PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What're my Faves?: Part I

"Only an honorable mention, Daniel? Really?"

What're My Faves?: Part 1

"Daniel attempts to narrow down his favorite episodes.  Meanwhile, Buffy & the gang take a much needed break."

When Zelda proposed we do a top ten list, I thought, “Yeah!  That should be fun and easy.”  But when she came back with over thirty titles, and I came back with almost twenty-five, we quickly realized this wasn't an easy task at all.  How could we pick ten episodes out of 144?!   The answer was simple: Honorable mentions!  Of course that left us with a top ten and about 15-20 honorable mentions.  That wasn't a comprehensive list either.  After weeks of begging Zelda to come up with a concrete number, we finally settled on top 15, with 5 honorable mentions.  Please note that this leaves out tons wonderful episodes – but hey, that’s what our recaps are for.

Daniel’s Top Fifteen Buffy Episodes: (in almost chronological order)

My favorite season premiere, Anne was a groundbreaking, if not risky move.  How can you separate the main character from the rest of the pack; take her out of the show’s setting for an entire episode?  Easy, just put Joss in the front seat and let him drive.  Anne let Buffy explore herself, search her feelings, mope and pine all without compromising her character.  We also see Buffy grow throughout the episode, slowly getting her chutzpah back and becoming who she is, “I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.   And you are?” It’s a journey in forty-two minutes.  Meanwhile, back in Sunnydale, the gang finds out what they would have to do if they ever lost the Slayer for good.  And they’re (mostly) up for the challenge which is a nice preview (foreshadowing?) for a future season premiere.

Halloween was one of the first episodes I ever saw of Buffy and proves how incredibly magical it can be. It’s a fun episode, while being a character driven one.  Each of the characters grows: Willow comes out of her shell; Buffy, by the end, proves she can be a girly-girl while still being a kick-ass girl & Xander gets tough. Sure the spell is temporary, but as we see, each of the three retains part of what they were in episodes to come.  It’s also the episode where meet awesome recurring characters Larry and Ethan Rayne. (And Oz gets closer to finding out, “Who is that girl?”)

Passion was the first episode where we finally got to see just how bad Angelus can be.  Up until now, we’ve been mostly teased.  It’s a turning point, not just for the audience, but for Buffy and Giles as well. Buffy finally realizes what she must do, namely kill Angel.  Giles realizes that it’s time to be more than just watcher. And we have our first big death of the series:  a character we all grew to love, despite some of her transgressions.  The only big criticism I have of this episode is that the anger at Jenny was built up too much – Almost as if it was there to make the characters feel guiltier and sadder about her death.

The Wish
Anya!  This is the episode that we’re introduced to my favorite character, Anya!  And Emma Caulfield knocks it out of the park.  I generally love “what if” episodes, but this one outshines most of the others. The question, “What if the Slayer never came to Sunnydale” is thoroughly explored here and what comes out of it is shocking, hilarious and heartbreaking.  The episode ends with almost every major character’s death. If only Buffy could remember it: she wouldn't be doubting herself all the time.

Annnnnd the return of Anya.  This time, though, Emma Caulfield really gets to exercise her comedic chops, something she didn’t really get to do in The Wish. Anya was supposed to be a two episode character, and I bet this is when Joss decided to bring her on full time.   It also gives Alyson Hannigan a chance to stretch, ultimately playing three roles: Willow, Dark Willow and Willow pretending to be dark Willow which is just hilarious.

A controversial episode, since it was set to air just after what happened in Columbine – Joss, the WB and all the powers that be rightly waited to air it later in the year.  But the, “someone in the school plans to kill everyone in it,” was only a front for what the true message of the episode was:  High School sucks.  Everyone feels lonely.  Which Buffy pretty much states at the end to Jonathan.  But what I love most about this episode is how they handled the “telepathy” phenomenon.   I love how uncomfortable everyone is around Buffy, since you can’t always control your thoughts and a lot of the time, you think things that you just don’t want anyone else to know. If you said these thoughts aloud, people would think you’re sick or perverted which is why (most of us) have filters.  And then there’s Cordelia.

Hush is oh so fantastic for so many reasons.  It proves you don’t need dialogue to have a well written show. (Though the dialogue in the beginning is absolutely fantastic.) It also gave the actors a chance shine without relying on the famously witty lines. And finally, this is one of the few episodes that genuinely scared me.  The Gentlemen are probably some of my favorite villains of all time.  They are truly the stuff that nightmares come from.
Creepy MoFos

Who Are You?
Two reasons why this episode made the list: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku.  I truly think this is one of Sarah’s best acting jobs.  Sure, she’s an excellent crier and she’ll give you the feels any day of the week but in Who Are You, Sarah got to take an existing character and make you believe that she was her. It’s a fun 80s movie type plot turned kind of sinister.

Step one: Take the big-action-defeat-the-Big-Bad-with-ultimate-magiks episode and make it the 2nd to last episode.  Step two: Write a seemingly frivolous episode as the season finale.   This would never work with any other type of action show, but it works so well here. Restless takes our core four and puts them through the ringer in nightmares that get to their worst fears.  And we’re not talking spiders and Nazi clowns.  These nightmares are all about who they are, how they've grown and what they have left to learn.  And the episode has foreshadowing extraordinaire:  “Be back before Dawn.”  Oh we will, show.  We will.

Checkpoint takes one of my favorite gripes about this show and kicks its ass: The Watcher’s council. This is a turning point in the show: It’s when Buffy and the gang finally take control of their destinies without the useless rule of the council. It’s also an episode where everyone truly comes together as a unit.  The gang defends Buffy and Buffy, in return, defends how valuable her friends are.   The dialogue is powerful and comedic and yields one of my favorite deliveries by Emma Caulfield ever, “Willow’s a demon?!”

The Scoobies, giving each other support in one of the best "awww" moments of the show

The Body
Oh, the feels.  Besides the series finale of Six Feet Under, this is the one episode of television that makes me cry almost uncontrollably. There’s no music to tell you when to cry – it’s all in the writing, directing and acting.  From Anya’s hysterical child-like wonder to Dawn’s breakdown and the Joyce-doppelganger-teacher watching her to Buffy’s realization that this is something she can’t stop as a slayer. The one moment that gets me every time is when Buffy imagines Joyce being revived and rushed to the hospital only to cut SO SUDDENLY back to reality. Every. Time.

The Gift
What The Body did without music, The Gift does with an amazing score that gives me the feels whenever I hear it on my iTunes.  This episode could have been a series finale (and in some ways, I almost wish it was!). It wraps things up, kills off the Big Bad but still leaves tons of questions.  (Like, did Buffy really need to sacrifice herself? Wasn't there another way?) It also made some unexpected heroes: Giles to the rescue, doing something morally questionable to save the world and Anya figuring out a way to use the Dagon sphere. "Here to help, wanna live."

Once More with Feeling
How can this not be on anyone’s top list? Here’s the thing – this could have been an unbelievably failed experiment. But the songs were not only catchy and fun – they actually furthered the plot!  Once More wasn't just an awesome standalone episode where Joss thought, “Hey, let’s do a musical!”  It allowed the characters to let out sing out how they've been feeling thereby letting secrets and other things come out that really needed to be said.  And though, yes, they defeated the demon, as Sweet says, “there’s not a one who can say this ended well.”  Because now they have to actually deal with it.

Tabula Rasa
But not yet.  After an amazing episode like Once More with Feeling, how can you possibly top yourself?  Any episode that comes after that one would pale in comparison, right? Right?? WRONG!  Tabula Rasa proved to be one of the funniest episodes ever. Brilliantly written, conceived and acted, the episode followed its predecessor seamlessly and produced one of the greatest gifs ever:

This was the first and last episode that was truly about my favorite character, Anya.  Sure you can argue that Triangle featured her prominently but that was a mess of an episode for more reasons than it deserves here. Sure, there was The Wish & Dopplegangland, but we've never gotten to see what made Anya who she is.  It took way too long, but it was sure worth it.  It can also be argued that this was the last great episode of the series.  Season seven takes a really strange dive post-Selfless and Anya is featured less and less and is even absent in some episodes. She’s such a rich, interesting and complicated character that I wish the writers took time to explore her a little further instead of dumping it all in one episode.

Honorable Mentions:

The Puppet Show
This episode was creepy, hilarious, introduced us to the character of Principal Snyder and created a one-off character that was so charming that they used him in a Buffy video game. Also, this:

What if there was a world without shrimp? Or a world with nothing but shrimp?  I truly just love the idea of infinite universes where anything can happen.  And while Jonathan’s plan goes horribly wrong, admit it: we all wish we could do just what he did, even for a day.

What’s My Line: Part 1 & 2
A huge turning point for the show, these episodes allow Buffy to explore and obsess over a potential future beyond slaying.  Also, we get to see Sarah ice skate!

Fear Itself
One of the first episodes I ever saw of Buffy, so it holds a special place in my heart.  The episode was great at really exploring each character’s fears.  And also? Anya in a bunny suit.

The first one-off episode was filled with misdirection, evil & cheerleading. It’s an episode that’s referenced a lot later on and introduces the recurring character of Amy the Witch, later: Amy the rat. It also let Sarah shine and explore a more comedic and goofy role.

 Stay tuned next week for Zelda's list!


  1. Is it tacky to comment on my own blog to tell you I love your list and it made me laugh? I don't care; I'm doing it anyway. Awesome writeup!