Author’s Note: Thanks to all of the new readers to this blog. You Buffy fans are some of the most awesome people in the world, and one of the first fandoms to welcome me with open arms. It has been lots of fun venturing back into Buffy’s world and exploring it further with my own insights. Everyone who has ever watched the show views it in a different way than another fan, and I’m just sharing my opinions and by no means am I saying this is the best of the best of anything the show has ever given to us. I hope you continue reading this blog, because I have lots of future posts to write about that may occasionally reference Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the meantime, please enjoy this commercial interruption from your daily lives. ;) This post is broken up into three parts this time around ‘cause of all the pretty pictures added for each episode.
I survived! The Favorite Scenes posts really took lots of heavy concentration, re-watching of episodes, and fighting off distractions thanks to work (What? We’re on our semester break…) and Friday night live-tweeting with my fellow Faenatics (Lost Girl – how I really love and am infatuated with thee). And holy crap – there’s a lot of scenes that I’ve forgotten about throughout the years that I have to re-visit at a later time. I’ll probably leave that for the end of this look-back, along with any other things I may have left out. That usually happens to me: I blank out on something important and only remember it when it’s past its relevance date.
We have now come to one of my favorite posts of this Buffy Retrospective – my favorite episodes. A show’s episodes and their impact on fans will always vary from viewer by viewer, and this is by no means what I think is a definitive list of the best episodes of the series. These are episodes that I have loved throughout the years and have frequently returned to because of their emotional moments, their entertainment value, and because they just kick ass in general. These are mainly my favorites that I’ve re-watched tons of times, but there are a few extra that snuck in there because I simply cannot ignore them; they have to be mentioned.
These are not ranked – that would be absolute torture for me because my favorite episode changes every two seconds of any show that I’ve been addicted to throughout the years. But you’ll find a pretty complete list of my favorite episodes from the series listed below, with several honorable mentions at the end. I was originally aiming for a short synopsis of each episode, but I found myself kicking and screaming as I tried to do that with the first episode on this list. Instead, I’m featuring what I really liked about the episodes, the characters that mostly appeared in each one, and a memorable quote. Because that would make life so much easier on myself and to you, Awesome Readers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer came close to, but never reached 150 episodes (it ended after 144 episodes; Season One had 12 episodes), which is the pinnacle of achievement that most shows try to reach (the show Supernatural, for example, is just an episode shy of that magical number). Shows that are lucky enough to be renewed every year get the chance to reach that goal, but the writing and the storylines of each of these shows have to justify reaching that number; there are many shows that went downhill long before or after reaching 150 (see The X-Files).
What makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer an instant classic to me, and a show that I have returned to constantly, is the diversity of each episode. Many episodes deal with real-life issues that many teens and young adults have experienced throughout their lives, whether it’s: acceptance from your peers, coming out to your family and friends, finding and losing love, losing someone close to you without notice, and trying not to fall apart when the world seems to be depending on you to fix it.
We love to watch Buffy and her friends fight her many enemies, become unlikely allies with others, but mostly we watch it because we can relate to them in a personal level. You also believe that what are you watching is really happening – the classic “Suspension of Disbelief.” They aren’t just characters on a show anymore: they are your friends, your neighbors, your loved ones. There have been many episodes that I have related to, and I feel like they’re speaking to me directly – that, or I’ve finally gone nuts. But we love the show and all of its quirks, the characters, the endless quotes we derive from it, the epic finales, and all of this goodness is brought to us thanks to the many great episodes that comprise the whole series
Now, in no particular order – my favorite Buffy episodes. As I always say during each of these posts – BEWARE OF SPOILERS. This first post covers Seasons 1 and 2:
Episode 7 – “Angel”
My Two Cents: Angel, you sexy thing. Why did you hide your backstory from us? Could it be that there is something you don’t want your new, soon-to-be girlfriend/Slayer to know? How about the fact that you’re a VAMPIRE and she’s a VAMPIRE SLAYER?! We see a bit more of who Angel really is and who he used to be known as before that lil’ soul of his returned into his body. We also see more of his sire, Darla, before he decides to off her – the jerk. Julie Benz, while you may have left Buffy’s world, we welcomed you back with open arms when you were resurrected on Angel and caused just as much mischief. Angel and Buffy’s forbidden romance started here with a passionate kiss. Unfortunately, that soul of his comes into play in Season 2, and bad things happen.
Notable Characters: Buffy and the Scooby Gang (Giles, Xander, Willow), Cordelia, Angel, Joyce (Buffy’s Mom), The Master (Big Bad), Darla (deceased)
Notable Quote: “So he is a good vampire? I mean on a scale of one to ten. Ten being someone who’s killing and maiming every night, one being someone who’s… not.” – Willow
Episode 10 – “Nightmares”
My Two Cents: My worst nightmare is right above: getting ready to take a test that I probably barely studied for (because I was too busy watching Buffy reruns), in my worst subject (Math), and what could be worse than…OH CHRIST! TARANTULAS! *shudders* Seriously uncool. The Scooby Gang face off against their biggest fears, and it’s like we are in a parallel reality where Freddy Krueger was able to bring his dream world to life. The truth is a little boy named Billy made these nightmares real thanks to being in a coma, brought on by his asshole Little League coach. Jerkface. Buffy and the gang figure things out and help Billy, stop the Ugly Man demon who keeps stalking innocents, and bring his coach to justice. And our lesson learned is that we can conquer our biggest fears if we don’t succumb to them.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Billy, the Ugly Man
Notable Quote: “You were a lousy clown! Your balloon animals were pathetic! Everyone can make a giraffe!” – Xander to killer clown
Episode 11 – “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
My Two Cents: This is one of the saddest episodes of the series, because it reflects real-life in a way that many young people growing up now or around my age have felt – or anyone in general. To be largely ignored by your fellow students, to feel like basically nothing and you don’t matter… I think some of us have felt this way many times. Our victim/”monster” for this episode, Marci Ross (terrifically portrayed by gifted actress Clea Duvall), has been thoroughly ignored by her fellow classmates and her teachers, and she slowly fades away into an invisible person. She starts to retaliate against the people who forced her to “disappear,” and Cordelia Chase is her main victim – she feels as though Cordelia has wronged her the most, but Cordelia never knew she really existed at all. In a quiet scene where the Scoobies try to find out more information about Marci, Willow and Xander both realize that they signed Marci’s yearbook but never really knew her, and they feel slightly ashamed.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Cordelia, Harmony Kendall, Marci Ross
Notable Quote: “There are no dead students here. This week.” – Principal Snyder
Other Episodes Worth Checking Out: “Witch,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” “The Pack,” “Prophecy Girl.” Actually, this season is made up of only 12 episodes, so just watch it all. You’ll thank me later.
Episode 3 – “School Hard”
My Two Cents: Spike and Drusilla – Welcome to Sunnydale, indeed. Out of all the villains to have appeared on the show, they are my absolute favorites. They have fun being vampires and love to cause chaos and eat people, while others mope around, brood a lot, question their life, and try to absolve themselves from their sins committed as a demon of the night (yes, I’m looking at you Angel). One of my favorite scenes involves a siege at Sunnydale High by Spike and his vampire gang, and Buffy’s mom Joyce hits him with an axe, which is referenced later on in Season Two. Also, after The Master has died, Spike decides to take charge of the vampires that are now clueless as what to do without their leader, and killing The Master’s right-hand “man,” the boy-pire The Anointed One. He was annoying anyway.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang (now with Cordelia and Angel), Jenny Calendar, Spike, Drusilla, the Anointed One, Principal Snyder, random delinquent student turned vampire
Notable Quote: “From now on, we’re gonna have a little less ritual, and a little more fun around here!” – Spike
Episode 6 – “Halloween”
My Two Cents: Ah, my favorite time of the year. My favorite holiday. The one time of the year when general debauchery is socially acceptable, and you won’t get arrested for it (unless it involves animals, clowns, and tequila). Buffy and her Gang also enjoy this time of year, and according to Giles – most demons are pretty quiet on this night. Until a chaos magickian with a dark past comes around to wreak havoc on our Slayer and her friends: Ethan Rayne, who has a past with Giles. Ethan casts a spell that causes the wearers of the costumes from his shop to become who they are portraying; hilarity and screams are quite common in this episode. Spike takes advantage of the chaos and tries to kill Buffy, but she returns to her Slayer-self and kicks his ass, and Giles beats the crap out of Ethan. This won’t be the last that we see of him…or at least until Season Three. One of my favorite comedic episodes.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Spike, Drusilla, Ethan Rayne, Oz, various demonic creatures
Notable Quote: “Oh, he’s a vampire! Of course! But the cuddly kind, like a Care Bear with fangs.” – Cordelia, about Angel
Episodes 13-14 – “Surprise/Innocence”
My Two Cents: What happens when your computer teacher is keeping a secret as big as – oh, I don’t know – if you sleep with your boyfriend and he has that one moment of true passion, he will lose his soul and become the asshole vampire he was soulless? Thanks, Jenny Calendar, for omitting this fact on Buffy’s birthday of all days. And to make matters worse, we have a horrific demon simply named The Judge that can burn the humanity out of anyone, including nerdy vampires. What a douche. He came as a party favor for Drusilla, who pieced him back together (he was hacked up by knights hundreds of years ago, and his body parts spread throughout the world – obviously not hidden well enough). After Buffy and Angel sleep together and he returns to his former self, Angel pays a visit to Spike and Drusilla. Spike unleashes The Judge on him, who tells him that he is without humanity – we are screwed.
All is not lost, though: after Buffy learns about the truth of what happened to Angel after their passionate moment together, and being really pissed off at Jenny, she and the Scooby Gang find out that there’s a way to destroy The Judge before he burns the humanity out of all of the inhabitants of Sunnydale at their biggest gathering spot: the local mall. The Judge cannot be killed by any weapon forged, like swords or arrow points, but he can sure be blown up by a…BAZOOKA! Team Buffy! I loved both of these episodes because it shows what the rest of the season will be like when Buffy has to ultimately face off against Angelus to save the world.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, Oz, The Judge, Nerdy Vampire (deceased)
Notable Quote: ”Oh, I don’t know, though. He is a senior.” “You think he’s too old ’cause he’s a senior? Please. My boyfriend had a bicentennial.” – Willow and Buffy, talking about dating (Oz and Angel, respectively)
Episode 17 – “Passion”
My Two Cents: Honestly, if I had to choose my Top Five episodes, this would be on that list at #2 or #3. This is one of the darkest and most haunting episodes of the series, and it truly shows Angelus’ sadistic side as he mentally and emotionally tortures Buffy, causing her to slowly lose control. He also unleashes his deadliest attack against one of the Scooby Gang’s own, killing them and leaving them as a surprise for Giles. Poor Jenny Calendar, who tried her best to help restore Angel’s soul by finding and translating the original spell her Romanian Gypsy ancestors used, dies at the hands of the very demon she tries to help. Giles, seeing what Angel has done to his beloved Jenny, goes after him full-bore, until Buffy finds him before he kills himself trying to defeat Angel. Buffy now realizes that she has to do the worst-case scenario she feared the most: killing Angelus.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang (now w/ Oz; Jenny Calendar – deceased), Spike, Drusilla, Angelus
Notable Quote: “Oh, God! I invited him in my car once. That means he can come into my car whenever he wants!” “Yep, you’re doomed to havin’ to give him and his vamp pals a lift whenever they feel like it. And those guys never chip in for gas.” – Cordelia and Xander, about Angel
Episode 19 – “I Only Have Eyes for You”
My Two Cents: I love episodes about star-crossed lovers who are fated to never be together. I think just about every show that I’ve been infatuated with through my many years of television viewing have at least one episode, or a whole storyline about, two people who will never be together for a variety of reasons. In this episode, it’s a student and a teacher from the 1950’s and they’re both dead: bummer. Their ghosts are causing issues at Sunnydale High, with normal people becoming possessed by them and attacking one another, playing out a scenario our ghostly visitors keep revisiting (students shoots and kills teacher, then kills himself). The Scooby Gang try to exorcise the ghosts using a spell, but their sorrow and rage is too much – they attack our Gang. Later on, Buffy is possessed by the spirit of the student, and Angelus is possessed by the spirit of the teacher. This works out to the Slayer’s favor because when she shoots Angelus, he doesn’t die as what has happened in the past when history was repeating itself (‘cause he’s already undead and a vampire). The ghosts can finally move on, and Buffy and Angelus both realize they still have lingering feelings for one another, as much as they hate to admit it.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, our ghostly star-crossed lovers
Notable Quote: “Impulsive? Do you remember my ex-boyfriend, the vampire? I slept with him, he lost his soul, now my boyfriend’s gone forever, and the demon that wears his face is killing my friends. The next impulsive decision I make will involve my choice of dentures.” – Buffy
Episodes 21-22 – “Becoming, Parts 1 & 2”
My Two Cents: This long journey through Season Two showed different relationships and their dynamics, and what happens when these relationships change when something horrible happens. We’ve seen Spike and Drusilla’s twisted yet beautiful relationship, Giles and Jenny’s complicated and tragic relationship, and we’ve come to the biggest relationship mess of this season: Buffy and Angel’s. No longer lovers but now sworn enemies, they are hellbent on destroying one another without getting killed, but in the end there can only be one victor. In this scenario, our heroine triumphs. We also say goodbye to a somewhat-recurring character that I failed to mentioned before (apologies), and that was the awesome, all-business Jamaican Slayer Kendra (Bianca Lawson has a tendency to die in gruesome ways; this show and Pretty Little Liars are two examples). Kendra was called after Buffy “died” in the first season, and she tries to help Buffy fight Angelus and his minions but ultimately loses the battle thanks to being hypnotized by psychic, sociopathic vampire Drusilla – she slashes Kendra’s throat, causing her to bleed to death. There is so much that happens between these two episodes, but I can’t cover it all in a single post (it would have to be its own post).
Buffy and Angel do ultimately face off, but at the same time a recovering Willow (injured in an attack in the Sunnydale Library) attempts to restore Angel’s soul, hoping to save him before he does something stupid. Like maybe unleashing a demon named Acathla into our world that can create vortexes that will suck our world into a demon dimension – whoops. Angelus awakens the demon with his own blood before Willow’s spell can be cast, and he and Buffy have one of the most epic battles. The quotes at the end are said in a pivotal scene where Angelus knocks Buffy’s sword away and holds his own to her face. Buffy stops him before he can kill her and they fight some more; unfortunately, the demon vortex starts to open. And in true Whedeon-esque dramatic fashion, the soul-restoring spell works too late, and Buffy has to make the toughest decision yet: killing her former lover to save the world. I ALWAYS cry when Buffy sees that Angel’s soul has been restored and he can’t remember what has happened this whole time, and she has to kill him regardless. She tells him to close his eyes, and she runs him through with a sword, killing him and sending him to spend a few hundred years in a demon dimension – it’s the only way to defeat. Broken and defeated, Buffy cannot return home or to Sunnydale High, so she decides to skip town and start a new life in Los Angeles.
Notable Characters: The Scooby Gang, Angelus/Angel, Spike, Drusilla, WhistlerKendra, ghostly Jenny Calendar (courtesy of Drusilla), Principal Snyder, Joyce, and just about every character from this past season
Notable Quote: “No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what’s left?” “Me.” – Angel and Buffy
Other Episodes Worth Checking Out: “When She Was Bad,” “Inca Mummy Girl,” “Lie To Me,” “The Dark Age,” “What’s My Line, Parts 1 and 2,” “Phases,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and “Killed by Death.”
We have come to the end of Part One. Part Two will feature Seasons Three and Four, and Part Three will cover the last three seasons: Five, Six and Seven. Check out my other Buffy posts if you’re still hankering for more Buffy goodness.