Something I put together back in May 2003, when Buffy ended…
Ones for the Ages: The Best of Buffy
When they try to explain to future generations why Buffy was a great series, these are the episodes they’ll point to. And I like them, too.
Best overall: The Body (5.16). No vampires or demons, no magical reanimation. Just the stupid, mortal, sudden death of a good person. Told in real time.
Surprise / Innocence (2.13 / 2.14). The ultimate “we had sex, and now he’s being a jerk scenario.”
Becoming Part 2 (2.22).
Angelus: Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons… No friends… No hope. Take all that away… and what’s left?
Hush (4.10). The episode famous for its 30 dialog-free minutes. And it was freakin’ scary, too.
Restless (4.22). In dreams lie responsibilities.
The Gift (5.22). Everybody knew that someone would die. But almost no one guessed it would Buffy.
Once More with Feeling (6.7). Not just a stunt, the musical truly advanced every character’s plotlines in important ways. And the songs stick in your head like glue.
Smashed (6.9). To be fair, probably just the last 10 minutes of “Smashed” — possibly the most incredible sex scene ever on network television.
Beneath You (7.2). Again, a good but fairly ordinary episode that is raised to the extraordinary by its final scene, which again features Buffy and Spike. “Can we rest now, Buffy? Can we rest?”
My personal favourite of all these fine episodes? Say it with me, gently now: Once More with Feeling.
Best Buffy/Angel crossover
Most of the crossover episodes, unfortunately, weren’t that fantastic. Angel often seemed like a weird pod-person version of himself, as though once back in Sunnydale he’d forgotten everything he’d been through in Los Angeles. Fortunately, we did get one truly fantastic crossover: the flashback-heavy duo of Fool for Love (5.7) and Darla (Angel 2.7).
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (2.16). Xander’s love spell goes terribly, terribly wrong.
Band Candy (3.6). Magical candy bars make Giles, Joyce, Snyder, and most of the town’s adults revert to their teenage selves.
Doppelgangland (3.16). Instead of bringing back Anya’s amulet, VampWillow is retrieved from the world created in “The Wish.”
Buffy: (breathlessly) Willow, you’re alive?
Willow: (puzzled) Aren’t I usually?
Willow: Say, you all didn’t happen to do a bunch of drugs, did ya?
Willow: (appalled) It’s horrible! That’s me as a vampire? (Angel closes the door) I’m so evil and… skanky. (aside to Buffy, worried) And I think I’m kinda gay.
Something Blue (4.9). Willow’s out of control magic reeks havoc on her friends, including making Spike and Buffy think they are in love and about to be married.
Tabula Rasa (6.8). Everyone forgets who they are. Both hilarious and predictive of events to come later in the season.
Him (7.6). Buffy, Dawn, Anya, and Willow all compete for the same high school student, thanks to his lust-inducing sports jacket.
Ones for Me: More Personal Favourites
These ones didn’t make it into other categories, but I like them a lot. (In air date order.)
Nightmares (1.10). Everyone’s nightmares start coming true. And these are the nightmares we’ve all had.
I Only Have Eyes for You (2.19). It’s romantic, it’s thematic, it gets Buffy and Angel kissing again without cheating… I love it.
The Wish (3.9). What would Sunnydale have been like if Buffy had moved to Cleveland? For this episode alone, Marti Noxon has earned her place in the Buffy Hall of Fame.
The Zeppo (3.13). Buffy does Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with Xander as Rosencratz (or maybe Guildenstern?), and Buffy as Hamlet. You got to love it when the apocalypse takes place off-screen.
Who Are You? (4.16) Faith takes full advantage of her time in Buffy’s body.
Seeing Red (6.19). Brilliantly filmed, though I have to fast-forward the attempted rape scene.
Conversations with Dead People (7.7). Five stories in real time. Dawn’s is terrifying, Buffy’s is funny and insightful, and Spike’s is mysterious and ultimately shocking.
Selfless (7.5). Anya finally gets an episode of her own — and it could be the best one of Season 7.
Episodes I liked a whole lot more than others did
These ones aren’t my favourites, but I did think they were good. This is not a popular opinion.
The Pack (1.5). Xander becomes cool and scary; well-executed metaphor of how kids can get when in a group; what’s not to love?
Go Fish (2.20). I know why people hate this one: it was broadcast in the middle of the whole “Angel turns evil” story arc. Viewers were interested in that, dammit; no one wanted to see a story about the swim team turning into fishes. But viewed on its own, it’s actually a pretty decent episode that really advances Xander and Cordelia’s relationship.
The Initiative (4.7). It’s not that people hate this one, but they never pick it as one of their favourites, and I would put it right up there. So much is revealed in this one: Riley’s secret life in the military, Spike’s fate as a captive and the effect of his chip, Professor Walsh’s role… And even though I know all that now, it’s still fun to watch it all being revealed again!
Doublemeat Palace (6.12). I guess this one doesn’t mean much if you’ve never experienced the horror that is a boring, dissatisfying job, but I have, and this episode really captured what that can do to people. So I’ll forgive it the lame snake monster at the end.
Also Season 6 in general — I don’t share the “popular” opinion that it was weaker than the rest. I found a lot of it really fascinating.
She was just so adorable.
There’s something about a vampire with a soul.
Unpredictable; endlessly fascinating. Also hot.
Who says beautiful women can’t be funny?
Most heartbreaking scenes
The ones that make me cry, every time.
Anya’s “I don’t understand how this all happens” speech in The Body (5.16).
Buffy’s death in The Gift (5.22), from her dive off the tower to Spike sobbing at the end.
Oz and Willow break up in Wild at Heart (4.6).
Buffy’s “I can’t breathe” speech to Willow after Angel breaks up with her in The Prom (4.20).
Buffy’s “I’m only 16 — I don’t want to die” speech in Prophecy Girl (1.12).
- Angel being mean to Buffy after their night together in Innocence (2.14).*
- Buffy’s very, very bad day in Becoming, Part 2 (2.22).
- Buffy begging Tara not to forgive her at the end of Dead Things (6.13).
- Spike telling Buffy about his soul at the end of Beneath You (7.2).
- Spike and Anya’s deaths in Chosen (7.22).
- Any time Willow cries (seasons 1–7).
The winner and still the champion: Buffy and Spike bring down the house in Smashed (6.9).
More hot stuff:
Buffy and Faith’s sexy dance in Bad Girls (3.14). Slashiest couple ever.
Buffy and Angel get all hot and bothered via a shared dream in Amends (3.10).
Spike pushes Buffy’s buttons in the kitchen in Gone (6.11).
Faith, in Buffy’s body, tells Spike she could “ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up” in Who Are You (4.16).
Faith and Spike reminisce about that time in Dirty Girls (7.18).
Number of episodes in which Buffy and Spike have sex: 5. If you include the BuffyBot: 6.
Number of episodes in which Buffy and Spike kiss: 7. If you include dream sequences: 8.
Number in which they do both: 1. If you include the BuffyBot: 2. If you include dream sequences: 3.
Great scenes in mediocre episodes
Proving that every episode of Buffy contains something worth watching.
The doomed Mr. Gregory recognizes how smart Buffy is in Teacher’s Pet (1.4).
Willow’s Eskimo outfit in Inca Mummy Girl (2.4). Both adorable and funny, it also says a lot about where Willow is at this point in her life. And, it introduces Oz.
Giles sings “Behind Blue Eyes” at coffee shop as the Scoobies look on in amazement in Where the Wild Things Are (4.18). Possibly Giles’ sexiest moment ever.
Buffy utters the best post-coital line ever in Wrecked (6.10): “When did the building fall down?”
Buffy’s dumbfounded reaction to seeing Riley again in As You Were (6.15) is hilarious. “My hat has a cow.”
Xander’s “you’re not special — you’re extraordinary” speech to Dawn in Potential (7.12) almost makes up for the rest of the episode.
Includes nothing from seasons 1 and 2, because I didn’t start watching until those were in reruns, so I basically knew from the start that Angel would go evil after sex, Jenny Calendar would die, and there would be a second slayer—all things I’m sure would have been huge shocks the first time around.
The entire graduating class takes on the Mayor in Graduation Day, Part 2 (3.22).
Buffy wins the Class Protector award at The Prom (3.20).
Faiths kills the Deputy Mayor in Bad Girls (3.14).
Riley is a commando, Professor Walsh is a commander, and Spike has a chip. All in The Initiative (4.7).
Spike’s sex dream about Buffy in Out of My Mind (5.4).
Buffy’s death in The Gift. (5.22)
Spike feeding again at the end of Conversations with Dead People (7.7).
Issues that have never been resolved to my satisfaction.
Why did Xander and Anya break up? That never really made sense to me. Couldn’t be because they couldn’t write a happy couple in an interesting way, could it? Nah.
Why the repeated and, ultimately never-to-be-explained, references to Buffy’s death activating a new slayer? If that’s true, why didn’t her death in The Gift activate one? Why did these references especially show up in episodes written by Joss? Did he just like that idea so much, he couldn’t get rid of it?
What does Dawn’s being the Key do to her? Does she have any special powers?
In season 5, Doc said he knew Spike from somewhere (but with brown hair). What the heck was that all about?
How would Buffy react to Angel giving back his humanity (in early Season 4, but on Angel), if she were to find out?
Why didn’t Xander or Willow ever talk about Jesse (their alleged best friend) again after he died?
Why didn’t Xander fess up when people started self-combusting in Once More with Feeling, and how did he come to terms with causing those deaths?
What was Maggie Walsh’s actual plan for Adam and Riley before Adam killed her?
Ultimately, why was the First so interested in slayers and the slayer line?
The Mayor — Season 3.