With Geek-mecca Comic Con holding a special celebration panel to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of everyone’s favourite scourge of the undead, we’ve taken a look back into our vaults and picked out the best five episodes of the long-running and genre defying show and exactly why they stand out from such a fantastic crowd.
5) Innocence – Series 2
Buffy’s fans were craving for her and leading man Angel to get together, but they couldn’t imagine what awaited them on the other side.
After a night of passion together, Angel runs away in pain only to suddenly, and unrepentantly kill a kindly passer-by. Cruel and spiteful, he’s not the man we’ve come to know, as it’s later revealed that if he experiences but one moment of happiness, his soul’s ripped from him.
Now the dark and murderous Angelus, Buffy must come to terms with the fact that she must kill her love in order to stop a massacre.
In the finest traditions of creator Joss Whedon of giving the audience what they want, only to immediately rip it away, Innocence was possibly the episode where Buffy, as a TV show, lost its innocence too.
Mixing everything that made Buffy great (drama, humour, romance and emotion), Innocence is a real highlight of the show. Attracting over 8.2 million viewers too in the US, it was Buffy’s most watched episode ever as well.
4) Becoming – Series 2
Buffy’s series finales were never been a let-down. But the end of the show’s second series stands as the best of the bunch.
With Angelous still on the warpath, Buffy’s convinced she can save him, despite his new plans to end the world. Her and Willow attempt to reconstruct the curse that gave Angel his soul in the first place, only for their attempts to be foiled and Buffy left on the run for the murder of new slayer Kendra.
It’s an absolutely thriller of an episode, never stopping to take more than a couple of breaths between the punches that mark this out as an absolutely fitting finale of a thrilling year of TV.
The gut-wrenching ending was the icing on the cake. Buffy being forced to give up all she ever wanted for the safety of the world is absolutely heart-breaking.
Deep, twisting and deeply impactful on the future of the show, Becoming showed just how good Buffy can be.
3) The Body – Series 5
While Buffy was always quick with the jokes and martial arts, the show sometimes shied away from the big, hard moments. Not this time though.
The Body is all about Buffy and the gang having to deal with the sudden and unavoidable death of Buffy’s mum. That’s it. No demonic cult, no elaborate scheme, just the cold hard fact that Joyce Summers is no more.
While we’ve seen the gang deal with death almost flippantly before, The Body brings them all crashing right back to Earth. The group’s struggles with mortality itself are more impactful than all of fights the show has had combined.
Fuelled by the mother of all sucker-punches, The Body is a true water mark of how to approach death and loss in a TV like this. Dark, deep and depressing it might be, but that never stops it being anything else than a magnificent piece of television. That the episode came from a deep personal well of Whedon only makes it all the more painful.
2) Hush – Series 4
Buffy’s strongest suit was always the dialogue. Yes, the characters were great, but it was the witty comebacks and snappy lines that still make the show feel fresh. So how about an episode where nobody can talk?
During the night, everyone on the university campus has mysteriously lost the ability to talk. As the entire town then discovers it can’t speak, a terrifying menace then appears in the form of The Gentlemen. Disturbing, pale creatures dressed in black suits and permanently wearing demonic, metallic grins that use the silence for their own distressing ends.
Easily one of the show’s most terrifying villains, The Gentlemen absolutely fulfil their nightmarish remit. Their horrific smiles even scared the cast and crew during the making of the episode, the true mark of a great monster. Using a really underused fairy-tale angle, Hush is a great example of how to make the absolute most out of a bad guy.
Taking away the show’s strongest aspect was a big call from Whedon, but Hush sticks the landing nigh on perfectly. Despite coming in easily the show’s weakest series, Hush was a fantastic episode and a real showcase of what clever writing really can do.
1) Once More, With Feeling – Series 6
Joss Whedon loves a musical. The show’s creator (and later a director of one of Glee’s best episodes) had thoroughly intended for the show to venture into the land of jazz-hands and sing alongs back in series 4. Only contemporary Xena – Warrior Princess having a musical episode put the brakes on this happening earlier. Its replacement Hush didn’t turn out badly though.
Thankfully though, the musical episode came and it more than lived up to the wait. A fantastically weird way to take the show, Once More, With Feeling managed to turn the show on its head without ever losing that Buffy charm.
In the episode we see Sunnydale as never before, a cauldron of music. All of a sudden, the residents of the often afflicted town are bursting into song and dance numbers at the drop of a proverbial hat. But like most of the happenings in Sunnydale, there are evil forces at work, something that the group must figure out in between choruses.
Doing a magnificent job of blanketing downbeat confessions and revelations through up-tempo numbers, Once More, With Feeling is the most original and brilliant episode of Buffy there is. There’s not many compliments higher than that.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith