Friday 13 January 2012

Buffy: Top Tens

While I was doing the whole 'Watching Buffy Will Ease My Woes' treatment, I decided to keep a list of my favourite episodes so I could do a post exactly like this one, and thus milk my viewing experience for everything it had. I managed to list 32 episodes (that's just under a quarter of all the episodes, by the way) so narrowing that down has not been an easy task (subtext: Appreciate this post!!) Additionally, in my extremely cool and not-at-all-a-waste-of-time special features watching, I came across Joss Whedon's top ten episodes, which was really really interesting, so I thought I'd share them too and see how they compared with mine.

I realise that this is going to be really boring and irrelevant if you've never seen Buffy (although to this I again say, Why not?!, and also WATCH IT) so if you haven't you're free to leave now and read other things on the internet. Fellow Buffy-ites (and I know there are some of you out there because there were comments on my last Buffy post, oh the JOY because normally everyone ignores it when I talk about TV) it's good to have you with me! So, without any ado at all, my top ten episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

1. Season 2, Episode 17- Passion
Why it's great: Anything with Bad Angel in is awesome (I think his transformation is where the series really steps it up a notch) and this episode is where we see him at his most depraved- mentally and physically torturing those who once liked and loved him, and bringing Buffy ever closer to the conclusion that she has to make at the end of the season.

2. Season 3, Episode 1- Anne
Why it's great: Most of the seasons begin with Buffy having to find herself again (I don't know what she does over the summer, but it must be pretty bad) and nowhere is this more evident than in the first episode of season 3. Whilst her friends and mother worry about her back in Sunnydale, Buffy has to face dark forces all by herself, and literally has to go to hell and back to rediscover what she wants and who she is again. A dark, but ultimately hopeful episode, that is probably the best start to any of the seasons.

3. Season 3, Episode 6- Band Candy
Why it's great: It's one of the funniest episodes there is, and seeing Giles act like Ripper is priceless! Extra points for the revelation that we get in Earshot ('You had SEX with Giles?!') but on its own, it's still one of the best.

4. Season 3, Episode 9- The Wish
Why it's great: Answering the question of what would have happened if Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, we get a really brilliant, dystopian answer: Willow and Xander are vampires, Cordelia would be good and dead, and Buffy would be a lot more like Faith than she would ever want to be. Also, Giles gets to be the full on hero, so that's always good.

5. Season 4, Episode 9- Something Blue
Why it's great: Willow starts to gain power, even as she's being all whiny and emo. It's also hilarious- Buffy and Spike love each other! Giles is very disturbed by this! Xander is a demon magnet! And no one, not even Willow, knows what's going on! It's great. Another positive, since this is Season 4, is that there's a significant lack of Riley. Always a good thing.

6. Season 4, Episode 10- Hush
Why it's great: It's probably the most genuinely scary episode of Buffy, or at least has the villains I'd be most scared to encounter in real life. The best thing about it though is how much can be conveyed even without speaking, the ending is divine, and it is also Tara's introductory episode (Tara is my favourite). All in all, not too shabby!

7. Season 5, Episode 16- The Body
Why it's great: This is possibly the best episode of Buffy (although its tied between this and the next one for my absolute favourite) and it's a heartbreaking, honest, and above all real portrayal of what happens when someone close to you dies. Its authenticity comes from the lack of all but ambient noise, as well as the lack of supernatural forces, but what still gets through is that natural death is the scariest thing that anyone can face. It's an absolutely real account of death, and that's what makes it so amazing, and yet so difficult to watch (and probably impossible to watch without crying). Possibly my favourite moment is Anya's inability to understand mortality:
But really the whole thing just makes me weep. Buffy, and just TV, at its absolute best.

8. Season 6, Episode 7- Once More With Feeling
Why it's great: um.. It's a MUSICAL episode of Buffy! Musicals are the greatest, Buffy is the other greatest, so together they're almost too much! Additionally, whilst it would have been so easy to make this a throwaway episode, it actually moves the plot of the entire series forward, with revelations like Buffy's (that she was in heaven) but also that Willow used a spell on Tara, that Anya and Xander have relationship issues, and the whole Buffy and Spike kiss thing. Basically, it's a complete wonder of the TV world, and possibly/probably my favourite episode.

9. Season 6, Episode 8- Tabula Rasa
Why it's great: Willows unruly spells are generally quite fun (see: Something Blue) and this episode is both fun and not- Fun because you get to see how normal people would react to a gang of vampires chasing them down (screaming and hiding, which is extra funny because its the complete opposite of how they normally react), and because of all the completely wrong guesswork about all their relationships, especially Giles and Spike's father/son rivalry. It's not fun because Willow is clearly going off the rails, magic-wise, and because Tara leaves her! Laughing and crying in the same episode? Perfect.

10. Season 6, Episode 17- Normal Again
Why it's great: If neither The Body or Once More With Feeling are my favourite episodes, then this one would be it. It's maybe the most thought-provoking of episodes- is everything in Sunnydale real, or is it all a schizophrenic delusion in mental-patient-Buffy's head? It casts doubt on everything that has gone before, and you just don't know what to believe (even at the end it's still open to doubt.) It's kind of difficult to explain, but if you've seen it then hopefully you know what I mean (and also think it's great!)

So these are clearly the best episodes, because I say they are and I know all! But I suppose Joss Whedon might know something about it too. And this is his top ten, in ascending order (with my helpful accompanying comments):

10. Season 1, Episode 12- Prophecy Girl
Hmm- I have kind of ignored Season 1 in my list, probably unfairly, since this is a pretty great epsiode- Buffy's first death! I generally find that the last episodes of all the seasons are pretty great (probably because they're mostly written by Whedon).

9. Season 7, Episode 7- Conversations With Dead People
Hmm- I also ignored Season 7, mainly because of all the irritating potentials (too Dawn-ish), and not enough of the old gang! This is a well crafted episode though (although my favourite of the season is probably the last one) and an important one in terms of the whole season.

8. Season 4, Episode 22- Restless
Hmm- Dream hauntings? Fun! But the best thing about this episode is all the foreshadowing- "Be back before Dawn" and so on. Still not one of my favourites though.

7. Season 2, Episode 22- Becoming, Part 2
Hmm- Well, yeah, another end of season episode. Wonderful because Buffy finds total self-belief and confidence, horrible because of Xander's betrayal, for which he never gets punished! Bad Xander.

6. Season 3, Episode 9- The Wish
Hmm- Yay! Our first correlation!

5. Season 3, Episode 16- Doppelgangland 
Hmm- This is a sort of continuation of The Wish, and while it was on my long list, I eliminated it from the shortlist for that reason. It's still fun though!

4. Season 5, Episode 16- The Body
Hmm- Well, yes. Quite. I feel like this, and the next two, would be on everyone's lists...

3. Season 4, Episode 10- Hush

2. Season 6, Episode 7- Once More With Feeling

1. Season 2, Episode 14- Innocence
Hmm- Bad Angel! This is a great episode, and my equivalent of it is Passion, but the whole 9 episodes where Angel is bad are all brilliant, and like I said before, really bring the series into its own, and make it something more. Also, poor Buffy.

So, didn't we all learn a lot? Also, just FYI, my favourite school season is season 3 (or the second half of Season 2... hmm...) and my favourite later season is Season 6, and, while I think that on the whole the show was better while they were at school, the later seasons have the best stand-alone episodes. I have no opinions about Angel because I've only seen the first episode and it's kind of naff, so... can't help you there! Anyway, enough about me, how about you? Do you have any favourite Buffy episodes? Do you just want me to shut up about Buffy? Have at it in the comments!


  1. I've tried to make the same list, but it's almost impossible. I do, however, think I can name my all time favourite Buffy-episode, which is neither on yours, nor Whedon's list: Amends. And I agree with you that the last episode(s) in each season is usually very good, although I prefer seasons one, two and three over the later seasons (Becoming Part 1 and 2 especially).

    I love the important Spike-centric episodes, like School Hard and Lover's Walk. Also very serious episodes: I Only Have Eyes for You and Earshot. Band Candy and A New Man are hilarious.

    Out of the later episodes I think I prefer Family, Fool for Love, Checkpoint, Tabula Rasa and Grave.

    1. Amends was definitely on my long list BUT I'm not really bothered about the whole Buffy and Angel saga and I think that's one that's seriously focused on their relationship. It's still good though. And I LOVE Grave, mainly the end, but still. Love. I have just realised that I've said the series finales are the best and yet haven't included any on my list- not really sure what that's about, other than that I guess it goes without saying that they're awesome? I dunno.

      Anyway, yeah, my list isn't really definitive, because now I'm definitely thinking I might like some others better... but thanks for sharing your favourites :)

  2. loved the lists ^^ one of my favourites was the musical episode too - just awesome. and any episode containing spike is great in my books - i am biased i know ;)

    1. Any episode with Spike = better than any episode without Spike. Maybe. Because season 3 was pretty awesome, and he was hardly in that at all. Hmm...