Looking for something to do after you unwrap all your gifts this holiday season? I am recommending a BtVS rewatch. And if you weren’t sure where to begin, here are episodes 25-21 in my list of the top 25 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes of all time (according to me of course)!
25. “Angel,” Season 1, episode 7
“So he is a good vampire! I mean, on a scale of one to ten, ten being someone who’s killing and maiming every night, and one being someone who’s… not.” -Willow
“Angel’s a vampire. You’re the slayer. I think it’s obvious what you have to do.” -Xander
“I’m not afraid of you. Maybe she is, though.” -Darla
I have to come clean before I continue with this countdown: I am 100% on the Buffy/Angel bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong– I love Spike, and that fact will become obvious as the list continues. But in my mind it always was, and always will be Buffy and Angel. No other romantic plot line of Buffy’s can hold a candle to this one. So comment away now, all you Buffy/Spike shippers and tell me how wrong I am. I’m prepared.
Anyway. Like “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” “Angel” is an episode that is crucial in establishing what will be one of my most important plot lines in the first three seasons of the show. Prior to this episode, Angel was a dark, mysterious stranger who showed up to occasionally warn Buffy of trouble, but not much more than that. In fact, when Willow brings up the handsome stranger, Buffy’s impression of him goes something like, “Hi honey, you’re in grave danger. See ya next month!”
Before the big reveal in Buffy’s bedroom of Angel’s true nature, the writers give us a lot of big hints. Angel reminds Buffy that vamps need to be invited to come in, right after she yells at him to get inside. He talks about the fact that vampires killed his family. Angel insists that he is older than Buffy, and a relationship between them can never work– and also mentions that it’s been quite some time since someone has been around to hear him snore.
SMG does a nice job of convincing us viewers of her strong feelings for this stranger who turns out to be her mortal enemy, and Nicholas Brendan continues to show us that yes, Xander is funny– but there is more than that. His jealousy of Angel and feelings for Buffy are something that colors the entire series.
And as I said about the season premiere, Darla is always a bright spot in this show. She doesn’t play a big role (although she will on Angel)– in fact, I Googled it, and she only appears in five episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (most being flashbacks). But she is great in this episode, and gives us a whole lot of Angel backstory without just telling us in a way that seems unrealistic. She wants to reminisce with her ex-lover, and if that helps the viewer to learn where Angel came from– all the better.
In the end, Angel kills his sire for Buffy (RIP, Darla), but the two still agree they need to stop seeing each other. Buffy kisses Angel goodbye, and we get the iconic shot of Angel watching her walk away, the shape of a cross burned into his chest from her necklace.
24. “Conversations with Dead People,” Season 7, episode 7
“She says she still sings.” -The First as Cassie
“I’m the Slayer. It’s sort of a thing.” -Buffy
“I love you, and I love Buffy. But she won’t be there for you. When it’s bad, Buffy won’t choose you. She’ll be against you.” -The First as Joyce
Season Seven is not Buffy at it’s best. Not even close. But that being said– there are a couple of gems, and “Conversations with Dead People” is one of them. This is not your typical episode, which is apparent from the beginning when the title flashes onto the screen, something that never happens.
Buffy talks to Holden, a boy she went to high school with, turned aspiring shrink, turned vampire. Willow talks to Cassie, who is apparently speaking to her on behalf of Tara. Dawn tries to protect Joyce from some kind of demon. And, finally, Warren appears to Andrew, convincing him to return to Sunnydale and sacrifice Jonathan.
As a whole, this episode is hit or miss. I could do without the trio, and think that after all we’ve been through with Jonathan, he deserved a better death than this. And the Dawn and Joyce stuff is a little crazy, although we did see some real creepy moments (Joyce’s body on the couch, blood on the walls, etc), and we get that great quote from Joyce at the end.
But what makes this episode are Buffy’s interactions with Holden, and even more so, Willow’s with Cassie.
Buffy and Holden chat like old friends running into each other at the mall, and then Holden begins to psychoanalyze her. Buffy explores her relationships with men (mainly Spike), but with everyone around her as well. Holden asks all those perfect questions to get Buffy to delve further and further into herself, while laying on top of a slab of cement, Holden sitting next to her like Dr. Freud. “I feel like I’m better than them. Superior,” she tells him. And isn’t this something Buffy has always struggled with, especially this season? Buffy and Holden fight, then go back to therapy, then fight again. Holden thinks that he can beat Buffy, the way I assume all new vampires do. But then he spills the beans that Spike sired him (who Buffy thought had been rendered useless with that silly chip in his head), which gets him an immediate stake through the heart.
Tara Maclay was a fabulous addition to this television show, and she was beautifully portrayed by Amber Benson. Her tragic death was needed to further the season six story line, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating. And Willow went from 0 to 60 in two seconds flat, never taking a second to really mourn for her love. This scene with Cassie lets us watch Willow do just that. It’s closure for everyone. “Tara, I miss you. I miss you so much. Can she hear me?” Willow asks Cassie crying, who nods. “It hurts so much. Everyday. It’s like this giant hole.” Willow’s words to her lost love are emotional and poignant, and just watching these scenes is enough to make my eyes well up. Alyson Hannigan played them perfectly.
Of course, in the end it turns out Cassie isn’t there because of Tara. She is just the First Evil, showing it’s ugly head once again, trying to tell Willow that maybe suicide is the way to go. Lucky for us, Willow knows Tara. And she realizes that none of this came from her. It’s sad for us to know that Willow wasn’t really telling Tara all those things but… the sap in me feels like Tara already knows.
23. “Pangs,” Season 4, episode 8
“To commemorate a past event you kill an animal and eat it. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.” -Anya
“I like my evil like I like my men– evil.” -Buffy
“I can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians!” -Spike
Season Four is not my favorite because, well… Riley. But starting with “Pangs” we get a stretch of three great episodes in a row, which is saying something for a season that is lackluster as a whole. And I know I may get some flack for having an episode like “Pangs” in my top 25 but… I think it’s hilarious, and underrated.
Buffy decides to host a Thanksgiving dinner at Giles’ house, and hijinks ensue. Xander accidentally releases some Chumash spirits, who in turn give him measles… and smallpox… and syphilis. Willow and Giles can’t stop arguing over what to do with Hus, the native American, when they actually do catch him. Willow thinks they should just apologize, but Giles feels death might be a better way to go. In the meantime, Angel is secretly in town, a fact that everyone knows except Buffy, and Spike is wandering around aimlessly hoping to find food. And when Harmony won’t even take him back the only place he can think of to go is, well… Giles’ place.
“Pangs” has it problems (a Chumash Indian is enough to bring Angel running from LA? Like Buffy hasn’t faced worst?), but once Spike knocks on Giles’ front door, none of that matters. The introduction of Spike, the former almost-Big Bad, into the Scooby Gang couldn’t be better. “I came to you in friendship… well, alright, seething hatred,” he tells Buffy. He has great interactions with Xander (which is something that will continue for the rest of the season), and he really makes the final fight scene.
And let’s face it– when the bear is fake it looks pretty awful, but does that really matter when you have Spike, tied to a chair, covered in arrows, screaming, “A bear! You made a bear… Undo it, undo it!”
The final scene is classic when everyone (including Spike) is sitting at the table for Thanksgiving dinner, discussing how it is just like old times, and Xander accidentally announces, “Especially with Angel being here and everything,” causing everyone to turn and stare at Buffy.
22. “What’s My Line?” Season 2, episodes 9 & 10
“Come on, Cordelia. You wanna be a member of the Scooby Gang, you gotta be willing to be inconvenienced every now and then.”- Xander
“I don’t take orders. I do things my way.” -Buffy
“You talk about slaying like it’s a job. It’s not. It’s who you are.” -Kendra
“What’s my Line?” is another episode that shows Buffy attempting to juggle slaying with being a normal girl, but this episode does it better than it predecessors, and even gives it a conclusion of sorts.
Spike sends the Order of Taraka after Buffy, hoping to distract her so he can get his hands on Angel. It turns out there is a spell that will restore Drusilla back to health, and Angel is a big part of it. In part one of the episode, while Buffy takes her career aptitude test (she should be a cop or a landscaper, apparently) and tries to participate in Career Week, we are introduced to who we are supposed to believe are the three members of the Order that Spike called upon: Creepy guy at the ice rink, bug man, and Kendra. Except, Kendra isn’t a bad guy. In fact, part one ends with her explaining who she is to Buffy: “I’m Kendra. The vampire slayer,” while Buffy stares at her in shock. It’s a great reveal, and a great cliffhanger.
Once we’ve established that Buffy did in fact die (“only a little!”) and Kendra was called to replace her, we get to see the stark contrast between the two girls. Kendra follows a slayer handbook, reads the Watcher’s Diaries, and isn’t allowed to talk to boys. She is emotionless about slaying, and does not have friends, parents, or even a last name. She has her sacred duty, and that is pretty much that. Kendra can’t understand how Buffy balances her two lives, and Buffy begins to appreciate the social life she is able to have, regardless of how small it sometimes seems to her.
By the end of episode, Buffy has realized something else. What she has is more important than a job assigned to her at a career fair. She has a calling. The idea of going to Disneyland and getting a job sounds nice, but it’s not who she is. “What’s my Line?” feels like the first episode where Buffy truly accepts her fate, and realizes (in comparison to Kendra’s way of living) how it could be much worst.
This episode also has a whole lot of awesome Xander one-liners. While watching it, I just found myself writing down basically everything he said. “So you’re a slayer, huh? I like that in my women.” “Angel’s our friend! Except I don’t like him.” “Oh, here we go! I am the bug man, coo coo ca choo!” “Dork head! You slash me with your words!” And all of these awesome quotes pale in comparison to Xander’s big moment this episode– his first kiss with Cordelia. Which is brilliantly done, with the two screaming at each other, followed by epic music, and a passionate embrace.
We also get more hints at a Willow/Oz romance, after Oz is shot by the real third member of the Order (cop lady). I know I already said how much I love Tara, but I love Oz as well. He was perfect for Willow in these early seasons, and was exactly what she needed to move on from her Xander crush. This episode shows both Willow and Xander begin to move away the people they can’t have. Willow has pined after Xander for so long, and here we see her start to step away. And as she is doing this, Xander is doing the same in regards to his infatuation with Buffy. Not to say they both won’t take steps backwards– but this is the first indication of steps forward.
The episode ends with Drusilla finding Spike in a pile of rubble. “Don’t worry, Dear Heart,” she tells him, “I’ll see that you get strong again. Like me.” Spike is seriously injured, but Dru’s power has been restored.
21. “Prophecy Girl,” Season 1, episode 12
“Buffy, I like you. A lot. And I know we’re friends, and we’ve had experiences… we’ve fought some blood-sucking fiends, and that’s all been a good time. But I want more.” -Xander
“It’s very plain. Tomorrow night Buffy will face the Master. And she will die.” -Giles
“I may be dead, but I’m still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you.” -Buffy
This will be the final season one episode on this list, but only the first season finale. Because if there is one thing that Buffy the Vampire Slayer really gets right, it’s finales. “Prophecy Girl” is no exception.
This is the episode where Buffy goes from being a fun, campy, witty TV show to something more.
While Xander is figuring out how he can ask Buffy to the dance and turn their friendship into something more, Giles, Angel, and Jenny Calendar are trying to find out more about the upcoming prophecy where the Master rises and, well… our Slayer meets her end.
Buffy’s reactions to hearing she will die are filled with pain and fear. She is not just the Slayer anymore– she is a kid. “Giles, I’m sixteen years old,” she tells her Watcher, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t wanna die.” Her emotions are so believable in this scene, and the episode only builds from this point. Buffy also has a great interaction with Joyce, who tries to convince her she should go to the dance, and a heartfelt conversation with Willow, where Alyson Hannigan gets to show off her acting chops. “And when I walked in there,” Willow tells Buffy, “It wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.”
The predecessor to this conversation is truly the scene where the viewer can see the potential for the darker, more tragic side of this television show. Cordelia and Willow discover the bodies of multiple students, including Cordelia’s boyfriend Kevin. As Willow walks into the room, she focuses on the television, which is playing cartoons. In the middle of the screen in a bloody handprint.
In the end, Xander and Angel work together after establishing the fact that they don’t like each other, but are both in love with Buffy. Xander is able to bring Buffy back to life with CPR after she drowns at the hands of the Master, and a newly energized Slayer is able to bring this Big Bad down once and for all. Apocalypse averted, and the gang gets to head to the dance. Although after this point, nothing is really ever the same.
Do you agree, disagree? Comment away!