It’s twenty years now since Joss Whedon’s cultural phenomenon Buffy the Vampire Slayer burst onto our televisions. So, to celebrate, we at VultureHound picked out a few of our favourite episodes…
‘Superstar’ was a smart episode; it took one of the (at the time) most criminally underused characters in the show and transported us to a universe which revolved around the hapless Jonathan. ‘Superstar’ managed to be at the same time one of the series’ funniest episodes, and one of its most heart-breaking. Jonathan’s arc remains the most crushingly tragic in the show, and this is a great showcase episode for the character.
Angelus was, without a doubt, Buffy’s most despicable villain. Vicious, vindictive and tormentative, whether in Buffy or Angel, Angel’s much more watchable dark side always brought all the fun of the fair. ‘Passion’ sees Angelus upping his game in his tormenting of the Scooby gang, leading to the first major death in the series, and a brutal one it is, in the form of Giles’ paramour Jenny Calendar. It’s a hard watch, even now, and remains one of the show’s most shocking episodes.
Lies My Parents Told Me (S7E17)
Some people argue that Buffy should have finished after season five. Those people are wrong. Season seven was a masterpiece of screenwriting, one of key moments being this flashback episode in which Spike finally comes to terms with his mother’s death, whilst newcomer Robin seeks vengeance for the death of his. This is Buffy storytelling at its best, and a pair of fine performances from James Marsters and D. B. Woodside.
Don’t have sex kids. If you do, your boyfriend will turn into a dick. That’s essentially the message of ‘Innocence’. Well, okay, not quite… This is where we discover the truth about Angel, and, arguable, when the show really began to find its feet. Allegory always ran heavy throughout Buffy, but ‘Innocence’ truly marks the point at which Monster of the Week was replaced by real life issues. Plus, y’know… Angelus…
Conversations With Dead People (S7E07)
Buffy chats with a former classmate turned vampire, the ghost of Joyce appears to Dawn, Willow talks with Cassie With The Weak Heart, and Andrew and Jonathan wander the halls of the erstwhile Sunnydale High. That’s it. Four conversations. This is the Waiting for Godot of Buffy. But fuck it’s good. Sharp script, witticisms, ponderings, revelations and shock deaths; this episode epitomises the show in one succinct 45 minute session.
The Zeppo (S3E13)
Xander was the glue that held the Scooby Gang together. To sum up my MA dissertation in one sentence; Xander is the humanity of the group, and as such the key to keeping them grounded. ‘The Zeppo’ is Xander’s showcase episode. Whilst the rest of the gang are dealing with yet another apocalypse, Xander unwittingly gets involved in some zombie-based mayhem. It’s all fun and games, but a touching expose of both the group’s need for Xander, and also his own belief in himself.
The Body (S5E16)
Amidst a show that relied so heavily upon supernatural occurrences, ‘The Body’, in which Buffy returns home to find her mother, Joyce, dead, is a simply sublime break from the norm. There’s no music, there are no monsters; this is simply Buffy dealing with loss in the most human sense of the word. It’s a brave episode, and it pays off, delivering an utterly moving message that even superheroes can be struck by the normalities of the world.
Once More With Feeling (S6E07)
Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a Best of Buffy list without this old gem. It’s a great episode, and manages to balance cheesiness and pathos beautifully; each of our protagonists regaling their darkest fears through the medium of song is at once hilarious and heart-breaking. What sets this aside from other series’ musical episodes, however, is that the soundtrack is actually damn good. There’s barely a dull number in the whole show, and although SMG is, at times, a little pitchy, this is one of the most re-watchable (and probably re-watched!) episodes of anything, ever.
I think we can all agree that season four sucked. But it did give us this amazing episode. For a show that relied so heavily on its quick wit and sharp dialogue, the idea of doing an episode in almost utter silence was insane. But dear god did it work! The Gentlemen proved to be one of the show’s most nightmarish monsters, and this one of the most memorable outings for our slayer.
I’ll probably get some slack for putting this in the number one slot, but ‘Storyteller’ is a phenomenal episode. Andrew very quickly became one of the greatest characters in the show’s history, and his inability to deal with the harsh light of day led to his getting lost in a world of make-believe. And surely that is the point of Buffy in the first place? Andrew, more than any character, represents insecurity and the struggle with fitting in both on the inside and the out. His sexuality, his allegiances, his inability to be heard within the group are all struggles that most Buffy viewers have dealt with at some point in their lives. Andrew speaks for us all, and this is Tom Lenk’s crowning achievement in his short-lived time on the show.
Do you agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below!