Quit Saying That Buffy Is Sexist

I can’t believe I have to fucking write this. I can’t believe that there are enough edgy feminazi radicals out there online claiming that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is antifeminist garbage and that Joss Whedon is a misogynistic poser, that I have to write this article. But here I am, publishing this so all those man-hating dipshits will maybe shut the fuck up. (I highly doubt it.)

First of all, I would like to say that Whedon never wrote Buffy with the intention of it being some big pro-woman crusade. But to call the show sexist is straight up ridiculous, and it pisses me off.

Now, to those of you who claim that Buffy is a “pseudo-feminist” show because the female protagonist takes on a traditionally male role as a warrior, well…you’re neither wrong nor right. Yes, a strong female character doesn’t mean a girl who goes around punching everyone. But Buffy’s role as the Slayer isn’t her defining characteristic; she is a living, breathing, three dimensional character. To reduce Buffy to just an action hero is selling her character, and the point of the show, very short.

So what makes a strong character?

Depth. And Buffy is a very deep character. She has fears and dreams and beliefs. She changes over time and undergoes real development. The entire theme is about Buffy and her growth, not killing monsters. To only see that side of the show ignoring all the deeper meaning of it. But most importantly, despite all her supernatural power, she is human, capable of weakness and flaws.

This is how you write a strong character.

Now, what about Buffy’s romantic relationships?

First off, I would just like to state for the record, once and for all:

FALLING IN LOVE WITH A MAN DOES NOT INHERENTLY MEAN A WOMAN IS WEAK, CODEPENDENT, OR SUBMISSIVE.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Buffy and Angel: did Buffy let her relationship with Angel take over her life for a while? Yes. That was the whole point of season 2 (“you can’t afford to be a slave to your passions”). But this was made obvious (unless, again, you’re ignoring the deeper meaning), and Buffy eventually realized she would have to sacrifice that relationship to get on with her life and her work, and this point is illustrated when she literally kills Angel to save the world. When Angel comes back, their relationship stays on a much more healthy level, until Buffy and Angel realize they can’t keep up the pretense forever, and part ways. See, that is not an example of a woman being weak and letting her love for a man take her over. It’s a story about a teenager and their first love affair, and maturing past it.

Buffy and Riley (I’m skipping over Scott Hope and Parker): there is a reason everyone hates Riley – he’s a whiner baby, who’s so insecure in his own masculinity, that he craves Buffy being dependent on him. And she simply isn’t. So he throws a tantrum and leaves her. Does Xander blame Buffy for everything that went wrong in that relationship? Yes. But, again, to those who are simply watching the show at the surface level and ignoring the deeper meaning, instead of really thinking for themselves, don’t realize that Xander was meant to be considered wrong. Anything Xander says about any of Buffy’s relationships should always be taken with a grain of salt. People who don’t realize that are mindless sheeple, blinding accepting what the narrative tells them to believe. Of course the breakup isn’t Buffy’s fault – it’s Riley’s. Buffy is the strong one, the independent one, and Riley couldn’t handle that. How exactly is that weakness on Buffy’s part?

Buffy and Spike: this relationship was OBVIOUSLY portrayed as unhealthy (at least in season 6), and anyone who doesn’t get that is clearly an idiot. Buffy is in a place of depression and self-loathing, and is using her physical relationship with Spike as a substitute for truly being happy. That’s the point. But when Buffy regains her strength again, she is no longer dependent on Spike – she’s able to stand on her own two feet.

Now let’s go over the role of the Slayer – it’s about power. One girl in all the world who was given the power to stop the forces of evil by a group of men. Yes, Buffy’s power comes from men. And to boot, there’s a patriarchal council of “Watchers” that facilitates the Slayer in her role. That sounds misogynistic on the surface, but look at what happens in the show. In “Helpless”, an episode all about gender and power dynamics, Buffy realizes the corruption of the Watchers’ Council, and in the “Graduation” two-parter, Buffy rejects the Council’s meddling. In season 7’s “Lies My Parents Told Me”, Buffy literally shuts the door on Giles’s guidance after she realizes she has outgrown him, claiming that he’s “taught her everything she needs to know”. And in the finale, Buffy literally takes back the power of the Slayer for herself from those men who created the First Slayer all those years ago and shares it with the rest of the Slayer line, creating strong women (both physically and spiritually) all over the world. Women taking power back from men – in what universe is that message antifeminist?

And I’ve only talked about Buffy herself in this article – I haven’t even touched Willow, Anya, Cordelia, Dawn, Tara, or Faith. Buffy is unquestionably a show that is dominated by strong female characters.

So for the love of God, quit saying that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is sexist and that Joss Whedon is the Antichrist. ~TRL

Buffy Best To Worst – Season 2

**Spoilers for season 2 of Buffy if you haven’t watched it.**

#19: “Go Fish”: ugh. It’s so bad. It’s probably the worst episode of Buffy – or anything – ever (except for maybe “Where The Wild Things Are”). I mean…fish rape????? Uuuuuuuugh. For such a good season, it’s such a turd. It’s totally skippable, if y0u’re not OCD about seeing every episode.

#18: “Killed By Death”: this episode is just unnecessarily gross. Der Kindestod is even more horrifying than certain grinning, suit wearing floaty monsters from season 4. And the child acting is a little too convincing. Plus, Buffy’s fear of hospitals just seems to have been made up for the sake of the plot (although, if you’re reading ahead, say, in season 6, it makes a little more sense). It’s pretty mediocre; it only stands out because of the horrifying monster of the week. The two shining moments are Cordelia, as usual, hitting the nail on the head about Buffy “needing a monster to fight so she doesn’t feel so helpless” (Cordelia is so understatedly brilliant), because tact is just not saying true stuff, and a defenseless Xander standing up to Angelus to defend Buffy. Yes, it was another faux-white knight moment for the Xan-Man, but remember, this was more than just Xander’s racism/jealousy at play here. Angelus had just killed Jenny Calendar in the previous episode. No doubt the rest of the gang was still mourning her and feeling a bit bloodthirsty. I get so pissed off with Xander sometimes, especially in season 3, but I have to remind myself, going back over the high school seasons, that Xander grows as a character and won’t always be that awful, mean high school boy.

#17: “Some Assembly Required”: this episode and the next one are the episodes I consider straight up filler. It’s an interesting idea, obviously a play on the Frankenstein monster and his bride, but it was just such a cheesy episode. It would have belonged in season 1 better, I think.

#16: “The Dark Age”: this one is just like SAR above; an interesting premise, poor execution. It is nice to get some insight into Giles’ life as “Ripper”, but this episode just didn’t do it for me. Probably a matter of taste.

#15: “Ted”: now we’re getting into the episodes that are bad but in a funny way. Let me put it out there right now: Joyce’s new boyfriend, old Jack Tripper…is a robot. There. That’s the twist. And if you’re older than seven, you probably saw it coming from a mile away. However, it does touch on a topic that will be revisited in all seriousness in season 3: what if a Slayer, a supernaturally enhanced superhuman, killed a normal human being? What would be the repercussions? Buffy, being a moral individual, immediately feels regret for what she’s done and confesses to the police. Now, granted, Buffy probably didn’t intend to murder anyone, she just wanted to rough Ted up a bit. And to be fair, he was a grown man getting physical with a sixteen year old girl. If Buffy wasn’t the Slayer, she might not be able to defend herself. But Buffy, having the advantage (Ted being a robot aside for the moment), doesn’t have the right to manhandle a normal person like she did. Luckily, Ted wasn’t really dead – or human – and Buffy gets a pass. This time.

#14: “Bad Eggs”: if the plot of this episode seems familiar, it’s because it’s basically a fusion of Alien and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I like this episode. It’s amusing, and a little bit suspenseful. And the Gorch brothers are fun idiot villains. By the way, if the running theme of sex for this season wasn’t clear before, it should be fairly blatant in this episode. Buffy misses Sex Ed and the lecture on the consequences of teen sex, for one, and the monsters of the week take the form of eggs, the symbol of human fertility, and the big mama is basically a giant vagina with teeth that swallows a man whole. Meanwhile, Buffy and Angel are getting cozier and cozier. They make out against a headstone reading “In Loving Memory” that the camera lingers on. Yikes.

#13: “Reptile Boy”: this episode is fluffy and light and just a bit of fun. Cordy and Buff invade a college frat party, Xander get dressed up in drag, and Buffy kills a giant snake monster. Again, the sex theme is heavy here. Buffy and Cordy getting drugged and chained up in the basement for the Makita demon to eat by the frat boys is an obvious parable about date rape. Not to mention that the Makita (named after a brand of tool, aptly) is a giant penis that Buffy, er…circumcises. But rape undertones aside, it’s a fairly fluff episode. Also, it goes to show that whenever Buffy acts like Cordelia (representative of her past “normal” life before Slayerdom – metaphorically speaking, like a child), bad things happen.

#12: “When She Was Bad”: after watching Passion of The Nerd’s review of this episode and then reading Mark Field’s in-depth guide, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality, I understood the point of the episode I’d missed the first time through I watched. Buffy returns from a summer away from Sunnydale and is inexplicably acting like a bitch to her friends. She’d been killed by the Master in the last episode of the first season, and had gone through trauma she needs to confront. But remember, Buffy’s self-sacrifice is symbolic of her committing to her destiny: Slayerdom. Growing up. Xander and Willow are still in their “kid” phase and Buffy sees them, and Angel (because remember, Angel, being a vampire, can never “grow up”), as not understanding what she’s going through, which is why she tries to push them away. Meanwhile, Giles (her mind) is what Buffy sees as having pushed her into her destiny before she was ready to accept it. And the one who forces Buffy to face her issues is none other than Cordelia, her mirror, the symbol of her old life. So now I get the point. This episode still isn’t as resonant with me (even though I’m a 20 year old college student), but I ranked it higher on the list because I feel like me not getting it is my bad, not the writers.

#11: “Inca Mummy Girl”: Oz! Hooray! IMG, like “Reptile Boy”, is another fluff piece which I enjoy. I gotta say, Xander gets some of the best centric episodes, as you’ll see when you get to my number five item. It’s fun, it’s a little heart wrenching, and Buffy saves the day in the end. Nuff said.

#10: “Passion”: I’m surprised Passion ended up so low on my list. I feel like it should be higher up because it’s so important, but this is due to my own preferences, so whatever. Anyway, so it’s just after Valentine’s Day (when Angelus is notorious for wreaking especially sadistic havoc), and Angelus decides to toy with Buffy and her friends. The whole drawing people as they’re sleeping thing is super creepy, but I think what officially wigged me out was Angelus’s assault on Willow’s fish. I’d like to mention: I like fun villains. And Angelus is fun. He enjoys being evil; he gets off on it. And in the end, he kills Jenny Calendar – doesn’t even drink her, just heartlessly snaps her neck – and arranges her in Giles’s bed as the final offense. I feel like I should have been sadder about Jenny, but the fact is, she was an underdeveloped character. I didn’t care when Spike roasted the Annoying One, and I didn’t really care about Jenny. She was cool, but she was little more than a plot device. I only mourned her because Giles did. The significance of her death only makes Angel a corporeal killer in the eyes of the viewer. There will be no coming back from this. By the end of the episode, Buffy declares that she thinks she’s ready to do what she has to do.

#9: “What’s My Line”, Part 1 and 2: these episodes, once again, explore the idea of Buffy’s identity as the Slayer, a topic we will revisit over and over (buckle in). WML contains a lot of golden moments: Willow and Oz finally meeting, Xander and Cordy making out in Buffy’s basement, Buffy kissing Angel in vamp face (which Darla said she would never do); I even kind of liked the scene with Dru torturing Angel. Not that I want Angel to suffer, obviously, but you think about it from Dru’s perspective: this is the man who killed her entire family and tortured her until she became a creature of pure evil like himself, and now he’s good and fighting against her and Spike. Of course she’s pissed. And then, of course: “I om Kendrah. Te Vampeer Sleeyir.” (Okay, I’m sorry, but that accent is so fake. I mean…”cheek fie-eet”!) It brings up an interesting idea: Kendra is here now, and is obviously more dedicated to the cause than Buffy, so why couldn’t she take over and be the Slayer and let Buffy live a normal life? Well, it’s like Kendra says just before she leaves: “You act like Slayin’s a job. It’s not – it’s yah life.” And it’s true. Buffy can’t escape her destiny, no matter what. Growing up isn’t optional. The only thing we can do is accept it or we become objects in the universe. Accepting unchangeable facts of life isn’t weakness. It’s what we do to deal with those facts is what makes us truly strong. There’s two really great quotes about choice in this season that you should pay attention to: Buffy’s speech in “Lie To Me”: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice, but you have a choice“; and a line from the demon Whistler’s line that I’m posting at the end of the post under “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2.

#8: “School Hard”: this is a FUN episode, in which we get the introduction of Spike and Druscilla. The whole episode is just brilliant. It’s good pacing, action packed, and obviously an homage to the movie Die Hard. I can’t pick what I like more: Spike’s swagger, his and Dru’s creepy yet tender affection, Angel pretending to be Angelus and offering up Xander to Spike as a snack, Buffy and Spike’s “will we need weapons” scene, Joyce finally standing up for Buffy…but I think my favorite part was Spike throwing a caged Annoying One into the sunlight. I actually cheered at that part.

#7: “Lie To Me”: this is such an important episode in the whole series. Like I mentioned above, it sort of sets one of the mission statements for the show: “You have a choice. You don’t have a good choice but you have a choice.” Buffy’s friend Ford is an important avatar for Angel and his character arc later in the season, but the words Buffy tells him will come back and resonate in a pivotal moment for her. Plus, it’s a Spike and Drusilla heavy episode, which are always fun. Okay, so the vampire wannabe cult is a little bit lame, but for me, it’s a enjoyable episode over all. I crack up every time at the scene where Angel is dissing the groupies, then one dressed exactly like him walks past. And Chanterelle, the blonde girl from the wannabe gang, will be a sort of important character later on, in the first episode of Buffy season 3, “Anne”, and later on Angel: The Series.

#6: “Phases”: I love Oz-centric episodes, and they’re few and far between. Oz is such an intriguing character. He’s the most relaxed of the Scoobies, but inside him he’s got this raging monster. Some people think this one falls flat after the emotional circus that was the “Surprise”/”Innocence” two-parter, but it’s one of the ones I look forward to personally. Kane the werewolf hunter is pretty lame with his stock character sexism, but otherwise this is a great episode. And the last scene between Willow and Oz is so adorable.

#5: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”: like I said with IMG, Xander has the best one-offs (with the exception of “Teacher’s Pet”). This is definitely one of them (it’s a close contest between this and “The Zeppo” in season 3 to be totally honest). I always love the love spell trope (as long as no one gets used against their will and the spell caster learns their lesson, of course). Amy from “Witch” is back, and Cordy continues to reveal her hidden depths. The only complaint I have is that, according to Giles, Angelus is his most sadistic and destructive on Valentine’s Day, but Angelus doesn’t actually really…do anything? Yeah, he tries to kill Xander, which would have been really cruel to Buffy, but he originally went to the Summers’ house with the intention to kill Buffy. So what’s so special about that, exactly? It’s not the great act of pure evil I expected from Angelus. One would think some torture would be involved first, like the stalking he does in “Passion”. I think they were scared about making our pal Angel too evil, only giving him a few sparse moments like when he snapped Jenny’s neck, or crushed Buffy’s heart in “Innocence”, or tortured Giles just for fun. Angelus is supposed to be all big and bad, and I would have liked to have seen more of that.

#4: “Halloween”: this is one of the most iconic Buffy episodes, and for good reason – it’s awesome. It’s on most people’s lists for “favorite episodes”, mine included. It’s just pure fun. Soldier!Xander, ingenue!Buffy, ghost!Willow, Oz making another cameo, and of course, Cordelia in her cat suit. I don’t have much to write about this one, but it’s just really good.

#3: “I Only Have Eyes For You”: since this is a list being made according to my personal preference, and I’m a sappy romantic at heart, IOHEfY naturally ranks high on the list, and in my opinion is one of the best one-offs of the whole series. It’s one that I’d gladly go back and watch just for the hell of it. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s bookended by the two clunkers of the season, “Go Fish” and “Killed By Death”. The metaphor for the episode, the ghost lovers being mirrors for Buffy and Angel, can be a little in your face, but not in a bad way. It’s totally logical, and you don’t really understand the poetry of it until the culminating scene taking place in the school with the possessed Buffy and Angel. The only complaint I have really is the parameters of James’s supernatural powers. Telekinesis and possession are par for the course for ghosts and poltergeists, but where did James get the power to summon the bees? Or transmogrify the students’ lunches into snakes? In this sense, it seems like James has whatever superpower the writer gives him so that it’s convenient for the story. But I’m willing to overlook some silliness or plot holes if the episode is overall good, and this episode overall is very good.

#2: “Surprise”/”Innocence”: now we’re finally getting the meat of the season. The arc of season 2 is Buffy sleeping with Angel, Angel losing his soul, and Buffy being forced to essentially take down the man she loves. Now, I don’t think Joss is trying to send any negative messages about having sex, or even having underage sex (because technically Buffy is only 17, and Angel is an immortal 20-something). I think he was trying to make commentary about losing yourself in your passions and losing focus on what is truly important. Take the arguably two most iconic teen romance stories, Romeo and Juliet, and Twilight. In both stories, the teenage lovers completely lose themselves in each other and their relationship. Being in love is fine, but when being in love with someone is your only character trait (*cough, cough* Molly Hooper *cough*), you as an individual disappear. Instead of taking agency and trying to resolve the conflict between their families, Romeo and Juliet are so wrapped up in their tragic love for each other, that it ultimately leads to their self-brought demise. William Shakespeare says it in the very beginning of the play: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;/Whose misadventured piteous overthrows/Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.” The whole point of R+J is that teenage love is hormone-fuelled idiocy. And similarly, Buffy loses herself in her passion for Angel. The back half of the season is about Buffy having to rebuild herself now that she no longer has her boyfriend. This isn’t to say that Buffy is weak when she’s with Angel – a woman loving a man isn’t inherently weak. But she neglects her responsibilities (“Bad Eggs”) because she is too absorbed by him. Season 3 is more about Buffy finding herself again, but everything post “Innocence” gives her the building blocks for that reclamation, culminating in her ultimate sacrifice in “Becoming, Part 2”.

And the episodes are both so well done, “Innocence” more than “Surprise”.  The scene where Buffy finally finds Angel(us) again after sleeping with him feels like a gut punch, the way Angelus slyly uses every tool at his disposal to utterly destroy Buffy. Angelus is my favorite Big Bad of the entire Buffy pantheon because he’s so diabolical and all the time while wearing the mask of our beloved Angel. It’s the third greatest landmark of the whole series, in my opinion, apart from the end of season 5 and the next item on the list…

#1: “Becoming”, Parts 1 and 2: season 2 contains two emotional wallomps (three if you cared about Jenny Calendar), and this is the one that totally breaks me every time. I’m of course talking about Buffy being forced to murder her true love. Having to kill Angelus would already been traumatic for her, but having to kill Angel is just so much more brutal. So much more in fact, that she runs away from Sunnydale, since she’s been thrown out by her mother, kicked out of school, and it seems to her that her friends are rooting for her to murder Angel. Admittedly, I don’t much care about the vampires’ evil plan, but as always, the greatness lies in the characters: Angel’s backstory, Angelus torturing Giles, Spike and Buffy’s reluctant collaboration, Willow’s creepy sudden possession by magic, Buffy “coming out” to Joyce as the Slayer and her monologue about how she’d prefer a normal life but that’s simply not in the cards, Xander’s Lie, and of course the heartbreaking scene of Buffy having to kill a newly-resouled Angel. Also, one of the most adorable and unusual friendships in all of Buffy, Spike and Joyce.

There are two things that always stand out for me in this two parter – the part during Buffy and Angelus’s epic duel where Angelus seemingly has Buffy defeated, with his sword to her face.

Angelus: No weapon. No friends. No hope. Take all that away, what’s left? *pauses, then makes to stab Buffy*

Buffy: *calmly grabs the sword and looks Angelus in the eye* …me. *butts Angelus in the face with the pommel of the sword*

(God, I just want to stand up and cheer at that scene.)

And then, Whistler’s voiceover, which I mentioned above:

Whistler: Here’s the thing: there’s moments in your life that make you, that set the course of who you’re gonna be. Sometimes they’re little, subtle moments. Sometimes they’re not. Bottom line is, even if you see ’em comin’, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.

Why All The Villains Are Gay

More than likely, you’ve watched a TV show or movie where the protagonist and their same sex opponent have…weird sexual chemistry. Maybe the villain gets up in the main guy’s personal space; maybe they make lewd innuendoes; maybe they tell the hero they were meant to be together or something. Sounds romantic, almost, in a really twisted way.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, about why a lot of villains are Ambiguously Gay, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a matter of homophobia (necessarily). Let me explain. On my blog post about Hannigram, I talked a bit about enemyslash, and why I thought Bryan Fuller chose to inject his series with an overdose of homoerotic subtext (if it can even be called subtext anymore). I mentioned that it was Hannibal’s intention to seduce Will to the dark side. Emphasis on the word seduce. In a similar fashion, Passion Of The Nerd covered the lesbian subtext between Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Faith represents Buffy’s shadow self, Slayer power left unchecked. If Faith is symbolic of temptation to act out of selfish wants instead of duty and the desire to do good, it would make sense, then, that Faith would be…tempting.

Often times in film and television, the main character’s archnemesis reflects them, is their dark half, like Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. A classic archetype for this equation is Professor Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures. Both Holmes and Moriarty are geniuses, but whereas Holmes uses his wits to defeat crime and do good, Moriarty employs his in committing the crimes. Which is why BBC Sherlock, a slow burn gay romance between the famous consulting detective and his army doctor life mate, has produced one of the most overtly homosexual Moriartys in Holmes canon history (thank you, Moffat and Gatiss).

Usually, the dark mirror half can recognize themself in the light mirror half, and wants to combine their forces to be even stronger. Thus, the villain must seduce the protagonist to the dark side. To better mirror the two characters, they’re often made the same gender (since, you know, men and women can’t be equals, right?), so when you produce Doctor Evilman trying to coax Goodguy Heromale to the dark side, ho yay is bound to follow.

Course, I could be completely wrong and it could all be a plot for the viewing public to associate queerness with being evil, but I like to think positively, you know? ~TRL

Buffy Best To Worst – Season 1

Since I’m almost done with season 6 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I figured I’d start ranking the episodes in order from what I think is the worst to the best. Now, I’m going by season instead of schlubbing the whole series together because I don’t think it’s fair to compare, say, season 1 to season 6. Or season 4 to season 2. For example, a lot of the season 1 episodes would be toward the bottom of the list. And it’s not because they’re bad episodes per se…they’re just season 1 episodes. The show was very low budget, brought in as a mid season replacement for Savannah, and was just finding its footing. So I tend to be a bit forgiving toward season 1. Anyway, let’s do this. **Potential spoilers.**

#11. “Teacher’s Pet”: There’s really only two episodes I can think of at the moment that are worse than TP, and that’s “Go Fish” in season 2 (it could be a tie there) and the worst of the worst, “Where The Wild Things Are” from season 4. I mean, really? A giant bug lady? Come on, give me a proper monster! Also, Xander’s crush on Buffy gets really tiresome, especially at the end of season 2/beginning of season 3. For a while I actually hated Xander, until season 4, when I realized how wonderful he is. It took me a while to realize: Xander is a teenage boy. They act horrible sometimes, but they do get better over time.

#10. “The Pack”: Again, haunted animals? Really? Knock it off with the freaking haunted animals! I know a lot of people really like this episode, but for me it was more like a cheesy episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark, but with, you know. Cannibalism and rape threats (it’s not Xander’s fault, though, not really, he’s possessed). The one shining moment in the whole episode is the scene with Willow in the library, standing up to the possessed Xander. Willow has one of the best character arcs throughout the entire series, and her stronger personality begins to show in that one scene.

#9. “Never Kill A Boy On The First Date”: I’ll probably get sh*t for rating this one so low, especially since it’s kind of central to the plot, but the whole time, I was just thinking, “where the f*ck did this random, loner, morbidly obsessed with death, Dickinson-loving guy come from?” Owen was totally out of nowhere kind of like Hawkeye’s family in Avengers: Age Of Ultron…thanks, Joss, and I don’t really understand why we’re supposed to believe Buffy would be into him. I get it, he’s a bit of an Angel mirror, but really, he’s just stupid, and boring. Plus we get the introduction of the Annoying One, sorry, the Anointed One, who I never much cared for as a plot device. Good twist at the end, though. One you probably should have seen coming, but still, pretty good.

#8. “The Puppet Show”: I had a lot of trouble with the order of rating of this one and the one that’s coming up, but I decided overall, IRYJ was just better. So, “The Puppet Show”. Now, normally, possessed dolls rank about as low on my preferences list as haunted animals, but the unusual twist with Sid was pleasantly surprising. It’s a good set up for something big happening later on in the season finale. Plus, there’s the added bonus of Charisma Carpenter’s horrendously off key rendition of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Of Love Of All” and Anthony Stewart Head’s thousand yard stare at her caterwauling. This is also the episode where Principal Snyder, who you love to hate, makes his first appearance.

#7. “I, Robot…You, Jane”: Yes! Finally! A Willow centric episode! The villain is pretty stupid, but you can see how Whedon was sort of animating all the ’90s fears of the Internet and online dating. Also, you get the introduction of Jenny Calendar, who I would have preferred to be there a little early on, especially given how important she is in season 2, both to the plot and emotional impact-wise, but nevertheless, I’ll give this episode a solid 6. Plus the epilogue scene with Buffy, Willow, and Xander laughing about and then looking disheartened at the fact that none of them will ever have normal, happy relationships is priceless.

#6. “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind”: This is by no means, anyone else’s favorite episode. A lot of people prefer “The Pack”, but I personally identified with Marcie – I was the invisible girl in school. I still am. So yeah, while I’m willing to admit the concept of someone turning literally invisible simply because they’re ignored all the time is dumb, I’m fond of this episode. But also, you get a hint of the deeper level to Cordelia which is outstanding. In later seasons of Buffy, and especially on Angel, Cordy is an amazingly deep and strong character, and the first real hint of that shows here. Yes, it’s still a bit of a “poor little prom queen” moment, but it goes to show you that everyone feels alone sometimes. Buffy has her friends but who does Cordy have? Harmony? Doubtful.

#5. “Witch”: It was the first official “monster of the week” episode, and a good one. Amy comes back several times in the series, so this is an important one to watch. Not much really to say about this one. It’s just a good episode, plain and simple.

#4. “Nightmares”: Buffy is, by all definition, a character driven show. Showing a person’s fears is like doing a character study of them. This episode is like the scene in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban with the boggart: it shows deeper layers of characters we love and lets us see more into them. Buffy has a fear of being unprepared for a test and facing the Master (kind of synonymous, in a way, actually), and that her father secretly hates her. Willow detests performing in public (which we saw in “The Puppet Show”), and Xander hates clowns and secretly fears showing up to school in just his underwear. However, it is notable to mention that it’s Xander who is the first one to actually confront his nightmare instead of running from it, and he wins. But the most heartbreaking nightmare is that of Giles: his fear that he can’t protect Buffy. It shows his fatherly love toward her, and it’s also foreshadowing for “Prophecy Girl”. Also, very briefly, vampire!Buffy. Good sh*t.

#3. “Welcome To The Hellmouth”/”The Harvest”: Ah, the first episode (it’s a two parter, so I’ve combined them as one). Despite its cheesy, overt 90s-ness, you can just see in the first episode that this is going to be something. Like looking at baby photos of your significant other or listening to “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the musical Hamilton, you can see a beautiful thing at a very young age taking shape to slowly become the amazing thing you know it is, or will be. You quickly fall in love with Buffy and you have sympathy for her for having had this unwanted destiny foisted on her (although you really don’t come to fully appreciate it till “Prophecy Girl”). It’s a bit like watching little 11 year old Harry Potter being told that not only is he a wizard, but he’s the most important wizard in the world and that he has to fight the scary, powerful, evil wizard that killed his parents. He’s just a kid! Let him be young and burden free for Pete’s sake! And of course, the final line, delivered with Giles’ classic, dry British sarcasm: “The world is doomed.”

#2. “Angel”: Anyone who knows me knows I’m in love with love, so is it any surprise that this episode came pretty damn near to getting the number one spot on my list? This is the episode where we see not only Buffy and Angel’s first kiss, but the one where we find out Angel’s secret: (spoiler?) he’s a vampire. (Probably not that big of a surprise when you stop to consider that we only ever see Angel at night.) Not only that, he’s a vampire with a soul. It’s easy to see why Buffy and Angel gravitate toward each other so – and no, not just because they’re pretty people. They are both loners. Angel is the only vampire in the world with a soul, and Buffy is the Slayer, the Chosen One. They should be natural enemies, but they find in each other a kindred spirit who understands what it’s like to have no one else like you. Plus Sarah Michelle Geller and David Boreanaz just have such great chemistry. I’ve only ever seen one other romantic character gaze as adoringly at his love as Angel does Buffy…

Image result for angel looking at buffy

Image result for sherlock looking at john his last vow

(Sorry, I’m Johnlock trash.)

Angel is the typical brooding loner I normally can’t stand, but in context, his brooding makes sense. His soul is constantly torturing him for the horrible things he did pre-curse. Besides, despite the brooding, he’s actually quite warm and sweet, and it’s easy to see how much he adores Buffy. The thing is that the whole relationship is made to look like silly, teenage love, but it’s actually very deep and profound. Buffy and Angel is actually one of the few male/female pairings I get really excited and emotional about because it’s so well written and the chemistry is there. Het pairings today are so lazily written and bland, because the writers know you expect the attractive male and female leads to fall in love with each other, so they don’t even try. Anyway. Like Sarah Michelle Geller, I believe they’re soulmates.

#1. “Prophecy Girl”: And the best for last. If you watch season 1 of Buffy and aren’t completely sold by the end of PG, I don’t know what to tell you. PG is a fantastic episode, and it was the episode that made me see Buffy in a whole new light. I began watching it because I thought it was just a silly 90s show about a girl who kicks a lot of ass, and I wanted something light for when I was bored. I didn’t know what a deep (I keep using that word), philosophical, heart-wrenching epic it truly was. Perfect example: Buffy’s reaction to hearing that she (spoiler) is going to die. Anyone would be scared in that scenario, but remember, Buffy is a sophomore in high school. She’s sixteen. She’s a kid! What were you doing at 16? Probably not thinking about your future. Definitely not contemplating that fact that you might not even have one. SMG just slays this scene with her fearful outburst, and then her quiet, vulnerable little “Giles, I’m sixteen years old…I-I don’t wanna die.”

Nowadays we’re a bit desensitized to the teenage hero, what with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson And The Olympians, Divergent, The Maze Runner, blah, blah, blah, but Buffy really hits it out of the ballpark. Destiny is a scary thing. Her whole life has been usurped by this unwanted role, and now she finds out that it’s going to kill her. Her reaction is totally justified. But in the end, Buffy does what she always does, and steps up to the plate. Luckily, she’s saved in the end, defeats the Master, and lives to fight another day.

Buffy is big on metaphor, and the biggest metaphor on the show of all is the role of the Slayer itself. It represents growing up. As we’ll see later on, Buffy was (mostly) carefree and immature (and I say that in the most loving way) before she was called. Then she’s pushed into this role where she’s forced to make hard decisions, carry out duties, and act with responsibility and maturity. That is a pretty good description of adulthood. Growing up isn’t fun or easy, but in the end, it’s what we must do. Buffy gave her life to save the world; there’s no more greater sign of dedication to a cause than that. That’s why, after Buffy has been brought back to life, she says she feels strong. Then, as she confidently strides off to face the Master for the final battle, for the first and only time in the series, the theme song invades the narrative. Buffy has fully accepted her destiny; she’s committed to growing up.

Like I said. If you’re not hooked by “Prophecy Girl”, you’ll probably never be.

Nevertheless, you should give season 2 a chance anyway. Production wise, it’s a lot better; it introduces one of the best characters on the show (give it up for James Marsters as Spike), and it’s the season that @iannitram, the maker of the Buffy episode guides on his YouTube channel, Passion Of The Nerd, cites as the season that officially made him realize he was an addict. Hopefully, I’ll have my rank list for season 2 out soon. Till then. -TRL