This week’s top ten is different from my previous lists. It’s paving the way for a bunch of lists that aren’t necessarily book related. I love books, but I love a lot of other geeky things as well. Let’s not hide our love under a bushel. Joss Whedon is near the top of my list of geek love. The love first started, unknowingly, with movies like Toy Story and the cheese factory that was the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.
BtVS, the tv version, started in the mid-90s. I didn’t get into it when it first aired. I was starting an exciting new adventure into university and co-ed dorm living. I had better things to do. I didn’t start watching until season 3 but it quickly developed into true love. I have watched the entire series from beginning to end more times that I like to admit. I do a complete re-watch at least once a year.
I wanted to do a top ten list of the entire series, but there was no possible way. My first quick and dirty list was 29 episodes long. I finally got it down to 20, so the Buff and crew get two Tuesday lists. Here are my top ten episodes from seasons 1-4, in chronological order:
Halloween – Episode 206 Original Air Date: Oct 27, 97
Halloween is supposed to be a quiet time on the Hellmouth, but then we wouldn’t need an episode. People start turning into their costumes. Kids are demons, jerks are pirates, Xander’s a soldier, Willow’s a ghost, and Buffy’s a damsel in distress.
Why I love it: It’s a pretty simple episode, but it sets up multiple future storylines and it’s the catalyst for Xander and Willow’s changing roles in the group. And we get to meet Oz.
I Only Have Eyes for You – Episode 219 Original Air Date: April 28, 98
A dead couple from Sunnydale’s past are haunting current students and causing deaths. Buffy and Angel are among the possessed and must confront the problems in their relationship since Angel lost his soul.
Why I love it: The episode happens in the middle of a pretty dark story arc. Swapping the gender roles and forcing Buffy to confront her anger and Angel to admit his love drives the story forward. It’s one of the most authentically emotional scenes between the romantic leads in the entire series.
Band Candy – Episode 306 Original Air Date: Nov 10, 98
Ethan Rayne is back. Principal Snyder is laying down the law – everyone has to sell band candy. The adults are acting like teenagers, no one is in charge, and the Mayor is acting shady.
Why I love it: It’s straight up funny. For those of us who had a crush on stuffy Giles, this bad ass version is positively lust inducing. And it sets up an excellent joke for later in the season.
The Wish – Episode 309 Original Air Date: Dec 8, 98
Cordelia is pissed after discovering Xander is cheating with Willow. She makes an off the cuff wish to a new friend and is suddenly living in a reality where Buffy never came to Sunnydale. The Master has taken over. Willow and Xander are his most vicious vampires. Angel is their prisoner. And Giles and a band of students are trying to keep things under control.
Why I love it: Lots of BtVS fans will list this among their favourite episodes. We get to see the dark side of most of the central characters. Cordelia is forced to express some real emotions. Most importantly, it introduces Anya.
Doppelgangland – Episode 316 Original air date: Feb 23, 99
A companion episode with The Wish. Anya wants to get her powers back and cons Willow into helping her cast a spell. It goes awry and evil Willow is pulled into the current Sunnydale. Evil Willow helps stuffy Willow come out of her shell.
Why I love it: The episode is extremely funny. It was also the episode I watched that convinced me to start watching the show regularly. It was Willow’s line abut riding boys like ponies that clinched it for me.
Earshot – Episode 318 Original Air Date Sept 21, 99
Buffy is attacked by a demon that gives her the power of telepathy. Before she gets overwhelmed by the voices, she hears someone threaten a school massacre. The joke referenced in Band Candy appears in this episode when Buffy overhears her mother desperately trying not to think about having sex with Giles (in Band Candy).
Why I love it: This episode was supposed to air April 23, 99. Columbine happened April 20. Needless to say, the episode was pushed back several months. It had hype leading up the airing – shown out of order before the season 4 premiere. It was an excellent episode. It had exceptionally funny moments, but it touched at something much deeper by addressing how painful high school can be for every person in it.
Wild at Heart – Episode 406: Original Air Date Nov 9, 99
Willow feels like Oz is pulling away from her. He’s thriving in the university setting but she can’t seem to find her footing in his world. Veruca, a singer in another band, is showing interest in Oz and her werewolf status makes them seem perfect for each other.
Why I love it: Oz is one of the best characters in the series. This is one of the few episodes were he gets to shine. Veruca is a nice counter to Willow. There’s good music. And when Oz leaves at the end of the episode, it’s completely heartbreaking.
Hush – Episode 410: Original air date: Dec 14, 99
The Gentlemen have come to town and stolen everyone’s voice. The gang realize how often they hide behind language and words. Buffy and Riley are forced to confront a conversation they’ve been putting off.
Why I love it: This is another episode that appears on most best of Buffy listed. It’s an experiment in sound. Without dialogue, it’s about music and actions. It’s got excellent creep factor. The Freddy like rhyme is one of my ringtones. The Gentlemen are some of the creepiest demons in the Whedonverse.
Superstar – Episode 417 Original air date: April 4, 00
Something’s fishy in Sunnydale. Buffy is still the slayer, Giles is the watcher, the Initiative exists, but everyone looks to Jonathon for answers. Even the opening is redone from his perspective. Of course it turns out to be a spell, but it’s hugely entertaining
Why I love it: As I just said, it’s hugely entertaining. It also makes the characters talk to each other and introduces a completely new perspective. The show was suffering from university drag and this lightened things up. But most of why I loved it was Danny Strong. I adore him.
Where the Wild Things Are – Episode 418 Original air date: April 25, 00
Buffy and Riley are doing it like bunnies. Their constant boinking has fueled something in the frat house and strange things are amiss. Abuse happens in many forms and actions have long standing consequences.
Why I love it: I don’t honestly know. It’s kind of a weird choice. This spot almost when to Restless – cause it’s the better episode – but I like this one more. It’s a step towards the more “grown up” Buffy. Not the shows first foray into sex, but this one is one of the more accurate representations of what a relationship away from home for the first time can look like.
And that’s my list for seasons 1-4. You’ll notice that there’s nothing on this list from season one. That’s because it’s an awful season. In fun when you watch all of it together. It has its own charm. But on its own, it’s not good. What are your favourite early Buffy episodes?
Coming next week – seasons 5-7.s