If you missed it, check out 25-21!
20. “School Hard,” season 2, episode 3
“We can’t run. That would be wrong. Can we hide?” – Willow
“I did a couple Slayers in my time. I don’t like to brag… who am I kidding? I love to brag!” -Spike
“Miss Edith speaks out of turn. She’s a bad example. No cakes today.” -Drusilla
“School Hard” is an introduction to two of the best recurring characters Buffy has to offer: Spike and Drusilla. While Spike’s storyline will eventually stray far from what we see in this episode, this is still a fabulous introduction to someone who will become hugely important to the series. How can you not be a fan of this episode?
As is common in season two, Buffy is busy trying to balance her normal life with her Slayer life. This time, it’s parent-teacher conference she must contend with, and Principal Snyder means business. “Think of your principal as your pal,” he muses to Buffy. “I say think of me as your judge, jury and executioner.” In case anyone was wondering, Snyder is by far the best of the Sunnydale High principals.
While Buffy is busy trying to organize parent-teacher night, a new couple has arrived in Sunnydale, and they plan to take Buffy down. Or, rather, one plans to take Buffy down. The other is, well… a little insane. Juliet Landau is a fabulous Drusilla, and there is no questioning it from her first appearance that all is not right with this vampire. From the second she appears on camera, she steals the scene, talking to her dolls and receiving grave premonitions. There is also something scary about Drusilla. The gagged dolls, saying that Miss Edith was bad so she can’t watch Dru feed on Sheila… it all adds up to a pretty compelling character. And really, at this point, we know nothing about Dru. She is already fascinating, and there is still so much more to come.
I have already admitted to being a Buffy/Angel supporter, but also mentioned that I love me some Spike. How can you not? And really, Spike is at his best when he is evil. Spike’s introductory shot where he rides in Sunnydale, lights up a cigarette, and announces, “Home sweet home,” is perfect. And throughout the episode we see that Spike is cocky, impulsive, and pretty funny. Just like I kept writing down Xander quotes during “What’s my Line?” I found myself doing the same thing with Spike during this episode. “So, how ’bout this Slayer? She tough?” “People still fall for that Anne Rice routine? What a world!” “You were my sire, man. You were my Yoda!”
In addition to the greatness that is Spike and Drusilla, we get quite a bit of foreshadowing for things that will happen later in the show. Angel appears at the end of a dark hallway in the school with Xander, pretending to be Angelus to his old friend Spike. This scene is reminiscent of when Angelus is at the end of a dark hallway in the school with Willow in “Innocence.” We also have Snyder telling a cop to go with the usual story (“gang-related, PCP.”) as opposed to “the truth.” This is our first indication that Snyder really knows more than he lets on, something that really becomes crucial to the plot in season three. Buffy may have its continuity errors here and there (for example, we know that Angel is not, in fact, Spike’s sire), but it’s a show that’s very good at hinting at what’s to come, sometimes seasons down the road.
After Buffy stops the vamps from ruining parent-teacher night, showing her mom that although she can be a trouble-maker, she is also someone her mom should be proud of, we return to Spike underground. He goes to apologize to “the annoying one” (couldn’t agree more, Spike), but changes his mind, and decides to kill him instead. Another thing Buffy has shown to be good at over the years– if they come up with a Big Bad that isn’t so exciting (aka the Annointed One), they have no problem scrapping that idea and moving onto the next.
“From now on,” Spike announces, “We are gonna have a little less ritual and a little more fun around here.”
19. “Something Blue,” season 4, episode 9
“We fought for all these years and… sometimes, you just look at someone and you know. You know?” -Buffy
“Can I be blind too?” -Xander
“Your magic is strong, but your pain… it’s like a scream that pierces dimensional walls. We heard your call.” -D’Hoffryn
“Something Blue” is right in the middle of three of the few really good episodes in season 4. Sure, we are stuck seeing Buffy and Riley on a picnic, and then he tells her she will teach him about women at the end (while I vomit), but if you can overlook the mistake that is Riley, “Something Blue” is a lot of fun.
While we get a lot of great stuff from the whole gang, this is a Willow episode at heart. She is really grieving over the loss of Oz, which becomes all the more dire in this episode when she realizes he left campus without so much as a forwarding address. Everyone thinks Willow is doing pretty good, except for Spike, who insists that she is clearly in pain.
Alyson Hannigan’s portrayal of Willow in heartbreak is so easily relatable. We’ve all been through breakups, and we all know how awful they feel. “I just can’t stand feeling this way. I want it to be over.” Haven’t we all said that? And like all breakups, Willow can’t see beyond her pain to the other things going on around her. Because of this, wackiness ensues.
Willow tells Giles he can’t see anything, and he subsequently goes blind. She is so sick of Buffy’s concern with Spike, she decides the two should just get married, so Spike pops the questions (and we get a lot of making out). She insults Xander for only having relationships with demons (praying mantis lady, inca mummy girl, Anya), calling him a demon magnet. Which he becomes. Now, I don’t have to tell you how hilarious the chaos that follows all this is, some of the best parts being other characters’ reactions to Buffy and Spike’s upcoming nuptials. Giles’ reactions are great, the best being when Buffy asks if Giles will giver her away at the wedding. At first he is so honored– then he remembers that Buffy wants to marry Spike and that changes pretty quickly.
SMG and James Marsters definitely have good chemistry whether they are fighting or madly in love. Whenever these two interact, it’s a lot of fun to watch. There arguing at the beginning of the episode before the spell (“Giles! I accidentally killed Spike. That’s not a problem, is it?”) is just as entertaining as their arguing after (“Well, where would Angel like to register? And can we get the photographer Angel would’ve wanted? And, flowers Angel would’ve liked?”).
In the end, D’Hoffryn (Anya’s old boss) drops by with an offer for Willow– he’d like to make her a vengeance demon. Willow declines, and rather than cause a scene, D’Hoffryn just gives her his talisman, in case she ever changes her mind. Willow gets back in time to save the day, and a major crisis is pretty easily averted. She then makes cookies to make up for her wrong-doings, and things are back to normal.
It’s not the most thought-provoking episode of all time, but if you want to laugh out loud– look no further.
18. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” season 2, episode 19
“He killed a person and killed himself. Those are two of the dumbest things you can do.” -Xander
“Are you crazy?! I saw that movie! Even the priest died!” -Cordelia
“Don’t walk away from me, bitch!” -various people
Season two holds a special place in my heart, as do many episodes during that season. “I Only Have Eyes for You” is no exception. In fact, I found it hard to be objective and not place this episode even higher on my list. What can I say? I love this episode. I think it’s so underrated, and often looked at as a Monster of the Week, which I don’t think it as at all. To me, this episode is really the final build up to “The Becoming.” Plus, it’s a ghost story. And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?
The basic gist of everything is that in 1955, a student named James was having an affair with his teacher, Grace Newman. On the night of the Sadie Hawkins dance, Grace tried to break it off. James, distraught, begged her not to, and threatened her with a gun. In the end, he killed her, and then himself. And suddenly, the people of Sunnydale and reenacting the scene. We have a random, couple, George the janitor and Mrs. Frank, and ultimately we will have Buffy and Angel.
“I Only Have Eyes for You” is an episode about pain. It deals with the aftermath of Jenny’s death in “Passion,” and sets us up for what is to come in the season finale. Giles becomes convinced that the ghost must be Jenny, and locks himself in the library trying to communicate with her. It’s only when Willow is attacked by the spirit that Giles realizes he only wanted the ghost to be Jenny. His judgement was clouded. She is truly gone, and he must begin to accept that.
Buffy, on the other hand, is very caught up in her own feelings about Angel, and she projects these onto our ghost. She is mad at James for doing what he did, she doesn’t feel he deserves the forgiveness he is seeking. She thinks that in one instant fueled by passion he chose to kill a woman just because she didn’t want to be with him anymore. She thinks, in some way, he is like Angel. The way James hurt Grace is like the way Angel hurt her.
But Buffy has her projecting backwards, as we see when she and Angel are possessed by the ghosts. Buffy becomes James, the jilted lover. “A person doesn’t just wake up one day and stop loving somebody,” she cries. Only this is exactly what Angel did to her. In their final confrontation, ‘Grace’ is shot accidentally while ‘James’ nervously waves the gun around. He didn’t ever intend to kill her. And since Angel is a vampire, the gunshot doesn’t kill him. He is able to find Buffy in the music room before she finishes the story and kills herself. Angel tells her that it was an accident, and he loved her with his dying breath. The two kiss, and our spirits are freed. Then, for one brief moment, Buffy dares to ask, “Angel?”
But, alas, Angel is gone. Angelus pushes Buffyaway and runs back home to Spike and Dru.
In this episode, Snyder admits the school is on a Hellmouth. Spike stands up from his wheelchair, showing he is not nearly as weak as he has been pretending. And, I think, this experience strengthens Buffy’s resolve to kill Angel. While Giles accepts that Jenny is gone, Buffy is doing the same about her vampire boyfriend. Dark times are coming.
17. “Two to Go”/”Grave,” season 6, episodes 21
“Let me tell you something about Willow. She’s a loser. She always has been.” -Willow
“Six years as the side man. Now I get to be the Slayer.” -Willow
“You’ve been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end… Where else would I wanna be?” -Xander
Season six is not my favorite. In fact, sometimes I almost fall into the school of Buffy fans that wish it all ended after episode 100. But Buffy’s final two seasons do have episodes that are worth it. And like I said earlier– this show knows how to do season finale’s right.
“Two to Go” begins after Willow has flayed Warren alive, and she is now after the remaining two members of The Trio. No one is going to stop Willow from achieving her goal. Not Dawn, not Anya, not Buffy, and not Xander. Over the course of the next two hours, Willow will constantly degrade her very best friends in a manner that is sometimes painful to watch. Alyson Hannigan is fabulous. She plays Dark Willow in a completely different manner than the Willow we know and love, and also very different from “Dopplegangland” Willow. Dark Willow speaks in a deeper tone of voice, slower, more thoughtful. Yes, the drug metaphor is pretty heavy-handed, but… Her transformation is amazing to watch.
And let’s forget about the Trio, and Willow being the Big Bad for a second here. Isn’t “Two to Go” a worthwhile episode just for that last second when we get the triumphant returned of one of the most beloved Buffy characters? I remember watching this episode live, and when I saw Giles on the screen I was totally shocked (this was before every spoiler ever was readily available online, at least as far as my internet surfing went) and I couldn’t help but smile. Doesn’t he make everything better?
By the time we switch over to “Grave,” Willow has moved beyond wanting to kill Andrew and Jonathan, and has decided she might as well just end the whole world. We get great scenes with Buffy and Giles being reunited, as well as Anya wanting to be part of the reunion (she tells Giles she dyed her hair, again, when he compliments Buffy on her haircut). Buffy and Dawn end up trapped in a pit together fighting demons, and Buffy finally realizes her sister is a grown up. The two finally fight side by side.
But this episode, at the end of the day, is truly about how Xander saves the world. At every turn, Xander feels inferior, and as if he can’t help anyone. The day Warren shot Buffy and Tara, Xander admits he saw the gun– and he froze. His guilt over everything that happened as a result of not stopping Warren consumes him. So in the end he goes to Willow as she gets ready to end the world. He gives a great speech about a yellow crayon. He tells his best friend in the world that he loves her– “I love crayon-breaky Willow, and I love scary, veiny Willow. So if I’m going out, it’s here. If you wanna kill the world, well, then start with me. I’ve earned that.” Yes, he is hoping she will change her mind. But he also means it.
Eventually Willow breaks down and goes to Xander. This is an amazing scene where she stops using magic, Xander approaches her, and she hits him. She is just in so much pain, and is afraid if she reaches out she will have to give into that pain and really feel it. And she is able to portray it with just that simple gesture– hitting Xander’s chest as he tries to hold her. I cry every time.
As Buffy and Dawn escape the pit they were stuck in, and Xander holds Willow (a redhead again), everything is so bright. This ending scene is beautifully shot.
We do have the darker epilogue when we learn Spike got his soul back, which is well and good and an important plot point for season 7, but… to me the episode ends with Xander bringing his best friend back and saving the world. Everything almost seems optimistic.
16. “Lover’s Walk,” season 3, episode 8
“Get out of Sunnydale– that’s a good thing. What kind of moron would want to come back here?’”-Cordelia
“Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work it’s will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.” -Spike
“We’re not friends. We never were. And I can fool Giles, and I can fool my friends… but I can’t fool myself. Or Spike for some reason.” -Buffy
Let’s start at the beginning– “Lover’s Walk” is the return of Spike, who has been gone from our TV screens since the season two finale. This is the only time he appears in season three, and it is definitely worthwhile. This episode handles the intricacies of all our characters’ relationships– many of which are on their final legs by the episodes end.
Willow and Xander have been having a love affair, and Buffy has been seeing Angel behind everyone’s back up until now– but don’t worry, they’re just friends (because, you know, it’s pretty easy to be just friends with someone you were in love with). A double date is planned between our two human couples (well, three humans and one werewolf) to go bowling, because “what’s classier than bowling?” Both Oz and Cordy are being extra sweet to their respective significant others, totally oblivious to the fact that something has been going on. Oz buys Willow a pez witch, just because, and Cordelia has pictures of Xander hanging up in her locker. All of this inspires Willow to try and do a de-lusting spell– and enter Spike.
Spike has returned to Sunnydale, drunk and depressed, due to his recent breakup with Drusilla. Why is this episode in my top 25? Pretty much solely because of Spike. First he kidnaps Willow and Xander so Willow can do a love spell for him. He tells Willow his sob story– “I caught her on a park bench, making out with a chaos demon. Have you ever seen a chaos demon? They’re all slime and antlers. They’re disgusting.” Then he heads out to get some ingredients, but makes a stop at Buffy’s place to see his good friend, Joyce. He tells her the same tale of his lost love, to which Joyce gives him great motherly advice: “Well, Spike, sometimes even when two people seem right for each other, their lives just take different paths.”
We then get the funniest part of the episode when Angel tries to come and save Joyce, but he has been uninvited from the Summers’ home. Spike stands behind Joyce, gesturing like he is going to bite her, all the while mimicking Joyce’s sentiments that Angel is a very bad man!
But “Lover’s Walk” isn’t really a funny episode, despite Spike’s major role. It’s about loss, and about moving on. Cordelia and Oz come across Xander and Willow kissing. Cordelia falls through some old floorboards and ends up impaled– we get a great cut shot to a funeral, and those watching live were horrified that Cordy was dead, but it was just a Joss Whedon fake out. Willow says she will do anything to get Oz back–including grovel. Her indiscretion with Xander is done. Xander attempts to visit Cordelia in the hospital, but she is less forgiving than Oz will prove to be. “Xander? Stay away from me,” she tells the former love of her life, waiting until he leaves the room to cry.
And Buffy, taking Spike’s awesome speech (one of my favorites in the whole series, probably) about how she and Angel can never just be friends to heart, goes to see the former love of her life as well. She says she can’t see him anymore– unless he can tell her that he doesn’t love her. Which he can’t, so Buffy has to walk away.
And as for Spike? He heads out of Sunnydale to find Drusilla and torture her until she loves him again.