Tuesday, March 21, 2017

20 Years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

by Beth

“If the apocalypse comes beep me.” If you're under 20 a reference to our long lost primitive forms of communication might not make a lot of sense to you. But hey, if you're under 20 you're probably not reading about a show that's older than you are anyway. I guess in your parlance it would be “snap me”. Whatever the hell that means. Okay really I do know what that means, but I've got enough social media in my life. You kids can keep the snaps all to yourselves.
Anyhoo, before I get too “get off my lawn” let's talk about Buffy. It premiered on March 10th 1997, and has given me countless hours of enjoyment ever since. I know this will be going up a bit late to properly commemorate the anniversary, but as I told Phantom I feel like I owe the show for all of the great viewing that it gave (and continues to give) me. I know I've also said that sometimes I like Firefly a little bit better, but that doesn't mean I don't love Buffy any less. I had some (what I consider to be) good reasons for saying that, and if you'd like to see them you can check that story out here.
I thought it only fitting that for 20 years of Buffy that I count down my 20 favorite episodes. It took me 2 days of notes and lists to decide what my favorites truly were. Honestly I could probably write 1000 words on each of these episodes. I don't see myself following through on such a big undertaking (there's too much other stuff on my mind for me to devote the next 6 months just on Buffy posts) so I'm cramming them all into one (hopefully not too) long piece. I'm just gonna list numbers 20-11 (with just a quick line or 2 about each), and then go for more detail on 10-1. So without further ado I give you the top 20 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as chosen by me.
  1. Seeing Red
Willow and Tara get back together, and then Warren accidentally kills Tara. Fucking Warren!
  1. Chosen
Series finale. Buffy saves the world one last time. Unless you read the comics that is.
  1. Halloween
Giles's former friend sells everyone Halloween costumes that turn them into whatever they're dressed as.

  1. Beneath You
Spike (draped over a cross while his skin smokes): “Can we rest now, Buffy? Can we rest?” Cue my tears.
  1. Earshot
Buffy can hear what everyone is thinking, and Jonathan gets off easy for trying to kill his classmates. How many times does she save people who she would have been better off letting go in the long run?
  1. Passion
That dick Angelus kills Giles' girlfriend. Does he ever not suck?
  1. Graduation Day Part 2
For once the useless masses of Sunnydale High work with Buffy to stop the Mayor from killing them all. And Angel leaves the show. Maybe this one should be higher on my list...

  1. Becoming Part 2
Kendra dies and Buffy kills Angel. Hooray!
  1. Doppelgangland
Second appearance of the evil vampire Willow. Not as good as The Wish though.
  1. The Body
Buffy finds her mother's dead body on the couch. Deeply upsetting.
  1. Conversations With Dead People
Buffy, Dawn, and Willow each spend their evening dealing with the dead. Buffy shares her deepest feelings with an old high school acquaintance who has been turned into a vampire. Dawn thinks their mother is trying to contact her from beyond the grave. Willow is tormented by a spirit who claims to have been sent by Tara and encourages her to kill herself so they can be together again. Of course, Dawn and Willow's visions are sent by a power know as The First. The evil entity also appears to Andrew in the guise of Warren who talks him in to killing Jonathan. Buffy is the only one not manipulated by The First, but she does discover that Spike sired the vampire she just poured her heart out to, and proving to her that he's gone bad again.

  1. Grave
After the aforementioned Tara killing Willow goes crazy and turns to dark magic to get some vengeance. She fights both Buffy and Giles, and finally goes so far to the dark side that she decides to put everyone in the world out of their misery. Giles had a trick up his sleeve though, and bought Xander time to reach her at the temple she's raised from the ground. He gives her a very touching and heart-felt speech while she rages against him. Just when you think she might actually kill him she breaks down in his arms crying over the loss of Tara. Again with the waterworks.
  1. Prophesy Girl
All Buffy wants to do is go to the prom, but Giles informs her that she has to face The Master in a showdown that will lead to her death. Obviously she's upset by this (“Giles, I'm 16 years old. I don't wanna die”), and walks out on Giles and slaying all together. Giles decides to take The Master on himself to save Buffy, but she finally mans up to face her destiny. The Master ends up killing Buffy by drowning her, but Xander gives her CPR and manages to bring her back to life in time for her to finish the job. Unfortunately, her death leads to the appearance of Kendra so it's not all good.

  1. The Gift
The crazy evil goddess monster Glory is going to use Dawn (who is really a magical key disguised as Buffy's little sister) to create yet another apocalypse. Buffy beats the shit out of Glory which causes her to turn back into harmless nice guy Ben, but doesn't kill him. Giles ends up doing it for her since she's unwilling to take a human life. She's too late to stop the world-ending ritual, and either her or Dawn have to sacrifice themselves to close the portal of evil. Buffy takes the dive after telling Dawn that “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it”. And writing all of this out makes it sound kind of confusing and silly. The whole Glory thing gets a little tired after awhile, but she's not the worst "big bad" they've faced (ahem, Adam). It'll all be much clearer if you watch them in order rather than going by this list.
  1. The Wish
Cordelia is rightfully a little pissed off after catching Willow and Xander kissing and getting impaled right afterward. She decides it's all Buffy's fault so she makes a wish to the vengeance demon Anyanka (who later becomes regular old Anya). She wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, and it turns out to be a terrible idea. The Master and his vampire minions are running the town, and the minions include vampire versions of Xander and Willow. Cordelia gets herself killed while Giles, Oz, and a few other “white hats” do their best to fight back. Their fighting is not terribly effective so Giles tries to call in a slayer named Buffy form Cleveland to help. A pissy and cynical Buffy shows up only to get herself, and everyone else killed. Giles is able to set things back to normal (or as normal as they can be for this show) by braking Anyanka's talisman.
  1. Fear, Itself
The best of the Halloween episodes. The gang attends a Halloween party at a frat house where the dumbasses have painted a mysterious symbol on the floor to make the place look spookier. In a town like Sunnydale why would anyone use weird magical shit they don't understand? You deserve whatever you get fools. The symbol (combined with Oz's accidentally spilled blood) summons a fear demon which turns all of the creepy decorations into real scares, and traps everyone in the house. Giles badassedly busts into the house with a chainsaw, and helps them find them find the source of the problem. Not knowing that it will cause the demon to manifest Buffy destroys the symbol. The demon turns out to be the size of a G.I. Joe figure, and Buffy squishes him with her foot.

  1. Band Candy
Another fun one. Giles's old friend returns again, and this time he's spiked the candy the band is selling to make all the adults act like teenagers. What's great about this one is that the image of younger Giles, and how wild and surprisingly improper he used to be. This is the episode that sold me on the young Giles show idea that they were kicking around for awhile. I really wanted to see the adventures of Ripper. It also creates lots of awkward moments for some time to come between Giles and Mrs. Summers as it is implied that they got it on while they were acting like kids.
  1. Once More With Feeling
I'm not sure what I can say about this episode that hasn't been said before. It was groundbreaking, fun, and even managed a few touching moments like when Buffy revealed to her friends that they pulled her out of heaven when they brought her back to life. A bit too much Dawn for my tastes, but the songs were great, and even Xander and Spike pull it off (barely). I still regularly listen to the soundtrack, and it paved the way for Joss Whedon's other musical Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Buffy and Spike even kiss at the end giving all of us Spuffy shippers something to cheer about.

  1. Hush
Yet another ground-breaker. The whole thing takes place without music, and the only dialogue comes at the very beginning and the end. A group of monsters called The Gentlemen come to town, and remove everyone's ability to speak while they kill them. The Gentlemen are terrifying, and kind of look like older versions of Slender Man. It's amazing how effective a show can be without anyone speaking. It's scary, and intense, and one of the few episodes where Buffy's boyfriend Riley doesn't annoy me. It's pretty much the only episode during the whole time of The Initiative that didn't make me want to slap that guy. It's the least humorous episode in my top 10 list so even if you don't like Buffy I recommend at least checking this one out.
  1. Tabula Rasa
It was a tough call, but this one is my favorite because it contains the perfect balance of humor and heart that Buffy is known for. Willow casts a spell to make Buffy forget she's sad about coming back to life, and Tara forget that she and Willow are fighting. The spell is too strong though, and it instead makes all of the Scoobies forget who they are. Spike and Giles think they're father and son, Willow thinks she's Xander's girlfriend, and Buffy believes that she's a normal girl named Joan. Spike tries to help Buffy fight vampires, and realizes she's a super hero, and that Spike is a vampire himself. Their amnesia based adventures are hilarious, but there's also some sad stuff too. When the spell is ultimately broken Tara decides that she's had enough of Willow's magic abuse, and leaves her. If you can ignore the annoying girl singing a sappy late 90's love song at the end it's great. Plus there's more Buffy and Spike kissing, but that's also kind of sad since she's only doing it to bury her more painful feelings.

This was longer than I thought it would be, but as short as I can make it. I could go on and on, but I'll save it for the future podcasts with Phantom and Chad. He assures me we'll get back to that eventually. Do you agree, disagree, want to tell me off for all of my Angel hate? Go for it. I did warn you up front that this was just my personal opinion. So thank you Joss Whedon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the entire cast and crew for bringing such a wonderful show to life. Basically, thank you Buffy for saving the world. A lot.

Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been reborn as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet. Follow beth0rama on Instagram or on Twitter @NeedlessBeth where she doesn't post often enough to be annoying, but updates way more than Google+

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