“Forever” is the seventeenth episode of “Buffy” season 5, coming immediately after we’d all been traumatized by the previous episode, “The Body.” That installment opened with one of the most emotionally affecting moments in the show’s history, with Buffy returning home to find her mother, Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), lying lifeless on the couch. It’s the episode Sarah Michelle Gellar can’t watch, and according to show creator Joss Whedon, the best thing he’s ever done.
“Forever” is the follow-up, and sees Buffy, her sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), and their friends still grappling with the loss of Joyce. After her mother’s funeral, Dawn reveals she wants to cast a resurrection spell, but is advised against it by pretty much everyone else. Spike (James Marsters), however, agrees to help and takes Dawn to a magic expert named Doc, who warns her that Joyce might not “come back exactly like she was.” Before Spike and Dawn leave his house, Doc’s eyes go black, suggesting he might not have been as altruistic and congenial as he’d seemed.
Despite being repeatedly warned against the spell, Dawn pushes ahead. As things come to a climax, Buffy confronts her sister, who accuses her of withdrawing since her mother’s death and not being there for support. They argue, with Buffy telling Dawn, “Who knows what you actually raised, what’s going to come through that door?” Then, a shadowy figure passes the window in the background, suggesting the resurrected Joyce has arrived. A knock on the door interrupts the girls, but as Buffy runs to answer it, Dawn rips up a photo of her mother, ending the spell as the door opens to an empty porch. All of which leaves us to imagine what kind of ungodly zombie atrocity awaited us before Dawn tore the photo.