Each week, we’ll look at another example of what I call a “moment of transcendence” – a scene from a show, a passage from a book, or anything else, that I find soul-piercingly resonant: joyful, sad, awe-inspiring, terrifying, or whatever. These moments are highly subjective, so you may not feel the same way I do, but nevertheless I’ll try to convey why I find the fragment so powerful. I hope we can enjoy it together.
Warning: Major spoilers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
My favorite episode of Buffy is an odd one, an often-overlooked story without much action: “After Life,” season 6, episode 3.
Buffy died at the end of season 5, and Willow has just resurrected her, but not everything’s gone according to plan. Buffy is more hurt, more damaged, than anyone expected. But she’s alive. It’s really her.
My favorite scene in my favorite episode is when Spike sees her for the first time post-resurrection. Spike, you see, loves Buffy more than anything on earth, and he’s lost her, he’s resigned himself to having his heart ripped out. Same old story. But he walks into the house, unsuspecting, distracted, worried about something else entirely – and there, at the top of the stairs, there she is.
For the next ten seconds or so, he doesn’t say a word. He just – looks at her.
The why and the how and the what next all come later. In this moment, he’s just drinking in the miracle.
Anyone else read Roald Dahl’s Matilda as a kid? (Or as an adult, for that matter?) Reminds me of a scene, toward the end, when Matilda tells Miss Honey she has magic powers – telekinesis. Miss Honey doesn’t believe her, of course, but being a nice person, she humors Matilda, lets her demonstrate. And then Matilda actually does it. Dahl describes the woman’s reaction this way:
Miss Honey’s mouth dropped open and her eyes stretched so wide you could see the whites all round. She didn’t say a word. She couldn’t. . . . [She was] gazing at the child in absolute wonderment, as though she were The Creation, The Beginning Of The World, The First Morning.
It’s very common in books, in movies, on TV, to see someone’s heart ripped out. But every now and then – much more rarely – the heart comes back again.