We’ve grown to love “Buffy” more and more over the years. Our appreciation for Joss Whedon has also grown, as he’s managed to deliver cult series’ that are immortal in spite of their short lived, and often under appreciated shelf lives on television. This October, we’re naming our Top Ten Buffy episodes of all time, and it wasn’t an easy decision. There were some really good episodes we left out of the equation, but in the end we were happy with this definitive list of ten episodes we just love to watch over and over.
10. Dead Man’s Party
This is mainly just a filler episode, but does confront the biggest gap left after Buffy was forced to kill Angel. Leaving home and on the run for months on end, Buffy returns to find that not many of her friends have missed her. Though that’s mostly just a cover up for the fact that they’re resentful and hurt toward her choice of leaving home when things became really bad. While celebrating Buffy’s homecoming, a mask Buffy’s mom brings home begins turning every dead thing in Sunnydale in to the walking dead, and most of the episode involves the team fighting against the walking dead, all of whom begin flocking to the location of the mask and crash the party. The episode is creepy, it’s funny, and it shows that even when they’re angry at one another, the group can band together and take on a foe.
9. Graduation Day
The final episode featuring Angel in “Buffy,” this is by far one of the best episodes of the series. After a long bout of battling wits with the evil mayor who planned to take over the world as a mystical being, Buffy has to face off against her powerful equal, the rogue vampire slayer Faith. After leaving her in a coma, Buffy has to devise a way to bring down the mayor, and bring together the graduating class from Sunnydale high to help save the world. Many characters are killed, and the group approaches the mayor’s demonic form as a gigantic serpent with crafty battle tactics and readily propped explosives. Whedon had to re-write the ending subsequent the Columbine massacre as the students were originally going to take on the mayor with fire arms and modern weapons. It was changed at the last minute to ancient weapons.
8. Normal Again
“Normal Again” is that episode where you can never really be sure if the writers are pulling our tail or not. The final scene is left generally ambiguous as Buffy is still dangling in her hallucination that she’s just a mental patient. Or maybe the hallucination is still her as the slayer? Taking on the trio of geeky scientists in season six causes Buffy to have a run in with a demon. The demon stabs her with a skewer that injects a toxin that creates two worlds for Buffy. In one she’s the slayer with her life, and in the other she’s a mental patient in a hospital where the people in her life are merely just doctors and nurses trying to help her regain her mental stability. Buffy struggles to come to grips with both worlds, and figure out where she belongs. Of course, since Buffy is strong and fast, she begins dispatching her friends with ease as the remaining group try to help Buffy regain her sanity. It’s a dark but unique episode.
7. Conversations with Dead People
This episode marks the beginning of the end for “Buffy,” as various characters in the series arc manage to find their own revelatory experience that brings them to the doorstep of the final confrontation with the first. Most importantly Willow who comes face to face with the spirit of a dead student Buffy once helped, all the while Buffy garners insight in to her own world thanks to a vampire that was once a psychology student. Willow also comes face to face with the disturbed soul of her dead mother, struggling to figure out why she’s so angry, and what she’s intending to convey. All sub-plots mainly have a connection in that they’re omens of the coming of the First, only Willow realizes it when the spirit of the dead student pretends to be Tara. Only Willow really knew Tara, and when the spirit claims Tara beckons Willow to commit suicide, Willow sees through the charade and meets the first in its pure form.
Before “Vampire Diaries” touched on it, Angel’s transformation in to Angelus was a very sharp metaphor for the abusive relationship, and how quickly partners can turn when they don’t reveal who they truly are. Angelus is on the loose again and seeking ways to torment Buffy and break her down mentally, all the while the group scrambles in a mad panic to stop Angelus and destroy his antics that will potentially turn deadly if he should decide it’s time to raise the body count. Buffy figures out how to Revoke Angel’s invitation, but the rush to bring his soul back is brought to a halt when Angel stalks the character Miss Calendar and murders her in cold blood before she could send the spell to Giles and Willow. It’s a sad moment in the series, and it’s made even worse when Angelus delights in seeing Buffy and Willow’s grief at their friends’ murder. As a means of kicking the team while they were down, Angelus stages the ultimate horrific murder scene for Giles who arrives to see his lover’s body. It’s a great episode that signaled anyone and everyone on the show could die at any moment.
“Helpless” is the time where Giles stopped being Buffy’s teacher and started becoming her surrogate father. It also showed that she’s a capable of woman, even without her powers. Every sixteenth birthday the slayer is secretly doused with a toxin that lowers their powers temporarily, making them vulnerable to attacks while the watcher’s council puts them through a test. But when their vampire breaks free and goes rogue, Buffy has to face off against the demon, and save her mother who is kidnapped in the middle of the cat and mouse game. To make things worse, Buffy is never really sure if she can trust Giles, even after he admits to drugging her and loses his job as her watcher in an effort to save her from the torment of the trials. It’s a dark and very entertaining episode that shows Buffy is much too clever go down easily.
An exciting and touching episode, Willow completely embraces her dark side, and battles her former mentor Giles to the death. Winning without missing a beat, she decides to absorb his power, and figures that the best thing to do is destroy the world. Buffy can’t get through to her, neither can Dawn, and Giles has lost his ability to fight, so by the end Willow has won. Or so she thinks when Xander finally steps in and appeals to the beautiful kind Willow he knew since they were kids. Killing her with kindness and love, Willow hurts Xander, but is incapable of shaking his unconditional love for her. Xander defeats a powerful foe in the end, thanks to his ability to love beyond a shadow of a doubt.
3. Dirty Girls
Right before the series came to an end, Buffy figured out how to finally bring down that god forsaken beast known as the ubervamp. It was a vicious pure blooded vamp that gave Buffy and her army no end of difficulty. The First retaliated with a brand new threat in the form of Caleb, a psychotic preacher who delighted in torturing and murdering young girls. Praising the first, he was given immense strength, and manages to completely slaughter Buffy’s army in the end of the episode. It was truly a moment where we were considering that Buffy and her friends might lose the match against evil. He kills a bunch of potentials, and nearly blinds Xander. By the end, Buffy is so distraught by his combat techniques that she’s at wit’s end, and Caleb might just beat her to a pulp before the war. It’s a vicious introduction to an excellent Buffy villain.
We already told you why we consider “Hush” the second best episode of the series, but damn it, we’ll keep gushing about it. The episode isn’t just scary, it’s fun. The editing is brilliant, the villains for the episode are brilliant, and if I ever saw the Gentlemen, I’d be huddled in to a corner whimpering like a baby. You’d never hear me though because my voice would likely be gone. Good for them too, because I’d also be screaming like a girl, too. In any sense, “Hush” opened up a lot of lingering plot threads in the season, and introduced us to Willow’s future lover, Tara.
1. The Body
We already laid out the reasons in this list about why “The Body” is the best episode of Buffy ever made. But there are a plethora of other reasons, too. This is an episode where Buffy is just a big sister in over her head. No super powers, no kung fu, and completely vulnerable. The death of her mother upped the ante, giving Buffy a harder time finishing her mission to protect Dawn. Joyce’s spirit would be violated in future episodes by demons trying to destroy Buffy’s will to keep fighting, as well. It’s a powerful compelling episode.