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"Killed by Death" is the eighteenth episode of season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the thirtieth episode in the series. Written by Rob Des Hotel with Dean Batali and directed by Deran Sarafian, it was originally broadcast on March 3, 1998, on The WB network.


THE GHOST OF CHILDHOOD PAST — Buffy is admitted to the hospital with a raging fever where she encounters a young child who brings with him nightmares of Buffy's past and present. Meanwhile, a jealous Cordelia looks on as Xander protects a weakened Buffy from Angel's fury.[1]


A flu-stricken Buffy patrols a cemetery. Xander, Willow, and Cordelia surprise her and she nearly stakes Xander. They try to convince her to go home, but the damage that Angel has done so far continues to fuel her fire. Angel appears behind her and attacks Cordelia. Buffy and Angel fight until he pins her down. Willow throws a coat over his head, and he is turned away by the three's crosses. Buffy faints and the gang rush her to the hospital. After being stabilized, she is admitted to the hospital for a few days against her will. Her mother reveals that Buffy has always hated hospitals, ever since her cousin Celia died in one while Buffy was in the room.

Joyce brings up the topic of Ms. Calendar's death to Giles, which he would much rather forget. Meanwhile, Xander, Willow, and Cordelia wait to protect a very sick Buffy from Angel. That night, as the clocks changes to 2:27, Buffy sees a small boy standing in her doorway. He leaves, then a strange-looking man, not quite human, follows after him, glancing into Buffy's room as he goes. As she follows the man down the hall, she thinks back to playing with her cousin when they were younger. She also remembers Cecilia's time spent in the hospital. Buffy awakes and the clock changes to 2:27. She takes a walk down the hall. Two men exit the children's ward with a child who had died that night. At the door, she overhears Dr. Wilkinson reprimanding Dr. Backer for his experimental treatments on the children and raising their temperature to dangerous levels. As Buffy begins to leave, she encounters two children that tell her about "Death": he comes at night, and the grown-ups can't see him.

That night, Angel comes to the hospital with flowers, but Xander stands guard. They stand face to face and exchange threats. Angel taunts Xander about how he's still in love with Buffy and how jealous he must be that Angel got her first. Angel says that Xander standing in his way won't stop him from going into Buffy's room, and Xander points out the guards, policemen, doctors, and orderlies. Angel leaves.

The next morning, Dr. Wilkinson comes to check on Buffy. She comments on the fact that Buffy's wrist is no longer swollen and how fast she seemed to heal. Buffy, still anxious about being in the hospital, says that's great and that she can leave. Dr. Wilkinson pushes her back into the bed just as Buffy's friends visit; he tells them to try to keep Buffy from bolting. They come bearing gifts to cheer her up — Xander with balloons, Willow with Buffy's finished homework, and grapes from Giles. Cordelia claims she was "out of the loop on gifts" and Giles points out that gifts for people in the hospital are common among humans. They all take a walk outside and Buffy tells them about the conversation she overheard: Dr. Backer was trying experimental treatments on the kids and Dr. Wilkinson doesn't agree with him.

Buffy says she thought she saw something too. However, Cordelia asks if maybe Buffy is just creating a demon because she needs something to fight so she doesn't feel so powerless in the hospital. Buffy says she's not sure but, since she is forced to stay at the hospital, she plans to find out what the doctor is up to. Xander volunteers everyone's help. Cordelia and Xander sneak into the hospital's record room and search for records on the girl that died that night, Tina. Meanwhile, Giles and Willow search for information at the school library. Cordelia is caught by the security guard. She flirts with him until Xander can escape with the records. When she leaves the guard, Xander expresses his jealousy and Cordelia expresses her anger about Xander's behavior around Buffy. She leaves to take the records to Giles, and Xander "watches her back" as she goes.

Buffy takes a walk in the hospital and finds the little boy, Ryan. He is drawing a picture of the man she saw in her dream. Willow digs up information on Dr. Backer at the library with Giles, and she finds that he has a long past of experimental treatments and investigations into his practices. Meanwhile, Dr. Backer is working on trying to cure the children's illnesses. After finding a solution that he thinks will work, he takes it to the children's ward to try it out. Before he can do anything, an invisible creature attacks him, slashing him up. Buffy tries to stop it but is thrown aside.

The next morning, Buffy informs everyone that Dr. Backer is not the suspect, and shows them the drawing that Ryan made of the creature. Joyce walks in with the good news that Buffy can go home, but Buffy insists she should stay a little longer. Confused, her mother leaves to tell the doctor. Xander, Giles, and Cordelia leave her alone and come up with a plan. Giles and Cordelia head back to the library while Xander stands guard in case Angel shows up. At the library, after thoroughly annoying Giles, Cordelia closes the book she was looking through, only to find a picture of the monster on the cover.

Later, Cordelia calls Buffy to tell her that the monster is called der Kindestod and the name means "child death." When Giles comes in with a book on how he kills, Cordelia only express disgust. Giles takes over and tell Buffy that he sits atop his prey, pinning the child down while he slowly sucks their life out. Buffy thinks back to her time at the hospital as a child again, seeing her cousin Celia screaming and fighting at something on top of her. Buffy goes silent over the phone, and, after a few moments, Willow takes it from her, thanks Giles, and hangs up. Buffy realizes that der Kindestod also killed her cousin.

Buffy questions how she's going to fight the monster when she can't see him. Willow points out that she did see him once, and Buffy realizes that it was her high fever that gave her the ability. The two head to Dr. Backer's office in search of answers. They find out that Dr. Backer was giving the children injections of the disease they already have in order to inoculate them. Buffy decides to drink from one of the test tubes the doctor was using on the children. Willow stops her, warning her that the liquid is 100% pure and would kill Buffy instantly if she drinks one. Willow then dilutes two drops of the serum in water so Buffy can drink it safely.

Buffy's fever rushes up to a near 107 degrees as she stumbles to the children's ward. She finds all the children are gone. They have headed down to the basement in hopes of escaping from death. Buffy's fever kicks in and she sees der Kindestod in the children's room and watches as he heads down to the basement. The room's door is locked so Buffy and Willow rush to find access to the basement. Dr. Wilkinson tries to stop them, but Buffy shoves her aside. When security guards stop the two, Willow start screaming that frogs are all over her, so Buffy makes her escape. Dr. Wilkinson tells them they needed to stop the other girl, not Willow.

Buffy works her way to Xander, and he helps her down to the basement. The children wait quietly in hopes of not being found, but then der Kindestod picks up Ryan. He and all the other children scream, and der Kindestod tosses him to the floor. The creature climbs atop Ryan, two tubes coming out of his eyes to settle over Ryan. Buffy arrives just in time, smacks the demon over his head with a board, then fights him off. Just as his tubes come out of his eyes to cover hers, she kills der Kindestod by snapping his neck. Xander arrives and Buffy leaves leaning on him.

Buffy finishes her rehabilitation at home, with Xander and Willow lying with her on the bed watching TV. Joyce waits on all their requests to bring more snacks to them. Joyce then hands Buffy a letter from Ryan: a drawing of her whaling on der Kindestod, complete with copious amounts of blood coming from the demon's neck. Joyce states the drawing is "... nice."


  • Willow's fear of frogs, mentioned in "What's My Line? Part One," is brought up when she pretends to have frogs crawling over her.
  • The book in which Cordelia finds information on der Kindestod also contains a passage on a demon belonging to the Brotherhood of Seven, defeated in "The Puppet Show."
  • This is the first of the three times Buffy is hospitalized in Sunnydale, the others being in "Graduation Day, Part Two" and "Villains."
  • Ryan is not the first young boy to peer at Buffy in the shadows. In "Nightmares," Buffy sees Billy, a local boy in a coma astral projecting around school.



Organizations and titles[]




Death count[]

  • Tina, lifeforce drained by der Kindestod (only mentioned).
  • Stanley Backer, lacerated by der Kindestod.
  • Der Kindestod, neck snapped by Buffy.

Behind the scenes[]


  • According to Joss Whedon, der Kindestod was "based on a 'this thing creeped me out as a kid' thing," as with many of the monsters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In general, the monsters were suggested by the vague bogeyman figures that bedevil many children.[2]


  • "Killed by Death" had an audience of 4.1 million households upon its original airing.[3]

Pop culture references[]

  • Xander tells Buffy that "this is not the time to challenge Angel for the Ultimate Fighting Championship," referring to the sports organization that has been staging MMA fights since 1993.
  • Cordelia comments on the noses of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and the toy Mr. Potato Head.
  • Entering the hospital, Angel whistles part of Symphony No. 9 composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1824.
  • Buffy pretends to be Power Girl as a child, a superhero who first appeared in comics in 1976.
  • When Buffy says the kids called the monster they saw "Death," Xander warns her not to play chess with him if he asks her to, because he's a whiz at it. This is a reference to the movie The Seventh Seal, in which a medieval knight plays chess with Death for his life.


  • The phone that Giles takes Joyce to when Buffy falls asleep in the hospital is unplugged/has no cord, with a visible empty jack on the lower left side of the phone.


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Սպանվածները Մահվան կողմից" (Killed by Death)
  • Czech: "Jak zabít Smrt" (How to Kill Death)
  • Finnish: "Kuolema Kierroksella" (Death on a Round)
  • French: "Réminiscence" (Recollection)
  • German: "Der unsichtbare Tod" (The Invisible Death)
  • Hungarian: "Megölte a halál" (Killed by Death)
  • Italian: "Il mostro" (The Monster)
  • Japanese: "死神" (The Grim Reaper)
  • Polish: "Dotyk śmierci" (Touch of Death)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "Morto pela Morte" ([Male] Killed by Death)
  • Romanian: "Ucis de moarte" (Killed by Death)
  • Russian: "Убитые Смертью" (Killed by Death)
  • Spanish (Latin America): Asesinada por la muerte" ([Female] Killed by Death)
  • Spanish (Spain): "La muerte asesina" (The Killer Death)
  • Swedish: "Dödad av Döden" (Killed by Death)



Behind the scenes[]



Xander: "Flowers for milady."
Buffy: "I think they call those balloons."
Xander: "Yeah, stick them in water, maybe they'll grow."
Buffy: "Homework!"
Willow: "It's my way of saying 'get well soon'."
Buffy: "You know, chocolate says that even better."
Willow: "I did all your assignments. All you have to do is sign your name."
Buffy: "Chocolate means nothing to me."
Cordelia: "So, this isn't you being afraid of hospitals 'cause your friend died and you wanna conjure up a monster that you can fight so you can save everybody and not feel so helpless?"
Giles: "Cordelia, have you ever actually heard of tact?"
Cordelia: "Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass."
Cordelia: "What does this do?"
Giles: "Uh, it extracts vital organs to replenish its own mutating cells."
Cordelia: "Wow! What does this one do?"
Giles: "Um, it elongates its mouth to, uh, engulf its victim's head with its incisors."
Cordelia: "Ouch. Wait, what does this one do?"
Giles: "It asks endless questions of those with whom it's supposed to be working so that nothing is getting done."
Cordelia: "Boy, there's a demon for everything."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001.
  2. Christopher Golden, Stephen R. Bissette, and Thomas E. Sniegoski. The Monster Book. New York: Pocket Books, 2000.
  3. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Second Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on April 13, 2008.