Rewatching “Buffy”: My Top 15 S4-7 Desert Island Eps (Starting with 4!)

Guys, it’s so sad. Like, I’m near tears as I write this, because Josh and I only have three more episodes before the glorious “Buffy” rewatch marathon winds to a finish.

But on the happy side, I was right to eagerly anticipate rewatching the later seasons. I had shunned them in the past, not completely; I’ve always been a diehard (“Someone’s in the ceeeiling”) “Buffy” fan. But I never bought the DVDs past Season Four, aside from the bootleg Chinese-language version of S5 that someone sold to me on eBay after the ex left and I was buying stuff from eBay left and right. To be clear, they did not say it was in Chinese, which is a beautiful language, just not one that I speak or understand.

So it was S1-4 for me throughout the past decade, save for the FX airings. And speaking of those, they were not cool as far as later seasons go. I’m very grateful to FX for airing “Buffy” to begin with, but when the later seasons rolled around, all of a sudden, they’d go from like, “Selfless” (S7) to “Halloween” (S2), so the latter seasons of “Buffy” and I never really got to bond.

Now? I LOVE the later seasons. Rewatching the series has been fantastic. And as I said in my S1-3 blog, I really want a Top 25 list. Since this list has an extra season, I’m going to do a Top 15! Whether the total 25 represents my all-time Top 25 remains to be seen, but with no further adieu, here is my chronological list of my personal desert-island picks for the second half-ish of the most wonderful television series of all time!

I started writing, and it got really long, so I’m going to do the seasons separately – hope that is okay with you guys!

Fear, Itself

 

SPOILER ALERT! It was between this ep and “Hush” for this particular S4 slot. And while “Hush” is a glorious, classic episode, and rightfully deserves a spot on anyone’s list of top “Buffy” eps, I’m going with my gut and my heart, and for me, “Fear, Itself” wins. I love this episode. It deals with my arch nemesis, fear. It’s about Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year. It’s very character driven, and each of the Scoobies gets a compelling storyline wherein his/her own deepest fears come to the surface.

Plus, hilarity! Oz as Joan-of-Arc-Willow’s God, nametagged thusly, and Anya as a terrifying bunny! Not to mention Giles with a chainsaw!!! The conclusion of “Fear, Itself” is deeply satisfying, and one that has stuck with me psychologically throughout the years. And if there were any lingering doubts as to this ep’s being on my list? They are all squelched by the fact that Buffy inspired my Halloween costume for this year. I’m going as Little Red Riding Hood with a basket o’ weapons!

Wild At Heart

Close toss-up, between this ep and “New Moon Rising.” Both feature my Willow being brokenhearted and crying like nobody’s business. GEEK KNOWLEDGE ALERT! SMG is very method, and when she cries, she is really crying. Apparently after filming one teary scene in “The Prom,” it took SMG quite awhile to come back to Earth from the grief she pulled up to cry on camera. So after Willow sobbed her eyes out in “Wild At Heart,” the people around her were all nervous, not wanting to upset her, because they were used to SMG’s Real Tears. And Aly’s tears were flowing all over the place, but after they yelled “Cut!” and approached her ginger(bread?)ly, asking if she was okay, AH was just like, “Hi guys, it’s just acting!” As someone who pursued acting for years, I really admire that. I’m much more SMG in this equation; I can cry for a role, but not on cue. That Alyson Hannigan can turn on and off such impressive waterworks just like that, is amazing.

So yeah, this ep wins over “New Moon Rising” by a hair, because AH cries more in this episode, and cries so heartbreakingly. I love almost every moment of “Wild At Heart.” I’ve dug Paige Moss since she went psycho on Kelly Taylor in “90210,” and while some say that Veruca/Paige was weak, I totally disagree. She was a fantastic one-ep Big Bad, IMHO. And Seth Green rocks the hell out of this episode. Willow & Oz is one of my all-time life ‘ships, and watching them go from snuggly “Shut my brain up with sex” to destruction within 44 minutes made me very sad, but/so it is great television. And once again: Alyson Hannigan as Willow. She is amazing, remarkable, spectacular, all of my favorite adjectives. “I knew. I knew, you jerk.” SOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also as a recovering not groupie, but serial monogamous musician dater, I must give honorable mention to the word musicianese, which is in the same scene as the crazy birthday cake shirt! As someone who’s taken fashion cues from The Baby-Sitters Club, Nicole on “My Two Dads,” and Punky Brewster, I felt for Willow so hard in that scene. All jealous of Oz’s splishiness behind the ears, which IS for her only, dammit Oz! Incidentally, Phoebe wore that same shirt on “Friends” that year!

Oz drives away and Willow cries 😥  vvv

Who Are You

 Y’all know that Faith, as played by Eliza Dushku, rocks every fiber of my television being. LOVE HER. S3 is great for many reasons, and every actor on the show brought his and her A game, but S3 is my all-time favorite “Buffy” season due in great part to Faith and Eliza Dushku’s haunting/mesmerizing eyes.

So we are all clear on the fact that I love Faith? Okay, good. Because while I really like S4, I missed Faith so much. Last time we saw her, she was getting ostensibly murdered by Buffy. In “This Year’s Girl,” she wakes up – Buffy didn’t actually kill Faith; she put her in a coma. And I love “This Year’s Girl,” but to put both parts of a two-parter on my list seems redundant, especially when we have Crying Willow in other eps. And between the two parts, it is no contest. “Who Are You” is one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever witnessed on television, which is saying a lot. See, at the end of “This Year’s Girl,” Faith casts a mojo on Buffy that makes them switch bodies! Both Eliza and Sarah Michelle rock the HELL out of “Who Are You,” playing each other extraordinarily convincingly. Extra props to SMG, who is a firecracker on screen for the entire time. I met SMG as a vixen in “Swan’s Crossing,” and while I love her portrayal of Buffy the Hero, it is so much fun watching her be “bad.” The scene at the Bronze with Spike and The Cure’s “Watching Me Fall” is one of THE sexiest scenes ever. It made me ‘ship not Buffy/Spike, but Faith/Spike.

Then there is Riley telling Faith-in-Buffy that he loves her, and SMG-as-Faith getting totally freaked out by that. There is also Tara being awesome, and Tara/Willow making spell love, and saving the day.

And then, of course, there is the quintessential line of the show, and in many ways, the series: “Because it’s wrong.” SMG-Faith mocks Buffy for her morals at the beginning of the ep, but by the end, after having experienced what it’s like to be loved, and to believe in something, she seems to believe it too, despite herself, and despite her deep self loathing. Which leads to two of the best “Angel” episodes ever, but more on that another day.

Restless

I love how Joss & Company took an ostensible finale in “Primeval,” full of awesome action-adventure, yet chose for it to be the penultimate episode of Season 4, and made the actual finale full of nightmares and character exploration. I’d never seen “Apocalypse Now” until the day I got fired from a job in early 2010. It was on TV when I got home, and while I’d already loved “Restless,” I gained a whole new appreciation of how this movie could work its way into emotional and mental exhaustion.

So the Scoobies all have dreams, and they tap into the characters’ deepest fears (theme!) and insecurities. I can’t do this episode justice with my words, so I’ll just highlight some of my favorite parts: Willow painting a Sapphos poem on Tara’s back, and her ensuing dream wherein she goes back to Early!Willow with the long red hair, and living my own personal nightmare of being in a play when you don’t know your lines, or even what the play is about! Miss Kitty Fantastico! Xander and Joyce (Buffy’sMom!) having sexual tension! Spike on a swingset with Giles! SMG rocking a short black wig, in between all the angst and sundressy fights! The Cheese Man, which was Joss trolling! And TONS of foreshadowing to later seasons! “Restless” is amazing.

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