Before "Twilight," before "True Blood" there was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I have a few friends -- mostly female -- who are big fans of what I consider to be the best serial TV series of all time. After mentioning the series in my blog a few days ago, one of them asked me which episodes were my favorite. A tough call, but it got me thinking.
A stellar cast, witty dialog and compelling story arcs overcame a stingy budget to generate seven years of great television. It's what it takes to create a loyal following. Curiously, I never saw an episode when it was running on prime time. I discovered it through DVD box sets after the series had ended its run.
My favorite seasons are 3 and 7, the final one. Three because it was the last with Angel and Cordelia, and it introduced Faith as a second Slayer. Additionally it introduced Anya who was key in two of my top-ten favorite episodes. Season 7 is also a favorite because it is just epic. Good for Honorable Mention is season 6 because it's the "Revenge of the Nerds" season with the villain really a trio of geeks who are a funny as they are dastardly.
Without further fanfare, here are my top-ten episodes:
10. AS YOU WERE, Season 6 -- Riley returns with his new wife -- also a demon fighter. It generates some big laughs.
9. END OF DAYS, Season 7 -- Buffy kills The First's right-hand demon and reunites with Angel for the last time. Strong stuff.
8. THE YOKO FACTOR, Season 4 -- Angel comes back to Sunnydale to help Buffy only to discover she has a steady boyfriend. The petty sniping between Angel and Riley (the boyfriend) is hilarious.
7. CHECKPOINT, Season 5 -- Buffy tells the Watcher's Council to stuff it when they arrive from England to review her skills.
6. FAMILY, Season 5 -- When Tara's (Willow's significant other) family shows up to drag her back home, the Skooby Gang closes ranks and stops them. It transforms Tara from an outsider into one of the gang.
5. BECOMING part II, Season 2 -- Buffy's mom learns that Buffy is the Slayer. The 15 seconds of uncomfortable silence as Spike and her mom sit alone in her living room is priceless. The silence is broken when her mom asks Spike, "Have we met?" To which he answers, "Yes, you hit me in the head with an axe once while yelling, 'Get away from my daughter!'"
4. THE WISH, Season 3 -- With the power to grant wishes, the 1,100-year-old demon, Anya answers Cordelia's wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale by casting her into an alternative reality where vampires rule the town.
3. DOPPELGANGLAND, Season 3 -- Sort of the sequel to THE WISH, Anya and Willow accidentally bring Vampire Willow into this reality from the alternative one with seriously funny consequences.
2. CHOSEN, Season 7 -- This is the series finale and it is huge. Poignant, funny and spectacular, it is a fitting end to a great series.
1. NORMAL AGAIN, Season 6 -- After a demon infects Buffy, she drifts back and forth between her Sunnydale Slayer reality, and one in which she is in a mental hospital where she was committed because she thinks she's the Slayer. Her parents and doctor try to hold her in the mental-hospital reality. So well written, directed and acted, the viewer is left not knowing for sure which is Buffy's true reality.