I apologize in advance for not making any coherent sense. My bad.
JOYCE: It's hard. New town and everything...It is for me, too. I'm trying to make it work. I'm *going* to make it work.
-Welcome to the Hellmouth
And thus is all begins. We met Joyce earlier in the ep but she was basically the token mother telling her little girl to have a great day and not get into trouble. I'm sure not one of us here hasn't heard those words from our own parents. But it is with this scene that Joyce Summers begins to expand and we start to get to know this woman who is an integral, in fact probably the most important, part of Buffy.
Let's start with the briefest of actual history. By the linescore.
We don't know when exactly Joyce was born but it's reasonable to speculate that she was between 45-50 when she passed on. We know only of one husband, Hank. She divorced him. She initially had only one child, a little girl named Buffy but later was given a second named Dawn. She died of complications from cancer.
Amazing how that barely scratches the surface, neh?
Joyce: Honey, a-are you worried your father isn't gonna show?
Buffy: No! N-not really. Should I be?
Joyce: Well, of course, not! I-I-I just, I-I know it's a hard situation. You just have to remember that your father adores you. No more than I do, by the way.
When we first meet Joyce, she is a recently divorced single mother of a teenage trouble-making daughter who has just been expelled from her ultra-ritzy high school in Los Angeles. Joyce is looking for a new start. She has moved her little girl to a small Southern California town where it's likely that no one will be able to draw immediate conclusions. Also, it seems like this is the only school that would take Buffy after she burned down her gym.
In the first episode, she moves swiftly between concerned but wary parent to supportive optimistic cheerleader to reluctant disciplinarian. You can tell that she is trying to find the balance between all three but stumbling badly with a child who is far too independent. She seems to be wondering what happened to her baby girl. Buffy seems to be wondering that too. Buffy tries to reassure her mother that she won't disappoint her again but ultimately she is never given a choice in the matter. Due to this, Joyce will spend much of her raising years moving between these three parenting traits.
Ultimately Joyce is at a loss. She is trying to restart her own life after her marriage ended and yet guide he troubled daughter. She is undertaking a new business and a new adventure. She is worried and wary but optimistic and hopeful. These four words will personify Joyce for the majority of her run on this show.
It is shown early on that the Joyce/Buffy dynamic is one of the most essential ones. Joyce acts as the ground for Buffy while the Scoobs are the sky. Buffy is obviously in-between, always striving for a balance that she never quite achieves.
In THE WITCH, Joyce urges Buffy to get back on the horse and back to what she used to do. She tries to press Buffy towards calmer, more solid adventures. Buffy is of course reluctant, reminding her mother that it is HER life. Joyce seems taken aback and it is through this that we understand just how much Joyce lives through Buffy. And how new she really is at this.
Joyce: Honey. Uhhh! Great parenting form! Little shaky on the dismount.
It is also in this ep that another constant theme that is Joyce comes to light; she is a very hard- worker. In this one, Buffy seems to be asking her mom to spend more time with her, showing signs of missing the old school family ties. Joyce doesn't blow her off exactly but rather is very invested in the opening of her gallery. Her reasons? To give her and her little girl a good life.
And ultimately she's doing pretty good. She's running a successful gallery and thus far has managed to keep Buffy from extreme trouble. Problem is, she just doesn't know what is going on.
Two of the best examples of this are the episodes ANGEL and PROPHECY GIRL.
In ANGEL, Buffy brings home a mysterious and charismatic man that is injured. She chats briefly with Angel but you can tell that she is immediately on edge about this older man. We can speculate that this is either because of his age, worries for her daughter or that something fairly personal and involving Hank has entered the equation. It's quite hard to tell but it could reasonably be a combination of all three.
When she tells him it was nice to meet him, there's a warning in her tone. It's quick clear that she doesn't buy for a minute that he is her tutor. Angel is respectful to her but that doesn't seem to lift her concerns. If only she knew the truth, then she probably would have understood her fears about him. But simply, it's much to early for that and one wonders if she could have handled it that soon.
PROPHECY GIRL shows a tenderness to the Buffy/Joyce relationship that is so familiar and warming that I recall being troubled by anyone who criticized this woman. She and Buffy are obviously not extremely well off; they're struggling financially. The house they live in is quite large and Buffy is a growing girl with no job meaning that the majority of her spending money comes from the Bank of Mama.
Just the same, Joyce knows what prom means to her daughter. Normalcy. She knows what looking good means to her. She just doesn't quite understand that Buffy is staring down the barrel of a loaded pistol. Just the same, Buffy is touched.
People always talk of the deep symbolism of Buffy's dress being white as she walked willingly towards her death. I think another type of symbolism is at work here. Early in the ep, Buffy is looking through her scrapbook, remembering when things were simple and easy. Remembering the good ol' days of being a child. The pictures move her nearly to tears and she wants so badly to touch that place inside of her. When Joyce gives her the dress, it's like the last piece of the puzzle has been locked into place. Buffy was reluctant to go to her death but her mother, so trustingly good, so painfully loving tells her why she must. Joyce embodies every reason why Buffy must fight.
And so Buffy takes the dress, puts it on and goes to say her goodbyes to her friends. She's accepted her fate and is now wearing that dress, a symbol of her family and all that is good as her armor.
Buffy: And you had your whole life ahead of you.
Buffy: Must be nice.
Clearly she doesn't believe this but at this point, it simply doesn't matter. She knows her fate. And curiously, in Joyce's eyes, you get the sense that she too knows that something is amiss. Sadly, due to the break in seasons, we never get to see Buffy's initial post-traumatic reactions. It would have been fascinating to see how Joyce tried to get her child through this mess.
This season spotlights the best and worst of Joyce. She runs through all the emotions and still manages to come out kicking. She makes mistakes but they are understandable even if they are not commendable. She tries, sometimes too hard, to understand her child who seems to be trying to pull away more and more. She fails to grasp the horror of her daughters' destiny, insisting on innocence and then finally accepting it with a bleeding heart.
The season opens with Buffy coming home from a summer in Los Angeles. Joyce is quickly brought up to speed. She asks if Buffy stayed out of trouble and her ex husband confirms that she did. He says however that Buffy was distant, elsewhere. This is something that Joyce sees for herself later in the episode. Her facial expressions are key here where the dialogue fails. You can see the concern but the strange feeling that there is a wall between them, something Joyce feels she can't climb over. So simply, she hopes for the best.
Joyce: Well, welcome to my world. I haven't been able to get through to her for so long. I'll just be happy if she makes it through the school year.
When She Was Bad
This wall is Buffy's slaying. At this time Joyce doesn't have the words or knowledge to identify it as such but as Buffy becomes the Slayer more, her relationship with her mom who cannot share in her world with her fails a bit. This is never more apparent than in SCHOOL HARD.
Buffy's responsibilities as a Slayer are overtaking her life more and more, she barely seems able to breathe. Joyce simply wants her little girl to survive in school and wonders why she can't. And because she doesn't know the ins and outs of her daughters' life, she has no choice but to chalk it up to Buffy getting herself into trouble.
She so desperately wants into Buffy's life but the Slayer holds her at arms length over just about everything. All the way up to and including school. Easily, the school relationship is the more natural mother/daughter moments of their relationship. Joyce believes Buffy can do better than she is, she knows Buffy is smart and creative but simply cannot understand why. This is a metaphor for the concept that as adults and parents grow older, they lose focus on why things don't work so easily. There's always something screwing up the whole mess.
This is really the first ep in which Joyce is actively involved in Buff's everyday nightmare. Spike and his crew overtake Sunnydale High during Parent/Teacher night. This is one of the major eps about Buffy trying to balance her real world life with her nightmare job. It's not going so well. It is during this time where it is safe to believe that Joyce starts realizing that there is something different about Buffy. She is shocked by her childs' cool under pressure way. And then, in a tribute to the Summers women, Joyce shows the same strength when she goes after Spike to protect Buffy. Oddly though, she then files it away. She compliments her daughter and their level of understanding grow but in a way, so does that wall separating them. Joyce simply does not seem willing to open herself up to the concept of something greater despite the fact that she has now seen it with her own eyes.
But something is growing here, some kind of respect for something she doesn't understand.
Joyce: Ampata, don't you look wonderful! Oh, I wish you could talk my daughter into going with you.
Ampata: I tried, but she is very stubborn.
Joyce: Well, I'm glad someone else sees that.
Buffy gives her mother a look and gets it right back. She turns back to Xander and Ampata, smiling.
INCA MUMMY GIRL
Joyce wants Buffy to be normal even though she can sense that she's not. Whether or not she thinks like Cord did in season 1 that Buffy is in a gang, we don't know. Just the same, she wants her daughter to have fun and be young. Buffy is resistant because of duty. What we see here however is that the truce between mother and daughter has deepened.
It takes a major beating in TED though.
It's reasonable to assume that Ted is the first man that Joyce has been interested in since her divorce. He is charming and charismatic and he seems willing to take the reigns of control which Joyce appreciates for a few minutes. She seems worn down by having to decide so much and we can guess that much of her previous choices were dictated by Hank. It is in this struggle that we see her becoming a stronger more independent woman but at this time, she's still looking for the ground.
Buffy doesn't like Ted. Not unexpected when you do consider that this is the first since Hank. Joyce takes this but seems to be certain that Buffy will adapt. We understand later that she is drugged up and in such a euphoric state but just the same, I'd like to focus on this. Joyce has seemed to go from seeing Buffy as a child needing a guiding hand to an adult who should respond in such a manner. However, I don't believe that in a sound mind, Joyce would ever discount Buffy telling her that anyone had threatened her. She seems to be coming to trust Buffy's instincts more and such a discount can only be seen as off-kilter.
The mother/daughter team goes through one of the hardest trials of the their relationship after Buffy kills Ted. Obviously Joyce is inclined to believe the best in her daughter but this all points back to a time not along ago, a time that is very painful because everything around her was breaking down. She believes her baby is a good person but this act terrifies her. She finds that she can't even look at Buffy which traumatizes her little girl to no end. Joyce's act of putting things away is symbolic of again packing away innocence and expectations. She seems to have taken on a doomsday stance here.
Luckily, this doesn't last long before Joyce realizes the golden rule of love in the BuffyVerse: It's BAD. A completely demented Ted finds Joyce and demands that she leaves with him immediately. Joyce tries to reason with him as she moves through her emotions of shock and joy. She doesn't hit terror until Buffy is brought into the equation. Quickly, Joyce realizes that the situation is very wrong and attempts to get away. She struggles, unwilling to give in until she is finally knocked out.
And then again, she represses.
Buffy: I wouldn't worry. He's not coming back.
Joyce: I wish I could be so sure.
Buffy: Trust me. He's on the scrap heap. Of life.
And Buffy again, allows it. She has almost become the protector here, ensuring that her mom's world stays together, understanding how fragile everything is. It's a strange twist in their dynamic but one that Joss doesn't allow to settle before he swaps them back around in BAD EGGS.
In this one, Buffy finally gets to understand what her mom goes through day in and day out when she is assigned an egg baby. Joyce derives great pleasure from harassing the hell out of Buffy, enjoying the payback. Just the same, she is keenly aware of her daughters exhaustion and thus worried. Buffy tells her it's fine and indeed it is; she's just worn down from the slaying and the Angel loving.
Later that night Joyce walks into Buffy's room to find her daughter awake and looking like she is about to go out. Not able to tell the truth, Buffy is frustrated into the position of again appearing to be the delinquent teenager. Joyce seems annoyed and yet more comfortable with this role. At least she can understand it. At least she can do something about it. The disciplinarian part of Joyce has always seemed the most confident. At least early on. This is probably why when after another eagle- eye look at her daughters' world, she stays in step with her need to deny what is unfolding before her eyes.
Joyce Summers is a by the book kind of woman. If logic can't define it, it shouldn't exist. All that she is seeing goes against this and thus she rails, convincing herself that it is not true and instead compensating in the parenting department. Buffy, still desperate to keep her mom in the dark, still needing to have that un-connected innocence in place, accepts this reluctantly.
Joss seems to like to continuously toss this relationship up in the air and redefine it. He starts one of the most important legs of this journey on Buffy's birthday. She is turning 17 and this weary warrior needs to let some steam off. Joyce promises a shopping trip. Buffy promises she'll be there. Things are light and easy between mother and daughter only hitting a snag when Buffy reiterates her desire to drive and Joyce denies it. I'm uncertain as to whether this is a trust issue or merely being overprotective but Buffy hardly mounts a large protest, deferring to her mom's judgment on the matter. It's a non Slayer disagreement and maybe for her there is relief there.
After Buffy spends the night with Angel and then wakes up alone, she returns home, unsettled and emotionally wrecked. Joyce recognizes this and asks if she is alright. Curiously, Buffy retreats from her mother. It's like she's holding a dam back and knowing that if she lets go, Joyce will know everything. She gets the hell away from her mom as quick as she can. Later on however, it only her mother who can comfort her.
In one of the finest scenes Joss has ever filmed, Joyce lights a candle to celebrate Buffy's birthday and her daughter tells her to let it burn. Joyce looks at Buffy and then just knows. She knows. Kristine Sutherland who portrayed Joyce has said that that was her favorite scene because in that one there were no words, no need for anything. She just knew that Buffy needed her, knew something was wrong and knew that her place was taking care of her daughter. It was one of the most poignant and effecting moments of all.
As for the wonderful world of Slayage that Joyce can't seem to accept, the evidence is mounting. In BBB, she is once again mind controlled as well as all the women in Sunnydale into being obsessed with Xander. She again, represses.
And then the boy she was wary of comes back into the picture.
Angel- now Angelus seems to understand how important Joyce is to his beloved. So he leaves a picture of her for Buffy to find, a clear warning of who his target is. And then he watches Buffy panic. She starts putting guards on her house but is to late to stop Angel from revealing to Joyce that he made love to her daughter. Joyce is floored, caught clearly off guard by information she honestly believed her daughter would share with her.
Joyce: Was he the first? No, wait. I don't wanna know. I don't think I want to.
Buffy: Yeah. He was the first. I mean, the only.
Joyce: He's older than you.
Buffy: I know.
Joyce: Too old, Buffy. And he's obviously not very stable. I really wish... I just thought you would show more judgment.
Buffy: He wasn't like this before.
Joyce: Are you in love with him?
Buffy: I was.
Joyce: Were you careful?
Buffy: Mom, this is no time...
Joyce: Don't 'Mom' me, Buffy. You don't get to get out of this. You had sex with a boy you *didn't* even see fit to tell me you were dating.
Buffy: I made a mistake.
Joyce: Yeah, well, don't just say that to shut me up, because I think you really did.
Buffy: I know that! I-I can't tell you everything.
Joyce: How about anything? Buffy, you can shut me out of your life, I am pretty much used to that. But don't expect me to ever stop caring about you, because it's never gonna happen. I love you more than anything in the world.
Joyce seems to struggle between anger, frustration and fear for her daughter. Clearly she is dismayed by Buff's choice but I think it's curious that again she notes the age difference. My mind whirls here back to Hank but I'll try to stay true to the text. She yo-yos between telling Buffy how disappointed she in her choices, to her anger at not even knowing Buffy was dating to her desperate need to tell Buffy how much she loves her. That she's the most important thing in her world. These comments almost immediately diffuse the situation. And mother and daughter again sit in calm but once again, their relationship has shifted. Joyce is realizing now that her little girl isn't so little anymore. She's just not quite ready to accept it.
I wonder then what she attributes Buff's collapse in KILLED BY DEATH to. Joyce is a smart woman and she has to know something is afoot. She seems to think that Buffy is just emotionally wrecked over Jenny's death but she doesn't seem to grasp the full nature of what exactly is happening. Just the same, by trying to know who Giles is and what he is about, she shows a willingness perhaps to start knowing even if she can't yet accept it.
But accept it she must in BECOMING 2.
Acceptance seems to be the key phrase for the last several eps. In fact all of this season. Joyce must come to accept that Buffy is not just a little girl and the world isn't such a simple place. Joss has always said that the scene in B2 where everything comes out is something of a metaphor for when a gay individual comes out to their family.
Joyce: Do what? Buffy, what is happening?
Buffy: Just have another drink.
Joyce: Don't you talk to me that way! You don't get to just dump something like this on me and pretend it's nothing!
Buffy: I'm sorry, Mom, but I don't have time for this.
Joyce: No! I am tired of 'I don't have time' or-or 'you wouldn't understand.' I am your mother, and you will *make* time to explain yourself.
Buffy: I told you. I'm a Vampire Slayer.
Joyce: Well, I just don't accept that!
And what rational person could. Really all of this is too much. Joyce is struggling to understand but failing miserably. Buffy is the adult here and Joyce the child and it's unsettling.
Buffy: Open your eyes, Mom. What do you think has been going on for the past two years? The fights, the weird occurrences. How many times have you washed blood out of my clothing, and you still haven't figured it out?
Joyce: Well, it stops now!
Buffy: No, it doesn't stop! It *never* stops! Do-do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world... again.
Joyce: No. This is insane. Buffy, you need help.
Buffy: I'm *not* crazy! What I need is for you to chill. I *have* to go!
Joyce: No. I am not letting you out of this house.
Buffy: You can't stop me.
Joyce: Oh yes I...You walk out of this house, don't even *think* about coming back!
Probably the most horrible words she has ever said. And by the end of the episode, ones Joyce regrets with every part of her heart and soul. In anger and frustration, fear and confusion, she tried desperately to turn back the clock, to make it not real. But she couldn't. This was a part of her daughters' life she couldn't possibly understand. On the show, she immediately folds, broken.
It is later in that ep however, when she finds the letter left By Buffy that we see the true pain and failure cross her face. She loves her daughter and has always lived for her. What more can there be? And yet, she has still failed. The devastation is deep and thus she breaks down in tears.
It's been a long summer for Joyce Summers and it shows quickly in both body language and appearance. Everything about her is crisp and controlled. Even her emotions. When she berates Giles in ANNE, her emotion are kept carefully in check otherwise you suspect she might start sobbing at any moment. We can tell from the dialogue that this woman has literally put her life on hold, barely leaving the house because she thinks Buffy might call and mentally going over her final conversation with her daughter over and over. She is stuck in a holding pattern of her own creation and with each day that passes and with each time a lead doesn't pan out, she deflates a bit more.
And yet when she sees her daughter, none of this matters. All that exists, all that is real is holding her. She crushes Buffy to her. Buffy closes her eyes and inhales her mother, finally home. Finally safe.
It's in DEAD MAN'S PARTY that we see the bits and pieces of what Joyce has been up to. he has been struggling to survive in Buffy's absence and in that, finding that first supportive person she can in the individual of Pat who is from the get-go, a Pink Lady gone bad. She's also brought into evidence a strange thing that never really develops but has always lurked beneath the surface of Joyce; alcoholism. Buffy made a comment to her mother in BECOMING 2 about having another drink and in this one, she is again seen nursing the bottle. It's not a great shock that Joyce needs something to distance her from all the pain, it's only too bad none of this ever got brought into the light. It would have been interesting to see.
In this ep, Joyce is also striving desperately to make things right between she and Buff. It's obvious that during the summer Joyce tried to understand her daughters' world. In the early parts of this ep, she allows for Buff to go out slaying even though her tone indicates she wishes she would not. She is over compensating, her tremendous guilt on apparent display.
It's not long before some of the anger and confusion comes back into play.
Joyce: Buffy, you made some bad choices. You just might have to live with some consequences.
And this is true. Buffy acknowledges this and for a moment, the wall grows again. Joyce seems to want to resurrect it by again refusing to completely understand Buffy's place in the world.
Joyce: Nothing's settled yet. I just wish you didn't have to be so secretive about things. I mean, it's not your fault you have a special circumstance. They should make allowances for you.
Buffy: Mom, I'm a Slayer. It's not like I need to ride a little bus to school.
Joyce: Couldn't you just tell a few people, like Principal Snyder and maybe the police?
Joyce: I mean, I would think they would be happy to have a... a superhero. Is that the right term? I mean, it's not offensive, is it?
DEAD MAN'S PARTY
But the facts are staring her right in the face and later that night, even Joyce has to come to terms with this as she watched Buffy and her team in action to defeat what Pat becomes when she places a strange mask on her face.
Still, everything is not quite calm between the two of them just yet. Buffy panics after a fight and gets ready to bolt again and Joyce comes unglued, allowing her emotions to spill out. How could she not? All of this has simply been too much. This is a child that she loves more than herself and she simply is at a loss of how to parent. The fact that Buff has lived by herself and seems willing to do it again only makes things that much worse. Joyce seems to truly see Buffy running away as Buffy punishing her for not understanding. Buff tries desperately to dispute this but Joyce is raw here, so hurt and scared and angry. She reveals that she has spent every moment wondering and her expressions brings this point home in living colour.
And yet, when it is all said and done, when the battle has caused the anger to slip away, again, their embrace is the only thing that comforts either of them. They go quickly to each other, only concerned for each others' safety.
When Faith comes into the picture, Joyce is quick to welcome her in, seeming to see a way out for her daughter. What she doesn't understand is that Slaying is a tremendous part of who Buffy is and she can't simply walk away. Joyce increases her need to have Buffy out when she discovers that her daughter has died once. It's a sobering reality check that leaves the older Summers' woman emotionally drained but finally understanding what all of this means.
Again we mostly see Joyce in the context of protecting her daughters' bets interests when she strong- arms Snyder into accepting Buffy back into the school and then shows a unity with her daughter, a common respect.
Unfortunately Buff is still keeping secrets. Angel is back and Buff can't stay away from her beloved. Joyce and Giles catch Buffy in a lie and team-parent her. It's jarring to Buffy because she can't seem to get her feet on the ground to what her relationship is going to be with her mom. Joyce seems equally confused noting only that she is still scared Buffy will vanish. One can certainly understand her fear.
It is in BAND CANDY that we start to understand maybe who Joyce was before she was Mrs. Summers. When she and Giles are kicked back to their youth, she reveals a devil may care attitude and a zest that is unlike Joyce. We can only guess that time, marriage and pain have aged her so much that that inner child is almost completely lost. She throws caution to the wind, finally take a leap at the Big G. It's truly fascinating to see this Joyce in action. Shades of her daughter? What stopped this activity? Is it part of why she is so hardcore on keeping Buff in line? She seems to delight in rebelling in a way that even Buff never has. And since this image of Giles is consistent with expectations of his youth, it makes sense that Joyce is also. Of course when the magicks wear off, Joyce's sensibilities return and she is suitably embarrassed.
Things are going pretty well for Buffy and Joyce but mom still hasn't dropped her hope that Buffy will find a way out of this hell. With Faith in the picture, things look promising. Especially considering how high Buff scored in her SATS. But it's the same drill as always; Buffy is reluctant. Still Joyce pushes, even scheduling college talks.
It's funny how some knowledge will get you in the drivers' seat. We see how calm she has become, how confident. She only wants the best for Buffy and this all looks right. When Spike comes by the house, she even has an amusing moment with him where she draws from her experiences with Hank to give him advice. And since we know from the flashbacks in BECOMING 2 that their relationship was quite troubled, it's all very interesting.
It is in LOVERS WALK where we finally see Angel and Joyce finally appear in a scene together again. She warns him away, not understanding that the true threat is the blonde vamp behind her. Buffy quickly diffuses the situation but suddenly Joyce is confused over who is good and who is evil. Troubling concepts for someone trying to understand that dead doesn't always mean dead.
Sadly though, the time for Joyce not to understand is coming to a close. In GINGERBREAD, she is forced to finally understand that what meets the eye is often just an illusion. Thrown into hysteria by a demon due to her compassion for the deaths of children, she almost does the unthinkable by killing her own child. At Buffy's witch-trial, she finally vents a bit.
Joyce: Since when does it matter what I want? I wanted a normal, happy daughter. Instead I got a Slayer.
The only disappointing thing here is that we don't get to see how Joyce reacts to what she almost does to her daughter but it's clear that she finally understands the nature of the world she lives in. And that even those claiming the righteous ground can be consumed by it.
Of course Joyce doesn't have much time to consider the moral lesson she has just learned before she is placed in mortal jeopardy by Buffy's world. When the very people who are supposed to protect Buffy insist on putting her through a trial, the demon Buffy is supposed to fight without her powers takes Joyce hostage. And while afraid, Joyce remains confident, assured of her daughters' strength and courage. It is this ep that we truly see the strength of Buffy's devotion for her mother. Even powerless and assured of death, Buffy goes to save her mom.
The last major thing that happens in relation to Joyce during third season aside from Buffy insisting her mom leave Sunnydale before Graduation in order to keep her safe is the conversation she has with Angel.
Joyce: Oh. I understand Buffy spent the night.
Angel: I'm sorry about that. We came back after patrol.
Joyce: I, I'm not interested in the details. That's not why I'm here.
Joyce: I'm here because I'm worried about you two. In general.
Angel: What happened before, when I changed, it won't happen again.
Joyce: That's not all I'm concerned about. I don't have to tell you that you and Buffy are from different worlds.
Angel: No, you don't.
Joyce: She's had to deal with a lot. Grew up fast. Sometimes even I forget that she's still just a girl.
Angel: I'm old enough to be her ancestor.
Joyce: She's just starting out in life.
Angel: I know. I think about it more now that she's staying in Sunnydale.
Joyce: Good. Because when it comes to you, Angel, she's just like any other young woman in love. You're all she can see of tomorrow. But I think we both know that there are some hard choices ahead. If she can't make them, you're gonna have to. I know you care about her. I just hope you care enough.
It's all really a bit of emotional blackmail but her intentions are sound. She is worried about her daughter and rightfully so. Angel is a vamp and he has already caused Buffy so much pain. Joyce is simply trying to take care of her little girl. This is paralleled when in GRADUATION Buff orders her mom out of town. She never really gives her a choice in the matter.
We don't know if Joyce ever liked Angel but we do know she certainly respected him and her objections to him were based on the age old concept of him not being good enough for her baby girl. Angel, sadly, agreed. Interestingly, Buffy never found out about Joyce's roll in her beloveds' departure.
Season 4 starts with Buffy moving into the new dorms and Joyce moving quickly to deal with her empty nest syndrome. She has moved boxes from the gallery into her daughters' room in order to achieve the effect of a filled house. It's disillusioning for Buffy but revealing for Joyce. She has lived her whole life for Buffy and now Buff no longer needs her. She needs to fill that void quickly.
The next time we see her is in full mothering mode when she is trying to comfort Buffy about what Parker did to her.
Joyce: "Oh, that's not true actually. The candy was for me. - Your father loved spending time with you."
Buffy looks down: "Not enough, I guess."
Buffy: "Oh, that just paved right over memory lane, huh?"
Joyce: "Our divorce had nothing to do with you."
Buffy swallows: "I don't know. - I'm starting to feel like there is a pattern here. - Open your heart to someone, and he bails on you. Maybe it's easier to just not let anyone in."
Joyce gets up: "I thought it might be easier. You must have noticed that I am not exactly the social butterfly I was when I was with your dad. I don't think I made a single new friend the year we moved to Sunnydale."
Buffy: "Why not?"
Joyce: "Fear. I didn't believe I could trust anyone again. It's taken time and a lot of effort, but I've got a nice circle of friends now. - I mean, don't get me wrong. I - I'm still a little gun shy. It certainly didn't help that my last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal robot. I will *always* be here for you. And you got Mr. Giles and your friends. Believe me, there is nothing to be afraid of."
This dialogue is nice because it brings back moments from the past(even if it doesn't admit to the confirmed loving she received from Giles) in regards to Ted and Hank. She speaks without pain about her ex-husband and she assures Buffy that no matter what, she's there. She tells Buff to open her heart up and trust again. It makes you think that Joyce has a fella on the side.
Unfortunately Joyce goes into MIA territory after this. It appears that Buff becomes so involved in her new life with the Initiative and Riley that she forgets her mother. No one cracks the point home harder than Faith who resents all that Buffy has but fails to appreciate.
Joyce: Actually, I was thinking my daughter is going to kill you soon.
Faith: Is that a fact?
Joyce: More like a bet.
Faith: (smiling) Whoa. You got a pair on you, Joyce. I like seeing that in a woman your age. (steps closer to the bed) Guess you can afford to talk that way. I mean, in the world according to Joyce, Buffy is gonna come crashing through that door any minute.
(Joyce doesn't say anything but is trying to remain calm.)
Faith: But . . . look what I found.
(Faith grabs a bundle of envelopes from the table and hops onto the bed beside her. She starts flipping through the pieces of mail.)
Faith: 'Buffy Summers. Buffy Summers. Buffy Summers. Buffy. Buffy.' A lot of letters. She, uh, hasn't been by in a while, huh? And you'd think with a crazy chick like me on the loose --crazy chick with a wicked grudge against her, no less-- she'd call and give you a heads-up. But Buffy's too into her own deal to remember dear old mom.
(Faith gets up and stands in front of the bed again.)
Joyce: You don't know the first thing about Buffy. Or me.
Faith: Don't I? I know what it's like. You think you matter. You think you're a part of something and you get dumped. It's like the whole world is moving but you're stuck. Like those animals in the tar pits. It's like you just keep sinking a little deeper everyday and nobody even sees.
Joyce: (sounding bored) Were you planning to slit my throat anytime soon?
Faith: Don't tell me you don't see it, Joyce. You served your purpose. You squirted out the kid, raised her up, and now you might as well be dead! I mean, nobody cares! Nobody remembers! Especially not Buffy-fabulous-super-hero! Sooner or later you're gonna have to face it. She was over us a long time ago, Joyce. (voice rising to a shout) Too busy climbing onto her new boytoy to give a single thought to the people that matter! I mean, you're her mother and she just leaves you here to die!
THIS YEARS' GIRL
And sadly, this is all true. The bonds have broken down between mother and daughter and Joyce feels un-needed. Buffy never comes by and Joyce is alone. She's lived her whole life for Buffy. It's heartbreaking but just the same, showing that Summers spirit, Joyce believes that Buffy will come and is rewarded by her daughters' arrival.
However the concept that she has been put away and out of Buff's life comes into play again in RESTLESS.
JOYCE: Oh, hi, honey.
BUFFY: Why are you living in the walls?
JOYCE: Oh, sweetie, no, I'm fine here. Don't worry about me.
BUFFY: It looks dirty.
JOYCE: Well, it seems that way to you. I made some lemonade, and I'm learning how to play mah-jongg. You go find your friends.
BUFFY: I, I think they might be in danger.
JOYCE: I-I'm sorry, dear. Um, a mouse is playing with my knees.
BUFFY: I, I really don't think you should live in there.
JOYCE: Well ... you could ... probably break through the wall.
At the end of this, Joyce asks her to break down the walls Buffy has put between them but Buffy walks away. Joyce seems content with where she is but we see that she would rather be with Buffy.
Season 5 opens with Joyce telling Buffy that she is lonely and Buff promising to make up for that. She tells her mom that they should get together mom and you can see that Joyce misses the old relationship they had, when they were tight. Just the same, things are changing very quickly.
In the final frame of this ep, we are introduced to Dawn who is Joyce's other child. This one was created by magicks but even after Joyce discovers this, she cares little. This is her daughter.
I could go ep by ep through this but this season really isn't about individuals eps when it comes to the SUMMERS women dynamics.
Joyce has cancer. Brain cancer. She develops this early on in the season and this draws her family together. She is strong and resilient throughout, offering hope to her family and to her daughters. Even in her worst moments, she is more concerned with her daughters. When she seems to recover, she moved quickly to help Dawn, never allowing for even a moment that this child is not hers. The emotions are there and she knows she loves her baby.
But it is the relationship with Buffy that steps fully into the light after a season of neglect. Buffy is torn to shreds emotionally by her mom's illness. In one of the most moving scenes of the season, Buffy breaks down in her kitchen while doing dishes in LISTENING TO FEAR. She spends every moment she can with her mom.
Joyce finally dies in THE BODY, succumbing to an aneurysm. Buffy comes home to find her mom and works desperately to save her but ultimately can not. It is something that Buffy will never forget and yet in dying, she has finally elevated Buffy to the final stage of maturity and brought out the best in her daughter.
And when you consider how devastated and broken Buffy's friends are, you understand that Joyce was more than Just Buffy's mom, she was all of theirs. They truly can't understand how someone so good and loving as Joyce could go. And in this, they all achieve their finest moments.
I'm gonna shorten this up because I've gone too long.
This is one of the most passionate characters this universe has ever had. Sure, she's been mostly one-tracked in her love and devotion to her daughter and sure she has made some hideous mistakes but everything she has done has been in the name of love. She has always tried to understand Buffy and live in her world. She has always tried to bring out the best in Buffy. When you consider that good people do not come out nowhere and that courage doesn't just appear, you can truly understand what Joyce means to this universe.