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The Most Brutal Deaths In Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Death is an integral part of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." After all, killing supernatural creatures is literally in the title of the series. So it's no surprise that death came up repeatedly throughout the show as Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) carried out her duties as the slayer. Buffy's calling may be considered noble, but ultimately, it made her an instrument of destruction. As the vampire Spike (James Marsters) told her, being that close to the end of life on a regular basis made death her art, something she created with her "hands every day."

There are countless examples of characters suffering horrific endings in "Buffy." However, the most memorable deaths were either physically brutal or emotionally brutal — and often both at the same time. We're covering each of those categories here. From astonishing bodily harm that seemed extreme even for a show where death was a regular occurrence to the loss of beloved characters that left us sobbing, these are the most brutal deaths in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Deputy Mayor Allan Finch in Season 3's Bad Girls

In the third season of "Buffy," Allan Finch (Jack Plotnick) is Sunnydale's second-in-command under quaint, congenial Mayor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener). But the city's government holds a dark secret: It's riddled with supernatural henchmen. That's because Wilkins is a little less than human himself and is planning to become a higher being on the day of Buffy's high school graduation, a transformation that requires him to consume most of the senior class.

A mere human, Finch is nervous by nature, and he's terrified by what the mayor has planned. So he decides to seek out Buffy for help — and gets a stake through his heart for his trouble. Buffy and fellow vampire slayer Faith are fighting vampires in the alleyway where Finch is looking for them, and in a frenzy from the action, Faith (Eliza Dushku) mistakes Finch for a vampire, fatally stabbing him even as Buffy shouts for her to stop. Finch's was a brutal death that threw the challenges of the Slayers' responsibilities into sharp relief. It was also the first step in Faith's turn to the dark side.

Caleb in Season 7's Chosen

Former preacher Caleb (Nathan Fillion) was one of the most hated bad guys in "Buffy" history. A misogynist who was imbued with power by the First Evil and happily did its bidding as it allowed him to hurt "dirty girls," Caleb was a formidable foe. So when his death finally came at Buffy's hands, fans were far from heartbroken. Nonetheless, the manner of his demise was spectacularly violent.

In the series finale, after losing multiple battles to Caleb, Buffy finally gets the upper hand when she acquires the scythe, an ancient weapon made just for the Slayer. And even though it takes more than one try, Buffy manages to use it to end Caleb's life — by literally splitting him in half. While Caleb thinks he's unstoppable due to his connection to the First Evil, Buffy finally jams the scythe into his lower body and drags it up vertically to his head. While the final results of Buffy's actions aren't shown, it's clear what happened when she later tells her friends she used the scythe to make "julienne preacher." It was an especially horrific end for an especially terrible man.

Jonathan Levinson in Season 7's Conversations With Dead People

In the earliest seasons of "Buffy," Jonathan (Danny Strong) was Sunnydale High's resident nerd, picked on to the point where he almost attempted to end his life. Unfortunately, while Jonathan's desire for acceptance was understandable, he didn't always go about it the right way. First, in the Season 4 episode "Superstar," he uses magic to make everyone believe he's a hero, and then in Season 6, he's a member of the Trio, along with Warren Mears (Adam Busch) and Andrew Wells (Tom Lenk), three outcasts from Buffy's former high school who team up in an attempt to amass power and influence through supernatural means.

After managing to survive the Trio's dissolution at the end of Season 6, Andrew and Jonathan flee to Mexico but are soon lured back to Sunnydale by the First Evil, who wants to use them to open a mystical seal in the basement of Sunnydale High. Jonathan sees their actions as a means to their redemption, and he expresses his hope that they can alert Buffy to the presence of the seal and maybe even join her team. Instead, Andrew stabs him in order to use his blood to open the seal. Poor Jonathan never sees it coming, especially since Andrew is perhaps the one person in the world he trusts at that point. Adding insult to injury, because Jonathan is both small in stature and anemic, he doesn't have enough blood in his body to fulfill the purpose Andrew kills him for.

Cassie Newton in Season 7's Help

Cassie Newton (Azura Skye) doesn't play a big part in "Buffy," but she makes an outsized impression in one Season 7 episode. Cassie is a student at Sunnydale High who Buffy tries to help after she becomes the school's counselor. Cassie tells Buffy she foresees her own death, and although she insists nothing can stop it, Buffy does everything in her power to ensure Cassie survives the day she claims her life will end.

Buffy makes the reasonable assumption that Cassie's death will be the result of something supernatural, and ultimately, she prevents the girl from being sacrificed by a group of fellow students who are performing a ritual to summon a demon. Buffy thinks she's successfully saved Cassie, until she collapses following the ritual. It turns out Cassie has an undetected heart condition, and she dies of natural causes. Cassie's death was a tragedy and also a heartbreakingly brutal reminder for Buffy that no matter how hard she tries, she can't help everyone.

The Gentlemen's First Victim in Season 4's Hush

The stand-out Season 4 episode "Hush" sees the town of Sunnydale hit with a mass case of laryngitis. Unfortunately, an inability to speak is the least of the residents' problems. That's because the beings responsible are the Gentleman, fairy-tale monsters who magically take away the voices of everyone in a town and then proceed to extract seven of the citizens' hearts. Before they arrive, Buffy has a premonition about the coming threat in which a young girl sings a nursery rhyme that warns, "You're gonna die screaming but you won't be heard," and that's just what happens to the Gentleman's first victim, a student at University of California, Sunnydale.

When the Gentleman initially go searching for hearts, they stop at the university dorms. They knock on the door to a room, waking up the sleeping student inside, who is shocked to find the nightmare figures at his door. Things only get worse from there. The student is held down as the Gentlemen pull out a scalpel from their bag. As he silently screams, the Gentlemen prepare to remove the student's heart. While we never learn the victim's name, it's a terrifying scene made all the more frightening by the victim's inability to call for help.

Warren Mears in Season 6's Villains

As the de facto leader of the Trio, Warren evolves the group from less than formidable wannabe villains to a more genuine threat. Warren's plans are often driven by a misogynistic desire to dominate women, including his ex-girlfriend Katrina, the first woman he murders. After Buffy thwarts his evil agenda time and time again, Warren finally acquires a gun and tries to kill her, in the process accidentally taking the life of Willow's (Alyson Hannigan) girlfriend Tara (Amber Benson).

In her grief, Willow, a powerful witch, goes dark, and becomes determined to get revenge on whoever is responsible for her girlfriend's demise. After learning it's Warren who pulled the trigger, Willow finds him in the woods, where she binds him, magically tortures him with a vision of Katrina and then a bullet, and finally flays him alive. For both Willow's friends and "Buffy" fans everywhere, it was a graphic, shocking demonstration of just how far over the edge Willow's grief had pushed her.

Kendra Young in Season 2's Becoming, Part 1

After Buffy dies in the first season of her eponymous series, Kendra (Bianca Lawson) is called to be the new Slayer in Season 2. Even though Buffy is dead for only a few moments, Kendra is nonetheless imbued with the same power she had, so when her Watcher learns a dark power is about to rise in Sunnydale, she travels there to save the day. After meeting Buffy and the Scooby Gang and helping them prevent a supernatural catastrophe, Kendra leaves the small town, but she soon returns when her Watcher once again picks up on signs that a dark power is rising there.

Unfortunately, this is the battle that would end her life. After only one year as a Slayer, Kendra dies when she and the Scooby Gang are ambushed by vampires in the Sunnydale High library. While Kendra initially holds her own against the bloodsuckers, when Drusilla (Juliet Landau) enters the fray, she quickly overwhelms and then hypnotizes Kendra. And after she is sure that Kendra is defenseless, Drusilla brutally slashes her throat. It was a sad end to a scrappy Slayer who had barely begun to fulfill her duties, let alone live her life.

Spike in Season 7's Chosen

Initially an adversary to Buffy, the vampire Spike is introduced in Season 2 as a ruthless killer who has taken the lives of two Slayers. Soon, though, Spike falls for Buffy, and by the show's seventh and final season, he wins back his soul and firmly allies with Buffy on the side of good. So when the final battle for Sunnydale happens at the end of Season 7, it's Spike who wields a supernatural amulet that is somehow supposed to help win the fight.

However, it isn't until the battle is winding down that the amulet's magic kicks in. Spike stands immobilized as the amulet sends out rays of sunlight through his body, turning the tide against the First Evil. As the rest of Buffy's allies flee, Spike serves as the vehicle for the amulet to clean up the remaining evil forces, a process that eventually burns him up from the outside in. Spike goes out laughing, but there is nothing laughable about the way he disintegrates. Nonetheless, his final act serves as a vivid illustration of just how much he's evolved. On the other hand, the emotional blow of Spike's demise is softened when he resurfaces fully intact on "Buffy" spinoff "Angel" the following season.

Anya Jenkins in Season 7's Chosen

Spike isn't the only longtime character to meet an end during the series finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Anya (Emma Caulfield) also dies during the final battle with the First Evil, although her death is far less ceremonious, and all the more heart-rending for it. A former vengeance demon, Anya usually left town when apocalyptic level events were on the horizon. This time, though, she's lived with humans long enough that she's been inspired by the way they always stand up to those who try to take them down, and she decides that she, too, will fight to prevent evil from taking over.

This decision proves to be the instrument of her demise, as she is diagonally slashed from the shoulder to the abdomen by one of the First's Bringers only a short while after the fight begins. It was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, which made it even sadder. In the end, Anya learned to embrace humanity, and her newfound commitment to people led to her gory, but mercifully quick, death.

Angel in Season 2's Becoming, Part 2

For shippers of Buffy and Angel (David Boreanaz), there is no more emotionally brutal season in the series than the second. After the star-crossed pair finally get together and confirm their love for one another, the Slayer and the vampire with a soul seem to be the perfect supernatural pair. That is, until they consummate their romance. One moment of true happiness broke the curse that gave Angel his soul, and he reverted to his evil Angelus alter-ego, one of the most sadistic vampires to ever exist.

Angelus makes plans to drag the world into a hell dimension by awakening the demon Acathla with his blood. However, just as the door to Acathla starts to open as Angelus battles Buffy, Willow uses magic to restore Angel's soul, leaving him confused and simply happy to see his girlfriend. Unfortunately, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Buffy has no choice but to use Angel to close Acathla's hell dimension. So, in one of the series' most devastating moments, she kisses him, tells him to close his eyes, and then stabs him in the abdomen, sending him to his doom.

Buffy Summers in Season 5's The Gift

During the series' seven seasons, the titular Buffy dies twice. While she is only briefly gone after drowning at the end of the first season, her death at the end of Season 5 is a lot more harrowing. After suddenly acquiring a teenage sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), at the beginning of the season, Buffy discovers that her annoying sibling is actually a mystical key, just the thing evil god Glory (Clare Kramer) needs to unlock the way back to her home dimension. When Buffy is too late to stop Glory and her henchmen from using Dawn's blood to open the portal, she realizes that in addition to the death she's brought down on countless demons and other supernatural beings, she can use death to save Dawn.

Earlier in the season during a vision quest in which the First Slayer informs Buffy that death is her "gift," Buffy rejects the idea out of hand. What she doesn't realize is the death the First Slayer speaks of is Buffy's own. Piecing together that because Dawn was created from her, she can serve as the key, too, Buffy chooses to sacrifice her life to save her sister and the world. Like the Slayer herself, Buffy's death is noble and heroic — and absolutely gut-wrenching to her friends and fans. Still, the impact of it was somewhat undercut when Buffy was resurrected by Willow at the beginning of the following season.

Jenny Calendar in Season 2's Passion

After Angel loses his soul in Season 2, he starts going after Buffy's friends as a way to torture her. Despite Jenny Calendar's (Robia LaMorte) association with Buffy and the Scooby Gang, though, Angel's reason for taking her out is more practical. Jenny is revealed to be a member of the clan that originally cursed Angel with a soul and therefore more aware of who and what Angel is than she initially lets on. Her secrecy about her true identity leads to the end of her burgeoning romance with Buffy's Watcher Giles (Anthony Head), but Jenny feels guilty for her role in Angelus' return, so she secretly reconstructs the spell that originally restored the vampire's soul.

When Angelus finds out what Jenny has planned, he confronts her in her empty high school classroom at night. He destroys her computer and a printout of the spell and then turns his attention to her. Jenny runs, but Angelus soon catches up, bringing her life to a premature end by snapping her neck. After Angelus kills Jenny, he places her body in Giles' bed and directs him to it with a series of romantic signs. Then Angelus watches with relish as Buffy learns about what happened. It is a sad loss, enhanced by the way Angelus uses it to psychologically toy with the Scoobies.

Tara Maclay in Season 6's Seeing Red

Tara is introduced in Season 4 as the only other witch in Willow's Wicca group who knows magic is actually real. Although Tara is shy and unsure of herself, she and Willow slowly begin to bond, and they eventually fall deeply in love. But after Willow becomes too dependent on magic, and even uses it to make Tara forget about a fight they are having, Tara leaves her.

Since Tara is a surrogate mother to Dawn and a friend to Buffy, she remains part of Willow's life, so, eventually, after Willow swears off magic, the two find their way back to one another. The morning after their reconciliation, however, Tara is shot by a stray bullet fired by Warren. Buffy was Warren's intended target, but he fires wildly, sending one bullet through the upper story window Tara is standing beside and hitting her in the heart. Tara is gone before she knows what's happening. It's a senseless tragedy, an unfortunate example of pop culture's "Bury Your Gays" trope, it still hit fans hard.

Joyce Summers in Season 5's I Was Made To Love You

Of all the deaths that took place during "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the show devoted an entire episode to only one: that of Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland). By Season 5, Joyce has become something of a mother figure to the entire Scooby Gang, so when they learn Joyce has a brain tumor, they rally around Buffy and her sister Dawn to help. Eventually, Joyce has successful surgery and appears to be on the mend. That is, until Buffy comes home one day to discover Joyce lifeless on the living room couch.

This leads into the episode "The Body," a meditation on grief that shows Buffy, Dawn, and the Scooby Gang each coping with the unexpected turn of fate, something none of them are prepared for despite dealing with the death and destruction perpetrated by evil beings on a daily basis. Joyce may be the mother of the Slayer, but the Slayer isn't equipped to prevent the aneurysm that causes her passing. "The Body" is one of the most moving — and emotionally brutal — episodes of "Buffy" ever made.