About a year ago I decided to force my patient boyfriend to watch what is possibly my favorite TV series of all time in it’s entirety. Having seen the majority of the episodes about a million times myself, I started taking brief notes of what the best episodes each season were. Some seasons, it was a stretch to come up with more than a couple (I’m thinking about you, 6 and 7), while others it seemed like every other episode was fabulous (season 2, of course). But my notes were just for my own curiosity—I never planned to undertake a ranking of Buffy episodes.
… Until I read Buzzfeed’s article ranking all 144 episodes. I agreed with some of the choices, and disagreed completely with just as many. (“Killed by Death” isn’t even in the top 100? Der Kindestod is scary!) One of my sisters suggested I rank them all—which is way too much of an undertaking at this point in time. But… I still had that list of my favorite episodes. Which just so happened to be 27 episodes long (two parters counting as one). Therefore, I have decided to commit myself to this: a countdown of the top 25 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In order to write this blog, I will be re-watching every episode of my list, and counting them down from 25-1—with five episodes per blog. I know my opinion will differ from many, and would love to hear everyone else’s favorite episodes—and what makes them your favorites. It’s hard to rank episodes when all of my top 25 have different reasons for making the list—some changed the series, some were hilarious, some were moving character studies, and some were just plain scary. But I will do my best, and I hope fellow Buffy fans can appreciate my thought process!
Of course, I did mention that my original list was 27 episodes, and that being said—I hate to leave out those last two. So to give you an idea of what you are in for in the upcoming weeks, please enjoy my two honorable mentions!
27. “Intervention,” Season 5, episode 18
“Isn’t it a beautiful night for killing evil things?” -Buffy Bot
“Death is your gift.” -The First Slayer
“What you did for me and Dawn… that was real. I won’t forget it.” -Buffy
“Intervention” may not be at the top of everyone’s list, but there are plenty of reasons why it almost made it onto mine. Season five is a bleak season, and “Intervention” follows “The Body” and “Forever,” two of the darkest episode this season brought us. This episode brings humor back into the show, and gets us back to the main arc after giving us some time to mourn Joyce’s death.
Our two main plots are Buffy heading into the desert on a quest to find answers. She feels she is becoming hard and unable to love, and doesn’t want that. And while she is off following big cats and chatting with the first Slayer, the rest of the Scoobies become aware of the Buffy Bot (although they don’t know this at the time), and must then stop Spike from telling Glory who the key is.
“Intervention” is laugh out loud funny at times—Buffy Bot tells her friends, “Angel is lame. His hair goes straight up, and he’s bloody stupid,” reminding us of Spike’s hatred and jealousy of Angel. When Xander and Anya find her in a compromising positioning with Spike, the Buffy Bot is telling him, “Oh Spike! You’re the Big Bad!” And when trying to have their intervention with Buffy, Xander tries to relate to her by admitting “Spike is strong and mysterious, and sort of compact but well-muscled!” This makes the real Buffy wonder if perhaps Xander is the one sleeping with Spike.
Not only is the episode funny, but it gives us some important information. Buffy learns that death will be her ultimate gift. We see Warren, who will become important next season, and are reminded that he is a brilliant guy—and also somewhat misogynistic (in case you forgot “I Was Made to Love You” where we first meet Warren and get his take on women). The Buffy Bot herself will play a very crucial role in this season’s finale. And Spike proves his loyalty to the Scooby Gang by allowing Glory to torture him, rather than give up Dawn’s identity as the key. This is the turning point in Spike’s relationship with Buffy, where he is no longer an annoying harmless vamp they keep around for help in battle, but a trusted ally.
And last but not least, this episode allows SMG to show off her phenomenal acting skills. I will talk a lot more about her acting later on in this list, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it here. Sarah carries herself completely differently when she is playing Buffy versus the Buffy Bot, and even the inflections when she speaks are different. The true mark of her range is when Buffy goes to see Spike, pretending to be the Buffy Bot. Sarah is able to convey the fact that she really is Buffy trying to trick Spike, but her portrayal is convincing enough that we believe she has convinced Spike (at least at first). Sarah can definitely act.
26. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”/”The Harvest,” Season 1, episodes 1 & 2
“Gym was cancelled due to extreme dead guy in locker!” -Cordelia
“We can do this the hard way, or– well, there’s only the hard way.” – Buffy
“The earth is doomed.” -Giles
You can’t have a list of the best Buffy episodes without “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “The Harvest” because, well… without these episodes there would be no Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with the exception of the movie starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry). This two-parter sets up so many important details that are crucial to the Sunnydale universe.
We not only meet Buffy, our witty slayer who just wants to be a normal girl, but we meet her friends as well. Willow is a geeky computer nerd that is constantly made fun of, but is useful when it comes to hacking into the city’s sewer plans. Xander isn’t much cooler, and is immediately taken by Buffy. His feelings for her are something we will return to time and time again, so his first lines to her (“Can I have you?”) are pretty telling. Cordelia is your stereotypical popular chick, and Giles is a stuffy British librarian who wears a tweed coat and cleans his glasses about fourteen times an episode. And that list doesn’t even include tall, dark, handsome and mysterious Angel, the short-lived Luke, Darla, and our season one Big Bad—the Master. Hell, we even meet Harmony during these episodes, who will be back again a few seasons later in a much different form.
Sure, in comparison to some episodes of Buffy, this may not top the list. It’s campy Buffy at its best. But without it we don’t have those best of the best episodes. “Welcome to the Hellmouth” is somewhat creepy, and always funny in that Whedon-esque way we’ve all come to know and love, full of so many iconic shots and quotes. And let’s be honest. What episode of Buffy doesn’t get better with the addition of Julie Benz as Darla? The shot of her strolling toward the Bronze, spinning to the music with her vampire cohorts behind her is classic.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiere changed what my TV-watching life would be like for the next seven years. So while it may not be top 25 material, it can’t be overlooked.