortunately Ally still has feelings for him. Within season 3, Billy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which has changed his behavior into a minor male chauvinist. But currently Billy & Ally are working together on a case...
Aly & Billy, once in love
Watching it now
, it is nowhere as powerful as it was when I first saw it. The requirement of individual shots on each character as they react to the news of Billy's death annoys me. Same with the sad music as he collapses. But when I first saw it, I was bawling. Not crying. Not tearing up. Bawling. My mother walked in through the door and was instantly concerned:
My mother: "What's wrong? What happened"
A teenage me (gasping for air, turning red in the face): "Billy....died...."
Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode Name: "The Body" (Season 5, Ep 16)
Death rules BtVS. Slayer = killer, after all. Beloved characters, both good and bad, die every which way. Many are comedic deaths. Some are tragic but necessary deaths. All are the hands of someone else. But the episode "The Body" defies all of these trends.
A brief overview
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, in "The Body"
Joyce, Buffy's mother, was diagnosed with a brain tumor (those pesky things) at the beginning of season five. Please watch when Buffy discovers her mother at home
Joss, crew & cast discuss the making of "The Body"
far better than I could ever describe or analyze it. The one thing that is my FAVORITE about this episode though? That there is no music. Given how our lives are so wrapped around music nowadays, both in TV (think of Grey's Anatomy) and in real life (mp3 players, ipods), the absence of music is THAT much more powerful.
Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode Name: "The Gift" (Season 5, Ep 22)
It is disconcerting that this is Buffy's 2nd death; it lessens the novelty, as opposed to it being her 'first' or 'final' death. But do not mock the emotional impact of this television episode.
Buffy Anne Summers ~ Beloved Sister, Devoted Friend ~ She Saved the World A Lot
"The Gift" is particularly emotionally draining as I have a younger sister and the episode deals with sibling relationships and self-sacrifice -- what one will do for their sibling(s). I have a typical sibling relationship with my sister. We love each other but fight a LOT (a four/five year difference accentuates this). This is well captured by Buffy and Dawn's relationship; Dawn pokes her nose into Buffy's business, wanting to imitate her but mostly managing to irritate her. All of this is instantly forgotten, of course, at a pivotal moment.
(A brief overview
: Dawn, Buffy's sister, is actually a key to Hell but was transformed into Buffy's sis so the god Glory wouldn't find the Key. Dawn's blood, if split, will open a Hell porthole. Glory wants Dawn so Glory can get back home. Buffy and the gang want to stop her because that would destroy our world (as well as destroy Dawn). Unfortunately....Glory has captured Dawn.) The final scene from "The Gift".
That music that begins when Buffy sees the sunrise? Like Pavlov's dog responding to the bell, I cry WHENEVER I hear the music. But it is the notion that if I were put in that situation, I would do the exact same thing for my sister. My life for hers. God, I'm tearing up even as I write this.
Series: 8 Simple Rules (for Dating My Teenage Daughter)
Episode Names: "Goodbye" (Season 2, Ep 3-4)
Paul Hennessy (John Ritter) with his daughters Bridget (Kaley Cuoco) and Kerry (Amy Davidson)
A while ago I wrote an article on Paul Hennessy/John Ritter's death
for the 8 Simple Rules Spot, so for my sake I will simply rephrase it here.
8 Simple Rules was a great family show consisting most on Paul Hennessy's (John Ritter) reactions to two hormonal teenage daughters and a preteen son. Not too much different from a formulatic sitcom, but funny nonetheless.
Then came the death of John Ritter.
I don't believe I have ever cried as much as when I watched the episode "Goodbye", the tragic episode that incorporated Ritter's untimely death into the Hennessy family. It was so emotionally horrible. There were several times when I got so caught up in the show that I would forget about the real-life death and wonder why they weren't using new scenes as flashbacks. But then awareness came crashing back and I would realize that they couldn't, that Ritter himself had died, and a new wave of tears started to flow.
Looking at that time, I think that the show handled his death admirably, even amazingly. Never (that I can think of) has television handled this agonizing subject matter, the early death of a parent and a spouse, so well. While Buffy's "The Body" similarly reflects the rawness of a parent's death, 8 Simple Rules showed both that sorrow continues beyond just one day and
that laughter will return.
This is the conclusion of this round of TV Episodes That Make You Cry
. I'm sure I'll think of a few more examples in a few days time and shall write about them. And so in conclusion, I ask you the question: what shows/episodes have made you cry?