A little while back, The Guardian wrote about the top 5 Buffy episodes. There were so many glaring omissions on their list, that as the Summer Teen Special TV Club Meeting rolls around, we felt we had to set it right.
So, here are the 5 best episodes of Buffy, from a genuine fan who watched the show while it aired, and every single year since (and there’s not a Xander Harris episode in sight. In hindsight we can all agree that Xander was the weak link, right?).
1. Prophecy Girl
The Guardian argued that the best season 1 episode is Angel, and while I’ll admit, it’s fun to find out Angel is a vampire, Prophecy Girl is EVERYTHING that season 1 of Buffy has been building to. It signals the end of Buffy as a ‘monster of the week show’ and seals its fate as something far bigger. It’s the episode in which Buffy accepts her fate as the Slayer and (after dying, briefly) becomes all the more powerful for it. It’s also probably the only time that Xander is actually a useful addition to the team. (He saves Buffy with CPR when big, strong, breath free Angel can’t)
It’s also the first episode where we get to see Buffy act her age. For a few minutes, gone are the sass talking comebacks, she’s just a terrified sixteen year old girl who doesn’t want to die.
It’s got some of the best lines, and as far as I can remember, the only use of the brilliant Nerf Herder theme song in the actual show. The Buffy marching back to the library to kill the master after dying scene ‘oh look, a bad guy’ still gives me goosebumps. This is Buffy becoming the show we wanted it to be, in the best possible way.
2. Becoming (Parts 1 & 2)
2 episodes isn’t technically cheating as this is the season 2 finale, which was split into a two-episode bawlfest (it’s always the ones that Joss wrote and directed that’ll kill you).
This is one of the most testing episodes for Buffy, she’s already lost Angel to the darkside, he’s killed Jenny Calendar, Buffy falls for another of Angels tricks that allows Giles to be kidnapped, Kendra to be killed by Drusilla and lands Willow with a coma. And all of this before Buffy is kicked out of school, on the run from the police and after her mother learns of her true identity, kicked out of home too. Oh, and then there’s the thing where Willow wakes up and manages to work the spell with the Orb of Thesula and gives Angel back his soul, but only after it’s too late and Buffy has to send him to hell by stabbing him with a giant sword to save the world. Again.
Reading this back these episodes sound like total bummers. And although they really should be, they’re not. This is where Whedon works his magic, with just enough humour to take the edge of these life destroying scenes. It’s also another big Buffy lesson (oh, and another time when we realise Xander is a total dick) that she doesn’t actually need anyone else. This seems to sadden her more than anything she’s learned up until this stage.
I never ever grow tired of watching these two episodes, and man, is it good to have Angel back for 2 minutes (if only so he might stop wearing the leather trousers).
Hush is on this list for two reasons. 1) The Gentlemen are the scariest Buffy villain of all (they’re the only bit character who got a Pop Vinyl toy) and 2) It’s BRILLIANT television. Even Riley Finn can’t ruin this episode.
A completely silent Sunnydale manages to mix super creepy with moments of comedy gold. This is the episode where Willow meets Tara for the first time, oh and Spike is on better form than ever . This is easily the best episode of the weakest season. I said it. I hate The Initiative!
4. Once More With Feeling
13 years before Supernatural made the internet go wild with the musical ‘Fan Fiction’ Buffy gave us the glory that is Once More With Feeling. It’s literally everything you need from TV. So good you almost forget Dawn is there! And lest we not forget, this is the beginning of the Buffy and Spike make out fest. I don’t need to tell you anything about this episode, because even people who haven’t watched much Buffy have seen this. Sometimes, when I’m working from home alone, I’ll just put on the soundtrack and sing out loud. I know I’m not the only one!
This is a controversial choice, but I firmly believe that this is the best ending to a TV series ever. It’s rare to not feel like an ending to something you’ve invested seven years in is anything but a cop out, but Chosen leaves you feeling totally alive, if also completely heartbroken. Everything happens in this episode, and the first time you watch it you’re genuinely blown away by the twist.
There’s no easy way to embed a gifset to WordPress, so here it is as a tiny video that will remind you why you were such a Buffy fangirl in the first place.