Portrayed by: Kristine Sutherland
Dies in: "I Was Made to Love You" (Season 5, Episode 15)

Plenty of beloved characters have fallen prey to a nasty vampire, demon, or otherwise malevolent creature whilst battling evil in Sunnydale, California. As Heath Ledger’s Joker would say, it was all “part of the plan.” And then there's the death of Joyce Summers, which is, decidedly, a deviation. The episodes leading up to her death are full of foreshadowing and gloom, when doctors discover she’s battling the most common creature, cancer.

Instead of building up to Joyce’s death, Buffy overseer Joss Whedon and co. float the idea of remission in front of us for a few episodes. That makes it all the more shocking when, at the end of one of the show’s goofiest episodes, Buffy walks back into her house to find her mother, sprawled out cold and lifeless on the couch. What follows is a quiet, meditative episode as the whole cast reacts to the first normal passing they’ve ever had to deal with. It's a crushing hour of television.