Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 20-16.

Time to continue with the Big List. The reason why I’m breaking it down into 5 groups of 5 is that I worry that no one would read the whole thing if I posted it at once. Most would start off reading it, then they’d scroll down, maybe read an episode they love, then scroll some more. Of course, that could still be happening, but breaking it up increases the possibility that some people might read the whole deal. To read what ranked 25 through 21, click HERE.

#20 “Prophecy Girl”
Episode 12 – Season One
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Mark Metcalf as The Master, David Boreanz as Angel, Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, Andrew J. Ferchland as Colin/The Anointed One, Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar
Guest Star(s): Scott Gurney as Kevin
The Master stalks BuffyWriter(s): Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Synopsis in 50 words or less: The signs all point to the Master’s ascension in time for the Spring Fling when Giles learns of the disturbing prophecy that Buffy will die at his hands. After some soul searching, Buffy heads to his lair to face her fate and prevent the apocalypse.
Why it’s on the list: The first truly great episode in the series, the first season finale set the standard for season finales to come. The best part in the episode (and the season as a whole) is the vulnerability the sixteen-year-old Buffy shows upon learning of her prophesised death. Instead of shrugging it off and facing it head on, she quits and tries to get her mom to take her away, before heroically rising to the challenge. Other highlights include Xander’s heartbreak over Buffy rejecting his invitation to the Spring Fling, Willow’s reaction to finding corpses in the school’s AV room, and Xander bringing Buffy back to life (for the first time).
Snappy quote:
Buffy: When he wakes up, tell him…I don’t know. Think of something cool; tell him I said it.

#19 “Who Are You?”
Episode 72 – Season 4
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Faith/Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Marc Blucas as Riley Finn, James Marsters as Spike, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, Amber Benson as Tara Maclay, Leonard Roberts as Forrest Gates, George Hertzberg as Adam, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Eliza Dushku as Buffy Summers/Faith
Guest Star(s): Chet Grissom as Detective, Alastair Duncan as Collins, Kevin Owers as Smith, Jeff Ricketts as Weatherby
Faith will make Spike pop like warm champagneWriter(s): Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Synopsis in 50 words or less: After Faith uses The Mayor’s device to switch bodies with Buffy, Faith tries to slip into Buffy’s life. Meanwhile, a special branch of the Watcher’s Council attempts to take Buffy (as Faith) away to England.
Why it’s on the list: The mind switch between Buffy and Faith was well done, as each actress was convincing playing the other’s part. Sarah Michelle Gellar was a particular standout as Faith, and Faith trying to be Buffy, giving one of her best performances ever on the show. The best was when she seduced Spike at the Bronze. It makes me blush.
Snappy quote:
Buffy-in-Faith: Oh, when I had psychic power I heard my mother think that you were like a stevedore during sex. Do you want me to continue?
Giles: Actually I beg you to stop.
Buffy-in-Faith: What’s a stevedore?

#18 “Villains”
Episode 120 – Season 6
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers, James Marsters as Spike, and Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg.
Recurring Performer(s): Amelinda Embry as Katrina Silber, Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson, Adam Busch as Warren Meers, Tom Lenk as Andrew Wells, Jeff Kober as Rack, James C. Leary as Clem, Amber Benson as Tara Maclay
Guest Star(s): Steven W. Bailey as Cave Demon, David Adefeso as Paramedic #2, Jeffrey Nicholas Brown as Hero Vampire, Tim Hodgin as Coroner, Michael Matthys as Paramedic #1, Mueen J. Ahmad as Doctor, Jane Cho as Nurse #1, Meredith Cross as Nurse #2
Willow fails to resurrect TaraWriter(s): Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
Synopsis in 50 words or less: After Warren’s backyard shooting leaves Buffy wounded and Tara dead, Willow attempts to resurrect Tara. When that fails, she is corrupted by dark magics in order to exact her revenge.
Why it’s on the list: Even if your opinion of season six isn’t that high, you have to admit that it finished strong. Following the defeat of the trio and Warren’s inadvertent (and surprising) slaying of Tara, came this episode where Willow turns to the dark side to avenge Tara. This episode, with Willow’s final line of “one down…” spills right into the next episode, “Two to Go”, and finishes with the season finale. Willow’s killing of Warren was one of the most brutal things the show has ever done.
Snappy quote:
Andrew: I miss Ferris Matthew. Broadway Matthew… I find him cold.

#17 “Two to Go”
Episode 121 – Season 6
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers, James Marsters as Spike, and Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg.
Recurring Performer(s): Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson, Adam Busch as Warren Meers, Tom Lenk as Andrew Wells, Jeff Kober as Rack, James C. Leary as Clem, Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Star(s): Steven W. Bailey as Cave Demon, Tanoi Reed as Fire Demon, Jeff McCredie as Officer, Damien Mooney as Patrol Cop, Michael Younger as Truck Driver
Dark WillowWriter(s): Douglas Petrie
Director: Bill L. Norton
Synopsis in 50 words or less: After killing Warren, Willow sets her sights on his former-accomplices Andrew and Jonathan. Determined to stop her before she completely succumbs to the darkness, Buffy and Willow square off. After Buffy is defeated, there is only one person left to get in Willow’s way.
Why it’s on the list: The middle part of three-episode finale follows the cliffhanger of Willow’s slaughter of Warren (which followed the cliffhanger of Warren killing Tara), and ends with an even better cliffhanger of Giles returning to battle Willow. I’m a big fan of this arc, which is unsurprising since it apes my all-time favourite comic book story (which the show itself recognizes, when Andrew says: “She’s like Dark Phoenix up there”). The fight between Buffy and Willow at the Magic Box is one of the series best (although not quite up there with Buffy v. Faith). This episode also does a really good job setting up Xander’s involvement in the next episode, as he ineffectually looks on as his best friends the Slayer and the super powered witch square off, while his ex-fiancée-turned-vengeance-demon tries to help. Xander recognizes his lack of power in his soliloquy to Anya,
“You think I’m the hero of this piece? I saw the gun. Before Warren even raised it, I saw it, and… I couldn’t move. He shot two of my friends before I could even… You want me to know how useless I am? That it’s my fault? Thanks. Already got the memo”.
All of which sets the stage for his eventual heroism in “Grave”.
Snappy quote:
Willow: Come on, this is a huge deal for me! Six years as a side man, and now I get to be the Slayer.
Buffy: A killer isn’t a Slayer. Being a Slayer means something you can’t conceive of.
Willow: Oh, Buffy. You really need to have every square inch of your ass kicked.

#16 “Grave”
Episode 122 – Season 6
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers, James Marsters as Spike, and Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg.
Recurring Performer(s): Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson, Tom Lenk as Andrew Wells, Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Star(s): Steven W. Bailey as Cave Demon, Tanoi Reed as Fire Demon, Brett Wagner as Trucker
Xander saves the worldWriter(s): David Fury
Director: James A. Contner
Synopsis in 50 words or less: After stealing Giles’ borrowed magic, Willow finds herself connected to all life on the planet, and is tortured by their pain. This leads her to set out to destroy the world to end its pain. When no mystical force can stop her, it’s up to Xander to save the world.
Why it’s on the list: The final chapter of the Dark Willow Saga brought one of my favourite moments of the series, as Xander, plain, ordinary, powerless Xander, the comic-relief sidekick, the guy I most easily identified with on the show, saved the world. He stopped Willow when Buffy, Giles, and Anya’s powers couldn’t, by tapping into the last vestiges of her humanity. With nothing more to offer than an “I love you”, he bravely confronted Willow, revealing himself to truly be “the hero of this piece”. Then, the show sent viewers into the break before season seven by giving Spike a soul.
Snappy quote:
Xander: You’ve been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end… where else would I want to be?
Willow: Is this the master plan? You’re gonna stop me by telling me you love me?
Xander: Well, I was gonna walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kind of cartoony.

Click HERE to continue on to #15-11.

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10 thoughts on “Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 20-16.

  1. Pingback: Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 25-21. « Critically Speaking

  2. Pingback: Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 15-11. « Critically Speaking

  3. Pingback: Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Top Five. « Critically Speaking

  4. If you ever want to read a reader’s feedback :) , I rate this article for 4/5. Detailed info, but I have to go to that damn google to find the missed parts. Thank you, anyway!

  5. I’m not a big fan of the end of season six. I think that Seeing Red is a much better episode than any of the dark Willow ones. I found Dark Willow annoying, rather than badass, and for me it was the summation of a terrible year-long character arc for her. Her problems were impossible to identify with because the drug metaphor was inconsistent and heavy-handed, and I was never convinced of the chemistry between Willow and Tara until much too late.

    • I agree that the magic-as-drugs metaphor never worked as well as they wanted it to, but I still enjoyed the payoff. As I say, that has as much to do with my X-Men fandom as my Buffy fandom though.

  6. I agree the last three episode of buffy season 6 were amazing! but so was seeing red so really the last 4 episodes!

    but i strongly disagree on season 6 not having a high opinion.. Season 6 has MANY of Buffy the vampire slayers best episodes!.. Tabula Rasa, Once More With Feeling, Smashed, Wrecked, Older and far away Bargaining part 1 & 2, Doublemeat Palace, Hell’s Bells, Gone.. SERIOUSLY! look at all those amazing episodes! (although there are many more from other seasons!) i think making this one of the best seies of buffy ever!

    • I think a lot of viewers had a problem with season six’s “magic as addiction” theme, along with the overall depressing vibe. It’s a tough balance, because I understand that the writers were trying to show the dramatic heft of being ripped from heaven, while showing the difficult part of young people’s lives while they try to figure out what they’re supposed to do next. However, it becomes a bit of grind week after week tuning into a show that’s such a downer. That said, I like the season more than a lot of fans, and definitely am not one of those fans who thought the show started going downhill the minute they blew up high school.

      That said, I’d rank “Doublemeat Palace” as one of the worst in series history.

  7. Call me too positive, but I even like epis like “Beer Bad”. When I rewatch them I try to look at something I hadn’t before – like through another character’s eyes.

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