Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Remembering Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The 10 Best Episodes

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (20th Century Fox)
- Article by Chloe Byatt
This year marks 10 years since the finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003), Joss Whedon's supernatural serial drama about a young girl ridding the world of vampires and demons. Reflecting back ten years after it all finished feels like a fitting time to go through the top 10 episodes of undoubtably one of the most ground breaking cult television shows of all time.  
(WARNING: If you’ve not watched Buffy, what the hell is wrong with you? Also, don’t read any further because there are spoilers.)

10) The Wish (Season 3 Episode 9)

When scorned Cordelia comes to the conclusion that Buffy is the source of all of her problems, she wishes for a Slayer-free Sunnydale. When the wish comes true, Cordy finds herself in a dystopian parallel of the town in which vampires rule and the surviving humans live under a strict curfew and dress code. In the hopes of reversing the wish, Cordy turns to Giles and his group “The White Hats” (nightmare Sunnydale’s version of the Scooby Gang). Highlights of this episode include the introduction of Anya, seeing Xander and Willow as vampires and meeting alternate universe Buffy, complete with facial scar. ‘The Wish’ has the charm of a classic Buffy chiller episode but with that little extra bit of drama and originality.

Buffy:“ World is what it is. We fight, we die. Wishing doesn't change that.”

Scooby Fact: Anyanka/Anya was intended as a one-off character but when the producers realised the extent of Emma Caulfield’s comedic skill and how popular the character was with audiences she became a series regular.

9) Lover’s Walk (Season 3 Episode 8)

Willow is feeling guilty about her feelings for Xander so she attempts to make a ‘de-lusting’ spell. However, her plans are interrupted when Spike returns to Sunnydale, kidnaps Willow and Xander and tries to force Willow to create a different love spell that will make Drusilla return to him instead. The action remains focused on the relationships of the show and the different romantic dynamics between characters.
Highlights of this episode include Spike’s speech, Oz and Cordelia discovering Willow and Xander kissing and Cordelia’s shocking impalement. This episode serves as Spike’s only appearance in Season 3 before he comes back as a series regular in Season 4, but he certainly makes an impact. I think the performance James Marsters gives in ‘Lover’s Walk’ solidified his rightful place within the series as a regular cast member.

Spike: “You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight and you'll shag and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends.”

Scooby Fact: As a child, Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) really was impaled. She was playing around a swimming pool that was being constructed, slipped in to it and punctured her stomach on a piece of rebar poking out of the concrete. Ouch.

8) Passion (Season 2 Episode 17)

With Angelus on a fierce vendetta to make Buffy’s life a living hell he continues his psychotic rampage by leaving creepy pictures on her pillow and stringing up Willow’s goldfish. Meanwhile, Jenny is close to discovering a way to get Angel’s soul back and hopes to use this information as a peace offering with Giles and Buffy. She stays late at the school, planning to meet Giles afterwards, finally managing to translate the ritual and save it when suddenly Angelus appears and kills her! Highlights of this episode include pretty much all of it. This was probably the moment I realised that there was a lot more to Buffy than a fun, teenage romp through the world of demons and vampires. The moment that Angelus kills Jenny and sends Giles on a Hansel and Gretel style trail of roses leading to her cold corpse, Buffy changed forever. Dark, twisted and utterly brilliant. 

Angelus: “Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief.”

Scooby Fact: Alyson Hannigan said in an interview, “Angel…had to kill somebody we loved - we were all warned about that. Actually, I think it was supposed to be Oz that was killed, then they decided they’d keep Oz around and they killed Ms Calendar.” (I’m not sure leading Giles to Oz’s dead body in his boudoir would have had the same effect)

7) Fool For Love (Season 5 Episode 7)

On a routine night of patrol Buffy gets staked by a random vampire and is understandably freaked out. She turns to Spike for advice as he has faced two Slayers before her and killed them both. In a bid to understand exactly why the previous Chosen One’s failed, she spends an evening with Spike learning about his past and her potential future. Highlights of this episode include a great scene between Spike and the New York Slayer fighting on a subway train, guest appearances from Angel, Drusilla and Darla and that harsh moment when Buffy echoes Spike’s past and tells him that he is ‘beneath’ her. This is probably the best Spike-centric episode of Buffy as we get a detailed insight into one of the shows most complex and multi-faceted characters.

Spike: “Right. You want to learn all about how I bested the Slayers and you want to learn fast. Right, then. We fought. I won. The end. Pay up.”

Scooby Fact: Douglas Petrie (writer) says that the scene in which Spike and Angelus fight while Darla and Drusilla look on with pleasure is a not-so-subtle allegory for female enjoyment of male homoeroticism.

6) Graduation Day Part 1 & 2 (Season 3 Episode 21 & 22)

I know this is technically two episodes but you’ll just have to get over that. Buffy and Faith come to serious blows, which leaves Faith in a coma and her creepy father figure, Mayor Wilkins, royally pissed off. Meanwhile, after Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow Buffy forces him to drink her blood, leaving her near death and hospitalised alongside Faith. Later, when Buffy is conscious, she and her fellow classmates graduate from Sunnydale High and events take a dramatic turn as the Mayor turns into a giant snake during his graduation speech, causing all hell to break loose on campus. The entire student body, already prepped for battle by Buffy, then engage in a mini war with droves of vampires that have descended upon the school.

Highlights of the episode include Major Wilkins trying to suffocated an unconscious Buffy, the surreal and cryptic dream sequence shared by Buffy and Faith, Principal Snyder’s demise, Angel finally leaving the show (I was never a fan) and just the major drama in this two part finale. So. Damn. Good.

Buffy: ‘You remember this? I took it from Faith. Stuck it in her gut. Just slid in her like she was butter. You wanna get it back from me... Dick?’

Scooby Fact: This episode caused a great deal of controversy in the media. The Columbine High School Massacre, which took place only four weeks before the airing of Part One, was widely blamed on violence in entertainment. Two hours before "Graduation Day, Part Two" was due to air, The WB suddenly decided to replace it with a re-run from earlier in the season. Part Two did not air until almost two months after it was originally scheduled; since nearly all US schools had ended their terms and it was deemed ‘safe’.

5) Chosen (Season 7 Episode 22)

Buffy, the Scooby Gang and a ton of potential Slayers prepare for the final apocalypse and to face The First once and for all. Buffy comes up with a plan for Willow to use the essence of the scythe to unlock the girls potential and allow them all to become Slayers. 
A battle of epic proportions takes place, leaving a high body count that includes some of the main characters. Spike is wearing the amulet that only a champion can behold and as it begins to work it starts to incinerate the Hellmouth, leaving Sunnydale as a giant crater in the earth.

Highlights of this episode include some incredible slow motion shots of Buffy and the potentials fighting, Anya’s horrifying death as she gets sliced in two, the sight of literally thousands of ancient vampires swarming on the group and the final scene in which the surviving group look on victorious over destroyed Sunnydale. The finale to the entire series, Chosen is highly cinematic and simply epic; a fitting way to say goodbye to Buffy.

Caleb: [as the First] “I will overrun this earth. And when my army outnumbers the humans on this earth... the scales will tip, and I will be made flesh.”

Scooby Fact: There were two different death scenes written for ‘Chosen’, one in which Anya was killed, and the other in which Andrew was.

4) The Body (Season 5 Episode 16)

Buffy returns home to find her mother, Joyce, lying dead on the sofa. Trying desperately to revive her, she calls the paramedics who arrive and attempt to resuscitate Joyce, eventually give up and confirm her death. Giles arrives and Buffy shocks herself when she tells him not to move ‘the body’. Highlights (probably the wrong word for this episode) include everything about Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance, Dawn’s painfully raw reaction to the news of her mother’s death and the general still, numb feeling the episode has that poignantly reflects the characters emotions as they navigate both shock and grief. I get goosebumps even thinking about ‘The Body’.

Anya: “I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's- There's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid.”

Scooby Fact: This episode features only diegetic sound - sound whose source is visible on the screen or is implied to be present by the action. There is no accompanying score.

3) Once More With Feeling (Season 6 Episode 7)

When Buffy and friends suddenly start bursting into song its clear that a musical demon is at work in Sunnydale. Townsfolk dance in the street, music wafts out of every building and the group engage in both solo and ensemble numbers. However, when Dawn is captured by the musical demon, Sweet, who wants to take her to the underworld to be his queen, Buffy and the gang must try and save her. Singing and dancing their way to her rescue, the songs serve as catalysts to revealing the character’s darkest secrets. Highlights of this episode include Anya’s random rock rant about bunnies, the show’s most talented demon, Buffy and Spike’s kiss and just the general hilarity of seeing the Scoobies in a musical. Every song in the episode was written specifically for the storyline, the choreography is impeccable and ‘Once More With Feeling’ is everything Shonda Rhimes wishes her Grey’s Anatomy musical disaster could have been. Genius television! 

Buffy: “And you can sing along...”

Scooby Fact: Show writers David Fury and Marti Noxon both appear in ‘Once More with Feeling’ as the guy who sings about mustard and the lady who sings about her parking ticket.

2) The Gift (Season 5 Episode 22)

Glory prepares for the ritual in which she will spill Dawn’s blood and open the portal to a hell dimension. Meanwhile, the Scoobies prepare to destroy Glory’s plan and come to battle armed with magic, a troll’s hammer, a bulldozer and other resourceful items. However, when Doc (a worshipper of Glorificus) unexpectedly begins the ritual, by slicing open Dawn’s stomach, her blood begins to flow. Once the portal is open the only way to save the world is for Buffy to sacrifice herself. Highlights of the episode include an almighty almost apocalypse, a transformative Spike moment, Giles killing Ben and an epic battle of good and evil. Oh, and that small moment when BUFFY DIES. This is one of the most memorable episodes and without a doubt the best finale of the entire series. 

Buffy: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

Scooby Fact: This was the final episode broadcast on The WB before Buffy moved to UPN. It was originally intended to be the series finale.

1) Hush (Season 4 Episode 10)

When fairytale monsters invade Sunnydale and steal the voices of the residents, the town is left silent and helpless as The Gentlemen begin collecting the seven human hearts they require. Buffy and the group try to figure out what they want, how to stop the monsters and how to get their voices back. Ironically, the silence aids in the characters communication and at the end of the episode Buffy and Riley finally, and accidentally, reveal to each other their true identities. Highlights of this episode include the terrifying Gentlemen who float around the town with the most sinister of smiles, some hilarious moments caused by the lack of speech and inclusion of hand actions, a brilliant scene in which Tara is chased across campus and the overall horror of ‘Hush’ which is by far one of the series scariest episodes. ‘Hush’ is the only episode of Buffy to be nominated for an Emmy, which is in my opinion a travesty, but highlights just how original, perfectly executed and special this episode was.

Little Girl: “Can't even shout, can't even cry, The Gentlemen are coming by. Looking in windows, knocking on doors, they need to take seven and they might take yours. Can't call to mom, Can't say a word. You're gonna die screaming but you won't be heard.”

Scooby Fact: Andy Hallet (who played Lorne in Angel) can be seen as an extra sitting in Maggie Walsh’s classroom.

- Chloe Byatt is a freelance film editor and graduate of drama and screen studies. Interests include watching Buffy, talking about Buffy, and playing the Buffy board game.


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