As the episode opens, it's important to notice the subtleties that make this episode that much more powerful. The scene begins with Buffy entering the house and noting the flowers her mother received from Brian, the man she was seeing. This was a gentle prelude that diverted our attention from the gravity of what was about to occur. She refers to her mom playfully as "flower-getting-lady," talking up the staircase as though her mother were upstairs, but in the background lies the body, out of focus. The shot of her mother becomes clearer, mirroring Buffy's perception of the situation that also becomes clearer. This is perfectly portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting, as she changes the way and speed in which she calls her mom. Questioningly she says, "mom?," and then again "mom," and finally, endearingly she asks, "mommy?" And here the credits begin, leaving the audience with this cliff hanger.
The episode then goes to a flashback of a Christmas dinner with all the Scoobies present. Similarly to the speech that opened this episode, the conversation over dinner is lighthearted. Between Buffy and Joyce is a playful exchange, discussing the pie that suddenly drops to the ground with the two reacting in shock, until all sound is cut out and an image of Joyce's face is silently present on the screen. This was a sharp jerk back to reality.
These are only the opening five minutes of the episode, but the entirety is filled with other small, note-worthy details. It is important to note that throughout the whole episode, no background music is present, as exterior sounds are heightened, such as that of the sound of the cars outside as Buffy discusses the arrival of the paramedics with the lady, the loud ring of the phone as Buffy urgently calls Giles, the sound of the ambulance as the paramedics pull up, the emphasis on the wind chimes muffling the sound of Buffy throwing up, and even the innocent sound of the children playing outside.
As this semester draws to a close, this episode will definitely be one of the vivid memories that will stay with me. I was just so impressed by the entirety and how such an episode can evoke so much emotion from its audience. It was interesting to see that the episode that I deem most note-worthy was also the one where the cause of death was not super-natural, and yet it was the most powerful.