More than any other TV show, or movie, or book, or person, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s influence on my world view is Queen. In fact, it is almost absolute. No, literally, I can’t walk past a picket fence and not think how useful it would be to have a miniature one around every housing estate in the event of a vampire attack. Hell, my entire run on Justsaying.Asia began with three articles on Joss “The Boss” Whedon!
On that note, in the event of a vampire apocalypse, I’ll be housing myself in Ikea with a Nerf gun. Projectile weapon + little wooden pencils = Sacred Guardian of Meatballs.
More relevantly, Buffy turns 20 this year and I was tempted to do a “20 Best Episodes List,” but, according to Facebook, literally everyone else is already writing that. And let’s face it, if I was gonna list all of my favourite Buffy episodes I’d need 144 slots… ‘cause that’s how many episodes of Buffy there are.
Instead, here’s a list of my seasonal highlights, the single best episode of each season. And ‘cause I’m known for my wild playing-Russian-Roulette-before-breakfast ways, I’ll arrange them in order of my preferred season.
Note: THIS IS A SPOILER-FILLED ARTICLE… albeit it is for a show that ended 14 years ago, so if you haven’t watched it the real question is what have you been doing with life?
#07: Season 6, Episode 07 – “Once More, with Feeling”
Arguably the greatest musical episode of any show, the only reason this is as low as it is, is ‘cause, well, Season 6 kinda sucked. With Whedon focusing on Firefly, the Boss loss was all too apparent in this season of Buffy as well as Season 3 of Angel. However, the one episode he did dedicate himself to was mind-blowingly good —and the same could be said for its counterpart in Angel, “Waiting in the Wings.”
With songs written and composed by Whedon, and the episode written and directed by him as well, “Once More With Feeling” was pretty much Hamilton 15 years before Hamilton.
Musical status aside, it was also a catalyst for the rest of the season that not only led up to the season finalé, but the end of the series as well.
#06: Season 1, Episode 05 – “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”
Yeah, this is a weird choice. I mean, between the two part premiere episodes, the much-discussed “Nightmares” one, or the more popular season finalé as well as “Angel,” “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” just never seems to be on anyone’s list.
Despite its lack of popularity, though, the episode is one of the first to delve into the potential loneliness that comes with the responsibility of being a Slayer as well as exploring what makes Buffy all that different—her insistence on maintaining a social life while being honest to her close friends.
Also, it introduces one of the earliest plot-relevant twists that we have now come to expect of Whedon’s writing.
#05: Season 5, Episode 12 – “Checkpoint”
Much like “Get It Done,” and the Season 3 episode “Helpless,” “Checkpoint” is a reminder that beyond all the action and supernatural shenanigans, it was about female empowerment and rising above oppression. And there was no greater metaphor for oppression than the Watchers’ Council.
While the Watchers have held the Slayers in positions of disadvantage for the bulk of their history, “Checkpoint” sees a reversal that is preserved all the way to the distant future in the comic series, Fray.
Season 5 is, of course, also home to game changers like “Real Me” introducing Dawn, and “Family” (which almost made this list), “Fool For Love”—a brilliant tie-in with Buffy spin-off Angel, “The Body” which can lay claim to being a brilliant achievement in writing and directing and, most obviously, “The Gift.”