Like most siblings, my little sister and I almost never agree. But one of our unquestioned mutual loves is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We both started watching the show around the same time in high school, and we fell in love with Buffy’s cheesy one-liners and supernatural adventures. Maybe it was just good timing. I was about the same age as Buffy when I started watching, and her journey resonated with me. I was pretty skeptical when I first began watching, but I quickly grew attached to the show. Despite the monsters and magic, Buffy is ultimately about a lot of real-life things — betrayal and heartbreak, friendship, dealing with death and tragedy, bravery and conformity, and most of all, just growing up. So here are the top ten episodes according to me and my sister.
1. Season 6, Episode 7: “Once More With Feeling”
This wasn’t even a hard choice. “Once More With Feeling” is the only musical episode of Buffy. A demon is unleashed on Sunnydale that causes everyone to announce their deepest secrets via choreographed singing and dancing. Part of the reason I love this episode is the music itself. It’s also a pretty big turning point for all the major characters. Buffy, of course, reveals that she was in some kind of heaven after she died, and she begins her relationship with Spike. Willow’s magic abuse reaches a new level and her relationship with Tara begins to fall apart. We start to see Dawn’s kleptomania; Giles thinks about leaving Sunnydale. Xander and Anya’s anxieties about their relationship are exposed — which, combined with the fact that Xander summoned the demon in the first place to make sure he and Anya would get a happy ending, foreshadows Xander leaving Anya at the altar. Under the funny, harmonizing exterior, the episode has some pretty serious themes. There’s relationship abuse in the storylines of Buffy/Spike and Willow/Tara, Buffy’s depression, and Dawn’s feelings of abandonment. Plus, it’s a damn funny episode.
2. Season 4, Episode 10: “Hush”
By far the creepiest episode, in my opinion. The entire town’s voices are stolen by the freaktastic “Gentlemen”: silent, floating, gray-skinned men with Joker-esque smiles who cut people’s hearts out every night. In this episode Buffy and Riley finally discover each other’s secret identities in a great reveal moment when they’re fighting the Gentlemen’s lumbering henchmen. The most meaningful part of the episode is the end, when everyone has their voices back, and Buffy and Riley can’t figure out what to say to each other.
3. Season 3, Episode 6: “Band Candy”
Way back in the beginning of Buffy, when the biggest thorn in her side was trying to be a normal teenager in addition to her slaying duties, there was this gem of an episode. All the adults in Sunnydale regress to teenager-hood after eating the school band candy. This is one of the funniest episodes, with Snyder trying desperately to hang out with the Scoobies and teenage Giles-and-Joyce.
4. Season 6, Episode 8: “Tabula Rasa”
In an effort to once again wipe Tara’s mind (and this time Buffy as well) to make her problems go away, Willow accidentally erases the entire gang’s mind. Buffy and Dawn’s bickering and immediate sibling connection is one of my favorite parts of this episode. No matter what, sisters are always sisters. Spike thinking he’s Angel (“I must be a noble vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption. I help the helpless. I'm a vampire with a soul.”) is another big highlight, plus Spike thinking he's Giles' son.
5. Season 5, Episode 16: “The Body”
This may be the saddest episode of Buffy, and by far one of the best stylistically. There is no background music in the episode. The only sound comes when one of the characters talks, and probably half the episode is just long stretches of silence. It’s about dealing with grief and loss and how, so often, no one knows what to say. One of the most moving scenes is when Anya, a character typically noted for her callous way of dealing with the world, breaks down over Joyce’s death. But the episode is also about dealing with grief in real ways rather than the grand speeches in movies – perhaps best exemplified by Willow’s heartbreaking struggle to find the right thing to wear, much like the other characters' inability to find the right thing to say.
6. Season 3, Episode 17: “Enemies”
This one made our list simply for David Boreanaz’s portrayal of Good Angel playing Bad Angel. Watching him pretend to be evil was awesome. Faith and Buffy’s final breakup was also a really cool scene, as Faith cements her loyalties to the dark side.
7. Season 5, Episode 12: “Checkpoint”
This made our list purely because of the speech Buffy gives the Watcher’s Council at the end of the episode, as she finally severs the ties that have been fraying pretty much since the first season. A lot of Buffy (particularly later seasons) involves her standing up to the men who created the slayer in the first place, which really begins here. I love watching Buffy put those elitist pricks in their places.
8. Season 3, Episode 16: “Doppelgangland”
This is another one that’s just too funny. Watching Willow try to act like the Vamp Willow, the Scoobies reactions to Vamp Willow, and Anya trying to buy a beer are hilarious.
9. Season 3, Episode 15: “Consequences”
This episode centers around Faith’s increasing instability and the gang’s attempts to save her from herself. Ultimately, we like this episode because of Buffy’s break with the council after Wesley attempts to “save” Faith his own way. Mostly, Buffy is pissed at Wesley, but she shrugs the whole council off with him, and for good reason. Things get pretty dark in this episode, with Faith trying to kill Xander and Angel trying to talk Faith around.
10. Season 4, Episode 9: “Something Blue”
And we end with a funny! Willow’s spell backfires, causing all her offhand comments to come true. Highlights of this episode include: Buffy and Spike’s pre-spell bickering and their post-spell plans for their wedding, complete with vomit-inducing sweet talk (possible foreshadowing?); Xander becoming a literal demon magnet; and Amy’s brief recovery from rat-ness.moment when she starts to move back to the good guys’ team.
To sum up: Go watch some Buffy! Because she's awesome.