November 23, 2010

My Five: Favorite Buffy Episodes

I didn't much care for the movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first came out in theaters. As a cynical teen, I thought it was Clueless but with vampires. As I grow up to become a cynical adult though, it kind of grew on me. And by the time the TV series started and got two seasons in, I became an unabashed fan of Joss Whedon and his stake-wielding cheerleader heroine.

Now there are already a metric ton of lists from people declaring their favorite Buffy episodes--or going so far as to declare them the greatest episodes. I'm only hear to give my opinion, and despite the seven seasons of episodes to choose from, I'm sticking with the fave five format.

If you've read other lists of Buffy episodes, you probably won't find any surprises with my list--except maybe one. I think there's something about the show that causes us fans to kind of march in lockstep when it comes to the truly stellar episodes. So, here are my favorites:

#5 "Graduation Day Part 2" (Season 3, Episode 22) - The third season is where I jumped on the Buffy bandwagon and stayed on, and the season finale cemented my love for the show. The entire season had been building to this unholy graduation ceremony in which the mayor was supposedly going to kill off the entire graduating class, Buffy included. To see how he planned to do it, and to see him come damned close to succeeding was just riveting. After being burned for years with cliffhanger endings to season finales from different shows, it was nice to see a show give me a payoff to head into summer. The CGI might be terribly dated by today's standards, but I think it's still worth checking out.

#4 "Normal Again" (Season 6, Episode 17) - What if the whole slayer thing was a delusion in Buffy's mind? When Buffy wakes up in an asylum and is told that her memories of being a vampire slayer are all made-up fantasies, there's this surreal moment as I watched when I actually thought: Are they actually going to pull a Dallas on me, here? This one tip-toed into Twilight Zone territory, which may be why I liked it so much. Buffy is wrestling with one reality where she is the Chosen One, and another where she's a lunatic--but her parents are alive. Tough call. It was episodes like this and my #3 pick that made the sixth season such a head-and-shoulders improvement over the previous season which kind of trod water in my view.

#3: "Villains" (Season 6, Episode 20) - Willow goes ballistic. And that's putting it nicely. The sixth season had an odd appeal to me, as the main villains were the three schleps who took up the dark arts in order to take down Buffy--like if Revenge of the Nerds was a villain's tale--and not the usual supernatural super-baddy. Buffy's gets shot, but Willow's squeeze Tara gets killed thanks to a stray bullet through the chest. That tears it with Willow who embraces her dark side and not only goes after the three nerdy villains, ripping the flesh off of one in one of the most graphically memorable scenes in the show's history, but she ends up trying to destroy everyone else in her insane rage. I love Willow, but I lust evil Willow.

#2: "Fear Itself" (Season 4, Episode ??) - Halloween, and the Scooby gang are going to their first college campus party. A costume party, no less. "Nightmares" was a similar episode of note from the first season, but this one had a better blend of funny and frights. And seeing Anya (Emma Caufield) prancing around in that bunny costume in a flagrant "f*ck you" to all the slutty costumes women wear on Halloween was a nice touch. The only thing better than watching each character contend with their greatest fear was finally discovering the fear demon responsible for their torment. Definitely a classic.

#1: "Hush" (Season 4, Episode 10) - One of the key factors that made this show so damned fun to watch was the dialogue. So, when an enemy comes to Sunnydale that robs everyone of their voices, this episode might have been asking for trouble. Instead, it absolutely shines. The dread and suspense as those well-dressed zombie-ish creatures floating around town offing people is amazing. If these guys had been recurring characters something would have been lost, but it exemplified how good Whedon and company were at creating compelling antagonists for stand-alone episodes. Love, love, love this episode.

Well, that's my list. Out of seven seasons, there are many episodes worth mentioning that are conspicuous by their absence, I admit. Which episode did I leave out that you would absolutely have to include in your fave five?


  1. Timely post, what with the announcement of a Buffy reboot yesterday. A blasphemous, Whedon-free reboot. :(

    My favorite episode is probably Once More With Feeling, just because the idea of a musical ep was so preposterous. But it worked! It revealed secrets, it advanced the plot, Spike got to pretend he was a rock star. No other show on television could have pulled that off, then or now.

  2. The musical is a good episode, and one I was very tempted to put in my fave five. Might have it at #6.

    And I just saw the news today about the Buffy remake. NARDS!

  3. Becoming Part 2 (Season 2 finale); The Body (Season 5 ep where Buffy's mom dies - always makes me cry); Dopplegangland (Season 3 where Willow has a vampire twin - "I'm a bloodsucking fiend! Look at my outfit!"); Conversations with Dead People (Season 7); and Band Candy (Season 3 - Joyce and Giles hook up!).

    Whoa, what Buffy reboot/remake?! I must make haste to look this up!

  4. There was this Dawn episode that should be in your top 5....just kidding.

    Solid list.

    I only remember great Buffy one liners.

    Buffy: Hey Ken, wanna see my impression of Gandhi?
    [beats him to death with a club]
    Lily: Gandhi?
    Buffy: Well, you know, he was really pissed-off.

  5. So many favourite episodes. 'Hush' of course, and Once More with Feeling, Tabula Rasa, Dopplegangland...

  6. TheGirlWhoLovesHorror - Yeah, Buffy movie in the works, apparently by a greenhorn screenwriter. I cringe.

    Jaded Viewer - Ha. Good times.

    Cate - "Tabula Rasa" ... which one was that?