This week’s TTT prompt is top ten books read this year. Sadly, it’s not been a great year for me bookwise. It’s not that I’ve read a bunch of truly awful books; it’s just that I’ve read a lot of completely mediocre books. I’d have to put books on the list I don’t think deserve to be there. So I’m not going with the prompt this week.
The good news – it’s time for week two of my top ten Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. This time, we’re tackling seasons 5-7. These seasons are darker than the first four. They get into that awful time of trying to become an adult. As parental guidance starts to wane, life starts to kick Buffy right in the ass.
Personally, I think season five is the worst season of the series. Buffy is especially whiney. The introduction of Dawn is less jump the sharkey once we realize that she is crucial to the storyline, but she’s still crazy annoying for the first half of the season. That being said, the season has some good stand alone episodes. Season six, and I know this may be controversial, is the best season of the series (sans the evil Willow stuff). I hated this season the first time I watched it. Its original airing was choppy and sporadic. But when I went back and watched it on dvd the pacing was much better and it quickly became my favourite season. I even love the trio. This season got behind the humanity of the characters a lot more than any of the other seasons. People are the big bad and that’s something the show hasn’t really explored previously.
Season seven, well, it is what it is
Let’s get right to it:
Fool For Love – Episode 507 Original Air Date: Nov 14, 00
Buffy’s off her game and ends up getting staked by a very mediocre vampire. In her ensuing desire not to die, she seeks help from the only ‘living’ person to have killed a slayer – Spike. He walks her through how he beat them, giving the viewer snazzy flashbacks to his time with Angel, and the origins of his coat.
Why I love it: Spike has essentially been castrated by the Initiative, and this episode lets us see him at his worst. Bad Spike is good. Call it a cliché, bad boy lust, whatever, but Spike is at his best when he has conviction. This also starts to set up the Buffy/Spike love story coming in the next season.
Triangle – Episode 511 Original Air Date: Jan 9, 01
Giles is away and Anya gets to run the magic shop. Willow takes advantage and summons an angry troll Anya used to date when he was a man.
Why I love it: Okay, I recognize that this might be a weird choice. It’s a humorous episode thrown in to break up some of the bleakness around Joyce’s illness, but Anya is in my top three favourite Whedon characters. In this episode, we get to see her background, how she became a vengeance demon, and a whole bunch of bunnies.
The Body – Episode 516 Original Air Date: Feb 27, 01
Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch. The episode follows her telling her friends and family. The entire thing is shot with no music. It is fucking heartbreaking.
Why I love it: This episode tops a lot of BtVS episode lists, and it should. It breaks my heart every time I watch it. I actually can’t watch it without the commentary or I’m a puddle of tears by the time it’s done – Toy Story 3 level tears. I can usually hold myself together until Anya’s fruit punch speech. The episode is sad on its own, but it’s the lack of musical cues that really drive home the sad. You don’t realize how much you hide behind the music until it’s not there to guide you. Sad. The whole episode is just so sad.
Dead Things – Episode 613 Original Air Date: Feb 5, 02
The trio uses a cerebral dampener to make Warren’s ex-girlfriend into a sex slave. After she wakes up and accuses them of rape, they end up killing her. They then use a demon to make Buffy think that she’s responsible.
Why I love it: This episode more than any of the others is about the human evil. These three guys who have been a bit of a joke up to this point, have zero issue taking away a woman’s rights. Warren’s a bad man. This is much is obvious. But Jonathan and Andrew aren’t inherently bad. However, they are easily influenced. This episode shows how group think can result in seriously awful consequences.
Hell’s Bells – Episode 616 Original Air Date: Mar 5, 02
It’s Xander and Anya’s wedding! The bridesmaid’s dresses are wretched. The human and demon families need to mingle. Some of the presents are alive. It’s a guaranteed good time. Until future Xander shows up and convinces him to call off the wedding. After he walks away, Anya is invited back into the vengeance demon fold.
Why I love it: Anya and Xander are the perfect couple. I was excited for their wedding. The episode runs the gamete of emotions – hilarious family interactions, ecstatic Anya rehearing her vows, Buffy and Spike’s awkward attempts to make each other jealous, the anger of a marriage falling apart, and Anya’s sadness when everything falls apart. It’s not a great episode, but I kind of adore it.
Normal Again – Episode 617 Original Air Date: Mar 12, 02
Buffy is hurt while fighting a demon and starts having strange flashes between her reality and another where she is a patient in a mental facility and her parents are alive and together. They convince her that Sunnydale is the fiction and that the only way for her to get better is to kill the things that are tying her to her delusion. She eventually decides that Sunnydale is where she wants to be, even if it’s a delusion and saves her friends.
Why I love it: I don’t know. It’s a tv trope that everything is a dream. I should hate this episode, but I don’t. It feels genuine. I guess that’s why I love it – the way it feels. Is this Buffy’s reality? I don’t think so, but it gives people who want to an out. It’s about taking control of your own life.
Selfless – Episode 705 Original Air Date: Oct 22, 02
Anya casts a vengeance spell that results in multiple vicious deaths. Once the gang figures out that Anya was responsible, Buffy realizes that she has to kill her. Xander begs her to show Anya the same leeway she’s shown everyone else, especially Spike. Anya eventually begs D’Hoffryn to reverse the spell. He does it, but at the cost of Hallie’s life.
Why I love it: Everyone is finally forced to confront the fact that Anya has never really fit in. The deaths are gory. And D’Hoffryn gives us the whole why go for the kill when you can go for the pain sentiment that Whedon’s used so skillfully over the last season.
Conversations with Dead People – Episode 707 Original Air Date: Nov 12, 02
Dead people are returning with messages for various members of the Scooby gang. Buffy gets counseling from a vampire she used to go to school with. Willow is visited by a spirit claiming to have a message from Tara. Jonathan and Andrew return to town, visited by Warren’s ghost. Dawn is haunted by her mother.
Why I love it: A big part of it is the music. The whole episode is cocooned in this ethereal song (Blue by Angie Hart). It’s a heavy episode, content wise, but the style and structure let it be kind of floaty so it doesn’t feel like an exposition dump.
Lies My Parents Told Me – Episode 717 Original Air Date: Mar 25, 03
Spike and Principal Wood have a showdown over Spike killing Wood’s mother (the slayer with the coat mentioned in Fool For Love). Giles distracts Buffy in order to allow Wood time to kill Spike. When Buffy realizes what they’re doing, she sides with Spike. Giles’ betrayal forever changes his relationship with Buffy.
Why I love it: Hot Spike on Wood action. There doesn’t need to be more.
Dirty Girls – Episode 718 Original Air Date: April 15, 03
A preacher named Caleb shows up to work for the first. He’s got a thing against girls, especially slayers and potentials. Willow brings Faith back to town to join in the fight. Buffy leads them into a disastrous battle on Caleb’s turf where Xander loses an eye.
Why I love it: Faith’s back! She’s rehabilitated but not all repentant and sappy. Nathan Fillion shows up as the villain (possibly the only time he’s played one) and knocks it out of the friggin park. The episodes leading up to this one have been collecting the snow to make the snowball. This episode pushes it down the hill and propels the action towards the series finale.
Things to note – Once More With Feeling isn’t on my list. I recognize the cool factor in this episode. This was before shows regularly found a way to include a musical episode. It’s a good episode, but it’s not one of my go-to watches – even if I do occasionally need to watch someone singing about mustard stains.
I also haven’t included the series finale. Finales are always bitter sweet. They never really do everything you want them to. Watching them means that your show is done. There is no more (the comic isn’t quite the same). But we get to see Felicia Day kicking some ass, and that is rad enough to get an honourable mention.