Frienships' has its up and downs. You can say the same for TV shows, sometimes you watch them too much or you fall out of love with them. Buffy the Vampire Slayer started as a way to escape life; I guess that's what all films, games and TV shows are for. After falling in love with the show I started watching it once a year. I have never been the "middle-road" kind of guy, so I took it to the extremes. I started to fall out of love with the show and had to put a stop to it. So I guess I had to take a break, and that definitely did the trick. Three or four years ago I re-watched the show. For some reason I was really starting to dig season two. Sure I have always liked the season, but the quality was staggeringly good for a show that started in 1997. I just recently started a rewatch, and lo and behold, I consider it my favourite season. If it is the best one, that's hard to say. Ask me when I am done with the re-watch. For a show that debuted with a mediocre first season in 1997, it's amazing how good this show still is.
So I sat down trying to figure out what my ten most favourite episodes were. I had five criteria, though I probably should say I didn't follow them all, what would make it a really great episode. Firstly it has to have character relevance. For me that is growth, them remembering what happened before and then learning something from it. It has to be entertaining, or else why are we watching? It has to have good drama, and these episodes has that in spades. It also always nice, since this is an action show, that there'd be good action sequences. Also lastly, there is always room for some humor. With any further ado, I present to you, my favourite ten episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
10. Normal Again
This is an odd little episode, and guess people will ask me why I included this one. For me it's obvious, this is the last phase of Buffy being depressed in season six. Finally we get her back! It's been a troubling and hard road, but finally she finds her footing again. This also shows how strong Buffy really is. She completely lets go of her mother, and even though she can have her old life back and succumb to the darkness; she refuses. In the process she does try to kill her friends and Dawn. But I just guess she needed to get it all out of her system. Throughout the whole season nobody understood what she went through. She never let them in. Can you blame her? When Willow found out that they ripped her from heaven, she tried to make Buffy forget it all. All they cared about was getting Buffy back.
This episode also shows that Buffy is fighting to get out of her depression. She wants to live. The last scene between Buffy, her mother and her father is really powerful. For one moment I forgot that what she was she seeing wasn't real. The reaction on Joyce's face when she's losing Buffy again is heart-wrenching.
9. The Body
This is as most of my choices on this list, pretty obvious. The Body is from start to finish actually an pretty boring episode. Don't get me wrong, I love it to pieces. But the portrayal of losing someone is all the way through as Joss wanted it, dry and boring. That's what he was going for, and I think he nailed it perfectly. From the start "Mom, Mom, Mommy", till the interruption from a vampire we have one of the best episodes of the series. Firstly it has no music whatsoever. I think that's brilliant, because then we're never told how to feel. Show, don't tell. And the episode succeeds in this area really well. Especially the scene where Buffy tells Dawn about her moms death. We see it all through a window, we don't hear what Buffy says, but the reaction from Dawn is really palpable. She falls apart and starts crying, tugging at our heartstrings.
Let's not forget about Anya's reaction, not knowing how to react. She keeps asking all these silly questions, and then breaking down because Joyce is dead. She is starting to gain back her humanity. The acting in this episode is dead on. Sarah Michelle Gellar does her most outstanding work to date. The first scene is five til ten minutes of her reacting to what just happens. And then when Giles arrives she screams "Don't touch the body" and suddenly it's all real to her. Fantastic!
8. Conversations with Dead People
A very expanding look into the Buffy the person, and what choices she's made; mostly relationship wise. It's an episode divided into four parts: Buffy and Holden Webster, Willow and The first, Dawn and the First, and lastly Jonathan and Andrew. The meat of the episode is concentrated on Buffy, for good reason. I really like the conversation she has with Holden and how enlightening they are too her character. Even though he is a vampire, he stills nails how she is built-up. Buffy's part is also the best one, but still we get a lot of other good stuff as well.
It's interesting to see how far Jonathan has come, and it seems he's finally learned something and the he dies. Same can't be said for Andrew which subsequently kills his only friend in the world. This is also the funny part of the episode. The bit with "testing, testing, testing", cracks me up every time.
This is also the episode where The First shows it's teeth. The First's conversation with Willow is well done and when it goes too far it turns really creepy.
Except for all I've mentioned, it shows how far these characters have come. They've grown, loved, lost and fought for their lives. The world is hard, but they have been toughened and this episode shows how much they've learned through the years.
7. Who are you?
Ah Faith. You've had a hard life haven't you? Overshadowed by Buffy and everything she has. Then you go and take her life, and you see it's not that easy. Faith has never experienced love as she does when she switches bodies with Buffy. Excellent portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar btw. She knocks it out of the park again. She plays Faith down to tooth and nail. Wow! Every time I watch this episode it becomes so clear that she is playing another character. It's scary how easy she can go from playing Buffy to Faith. Somehow, I wish she would've play her more. This is like when Enver Gjokaj gets to play Topher for two episodes in Dollhouse, he looks and acts like him down to the minute detail.
The best thing about this episode is how Faith really hates herself. It may have been obvious that she wasn't her biggest fan. But the last scene, before she runs away, she is having a fight with Buffy in Faiths body. She is punching herself over and over and over again. But it's what she says while beating on her that really sums it all up: "Shut up. Do you think I'm afraid of you? You're nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You're nothing! You're disgusting!". What self hatred this woman has for herself.
Also while it might not match the fight between Buffy and Faith in Graduation Part one, it still has some great fight scenes.
As for the character relevance, this just shows how long Faith has come. To understand how much she was hurting she had to endure the love from Buffys family and friends.
6. Graduation Day part one and two
Everything season three has been building towards culminates in this episode. We get it all: Action, drama, humor, epic battles, Buffy almost dying (again :P) and the end of the high school years.
First things first; Buffy and Faiths fight to the death is something of the most epic I have seen in a television show. It certainly helps that the music score is up to snuff. It's thundering, explosive and epic in scope. We can't stop there either: Buffy being drained by Angel to save him is really hard to watch, but they nail it in every sense of the word. The Mayor goes nuclear trying to kill Buffy in the hospital, and being knocked over by Angel. The creepy scene in the library when The Mayor explains how he will kill them all.
But there are also these small moments: When Willow and Oz have sex for the first time, Buffy watching Angel leave, Buffy and Faith talking in Buffy's dream, Buffy quitting the Watchers Council while Giles having her back, Wesley joining the fight after being sacked. All these things go together and make a really awesome whole. Let's not forget the fantastic Cgi version of the snake...now wait a minute, that was crap. Fantastic episodes.
The second part of the game-changer Surprise is the much better episode. Surprise has the unfortunate and unthankful job of being a set-up episode, and this robs it of being really good. It still has the scene on the docks which is one of the sweetest moments for Buffy and Angel. Still, this episode is what sends the show running and changes everything. After having sex with Buffy, Angel turns back to his older self, Angelus. The opening scene tells it all: Angel feeds on a woman smoking, and after he has killed her, he puffs smoke. That might sound silly, and for several reasons it is; but it shows how far he has come.
Next the scene when Buffy meets Angel after he has turned. Buffy crying and Angel being really mean to her:
"Angelus: It was a good time. Alright? It doesn't mean like we have to make a big deal.Buffy: It *is* a big deal. Angelus: It's what? Bells ringing, fireworks, a dulcet choir of pretty little birdies? Come on, Buffy. It's not like I've never been there before. Buffy: Don't touch me. Angelus: I should've known you wouldn't be able to handle it. Buffy: Angel! I love you. Angelus: Love you, too. [turns away] Angelus: I'll call you."
A really heartbreaking scene.
But Buffy also blows up The Judge with a bazooka. Just for that the episode gets my two thumbs up. But if not for the tragedy and heartbreak, I am not sure this would be much of a show. They do it so well. The betrayal of Jenny Calendar also gets found out. It's heartbreaking watching Giles turn his back on Jenny for the sheer protectiveness of Buffy.
But the real game changer is when Buffy doesn't kill Angel in the last scene. Had she had the strength to do that, Jenny wouldn't have died in Passion. But how could she?
4. The Gift
The episode where Buffy dies, how can this not get more powerful? In the last scene I choke up every time. Crying about something that happens to fictional character. Wha?
Still this episode has loads more to go for it then just that last powerful scene. The discussion with the gang about what they should do next explodes at every turn. Especially the argument between Giles and Buffy is really at the forefront. Also it's heartbreaking to hear Buffy talk about if Dawn dies: "The last thing she will see, will be me protecting her".
What about the return of the mind possessed Tara? Willow does a spell that returns her lover to her. Alyson Hanningan and Amber Benson really sells it in this scene.
Spike and Buffy finally becomes allies and he gets re-invited to her house. A really small scene, but it makes all the difference in the world. I just love this scene.
Let's get back to the last scene. What really chokes me up is seeing everyone so distraught over Buffy's death. James Marsters and Anthony Steward Head really knocks it out of the park. Also let's not forget the perfect score by Cristophe Beck, that's really sad and sets the mood for Buffy's awesome speech:
"Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will *always* love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me."
3. Becoming Part one and two
Two of the best, probably the best, closers of the series. Everything the season has been building up to, similar to Graduation Day part one and two, culminates and really explodes with wit, sadness, tragedy, epic sword fights and sacrifice of loved ones. We also have flashback fleshing out Angels backstory. But let's not waste any time.
The first part sets up the roadblocks Buffy has to overcome. It also reunites her with Kendra for a short time. It also sets up Acathla, even if it doesn't make any sense. Buffy says she's ready to take care of Angel, but I don't believe her until the end of part two. But still there's the curse that Jenny researched and it becomes her redemption. It sets up the ending to the first part, which ends in a slow-motion run. Combined with Buffy and Angels theme, this really sells the boundaries she has to overcome. Even though the first episode is really good, it won't and can't surpass what awaits Buffy.
What I thought set the last episode apart from all the others was the heart wrenching ending. First we have the fight between Buffy and Angelus. Epic, epic fight. Then we have Buffy almost being defeated by Angelus. She kneels and he says:
"Angelus: No weapons... no friends... no hope. Take all that away and what's left?Buffy: Me."
This says a lot about her as a character and how strong she really is. From this point on she attacks him directly and almost goes all the way until Willow curses him back. This is the most heartbreaking of scenes I have ever seen. She knows she has to kill Angel to save the world. But she just got back her lover. My god!
"Angel: [Angelus has just turned back into Angel] Buffy? What's going on? Where are we? I-I don't remember.Buffy: Angel? Angel: You're hurt. Oh, Buffy... God. I... I feel like I haven't seen you in months. Oh, my God, everything's so muddled. I... Oh. Oh, Buffy... What's happening? Buffy: Shh. Don't worry about it. [kisses him] Buffy: I love you. Angel: I love you. Buffy: Close your eyes. [kisses him again then runs him through with the sword] Angel: Buffy..."
This is an creepy rendition of old silent movies, and funny as hell. The town of Sunnydale gets robbed of their voices and hilarity ensues. The first scene when everyone loses their voices is really funny with the gang trying to call each other and then noticing they can't say anything. Also the scene where Giles tries to explain what is happening. His drawings leaves something to be desired; with lots of blood and Buffy's hips going crazy. Lots of more sex jokes, see it to believe it.
This is also the episode where the show got to become creepy and at times scary. Most of this, it owes to the score of Christophe Beck. It's chilling atmosphere with the flying gentlemen really sells the creepiness.
The theme the episode is trying to sell is language, and barriers we can't overcome when trying to communicate. We see the characters trying to communicate with each other but not really getting anywhere. Riley wants to invite Buffy out, but are unable. Buffy wants to go out with Riley, but misconstrues the signals. Anya thinks Xander is only interested in having sex with her and nothing more deeply emotional. Willow is not really communicating with anyone after losing OZ. After they loose their voice, they have to show how they feel and everything is much better for it.
While Suprise and Innocence was what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer good, and showed that there was no turning back: This is where things starts to get real for realsies. This was the episode that showed that none of the characters was safe. One of the side-characters, Jenny Calendar, really shines and tries to redeem herself by recursing Angel. Instead she bites the dust at the hands of Angelus. In a really heart-wrenching scene, Giles comes home to find his lover dead in his bed. The build-up to this death is also what set this show apart from anyone else. Most of the time, deaths are used to shock and mostly only for that effect. This death also shocks, but it does so much more than that. It shows that every decisions the characters make have consequences. Had Buffy killed Angel when she had the chance, none of this would've happened.
You can certainly say that emotions run high in this episode. All the actors convey this to the highest mark. Especially in the scene where Giles calls and tells Buffy about Jenny's death. The camera lingers perfectly outside the windows to Buffy's home. We can't hear what they are saying, but we all know what's happening. Willow breaking down hits me every time. To round this off, this is a big episode that tugs at you till you cry your eyes out. And also Anthony Head lends his voice to the Jenny theme being played while he and Buffy says goodbye to her for the last time.