Why Anya Had to Die. By Tania
If there’s one tale Joss Whedon has told more often than any other it is this... Humans and their demon lovers do not get to live happily ever after. From the beginning of the Buffyverse with Buffy and Angel’s doomed relationship the Buffy writers have made it clear that demons must be redeemed, suffer and brood, or die, possibly all three. Since a happy home and love life is not conducive to suffering, all of the human/demon couples that we have seen within the Buffyverse have been doomed to fail. We need only look to Doyle and Harry, Angel and Cordelia, Xander and Anya, Spike and Buffy, or Cordelia and Connor to see that this is true. The Powers that be ME have moved earth and dimensions to make sure no demons, or former demons, get to live happily ever after. The case of Anya is no different. Even though she was a beloved and fascinating character, she had to die, and die she did.
Unfortunately for those of us who held deep love for Anya, the world she lived in was the Buffyverse where even "good demons" are still demons. Anya may not have been "evil evil" but she never lost her connection to the darker side of the demon world, in fact she embraced it on many occasions, which I will get into later. When rumors first started making the rounds on the internet that Emma Caulfield would not reprise the role of Anya if BtVS were to continue into an eighth season I began hearing the death tolls in the background.
Of the entire core group of BtVS Anya was the one character I was consistently rooting for. When she cried, I cried, when she laughed, I laughed. Her very nature was such a paradox that each phase she passed through showed so much depth that she was able to become the manifestation of all demons that walked that fine line between good and bad. As such an amalgam of demonology Anya became the perfect case for the writers to make their closing argument. It was the fine line she walked that made Anya’s death inevitable. Were she to survive as a powerless demon, no longer fully human but completely aware of the influence her human experience had over her demon self, it is very likely she would have once again returned to the demon world and power she hoped would ease her pain.
By letting Anya die in a final show of solidarity with humans, saving a human in the process, her death became a poignant act of redemption and not just a shocking plot device. Anya went down fighting for the cause of good with the knowledge that her death might mean the world survived intact, which would not have happened earlier in the show. We must not forget where Anya came from or the path of her redemption. If we look at the sort of demon Anya truly was it is difficult to be a champion of the happy ever after scenario.
When Anya first arrived in the Buffyverse she showed her power to manipulate those around her completely. Anyanka’s ability to become a trusted girlfriend to those who unwittingly summoned her, and then to betray that trust by carrying out the power of the wish made her crimes all the more heinous. The curses she exacted were horrible in their own right, from making men cannibalize themselves to turning men inside out, but it is the deeper emotional crime against the "wronged party" that made Anyanka unredeemable. A newly human Anya committed a further violation of trust in "Dopplegangland", when she persuaded Willow to help her channel dark magics to fold time. There is even an argument to be made that Anya opened the door for the magic that Willow found so hard to control later in her life.
Anya may have tried to get her powers back under the pretense of wanting to exact more vengeance on the behalf of scorned women, but as she told D’Hoffryn her main goal was to once again be worshipped by the "lower beings". Anya had been a powerful human before her turning and she never totally gave up her link to the demon world and after her not-wedding she was all too eager to become a demon again. She also showed in episodes such as "Wild at Heart" and "Same Time, Same Place" that she was still able to call upon her knowledge of magic, which was cultivated when she was still human, in both her human and demon guises.
Her workings with magic and intimacy with all things demon made Anya a force capable of shifting the power balance within the Scooby Gang. In the last two seasons of BtVS her power became increasingly apparent when she started to once again exact vengeance. She had the power to do great damage, but as her human heart began to encroach on her demon the possibility of redemption became more and more possible. In the episode "Selfless", Anya was ready to die if it meant that the humans that had died because of her curse would live. Her death at this point would have been tragic, but not a true act of redemption because she would not have died for the ever important "greater-good", only to ease her own pain. It was only through her reconciliation with Xander and coming to terms with Spike that she began to see what an important part of the core group she had become.
After her realization that she actually did care what became of the earth after she was gone her redemption became a matter of some importance to the whole of the show. Anya’s death was a revelation that Spike’s sacrifice could not be. Spike’s disappearance was for the greater good, but in a way it was orchestrated by powers beyond his control, as seen later on Angel, and can therefore not be labeled more than a single act of atonement. Anya’s death in the throws of battle was Joss Whedon’s way of summing up the message of redemption carried throughout the series: Death alone is not enough, death is always painful and violent, but only when one has had an alteration of their own truth can they be redeemed. Anya’s transformation from angry ex-demon to selfless protector of the weak and geeky allowed her to rest in peace, a peace she could not have found were she allowed to live and face her demon everyday. Anya had to die so those who survived her could reconcile the demon she had been with the caring human she became, and we love her for it.