Welcome to the first Whedon Wednesday. Today I’m picking out my 10 favorite Buffy episodes. Now these aren’t necessarily what I consider the 10 best episodes of the show (Season Five standout, The Body, is noticeably absent here), rather these are my favorite episodes, the ones I love watching over and over again. Here are my picks:
10. Fool For Love (Season 5, Writer: Doug Petrie): I’m a big Spike fan and, for my money, this is the best Spike-centric episode. Buffy nearly gets killed by an otherwise unremarkable vampire. Needing to know how other slayers died, she turns to Spike to explain how he got the upper-hand on the two slayers he killed. This episode serves as Spike’s origin story. We learn where the nickname “William the Bloody” came from and why Drusilla turned him into a vampire.
9. The Wish (Season 3, Writer: Marti Noxon): I’m a bit obsessed with Anya and with alternate reality stories, so I have much love for this episode. In the previous episode, Cordelia learned Xander was cheating on her with Willow and, to add injury to insult, got a piece of rebar through her gut. A new girl at school, Anya, befriends Cordelia, Cordelia wishes Buffy never came to Sunnydale, Anya uses her Vengeance Demon powers and Cordelia’s wish is granted. The best part of this alternate reality Sunnydale are the vampire versions of Willow and Xander.
8. Band Candy (Season 3, Writer: Jane Espenson): “Kiss Rocks? Why would anyone want to kiss… oh wait, I get it.” Band Candy, was Espenson debut and she delivered one of the funniest episodes of the entire series. Ethan Rayne puts a magical whammy on Sunnydale High’s band candy and the adults of Sunnydale start acting like their former teenage selves. “Mom started borrowing my clothes. There should be an age limit on Lycra pants. And Dad, he just locked himself in the bathroom with old copies of Esquire.”
7. The Gift (Season 5, Writer: Joss Whedon): The Gift is the only season finale to make my list. By Season 5, Joss Whedon had the Big Bad final battle episode down to a science, every character gets a big moment. Spike tries, and fails, to save Dawn, Willow plays big gun as she knocks Glory for a loop and returns Tara to normal, Xander gets to use a wrecking ball, Giles kills Ben, and Buffy beats the snot out of Glory and then sacrifices herself to save the world and her sister. If this had been the Buffy series finale, it would’ve gone down in history as one of the greatest series finales of all-time.
6. Hush (Season 4, Writer: Joss Whedon): For a series centered around monsters, Buffy, surprisingly, rarely had a truly scary episode. Hush, however, has some moments of real horror. The villains of the episode, the Gentlemen, are beyond creepy and when they cut a college student’s heart out while he tries to scream for help, I think it qualifies as scary. Half this episode has no dialogue and it leads to some of my favorite visual gags in the history of the series. There are Giles’s hilarious and obscenely violent drawings on the overhead projector. Then Buffy mimes she’ll stab the Gentlemen, but without stake in hand, it resembles something else entirely.
5. Doppelgangland (Season 3, Writer: Joss Whedon): I already mentioned my favorite Spike-centric episode, well, this is my fave Willow-centric episode. Alyson Hannigan gets so much to work with here, getting to play human Willow, vampire Willow, and human Willow pretending to be vampire Willow.
4. When She Was Bad (Season 2, Writer: Joss Whedon): In 1997, the season 2 premiere cranked my teenage obsession with Sarah Michelle Gellar to 11. I mean the sexy dance with Xander in the Bronze? That was ridiculous. I love morally ambiguous Buffy. She’s a total bitch to her friends, she shoves a cross down the throat of vampire to get information, and she completely messes with Angel’s head.
3. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (Season 2, Writer: Marti Noxon): This is the episode I would use to convert skeptics into Buffy viewers. I actually got my high school biology teacher to allow us to watch this episode during bio lab at one point during junior year. BB&B is one of the first episodes of Buffy that didn’t focus primarily on the title character. Xander gets the A-story, and it’s pretty brilliant. Every awkward teenage boy hopes that one day all the hot girls at his high school will fall in love with him, but for Xander the reality of it is a little less fun (especially when Willow tries to murderize him with an axe).
2. Once More With Feeling (Season 6, Writer: Joss Whedon): “If my heart could beat, it would break my chest” is the greatest vampire pick-up line of all-time. I’ve listened to the soundtrack of OMWF so many times, it’s kind of embarrassing. The Buffy musical episode is the only reason I even purchased the Season 6 DVD set.
1. Selfless (Season 7, Writer: Drew Goddard): The night Selfless aired I swore Drew Goddard had to be a pseudonym for Joss Whedon. I had no idea why Joss would write under a false name on his own show, but it was the only way to explain how an episode this amazing could be penned by a first-time Buffy writer. Of course, later I learned Drew Goddard was an actual person and a pretty tremendous writer (after Buffy, he would work on Angel, Alias, Lost, and write the feature film Cloverfield).
Anya is my favorite Buffy character and Selfless finally put her front and center. The origin scenes with Olaf are so over-the-top and hilarious: “Hide you babies and your beadwork!” “The troll is doing an Olaf impression!” In the present, we get an appearance from my favorite recurring demon, D’Hoffryn: “It’s like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.” We get a callback to the season 2 finale with the “Do you remember giving me Willow’s message? ‘Kick his ass’?”/”I never said that.” exchange. And we get to see the title character as a villain. Make no mistake, at the end of this episode when Buffy tries to kill Anya, Buffy’s the bad guy. They even dressed her all in black to make it abundantly clear. And I almost forgot, there’s a musical number too! (That song actually was written by Joss Whedon.)
So that’s my list, feel free to leave your top ten in the comments section.
Blog-A-Day Challenge: Day 3