Today, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is officially 20 years old. Throughout the years, there have been multiple articles and posts discussing the best seasons v. the worst seasons, which episodes are amazing, and which are underrated or just plain awful (Teacher's Pet, I'm looking at you).
Although the concept has been over-done, today is special, and I felt like having a little fun.
Without further ado, here is my list of my top five Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes:
5. Conversations with Dead People (Season 7: Episode 7)
One of the coolest things about this episode is that each of the main characters have their own encounters without actually interacting with each other: Dawn being at home with Joyce and The First, Buffy at the cemetery with Holden (a former classmate turned vampire), and Willow in the library with The First and Cassie. This is the only episode of the entire series that we do not see Xander, and even though we see Spike, he doesn't have any spoken dialogue.
Conversations with Dead People is one of the only two episodes to have the title appear on the screen (the other is Once More, with Feeling). The episode is creative and engaging, making us feel vulnerable as we question what is actually real. Is Cassie really speaking for Tara? Is Joyce trying to reach Dawn, and will Buffy betray her in the end? I also think that Holden is an underrated character who has great banter with Buffy (but we have to ignore that Angel the series brought the same actor back as a character later - like we wouldn't notice?!) The writing is strong, showing us that Season 7, although often critiqued, truly is different. There is a sense of finality, you may not always know who to believe, and you can still feel isolated, even when surrounded by those you love.
4. Hush (Season 4: Episode 10)
The first time I saw Hush, I was terrified. As a child, I had reoccurring nightmares where I would be held at gunpoint, but unable to move or scream. I still have a common theme in my nightmares today: I am about to die, but cannot speak.
This Emmy-nominated episode was absent of sound, using silence and music to make the scenes all the more suspenseful. Joss decided to take on the challenge after reading a review praising the show's dialogue. What would happen if they made an episode where no one could speak?
There have also been theories that The Gentlemen represent the patriarchy and the silencing of women and other oppressed minorities. Those who see or experience violence, but are unable to speak out.
I also really enjoy fairy tales in general, and appreciated that something so dangerous could come from a children's story. When Buffy screams at the end, as the princess in the original tale, there is an innocent reminder that these characters are saving the world as children, and the adults still have no idea. Also, there is a power behind a woman who looks terror in the face and triumphantly yells.
3. The Body (Season 5: Episode 16)
For the longest time, I couldn't watch The Body without completely spiraling. I always told myself that I would skip it during my next re-watch, but when the time came, I knew that it was part of the Buffy experience, and a part of life as well.
Casually walking into a room and finding a loved one dead is one of my biggest fears. I know that is really specific, but there was this whole thing with my dog passing away that caused a lot of anxiety that I could think things were fine and find someone who I loved deeply gone and lifeless on the floor.
In Buffy, we see many deaths. The hardest thing about Joyce's death is that it wasn't supernatural. No one could have stopped it, and they couldn't bring her back. There was no reason, no justification, and no warning. She wasn't murdered by a vampire or a demon, but by an aneurysm resulting from a brain tumor.
The episode is void of music, leaving us to deal with the silence and our thoughts as we watch Buffy find her dead mother and try to figure out what to do next. We see the rest of the Scoobies attempting to deal with Joyce's death as well: picking out what to wear for the funeral, Xander punching a wall because he doesn't understand why Joyce had to die, and Anya going into one of the most memorable monologues of the series about death. Not to mention, in my opinion, Buffy telling Dawn that their mother has died is the most heart-wrenching moment of the series.
In a show where wit, comedy, and camp are prevalent, we also deal with horror - both with monsters and real life.
2. Storyteller (Season 7: Episode 16)
Storyteller may be one of the most overlooked episodes of the series. Despite The Trio being the worst, Andrew ends up falling into my "favorite characters" category. His one-liners are easy to miss, but can totally make the scene if you're paying enough attention. I love that Storyteller is an Andrew-centric episode, and also stands alone from the rest of the show.
The episode is filmed like a documentary, with Andrew introducing and narrating the every-day life of the Scooby Gang and Potential Slayers as they prepare for the apocalypse. We see the characters in a dramatic, humorous way, as Andrew himself imagines them in his cinematic mind. The episode is fun, but quickly takes a turn as Andrew is forced to come to terms with killing Jonathan and willingly serving The First. Storyteller ends with a tearful Andrew, confessing that he will most likely die, but deserves to, as he shuts the camera off.
1. Once More, with Feeling (Season 6: Episode 7)
And finally, my absolute favorite episode of the whole Buffyverse! Once More, with Feeling is funny, revealing, and heartbreaking as we learn truths about the main cast and their relationships with one another.
There is something about music that can soften harsh words, especially when paired with a bouncy tune and cute dance. We see that Xander and Anya, although in love, are scared about being together forever. Spike is tortured by Buffy but would rather be in pain and a part of her life than watch her suffer. Giles feels that he is holding Buffy back, Tara loses trust in Willow, and Buffy sings about being unable to feel.
The Big Bad of the standalone episode, Sweet, is my favorite demon with his snappy tunes, stylish dress, and suave dance moves. Toward the end of the episode, Buffy reveals she was in heaven before being pulled out by her loved ones, and begins to dance uncontrollably and burn, until Spike stops her with:
Life's not a song
Life isn't bliss
Life is just this
You'll get along
The pain that you feel
You only can heal
You have to go on living
So one of us is living
The hardest thing in this world is to live in it
Those words resonate with me, and I think of them often. Once More, with Feeling makes me laugh, cry, and feel empowered. When I was at my worst, I related with Buffy and knew that if she could be pulled from heaven and put back on this Earth (hell) with the responsibility to defend it, then I could get through my shit too.
Plus Tara and Willow have the most adorable song ever, Anya goes all rock-opera about bunnies, and there is a choreographed ensemble that sings and dances about a mustard stain coming out of a shirt. How is this not the best thing anyone has ever seen?
Okay, so picking just five episodes was actually really hard. Here are some honorable mentions (some are personal favorites, but maybe not "the best" of the series):
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Thanks for stopping by, and have a Buffy-tastic day, everyone!