I am of the opinion that more shows would benefit from including singing and/or dancing in the occasional episode. It’s just something I love to see because it always makes me happy. The “Time After Time” sing-a-long on Parks and Rec was a beautiful moment, the adult cast dancing to “The Sign” was the best moment in Trophy Wife, the random songs on Bob’s Burgers make it approximately 50% more charming to me than it would otherwise be, and I honestly like some of the performances on Glee. So, naturally, I’m a big fan of musical episodes. The Scrubs musical has some classic songs but in my mind, it doesn’t come close to my favorite musical episode (which is probably one of my top 10 favorite episodes ever) – “Once More With Feeling” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
This is one of those episodes of TV I think everyone should see sometime in their life. Ideally after watching all the Buffy episodes that came before it, but that’s the Buffy fan in me speaking. In all seriousness, you will get the most out of the episode if you are familiar with the characters and plot. This isn’t an isolated episode that ignores the plot and just opts to have fun. The events that happen in this episode are heavily influenced by the episodes preceding it and have serious effects on future events.
For all of its musical trappings, this is a sad episode of television. As far as the plot is concerned, Tara and Willow continue to fight over Willow’s magic abuse, Giles decides to leave, and Buffy reveals to everyone that they didn’t save her from hell but rather ripped her out of heaven and away from the peace she had found. Then there’s the fact that the musical demon causing all the singing also makes people dance until they catch on fire and die and wanting to take Dawn back to his world to be his bride.
As a plot device, I love the idea of making people sing their feelings and expressing the things they couldn’t say on their own. Music gives us a way to give voice or feeling for the things we can’t find the words to say on our own and that’s what makes it so powerful. So to make it physically powerful in way that could be cathartic but also dangerous is really intriguing to me.
I love the plot movement in the episode but it’s all about the music for me. I love how well the songs work in the episode and the wide variety of musical styles featured. It’s a soundtrack that I can listen to again and again and never tire of it. I really love Anthony Stewart Head’s voice, so I love that he had a song all to himself in addition to the group songs. “Standing” and the gorgeous reprise with “Under Your Spell” will make me cry everytime I hear them. The songs make me feel things, just like they should. I can get into the minds of the characters in a way that dialogue wouldn’t allow for. The image of Willow’s horrified face as Buffy sings “Something to Sing About” made that reveal more powerful than it would have been without the juxtaposition of the happy music with the heartbreaking lyrics.
Just like Sweets gave the citizens of Sunnydale a way to get out what they couldn’t say, one of the songs in this episode gave me a way to express my feelings when it was too hard to admit otherwise. The song “Going Through the Motions” perfectly describes how I felt the last semester or two of grad school. I was doing the bare minimum to finish school and frankly, that just isn’t me. I loved my thesis topic and I really do love psychology but I struggled to motivate myself to get what I needed to done, let alone anything more. To put it as the song did, I just wanted to feel alive. While I never managed to thrive in grad school the way I might have liked, this song helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. The rest of Buffy’s arc made me have hope that the feelings would pass and I would find myself again. That’s what good TV does for me and I am happy to have had this episode and the music from it.
What is your favorite moment on a TV show featuring either singing or dancing?