If you missed it, check out 16-11!
10. “Chosen,” season 7, episode 22
“I just realized something. Something that never occurred to me before. We’re gonna win.” -Buffy
“I’m terrified. I didn’t think. I mean, I just figured you’d be terrified and I’d be sarcastic about it.” -Anya
“We made it. We won.” -Faith
“Chosen” gets a bad reputation, I think mainly because season 7 is not very good. In fact, this episode didn’t make the top ten until I re-watched it, and realized I couldn’t let it fall much lower than this. I think “Chosen” is a fitting goodbye to this series.
Now, one important thing before I discuss this episode. We are going to talk about this as if the television series Angel does not exist. We are not going to take about anything that happens on that show. Because it ruins one of the best moments in this finale.
That being said, I will mention that I was glad there was an Angel cameo. I love Buffy’s cookie dough speech, and the fact that she hints that sometimes she does think of the future– the distant future– and Angel’s role in it.
Angel brings Buffy an amulet to be worn by someone with a soul, but also someone more than human. A champion. Buffy gives this to Spike, although no one is really sure of what the amulet actually does.
Buffy decides they will fight the First’s army, and in order to do so, Willow will first do a spell that unlocks the power in all of the potentials. When we finally get to see this speech, it’s really a good one, and it gets you pumped for the battle. But before the battle can begin, we need a farewell to all these people we have grown to love before they go their separate ways, possibly to their deaths. “Anything we say is going to sound like goodbye,” Dawn tells her sister, while walking away. We are finally left with our four originals, who discuss what they will do tomorrow– shopping, most likely. “The earth is definitely doomed,” Giles announces, a callback to our season premiere. I like that little bookended quote.
Four become three, and three become two, and finally we are left with Buffy joining all of the potentials, Faith, and Spike in the basement. Willow unlocks the potentials power, and Vi decides, “These guys are dust.” And– they are. The battle scene is epic, topped off with great music, and some awesome scenes. Buffy is stabbed, and she hands the scythe over to Faith– once her enemy, and now her ally. “Hold the line,” she tells her. Did anyone ever think they’d see Buffy handing over a powerful weapon, and expecting Faith to do right with it? I certainly didn’t. That one little moment shows so much growth in both Buffy and Faith.
We lose Anya, which is so tragic. Xander tries to find her as they are leaving the building, but its far too late. He approaches Andrew to see what happened, who says Anya was incredible, and died saving him. “That’s my girl,” Xander replies, “Always doing the stupid thing.” It’s a heroic death for a fabulous character who always struggled with her place (especially after Xander called off their wedding).
And shortly after Anya is killed, Spike realizes his role in all of this– what the amulet was meant to do. They can win the fight– at the cost of his life. The final scene between Spike and Buffy is beautiful (and a tear-jerker, of course). She takes his hand and tells him she loves him, to which he replies, “No, you don’t. But thanks for saying it.” And the vampire who once wanted to end the world sacrifices himself to save it. If Spike doesn’t have a complete character arc during this show, I don’t know who does.
We have some laughs, tears, and quite the fight. We say goodbye to some characters, and are left with such optimism in regards to what is to come for the people who survived. And although many may disagree– I think it’s a fitting end for the show.
9. “Graduation Day,” season 3, episode 21 & 22
“As justice goes, it’s not unpoetic… don’t you think?” -Buffy
“Congratulations to the class of 1999. You’ve all proved more or less adequate.” -Principal Snyder
“And what is a journey? Is it just… distance traveled? Time spent? No. It’s what happens on the way, it’s the things that happen to you. At the end of the journey, you’re not the same.” -Mayor Wilkins
I could probably say this about every single episode from here until number one– I really wanted to put this episode higher on my list. And the fact that it just cracks the top ten should tell you how much good stuff is still coming.
“Graduation Day” is more than just a good episode of Buffy. It’s the end of an era. The Scooby Gang is graduating from high school. Buffy quits working for the Watcher’s Council. Next season, Angel and Cordelia will be gone (and Oz won’t be around for much longer). Faith is comatose. The Mayor did say that nothing would ever be the same and– he was right.
This episode has a lot of stuff going on, and it would take an entire blog to go through it all, so I am going to touch on the things that really make it worth watching over and over again, starting at the beginning– Faith. Faith is one of my favorite characters on this show, and although we don’t see much of her in part two, her presence looms over this entire finale. I’ve talked before about how lost Faith seems to me, and how much she just wants to feel wanted– and the Mayor makes her feel that way. The scene where Faith shows off the pink dress he got for her and he tells her, “When I think of what you’ve done… what you will do… No father could be prouder,” is so telling. This is Faith, in a nutshell. This is why she became the person she did. For love. For acceptance. The Scoobies and the Watcher’s Council never gave her that. But season three’s Big Bad sure did. (And, by the way, Mayor Wilkins is a fabulous Big Bad. But more on him a little later.)
After Faith poisons Angel, Buffy finds her and the two fight, seemingly to the death. One rule this show always sticks to is that killing humans– even bad humans– is wrong. Faith accindentally killed someone, and that started her downward spiral. Buffy’s justification for killing Faith is saving Angel, but in Faith’s eyes, it’s just Buffy stooping down to her level– “all dressed up in Big Sister’s clothes!”
Buffy doesn’t kill Faith– but she sure as hell intended to. Sometimes things aren’t just black and white, and Buffy’s willingness to kill a human really shows this.
I really don’t care about Cordelia and Wesley, but I love Xander and Anya’s moment in the hallway when she asks Xander to leave with her, and tries to explain how the thought of losing him makes her feel (Anya trying to understand human emotions is alway great to watch). Willow and Oz sleep together for the first time which is adorable– and kinda sad when you think about the fact that Oz will cheat on her and Willow will have a girlfriend all within half a season, but…. hindsight is 20/20. In this episode, it’s very sweet.
During all of this, Buffy is busy saving Angel’s life by letting him feed off her (in a scene that I would call a very obvious metaphor for something much more sexual). This puts Buffy in the hospital, and allows Angel to see the Mayor’s reaction to Faith’s current status.
So let’s talk about Mayor Richard Wilkins. Buffy has had some great Big Bads, and some pretty lackluster ones. The Mayor absolutely falls into category number one. He is a ton of fun with his germ phobias, his reluctance to swear, and his constantly chipper attitude. For someone like that to suddenly become a giant snake creature and try to eat the Sunnydale High population… well, that’s pretty impressive to me. And I like that the Mayor really does seem to love Faith. It’s not just about her being powerful and useful to him. When he realizes she is in a coma, he is truly distrught– and murderous. Not just murderous like he wants to be a demon, as Angel explains, but murderous like– all he had is gone. He is angry, and has nothing to lose.
I also like how this episode compares the Mayor’s relationship with Faith to Giles’ with Buffy. The Mayor makes a comment about eating Buffy once he ascends, and Giles immediately stabs him in a rage. This is not unlike the Mayor going to suffocate Buffy once he realizes she attempted to kill Faith. Both men have similar paternal feelings to their respective slayers.
Finally– there is Graduation Day. And the Ascencion. I love everything about this. I love that the Scoobies go to the people we’ve seen around for three seasons (Harmony, Larry, Jonathan, Percy) to ask them for help. When the Mayor changes and Buffy yells “Now!”, the school is suddenly united. Everyone takes off their robes to reveal crosses and weapons. The epic music begins. This is an amazing moment in the history of Buffy that is hard to top– you have literally everyone working together to stop evil. It’s nice to see.
The world is saved, and the Scoobies survive high school.
And once it is all over, proud papa Giles goes to his slayer and hands Buffy her diploma. “I, um… I ferreted this out of the wreckage. It may not interest you, but I’d say you earned it.”
Did she ever.
8. “Surprise”/”Innocence,” season 2, episodes 13 & 14
“He’s not Angel anymore. Are you?” -Jenny
“Dream on, School Girl. Your boyfriend’s dead. You’re all gonna join him.” -Angelus
“The coming months are going to be hard, I suspect on all of us. But if it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.” -Giles
If you want to talk about heavy-handed metaphors on Buffy, here’s the big one: Buffy sleeps with Angel, and he loses his soul. If this doesn’t scream “No sex at seventeen!”, I am not sure what does.
“Prophecy Girl” told us that Buffy could be dark. “Surprise” and “Innocence” actually made it that. The end of season two may not be up there with season five as far as bleakness is concerned, but it’s pretty damn close.
It’s Buffy’s seventeenth birthday, and the Scoobies are throwing her a surprise party. Spike and Drusilla are also planning on a little surprise, known as a demon that burns people into nothing if they have humanity in them. And Jenny is seeing her gypsy uncle on the sly, because, surprise! Turns out Jenny Calendar isn’t just a cute techno pagan. She is a spy for the gypsies that cursed Angel with his soul. And they are not happy about the way that’s going.
In “Surprise” Angel and Buffy are forced to say goodbye to each other (not for long though). Angel gives Buffy a claddagh ring for her birthday, and be honest, girls who were watching this in 1997– you owned one, didn’t you? You went out and got one right after Angel gave one to Buffy. I know I did! I actually still wear one to this day (albeit, a much nicer one than the $20 one I owned in ’97).
Episode one is really just setting us up for episode two. In the end, Buffy and Angel have sex for the first time, and Angel runs from the room, seemingly in pain. And “Innocence” begins with him feeding on a random lady in the alley, who offers to call 911 for him. Now our story begins with our real Big Bad of season two– Angelus, aka Angel without a soul. As Big Bads go, you really can’t do much better.
I love David Boreanaz as Angelus. Angel is very quiet, broody, and thoughtful in his speech. He carries himself a little hunched over and always stands off to the side. Not Angelus, though. His voice is less hesitant and full of confidence. He stands tall, he walks with a spring in his step. So many actors on this show have been given the opportunity to show their acting talent by playing multiple characters, and none have disappointed.
Angel joins up with Spike, Dru, and the Judge (aka Brian Thompson, who also played Luke in the series premiere), and proceeds to torment Buffy. He runs into her at his home and when she is worried she wasn’t good, he laughs and tells her sarcastically, “You were great. Really. I thought you were a pro.” When he kills Jenny’s uncle, he scrawls “Was it good for you too?” on the wall in blood. At the end, after Buffy takes down the Judge and then has to fight the real bad guy, Angel taunts his old lover. He tells her the worst thing about it all was pretending he loved her, and reminds her that “the important thing is you made me the man I am today!” This stuff is painful to watch, and Boreanaz pulls it off so well.
Another character who turns out to not be what they seem is Miss Jenny Calendar. Jenny has been sent to watch Angel, to make sure he never experiences happiness. She knows Angel has turned before anyone else, and is able to save Willow when Angel grabs her at the end of a dark hallway. One of Buffy’s prophetic dreams shows her the truth… Angel appears to her in daylight and nods toward Jenny. “You have to know what to see,” he tells her. Jenny immediately fesses up to her part in all of this, swearing she did not know what would happen if Angel did, in fact, experience true happiness. Jenny wants to continue to help the Scoobies, but Buffy wants her gone. And Giles turns away from his girlfriend to back Buffy. Giles’ paternal love for Buffy is such a huge part of the show, and although the two don’t actually speak of it much at all, it is so telling in moments like this one.
This episode has so much more good stuff outside of the Buffy/Angel plot line: Willow and Oz’s first date, followed by Willow’s discovery of Cordelia and Xander in a passionate embrace. When Xander tells her it doesn’t really mean anything, Willow responds that, “It just means you would rather be with someone you hate than be with me.”
The interactions between Spike, Dru, and Angel are also so entertaining to watch. And Joss Whedon does a good job of immediately showing us how uncomfortable Spike is with Angel’s return, which will be so important later on this season.
And of course, we do get the Judge, who is a pretty cool looking villain– although he doesn’t get a chance to do much, as Buffy takes him out pretty quickly.
There is one last fight between Buffy and Angel (for now, anyway). Angel realizes Buffy is too emotional still, and can’t kill him, which he gets a good laugh out of. But Buffy’s response to that? “Give me time.”
7. “The Body,” season 5, episode 16
“I don’t understand how this 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. And Xander’s crying and not talking, and I was having fruit punch, and I though Joyce will never have anymore 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.” -Anya
I had a very hard time figuring out where to place this episode on my list, and I’ve moved it around quite a few times. It’s so different than every other episode of Buffy, that comparing it to the others is essentially impossible. But “The Body” is a fabulous hour of television in general, and can’t be overlooked. This is one well-done episode.
The entire episode is raw and emotional, but I have to start with Anya. Anya is a thousand plus year old demon who has no experience with mortality. We often see Anya saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and this is no exception. Anya’s lack of knowledge in regards to human customs makes her very difficult to handle in the wake of Joyce’s death. She asks about seeing the body, which bothers Willow, then asks if the body will be cut open, which horrifies her. Willow’s anger prompts Anya’s speech, one of the all-time best monologues in the history of Buffy. It’s honest, emotional, and believable. When I watch “The Body,” this is always the part when I start to tear up. Emma Caulfield is brilliant.
Not to take away from anyone else, because the entire cast is spot on, dealing with a really difficult topic, and without the usual help. The episode is quiet, with no music at all outside of the opening credits. They can only make so many witty quips that Joss often relies on given the situation. And there is almost nothing supernatural. Yes, we get the creepy scene at the end when the vampire sits up in the morgue and then attacks Dawn. But that’s it. Although Buffy’s first thoughts are of Glory, she has nothing to do with it. There is no supernatural element to Joyce’s death. It is… normal.
Sarah Michelle Gellar shines, as usual. In the beginning of the episode, there is an entire scene where Buffy calls 911, speaks to the operators, attempts CPR on Joyce, and then hangs up to call Giles. This entire scene is done in a single shot, and SMG does not miss a beat.
I also think the scene where Buffy tells Dawn is incredibly well done (and somewhat similar to the scene where Buffy and Willow discover Jenny is dead, which I will talk about very soon). Buffy takes Dawn out into the hallway, and after a few sentences, Dawn realizes something is wrong and asks “Where’s Mom?” When Buffy finally says she is dead, we watch the rest of the scene from inside the classroom, looking out into the hallway along with Dawn’s classmates. We hear Dawn’s muffled cries and watch her collapse to the ground.
The episode shows us how cold and clinical death can be. Everyone begins to refer to Joyce as “the body.” After every commercial break, the show returns by showing us… the body that was once Joyce. All the professionals Buffy deals with (the 911 operator, the EMTs, the doctor) are closed off and unemotional. We see death all the time on this show, but never like this. This is real.
This is an episode of Buffy you can watch totally out of context and understand.
The final thing I will mention is the somewhat awkward scene between Buffy and Tara at the hospital. Tara is still somewhat of an outsider, and is still shy when dealing with any of the Scoobies sans Willow. When they find themselves alone together, Tara confides in Buffy that her mother died when she was 17 (I still wish we had learned ever more about Tara than we did in “Family”). She says she did some crazy things, and although it’s different for everyone, she is willing to be there for Buffy if she needs it. Buffy asks Tara if her mother’s death was sudden, and Tara replies, “No. And yes. It’s always sudden.”
If this isn’t the truest statement about death we’ve ever heard on this show.. I don’t know what is.
6. “Passion,” season 2, episode 17
“My cure? No, thanks. Been there, done that. Deja vu just isn’t what it used to be!” -Angelus
“Let’s not forget I hated Angel long before you guys jumped on the bandwagon. So I think I deserve a little something for not saying ‘I told you so’ long before now. And if Giles wants to go after the… fiend… that murdered his girlfriend… I say faster, pussycat, kill, kill.” -Xander
“I’m sorry I couldn’t kill him– for you, for her– when I had the chance. I wasn’t ready. But I think I finally am.” -Buffy
To begin, I can’t talk about “Passion” without mentioning Angel’s fabulous voice over monologue– so here it is:
“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting. And though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all; and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bare. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow. Empty rooms. Shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”
This episode of Buffy was written by Ty King and… man, did he do a good job or what?
Angel has not only been stalking Buffy, he’s also been keeping an eye on her friends and family since he lost his soul. It’s gotten so intense, that it prompts Buffy to admit to Joyce that Angel was her boyfriend… not anymore, though. And Joyce gets it: “Don’t tell me. He’s changed. He’s not the guy you fell for?”
Hit the nail right on the head, there, Joyce.
But leaving Buffy little drawings doesn’t seem to be enough, so Angel escalates to killing Willow’s fish, and showing up at the Summers’ home, offering up information to Joyce about how he and Buffy made love. And this is all to set us up for his final act of torment (this episode, anyway), which is the brutal death of Jenny Calendar.
Jenny is trying to do right by Buffy, and especially by Giles, who she misses, and admits she has fallen in love with. She picks up an Orb of Thesulah, and is trying to translate some ancient gypsy text that would restore Angel’s soul. She doesn’t tell anyone just yet but– she is getting close.
Giles is also missing his girlfriend, and Buffy sees this. Despite her reservations about Jenny, she wants Giles to be happy, and approaches her to let her know Giles misses her, and she doesn’t want him to be lonely anymore. So our two academic adults are on the path to reconciliation. In fact, Jenny is almost ready to tell Giles about her spell, and plans to meet him at his house.
Unfortunately, all will not go as planned. If you ever wondered how evil Angel truly was without a soul, this episode shows it without pulling any punches.
Angel surprises Jenny in her classroom and destroys her work. There is a very tense scene where he gives Jenny a chance to run– not because he wants to let her go, but because he loves the chase. He finally catches her, and snaps her neck. It can’t get much darker, or much more shocking than this… except it does.
The scene when Giles discovers Jenny’s body is tragic. Angel sets up his house with flowers, wine, and opera music. The shock on Giles’ face is painful to watch. And once he moves past that shock, he is a man on a mission. He wants Angel dead. And if he can’t kill him– he’ll die trying.
We do get one scene I have to mention before Giles heads out for revenge. He calls Buffy to tell her the news. We get a snippet of Angel’s monologue here, and watch Buffy answer the phone from outside the window. We see Buffy’s shocked reaction as she hands the phone to Willow. At this point, there is no monologue, and we hear a muted version of Willow’s cries when she realizes what has happened. This scene is so well done, and with so few words truly conveys the emotion of what is going on in this episode.
Giles is a badass in his attempt to take down Angel, but he just isn’t strong enough. Buffy comes to his rescue, despite Giles protests. Then we get a beautiful scene where Buffy basically tells Giles she can’t lose him, and the two hold each other while they cry. I’ve said before that this father/daughter relationship is one of the greatest parts of this show, and I’ll say it again. Giles brings Buffy a lot of heart, but rarely do we see it as plainly as we do in this scene.
In the end, we see the yellow disk Jenny saved the restoration spell on fall on the side of the desk, unnoticed. But don’t worry… we’ll see it again…