And since this is my damn blog, here's MY top ten:
Chuck Says: This episode has a real fairy tale quality to it, something that is *really* hard to capture. Plus it marks the first appearance of Tara, one of my favorite Buffy characters.
2. The Gift
Episode Summary: Buffy and the gang prepare to go to war with Glory to save Dawn. Buffy warns her friends yet again that Dawn’s safety was her ultimate goal and she would not let anyone harm her. Dawn is being held on a tall tower by Glory. Buffy and the Buffybot fight Glory using the Dagon sphere and Olaf’s troll hammer. Eventually Glory morphs into Ben for the last time, and Giles kills him. All is not well though, as Doc turns up and cuts Dawn, activating a portal to Glory’s world. As Hell dimensions begin to merge into ours, Buffy makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the world and jumps into the portal. The portal closes and Buffy’s body falls to the floor. The last shot we see is of Buffy’s gravestone proclaiming that she “saved the world a lot”.
Chuck Says: Easily the most powerful Buffy episode. Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn and really steps up as both an epic hero and a leader. The showdown with Glory is tremendous and every single member of the Scoobies gets a chance to show their unique contribution to the team.
And when the Scoobies gather around Buffy's broken and battered body, and Spike drops to his knees and begins sobbing, its one of the most shocking and powerful moments in the entire series.
3. Once More With Feeling
Chuck Says: Not only is it a musical, but its the pivotal episode of the season (until Seeing Red when Tara dies and Willow goes evil) for the entire season. The songs are great and the episode is filled with great lines, but what consistently blows me away is how the songs advance the plot and the songs fit the characters.
4. When She Was Bad
Episode Summary: Buffy arrives back from her summer break in a bad mood. Her experience with the Master is still playing on her mind and it affects her attitude towards her friends. She is forced to face her past when a group of vampires plan to ressurect their Master.
Chuck Says: Yeah, Prophecy Girl was cool, getting to see Buffy fulfill the prophecy of her death and take out the Master, but for me this episode is really when Buffy started to grow up as a series. Sure she won, but that doesn't mean everything is fine.
Also, a lot of shows would just plain be afraid to have their heroine be a bitch, they'd cop out and have her be magically controlled. But Buffy was just having trouble dealing, and takes it out on Giles, Angel, Xander and Willow.
5. School Hard
Episode Summary: Two dangerous new vampires called Spike and Drusilla arrive in Sunnydale and decide to kill the Slayer and make the town their own. They gate-crash Buffy’s parent-teacher night but things don’t go to plan for them when faced with Buffy and her mother.
Chuck Says: "Me and Dru, we're moving in"
What the hell else does an episode need? Spike and Drusilla come to Sunnydale and things get very interesting for a very long time.
Not to mention, this episode feature Principle Snyder at his worst, played to comic perfection by Armin "Quark" Shimmerman, who accepted a role as the principle of Sunnydale that was pitched as being for 2-3 Episodes (Principle Flutie lasted only a few episodes and Joss' original concept was that the Sunnydale Principle would get killed about twice a season) and was on the show for 3 years, cause Armin is just. That. Good.
6. Normal Again
Episode Summary: Buffy is dosed with a chemical from a demon which makes her begin to hallucinate that everything she knows is untrue. She never moved to Sunnydale, was never the Slayer and she’s actually been in a psychiatric hospital for years. She fights the hallucinations at first but they begin to become more real and also more comforting - her parents are together and alive and want to help her and Dawn doesn’t exist. Buffy decides that she prefers this ‘normal’ life with her parents a whole lot more, and attempts to kill the things that tether her to the ‘fantasy’ life of the Slayer: her friends.
Chuck Says: This episode reminds me of the DS9 episode "Far Beyond the Stars" in a good way (and if you know of my reverence for the best of the Trek franchises, you know that's a high compliment).
The episode is creepy, genuinely tense and has left more than one viewer wondering if Buffy might really be in that asylum. Of course the show isn't constructed from that point of view, but its just that well written. You BUY the point of view of the doctors at the asylum.
Episode Summary: Giles and Jenny begin to make up. She arranges to meet him that night, as she has a surprise for him. Jenny has discovered a way to give Angel his soul back, but just as she downloads the cure from her computer, Angelus kills her, and leaves her body for Giles to find.
Chuck Says: This episode is tough to watch and really sells Dark Angel (used in the "dark phoenix" way not the Jessica Alba way) as being evil.
He kills Jenny and leaves her for Giles to find, just so he can get off watching Buffy and Willow receive the crushing news. His obsession with Buffy is never portrayed in a more sick, sadistic light.
Episode Summary: Buffy begins to find herself weak and powerless, and starts to worry that she will lose her Slayer ability. It turns out that the Watchers Council has a test for Slayers who turn 18: they have to fight a vampire without their powers. The plan goes awry when the evil vampire used for the experiment gets loose and kidnaps Buffy’s mother. As Buffy tries to deal with Giles’ betrayal, he gets fired from the Council for his fatherly love for the Slayer.
Chuck Says: We get our first look at what choads the Watchers' council really are, as well as the biggest insight into Giles as Buffy's surrogate father. Add in a truly creepy misogynist vampire with a mother-fixation and you have an awesome episode.
Episode Summary: The First takes on the guise of a potential Slayer (killed especially for the purpose) and spies on the Scoobies. When Buffy confronts the First it tells her the Turok-Han will kill her. Buffy comes up with a plan and successfully defeats the Turok-Han which also boosts the potentials’ confidence as she makes them watch her do it. Buffy then rescues Spike from the First. Meanwhile, Giles and Anya visit an Oracle and discover that when Buffy was resurrected, she created a vulnerability in the Slayer chain that The First is now exploiting.
Chuck Says: Not only does this episode have one of the best fight scenes in the entire series between Buffy and the Ubervamp, it also shows Buffy at her most badass, a true action hero. This entire episode is constructed from start to finish as a mini-action movie, with Buffy making sure the potentials know she can protect them by arranging for her to watch her kill the Ubervamp.
The fight scene at the end of the episode is so good it needed TWO awesome movie quotes to bracket it: "Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves" on the front end and "Here endeth the lesson" at the end.
Episode Summary: Angel presents Buffy with an amulet and she asks him to go back to L.A. in case she fails to stop the First. After a visit from the First, Buffy realises what she has to do. Willow does a spell that takes power from the scythe and shares it equally among every potential in the world, giving them Slayer powers. The gang and the newly made Slayers open the Seal of Danzalthar and go into the Hellmouth. A long battle commences leaving many dead, including Anya.
Spike wears the amulet and it begins to work. He begins to burn up and pure sunlight shoots out of the amulet. All the Turok-Han are instantly dusted, and Sunnydale begins to fall into the Hellmouth. Spike tells Buffy to leave and live a normal life, as he wants to die saving the world. Buffy escapes just in time. As the Scoobies look back at the destruction of Sunnydale, Buffy simply smiles knowing that she’s no longer alone.
Chuck Says: Not only is it the last episode, but the way it turns the mythology on its ear is simply amazing writing. The scene where you see girls all around the world becoming slayers is also just an awesome scene and really gives you the theme of the entire series in the span of about 2 minutes.