Warning! “Buffy” spoilers ahead, if you haven’t watched the show!
And my apologies for the wildly uneven videos – “Buffy” Youtube is a scary place. I got in and out as fast and as best as I could!
SO. The thing you need to understand about my specific geekery, is that Me : Buffy as Other People : Star Trek. My introduction to Internet passion and hatred was through Buffy.com’s Bronze, its message board. And that is saying a lot.
I. Love. “Buffy.”
And as I rewatch this glorious show in its entirety for the first time start to finish thanks to Josh (and Joss), I’m filled with the desire to make my own Top (Undetermined Number of All Time) Episode List. In the past, I’ve been thwarted by my desire to make this list inclusive. Personally, I wasn’t a humongous fan of post-Professor Walsh “Buffy,” back in the day. But someone whom I respect immensely described my beloved series as “great, especially the later seasons.”
So I’m listening…Joss Whedon is like, the master genius of life itself, and I’m super looking forward to revisiting the later seasons of “Buffy.” Between aforementioned friend’s description and stellar Onion A.V. Club recaps written by a dude who’d never seen the show before, yet had an extremely indepth knowledge of all of our Buffyverse angsty debates, I’m extremely psyched to check my own early-aughts fangirlism at the door, and enjoy the final seasons of Mr. “Avengers” and Shakespeare himself’s dark horse baby.
That said. Season 3 is to this date, my favorite one of all time. It has absolutely everything I love: Badass villains, including a hot-girl-filled-with-ambivalence co-Big-Bad, love and friendship triangles of jealousy, young and angry Giles.
It pretty much broke my heart to leave ANY ep off of this list, but I feel that as a “Buffy” Trekkie, it is very important to compile a list of my favorite “Buffy” eps ever – 10 eps that if I were stranded on a desert island, these would be the episodes I’d personally choose to encapsulate “Buffy” S1-3. I will tackle the later seasons as I keep rewatching!
So with no further adieu, I now present to you:
My Desert Island “Buffy” Episodes (Seasons 1-3)!
(In chronological order)
1. Welcome to the Hellmouth
I’ve discussed this episode before. WTTH, as it is known by fans/obsessors, is a fantastic episode. “The Harvest,” its second part, almost made it to the list. But if this were a care package, we have to keep it as filled with variety as possible, so “The Pack” replaced “The Harvest.” But more on that in the next part! For now, I will just say that WTTH is a fantabulous pilot, especially given its low budget. Don’t want to be redundant, I sang this ep’s praises in the other blog, so I will take this time to say that Sarah Michelle Gellar is such a freaking awesome actress. Back in the day, The Watcher’s Chronicles (I think? My books are in storage 😦 (and I can’t find it on Google!) came out, a seriously in-depth study of the first two “Buffy” seasons. My dad got it for me from Bookspan! And I read that book cover to cover multiple times. From that, I found out that SMG was originally set to play Cordelia, which makes sense, due to “All My Children” and my personal fave, “Swan’s Crossing.” But SMG fell in love with the show and Joss Whedon artistically, and rallied to play Buffy. She knew Tae Kwon Do; she could rock her natural brunette self as a blonde…
…and man, can that woman act. I remember reading an interview where SMG says that she is uber-coordinated as long as she has choreography, but left to her own devices, she like, trips over her own feet. I can soooo relate to that. Which makes me appreciate the beauty of SMG’s physical acting that much more. Not to mention her method acting tears that break my heart every time. Sometimes when you rewatch a show or movie when you are older, you realize that an actor or actress you thought was good, really just tapped into your own personal stuff at the time. Not with SMG; she is truly gifted.
I could babble on all day about the nuances of “Buffy” actors, but let’s move on to —
2. The Pack!
Season One is considered by many a “Buffy” fan as the weakest and cheesiest one, but I always loved S1. Rewatching it with Josh has given me an even fresher perspective. S1 is dark, and it’s scary, and it really explores Joss Whedon’s metaphor of life = high school. “The Pack” is awesome. It takes the truly nice guy, Xander, and explores what it would be like if the nice guys were all assholes, deep within. It also puts on the table that Willow luvs Xander luvs Buffy. I appreciate when a show gets that out there, and doesn’t waste my time for billions of eps! S1 has a lot of great stand-alone episodes, but “The Pack” is my favorite.
3. Prophecy Girl
Obvi, “Prophecy Girl.” “Giles, I’m 16 years old. I don’t want to die,” is one of THE classic television utterings of my lifetime. And then she does. Die, that is. And Xander brings her back to life. IMO, “Prophecy Girl” encapsulates everything that “Buffy” is about. And within the show itself, you see that happy endings happen, but no one is truly safe, on this show.
Also, shoutout to Patsy Cline and my grandparents ❤
I’d always chosen “Innocence” as my favorite all-time ep, and felt very mollified when I found out that Joss himself also called it his fave. Although S3 is my favorite overall, the end of S2 is a freaking force to be reckoned with. Pretty much every ep from “Surprise” on kicks all kinds of ass (no offense to pre-“Surprise,” which is still “Buffy,” and therefore great). But “Innocence” hits me in every conceivable way. MORE GEEK KNOWLEDGE ALERT! Remember when Buffy goes home, then turns around from her front door and goes to Angel’s apartment? That one brief Summers yard moment was supposed to be the set of the next scene. After he’s turned, but before she knows that. Apparently, Sarah Michelle, David, and Joss had this synergistic actor/creator relationship, and the scene where Buffy asks, “Was it me? Was I…not good?” (SOB!) was very important, but it just wasn’t working, in Buffy’s front yard, no matter how many takes they did. So they took the scene to Angel’s place – him shirtless, them in the place where they made love. It was all much more intimate, and the scene worked, just like that.
So there is that scene, and there is “That was then. This is now,” and there is Willow’s heart breaking over Xander and Cordelia, and there is Giles breaking MY heart in the car, and most importantly?
There are cupcakes. One of which has a candle that Buffy just wants to let burn, as her 17th birthday fades along with – well, her innocence.
Giles is not only possibly my favorite character on this show, but Anthony Stewart Head is definitely one of my favorite actors of all time. And ASH. ROCKS. This episode. I also know that “La Boheme” is opera because of “Passion.” Sometimes on shows, it is hard to have a standalone ep that still keeps the story going. While this ep was All About Angelus, as all of post-“Surprise” eps are (sans “Go Fish,” but if IIRC, that was actually supposed to come earlier in the season, originally), this ep was even more All About Giles. Anthony Stewart Head is so, SO awesome, even more than usual in “Passion.” When he comes at Angelus with that flaming torch – I never wanted Angel to die, but if Giles had killed him in that moment, I would have been okay with it. And the breakdown Buffy/punch/sob scene outside the factory is one of my favorites of all time.
6. Becoming, Part Two
What is there to say about this magnificent, epic episode, that hasn’t been said before? For many “Buffy” fans, this ep tops the list, and I have NO problem with that. Personally, I am a huge fan of the first half. I dig Bianca Lawson, also Spike and Dru, and also the slo-mo-Buffy-getting-serious-in-teal-Christophe Beck montage.
But the latter half of the awesome first is one of the most epic 44 minutes I’ve ever seen on television. The broad swordfighting is amazing. I’m more of a cupcakes-and-pajamas TV viewer (hence “Innocence” as my number 1!) than a violence girl, but I gotta say, I love the violence on “Buffy.” Well, except for Joss’s freaking EYE obsession (EEK!)! The choreography was great. Sophia Crawford and Jeff Pruitt rocked life itself. And the actors themselves were no slouches, especially David Boreanaz and SMG.
I’m probably procrastinating, so as not to cry at my keyboard. Because all action adventure aside, “Becoming, Part Two” packs an emotional roundhouse kick like I’ve never experienced in possibly my lifetime. Omg.
7. Bad Girls
This isn’t the episode that makes me cry the most. The fighting’s awesome as to be expected, but it’s not about that. “Bad Girls” makes my list because it is about Buffy and Faith kicking all kinds of ass, dancing to Curve’s “Chinese Burn” at the Bronze, and saying screw you to chemistry class, we’ve got hearts on the window and slaying to do.
And then, as it would happen because it was the late ‘90s on the WB, Comeuppance Arrives, and shit hits the fan. Faith, the drawer of the fire (“Revelations!”), murders a man, and she doesn’t care.
OR DOES SHE?
For all of “Buffy’s” Lesson of the Week episodes (not in a bad way), “Bad Girls” is the ultimate Lifetime Movie, for my money. It’s got everything glorious. And on a more serious note, it is the catalyst to the second half of my favorite “Buffy” season, so it is on my list!
Plus: the introduction of the awesome Alexis Denisoff as Wesley!
8. The Wish
Guys, first I had “Band Candy.” Then I traded it out because, obvi, “Doppelgangland.”
But the more I think about it, and now that I’ve rewatched S1-3, and as much as I totally adore “Doppelgangland” (and “Band Candy!”), if we’re going with desert island picks, I have to go with “The Wish.”
Because when I watch “The Wish,” I get super excited to watch “Doppelgangland,” but while the latter is super fun and Alyson Hannigan as Vamp (and regular!) Willow rocks the hell out of it, she also is great in the former, and “The Wish” has the advantage of being sooooo haunting, sealed by Christophe’s Beck’s incredible “Slayer’s Elegy.” As I (SPOILER ALERT) have started watching Season 5, I’m appreciating it much more, in great part due to if not foreshadowing, then imagery, in “The Wish.”
Another ep that I’ve written about before, and that is the end scene where Willow tells Buffy that she’s staying in Sunnydale next year, for college. In addition to that particular awesomeness, this ep has my two personal faves, Willow and Faith, going toe to toe! This was when the show was still more metaphorical, and the former teenager in me gives this ep a bigs thumbs up, in the way that the fight-y Big Bad Willow/Faith drama was gorgeously underscored by the human drama that is a teenage girl feeling insecure and left out, now that her BFF has found a cooler new friend.
Oh and not to mention, gross spiders, getting both eaten and stabbed against walls! By the only knife I’ve ever wanted to own – Faith’s Jackal knife! And Willow finally getting her emotional energy controlled so she could float a pencil – and kill a vampire with said floating pencil!
10. Graduation Day, Part One
Obviously, Part Two is awesome. But much like “Bad Girls,” Part One has the always-competitive advantage of my girl Faith. GD Part One like, encapsulates ambivalence. As Sunnydale students, including the Scooby Gang, waver between high school nostalgia and excitement over the future, Buffy wrestles between “watching (her) lover (sorry, Liz Lemon!) die,” and murdering not only a human, but the Other Slayer Herself. Therebut for the grace of…whom?
Not Buffy, not this time, as she goes to Faith’s Apartment in a scene that is gloriously accompanied by Christophe Beck’s score named thusly.
“Buffy” has had countless incredible battle scenes. But this one is my personal favorite, as Buffy tries to fight to the death, the person she just had over for Christmas not too long ago.