So, what are your favorite twenty(ish) Buffy episodes?

This was at least partially inspired by Entertainment Weekly’s list of its twenty-five greatest episodes of the Simpsons ever. As I was reading it, all I could think was that the only show that would ever motivate me to do something like that would be Buffy, so this is my list of my favorite Buffy episodes ever. Hopefully, you’ll share yours…

1.>The Body-I defy you to name a better episode of Buffy! Hells, I defy you to name a better one hour of television ever! Everybody gets screen time, and everyone uses their screen time wisely. We still get a little funny at the beginning of the episode, and then WHAM! into the crushing pathos. It assuredly deserves the appellation “Best. Episode. Ever!”

2.>Hush-One thing I admire most about Buffy is the willingness of the show’s creators (Joss most notably) to take risks. What could be a bigger risk, in a show famous for its dialogue, than taking all the characters’ voices away? Of course, that meant that the amount of dialogue they did have would have to be stepped up, and Joss hit a home run with nearly every line, with the possible exception of Riley’s “Don’t worry. If I kiss you, it’ll make the sun go down.” Of course, that was a dream, but still… Yeuch. Oh, but Willow and Tara meet. Yay.

3.>Once More, with Feeling-The second most daring episode they ever produced, and one that seemed to start a mini-trend of musical T.V. episodes. Joss wrote some badass songs to go with his badass dialogue and, better than all that, the songs actually served the plot! I admit going into this episode with quite a bit of trepidation, but I came out loving it. I guess while I’m admitting things, I should also admit that I shamelessly use “It was like a nightmare. It was like a plague. It was like a nightmare about a plague” whenever something bad happens to me.

4.>Innocence-If Buffy has an overall, series-long theme, then it has to be, at least to me, about change. Nothing ever stays the same on Buffy. Well, possibly Buffy’s self-absorbtion. Anyway, this is the episode that most embodies the themes of changing relationships through the show’s run. Angel turns bad, Cordy and Xander are outed, Buffy’s mom realizes her girl has become a woman, Oz makes Willow (and us) love him, Giles offers Buffy whatever support he can manage, and Spike realizes that Dru’s a fickle bitch. And jeez, how did I get this far without mentioning that Buffy gets a rocket launcher?

5.>Doppelgangland-I’m still trying to find a way to fit Oz’s line of “I’d call that a radical interpretation of the text” into my everyday conversation. This is probably a perfect example of a one-off Buffy episode. The main storylines of the year weren’t significantly advanced, but they got a little action, and the metaphor driving the show really allowed the makers of the show to explore character development. Just great stuff. Oh, and Vamp Willow? MmmMMmmMMmmm…

6.>Something Blue-Wow, did they ever bring the funny in this episode. Willow’s pathos shines through it all, of course, but one of the few times I’ve ever laughed at Riley (Well, laughed at him when the writers wanted me to) was in the exchange with Buffy outside the bridal boutique.

7.>Pangs-This episode kicked off the funniest three weeks of Buffydom ever, since it was followed by Something Blue and Hush. It’s written by Jane Espenson, who’s just badass anyway, and it’s my favorite of all their holiday specials through the years. Would have been better if Angel hadn’t been in it (why was he there, again?), but the “you’re evil again!” running gag was funny. And Xander gets the much-fabled funny syphilis.

8.>I Only Have Eyes for You-For this little stroke of mastery, Marti Noxon can be forgiven many sins. I’ll forgive her Riley Finn, and even Buffy shagging Spike (And that’s a huge step for me, folks), but never, never the magic-is-crack storyline. I shudder to even think of it. Anyway, I just like this episode for its forgiveness themes, even though they all seem to have forgotten its lessons by Season Seven. Now they seem to just be in the “ignore the problem and it’ll go away all on its own” camp.

9.>Life Serial-Jane Espenson again. It’s getting to be a theme here, isn’t it? Anyway, I liked this 'un a lot, and the sequence with the mummy hand actually had me in tears. Tears!

10.>Lie to Me-Though I may possibly never forgive Joss for the Oreos ‘n’ apple juice thought, this was another of those episodes that just fired on all cylinders. The dialogue was sharp, the themes were sound, and the ending was just perfect. I’ve used this one as an introduction to Buffy for my friends who think it’s a dumb show about some girl who fights vampires.

11.>Conversations with Dead People-My favorite episode from Season Seven so far. Everything in this episode just worked well, though I am still miffed about the lack of Xander and Anya. Of course, on the plus side, no sappy fluffy puppiness from Spike, only quick carnage, just like when he was all evil and likeable.

12.>Band Candy-I had to have an Ethan Rayne episode in here, and this is definitely it. This, for one thing, marked the writing debut (I think) of one Jane Espenson, my second favorite writer on the Buffy staff. The only thing that kept this out of the top ten was the completely lame penis-metaphor demon. Jebus, but how many of those can a series take?

13.>Earshot-Jonathan gets a speaking part! It’s another Jane Espenson episode! This episode really runs a gamut, too. We start off with the humor of the uncertainty over the aspect of the demon, then Buffy’s mindreading, move into plot arc continuance with her trying to read Angel’s mind, then into the mystery of who’s trying to kill ‘em all (and I must admit I totally bit on Freddy and Jonathan both), sweep straight into Jonathan’s pathos, and finally end up with a little cafeteria-lady-butt-kickin’.

14.>Tabula Rasa-Number one, Jane Espenson. Number two, “Why didn’t you just call me Randy Giles? Or Desperate-for-a-shag Giles?” The defense rests.

15.>Restless-This one’s in here as I bow at the altar of continuity. So much was set up in this episode that I was in awe for the next two seasons. Well, of course, then, of course, Marti took over and decided continuity was over rated. So, yeah, Joss, remember this episode and come back to the continuity fold, please? And bring back the cheese guy!

16.>Out of Mind, Out of Sight-One of two on this list from Season One, and this one was only picked because of the beauty of the metaphor. The writing wasn’t particularly strong, but the idea that the chick who just isn’t noticed in high school becomes literally invisible is just so spot-on that this episode cannot be ignored. Plus, it had that cute bit about “Have a nice summer.”

17.>A New Man-This is another one that deserves to be on just for the sake of the metaphor. Hmm. It just occurred to me that up by Band Candy, I said I was only going to include one Ethan Rayne episode. Well, you can never have too much of the guy, especially if it’s written by Jane Espenson (Have I mentioned that I like her yet?). It sorta took a while for this one to get going, but it’s still at number seventeen for the metaphor.

18.>Nightmares-The reason I really liked this episode when I first saw it was that the villain of the piece was really just some bully of a coach. Buffy couldn’t kill him. He wasn’t even trying to hurt her so she couldn’t even really punch him. It was a great excercise in how the Slayer couldn’t handle everything and that sometimes Buffy Summers has to solve the problem.

19.>Buffy vs. Dracula-The closest this show has ever come to self-parody. Well, intentional self-parody. Some might say every episode that Marti touches becomes self-parody. Ahem. Okay, so it had a few groaners (I still remember Willow’s comment about getting a little “hairy eyeball.” Unless that was just another lesbian metaphor. Hey…), but not only were they having fun with the show’s suspension of disbelief (Riley’s comment about not noticing a “big, honkin’ castle” in Sunnydale before), they provided room for character development.

20.>The Gift-Ah, if only we had ended it here, many fans would have been happy. Personally, I liked Season Six more than I’m liking the later episodes of Season Seven, but hey, whatever tweaks your antennae. Giles gets badass again, Buffy gives it all up, Willow gets pre-Rennaissance on Glory, and Xander gets to be actually useful during a fight. Make a joyful noise.
Okay, I couldn’t stop at twenty, but I’ll be brief about these that I think deserve honorable mention:

21.>Normal Again-Just kind of fun. Well, as much fun as was to be had during Season Six.
22.>Grave-Three words. Dark Mojo Willow. Nummy. Three more. Broken Yellow Crayon. Not so nummy, but touching nonetheless.
23.>Fear, Itself-I liked this more than Nightmares, but Nightmares was before it and used essentially the same plot, so this episode resides outside of the top twenty.
24.>Lessons-This was a strong season-opener. It’s really a shame, though, because I really liked the first handful of episodes this season. Unfortunately, then, the Slayers-in-Training arrived and things have really taken a nosedive. Well, not really, it’s more like they just plain stalled out.

So, uh, what do you think of my list? And what would you include? I know a few of you would want more Spike, and I recognize that I’m mainly a Willow fan, but that’s what makes this fun, seeing what other people like about a show you love.

That’s a good solid list, wiz, but you missed a couple of biggies, specifically “Prophecy Girl”, (“Nice dress”, “I’m going to listen to country music, the music of pain”) “Becoming, Parts 1 and 2” (Whistler and “The calvary’s here. Calvary’s just a guy with a rock, but…” ) and “Becoming, Parts 1 and 2” ("No snacking until after the Ascension. If I see any blood on your lips…) .

  1. Pangs I just love it when Giles says, “Oh sure, listen to the vampire. I brought up many of these points earlier.”

  2. The Zeppo Xander…action hero!

  3. Graduation Day, both parts I love it when the mayor explains the evil plan to the vampires and then adds, “Oh, and guys, watch the swearing.”

ObNitPick: It’s cavalry, unless you’re talking about the location of the Crucifixion.

I like most of the list except for Out of Mind, out of Sight. Also I cannot forgive the omission of “Halloween,” for many reasons not the least of which is “Well this is just… neat.”

I thought Season 6 was one of the show’s strongest, although it was more of a piece and there were fewer standouts, unlike Season 3 which had several stellar episodes (Band Candy, The Zeppo, Earshot) but which never came together for me as a whole – and I thought it ended weakly.


As far as story arc is concerned, Season 2 was my favourite. I always preferred Angelus to Angel anyway.

My alltime favourite episode actually is The Zeppo not only because it gave Xander finally something to do, but because of the “background story”. Apocalypse? Hey, it’s something we are so used to, we don’t even have to show it.

Other than that, I’ll second the OP’s top 3.

The Body because of the chilling expression on Buffy’s face when she says: “Mommy?”

Hush because I’ve never managed to watch it if I don’t look through my fingers and

Once More, With Feeling because I’ve driven everybody around me crazy with having the soundtrack on full blast while singing along to it merrily. At all times.

By season, but not in ranked order:

Season 1:

  1. Welcome to the Hellmouth/ The Harvest
  2. Never Kill A Boy On The First Date
  3. The Puppet Show

Season 2:

  1. School Hard
  2. Halloween
  3. Lie To Me
  4. Innocence/ Surprise
  5. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
  6. Passion
  7. Becoming I/II

Season 3

  1. Band Candy
  2. Lover’s Walk
  3. Dopplegangerland
  4. Earshot
  5. Graduation Day I/II

Season 4

  1. Something Blue
  2. Hush
  3. Restless

Season 5

  1. Fool for Love
  2. Triangle
  3. The Body
  4. The Gift

Season 6

  1. Bargaining I/II
  2. Once More With Feeling
  3. Tabula Rasa
  4. Two To Go/ Grave

Season 7 - to date

  1. Selfless
  2. Conversations With Dead People

OK, well, that’s 31.

I’m not even going to try and approach twenty episodes, but here goes… in no particular order…

“Something Blue” - this is, and probably always will be, my all time favorite Buffy episode. Willow’s angst, Spike chained up in the bathtub (unfortunately, wearing clothing, which was less fun), Buffy humming “Here Comes the Bride” while walking the little plastic bride and groom up Spike’s arm, Willow briefly de-ratting Amy, but being to angst-ridden to notice, Xander being chased by demons. The only downside to this episode is that Somebody decided that there was such great chemistry between JM and SMG that they decided to shelve the Spike/Willow ship before it ever got off the ground.

"Fool for Love’- the quintessential Spike episode, Spike telling Buffy his (un)life story.

“The Freshman”- Buffy having a terrible time adjusting to college. And Sunday was the funniest MOTW ever- I wish they’d kept her around. She would have made a great LB.

“School Hard” - Oh, puhleeze! If every vampire who claimed he was at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock! … I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. I fed on a flower person and spent the next six hours watching my hands move.

“Dead Things”- (pepperlandgirl / will probably flame me big time for putting this one on my list) Really points up the sickness in the Buffy/Spike affair. The pathos of Spike involved in a relationship with a woman he is desparately in love with, but who despises him, and really, could it be more clear that Buffy was the “bad boyfriend” that MN was trying to paint Spike as? Buffy’s beating of Spike in the alley behind the police station was incredibly painful to watch, yet Spike continued to love her…

“Band Candy”- Principal Snyder trying to be pals with the Scooby Gang, a bunch of middle-aged men onstage at the Bronze doing a drunken rendition of “Louie Louie”, and… “You had sex with Giles? On the hood of a police car? Twice?” yeah, I know that line’s from earshot, but…

“Hush”- already been discussed, and I have nothing to add.

“A New Man”- the interaction between Spike and Giles kept me in stitches. “Let me know if you feel a sneeze coming on”.

“Beneath You”- This episode was hilarious up until the last five minutes. Spike’s monologue at the end was the most emotionally wrenching thing I have ever seen on television. Then draping himself on the cross at the end, asking Buffy “Can we rest now? Buffy? Can we rest?” I had to reach for a box of tissue. Oh, yeah and The Glance was priceless.

“Same Time, Same Place”- Gnarl is probably the third greatest MOTW, behind Sunday and Sweet. When Spike moved the branch to reveal the cave entrance that Xander didn’t think to look for, then said, “I’m insane, what’s his excuse?”, I nearly fell off the couch laughing. And Poseable Dawn? Oh, Joss, was that ever funny. And “You’re getting your feet in her.”

'Triangle" Three words- Olaf the Troll.

“Once More, With Feeling”-
Dawn: Oh, my God, you guys, you won’t believe what happened at school today!

Buffy: Everybody started singing and dancing?

Dawn: I gave birth to a pterodactyl.

Anya: Oh, my God, did it sing?

Anya going heavy metal on the bunnies was worth the price of admission. And if I’m having a bad, bad day, singing “Parking Ticket” almost always makes me feel better.

“Bad Eggs”- Not too many people would put this on the list, but I loved the twist on the thing schools are doing with having students getting a taste of parenthood by making them carry an egg around- and Xander cheating by boiling his, and then deciding to eat it… my all time favorite “eeeeewwwww” moment.

“Graduation Day, Pt. 1 & 2”- ME will probably never, ever, ever be able to come up with a BB that tops Mayor Richard Wilkins III. Eating the spiders from the Box of Gavrok… actually made me hungry for crab.

“Sleeper” Oh, no, Spike, please don’t be evil… Oh, he’s not. The First is pulling his strings. Also, there was that bit with him lying in bed with a sheet just barely covering the parts you can’t show on network televistion.

“Into the Woods”- Finally, Riley leaves. Yay! Although the scene with him and Spike in the crypt was touching. Probably the only scene Riley was ever in that actually succeeded in being touching. Two men in love with the same woman, and she doesn’t love either of them. “Sometimes I envy you so much, it chokes me, and sometimes I think I’ve got the better deal… to be alone, even when you’re holding her, feeling her beneath you, surrounding you… her scent. Nope, you’ve got the better deal.” Actually, it was Spike who made that scene touching. Oh, and did anybody besides me notice that when Riley was standing on the helipad, he was very pointedly not watching to see if Buffy would come after him? He’d made up his mind he was going to leave, and, words to the contrary, he wasn’t going to give Buffy a chance to change his mind.

“Living Conditons” Buffy has the Roommate From Hell- literally.

“Life Serial”- “This is an ex mummy hand”. The Nerd Trio at its best.

“Lover’s Walk”- “There will be no having of me, in any way.”

I’ve only watched midway thru season 3 and a few current ones here or there, so I’m at a disadvantage here. But here are my Top 3 so far:

** I Only Have Eyes For You** - :::Swoon::: Soooo romantic, such a great, unique story. Always thought Boreanaz got the job because of his chiseled features and great body, but in this episode he actually acted. Great idea to have Buffy and Angel switch roles so that we caught a glimpse of Angel again (as opposed to Angelus) and could fall in love all over again and so that Buffy could gain insight as to why the others felt sorry for the tortured teenager.

** Halloween ** - Wish they could have made this a 2-parter. Buffy being transformed into a Southern belle was such a great plot device. She’s such a strong character that it was great to see her scream and faint. It also gave Xander a chance to be the stereotypical alpha male. (When I saw him in his fatigues and muscle shirt, for the first time I thought, “Mmm, not bad.”

I kind of wished Buffy would have tapped into her inner-kick-ass while she was still a Southern belle, but you can’t have everything.

Welcome to the Hellmouth - And the fun begins.

In rough chronological order:
[li]Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered – an adolescent’s wet dream gone sour. Very funny concept.[/li][li]Becoming – Having to kill Angel was one of the high dramatic points of the series[/li][li]Band Candy – For Giles & Joyce[/li][li]The Wish – loved the alternate unverse portrayed[/li][li]The Zeppo – Nice focus on Xander. Loved the fact that the big bad villain of the episode was almost entirely offstage.[/li][li]Dopplegangerland – “That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil. And skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay!”[/li][li]Earshot – loved the portrayal of mind reading as madness[/li][li]Graduation Day – another fine season finale[/li][li]Something Blue – got me hooked on the show (the first episode I saw). Loved “Here’s my token. If you change your mind, give me a chant.”[/li][li]Hush[/li][li]Superstar – another alternate universe. [/li][li]Family – Tara and Willow’s romance is accepted by the rest – big step[/li][li]The Body – few things handled grief so well[/li][li]The Gift – another rocking finale[/li][li]Once More With Feeling – I love musicals, and Whedon’s songs were astoundingly good. Plus it furthered the plot very well.[/li][li]Tabula Rasa – The amnesia was funny; Tara leaving Willow was (literally) too sad for words.[/li][li]Smashed – mostly for the sadomasochistic passion between Spike and Buffy[/li][li]Seeing Red – I loved Tara, and killing her was the best thing the show ever did. No one is safe, and death might come randomly (similar to Joyce’s death). And it fits perfectly with one of the major themes of the show: you can never achieve perfect happiness. Further, it made Willow evil, which they should have done much earlier in the season.[/li][li]Two to Go/Graves – Another fine finale. Loved Xander stopping Willow.[/li][li]Help – I loved the doomed Cassie Newton[/li][li]Conversations with Dead People [/li][/ul]

Not quite 25, but I won’t go back to find the last few; too hard to choose.

BTW Jane Espenson didn’t write Tabula Rasa.

Anyway, can’t be bothered to order them now, as it would take far too long, but here’s a vague top 20 (as in, not definitive): -

Prophecy Girl
When She Was Bad
Lie to Me
I Only Have Eyes For You
Becoming, Part One
Becoming, Part Two
The Wish
Graduation Day, Part One
Graduation Day, Part Two
Fool For Love
The Body
The Gift
Once More, With Feeling

14 of them written by Joss, and 2 that weren’t with significant rewrites by him. I’m such a fanboy…

I’ll add Same Time, Same Place and Selfless to my list. Both of them were masterful in cutting between incredibly sweet and goofy (poseable Dawn and “Anya Lame-Ass Made-Up Maiden Name Harris”) and then heart-wrenching and tragic.


Instead of rehashing what others have said, I am just going to name a few of the episodes I liked that (I think) no one else has mentioned:

Who Are You? Why? Faith. Because it’s wrong!

Primeval Why? Mega-Buffy. You will never comprehend the source of our power!

The Real Me Why? Harmony. Yay Minions!

Intervention Why? The Buffy Bot. Look! It’s Spike. And he’s wearing a coat.

Restless Even though others have already mentioned it, I will rehash this one. Why? Willow and Tara in the back of the ice cream van. (Smooching noises)

I’m with you on this one – I think Gellar is underrated as an actress. She really sold this line.

It’s actually “And he’s wearing the coat.” Such an excellent piece of dialogue I missed the next few lines for laughing.