In case you hadn’t noticed (because you aren’t a nerd or aren’t on twitter or just don’t care about good television), Friday marked twenty years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired. Buffy… was my second great teen-TV love (after My So-Called Life) and almost certainly the most formative for me. I was 16 when I started watching, in my first year of A-levels. Season seven finished during my final year of university. I essentially grew up with Buffy, even if my teenage demons weren’t exactly her teenage demons.
Buffy… has shaped me in ways I don’t necessarily understand, let alone feel particularly comfortable talkin about because it’s deep and feelings-y. And it’s shaped my language and vocabulary. It wasn’t perfect at the time (cough Beer Bad cough) and it’s imperfections show up more from today’s perspective (why is Southern California so white?) – but it’s imperfections, and those of it’s characters, make it all the more human and strangely more loveable. Anyway, in honour of it’s twentieth birthday, I picked my favourite twenty episodes. It was pretty tricky – there’s a runner up list of another 10–20 pretty close behind – but I refused to allow myself to make the two-parters into one item on the list in order to get extra episodes.
1 & 2. Suprise & Innocence. AKA, the one where Buffy and Angel have sex and Angel loses his soul, and all teenage girls proxy their way through relationship angst. This two-parter taught me that television could do things that I didn’t know television could do, and I will never be the same again. I came to love Buffy and Spike, but Buffy and Angel will forever have my heart (and the cookie-dough speech in the final episode is one of my TV moments. I’m cookie dough), and this shredded it.
3. Hush. The gloriously creepy fairy tale is one for the ages – as well as proving that Buffy‘s sharp scripting isn’t just about the dialogue.
4. The Body. I’ll just be over here, howling, particularly over Anya’s speech. I am more equipped for grief because of this.
5. Passion. Oh look, more crying, this time over Giles. This is the pitch-perfect peak of the ‘when Angel was evil’ arc, and it’s emotionally destructive.
6 & 7. Becoming Part I & II. “It’s a big rock. I can’t wait to tell my friends, they don’thavea rock this big.”My favourite season finale. I love Buffy and Spike. I love Buffy and her mom more. And I love Buffy on her own stepping up to save the world.
8. Restless. Season four’s weird and wonderful dream finale, with the man with the cheese. It captures dream profundity wonderfully,
9. Once More With Feeling. Yes, I love the singing. But no, the singing is not my favourite episode. It is incredibly bold and brave and effective though. Favourite number: the Giles and Buffy 80s training montage.
10. The Gift. For all season six gave us a musical, and there are highlights in both seasons six and seven, I would have been perfectly content (if emotionally trashed) if Buffy had ended here, having saved the world a lot.
11. Something Blue. One of season four’s best and the series’ best funnies. It’s a really nice way of dealing with the fallout of Willow and Oz without getting terribly heavy. Also, Buffy and Spike’s engagement.
12. Tabula Rasa. The other episode that really justifies the existence of season six. I love the mind-wiped scoobies (espeically Giles and Spike), and the heartbreaking ending. I lost some of my love for Willow over time (she was my favourite early on, but was supplanted by Buffy in my affections by mid-season five and Buffy and I grew up), but in this moment, I feel for her rather than being frustrated at her.
13. Band Candy. In which we all realise why adults need to be adults – except for Principal Snyder who is much much more enjoyable as a teen. If you want to give yourself a heartbreak, note the music that Giles and Joyce listen to and then skip to Forever in season five to note what music Giles is listening to.
14. The Wish. “I wish that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.” Why would you wish that, Cordy? That aside, I love a good AU, and while AU Willow and Xander are wonderful, I really really love AU Buffy – it’s a gorgeous insight into what might have been.
15. Prophecy Girl. In which Buffy deals with boys and the end of the world at the same time, and comes of age in her own show.
16. Doppelgängland. The return of Anya and of AU-Willow is a total delight – and showcases Alyson Hannigan wonderfully.
17. Gingerbread. Not always a hot fave, but I do enjoy it’s analysis of what might happen if people did get a glimpse of what is really going on in Sunnydale.
18. School Hard. In which Spike and Drusilla arrive. What, you need more reason to love it?
19. Lies My Parents Told Me. My lone season seven entry, and another Spike-centric story – this time with some truly delightful flashbacks. But mostly in this, I enjoy the dynamics between Spike and Wood, and Buffy and Wood and Giles. Giles’ betrayal is brutal, and Buffy’s response is a painfully perfect moment of growing up.
20. Never Kill a Boy on the First Date. This is on the list because this is the episode in which I truly, deeply, became a Buffy fan, setting up the VCR to record every Thursday evening.