There’s a show I don’t blog about nearly as much as I should: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Over the years, I’ve dragged a few people down the Whedon rabbit hole, and the most recent is the Collected Mutineer. She’s been power-watching season three and I’m just so damn proud.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, in my humble opinion, the best show to ever grace the silver screen. And even if Joss Whedon has gone on to do some really fucking amazing things like The Avengers or Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, in forty years, we will still remember him most for that blonde cheerleader who could seriously slay a vampire or ten.
For me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my childhood in a way that most people my age had Friends or Dawson’s Creek. As the daughter of divorced parents who relocated several times in my childhood, Buffy’s troubles with fitting in at her high school echoed my own. Except, you know, there were more demons and stuff (but I totally had a 6-foot tall dark and handsome brooding over me while I slept).
Choosing only five episodes of this show was possible the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, but I felt like writing about all 145 might be overkill (and please never read Buzzfeed’s article ranking the episodes).
I Only Have Eyes For You (02×19)
In the midst of a season of angst, betrayal, and heartbreak, there’s this episode that’s seemingly just a monster of the week. Sunnydale High is haunted (is it sad that it seems almost normal?) by the ghosts of a former teacher and student who were in a doomed affair that ended in bloodshed. The ghosts force new victims to replay their tragic demise, and in the end, it’s Buffy and the now-Angelus who play the roles for the final time. It’s gut-wrenching to see a couple that you love finally brought back together, but only through the possession of ghosts.
If season 2 didn’t break your heart, you might be named Angelus.
Years before Moffat brought the Silence to Doctor Who, Whedon gave us these much-more-terrifying nightmarish entities: the Gentlemen. I choose this episode, not only because it petrified me, but also because Whedon did what almost no one else could accomplish: he gave us an episode almost completely devoid of dialogue. The Gentlemen come to Sunnydale and steal the voices of its citizens…and I’ll leave you this video to tell you the rest.
On any other show, a silent episode would have certainly failed. But Joss Whedon is fucking magic and can simultaneously give us nightmares and impress us with his storytelling ability.
(But seriously, Moffat is hack in comparison)
The Body (05×16)
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what episode of television would always bring me to tears. She’d told me that DW’s “The Angels Take Manhattan” was her go-to for a sob fest, but for me, no show has ever brought such pain as BtVS’ “The Body.” Truth be told, I have only been able to watch this episode twice because of how strongly it affects me. It’s brutal, the way Joyce is ripped from Buffy’s, Dawn’s, and the rest of the gang’s life. It’s brutal and pointless, and it’s exactly like real life. The irony that Buffy, who has saved the world at least once per season, is unable to save her own mother is lost on no one, and it fucking hurts.
“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 it’s stupid. And Xander’s crying and not talking and I was having fruit punch and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever and she’ll never have eggs or yawn or brush her hair – not ever. And no one will explain to me why!”
Once More With Feeling (06×07)
Is it cliche to say that this if my favourite episode of BtVS? I don’t really care if it is. I can watch this episode all day every day and still never get sick of it. Why? Well, I’ve got a theory…(it could be bunnies?)
All kidding aside, this episode is again, an episode where Joss Whedon looked at the rules of television and said, “Fuck it. I do what I want.” It isn’t the first time a television show has done a musical episode, (see: The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, etc.) but it is probably the one time it’s been done in all seriousness. Sunnydale is overrun by a demon that makes the characters turn into the Glee cast, and for the darkest season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it seems to make no sense to include musical numbers in the midst of such an angst fest.
Except it does, it totally does, because they’re not just singing their feelings, a la Rachel Berry, the characters are forced to sing about the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. With Buffy’s final song (see vid above), they’ll be dealing with that emotional fallout for a long time to come.
I include this episode because of Spike’s speech to Buffy. Not because Spike makes me swoon (which he does) or because I ship Spuffy (which I do), but because Buffy has been through serious shit. She’s died, she’s lost people she’s loved, and she’s damaged. Yes, *gasp* Buffy is damaged. The Buffy we see in season 7 is almost unrecognisable from the girl we met in the first, and like so many of us, Buffy sometimes can’t make peace between her past and her present. She’s not in high school anymore, but remaining (trapped) in Sunnydale means that she can’t ever grow past it. So the Buffy we see here, alone with Spike, is a Buffy misunderstood by almost everyone except him. So when he says he knows her, he’s saying he’s not looking at her and seeing a younger, lighter version of Buffy. He sees Buffy for who she is, and at that was the moment when I discovered that I was suddenly very okay with BTVS ending. Not because I stopped loving the show, but because I wanted Buffy to leave Sunnydale and just be. So thank you for that, Joss Whedon.