Here’s the deal: we each picked our favorite ten episodes/moments/storylines/characters/what-have-you over the seven seasons Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been on the air. We combined our lists, noted the overlaps, briefly contemplated a complex, mathematically-weighted scoring system designed to determine once and for all the World’s!Best!BuffyMoment, and eventually asked ourselves who are we to sit in judgment over a show so many have labored so long over? Read: it was too much work. Therefore, we here at popgurls would like to present you with The 33-ish Best Things About Buffy, in no particular order whatsoever.
Melynee: As much as I enjoy the funny episodes, for the most part they don’t stick with me (thus, making no other appearances on my list). It’s not that I don’t think they belong here, I just, can’t seem to remember them. “Superstar,” however, I remember, and I think the reason I enjoy it so much is that it turns the central idea of Buffy on its head. The show’s called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s about Buffy. But most of the time, the episodes that I really love aren’t so much. It’s nice to see Buffy not only move out of the spotlight, but have to deal with someone else moving in. Plus, Danny Strong got moved up from default victim to recurring role to arch-nemesis for a reason: he’s good.
“I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you are?” (“Anne,” S3)
Amy: When Buffy delivers this line in “Anne,” it really didn’t strike me the first time around. The second time was a different story. Who doesn’t remember wanting to be someone else, or succumbing to another’s opinion that you are “worthless”? Here Buffy accepts the role that she’s been fighting since she was called, but more than that – she knows that she is more than anyone else’s opinion, and that she is the only one to define herself…which is something that we all owe it to ourselves to believe.
Jenny’s Death and the Aftermath (“Passion,” S2)
Amanda: I remember that Jenny’s death was spoiled in the “Next week on Buffy” following the previous-week’s episode. It was still so sudden and painful. At the time, no other show on television would have killed a main character (beloved by another main character) in such a brutal way. Willow’s reaction – curling into a ball on the floor, crying uncontrollably – has stuck with me since.
“Prophecy Girl” (S1)
Michelle: God, I’m such a fangurl cliché. But it’s true. It’s really, really true. SMG blows almost every other scene she’s ever done out of the water with her delivery of “I’m 16 years old. I don’t wanna die.” (Lord knows nothing of late’s been challenging it, the fuckers.) The entire scene rocks, and does a fantastic job of showing the reality of Buffy’s job hit her. Up to that point she knew that it probably meant early death and a crimp on her social life, but this is the scene where it actually hits home that her cool super powers come with a price.
Melynee:This is a hard one for me, because when I think about the people-turning-into-their-costumes concept, especially Buffy-as-helpless-18th-century-noblewoman, I don’t like it. But in my hit-or-miss attempt to research this piece I watched the episode again, and loved it. There are a series of perfect scenes: Buffy and Willow bonding in the bathroom, hints of Giles’ dark past, Oz and Willow’s near-miss on the streets of Sunnydale, Willow walking through the library wall, and Giles’ gibbering, open-mouthed reaction. But my favorite belongs to Xander: he stands on the street in military garb, holding a plastic gun, at the very moment the spell takes effect. You can see the change pass across his face–in one breath altering his body language utterly. Not to mention, Nick spends much of the episode in a tank top.
Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue
Amanda: In its first several years, no one could touch Buffy for its inventive dialogue. Joss Whedon and company made it perfectly normal to add “-age” to the end of every word. How many Buffyisms have made it into our vocabularies over the years? “What he lacks in smarts, he makes up for in lack of smarts” (Xander in “Inca Mummy Girl,” S2). “Hello, salty goodness” (Cordelia in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” S1). “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it” (Spike in “Lover’s Walk,” S3). That was such good stuff, man.
Buffy, Xander and Willow, Hanging Out (“Killed by Death,” S2)
Michelle: I love it because they’re actually acting like friends who just hang out. After killing monsters. And I love the picture the little boy draws for Buffy and Joyce’s reaction. I love Xander calling Joyce on bogarting the cheesy puffs. And I love that even in a crap episode like this, there can still be a scene this good that will almost make you want to watch the episode again.
Oz’s Kissage Speech to Willow (“Innocence,” S2)
Amanda: In my heart, Willow will always belong to Xander. But this scene made it okay for her to detour in Oz. Willow needed to know someone thought of her first, after the “You’d rather be with someone you hate, than be with me,” scene from “Surprise.” Oz’s words were so sweet, and so real, that I can still remember them by heart: “Sometimes when I’m sitting in class… You know, I’m not thinking about class, ’cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it’s like everything stops. It’s like freeze frame. Willow kissage. Oh, I’m not gonna kiss you.”
Melynee: Willow and Xander belong together and nothing Joss has done or can do will convince me otherwise. But Oz’s speech is one of the most down-to-earth admissions of romantic feeling that still manages to take my breath away that I’ve seen on TV, and it’s performed by an actor whose presence on the show I sorely miss.
Oz, Willow and the Monkey Pants (“What’s My Line, Part II,” S2)
Amy: I may be a hardcore Willow/Xander ‘shipper, but I would be lying if I said this didn’t get to me:
Oz: “The monkey’s the only cookie animal that gets to wear clothes, you know that? You have the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen. So I’m wondering, do the other cookie animals feel sorta ripped? Like, is the hippo going, ‘Hey, where are my pants? I have my hippo dignity.’ And, you know, the monkey’s just ‘I mock you with my monkey pants.’ And then there’s a big coup at the zoo.”
Willow: “The monkey is French?”
Oz: “All monkeys are French. You didn’t know that?”
What can I say, I’m a sucker for monkey talk…
Season Two Drusilla
Melynee: If I could play any part on any season of Buffy, this is the one I’d pick. Season Two Dru is crazy–not the whimsical, evil-in-a-wacky-sort-of-way Dru that makes the occasional guest appearance after this year, but the seriously psychotic, completely self-motivated, please-don’t-leave-me-alone-in-a-room-with-her way that captivated both Angelus and Spike. And when you get to do intimate scenes with James Marsters and Anthony Stewart Head, where is the bad?
“Conversations With Dead People” (S7)
Michelle: It had Holden. I liked Holden. It had an interesting story. True, it was after this interesting episode that the season took it’s first truly horrific turn, but we can’t fault this episode for that. Why would we blame Holden? We wouldn’t.
“When She Was Bad” (S2)
Amanda: “I mock you with my ice cream cone, Amish guy!” Be still my little shipper heart. Allyson Hannigan was so great in this scene. Her face softened and her eyes went wide, as Xander moved in to kiss her. *sigh* I watched Willow moon over Xander for the entire 13-episode first season, and he finally wakes up enough to notice her before Buffy shows up to ruin everything. Perhaps my hatred of Buffy is rooted in this moment.
Michelle: Chockfull of things we just don’t see anymore–character development, interesting drama and a heroine we can sort of sympathize with and relate to. The beginning of Bitter Buffy in WSWB should, in theory, make me bitter. But it was done so well in this episode that I didn’t hate it. The final scene where Buffy breaks apart the Master while sobbing? Brilliant. Okay, so I’ve never been killed by an evil vampire and been brought back to life by a guy who has a wicked crush on me, but I think most people get the whole “Nobody understands me, so I’m just going to be a raging bitch” attitude. And here, unlike most of Season Seven, it was well done.
“The Wish”/VampWillow/”Doppelgangland” (S3)
Michelle: “The Wish” is pure brilliance, if for nothing more than the final fight wherein everyone kills or is killed by the one they love the most (and yes, I’m aware that Xander stakes Angel and no, that’s not a typo.)
Amy: I get the Willow/Xander that I’ve always wanted. Or didn’t even know I could have. Sure, I completely adore the sweet, been-best-friends-forever Willow and Xander, but there is something so gorgeous and intense about the two as vamps that I can’t resist. They are so into each other that they can barely acknowledge anyone else – even as VampWillow tortures Angel, VampXander looks on in voyeuristic glee. And when they kill Cordelia together – holy good fuck, I needed a cigarette. Personally, I always thought that Alyson deserved some sort of a nomination for Willow playing Evil Willow in “Doppelgangland,” because while it’s a funny scene – she adds in all these nuances that totally make the character.
Melynee: VampWillow wears leather pants. She’s Willow-smart, with the slyness that Willow only occasionally indulges in turned up to eleven. She’s got the confidence – and the sexuality – that hides in Willow, right out there in the open. She’s the unspoken star of two brilliant episodes. Did I mention the leather pants?
Michelle: Also, “Doppelgangland,” when everyone thinks Willow is dead, and Xander tries the cross and then everyone hugs her and she wants to know if she missed out on drugs. Good stuff.
Willow Learns Xander Slept with Faith (“Consequences,” S3)
Amanda: I liked all the things that weren’t said in this scene. Why would Willow be upset about this, when she wants to rebuild with Oz? Because she was in love with Xander her whole life, and wanted him to be her first, and probably wanted to be his. It was another jab at her. First he was with Cordelia (“Of which you are the treasurer!”), and then he sleeps with a crazy rogue Slayer. Plus! I love the Kathleen Wilhoite song that plays while Willow is crying in the bathroom, “I Wish We Never Met.” So heartbreaking.
Amy: This scene breaks my heart just thinking of it. I think it’s one of the few times I actually cried at Buffy – curling up in a ball all sniffly and such.
“My life, at times, sucks beyond the telling of it.” (“Earshot,” S3)
Amy: Ah, the controversial episode. There’s so much I could say here, but what always hit me was how this entire episode rang true. This is one of the few Buffy speeches that I don’t mind: it’s hard, it’s pointed and it’s honest. But it’s what Jonathan, and many of us, needed to hear. People get so caught up in what other people are thinking about them that it’s enough to drive them mad – and if you let yourself fall victim to your fears, you end up missing out on a lot in life.
“The Zeppo” (S3)
Michelle: A Xanderific episode that mocks everything the show stood for at that point. The first time I saw the B/A scene I was horrified and thought we were just getting another overwrought bit of angst and then I got it. And laughed my ass off. And it was the only B/A scene I watched all the way through that entire season.
“Who Are You” (S4)
Melynee: I’m not overwhelmingly fond of Sarah Michelle Gellar – she opts for the Patented Crying Face rather too often, and much of the time her stoic (determined, time to kick butt, insert emphatic emotion here) expression tends toward the blank. But she gained my respect as an actress on the basis of this episode alone. Not only are Sarah-as-Eliza and Eliza-as-Sarah exceptional in their roles, but they look like they’re having a hell of a good time doing them.
“Band Candy” (S3)
Amy: I recently caught this episode on FX, and realized that it has everything the last few seasons have been missing: humour, friendship and a general plot. Buffy and her car misadventures are truly funny (“Summers, you’re a SPAZZ!”), especially when narrated by Drunken!HighSchool!Snyder. Then there’s Ripper, who is hot as hell and delivers such lines as “You’re my slayer – go knock his teeth down his throat!” Oh! and the Mayor! Who can resist the Mayor? To top it off, there’s sweet little Willow/Xander moments, with them playing footsie in class. It’s a classic.
“After Life” (S6)
Michelle: I’m not a Spuffyist, but when Spike sees Buffy coming down the stairs for the first time after her resurrection? James Marsters just really sells it. I’m ashamed to admit that at that moment, I didn’t hate Spike. But it was just for a second. All right, maybe for a few minutes-the rest of the scene up to the point the Scoobs re-enter was equally as affecting.
Amanda: Overall, I don’t think this episode is that good. Or, basically, everything that isn’t about Xander and Willow is ungood. But those parts! Those parts are perfect. Not just the first kiss. In fact, my favorite part is after, sitting on the bed, holding hands. It’s awkward and perfect.
Michelle: Ignoring the fact that Mutant Enemy did absolutely nothing with the set-up given in this episode, in fact choosing to do absolutely nothing with half the season rather than go back to this episode and its consequences, “Selfless” did some great things. There was the fun with Anya’s past, but there was also a bit of a glimpse into Anya’s loneliness and Buffy’s not-paralleled-well-enough loneliness. One’s The Slayer, one’s a vengeance demon, and no one around them quite understands what that means. Anya doesn’t know how to just be her or even who she is if she’s not something that can easily be labeled or if she ever was anybody and if she’s not part of something “greater” (i.e. vengeanceing) then who is she–all of which parallels Buffy in “Helpless” in Season Three when she temporarily lost her powers and felt lost, like she didn’t know who to be if she wasn’t The Slayer. Of course, one was good and one was evil, but since they never touched it that doesn’t really matter. But I’m not going to let ME’s lack of taking-the-ball-and-running-with-it count against a well-written and acted episode.
“The Pack” (S1)
Amy: Long ago, on a website now dead, I wrote a review of “The Pack” which spoke the praises of Grr!Xander, walking hormone. While I’m still bitter about his treatment of Willow, and the ending in which he admits that he knew what he was saying to her, my feelings are eased by the memory of Xander looking all sorts of hot while he struts across the campus. To quote that old review, how do we know that he is Grr!Xander? By the sound of panties sliding to the floor across the country.
“Becoming, Part 1 And 2” (S2)
Melynee: Yeah, yeah, yeah, picking a two-parter is kind of cheating, whatever. These episodes are paradigmatic, and not just because of the climactic Buffy/Angel “Close your eyes” moment – which, despite my staunch non-Buffy/Angel ‘shipper status, kills me. Every. Time. But the little moments are equally glorious: Xander’s fishstick drama, the moment he opts not to let Buffy in on Willow’s attempt to re-soul Angel, Giles’ torture scene with Jenny – and the look on ASH’s face when Giles realizes what he’s done, and with whom, Xander at Willow’s hospital bedside, when he finally says, “I love you,” and she wakes up – asking for Oz.
Amanda: Out of all the great moments from these episodes, my favorite has always been when Spike meets Joyce in “Part 2.” The comedic timing is great, from both James Marsters and Kristine Sutherland, and it’s this oasis of lightheartedness in the middle of so much angst. Plus, it pulls the funny off in the middle of Joyce discovering Buffy’s secret, something that fans had been waiting for through two seasons. “Get away from my daughter!” Hee.
Michelle: Buffy killing Angel in “Becoming 2”? Best. Scene. Ever. Of course, the entire fight scene once the swords came out was fantastic, but seeing Boreanaz get sent to hell? Definitely an unforeseen perk. Woo!
Buffy Finds Xander (“Dead Man’s Party,” S3)
Michelle: The look on Nick Brendon’s face is fantastic. As is the rest of the scene when the gang comes and goes Rambo on a vampire’s ass.
The Faith/Buffy Dance (“Bad Girls,” S3)
Amy: SMG may have two moves, but hell, next to Eliza, who cares. It’s hot, people – HOTT.
“Once More With Feeling” (S6)
Melynee: I am a sucker for musicals. Good acting thrills me, but if someone can also carry a tune in a pleasant voice, and then move their arms and legs in a coordinated manner, I will be unable to turn away. What I most appreciated about this episode, though, was that it wasn’t simply a stunt. Musicals work because they express heightened emotion in ways that, if the thoughts were simply spoken aloud, would seem ludicrous. And BtVS was at a point in the season where there was no way for Buffy to explain what had happened to her; not only did she lack a voice for where she’d been, but she couldn’t begin to try to find one without damaging the relationships around her. Speaking, or rather singing, these truths in a musical setting – which operates with a higher threshold of suspension of disbelief – allows them to resonate in a way they couldn’t normally, and gives the viewer a language for watching which makes what is being said understandable. When Buffy sings, “I think I was in heaven,” when the music momentarily breaks down with her admission, instead of picturing Della Reese and laughing hysterically, something crumbled inside me.
“The Puppet Show” (S1)
Michelle: I know a lot of people despise this episode, but I can’t figure out why. It’s creepy, it’s got Giles reveling in the misery of his charges, the introduction of Snyder and a less heavy-handed parallel to Buffy in Syd-the-dummy than Ampata-the-mummy.
Amanda: One of the things I didn’t like about Buffy the farther we got into the series was that there were too many characters. Which meant that the characters I loved (Xander, Willow, Giles) got less screen time. What I liked about this episode (The Thanksgiving one, the “A ritual sacrifice with pie” one, to refresh your memory) is that I actually felt as if the extraneous characters were family. Spike living with Giles, sipping blood out of the Kiss The Librarian coffee mug; Anya and her inappropriate sexual comments; even Buffy and her elusive ricer.
The Buffy/Faith Fight in “Graduation Day” (S3)
Michelle: Buffy has had quite a few kick-ass fights in her time (not lately though), but this is still one of the best rock ’em sock ’em fights the show’s ever offered.
Harmony in “The Real Me” (S5)
Amy: I loved Harmony the Vampire. I wish there was more of Harmony the Vampire as the seasons went on, especially since it was one of the remaining vestiges of honest-to-goodness humour on the show. In this ep, we get classic Harmony – with her minions, her slapfight with Xander – but best of all, the note thrown through the window: “Slayer, Come out and Die.” With the “i” dotted with a smiley face. Brilliant.
Melynee: So here’s my secret: before BtVS came along, my favorite television show of all time was Twin Peaks. Hallucinatory dream sequences filled with disjointed dialogue, incongruous imagery and inexplicable occurrences; watching “Restless” I felt like I was right back in David Lynch’s twisted little mind. But whereas Lynch’s universe seemed beautiful, but sometimes arbitrary – the underwater feel of the show seeming more intended to elicit a specific reaction in its viewers than based out of character-driven necessity – the dreams in “Restless” germinate palpably from the unconscious of Buffy’s core cast. The dreams aren’t just eerie, or obscuring of deeper truths, they also give us genuine insight into the hearts and heads of Willow, Xander, Giles and Buffy. We spend so much of the time with Buffy alone, rushing from action to action, that an episode in which the focus on her is only one among several – when we are allowed to breathe, and luxuriate in the inner mechanisms of the ensemble – is an enormous treasure.
The Gentlemen (“Hush,” S4)
Amanda: Scariest. Fucking. Villians. Ever.
“The Body” (S5)
Amanda: Buffy’s own reaction to her mother’s death was far less impactful on me than the reaction of her friends. The “Joyce Will Never Have Fruit Punch” scene, in particular, was stunning. Willow and her missing sweater made me cry. Even Anya (who I hate) was touching, with her not-understanding of human death.
Amy: The scene in Willow and Tara’s room really got me. In fact, it affected me so much that I wrote the first Willow fic I’d done in over a year. I thought it was honest, true and touching – Tara’s concern for Willow, Willow and Xander being actual friends. I didn’t even hate Anya here, and I still don’t even after the discrepancy in her reaction was pointed out. (Anya wasn’t born a demon, she was made one. She lived a human life, and knew about human death. She should not have been so “confused.”) Even so, I think it’s a phenomenally well-done scene.
Melynee: I have a hard time writing about this episode, because it hurts too much. “The Body” is an episode laid bare: without significant fight sequences, without a real bad guy, even, for a time, without a soundtrack. Posturing is stripped away, prettiness is stripped away, and what is left is pure emotion, and some of the strongest ensemble acting in the seven years of the show.