Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest TV shows ever. Focusing on Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a 16 year old girl. Who discovers she is the Slayer; a mystical warrior destined to protect the world from evil. Joss Whedon‘s iconic masterpiece used monsters and demons as metaphors for growing up.
The recent allegations of Whedon’s behaviour on the set of Buffy make this article bittersweet to write. The former Hollywood script doctor got how the millennial generation spoke; what we were afraid of, what we hoped for. Here are 5 Buffy episodes that stand out to me as the best. At this point let me say that I am not the most hardcore Buffy fan out there, so if people disagree with my choices please let me know in the comments.
Unquestionably the best Buffy episode. Nothing else will ever come close to this. The Slayer discovers her mother Joyce (Susan Sarandon) dead. She and her friends attempt to deal with this. There are no easy answers here and nothing is glossed over. Just very real human moments where people struggle to know what to do. The acting from everyone is out of this world. We feel everything. When I watched this episode to write about it I turned it off 13 minutes in before finishing it.
That’s how powerful it is. This is peak television and peak Buffy. Where the show captures real moments and emotions without sanitising them. Of particular note are the scene between Buffy and Tara (Amber Benson) at the hospital and the Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Anya (Emma Caulfield) and Tara scene in Willow and Tara’s dorm room. All I can really do is give the utmost respect to all involved in making this absolute masterpiece. It’s not an easy watch but it is well worth your time.
In this episode bullied geek Jonathan (Danny Strong) casts a spell to make himself the most powerful entity in Sunnydale. The result is a world in which Jonathan is a better Slayer than Buffy, a world famous musician and the star of the Matrix. Unfortunately this comes with a price, as Jonathan’s spell creates a demon to balance out the positive force the spell imbued him with.
Superstar is pure entertainment right the way through. Jonathan, once an abused loner, becomes ridiculously good at everything and it is glorious. In a crowning moment of awesome Jonathan himself pushes the demon into the abyss beside where Buffy was fighting it.
Thereafter the world returns to normal. Buffy gives Jonathan a heartwarming speech about how he “…can’t just make one grand gesture to solve everything…these things take time and work” referring to making friends and fitting in. For me personally this resonated on a level that few things ever have. Especially touching was Jonathan’s line “You weren’t puppets…you were friends.” at the end of the episode.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight
Alternatively titled Invisible Girl, this episode provided an affecting look at what being ignored in high school can feel like. Marcie Ross (Clea DuVall) becomes literally invisible when her peers don’t notice her, and masterminds a revenge plot against Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). One of the major strengths of Buffy is its ability to present true depictions of real life and real issues. We see this when Marcie attempts to talk to Cordelia and her friends and they snub her.
Like Superstar, this episode rang true for me as well. For Cordelia’s part, she proves to not just be the bitch from high school. When she tells Buffy “You can be surrounded by people and be completely alone.” This showed Cordelia’s hidden depths and the idea that anyone can struggle with not being seen or understood. Marcie is for me one of the best Buffy villains because we can identify with her struggles. She is still evil though and proves a formidable opponent for the Slayer and her friends. Bonus points for the ending in which Marcie becomes an assassin.
After Xander and Willow share a kiss, a spurned Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. The result is the Wishverse; a twisted alternate reality in which the Master (Mark Metcalf) rules supreme. This episode is phenomenal because it combines an “Elseworld” tale with the human story of Cordelia attempting to cope with Xander cheating on her. Brendon and Hannigan put in hypnotic performances as vampired Xander and Willow and it’s great to see Metcalf’s Master again.
For her part, Carpenter strikes a subtle balance between Cordelia’s genuine pain at Xander kissing Willow and Queen C’s petty bitchiness. This episode also introduces Anya, at this point a vengeance demon who granted Cordelia’s wish. Anthony Head shows Giles’s courage in the face of a world gone to hell excellently. Sarah Michelle Gellar is also great as a hardened, cynical version of Buffy. My friend Stephen Fletcher said that this episode got him into Buffy. If you want to get someone into the Slayer’s world this is a great episode to start with.
Becoming 1 & 2
Angelus (David Boreanaz) attempts to end the world by bringing about Acathla’s prophecy. Our favourite vampire slayer must stop him. These two episodes are works of art. We see Buffy leave childhood behind forever when she is forced to kill a resouled Angel to prevent the end of the world. Moreover we are treated to some origin story style flashbacks of Buffy, Angel and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Becoming parts 1 and 2 are also notable for the storylines they would foreshadow ie Willow getting into magic and Spike (James Marsters) falling for Buffy.
The big theme here is moments that change our lives, making us who we are. This is exceptionally well realised in both episodes. Perhaps the best exchange belongs to Whistler (Max Perlich) and Angel when Whistler says “…even if you see them coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really.” When Angel asks if that means we’re simply puppets, Whistler replies “It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”
What Buffy episodes are your favourites? Do you agree with my list? Please leave a comment below and remember; nest full of vampires, come and get me. Box full of puppies, that’s more of a judgement call.