My Favourite 60 (is) Buffy The Vampire Slayer Episodes – Part 5 (Season 5)

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In honour of the (now not so) recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.

Season 5

Sorry, it’s been a while since my lost Buffy post. Too many ideas, so little time and will. Aah, Season 5. Depending on who you ask this is either where it started to go wrong, or is the peak of the show. While I would never say the show ever went wrong, I do prefer the earlier seasons – the humour, the lightheartedness, the camaraderie etc. With Season 5, things begin to get serious, and dark. Not in a ‘my boyfriend turned evil and I may have to kill him’ way, but in a ‘my future is going nowhere, I have no hopes or dreams, all my friends are moving on without me, I have too many responsibilities that I don’t want, and everyone I love is dying’ kind of way. There’s an unnamed atmosphere too that niggles me, a mixture of colour, texture, and sound rather than plot and character. But on the plus side, we have some of the finest episodes of Television ever made in this Season, we have massive, unexpected twists, we have plenty of powerful emotional episodes, unforgettable moments, and the show still manages to be fresh, funny, exciting, and scary at various points. It’s difficult to argue against this being the most consistently well serialized Season, and it’s easy to see why so many say it is the best.

Buffy Vs Dracula

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Another enjoyable Season Pilot, Buffy Vs Dracula does exactly as the title suggests. Out on patrol in the early moments of the episode, Buffy is confronted by a tall, dark stranger who claims to be Dracula. The real Dracula. Starstruck fun and games ensue. There really isn’t a lot more to it, story wise – the ladies are enchanted by the Count, Xander does a Renfield, Giles almost does three sisters, and it appears that Dracula cannot be killed and so disappears for another day. What the episode does do is set out a lot of the big stuff that will be happening throughout the rest of the Season and the Series as a whole – Giles feels like he is no longer needed and confides in Willow, not Buffy, that he wishes to return to England. Willow is casually using magic more and more, needlessly. Riley doesn’t appear to be giving Buffy everything she needs and while she appears distant, seeking out her own truths, he is hurt and depressed – Spike stirs the pot making Riley feel more useless. There is a scene on a beach where each of the couples is present and happy – a thundercloud and storm hits, and they all run to get out of the rain – foreshadowing. In the end, Buffy manages to convince Giles to stay (before he could get a chance to announce his departure) by asking him to be her Watcher again, and for them to go deeper into the history of The Slayer to learn about the source of her power. And finally, in the final scene of the episode we get one giant WTF as a young teenage girl appears in Buffy’s bedroom. Oh, didn’t you know? Buffy now has a sister. Hiya, Dawn!

There is a lot packed into this episode, but much of this is only apparent upon re-watches. It’s nice to get some humour in there, usually in the form of Xander being Dracula’s willing slave. In a funny hint towards the lack of humour coming in the rest of the Season, Xander announces he will no longer be the butt-monkey of the group. The appearance of Dawn is probably the top or second most problematic point in the show’s history which continues to divide fans (the other one being Buffy and Angel or Buffy and Spike). I never really had a problem with Dawn – she may be whiny at times and more often than not make stupid decisions which get her into trouble, but Trachtenberg is a capable actress and she brings a believability to the character. It simply seems at times that the writers didn’t know what to do with her, or how to write her, but her inclusion is a positive and of course of vital importance. As overall Season openers go, it isn’t particularly strong but it does lay out its intentions very well, with both clear and subtle flags. I like it though, because it gives a few of the last glimpses of the good old days before….

Favourite Moment: Xander’s addition of ‘Bater’ to various words to try to hide the fact that he is working for Dracula – ‘the dark Master…. Bater’…’the unholy Prince….Bater’.

The Replacement

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It’s no surprise that my next episode is another standalone, predominantly humour based episode. While the previous episode told us all about Dawnie, from her perspective, this one is all about Xander – a character who was largely put to the background in the previous Season. Like in Season 4, Xander is struggling to find his place in the group, especially now that he no longer wants butt-monkey duties. He has a stable relationship, but his work prospects and general outlook on life are poor. He doesn’t allow himself to see his own strengths, something all the more depressing when surrounded by Slayers, Witches, Demons, Vampires, soldiers, and brainiacs. He’s just a normal bloke, with plenty of flaws, and no super powers. The episode attempts to show us, and Xander himself that he is capable, that he has many strengths that others in the group do not possess – human strengths, but he just needs a little shove to see them, and to believe in himself. That shove comes in the form of a demon call Toth, who blasts Xander accidentally after trying to hit Buffy – Xander is spit into two forms – apparently good Xander, and bad Xander.

It’s a familiar trope, the old two bodies gag, and the episode revels in the charm of Brendon’s performance. We follow ‘good Xander’ as he stumbles between misfortunes, watching as ‘bad Xander’ seems to hypnotize everyone he meets, getting a new job, apartment, and getting a little too close to Anya. It turns out though that both Xanders are the real Xander, just that two sides of his personality were divided among the two bodies. Seeing that all the supposedly incredible stuff the other Xander was doing was him along, the newly joined Xander seems to have overcome his issues. Of course we know that ‘Weak Xander’ will continue to cause problems in the future, allowing doubts to persuade him to take ill-advised paths. While all of this is funny and revealing, we get some other important plot threads – Riley confesses to Xander at the end of the episode that Buffy doesn’t love him (Riley), Spike has a weird obsession with Buffy to the point of him having a doll version of her, and Joyce gets a sore head. It’s those late in the episode gut punches which go a long way to why the Season doesn’t always get in my best books – everything is going so well, and boom – depression. Good for the show, not good for me. Another solid episode, if not outstanding.

Favourite Moment: Anya’s plans for having two Xanders, and her disappointment at not getting some… plans.

Family

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I like Tara. I just don’t love Tara as many do. I really wish I could, but for most of the series run she just seems like a less interesting version of Willow who rarely finds her own personality or voice. I don’t think that Amber Benson is the best actress, or at least shows me enough as Tara to convince me (excellent singer though). However, the episodes that do focus on her, or something major happening in her life are usually very strong, and that strength stems from the emotion. Family finally delivers some much needed backstory for Tara, while cementing that core Buffy idea that family does not necessarily mean a blood connection, it’s who you choose. This of course is highly ironic given the importance of blood connections in this Season. Did the writers know this? Were the purposefully including Tara but preparing for her exclusion? Probably not.

The episode centres on Tara’s family coming to visit, and her being nervous about it all. We learn that Tara has essentially been a slave her entire life, and that her family doesn’t think much of women, especially not strong, clever, homosexual women. Tara has been lead to believe that she is a demon by her family (as a means of control) and they have come to Sunnydale to order her to return home with them. It’s not clear why such a controlling family ever allowed her to leave in the first place, but hey ho. Tara casts a spell so that her friends won’t see her demon side, but that happily coincides with Glory sending a pack of Demons to wipe out Buffy and her friends. We get an exciting finale as the gang blindly fights of invisible monsters. Just when it looks like the gang is about to blame Tara for all this, and send her back with her family, they instead embrace her, and form a wall of protection stating that she is part of the Scooby family. Tara realizes she is loved, finds out she’s all human, and we all cry. Amy Adams disapproves. The ending is fantastic, and a genuine, heartwarming tearjerker.

That’s not all that’s going on of course – the episode directly discusses my feelings about Tara  – the group all say they like her, it’s just that they don’t know enough about her. Presumably from this point on it’s known that Tara and the others become close, but with the exception of Dawn and Tara, it doesn’t really happen. We learn a little more about Glory, the gang tries to research her but come up blank, and Buffy decides to move back home from Uni to be closer to Dawn and Joyce and protect them. She tells Giles the truth about Dawn, and how it is important that no-one else finds out. Spike continues to hang around and in his spare time he fantasizes about Buffy (or while shagging Harmony). Riley continues his spiral of depression by drinking alone at bars, and gets hit on by a sexy vampire. Lots of stuff then, and most of it can be tied in to the episode’s central theme. It is nice to finally get this information on Tara, and it is nice to have her fully accepted into the group, and the final scenes are classic Buffy stuff.

Favourite Moment: Everything in that final Magic Shop scene, from Anya asking what kind of Demon Tara is, to Spike punching Tara, to Buffy’s final word on the matter – ‘we’re family’.

Fool For Love

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Keeping with the idea of Buffy seeking to learn more about her Slayer history and lineage, Fool For Love delves deep into the dark history of a number of Slayers but via the memories of Spike. Buffy is on a routine patrol and fights a routine vampire, but almost dies when the vampire uses her own stake against her. The fact that Buffy goes to Spike for this information is an interesting one and feeds into their slooowly growing relationship and the decay of Riley/Buffy. Giles is sure to have plenty of information on Slayers going back for centuries, and although she does discuss this with Giles first, it seems the Watcher’s literature comes up short. Spike is the only person she knows who has fought several Slayers and killed two. In seeing the flashbacks through Spike’s eyes, we learn a lot more of his character over five different periods – before he was a vampire as a romantic failed poet, his fledgling days terrorizing Europe with Angel, Drusilla, and Darla, in China where he kills his first Slayer, New York a century later where he kills his second, and a few months prior to the central timeline where he is dumped by Drusilla. The ‘fool for love’ in question appears to be Spike, as the interesting construction of the episode shows a rollercoaster series of events for Spike which take him full circle, and finally branches off in a potentially new direction – he starts out as a loser, becomes a feared vampire but eventually his somehow retained human feelings and characteristics show him to be the loser he always was, with both Cecily and Buffy uttering the same hurtful line to him. It’s in the dying moments of the episode where we see the truly new Spike for the first time, as he consoles Buffy even though he has no idea what is wrong with her, even though moments before he was planning to kill her.

It’s the script and the construction of Fool For Love which make it so strong – not only does it tie in well with the Angel episode Darla, but it revels in the dance between Spike and Buffy, between vampire and Slayer. Spike reveals that all Slayers have a dark side – a death wish, that having the burden of the world on their shoulders means that when the end comes they are glad for it; A Slayer may fight and win for years, but one single moment of doubt, of wanting it to be over is all an opportunistic vampire needs to kill her. Spike also draws attention to the fact that Buffy is admittedly different as she is not a lone wolf, but uses her family and friends as her strength. This all ties in with the dual forces tugging for control in Season 5 – with family being the source of strength for every character, but with the echoing sentiment that ‘Death Is Your Gift’ becoming increasingly important (if ambiguous). The death wish argument continues to be important all through Season 6 for Buffy, and even for Spike in Season 7. Also notable is the fact that there are not many laughs in the episode, the beginning of Season 5’s descent into much gloomier, depressing territory.

Favourite Moment: All of the flashback scenes standout, but just for a change I’ll pick a fight scene – Spike’s fight with the Chinese Slayer.

Listening To Fear

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I’d rank Listening To Fear as one of the most frightening Buffy episodes. Not only because the Queller demon is icky and skittering and yuck, but because of the reality of what is happening to Joyce and the way in which it is handled. We are watching a character we (mostly) love disintegrate as the tumour in her head causes her to lose her grip on reality. We are helpless in many ways, most notably that this is a medical condition that can’t be cured by magic or a stake, and because the demon in the house, in Joyce’s room is sitting there looking at her but no-one would realise she is talking about it because she has been ranting like a loon for the whole episode anyway. It’s also maybe the only time in the entire show that we deal with an alien, as the Queller is extra-terrestrial.

The demon doesn’t actually need to come from outer space, it seems like an excuse to throw in a few one-liners. The whole thing about the demon being summoned to rid the world of ‘crazy’ people is a little silly too but it does lead to the revelation that Ben knows Glory and is somehow connected to her. More important though is that while Joyce was off getting magical crazy person gifts, she saw what all of the other insane people saw – that Dawn is not real. She talks to Buffy about this, but in a touching scene says that it doesn’t matter if she’s not real, she is still her daughter, and she is still Buffy’s sister. She asks Buffy to take care of Dawn if anything should happen to her, before being wheeled into the operating room. Elsewhere Spike is still creeping on Buffy and belittling Riley any chance he gets. Those moments when Joyce suddenly switches and lets rip with some vulgarity are genuinely shocking and the scenes with the Queller demon in her room will make you uncomfortable – again there is not much humour or light-hearted stuff on offer.

Favourite Moment: The entire bedroom scene with Joyce, filled with little heartbreaking and terrifying moments, from Buffy sobbing while she does the dishes, to Dawn beating it off her mother.

Triangle

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Finally, praise be to Jane Espenson, a comedy based episode! We’ve needed this after the slow burning agony of the last string of episodes and after the departure of Riley. There’s a lot going on here, with Spike crafting speeches to his creepy Buffy mannequin, Buffy trying to move on without Riley, Giles trying to get information from The Council about Glory, Anya and Willow fighting over Xander, and a giant Troll rampaging through Sunnydale in search of ale, wenches, and babies. A lot of pack in, but Espenson and Director Hibler handle it all well. We get snippets about Anya’s past life as it turns out her and Olaf used to be a thing, we acquire Olaf’s Hammer, we learn that Willow thinks rat Amy is watching her and scheming, and that she is using magic increasingly without remorse. In the climax we see that Xander can’t choose between letting Willow or Anya live, yet Anya chooses to sacrifice herself (before Buffy gets her heartbroken rage on). An episode with some laughs then, not one which advances the series arc in any meaningful way (until watching in retrospect), but a respite from the gloom. There are some laughs, a few hilarious moments and plenty of good one-liners, but it doesn’t rank up with the funnier, earlier episodes.

Favourite Moment: Buffy bursting into tears over Xander and Anya’s ‘miraculous love’.

Checkpoint

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Checkpoint brings back, to the delight of no-one, The Watcher’s Council. As expected, the gang is nervous about this to varying degrees – Buffy is concerned that they will put her life in danger again with some silly set of tests, Giles is nervous that they will be looking down at him as a former employee and traitor, everyone feels they need to be on their best behaviour, Anya creates an elaborate back story so everyone thinks she is an apple pie eating patriotic non-demon, while Spike flirts. There’s a lot of fun in the episode with all of the lies and exaggerating and stress, but the episode does a lot to push forward the main arc about Glory and Dawn, as well as strengthening a few of our characters. It contains a few standout moments and shocks, and another wince-inducing, punch the TV moment.

The episode begins with a look at both the Scoobies and Glory’s freak outs – Scoobies for the aforementioned reasons, and Glory because she is growing weaker and more distressed at not being able to find The Key. The Watchers Council arrives and forces Buffy, surprise surprise, through a series of tests and interviews – if she doesn’t comply not only will they withhold information from her regarding Glory, but they will deport Giles. PUNCH TV. Ooh ho no, that isn’t the punch TV moment I referenced above, that comes courtesy of some random dickhead lecturer in one of Buffy’s classes. The whole University thing has been sadly neglected this Season, and this acts as the nail in the coffin – it’s nowhere near as bad as when the dickhead lecturer shouts at Buffy in The Freshman, but its enough to make Buffy feel like education is worthless. Buffy suggests an alternate way of thinking (what University should be about) but the lecturer ridicules her in front of everyone in a prime example of  what is known as tiny cock syndrome. The scene does of course serve a purpose, leading to Buffy’s decision in the final scene of the episode which ironically is one of the biggest and best fist-pumping moments in the whole show – yay! Basically, Buffy feels like she is losing control and others are either making decisions for her, taking away choice completely, or not allowing her to think and act for herself – she’s  Buffy, I think she’s earned a little credit.

On the Glory side, Ben foolishly lets slip that The Key is a person to one of Glory’s minions. Although he beats Jinx to a pulp, he stupidly doesn’t kill him, and Jinx revelas the truth to Glory – uh oh. Glory heads straight to Buffy’s house, where Dawn and Joyce are all alone. This scene is pretty scary as we are used to the anti-vampire stuff surrounding houses, but Glory heads on in with no issues. Luckily this leads to some fun between Spike and Joyce – some nice characterization which again makes Spike lovers go all luvvy duvvy. After this, the almost worthless Knights Of The Byzantium attack Buffy – this group opposes Glory and decides that the only way to stop her is to destroy The Key. Sigh, if only they worked with Buffy. I’ve never liked these Knights, finding them out of place, underwritten, and uninteresting, even though the idea of an ancient order of Knights trying to protect the world is interesting in itself. It just doesn’t pay off and takes time away from the more interesting Glory and what is happening with The Scoobies in the rest of the Season. Buffy has had enough, vocally rips the Watcher’s Council apart, and takes complete control of her own destiny – what a fantastic way to end the episode. Unnntil Travers tells us that Glory isn’t a demon…. she’s a God. Oh.

The whole Glory is a God thing is a fine gut punch to close the episode, but in retrospect it doesn’t really mean anything. Sure, it sounds like Glory can’t be killed but we know she is just another bad guy that Buffy will have to defeat somehow – in the end she isn’t really any different from a vampire, demon, or cyborg and this kind of takes the impact out of the God line on re-watches. It’s a memorable episode for the various reveals and plot pushing, and it thankfully does still have some humourous moments – it’s these reveals which distinguish the episode from others in the Season which I find to be very similar and more of a single large episode cut into different parts rather than actual separate stories.

Favourite Moment: Buffy’s entire final speech is glorious, from her delivery and performance, to the reactions and additions and reactions, all capped by the flawless ‘I’m fairly certain I said no interruptions’. Now Buffy is the Professor!

The Body

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Oh, Sweet Jeebus no. I feel entirely inadequate talking about this episode when so many smarter and more informed and more impacted people have written much better commentaries and reviews of this episode. For anyone who hasn’t read any of those, I’ll simply go as far as saying that this is unquestionably one of the best episodes of TV ever. That isn’t just the fanboy in me – anyone who watches this is moved, and perhaps even changed by the episode. Its depiction of death, grief, and loss, is so raw and unflinching and realistic that anyone who has been touched by death or even been close to it or thought about it will find this an incredibly difficult watch. I honestly can’t say anything bad about it aside from I wish I could watch it more – my favourite episodes by and large I can return to for a one-off watch, but nobody decides to just stick on The Body for an hour’s entertainment. There have been times I just haven’t been able to finish this episode, breaking down and turning it off. Whedon even manages plenty of black humour in the episode – two fake-outs (the ambulance and Dawn crying at school), Xander’s wall punch, the broken rib, as well as some touching stuff with Willow and Tara. How this episode didn’t win every award in the world is beyond me – Gellar, Trachtenberg, Hannigan, Caulfield all give extraordinary performances and Whedon’s direction and writing has never been better. Scratch that – nobody’s direction and writing has been better, anywhere, at any time. There are sooo many good moments in this episode, and so much to talk about, but talking would simply cheapen how I feel about it, and how it is. If you haven’t seen this episode, you owe it to yourself, hell you owe it to the show to go back and watch from Episode 1, all the way up to this point and experience The Body for yourself.

Favourite Moment: Anya’s speech.

Forever

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I’ve always felt that, after The Body, the remainder of Season Five drags along slowly as if it has admitted to itself that the quality will be inevitably downhill after such a high point. The episodes are less episodic and blend into one whole, which is fine when you have a show as good as this, but it feels too dreary and lifeless. Of course, all of that (or at least a large part of it) is intentional – we are in mourning, and even though we are in mortal danger there is a gaping void and an apathy to current events. However, Forever doesn’t truly fall into this category as it feels more like The Body 1.5. We deal with the events immediately following The Body, namely Joyce’s funeral and its preparations, and how the Scoobies are each coping with the realization that she is gone. We move beautifully between the characters coping individually and within groups – Buffy and Angel, Dawn and Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya, with touching cameos by Giles and Spike. Almost every one of these scenes is fine-tuned to twist our hearts that little bit tighter, whether it be Giles listening alone to a song he once played for Joyce, or Spike bringing flowers as a sign of respect for a woman who was good to Spike even though she had no reason to be.We briefly visit Ben and Jinx to remind ourselves that she is still plotting, and witness Ben letting slip that The Key is a human. Oopsee!

The rest of the episode is key (sorry) for quickening and preparing for what happens to Willow in Season 6 as she subtly encourages Dawn to investigate a resurrection spell – a serious piece of dark magic. It is clear here that Willow ‘s coping mechanism for her own grief or to help ease the grief of others, is to resort to the quick fix, the magic, and the things which go against the natural order. This leads to three important encounters; Dawn and Spike – where Spike offers to help Dawn, Spike, Dawn, and The Doc – an excruciatingly creepy scene featuring the excellent Joel Grey, and finally a rather generic action scene where Spike and Dawn try to steal an egg from some demon. This all culminates in a terrific scene with wonderful performances by Trachtenberg and Gellar as they argue over the spell, with Dawn accusing Buffy of being heartless while Buffy admits to trying to avoid the fact that Joyce is gone because it’s only real if she thinks about it. As all this is happening, we see the shadow of a woman pass by the window and head towards the front door….

While the episode can’t compete with the sheer exhausting exercise that is The Body, it is nevertheless another powerful episode which will have you quivering with fear and sadness at various points. At turns devastating and horrifying, the ending is yet another gut punch which we still carry the bruises of.

Favourite Moment: Buffy and Dawn falling to the floor together upon opening the front door.

The Gift

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Here we have it – the end. I mentioned before how I would have been happy had Buffy ended at Season 3 – it was a perfect way to end the show, with the group saving the world once more and looking towards bright futures. I feel the same way about The Gift in that it is a perfect ending to the show, and had it not been picked up by another network and continued for another two years, I would have been happy. It’s everything that a finale should be, and it is again one of the greatest hours of television you’ll ever experience. All those cryptic references from previous episodes and Seasons finally make sense, and Buffy does what every Slayer is born to do – give her life for the world.

We have seen in previous episodes Buffy’s world being stripped away – her friends trying to settle down, her boyfriend leaving, her mother dying, and finally her sister being kidnapped by an all powerful Goddess which she was entirely helpless to prevent. How can she protect the world if she can’t even protect her sister? But as the episode opens, there is a new sense of energy and purpose – we get quick blasts of every single episode before Buffy coolly dispatches a simple vampire in an alley while a bemused boy answers ‘you’re just a girl’. That’s the entire show in a nutshell, and although it grew into so much more it’s nice to see us stripped right back to the basics. Everything about this episode has that sense of closure and finality – from the references to the past, to the pacing, to the old fashioned Scooby plotting, all the way to the end – if we’re going out with a bang, lets make it one that will echo through the ages.

The gang are thinking desperately of ways to stop Glory – if she sacrifices Dawn then The Key’s power will unlock the doors between dimensions and basically rip apart reality, bringing hell on earth – few if any would survive. Killing Dawn is one solution, but Buffy will not consider it even if it means everyone else dies. Killing Ben is another, though nobody thinks Ben will be around. Willow suggests that no-one needs to die as (silly rules of rituals) Glory only has a few moments to perform her ritual so they just need to distract her and stop her long enough for that window of time to pass. Cue Dagon Spheres, Troll Hammers, magic, wrecking balls, Buffy Bots, and every other weapon they can muster. Elsewhere, Glory and Ben prepare Dawn for the ritual wile Dawn berates Ben for being worse than Glory as he is willingly going along with her murder. Buffy confides in Giles that she cannot be The Slayer anymore if these are the choices she is constantly being forced to make, saying she doesn’t understand who to live in a world like this. Willow plots to reverse Tara’s brain suck, Xander proposes to Anya, and the final battle begins.

I love everything about the final moments – there is such a wild mix of emotions that I wish there were some reaction videos of people watching the episode for the first time. Before that though, I think the setting is wonderful, the fight scenes and stunt work are exceptional, and we barely get a chance to catch our breath. There are so many fist-pumping scenes where you will be screaming ‘YESSSS!’ at the TV, coupled with quieter, more tender moments, cold and calculated surprises, and complete shocks where you all be screaming ‘NOOOO!’ at the TV. The final gut punch comes as it looks like The Scoobies have won – they have defeated Glory – but they are too late. Doc appears, cuts Dawn, throws Spike off the building, and makes sure that the ritual continues. While Buffy hilariously dispatches of Doc, we know that the portal is about to open and so Buffy has an epiphany, understands that Death is her gift, says goodbye to Dawn, and leaps to her death. When it all ends, we find Buffy’s body shattered, the Scoobies victorious, but broken and in mourning once more.

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A special episode in a special show, and there isn’t anything more any of us could ask for. The cast give some of their finest performances, you will cry until there is nothing left inside, and you’ll want everyone in the world to watch it too. Special kudos to Christophe Beck for coming back especially to write the music for this episode. Naturally it was written and directed by Whedon, instantly a seal of quality. There are so many discussion points in this episode that it will continue to be debated for decades to come – if only I had some real friends to talk about it to face to face, but when I was watching it live most of my friends had stopped watching it, and no-one I know now has seen it. Ah well, that’s what blogs are for. Next up we hit the critic’s favourite Season 6, the series where the show goes too far into the dark side and becomes almost unwatchable – not because of a drop in quality, but because it is unrelentingly grim as the fallout from this episode rip our favourite characters to tatters, and nothing is ever the same again.

What are your favourite episodes of Season Five? Which scenes, lines, and moments make you cry, scream, and laugh? Let us know you thoughts in the comments!

 Don’t forget my other Season recaps here: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4

My Favourite 60 (ish) Buffy The Vampire Slayer Episodes – Part 3 (Season 3)

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In honour of the recent 10 year anniversary of Buffy’s final episode airing (tears), I’m adding my Buffy-related list to the millions of others slaying the internet at the mo. By way of introduction, this is slightly more than just a list, as I’m giving a tiny blurb on each episode along with why it’s a favourite, and I’ll be giving a favourite moment and piece of dialogue too. Most of the 12 people who will read this list, will likely be here because they are already Buffy fans, but for the rest of you, here be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet (weirdo) go do that first, then come back. I’ll still be here.

I’ve split my list into several parts as there are over 60 episodes, and no-one should be expected to read such a long list in one lunch-time sitting (for those of you reading this when you should be working – hey! Get back to that inbox – those emails aren’t going to reply to themselves… yet…). I’ve done the list in series order, as it is too difficult to make a Buffy list in order of importance – I don’t think there is really an episode I don’t like, and that includes Beer Bad. I either like them, love them, or worship them. I may revisit at a later to give more info on every episode, and why j’adore them so much, but until then, let us join hands and walk through the fire together, and remember our dear friend, Buffy Summers.

Season 3

You should probably take a bit of a breather from Buffy after the emotional fun and games of Season 2. Not too long though, as I’m sure you will want to know what has been happening to our pals in Sunnydale. Where did Buffy go? How did the Scoobies cope without her? Will she even come back? Have the bad guys taken over the town now that it is Slayer-less? Not to mention all of the budding relationships on the show. Season 3 answers all these questions in the first few episodes, possibly too quickly for some fans, but that’s because we have bigger issues to deal with – Season 3 issues. Namely, a new Big Bad, a new apocalypse (or 2), and a new slayer! Season 3 is probably the most popular season of Buffy, balancing that blend of humour,  danger, and plot brilliantly, and delivering a consistent run of excellent episodes. It probably has some of the best fight scenes in the whole series, easily has some of the best standalone episodes, and while the sheer emotional weight has decreased from Season 2, it has better writing and less throwaway episodes.

Faith, Hope, And Trick

The first two episodes of Season 3 deal with the aftermath of Season 2’s events, specifically Buffy being expelled, killing her beloved, being thrown out of her home, chased by the cops, and leaving town, and neatly (or hastily – depending on which camp you fall into) wrapping up her return and the questions over what everyone has been up to for the last few months. Though they are good episodes, particularly Anne, they feel like a holdover from Season 2. In other words, they are crossover episodes, they are old news. Three episodes in and we are waiting for something new to happen, something bold, something to signify that Season 3 is truly getting underway. And with this episode, we get a host of NEWNESS, including Faith, Hope, and Trick, and a big, dirty cliffhanger too!

So, all appears well again in Sunnydale with the kids focussing on school, the Bronze, boyfriends, girlfriends, and Buffy is trying, as always to have a normal life. Enter Scott Hope, a nice, normal chap, who just wants some Summer(s) luvin’. Buffy seems more keen though on trying to get back into school. After celebrating he re-acceptance into Sunnydale High, we bump into Faith, slaughtering a vampire with relish, who promptly introduces herself and floors us and the Sccobies. Elsewhere, we meet the lovely Mr Trick and Kakistos, a vampire and demon combo, merging old school ways with the uber-stylish stylings of 90s LA. Mr Trick is the first ‘modern’ vampire we’ve seen who has truly embraced the fashions, ways, technologies of the day.

Favourite Moment: Faith’s entrance and another classic Buffy reaction.

Band Candy

Season 3 probably contains the majority of the fan favourite standalone episodes, and Band Candy is right up there with the best. Everyone’s favorite bumbling ointment fly Ethan Rayne is back to cause more chaos, and in doing so gives us some of the biggest and most memorable laughs in the series. Thanks to some scrumdiddlytastic candy, that classic parents-believing-they-are-kids trope is invoked, and suddenly The Scoobies have to be the adults. Like many of the ideas which have been used in TV shows since Merlin clenched his bum cheeks and created TV, it is a premise which the writers and cast of Buffy make fresh and unique. We are so invested in these characters by this point that any change is thrilling, hilarious, or heart-breaking. After two seasons of Buffy, who wouldn’t want to see what Joyce and Giles were like when they were young? And who the hell wouldn’t laugh their ass off at Snyder’s ill-favoured, joyous attempts at fitting in?

There is too much to mention in Band Candy that makes me laugh, I’ll just say that the whole crew go away above on beyond here. Special credit must go to Head, Sutherland, and Shimmerman though for their great performances. It is obvious that they relish the opportunity to break free of their respective stuffy characters, but the writers give them such brilliant dialogue and back story that the actors couldn’t help but excel. It isn’t a hugely important episode, we do get another glimpse of The Mayor, but it is the sort of episode you can stick on out-of-order and still enjoy as much as you would on a series rewatch.

Favourite Moment: Snyder tagging along… every moment is comedy gold.

The Wish

One of the most memorable standalone episodes in the entire 7 year run is one which takes place largely in an alternate Universe (one which is returned to later in Season 3). The alternate version of reality is a common trope, but as this is Buffy we have a variety of twists on the template – namely that the focus is not on the main character (and also that the character whose focus the episode does centre on is killed in the episode!). Cordelia is understandably pissed after the Xillow (Xandow?) incident and decides that all the recent problems in her life can be traced to Buffy arriving in Sunnydale. Sparking up a friendship with new student Anya, Cordy mentions that she wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. To everyone’s (no-one’s) surprise, there is evil afoot and Anya is actually a demon who grants vengeful wishes by scorned women. Cordy is spun away to an alternate Sunnydale which Buffy has never been to. Now the fun really begins.

The first part of this episode is mostly fallout from the previous, and it’s nice to see so much focus on Cordelia as the injured party, rather than Xander and Willow (although they get their moments here too, both in human and vamp form). However, it is the second half which is legendary, with Willow and Xander as an undead couple, The Master back in charge with Angel as his play-thing, and with Giles and a small group of White Hats valiantly holding off the inevitable end of the world. To add to the carnage, Xander and Willow kill Cordelia, but not before she gives Giles just enough information about Buffy and The Wish to bring the episode to its conclusion. This second half is so packed with ideas, humour, scares, and details for geeks like me to harp on about for decades, that it’s understandably an episode which is always listed in any fan’s favourites.

Favourite Moment: The final, masterful battle scene with an uncaring Buffy not flinching as Angel dies (again) and watching our former friends tearing each other to shreds. It would have been a wonderful catharsis if it had have been real.

Amends

 

Aah, Christmas – it’s the most wonderful time of the year, so I’ve heard. Over in Sunnydale though, the land of perpetual scorching sun, I imagine the festivities are lacking. This episode is filled with Christmas cheer, Buffy style – with vengeful spirits of days past, remorseful vampires trying to kill themselves, dead trees, camping, heartfelt gestures and attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation, the re-kindling of relationships, and the first appearance of… The First. Amends isn’t an episode which stands out with moments of LOL humour, or toe-curling terror, but is rather a character-centric episode, focusing on the pain and rehabilitation of several of the team, hence the title. Angel is plagued by nightmares, trying to seek help from the understandably tense Giles, Oz and Willow try to make up, Cordelia is still keeping her distance, while Buffy reaches out to Faith, and it all culminates in a fierce, fantastic, scene between Buffy and Angel. This ending, though Deus Ex Machina, is a highlight of the series, but the best moments are the reappearance of Robia La Morte as The First, in the guise of Jenny Calendar. These are chilling and poignant.

Favourite Moment: Robia La Morte’s back… yay!

Gingerbread

 BTVS has always been a fine example of merging fantasy and reality – of keeping a ridiculous concept grounded in the mundane facts of everyday life we all encounter. Often the most haunting moments of the series come when the fantasy elements cross the thin line and become almost fully intertwined with the world we understand and exist in – as Willow says earlier in the show – ‘ I’m not okay. I knew those guys. I go to that room every day. And when I walked in there, it… it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs. And they had fun.’ The show is most scary when it’s believable, when our truest, most unspoken fears are shoved in our faces and we’re forced to look back. Gingerbread takes a typical Buffy idea, but twists things just enough that is becomes uncomfortable to watch – we are uneasy with the honesty which the story conveys and made to squirm by the fact that these things do happen.

The episode begins with Joyce deciding to help out her daughter’s latest slayage outing, and unsurprisingly this is awkward. Things take a turn for the worse when Joyce stumbles upon the bodies of two young children – sparking an investigation for The Scoobies and a literal Witch-hunt for Joyce and Sunnydale’s other absent/concerned parents. The main drama from the episode comes from the clashing of these two groups and the gnawing sense that the situation and unvoiced fears between the two groups will combust.

Aside from all the main plot antics and progression of Buffy and Joyce’s relationship, we see Amy turning into a rat amidst a lot of Witchcraft growth for Willow, discussion on censorship and persecution, and one of my favourite kills in the entire series – see favourite moment below. Again, you probably won’t find this episode appearing on many lists of best episodes, but as with many 2-3 season outings it has that perfect blend of writing and characterisation, humour, horror, and drama, and light versus dark that later seasons do not match.

Favourite Moment: Gellar’s delivery of the line ‘Did I get it? Did I get it!?’

Helpless

There are some things Buffy should constantly be wary of – Public Holidays and Birthdays being right at the top of the list. It wasn’t enough that her 17th Birthday saw her losing her ‘Innocence’ and the man she loved, but a mere year later and fate is playing its dirty tricks again. Unknown to Buffy, The Watchers Council has had an essentially pointless, archaic ritual for countless years and that on her 18th Birthday she is forced to go through with it. Although this ritual is horrific, and almost causes her to lose her life, it causes irreparable damage to her relationship with Giles – the only true grown-up she has been able to put almost unwavering faith in. It’s another way in which Buffy is forced into adulthood unnaturally, and without her having any choice in the matter.

This is a rough time for Buffy, not only because she is betrayed by her main father figure – but also because her actual father abandons her in favour of his job/secretary. Luckily, things work out well in the end with Giles losing his job as Watcher, but in the same moments becoming her de facto Father. Special praise should go to Harris Yulin as the ever slimy Travers, and the excellent Jeff Kober as a freakishly horrifying vampire that Buffy is forced to fight. This is another episode which is rarely mentioned by fans or critics, but it is one which is uniquely important in setting up and cementing certain dynamics.

Favourite Moment For some reason, when Kralik licks his lips.

The Zeppo

A definite contender for my all-time favourite episode, and for a long time during the first televised run of BTVS I frequently called this my favourite to anyone who would listen and many who wouldn’t. Now, a lot of people have a downer for Xander and have a dubious hatred for any Xander-centric episodes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t genuinely enjoy this anarchic episode. Featuring a day in the life of Xander, we get to see the life through his perfectly normal, loner, geeky sex-scorched adolescent male eyes. Often the most useless member of the Scoobies, but also often the most overlooked and unfairly despised, Xander rarely gets to save the day on his own, but here he gets the chance – mainly because he is ignored by the rest of the group who are busy dealing with some hilariously vague apocalyptic battle – points for the show poking fun at its own ridiculous, high-concept ways. Not only is this one of the most chaotic, fast-moving episodes of the entire series, it’s also one of the funniest, and features many moments which honour Xander and (should have?) further (ed) his character.

Xander has just split from Cordelia, his fault of course, but he’s feeling pretty down about things. Cordelia is back to her best barb throwing self and naturally, Xander is at the top of her list of targets. Just a few weeks ago he was pretty high in the pecking order of the Scoobies and, for the first time, in school. But now he’s at the bottom again. The best way to gain some quick self-esteem and find your place in the world once more? Have a day of wacky adventures which include raising the dead, zombie-car chases, losing your virginity, and saving the school from large explosions. It’s like the Good Book says – if you don’t like this, you’re an idiot.

Favourite Moment: Xander’s driving beheads one of the zombie gang.

Doppelgangland

After a Xander-centric episode where he gets himself into various scrapes due to feeling down, we get basically the same situation but for Willow. Willow has been feeling bad after the issues with Oz and Xander, for being dumped on by Snyder and Percy, and for being seen as ‘Old Reliable’ by her friends. Meanwhile Anya is sick of being human, mortal, and horny. These two ladies clash (as they will continue to do over the years) and somehow the Vampire Willow from the Buffy-less alternate version of Sunnydale as seen in The Wish is pulled into this reality.

Again, this is a standout episode in terms of plotting, comedy, and performances, with Hannigan arguably giving her best performance of the 7 years. Much has been said about the multiple roles she plays here, it is superb, and the writing really gives her the freedom to move. It’s another vital episode in Willow’s growth and we get hints at what is in store for her in the future, in terms of magic and sexuality. Not a lot of the other characters get much time or growth, but pretty much every appearance and encounter is packed with laughs. A clear fan favourite.

Favourite Moment: When everybody thinks that Willow is dead and Willow appears – great dialogue, great looks between the cast.

Earshot

For a number of reasons, hardcore Buffy fans suggest that newcomers to Buffy (or people who haven’t yet seen it but want to be convinced) should watch this episode first as a sample – to see if they like it, then start from episode one. It does have some major highlights, it’s tense, gripping, funny, emotional, topical, clever, and respectful, and of course the writing is dead-on and the performances a wonder. Anyone reading this will know that the episode coincided with the Columbine tragedy, and due to the subject matter, was pulled from the schedule for a few months. The episode deals with (not unlike any Season 1-3 episode) someone or something wanting to kill school kids, but here it is assumed that it is a pupil who is going to do the damage. One of the final scenes sees a student with a rifle in the clocktower. However, this is one of the most well-handled ‘issues’ episodes of BTVS and is genuine, realistic, and sympathetic. It’s an episode which supports those who have encountered tragedy or who are feeling suicidal.

The gist of the story is that Buffy gets some demon spunk all up inside her and gains some interesting additional superpowers. Namely, she can read people’s thoughts. This leads to many funny moments, and both Gellar and Buffy have a lot of fun. However, as great power comes with great annoyances, these thoughts soon become deafening and Buffy begins to lose it. She also hears one voice rising above the rest which threatens to kill everyone in the school.

The episode, like so many others, handles a wide variety of genres and tones flawlessly. We move from action to comedy to horror to good cop/bad copy to gut wrenching drama. Everything is genuine, from the heartfelt speeches to the pant-splitting laughs (twice!?)

Favourite Moment: The entire clock tower scene with Buffy and Jonathon is one of the best in the show’s run.

The Prom

The calm before the storm; the sex scene before the machete through the neck. Overall it’s a strange episode – more of a loose-end-tying-up episode than anything else, acting as a prologue to the finale and it could be argued that this and Graduation Day could really have been a three-parter. To bulk this into a fully-fledged standalone episode, we get a throwaway plot about disgruntled student Tucker, who wants to ruin the Prom by training demon dogs to attack anyone wearing formal wear. It’s all very silly, but luckily it’s played well and isn’t much of a distraction from the central action.

With everyone that has happened between Buffy and Angel, Angel decides that the two of them cannot be together and decides to break it off. Some effect nightmares and prodding from Joyce help him make this decision, and naturally Buffy is heartbroken. Elsewhere, Xander takes pity on Cordelia, Oz and Willow are cute, and Anya tried to remember what it is to be human, while Wesley and Giles try to out – out-of-place – each other – Wesley wins. Buffy is determined through all of this, and with another apocalypse on the horizon, to make sure her friends have one perfect evening. It all leads to the final few scenes at the Prom where the students do indeed get their perfect evening, none more so than Buffy, who is awarded the worst looking Umbrella thing I have ever seen, and is lauded by the many people whose lives she has saved countless times. And Angel comes back for one last dance.

Favourite Moment: I think we can all agree that there can only be one, and that of course is Buffy receiving the class protector award after Jonathon’s speech – a lump in the throat moment if there ever was one, a great unspoken honour finally given a voice, and a fitting send off for our beloved Slayer.

Graduation Day Parts 1 and 2

For this two-parter there isn’t a lot to separate the two pieces, it’s more like a mini movie – season arc plot lines come to a head, several beloved, and some not so beloved characters lose their lives, others leave, some are left with uncertain futures, and those who escape and overcome can sigh a huge breath of relief having made it through school in one piece.

The gang know that the Mayor plans his Ascension on Graduation Day and begin their usual round of Scoobying to work out if there is any way to stop him, before or after he ascends. Anya gives us some scary info on what an Ascension truly means, and what the aftermath can be thanks to prior first hand experience. However, they still have the rogue Slayer Faith to contend with, who not only murders another human, but infects Angel with a lethal poison – the Scoobies are diverted now with their ranks split by having to deal with two threats. The first part dramatically ends with Buffy apparently killing Faith and losing her best chance at saving Angel – through the blood of a Slayer. Part Two picks up immediately from where we left off, leading to some of the Series’ most dramatic and emotionally charged scenes – Angel drinking from Buffy, the Mayor visiting Faith and Buffy in the hospital, etc. As time runs out, Buffy finally works through her plan – a plan we are not privy to until its execution. You all know what happens, and it’s one of the finest moments in the seven-year run – as every student is armed and fights back against the evil horde. The Mayor ascends, the whole school fights back, Snyder continues the tradition of Principals being eaten, and Buffy kills the Mayor by blowing up the entire school. Metaphors abound. The original gang spends their final moments together before eventually going their separate ways. Tears abound.

As I say below, it’s a perfect ending and if the show had not continued beyond this point, it would have been a great place to stop. As expected, the performances are superb and even some of the more minor characters get their moment in the sun. While it isn’t as haunting or as tearjerking as Becoming or The Gift, it certainly ranks high up the list of most action packed finale. As usual, the fights between Buffy and Faith are the best fights in the series’ history and although the humour meter is sacrificed for drama and plot pacing, there are still some bittersweet funny moments dealing with the end of school life, and the typical sarcastic punning we have enjoyed in the previous years. It’s all change for Season 4 – arguably the funniest season – before we begin our descent into darkness.

Favourite Moment: The final moments between the original gang, looking forward to a (hopefully) brighter future, going separate ways etc. I imagine this will forever resonate with anyone who has survived school, it certainly reminds me of my last days (though mine had slightly fewer explosions). When I was watching I, like the characters had no idea what was to come – I don’t I was even sure if there would be a fourth season. If it had ended here I would have been happy, but I’m glad it continued!