It is hard to believe that it’s been nineteen years since the first Buffy the Vampire episode, “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” premiered on The WB. Running for seven seasons before its conclusion in 2003, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has gone down as one on of the greatest shows of all time. To celebrate the anniversary of its premiere, let’s take a look back at the 10 best episodes from the series.
“The Puppet Show” (aired May 5, 1997)
With a big talent show underway that the whole gang is involved with, dead bodies without hearts begin showing up. It is no coincidence that Buffy notices a creepy ventriloquist dummy belonging to a fellow Sunnydale High student. Other than the fun surrounding a living dummy, “The Puppet Show” also has one of the best comedic endings seen in the show.
“The Gift” (aired May 22, 2001)
Season 5 brought a few surprises, such as Dawn and the revelation that she is “the key” for an apocalypse. It also introduced one of the best villains on the show, Glory. Desperate to be worshiped again, the ultra-powerful god proved to be too much for the gang, causing Buffy to make the ultimate sacrifice in place of Dawn. Watching her say her goodbyes to Dawn and finally realizing that she’s going to be free is heart wrenching. At the same time, it is bittersweet for fans as they discover the true meaning behind the First Slayer’s message, “Death is your gift.”
“The Zeppo” (aired January 26, 1999)
Throughout the show, almost every character had some experience or skill they brought to the table- witchcraft, watcher, werewolf, vampire, and slayer. And then there’s Xander, who basically provided comic relief. Having yet another apocalypse to stop, Xander is asked to step aside while the gang works. Feeling alone and unimportant, he unintentionally finds himself in a crazy and dangerous situation. Meanwhile, it cuts to snippets of the gang battling forces of evil in overly dramatic ways, but quickly goes back to Xander. The humor throughout the episode was gold and it was fun to see the show poke fun at itself.
“Conversations with Dead People” (aired November 12, 2002)
The episode follows five different interactions, all shown to be happening at the same time. While Buffy fights and converses with a newly risen vampire, Willow is visited by the ghost of Cassie, a young girl who died in a previous episode, claiming to be sent by Tara. Dawn is home alone when The First begins poltergeist activity and Spike meets a woman at a bar and feeds on her, leaving her for dead. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Andrew travel back from Mexico as The First takes the shape of Warren to Andrew. The storylines never intersect throughout the episode. The writing is extremely tight and it does a good job of furthering several subplots at one time. Not to mention, Willow and Dawn both have incredibly creepy to downright terrifying moments.
“Passion” (aired February 24, 1998)
With Angelus back to his old self, Giles reveals that before having a soul, his forte was sadistically torturing the ones he loves. When Giles’ girlfriend and fellow teacher, Jenny Calendar, begins working on a spell to restore his soul, Angelus shows up and begins toying with her, before finally killing her. As Giles arrives at his apartment to find a note, candles, and romantic music playing, he heads to the bedroom anxiously, only to find Jenny dead in his bed. “Passion” showed what Angelus is truly capable of. It also shocked Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans by killing a main character for the first time, especially in such a devastating way.
“Seeing Red” (aired May 7, 2002)
Willow and Tara reunite after their breakup while Buffy, still battling the Trio (Andrew, Warren, and Jonathon), gets badly injured on patrol. While running a bath, Spike, who is obsessed and love-struck with the slayer, enters and tries to force himself on her. Ashamed, he picks up and leaves Sunnydale on a mission for his soul. Buffy later encounters the Trio and learns that the leader, Warren, is in possession of orbs that give him super strength. Defeating him once again, he comes back for revenge with a gun but tragically kills Tara instead. Tara was a beloved character and her death sent shock waves. The episode deals with several controversial themes at once, making it a hell of a ride.
“Becoming”- Part 1 and 2 (aired May 12, 1998 and May 19, 1998)
I’m going to cheat a bit and name two episodes because together, they’re both amazing. Through a series of flashbacks, viewers are shown how Angel became a vampire, his lust for killing, when he was cursed with a soul, and when he first saw Buffy Summers. Present day, Angelus kidnaps and brutally tortures Giles, while slayer Kendra is murdered by vamp Drusilla. Unless Willow can restore his soul with a spell, Buffy is left with no choice but to kill Angelus. The two duel with swords when, suddenly, Willow’s spell works, giving him a soul. The two kiss and she kills him anyway, sending him to hell. This episode is not only crucial within the Angel/Buffy arc, but the truth about Buffy’s identity is finally revealed to her mom. It also introduces another slayer, who was sent into duty after Buffy died for a second in the first season. Kendra’s passing is significant as it makes way for Faith in later seasons.
“The Body” (aired February 27, 2001)
Without question, “The Body” was one of the most gut-wrenching episodes of the entire series. Buffy arrives home to find her mom, Joyce, dead on the couch. Instead of having the usual monster and demon related death, she passed from natural causes. The episode is void of all music, making the feeling of grief and panic the main focus. It has been commended for its honest portrayal of a loved one’s loss and, easily, one of the most cherished episodes in the series.
“Once More, with Feeling” (aired November 6, 2001)
This list would not be complete without the musical episode. When a singing demon is summoned to Sunnydale, the entire town breaks into random musical numbers. Featuring music written by director Joss Whedon with the cast singing their own parts, the songs range from jazz to rock ballads. The songs are well written and almost every song helps resolve or further storylines. The episode is the most unique in the series, as well as the most complex. It has inspired “Once More, with Feeling” sing-a-longs in theaters nationwide.
“Hush” (aired December 14, 1999)
With so many villains introduced over the show’s seven seasons, none were more terrifying than The Gentlemen. The creatures render the entire town mute before beginning their killing spree, leaving less than 20 minutes of dialogue during the 44-minute show. With the characters unable to speak for the majority of the show, it allowed for many comedic moments, above and beyond what had been seen on the show so far. Hush was nominated for an Emmy Award thanks to its brilliant writing and cinematography.
With so many highlights throughout its run, choosing only ten favorites from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no easy feat. Did your favorite make the list? Let us know below!