Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite "Buffy" Episodes

With the announcement of Joss Whedon's Top 10 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episodes (and a marathon of said episodes set to air on LOGO on May 19th beginning at 10 AM), I was inspired to reflect back on all the memorable hours of TV the Slayer and her Scooby Gang brought to my young, impressionable life during the show's life-changing (at least for me) 7 year run.

Check out Joss' Top 10 list here. Beware, Buffy-virgins! The list includes spoilers. Do yourself a favor: Watch the series. Then read the list. Don't worry, it'll be there when you get back. And then, like me, make your own list!

While Joss' picks include plenty of fan favorites, with only a few head-scratchers ("The Wish"? Really, Joss?), I can't help but want to throw some love at the lesser-known greatsand maybe agree with a few of his.

Join me, and if you disagree, that's okay! List your favs and change my mind!  *SPOILER WARNING!*

MY TOP 10:

10.     "Who Are You?" (Season 4, ep. 16)
While Season 4 was one of my least favorites, I make an exception for the second half of this Faith-centric 2-parter, in which Faith switches bodies with Buffy, infiltrating her life (and Riley's bed!) It's a rare occasion to see Sarah Michelle Gellar throw herself into "evil-Buffy" mode (i.e. see above!), but it's a delight when she does. SMG's inner-Faith was inspired, not to mention tragic (inability to accept love, anyone?), and Eliza Dushku got the opportunity to let her good-girl shine. This also led to a magnificent crossover "Angel" episode that redefined Faith's character forever within the Buffy-verse.

9.     "When She Was Bad" (Season 2, ep. 1)
The Season 2 premiere involved Buffy channeling her inner-Faith (well before Faith was ever introduced), as she struggles to come to terms with her death at the hands of the Master. Our first look at a manipulative and rebellious Buffy, and one of my favorite Buffy-makes-Angel-jealous scenes: Buffy sexily dancing with Xander to the sultry "Sugar Water" by Cibo Matto, simultaneously taunting the onlooking Angel and rubbing Xander's face in the fact he'll never truly have her. Great start to my very favorite season.

8.     "Graduation Day Part 2" (Season 3, ep. 22)
EPIC BATTLE TIME. Ignoring the poor visual FX following the Mayor's transformation (and did he have to speak?), the build-up to the final confrontation at Sunnydale High was the first, and only, time Buffy's classmates joined in on her fight against Evil. We say goodbye to Angel and to high school, and it feels like the end of an era.

7.     "Passion" (Season 2, ep. 17)
"Passion... it lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting; and though unbidden, unwanted, it will stir. Open its jaws and howl." A mid-point between the appearance of Angelus and the reappearance of Angel, this episode is an examination of Angel's ability to torture, not just destroy/kill. Buffy's love has begun to turn to hate, and it's capped off by Angel violently killing Ms. Calendar before setting Giles up to find her lifeless body in his bed, surrounded by candles and flowers. Dark and powerful, the hope we all held onto that Angel would one day come back to us slipped away in an instant (or fell through that crack in the desk, whichever way you want to look at it.)

6.     "Dead Things" (Season 6, ep. 13)
While Joss' pick "Smashed" (another big fav of mine) featured the breakdown of Buffy's willpower to resist Spike, this Season 6 heartbreaker focused on the emotional fallout from her decision to give in... and just how in pain - and depressed - she had truly become. Buffy's scenes with both Spike and Tara brought tears to my eyes, and continue to make me wince and clench my heart to this day.

5.     "The Body" (Season 5, ep. 16)
An experiment in television that went exactly right. The death of Buffy's mother, Joyce, from surprisingly natural causes, was a punch in the gut and a standout among relatively forgettable episodes mid-season. With no score and hardly any cutting, we were left to watch every wretch, every tear, and every scream without manipulation. Just pure pain and heartbreak. And while all of our characters' reactions brought tears to my eyes, none affected me as much as Anya's confused, inhuman, and heartbreaking inability to grasp the concept of death. Emma Caulfield's greatest acting moment as Anya, and I will never forget it.

4.     "Becoming Part 2" (Season 2, ep. 22)
I would argue that Season 2 is Buffy's best. Yes? This season finale was everything we could ever want in a closer: unexpected alliances, edge-of-your-seat suspense, unbridled heartbreak, and a future that is unknown. Sarah McLachlan's "Full of Grace" played on endless repeat on my boom-box during the summer of 1998 as I relived Buffy's somber 'goodbye' to Angel, her family, and her friends...

3.     "Once More, With Feeling" (Season 6, ep. 7)
The musical episode that launched a thousand immitations! First episode shot in widescreen, music and lyrics written by Joss Whedon, Genius. (Yes, that's his official title, like M.D. or C.P.A.) Spike's love rock anthem to Buffy, Tara's sweet - and suggestive! - ode to Willow (then subsequent lament duo with Giles), and an epic finale kiss-as-the-curtain-falls make this episode as timeless as they come.

2.     "Amends" (Season 3, ep. 10)
The winter finale of Season 3 featured a tormented Angel, once again burdened with a soul and his desperate feelings for Buffy, being confronted with the sins of his pastand pushing him literally to the edge. Flashbacks with silly wigs aside, Buffy confronting a suicidal Angel on the outskirts of Sunnydale just before the sun rises will go down as one of my all-time favorite melodramatic dialogue sequencesfrom anything! Snipet:
        Angel: "It told me to kill you. You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you
            and become a monster again."
        Buffy: "I know what it told you. What does it matter?"
        Angel: "Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly! I wanna take comfort in you, and I
            know it'll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn't care."
*sigh* Thank you, Joss.

1.     "I Only Have Eyes For You" (Season 2, ep. 19)
This is a very personal favorite for me. The first episode I ever saw, and the first that I ever watched over and over (and over) again on my recorded VHS tape. Regardless of my bias, it still holds up against the rest. It features one of the best, and spectacularly structured, Monster-of-the-Week plots: unrequited student-teacher lovers killed in a murder-suicide back in 1955 now haunt the school, randomly possessing people in the building to replay the events of that night... Buffy, still raw from losing Angel, and Giles, still devastated from losing Ms. Calendar, make this episode unforgettable. Not to mention the beginning of Spike's rebellion against Angelus, and the climax of Buffy and Angelus coming face-to-face in a possessed embrace...
Plus, who doesn't love Buffy calling Angel a "bitch"? SHEER. BRILLIANCE.

Notable Mentions:

  • "Hush" (ep. 410) - Yes, this would normally have been in my TOP 10but while it's arguably the BEST episode of "Buffy," it's not my favorite. It's brilliant, funny, frightening, creative... So yeah, it doesn't need any more championing from this girl.
  • "Grave" (ep. 622) - Willow overtaking the Trio as Season 6's Big Bad, she nearly destroys the world in her devastation, saved only by Xander. Sarah McLachlan's voice closes another season with her version of "Prayer of St. Francis."
  • "Intervention" (ep. 518) - Simply for a single moment at the end. Buffy's first realization that Spike may actually care for her beyond his attraction. Buffy pretending to be the Buffy-bot, giving Spike a sweet kiss.
  • "School Hard" (ep. 203) - Spike's first episode. That's all.
  • "The Pack" (ep. 106) - This episode belongs to Xander. Possessed by a wolf, he exudes confidence and sex that isn't commonplace for him. While it did lead him to attack Buffy, I can set that aside because of how hot he was.
  • "Innocence" (ep. 214) - Angelus' first full episode, and Buffy's first post-coital disappointment. This took the already stellar season in a whole new direction, leaving Buffy with a broken heart in need of mending and finally giving Angel some balls.
  • "Normal Again" (ep. 617) - Got me to believe, just for a moment, that maybe all of this "Slayer" business was just in Buffy's head... compelling and fascinating!
  • "Restless" (ep. 422) - Nobody does dream sequences like Joss Whedon. And this Season 4 finale was stuffed full from beginning to end. A daring choice that told us more about the next season than we could have guessed at the time.

I could go on forever, I kid you not. What are your favorite episodes?

1 comment:

  1. Yesss. This is awesome. I've always wondered which episodes you would consider your absolute favorite. While I don't know the series half as well as you do, I can attest that "I Only Have Eyes For You" is definitely the finest episode of all BUFFY. Everything culminates beautifully.

    Not sure which others would be near the top for me, nor can I remember all of the titles, but Season 2 (like for you) is my favorite. "Becoming, Part 2" is likely another episode I loved dearly and still gets me teared up.


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