A ReelHorrorShow Top 10. The Top Ten Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes.

Hello, dear, mortal readers.

I’m sure that I’ve spoken of my love for Buffy once or twice in past articles. Hell, given the chance, I would mention my love for Buffy in every article, even if it didn’t fit the context.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, without doubt, the single greatest tv show of all time. If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong.

It would be easy to dismiss Buffy as just another teeny show in the vein of Beverly Hills 90210, but with monsters. This, however, would be a lazy and woefully ignorant comparison (see, I told you I was passionate about this show). Buffy has much more going for it than that.

Sure there are monsters, but for those in the know, these monsters are clever metaphors for the slings and arrows that life throws our way. Especially in those difficult, later teen years. We are expected to grow up, decide who we want to be and take some responsibility. All the things that life and high school have been training us for. Unfortunately, as anyone who came through the other side will tell you, it isn’t always that easy. Buffy doesn’t necessarily speak for the younger generations of today, but it sure as hell spoke for my generation.

Metaphors aside, Buffy boasted some of the greatest writing of any tv show ever. The show could flit back and forth with ease from scary, to hilarious, to utterly heartbreaking and sometimes in the same episode. Any time the opening credits read ‘written and directed by Joss Whedon,’ you knew you were in for something special.

Having been burned by his experience while making the 1992 film of the same name (studio interference ruining the movie he set out to make,) Whedon decided to pitch the idea of resurrecting Buffy as a tv series with a whole new cast and a very different tone to the film.

Season one came as a mid-season replacement to some cancelled show that I can’t remember the name of. Running for twelve episodes, season one is a hit and miss affair. Especially if viewed for the first time by today's audience. While there are some cracking episodes like ‘Nightmares’ and the season finale, ‘Prophecy Girl,’ there are a few stinkers like ‘Teachers Pet,’ involving a replacement teacher who also happens to be a giant Praying Mantis, and ‘The Pack,’ in which Xander (Nicholas Brendon) becomes possessed by a Hyena. I have a great deal of fondness for these clunky episodes, despite the fact that in reality, they are quite bad. I also understand how someone new to the show might write it off on the strength of these episodes.

However, that would be a pity because once season two drops, the show really finds its feet and as the stories become both deeper and darker, Buffy becomes something truly special.

I could ramble all day long about why people should watch this show, but I’m going to reign myself in. Instead, I give you the rundown of my top ten favourite episodes. So sharpen your stakes. Stock up on holy water and settle in for the top ten greatest Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes…

10. Who Are You?

(Season 4, Episode 16)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"Ooh, I wish those Council guys would let me have an hour alone in the room with her... if I was larger and had grenades." - Willow

Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) finds herself trapped in the body of renegade Slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) and vice versa. The Watchers Council rock up to take Faith into custody for her many crimes, including murder and have no idea that they have instead apprehended Buffy. Faith, meanwhile, sets out to ruin her mortal enemy's life, using Buffy’s body as a ruse.

Buffy eventually manages to escape The Council and heads back to Sunnydale, hoping to convince Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) that she is his Slayer and that Faith is the imposter masquerading in Buffy’s body.

Faith, however, suffers an epiphany when discovering that Buffy’s life isn’t anywhere near as perfect as she first thought. Wanting to make a change for the better and do the right thing, she heads to a church, under siege by a gang of vampires, determined to save the hostages and be the hero.

Who are you? Is a clever episode that allows Gellar and Dushku to shine, playing each other's characters.

09. Conversations With Dead People.

(Season 7, Episode 7)

Directed By: Nick Marck, Written By: Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard.

"Of course I'm scared. Last time we were here, 33.3 bar percent of us were flayed alive." - Jonathan

Conversations With Dead People is one of Buffy’s more experimental episodes. While patrolling a cemetery, Buffy meets a vampire who was a student at Sunnydale high before being turned into a member of the undead. Instead of engaging in a fight to the death, the two strike up a conversation, reminiscing about old times.

Meanwhile, back at home, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg,) finds herself under attack by a demonic entity, while Willow (Alyson Hannigan,) has a visit from the spirit of a girl who claims to be there on behalf of Willows dead girlfriend, Tara (Amber Benson).

At first, the dialogue is light-hearted and snappy, but it soon takes a sinister, darker turn. Buffy is forced to stake her ex-classmate. The mysterious girl tries to convince Willow to kill herself, to be with Tara. It eventually comes to light that this is all trickery at the hands of The First Evil.

The usual action of the series takes a back seat to a more conversation (as the title would suggest) driven episode. Thanks to its brilliant writing, the episode works and it’s a compelling hour of television.

08. Buffy Vs Dracula

(Season 5, Episode one)

Directed By: David Solomon, Written By: Marti Noxon.

[to Xander] "You are strange and off-putting. Go now." - Dracula

A ‘What it say’s on the tin’ episode, and a cracking way to start the season. Marti Noxon wrote many of Buffy’s funnier episodes and Buffy Vs Dracula is no exception.

King of the vampires, Count Dracula rolls into town on a quest to meet the Slayer. At first, Buffy is sceptical, claiming she is constantly running into vampires who call themselves Lestat. Once revealed to be the famous count, everyone becomes more than a little star-struck. Except for Xander that is, who under the vampire's thrall, basically becomes the episodes answer to Renfield. It’s Xander who gets many of the funnier lines in the episode, with the exception of Spike (James Marsters), maybe, who claims that he knows Drac and the Poncy bugger owes him £11.

The episode culminates in a showdown between Dracula and Buffy, and even their scrap manages to be funny. It’s a light-hearted, amusing opening episode to what turns out to be a fairly dark, heavy-going season.

07. Becoming Parts 1 & 2

(Season 2, Episodes 21 & 22)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"I wanna torture you. I used to love it, and it's been a long time. I mean, the last time I tortured somebody, they didn't even *have* chainsaws." - Angelus

Ok, I know it’s a bit of a cheat with this one as it’s two episodes. In my defence, the season 2 finale is meant to be viewed as one whole feature-length episode rather than two parts.

Becoming is an emotionally exhausting couple of hours. Everything is on the line for our stake-wielding heroine. The love of her life, Angel (David Boreanaz) is wreaking havoc, having lost his soul and been returned to the evil Angelus. He plans on opening a portal to hell, damning everyone on Earth to an eternity of torment. Buffy, having watched the man she loves torture and kill those she cares about most throughout season two, reaches the heart-breaking realisation that she must stop him. Even if that means having to kill him.

Buffy comes out as the Slayer to her mum. A move that finds her kicked out of her home. Kendra (the Slayer that was called when Buffy briefly dies at the end of season one) dies at the hands of Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Giles is kidnapped and tortured by Angel until he reveals how to open the portal.

It’s a gut-punch of a finale that ends with Buffy and Angel doing battle. Buffy defeats Angel just as Willow restores his soul. Sadly, it’s all a little too late. Angel has already opened the portal and the only way to close it is to kill him, which she does, before fleeing Sunnydale, an emotional wreck, and leaving behind her friends and family in the process.

Becoming Parts 1 & 2 is a fine example of just how epic Buffy could be.

06. Doppelgland.

(Season 3, Episode 16)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"This is a dumb world. In my world, there are people in chains and we can ride them like ponies." - Vampire Willow

One of the finest examples of the show using the ‘monster of the week’ format to take a break from the main story of the season.

Doppelgangland see’s Willow casting a spell which accidentally summons an evil version of herself (Vampire Willow) from an alternate universe.

The highlight of the episode is Alyson Hannigan having a blast while getting to play ‘normal’ Willow, Vampire Willow and ‘normal’ Willow pretending to be Vampire Willow.

There is also some amusing foreshadowing of Willow’s future homosexuality.

Vampire Willow first appeared in an earlier season three episode, The Wish, and Joss Whedon liked the character so much that he wrote this episode specifically to bring her back.

05, The Gift

(Season 5, Episode 22)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"No, no, no, it's an omen! It's a higher power trying to tell me through bunnies that we're all gonna die. Oh god." - Anya

The Gift is not only the finale to season five, but there are some fans out there who consider it to be the true finale to the series as a whole.

Dawn is taken to be sacrificed in a ritual by the season five big-bad Glory (Clare Kramer), a Demi-God who wants to break down the walls between this dimension and the hell dimension she calls home.

Dawn, it turns out, is the key to the portal, made human by some weird monks and hidden in plain sight as the Slayers sister.

There are many wonderful moments in this series finale. My favourite being Giles, explaining to Glory’s mortal alter-ego Ben how Buffy is a hero and not like them at all, before killing Ben/Glory in cold blood with his bare hands.

Buffy saves Dawn by sacrificing herself. She throws herself valiantly to her death in order to close the dimensional rift, saving the world with the loss of her own life. The death of Buffy is made all the upsetting by the grief displayed by her friends as they gather around her broken body.

04. Once More With Feeling.

(Season 6, Episode 7)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"They got... the mustard... out!" - Mustard Man

A musical episode? Well, that won’t work, will it? It would, and it did.

I mentioned at the beginning how Buffy could turn from hilarious to heart-breaking at the drop of a hat, and OMWF is one such example.

The premise being that one day, the residents of Sunnydale awaken to discover that they spontaneously break into song. It takes a while for the Scooby Gang to realise that something is wrong. A realisation that comes to them while in one of these songs.

The writing of this episode and especially the songs is tantamount to genius. Everyone breaks into song over the most mundane of circumstances, including a visit to the dry cleaners that results in the successful removal of mustard from a shirt, and a woman, propositioning a traffic warden so as to avoid a parking ticket.

The emotional kick in the teeth comes at the end of the episode. While in a song and dance routine, Buffy reveals to her friends that when they resurrected her, they pulled her out of heaven rather than the hell dimension they assumed she was in.

While not all gifted singers, the cast does their very best. The standouts being Anya (Emma Caulfield) Singing about her Bunny phobia, and Spike rocking out in a graveyard.

03. Passion

(Season 2, Episode 17)

Directed By: Michael Gershman, Written By: David Tyron King

"Passion is the source of our finest moments: the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief." - Angelus

Passion showcases Angel at his evil bastard best. Turning the torment up to eleven, Angel does more damage in this episode than any other in the series and it’s truly a dark path.

Angel, having cornered Gile’s love interest, Jenny Calendar (Robia Scott), in the school takes sickening delight in snapping her neck. It’s the most brutal act by the character up to that point.

Killing Jenny isn’t enough for Angel. Giles returns home and is met by a note and rose petals leading him upstairs. Assuming it to be a romantic gesture, he happily makes his way up to the bedroom only to be greeted by the corpse of Jenny sprawled out across the bed.

It’s a gleeful act of viciousness, cementing Angelus as one of the shows more spiteful, vindictive villains.

02. Hush

(Season 4, Episode 10)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"We're out of Weetabix" - Spike

Hush is possibly the finest example of how cleverly written the show was. Hush, for the most part, contains no dialogue. The exposition is instead conveyed through the actions of the characters. It works wonderfully.

A new evil floats into town in the form of the Gentlemen, who are arguably the shows creepiest villains. They steal the voices of the residents of Sunnydale before trapping their victims and removing their hearts.

The very idea of being pinned down by these ghouls and not being able to scream or call for help is a terrifying notion.

The highlight of the episode involves a meeting called by Giles on how to tackle The Gentlemen. Unable to communicate verbally, Giles uses classical music and a series of sketches. Buffy’s hand gestures while enquiring as to whether or not she can stake them leads to a rather amusing misunderstanding.

Hush was the first lesson in why BTVS stood heads and shoulders above all other shows.

01. The Body

(Season 5, Episode 16)

Directed By: Joss Whedon, Written By: Joss Whedon.

"I wish that Joyce didn't die... because she was nice. And now we all hurt." - Anya

I hope you weren’t expecting a cheerful episode for the number one spot because you were never getting one. The Body is an incredibly emotional episode and I defy anyone to sit through it and not shed a sneaky tear or two.

Buffy returns home to find her mother lying dead on the sofa. We are used to people dying on this show but usually is under supernatural circumstances. The difference here is that Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) has died of natural causes, after a battle with a brain tumour. It’s unexpected because as far as everyone knew, she was on the mend.

The episode itself is a simple one. You have to sit and watch it to understand its impact and just how effective it is at reaching into your chest and tearing your heart out.

The episode has no musical soundtrack whatsoever. The only sound comes from the things happening on the screen, and this really adds to the piece.

One of the most heart-breaking scenes involves Anya, who as an ex-demon has little understanding of the loss of loved ones. She has spent the day putting her foot in her mouth by asking questions in her usual insensitive manner. Eventually, it’s Willow that blows up at her lack of tact, only for Anya to break down, admitting that she doesn’t understand what's happened. She doesn’t understand why Joyce, who she regarded as a nice lady, had to die, and most importantly, she doesn’t understand why she hurts because of it.

I’m not doing the episode any justice talking about it. It’s an incredibly powerful episode about loss and grief. There’s no evil at work here. We will all eventually lose somebody we love and that’s far more terrifying than any monster of the week could ever be.

Well. That’s my top ten Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. I know that there are many fans who are just as passionate about this show as I am. So whether you agree with me or not, please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, if the apocalypse comes, beep me.