Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a great show. Period. But, as with any show, some episodes fall flat and some soar to new heights. In particular, some of Buffy's best installments changed the game for television as a medium and the possible stories that could be told through it.
Here are some of Buffy's best episodes, all of which are available for viewing on Netflix (until April 1), in chronological, not quality, order.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season one, episode 12: "Prophecy Girl"
Though often unfairly maligned for being a bit too clunky, season one of Buffy contains the excellent "Prophecy Girl," and shouldn't be dismissed. In "Prophecy Girl," 16-year-old Buffy accepts the enormous sacrifice that comes with her job and gives one of Buffy's most tear-jerking speeches.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two, episode three: "School Hard"
Underlying every episode of Buffy's first three seasons is the thesis that high school is hell. In this episode, which introduces uber-villains Spike and Drusilla, that metaphor becomes a reality as Buffy must prove herself to her principal, her mother Joyce and still slay a gang of vampires ready to kill everyone at Sunnydale High's parent-teacher night.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two, episode six: "Halloween"
The first (and best) of three installments of Buffy Halloween-themed episodes, this season two installment sees the gang team up to try to save the day in the absence of the Slayer, who has quite literally become her Halloween costume, an 18th-century English belle.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two, episodes 13 and 14: "Surprise" and "Innocence"
One of the truly great Buffy two-parters, "Surprise" and "Innocence" pull off a hat trick of great television — great writing, they set up the back half of season two and they involve deep character work. After the events in these two episodes, the show and the Slayer would never be the same.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two, episode 21 and 22: "Becoming" Part 1 and 2
Aside from being a well-constructed two-parter, "Becoming" is another moment in which Buffy deals with the enormous sacrifices and losses that come with being the Slayer. The episode's final five minutes, including a tender exchange with Big Bad Angel, may count as some of the most iconic moments in Buffy history.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three, episode nine: "The Wish"
Not only do we get introduced to Anya in this season three episode, viewers also get a peek at what Sunnydale would've looked like if Buffy had never come to the Hellmouth.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three, episode 12: "Helpless"
Creator Joss Whedon has said the central premise of the series is turning the idea of a helpless teenage girl going down a dark alleyway on its head. This episode turns it right side up and, rather than Buffy dealing with her powers, she deals with the loss of power and whether she can truly survive having once known what it meant not to be powerless.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three, episode 13: "The Zeppo"
While most people either peg Buffy as supernatural or a teen drama, the show was always at its best when it incorporated a heaping helping of humor. With "The Zeppo," the series combined an apocalypse B-plot with a highly funny A-plot about Xander that works on both levels.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three, episode 20: "The Prom"
One of Buffy Summers' great struggles has been to maintain a normal life while also being the Slayer. In "The Prom," we get to see Buffy juggle the chance to go through a rite of passage and finally get recognized for three years worth of kicking butt and saving Sunnydale students' lives.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three, episodes 21 and 22: "Graduation Day" Part 1 and 2
One of Buffy's great finales, the two-part "Graduation Day" deftly sews up a handful of plot lines, including the Mayor's Big Bad arc, the tension between Buffy and Faith and the enduring love between Buffy and Angel. It also sends a powerful message about collective power against a seemingly unbeatable enemy.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four, episode 10: "Hush"
One of the few truly terrifying episodes of the series, "Hush" is also one of the series most powerful. In seasons four, five and six, Whedon builds an unofficial trilogy on the power of words and sound on TV. This episode, almost without dialogue, underscores how often we keep things from the people we love the most.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four, episodes 13 and 14: "The I in Team" and "Goodbye Iowa"
Though not an official two-parter, these midseason episodes introduce the season's Big Bad, Adam the cyborg, and are perhaps the only episodes that make him come off as terrifying rather than inept. The two-parter helps inject a good storyline into a rather boring entity, the Initiative, by putting into question who can trust whom and whether Buffy and her new beau Riley will be able to survive.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four, episode 22: "Restless"
Rather than ending season four on an epic two-parter, Whedon chose to tie up a season that had the characters undergo major personal arcs with a Freudian introspective episode that explored characters' dreamscapes.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season five, episode 16: "The Body"
The second in an unofficial trilogy about sound on TV, "The Body" finds Buffy dealing with her mother's death. It's also an episode completely without any background music, making each movement and piece of dialogue even more haunting.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season five, episode 22: "The Gift"
One of the series' most epic installments, "The Gift" shows Buffy ready to sacrifice herself to save her family and all of humanity. In this episode Buffy finally understands advice that the first slayer gave to her: "Death is your gift."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season six, episode seven: "Once More, With Feeling"
Critically lauded and a fan favorite, "Once More, With Feeling" redrew the boundaries of what's possible on television and spurred thousands of sing-along Buffy nights worldwide. The final in an unofficial trilogy of sound, this musical episode didn't just bring in tunes, it also moved the plot forward and saw Buffy air a very personal secret to the rest of the Scooby squad.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season six, episode eight: "Tabula Rasa"
A one-two punch after the events of "Once More, With Feeling," "Tabula Rasa" is a fun bottle episode that sees the gang wrestle with memory loss after a spell gone awry. It also ends with a performance by Michelle Branch, easily the biggest commercial name to take the stage at Buffy hangout The Bronze.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season seven, episode seven: "Conversations With Dead People"
Ghosts haunt every frame of Buffy and in "Conversations with Dead People." Really an introduction to season 7's Big Bad The First, episode seven is a fun calm before the storm and a haunting flip on our desire to speak to the dead.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer season seven, episode 22: "Chosen"
The series finale, "Chosen," wraps up the the series' rumination on power with a reminder about the power inside us all. Whedon started this series with a feminist send-up of gender expectations and ended it with a feminist Ratatouille-like lesson about the ability for each of us to achieve greatness.
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