Top Ten Episodes of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"
1. Ep. 3.22. Graduation Day, Part 2
This ep makes the number one spot because I could watch the part where the entire school body stands up to fight over and over again (and, indeed, I have). Part of what made “Buffy” such a relatable show were the metaphors it used. Who hasn't felt as if high school is Hell? It just made sense that for their graduation, they wouldn't just leave the school behind: they would leave nothing of the school behind. Watch for Cordelia staking her first vampire, Harmony getting bitten, a lovely jump attack by Jonathan, and Xander as “key guy.”
2. Ep. 3.9. The Wish
Who doesn't love an episode about alternate realities? Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, and she soon finds out (albeit briefly) what that world would be like. What I love about these “what if” scenarios is how everything is different, but no one really changes. Unless they've been vamped, of course. But I love how when Giles tries to contact Buffy's Watcher, the Watcher tells Giles he doesn't know where she is. Classic Buffy, disobeying her Watcher (in the Hellmouth in Cleveland, no less). Another little goody is Angel as a “puppy,” and probably wrongly I have often wondered if this was the Hell (or one of the Hells) that Buffy sent him to. Of course, the best moment comes from Giles, when he asserts that the other world has to be better than the one they are in right now. Also, in that one moment, a tertiary character gets promoted to semi-regular status (and one of my favorite characters on “Buffy” ever).
3. Ep. 2.14 Innocence
By this point in time, everyone should know the entire Angel melodramatic saga: vampire cursed with a soul, one moment of true happiness will cause him to lose his soul, blah blah blah. Again paralleling real life, Buffy's first sexual experience goes horribly, horribly wrong when the man she loves changes and wants nothing to do with her anymore. Despite the sadness and the realization that the Angel she loved had disappeared, this is a really fun episode to watch. I'm speaking specifically about The Judge, whom “no weapon forged” could harm. “That was then, this is now.” As Gregg Wrenn so eloquently put it in TeeVee.org's Top Ten List, “A hot chick. A rocket launcher. What else could you possibly want?”
4. Ep. 2.17 Passion
Season Two is incredibly dark, and this episode could quite possibly be the turning point for the entire show – not just the season. Angel's eerie voice-over sets the perfect tone for this episode and just really makes the show all the more real. The entire episode is heartbreaking and perfect. Angel's ability to mentally torture the ones that used to consider him a friend is emotionally shattering for the characters as well as the audience. It does not help that Jenny Calendar was working on an important spell, and Angel destroyed that for her. My absolute favorite moment in this episode, though, is at the very end when Giles gets angry at Buffy for fighting his fight and she declares that she needs him because she can't do this alone.
5. Ep. 2.22 Becoming, Part 2
This episode just capped off the darkness of Season Two. It's almost TV cliché to have a heroine contemplate killing the man she loves, even if he did turn evil. It is not cliché, though, to have her actually go through with it. There was one weird bit, in particular, that bothered me. Xander gave Buffy a faux message from Willow to kick Angel's ass. This was never really resolved (when it should have been, Ep. 3.2 “Dead Man's Party”) but was a throw-away bit of dialogue in Ep. 7.5 “Selfless.” I guess in a show where almost nothing is a throw-away line and always leads to something else, when something truly does not connect it leaves you all disjointed or something. Anyway, it's not many shows that would let Angel die, especially after Jenny's spell finally worked. I guess that's dramatic irony.
6. Ep. 4.10 Hush
So all the critics said, “Well Buffy's only good because of the dialogue.” (And since when is that a bad thing, for chrissakes? It's TV, for crying out loud! TV doesn't have the budget for special effects and whatever else these critics are hankering for.) Anyway, Whedon proves that it's not the dialogue that makes Buffy great. It's the stories, the intereactions, the characters. This episode echoes a fairy tale; the Gentleman come to steal hearts, but first they steal voices so no one can cry out. The music in this episode is amazing, as is the one final bit of dialogue at the end. After finding each other out in a classic superhero/villain moment (except they are neither one a villain, of course), Riley says, “Well, I guess we have to talk.” Buffy says, “I guess we do.” And that's where the episode ends. Other little bits to look for are the beginning of Willow and Tara, Anya realizing that Xander really does care for her and her “let's fuck” gesture, and Buffy's staking gesture sans stake.
7. Ep. 6.7 Once More, With Feeling
We had the no speaking episode and two years later, the singing episode. And everyone was skeptical and not sure what to make of it. And then it aired, and it was easily one of the best hours of television ever. It was awesome without being cheesey, it poked fun at itself and musicals and musical montages in general, and it resolved a lot of the plot points from the beginning of the season. And of course only “Buffy” could get a Tony award winning performer to play the tap-dancing and singing demon, Sweet. If you love musicals, you love this ep. If you hate musicals, you'll love this ep. If you really don't care one way or the other about musicals, you'll love this ep.
8. Ep. 7.7 Conversations With Dead People
I never knew so much could be packed into an hour (or 41 minutes if you cut out commercials). The First Evil has come to town, and it can only take on the guise of a dead person. But The First is only taking on the guise of two, possibly three people. Willow speaks with Cassie, who died earlier in the season. Cassie is actually speaking for Tara, though, and it would have been all kinds of cool if Amber Benson had actually agreed to appear in this episode. Andrew gets a visit from Jonathan, and Dawn gets a visit from her mother who may or may not be The First. The final conversation occurs between Buffy and an old classmate cum vamp, Webbs. (Webbs tells her that her old boyfriend from high school, Scott Hope, is gay now. That is a total shout-out to TWoP.) As the title suggests, this episode is dialogue heavy, but it is really beautiful. This is the episode that truly set the final season into motion.
9. Ep. 4.16 Who Are You?
I will be the first to admit that Faith is one of the best villians, let alone characters, of all time. Not only is Faith no-holds-barred-evil, she is hot. Anyway, this is sort of the turning point in Faith's arc, as her storyline crosses both “Buffy” and “Angel.” She realizes that Buffy is surrounded by love and that she has to change her ways. She learns this, of course, by switching bodies with Buffy. I think the best part of this entire episode is Sarah Michelle Gellar's ability to peg Eliza Dushku's Faith, right down to that Canadian U in “about” and Dushku's ability to pull of Gellar's “Buffy.”
10. Ep. 7.22 Chosen
I know this episode does not make it to many Top Ten lists, but I truly think that this is a stellar episode. OK, there are several plot points that make no sense. Why pair Anya and Andrew together? Of course one of them would die! At least Andrew got Anya all riled up by mentioning bunnies. And how come the über-vamps are so easy to kill now? Why spend three episodes establishing that they are unkillable just to have hordes of them killed in this episode? And why wouldn't Buffy want Willow to perform the spell before going into battle? All that being said, I really don't think the show could have ended any other way. There had to be a way to end the Slayer line and this was the way to do it. The music in this episode was perfect battle music (reminded me of the music from “The Last of the Mohicans”), and everyone cries during Buffy's speech. Anyway, this ep also left the perfect opportunity for spin-offs and possibly movies at a later date. Buffy told Angel that one day she hopes to be with him, Faith ended up with Wood (and wouldn't Wood want a Slayer?), and finally no more Hellmouth. As with the end of Season Three, everything had to be destroyed. Not to worry, though, there's always Cleveland.