Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 25-21.

One of my favourite reads this summer has been Noel Murray’s posts about the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for The Onion’s AV Club. Murray is a first time viewer of the show, and reading him discover the brilliance of one of my all-time favourite shows has been a fun way of re-living the series, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out his posts (which finished up today, to be continued with season three some time around December).

Inspired by this trip down memory lane, I thought I’d re-post my Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer list that I originally wrote way back in 2005. While an older piece of writing (and thus possibly not as strong as my current writing), it’s still one of my favourite blog posts ever, both in terms of how much fun it was to put together and pride in how in turned out. Read on past the jump to find out the first five episodes to make the list, along with some of my reasoning at the time for the post. Numbers 20-1 will follow shortly (or, depending on when you’re reading this, have already been posted).

That’s right, the Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as chosen by me. I decided that doing 5 episodes was too easy, in that I only had to think about the 5 most praised episodes. Then, I decided that narrowing it down to 10 episodes was too difficult, so I chose 25. Which seems like a lot, until you figure that there were 144 episodes to choose from, meaning that I left out about 83% of the series. So, I made some difficult sacrifices in making this list. To make the list, I looked at the episode listings for the 7 seasons of Buffy, picked out 30 of the best from memory, then proceeded to watch them again (when you factor in double episodes that were necessary to watch to fully appreciate episodes on the list, I ended up re-watching 35 episodes or so). This was a very fun way to enjoy my box sets again, and recommend it to anyone who has TV box sets, especially if you have an entire run of a series. I did write-ups for the episodes as I watched, then made my ordering decisions once I was done. In considering where an episode placed on the list, I considered the overall quality of an episode, the episode’s importance to the series as a whole, originality, effectiveness, important events, and my own personal preferences.

I encourage and welcome any and all comments, be they opposing lists (ranked or off the top of your head listings), questions, disagreements, or simple discussion about an episode I bring up.

#25 “School Hard”
Episode 15 – Season Two
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase, David Boreanz as Angel, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar, Andrew J. Ferchland as Colin/The Anointed One, James Marsters as Spike, Juliet Landau as Drusilla, Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Guest Star(s): Brian Reddy as Police Chief Bob, Alexandra Johnes as Sheila
Spike and Dru come to SunnydaleWriter(s): David Greenwalt
Director: John T. Kretchmer
Synopsis in 50 words or less: Buffy has to prepare for teacher/parents night while new vampires come to Sunnydale— Spike and Drusilla. Spike sets out to kill his third slayer by attacking the school, trapping Buffy’s mom inside.
Why it’s on the list: This is the first appearance of Spike and Drusilla; that alone would qualify it for the list. However, the episode itself is genuinely scary. As Spike roams the halls of Sunnydale High in darkness, the viewer is given the sense of true danger. It gets added points for the final scene where Spike kills “the annoying one”, by trapping him in a cage and sending him into daylight.
Snappy quote:
Spike: I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. Fed off a flower person and spent six hours watching my hands move.

#24 “Passion”
Episode 29 – Season 2
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase, David Boreanz as Angel, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar/Janna Kalderash, James Marsters as Spike, Juliet Landau as Drusilla, Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson
Guest Star(s): Richard Hassad as Magic Box shopkeeper, Richard Hoyt-Miller as police officer
The death of Jenny CalendarWriter(s): Ty King
Director: Michael Gershman
Synopsis in 50 words or less: As Angel torments Buffy by stalking her while she sleeps, Ms. Calendar works to find the curse to restore his soul. When Angel finds out about Jenny’s intentions, he hunts her down and kills her, leading to Giles’ attempted retribution.
Why it’s on the list: Not only is this an episode showing how bad a soulless Angel could be, it also shook up the Buffy universe by killing off a regular (non-villain) character, the first time the show would do so. Even while Angel stalks Ms. Calendar through the halls of Sunnydale High, as a viewer, you feel like everything will work out. She’ll get away, or he’ll take her hostage, or Buffy will save the day. Instead, he catches up to her, and breaks her neck. Then, it got worse. Angel’s presentation of Jenny’s body to Giles was the cruelest, most menacing thing any Buffy villain has ever done. We also got a glimpse at how badass Giles could be when pushed, marking a turn in the character that would continue in season three.
Snappy quote:
Giles: Yes, Xander, once again you’ve managed to boil a complex thought down to its simplest possible form.

#23 “Doppelgangland”
Episode 50 – Season 3
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase, David Boreanz as Angel, Seth Green as Oz, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Harry Groener as Mayor Richard Wilkens III, Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Emma Caulfield as Anya, Ethan Erickson as Percy West, Andy Umberger as D’Hoffyn, Jason Hall as Devon MacLeish, Eliza Dushku as Faith, Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Guest Star(s): K’s Choice, Megan Gray as Sandy, Corey Michael Blake as Bartender, Michael Nagy as Alfonse, Norma Michael as Other Woman
Willow and Vampire Willow meetWriter(s): Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Synopsis in 50 words or less: Anya’s attempts to get back her vengeance demon powers leads to accidentally bringing the alternate-reality vampire Willow to Sunnydale.
Why it’s on the list: A great funny episode, reprising Alyson Hannigan’s popular vampire persona. The interactions between the real Willow and the fake Willow are hilarious, as is the real Willow pretending to be the vampire Willow.
Snappy quote:
Willow: It’s horrible! That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil! and… skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay.

#22 “The Replacement”
Episode 81 – Season 5
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Marc Blucas as Riley Finn, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers, James Marsters as Spike, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Guest Star(s): Michael Bailey Smith as Toth, Kelly Donovan as Xander double, Cathy Cohen as Building Manager, David Reivers as Foreman, Fritz Greve as Construction Worker
'Kill em both Spock'Writer(s): Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
Synopsis in 50 words or less: Hit by a weapon intended for Buffy, Xander finds himself split into two parts: one with all his positive attributes, one with his negative attributes, each half thinking the other is a demon clone. If either half is destroyed, Xander will die.
Why it’s on the list: This is a Xander episode, and as with most Xander episodes, it is a funny one. The weaker Xander has the most funny parts (including the Snoopy dance), but also shares a poignant moment with Willow which begins to show the depth of the relationship between he and Anya (the one relationship that should have made it, if the show didn’t have a thing against happiness). This episode marked a turning point for Xander, as he starts to grow up significantly after this one. Riley is also given two sweet monologues about his love for Buffy that were so good that I have to wonder why he was near universally reviled.
Snappy quote:
Apartment Manager: I think someone said you’re currently in your parents’ basement?
Suave Xander: Right, there comes a point where you have to either move on, or just buy yourself a Klingon costume and go with it.

#21 “The Prom”
Episode 54 – Season 3
Featured Performers: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendan as Xander Harris, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase, David Boreanz as Angel, Seth Green as Oz, and Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles.
Recurring Performer(s): Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers, Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Emma Caulfied as Anya, Danny Strong as Jonathan Levinson
Guest Star(s): Brad Kane as Tucker Wells
Buffy and Angel share one last danceWriter(s): Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
Synopsis in 50 words or less: As the gang gets ready for the prom, Angel decides that Buffy deserves a better life than he can give her and announces that he will leave town following the Ascension. Meanwhile, someone has trained Hellhounds to attack the prom.
Why it’s on the list: Most of the episode is standard Buffy-fare: Buffy and Angel angst, vampire hunting, snappy patter from the Scoobies, and Buffy saves the day. There is a nice moment between Xander and Cordelia that wrapped up their history nicely before she left for Angel. But what makes this one of the best episodes in the series is the speech given by Jonathan at the prom on behalf of the Sunnydale High student body, when he awards Buffy with the Class Protector award. It’s the nicest moment in the show’s history, one that gives me goosebumps every time I see it. Without fail, when the school thanks Buffy for saving them all the time, I have a big lump in my throat. This show didn’t give a lot of nice moments that weren’t soon followed by sad moments, but they did this time, following the award presentation with Angel showing up in a tux for one last dance. Like Giles says in the episode, “I had no idea that children en masse could be gracious”.
Snappy quote:
Anya: Look, I know you find me attractive; I’ve seen you looking at my breasts.
Xander: Nothing personal, but when a guy does that, it just means his eyes are open.

Click HERE to continue on to #20-16.

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11 thoughts on “Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 25-21.

  1. Pingback: Top 25 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Numbers 20-16. « Critically Speaking

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

  3. hi i have got 4 dvds im a total vampire fan i have probably seen avery apropiot vampire movie and only two … two r in ur list.

  4. ok i’m pretty sure i’d love you lol i’ve never met anyone i could talk to about buffy like this (and god knows i’ve tried!!) and i agree with pretty much everything you’re saying. BUT, in response to “Riley is also given two sweet monologues about his love for Buffy that were so good that I have to wonder why he was near universally reviled.” i can give you a very simple answer. it’s because he wasn’t angel. he was decent but he wasn’t a badass and i personally wasn’t emotionally ready for her to love again this soon ;) so, naturally, i hated riley with all my heart lol i use the same explanation for my resentment against kennedy when her and willow started fooling around. too soon!! getting over oz was hard enough for me. kennedy doesn’t compare to him OR tara.

    • Kennedy I get – that chick was annoying. But of course Riley never had a chance, which I think the show understood so they wrote him off somewhat awkwardly in season five. I just think the dude deserved better I guess. Not that I missed him much once he was gone.

  5. Excellent list, really good reading and analysis.

    I’m here because I was wondering where ‘The Prom’ was, and tracked it down. :-) It would be #1 on my list simply because it’s the one which got the biggest emotional response from me. Jonathan’s speech is brilliant. As you say:

    > It’s the nicest moment in the show’s history, one that gives me goosebumps every time I see it. Without fail, when the school thanks Buffy for saving them all the time, I have a big lump in my throat.

    Tears in the eyes, lumps in the throat, same thing. :-)

    #2 in my list would be the one with the Gentlemen (sorry, blanking on the title, even though I read your list summary of it 5 minutes ago).

    • you mean ‘Hush’ in season 4 :)

      when it comes to emotional responses, my list would consist of Becoming Pt 2, possibly Amends, The Prom (but because of the break-up, not because of Jonathan’s speech), Wild at Heart, The Body, Grave and the series finale. but those are the ones where the entire episode comes to mind. there’s a lot of single episodes with sad/touching dialogue. like for instance, the season 5 finale is obviously extreme in her dying and all but that only happens in the last moments. unlike in ‘Wild at Heart’ for instance where you see Oz going down the entire episode and Willow can’t stop it, until the final scene where he leaves.
      But that’s what makes the show so great. or rather, that’s what makes joss so great. he writes an unbelievably sad scene and then under-cuts it with a joke

      • Here’s a few more: “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” at the end when Buffy breaks up with Owen and starts to realize how isolating her role is destined to be, the earliest indicator that the series wasn’t just going to be ironic humour and monster of the week thrills. “Prophecy Girl”, where Buffy tries to beg her way out of her prophesized death, wishing she was only a normal 16-year-old girl (before doing the heroic thing and facing her destiny). And “Innocence”, after she failed to kill Angel at the mall, and confesses to Giles all that would happen. When Giles sets her straight about how he could never be disappointed in her…

        I need a minute.

  6. Pingback: Critically Speaking 2010 blogging in review « Critically Speaking

  7. Buffy is the best… i know i was only little when it came out but my sister brought the whole seven seasons and it was the best ever we laughed, we cried, and we were speechless. It was great and we have to thank Sarah, Alyson, Nicolas, David, and James for making it like that.. Also Anthony and all the over stars….. thanks again

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