15 Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (from an honorary Scoobie!)
Who doesn’t love Buffy the Vampire Slayer?!
I fell madly in love with this show the moment I watched it. It had horror, fantasy, comedy and some badass women kicking ass and ‘staking’ names. I was bought Season 5 on VHS (cause I’m all old and stuff) when I was about ten and I knew I had to watch the rest of this incredible show. I probably didn’t even realise it at the time of first watching it but there weren’t a lot of shows at that time about strong women so this was refreshing. Now that I rewatch it in my twenties I have such an appreciation for the portrayal of women in Buffy and how groundbreaking it really was.
Buffy was iconic when it came out, and it still inspires a new generation of Slayers and Scoobies! So much so that over 20 years after its initial release it has been confirmed that the show will return, helmed by Joss Whedon! In celebration of its renewal rumours, I wanted to make a list of my favourite BTVS episodes!
I’ve picked these episode based on a few different things:
- Memorability – which one sprung straight to mind and stuck there.
- Uniqueness – did the ‘big bad’ particularly stand out. Did something incredibly different happen?
- Feelings – What part of my heartstring did it tug on? How many tears did I spill from laughter or from sadness? How did it stick with me?
So, let’s walk through the fire, drop down to the Hellmouth and enter the list!
15. Killed by Death (Season 2 – Episode 18)
Now I know this isn’t always the first episode that pops into people’s head when they think of amazing Buffy moments. However, this was one of the first episodes that scared the living shit out of me! Buffy ends up in the hospital with the flu and encounters a child killing monster Der Kindestod who has weird life sucking tentacles that come out of his eyes! Yes, his fucking eyes!! It may not be as solid as a lot of these other episodes in the Buffyverse, but I will never forget the name of this white-eyed Freddy wannabe.
14. Nightmares (Season 1 – Episode 10)
‘It’s only a dream, it’s only a dream’. This episode taps into a whole heap of different fears: spiders, clowns, public nudity and a giant burned face monster with a caveman club! There are brilliant visuals in this episode, with Buffy becoming a vampire and giant tarantulas leaking from textbooks. However, beyond the typical scary nightmares, what stuck with me was Buffy’s complete fear of being the cause of her parents’ divorce. It’s heartbreaking to listen to her dad tell her that she’s at fault, she’s embarrassing and she’s selfish. I think I was already in tears by the time she asked, ‘‘Why are you saying all these things?’. Poor Buffy. Right in the feels.
13. Who are you? (Season 4 – Episode 16)
Freaky Friday with Slayers! Fuck yeah! In this episode, we see the aftermath of Faith using the Draconian Katra which switches Buffy’s and her body. So Buffy (looking like Faith) has been abducted by the Watcher’s Council while Faith (looking like Buffy) is living it up enjoying a nice bath, borrowing Joyce’s lipstick and SLEEPING WITH RILEY! ‘You can’t do that, that’s naughty!’ Ouch! That’s gonna be one hell of a conversation when Buffy gets her body back. Watching Buffy go full Bad Girl is very fun and there is still a good redemptive (almost) ending.
12. The Gift (Season 5 – Episode 22)
Our first finale of the list. Of course, Season Five holds a soft spot for me as it was my intro to this Series. This closing episode is emotional, action-packed and beautifully resolved. Glory has opened the portal, despite the Scoobies best efforts, and the only way to seal it is with a blood sacrifice, and in Buffy’s case the loving sacrifice of a sister (even if said sister is just a ball of energy). The gang are all shown in despair and the episode ends on Buffy’s grave. She really did save the world…a lot.
11. Helpless (Season 3 – Episode 12)
Happy 18th Birthday Buffy! Welcome to the shit storm that is adulthood. In a cruel test set by the Watcher’s Council Buffy is stripped of her Slayer Superpowers and pitted against Kralik. The test goes wrong and Kralik escapes, kidnapping Joyce and forcing Buffy to battle him as just a ‘normal’ woman. Even without her gifts Buffy is a force to be fucking reckoned with! Giles has betrayed Buffy’s trust, but his gentle tending to her after the event is a real moment for the two. He picks her over his career as a Watcher because Giles is a fucking boss!
10. Fool for love (Season 5 – Episode 7)
Buffy is having an existential crisis after some run of the mill fanger nearly stabs her with one of her own stakes. Eager not to make the same mistake Buffy and Giles begin researching how the past slayers died and soon realise they have a wealth of knowledge at the crypt right next door. Spike. I am a massive Spike fan! Angel was a little too sweet for my tastes, I would take the bleached and leathered over the dark and brooding any day! That is one of the reasons this is high on my list! Getting to see Spike through the ages is amazing. My personal favourite is definitely 70’s punk Spike. It’s interesting to see the Slayers through the ages and the episode still manages to land a punch at the end.
9. Tabula Rasa (Season 6 – Episode 8)
Willow is an addict. After discussing the painful revelation that The Gang brought Buffy back from Heaven, not Hell, Willow offers a solution of erasing her memory of that time. Tara is not impressed, but Willow follows through with the spell anyway and ends up erasing the full groups memories. Spike, or Randy as he is now known, thinks that Giles is his dad (All British are related of course) and that Anya is going to be his new stepmum. Willow and Xander think they’re dating, which makes the cute little looks between her and Tara even better! And Buffy has decided she’s now Joan. It’s fun, hilarious and goofy for the main bulk. But the sweet soon turns sour when everyone’s memories come back.
8. Passion (Season 2 – Episode 17)
Oh Giles, oh poor poor Giles. After Buffy and Angel get down to business *wink wink* he is stripped of his soul through their ‘one true moment of happiness’ and becomes Angelus. This transgression leads to Angelus tormenting the gang, leaving Buffy drawings of her sleeping and killing Willow’s fish. However, the ultimate act of cruelty is aimed at Giles. Watching him ascend the petal covered and candle lined staircase knowing as an audience what he is about to witness is just gut wrenching. I admit that Angelus is waaaaay more interesting than Angel, but this was a bloody punch to the gut. We get it, he’s EVIL now.
7. The Wish/Doppelgangland (Season 3 – Episode 9 & 16)
So I know this is a bit of a cheat, but I could not choose between the two, they complete each other and one must be watched to fully love the other. So there! Justified! Deal with it! I love this alternate reality episode, watching Xander and Willow play up the badass crazy vampire trope is hilarious. Buffy is a scarred and cynical slayer from Cleveland and Giles is running a small ‘Rent-A-Kill’ style vampire hunting mission. The world is put to rights at the end, but it’s a fun journey along the way. Now, this leads to Doppelgangland. While completing a spell together Willow and Anya accidentally summon ‘Wish Willow’ to their universe. This leads to a lot of cases of mistaken identity, including ‘Wish Willow’ kicking the ass of a jock, Percy, making Willow do his homework. The best bets come from sweet, innocent Willow dressed hell for leather and giving the most adorable wave to Oz and the pure fear on Percy’s face as he arrives at tutoring the next day with all his homework like a good little boy. Love it!
6. School Hard (Season 2 – Episode 3)
As soon as I admitted to being a Spike fan we knew this was coming right? This episode introduced Spike and Drusilla to the Hellmouth and just that scene of the car crashing through the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign and the sight of that British bleached bad boy had me ready to meet and greet this new ‘Big Bad’. While Buffy is tasked with her own personal hell, organising the parent-teacher night, Spike prepares to check another slayer off of his list. An episode full of fruit punch and blonde battles. And can we also appreciate Joyce going full Ripley badass in this?! This episode is fun and it showed Spike at his true glory of attitude and swagger.
5. Band Candy (Season 3 – Episode 6)
Candy that causes immaturity. What a brilliant concept! Buffy and The Gang must figure out what is going on in Sunnydale when all the adults suddenly begin acting like teenagers. It’s brilliant to see some of our ‘mature’ characters embracing their teen personalities. Snyder is still a snivelling little creep desperate to hang out with the cool kids. But it’s Giles and Joyce who steal the show in this episode. Ripper is snarling and rebellious and Joyce is under his spell from the get go. The two make a Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple, all attitude and hair with no control. Plus let’s not forget the revelations of ‘Earshot’! Sex on top of a police car, now that’s naughty.
4. Once More With Feeling (Season 6 – Episode 7)
How could this not be on the list?! I know some people have mixed feelings about this episode, but honestly, it’s too well done not to love. Joss is the master of taking an idea for an episode that is surely doomed to be a failure and somehow making it into a masterpiece. This isn’t just an excuse to put some fun songs into an episode, the music is intentional in style and lyrics. This is a genius episode and my personal favourite moments are: listening to Giles and Tara perform a stunning duet, Anya rock-screaming about Bunnies and the back up singing ‘baddies’ trio from Going Through the Motions. This episode has fun, style, music and drama. What else you after?
3. Prophecy Girl (Season 1 – Episode 12)
Our second season finale of the list. Of course this had to be on here! This was the season peak that fuelled the Buffy train straight on to another six successful seasons. After overhearing a prophecy about being killed by the Master, Buffy quits as the slayer. It’s an emotional scene, watching a sixteen year old wrestle with mortality and her own death. But, after more students are slaughtered Buffy decides that being the slayer is something she can’t quit, and she heads to take down The Master aka ‘Fruit Punch Mouth’. The prophecy comes true and Buffy dies, but she is revived and comes back fighting! You just can’t keep a good Slayer down! As Buffy says ‘We save the world. I say we party.”
2. The Body (Season 5 – Episode 16)
Okay, I’m gonna need a moment for this one. Just a second to breathe before we hit number two on the list.
This episode is heartbreaking. Watching Buffy shaking Joyce and helplessly screaming ‘Mom’ is enough to start the tears flowing. In a heart stopping sequence the paramedics arrive and manage to revive Joyce, declaring it a miracle. But in one cut we are snapped back to the reality that the paramedics are still working on her and that it was all a fantasy. After that point the tears are freely flowing. Buffy using the word ‘body’ for the first time. Willow needing to find the top that Joyce always liked. Anya simply not understanding the ‘stupid and mortal’ process of dying and Xander putting his fist through a wall. This is one of the most painful and yet beautifully written and presented episodes of Buffy I have seen. I’m not crying, you’re crying!
1. Hush (Season 4 – Episode 10)
Come on, we knew this had to be No.1! This episode is pure perfection! People were starting slanderous rumours that the only reason Buffy was a success was because of the dialogue. So as a big, “fuck you,” to the haters Joss wrote a silent episode. And it’s amazing! The Gentlemen are the scariest of all Buffy villains. With its own Freddy style nursery rhyme sung by a suitably creepy little girl, The Gentlemen are straight out of a fairytale nightmare! There are some beautifully funny moments combined with the creepiest of creep factors. I cannot praise this episode enough. The Princess will scream for you now.
Honourable mentions (because somehow 15 wasn’t enough 😂)
Seeing Red – ‘You’re shirt…’ and now I cry for all eternity.
The Puppet Show – How could I not mention this, I mean “You know what they say: once you go wood, nothin’s as good!”
The Harsh Light of Day – Men suck. Full stop.
Superstar – *swoons* Jonathan. This is just too cute to leave off the list.
Something Blue – I felt there were maybe too many episodes of this same concept to this one in the main list and I preferred them. But I love having the knowledge that Buffy and Spike’s wedding song would be ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’
What do you think of my choices? What are your favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes? Which ‘Big Bads’ scared the shit out of you?