Tuesday 10: My Favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes
To help with the regularity of my posts, I wanted to create a weekly feature that had to go up even when I didn’t feel like writing anything else. I love lists and I love organization, so what better feature to include than a top ten list? I’m also pretty fond of alliteration, so Tuesday it is!
I’m sure that there will be more Buffy-themed Tuesdays than just this one, but I wanted to start out simple. My favorite episodes of my favorite show of all time! With 7 full seasons, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I love so many of them (ALL OF THEM!!!, my inner fangirl is screaming) for so many different reasons, and to limit my favorites to 10 is absurd, so I’ve included a “Top Ten Alternates” list at the bottom because I’m a rebel. :P
This list is not in order of rating. I just can’t do that! I do mention which of the below is my absolute favorite episode of the show, but the list is in order of appearance in the series — That way, if you’re like me and discover BtVS really late into the game, you can stop reading once you get to one you haven’t seen yet. I’d suggest doing this, ’cause there will be spoilers!!!
Please note that if I left your absolute favorite episode out, I probably still love it! There are so many great episodes, and it’s really crazy to try to narrow it down to 10 (or even 20!), so I’d love to hear what your favorite episodes are! Let me know in the comments if I forgot one that you’re particularly crazy about!
And without further ado…
1) Season 1, Episode 12: “Prophecy Girl”
It’s the very first BtVS season finale, and it doesn’t disappoint in terms of OMG moments.
I think this episode is where I really fell in love with Buffy as a character. Sure, she had been beautiful and witty and smart all season long (although, I will admit, the first season didn’t really hold up well over the years and comes off a bit cheesy to some), but this is when her first Big Sacrifice is made. She knows that she’s prophecized to die, but she walks hand-in-hand with The Anointed One (who is one of the lamest characters of all time) to her doom because it’s the right thing to do as the Slayer.
This is also a pivotal episode in terms of the relationship dynamics of the Scoobies as a group; Xander spent all season moping and lusting after Buffy, and it’s in this episode that she admits she has nothing but platonic feelings for him. The episode also sets the foundation for other things that play large parts in later seasons – the Hellmouth existing under the high school library, the death of a slayer causing the appointing of the next, Willow’s feelings for a certain someone.
Plus, nothing beats how perfect Buffy’s prom dress is. I have a toy of her in the outfit from this episode and it’s my favorite. <3
2) Season 2, Episode 22: “Becoming: Part 2”
It was difficult not to lump both parts of this 2-episode season finale into one for this, so let’s say I’d definitely recommend both episodes. The second part is especially heartbreaking and painful for any “Bangel” fans out there, or just anyone who has any feelings at all.
Seconds after Angelus is defeated and Angel has his soul back (let’s recap: he caused death, destruction and torment all season after he and Buffy sleep together and he loses his soul thanks to the moment of “true happiness’ they shared post-coitus), Buffy is forced to perform Big Sacrifice number two by killing Angel to prevent a demon from destroying the world (again). After months of Angel being Angelus, and of feeling like she lost him, he is returned only so that she can stab him and seal the vortex with his blood. The worst part is the way he looks at her when she stabs him – he has no idea why, having not been fully cognizant during the time Angelus had taken over.
Season 2 is one of my favorites, and I love a bunch of the episodes – it’s where the series really gets its flow, in my opinion. Plus, Spike and Drusilla are troublemakers and I have a soft spot for any episodes that involve scheming or babbling nonsense about stars. This episode also leads into my next favorite…
3) Season 3, Episode 1: “Anne”
This isn’t an episode I frequently see on other Top Lists for the series, but it’s definitely one of my favorites! After having to kill Angel/Angelus in the Season 2 finale, Buffy ditches Sunnydale because she can’t deal with things and she runs away to Los Angeles. She picks up a new life where she goes by her middle name, Anne, and works as a regular waitress in a diner. Of course, because she’s the Slayer, trouble ends up flying her in the form of a minor character from an earlier episode, previously named Chantarelle in S02E07 “Lie to Me”. Now she’s called Lily and she has a new identity.
Chantarelle/Lily is one of my favorite minor characters because she appears in so multiple episodes with multiple personas but they all link together. At the end of this episode, she adopts Buffy’s ‘Anne’ and that’s what she sticks with even later, when she appears on the Angel spin-off and helps him out with a few things.
This episode shows how altered the lives are of the fellow Scoobies. Having no knowledge of vampires before Buffy moved to Sunnydale, now even in her absence they’ve taken over as the town’s defense against them. They aren’t able to go back to their normal lives, even with her gone, although it’s clear that they aren’t quite as strong without her. It also shows that Buffy can never really run away or escape her duties as the Slayer — even doing something as normal as working as a waitress, she manages to stumble upon a demon, a dimension where time moves super slowly and a conspiracy involving a teenage homeless shelter.
4) Season 3, Episode 9: “The Wish”
So many great things are introduced in this episode – Anyanka/Anya’s character, an alternate reality where Buffy is a Slayer in another city, Evil/Vampire Willow’s ‘Bored now’. Cordelia made an accidental wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, and it changes the world that the main characters live in. She soon realizes that the world had been better before, with Buffy there, but it’s too late and she’s killed by a Xander/Willow vampire tag team while Giles watches helplessly.
This alternate reality Buffy dresses like Tomb Raider, has a cool scar across her face and is a mean, hardened warrior – nothing at all like the sassy but sweet girl she is in reality. The scar is actually really similar to Fray’s scar in the comic books! This is the Buffy without the friendship of her Scoobies and the guidance of Giles as her Watcher, and since it’s an alternate reality, the Master is still alive and runs the town for the most part.
Xander and Willow as vampires are fantastic – Willow especially is so great that Joss Whedon brought her back later on for another episode later in this same season — “Doppelgangland”.
5) Season 4, Episode 8: “Pangs”
One of my favorite things in the world is when TV show episodes are holiday-themed. Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, anything really. It just makes me happy in ways I can’t explain!
This episode follows Spike’s chip implantation/escape from the Initiative. While I think the Initiative (and the Season 4 ‘Big Bad’ in general) are really lame, the chip plays a really big role in Spike’s character development throughout the series. A lot of focus is put on the origins of Thanksgiving, with Willow taking a firm stance in defense of the Native Americans (the Chumash tribe, which are mentioned a couple of times both in BtVS and Angel) and of Thanksgiving being a “sham”. Due to Buffy’s loneliness and fond memories of turkey (along with a rousing argument about yams), Willow concedes to having dinner together anyway.
Despite being an episode primarily about genocide, the “family” theme is strong, with Giles taking up as the paternal figure for the whole group of Scoobies. And due to his chip, this episode marks the beginning of Spike being part of the group rather than a figure working against them.
This is also one of the crossover episodes, with Angel coming to Sunnydale from LA based on a vision of Buffy being in danger. Although he and Buffy don’t interact, she finds out at the end of the episode. Also! In this episode, Xander becomes infected with various diseases that the Chumash themselves suffered from – one of them being syphilis. Later, in season 6’s musical episode (a few spots away!), during a bouncy duet between Xander and Anya, she says: “His penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe!” Continuity is awesome.
6) Season 4, Episode 10: “Hush”
Widely hailed as one of the best episodes in the series, Hush is very unique in that for the majority of the episode, none of the characters can speak. It starts with a dream sequence between Buffy and Riley and a little girl singing a nursery rhyme of The Gentleman – some of the most iconic Buffy bad guys of the series. The majority of their creep-factor comes from their silence, and the whole episode has an eerie dream-like quality thanks to an amazing score.
When people stop talking, they start communicating. Language can interfere with communication because language limits. As soon as you say something, you’ve eliminated every other possibility of what you might be talking about. We also use language to separate ourselves from other people.
This episode marks the introduction of Tara Maclay and an awesome scene where she and Willow perform magic together, foreshadowing the upcoming sexual realization Willow has and their new relationship. Aside from theirs, Xander and Anya also deal with Big Questions regarding where they stand and what they mean to each other. Giles’ past relationships are also explored when he invites an old friend-with-benefits to spend a few days with him. And for any Riley fans out there (I’m sure they must exist somewhere, right?), this episode marks the ~First Kiss~ between he and and Buffy. Aw.
“Hush” showcases the great acting ability of the main cast as they deal with the loss of their voices and some of the scariest looking monsters of the series – managing to convey and invoke the perfect emotions to accompany the drama even without usage of the witty dialogue that the show is famed for. They use various ways to communicate aside from speaking, from hand gestures and writing on Whiteboards I love all of the episodes that are unique like this the best, it makes the series such a fun, diverse experience!
7) Season 5, Episode 16: “The Body”
I almost put this one in bottom Top 10 because I didn’t want to have to deal with rewatching and then writing about it. And then I decided that that wouldn’t do it justice, and the episode is heartbreaking in a way that deserves to be endured for how real and how perfectly devastating it is. From the opening scene’s contrast with the Christmas flashback to Willow’s breakdown over what clothes to wear and Anya’s vocalization of the feelings she doesn’t know how to process, this episode stands out as one of the most well-acted and emotional ones of the series.
And this episode is also another First Kiss, for Willow and Tara! It’s sad and sweet and comforting all at the same time. <3
8) Season 6, Episode 7: “Once More, With Feeling”
This is my favorite episode of the whole series!! It’s another one of the unique episodes, with the whole thing being more of a musical than an actual episode of BtVS!
Each main Scooby has a song or part in a song, although Willow doesn’t sing much (I read online that she begged Joss not to make her, because she doesn’t like to!) She sings a couple of lines but nothing like Anya’s bit on bunnies or Tara’s love ballad to Willow. Even Dawn sings along with the demon responsible for it all – a smooth talking, dancing scary red guy in a fancy suit!
The episode deals with Buffy’s depression after having been brought back from the dead primarily, but each song expresses a feeling or situation that the characters are dealing with. Anya and Xander sing of their fears and worries about their relationship, Spike sings of his tumultuous “thing” with Buffy, Giles comes to the realization that he’s holding Buffy back from growing as much as she should be and that the group is too reliant on him.
Although very few of the cast members have any experience with singing, all of the songs are expertly performed and true to each character. I scoured the internet for a copy of the soundtrack and it was what I had James Marsters sign at MegaCon this year! It’s my absolute favorite. <3
9) Season 6, Episode 8: “Tabula Rasa”
This is one of the greatest episodes imho, and one that is definitely not raved enough about. It’s hilarious – from the literal loan shark that Spike owes small kittens to the Scoobies trying to figure out who they are once their memories are erased thanks to a spell gone awry.
Tara and Willow’s relationship is affected by Willow’s magic usage and Giles has a talk with Buffy about her reliance on him, which are more serious parts of the episode, but for the most part it’s full of comedic hilarity while the Scoobies struggle through regaining their memories. They give themselves names, stories and relationships that they believe makes sense while they try to piece together what happened.
10) Season 6, Episode 17: “Normal Again”
The first time I saw this episode I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. A demon injects Buffy with something that creates an alternate reality for her inside her mind. In this reality, she doesn’t fight vampires or save the world — She’s an insane person in an asylum who thinks she does, and she is trying to work with doctors to overcome these delusions. The episode switches back and forth between each reality, and each seem so possible that she’s conflicted and has no idea which is actually real.
Unlike in the real world where Buffy is a Slayer, in this new reality she has both of her parents back – Joyce isn’t dead. Sunnydale doesn’t exist and she’s been institutionalized for the last 6 years – as long as she’s lived in Sunnydale and worked with her friends to fight evil. While she and the Scoobies work to help fix whatever the demon did, she starts to lose grip on reality and is convinced that she needs to hurt her friends to conquer her “fake” world and rejoin her parents in what she now believes is reality.
In this episode, Buffy reveals that when she first became Slayer and saw her first vampires, she told her mother and father and they didn’t take it well. They had her committed to a hospital where she stayed for a few weeks before telling the doctors what they wanted to hear in order for her to go home. Because of this past, she feels even more sure that she is still in the asylum and that she was never released.
The ending is what disgruntled me a bit, because I don’t typically like open endings. I like my endings to be final, no questions, everything wrapped with a pretty little bow. This left the option that Buffy really still is in this place, and although the show goes on, there is always that weird sort of possibility that everything you’re watching is actually a fiction of this poor girl’s imagination. You can really understand her struggle, and it’s so sad!
So that’s it! My Top 10 Buffy the Vampire Episodes… Right now! Maybe next time I rewatch the series, I’ll love 10 different ones and you’ll get 10 more!
And here is my Runner’s Up List!
1) Season 1, Episode 1: “Welcome to the Hellmouth” (Watching this gives me Scooby-nostalgia feelings, they’re so young and cute!)
2) Season 2, Episode 6: “Halloween” (The Scoobies take the personalities of their Halloween costumes. Hilarity ensues.)
3) Season 2, Episode 14: “Innocence” (Heartbreaking. Buffy’s face when Angel is mean to her kills me.)
4) Season 2, Episode 19: “I Only Have Eyes For You” (Angel and Buffy get possessed by spirits and watching them act it out is surreal!)
5) Season 3, Episode 6: “Band Candy” (Joyce + Giles 4ever <3 )
6) Season 4, Episode 9: “Something Blue” (Nothing beats happy-and-in-love-newlywed Buffy & Spike)
7) Season 4, Episode 16: “Who Are You?” (Faith/Buffy’s mirror scene is perfect)
8) Season 5, Episode 22: “The Gift” (Really pivotal and tragic finale)
9) Season 7, Episode 7: “Conversations With Dead People” (The scene with Willow in the library is intense)
10) Season 7, Episode 22: “Chosen” (I sobbed like it was my job through this)
PS – Do you have a Top 10 Tuesday subject to suggest? Let me know on Facebook! Especially if they’re Buffy related, but I’m open to anything! :D
If you suggest a subject I use, I will link to your personal blog or website in the post as a thank you for the great idea! So far I’m thinking about a list for the saddest moments in the show (because I’m a glutton for punishment) and a list of the worst episodes (which are mostly hilarious).