Seven seasons of the vampire-butt-kicking Scooby Gang aired between 1997 and 2003. A little late to the party I managed to polish them off during the last six months. So why Buffy now?
Two words: Joss. Whedon.
Having already seen Firefly and Dollhouse I knew I needed more of Joss’s masterstrokes. And that’s when I became obsessed with anything and everything Buffy.
Here are my top five episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Note that all these choices are unique in their format. They aren’t ordinary Buffy episodes, which are great in their own right, especially with the quippage and the snappy dialogues. But when Joss goes off the rails and tries something completely different, well, supernatural stuff happens.
And in no particular order we have…
For nearly half an hour (27 minutes according to Wikipedia) there is not a single line of dialogue on screen. Harking back to the days of silent cinema where in turn the music becomes oh so more significant. The premise is some creepy beings called ‘The Gentleman’ came along and stole the voice from every Sunnydale citizen while they slept.
Forget The Master. Forget Adam. The Gentleman are the scariest villains in the entire series. They float around Sunnydale at night in Victorian suits and wooden teeth, smiling as they watch their wild straight-jacketed minions capture their prey. Then its time to carve out some human hearts. All in the most polite and courteous manner.
Buffy and Riley finally share their love with a kiss. But this is also the point of the season where Riley and Buffy find out each other’s secrets. One is a Slayer, and the other, a military man. Both are tasked with taking care of vampires and demons.
Joss, being the clever fellow that he is, uses the episode to demonstrate problems with communication. Once they lose speech everyone is able to express themselves more clearly – ironic huh? Though of course there are still a few blunders.
The ending is absolute gold. Riley and Buffy can finally talk again but instead they sit in silence, unsure where to begin.
Once More With Feeling
And I thought Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog was good. This “musical” episode takes characters and a show we already know and love and well, turns it into a musical. Sweet, a demon, is summoned and casts a spell over the town of Sunnydale so that anyone can spontaneously burst into song at any given moment. Think Hush but in reverse.
Each character expresses their true feelings through song, finally things that they’ve been keeping secret come into the air. Buffy sings about her troubles and later about needing something worth singing about. Tara sings a lovely song about Willow only to find out about Willow’s magic meddling and so then she sings about how she has to leave her. Same with Giles to Buffy, in order to let her cope on her own. Xander and Anya sing about how they both love and hate each other and their uncertainty for the future. Unfortunately Willow doesn’t have her own song, only a few musical lines throughout. My favourite: “I think this line’s mostly filler”. Dawn’s song is interrupted and becomes a ballet of sorts. Spike sings about his torn heart for Buffy.
Walk Through The Fire is a damn epic and features heavily on my iPod along with the rest of the album. Yes, there’s even a Buffy album.
Warning! Pretty major spoiler ahead.
Right, you Buffy virgins all gone? Good.
So avid Buffy watchers, you must know that this is the episode in which Buffy’s mother, Joyce Summers, dies. Boy did I bawl my eyes out during those 45 minutes. Well, more like a constant drip.
There is no music throughout the episode. Everything is slowed right down to real-time, Breaking Bad style. In stark contrast to all the supernatural deaths on the show, this one is natural, a cerebral aneurysm. Joss’s mother went the same way.
Joyce was in recovery from her operations that season and in true Whedon fashion he killed her off right at her happiest point – being given flowers after a first date.
Everyone in the Scooby Gang deals with the death in their own special way. Buffy imagines scenarios in which Joyce survived. Xander throws his fist into a wall. Willow can’t decide what would be appropriate to wear. Anya, relatively new to the whole human emotion deal, breaks down. Dawn goes to see Joyce’s body in the morgue, by herself. And the only supernatural bit in the episode happens when a vampire rises from an operating table, in a tense. rough battle made all the more scary without music.
Again Joss pushes the boundaries of what TV can do. Without such a creative risk taker something like this would never have made it to air. It’s so raw and unlike any Buffy episode before it. This death meant something.
Instead of defeating the Big Bad in in a massive build up (that happened the episode before), this season finishes off with something quite different.
Due to using some big magicks to defeat Adam, four of the Scoobies are trapped inside their dreams, stalked by the First Slayer, an ancient African female, primal in her urges to slay. It would pay to watch the director’s commentary after this one. Much of the episode is spent inside the dream space. While Joss does say that most of the symbols should be taken quite literally it can still be a tad hard to decipher without the codex of a good director’s commentary.
Xander has the best dream by far and I’m not saying that because of the off-screen lesbian action! He has to conquer his fear of his failure from his long string of jobs and living in his parent’s basement. The long chase scene through each film set is incredible, Xander always ending up at the root of all his fear, the basement and what it stands for. Buffy’s Mum tries to seduce Xander which is awkward for him even after he’s freed from the dream.
The Cheese Man. What does he represent? We may never know. Joss says he’s completely random and without meaning, but I know better. The cheese Man is the answer to everything!
Fool For Love
The only non-Joss Whedon episode to make my list. And that award goes to Doug Petrie who wrote the screenplay for this unmissable glimpse into Spike’s backstory. Sure it’s mostly in flashback as Spike tells his story to Buffy, but it’s flashbacks we haven’t seen before – LOST style. After a near death encounter Buffy seeks out Spike’s experience with killing slayers so she can avoid encountering the same fate.
Who would’ve guessed badass Spike was a nancy mummy’s boy and a poet? The Master sired Darla who sired Angel who sired Drusilla who sired Spike, or rather, William.
All it takes is one bite to the neck and soon the meek boy William becomes a confident bloodthirsty vamp. So confident that we see Spike take on his first slayer in China in 1900.
Fast-forward to the 70’s where Spike faces off against a slayer on a New York subway train in an epic battle. Plus get a look at Spike’s outfit!
Like many of you Spike became my favourite character of the series. Where sometimes Buffy would be mopey Spike would always have something smart to say no matter his current state of mind.
That’s all folks. Off to watch Angel I go.