"Boxing Daria" was the thirteenth and final TV episode of the fifth season of the Daria TV series.
"Daria becomes obsessed with a big carton. Who wouldn't?" ― MTV website summary
The episode begins in media res: against a black screen, sounds of tires squealing, a crash and an anxious voice asking if a young woman is okay are heard.
The scene then cuts to a few days before at the Morgendorffers’. It’s morning and the refrigerator is being replaced. Later that day, at school, Jane and Daria talk about Tom’s absence from Lawndale while he attends a family wedding at the Cove. O’Neill than asks Daria to serve as a Lawndale High tour guide to upcoming middle school students but is dismayed when Daria refuses. Later, at the Sloane’s, Tom invites Daria to spend a few days at the Cove, but she declines, clearly ill at ease.
At the Morgendorffers' that afternoon, Daria notes the new refrigerator paperboard box laying around on the garden and Helen instructs her daughters to take it to the trash. Daria’s memory is stirred by the box and she insistently asks both her mother and sister about a similar big carton box she remembers having played with in the past. Despite both Helen and Quinn lack of recollection, she remains transfixed by the box as childhood memories of a fight surface, and later she goes to retrieve it from the trash bins.
Early the next day, Helen notices the box and angrily orders a confused Quinn again to trash it, which she does, fuming. Daria, however, again goes to retrieve it before the trash collectors take it away. Later that day, at school, O’Neill observes the poor result of Kevin and Brittany’s guided tours and again tries to convince Daria to do them, with the teenager still refusing, taking offense at O’Neill’s observations and berating him with unusual harshness. Daria’s bad mood continues during the afternoon: she talks back to her mother about the still un-trashed paperboard box; and even later when she phones Tom and picks a fight with him, who pleads for Daria to talk to him and again invites her over to the Cove, which she again refuses.
Later that afternoon or the next day, Daria has Jane come over and shows her the box. While talking she unexpectedly crawls inside it and sits down, being able to finally recall the childhood events that had been stirred: when she had been four or five, her parents had had a big fight, with her father storming off during the night. The young Daria had only found consolation by crawling inside a similar box in her room and starting to read. The flashback is confirmed by an excited Quinn, who joins her sister and friend and tells them about their father storming off, adding they had been fighting about Daria. This tricks another memory: before the fight, Daria had been talking to a psychologist about school, revealing she did not interact with other children and preferred to read, in contrast to her already very sociably sister. This despite her parents pleadings to try to be more sociable. Daria’s lack of enthusiasm had triggered her parent’s fight.
Later that day, when Jake arrives from the conference he had been attending, he and Helen try to make sense of why Daria remains in the box, until Quinn tells them about the past fight. Helen and Jake are able to convince Daria out of the box and the three go inside the house to talk. After some hesitation, Helen and Jake admit the fight happened. They explain that they had been under a lot of stress and that the calls from Daria’s school regarding her anti-social behavior had been the last straw, resulting in the fight she remembered. But they assure her that she was just the topic of the argument but didn't cause it and although Jake did storm out and spend the night in a motel, he returned the next day, the couple made up and the incident was forgotten until now. Upon hearing this, Daria suddenly walks out of the house and picks up the car without explanation.
Daria calls the Cove from the car phone while driving and talks to Kay Sloane, inviting herself over. However, sometime later it starts to rain and an accident occurs right in front of her car. At this moment, the introductory scene is played with images and we see that Daria is able to swerve and avoid a collision, shaken but unhurt.
Some time later, Jane arrives at a road dinner Daria has stopped at and is stunned by the strong hug Daria greets her with. Over coffee, Daria retells Jane the conversation with her parents, explaining to her confused friend why she had run away: she was feeling guilty by the way she had caused them worries and pain by her flippant behavior over the past years, behavior she had considered justified before. Jane consoles her by stating Helen and Jake didn’t seem to mind and advises Daria to talk about it with them. Daria assures she will, adding she just needed to talk before to the most trustworthy person she knew, clearly indicating her friend.
Later that night, Daria returns home to her very relieved parents and the three resume their talk. Helen and Jake insist that, while they had been unhappy about Daria’s situation, they hadn’t been unhappy with her, but rather because she was unhappy, adding that they expected some kind of socialization issues due to Daria’s high intelligence. They also add they respect her choices. Daria is genuinely moved and compliments them for their patience, commenting that she must had been a difficult child to raise. As she enters her room, she finds the box inside, having been salvaged by Quinn for her sister “just in case” (sic).
A few days later, Tom drives Daria to Lawndale High as they comment her accident. In the last scene, Daria and Jane give a tour of Lawndale High to impressionable middle school students, describing the school in truthful though somewhat colorful terms.
Behind the scenes
When interviewed about "Is It College Yet?" for Animation Magazine, Glenn Eichler said "Daria's journey was wrapped up in... [this] episode. Daria realizes that her isolation isn't just about being different - she likes being isolated. It may be painful for her, but she's better off trying to interact with the others. She's pretty realistic. She's smart and articulate yet unsure of how the world will accept her."
He listed this as one of his top episodes in a 2019 interview with Nerdist: "It was just about how do people end up being the way they are. It’s nature and it’s nurture but there are also defining episodes of their lives. And you know, I was obviously very fond of the character and I wanted to approach her with the most compassion that I could. And I thought that’s what happened there." In his opinion, "Boxing" was the 'end' of the series and IICY? " a more fitting look to the future, and I think those are kind of different things."
- The title of the episode is a play on Boxing Helena,. However, the film and the episode bear no resemblence whatsoever other than borrowing the title.
- The inkblot test given to Daria as a child is the precursor to Daria's comments on the test in "Esteemsters."
- Daria says she wrote violent revenge fantasies at age 15 to "get a reaction", and her parents were called into school. We don't see this happening at Lawndale, so she must be talking about Highland High. We did see one such fantasy, the first Melody Powers, early in to her arrival at Lawndale ("Cafe Disaffecto") to get a reaction from O'Neill, but her parents never hear about it. Daria has also twice at 15 or soon after told violent stories outside of school to get a reaction: "Tales from the Dim" and "The Teachings of Don Jake". ("U. S. History", where she does a history report on the Kennedy assassination conspiracies, may have been a failed attempt at getting a reaction)
- Last episode of the series before its cancellation.
"Boxing Daria" and Fanfic
Commentary and Reviews
- Episode Guide on Sick, Sad World
- Wraith's Ramblings (6/30/01) on Sick, Sad World
- Novelization by Adam Spradlin
- "Daria in a Box," on the Daria Fandom Blog II