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…
(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