“In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.”
In our last installment, I looked at the bottom four listings in our ranking of the seasons. And now, it’s time to take a look at the three best seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s 7-year run on television.
3. Senior Year: Season 3
The show was really in a groove as it went into its third season, which focused on the Scooby gang’s senior year at Sunnydale High School. As they prepared for life after high school, Buffy and her friends were trying to figure out their place in the world. As if the life of a teenager isn’t hard enough, Buffy had to worry about being replaced by new Slayer Faith (who was called to replace Kendra, who was called to replace Buffy when she died at the end of season one). Giles was going through the same thing, as new Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was brought in when Giles interfered in a Slayer rite of passage.
The third season’s Big Bad was probably my favorite. He certainly had the most fun with being an evil man seeking power and immortality. The Mayor developed a season-long plot to ascend into a higher being and used his authority to (unsuccessfully) try and keep the Slayer and her friends out of the way of his plans. And everything came to a head at Graduation Day, where Buffy leads her classmates in a revolt against the Mayor, now in the form of a giant snake.
Season three also famously had two episodes delayed from airing after the shooting at Columbine High School. While the second part of “Graduation Day” was put off from the end of May to July, “Earshot,” which focused on our favorite loser Jonathan wanting to kill himself and a plot to kill students at the school, was put off airing until September.
“Band Candy” – Principal Snyder forces Sunnydale students to sell candy, which has been dosed by Giles’ former associate Ethan Rayne as a distraction and all the adults reverted back to teenagers. Giles and Buffy’s mom Joyce hook up. Snyder wants to be part of the cool crowd and Buffy has to keep it all together to prevent a demon from eating babies.
“The Wish” / “Doppelgangland” – When vengeance demon Anya manipulates an angry Cordelia into making a wish for Buffy to have never come to Sunnydale after she broke up with Xander, it recreates the whole world with Sunnydale being overrun by vampires and shows just how important Buffy is to the town. The highlight of “The Wish” was vampire Willow, who comes back later in the season when Anya and Willow try to do a spell and we get our first hint that Willow may be gay.
“The Zeppo” – It’s a Xander-centric episode, as the rest of the gang tries to stop an Apocalypse, Xander is relegated to getting donuts and doing grunt work. But he ends up having his own adventure with undead student hellions and a plot to blow up the school. In the end, Xander shows nerves of steel as he stares down Jack over a bomb in the basement.
2. The Angel Effect: Season 2
After a weak but promising start, Buffy the Vampire Slayer bounced back with a strong season that built the world of the Slayer and expanded on the mythology to set the tone for the rest of the series. Buffy, coming into her own with her abilities, gets closer to Angel, the vampire with a soul, but giving in to their desires after a night battling Spike and Drusilla leads to the gypsy curse being unleashed on Angel, removing his soul.
The return of Angelus really kicked the season – and the series – into high gear and created a strong emotional connection for fans of the series. The second season built to a confrontation between Buffy and her former beau as Angel systematically tortured the Scooby gang, including the murder of Giles’ girlfriend, Jenny Calendar. When Buffy finally faced off with Angel, as Willow tried to restore Angel’s soul, fans were at the edge of their seat waiting to see what happened.
“Halloween” – The first appearance of Ethan Rayne, as he opens a costume shop that turns people into their costumes. And Buffy and her gang just happened to get their costumes there. Chaos ensues, as Buffy thinks herself an 18th Century courtesan, Xander a soldier and Willow a ghost.
“Ted” – Maybe the series’ biggest guest star appeared halfway through season 2, as John Ritter put in a guest shot as the boyfriend of Buffy’s mom who is determined to put Buffy in her place. Turns out, Ted was a robot. And Joyce wouldn’t date again for a very long time.
“Go Fish” – The members of Sunnydale’s swim team are turning up dead – well, skinned, actually – and to find out what’s happening, Xander goes undercover as a member of the team. These episodes that focus on Xander are always a lot of fun, as Nicholas Brendan clearly had fun in the role.
1. The Best: Season 5
In the final season of the show’s run on the WB Network, the series went all out to create the biggest battle the team had ever faced: Buffy had to face the god Glorificus, stuck in a mortal form and looking to escape this realm. Oh, and the stakes are raised, as a group of monks turned the key to Glorificus’ victory into Buffy’s sister, Dawn, rewriting history.
The whole season felt epic, as Buffy and her friends were put through the wringer in each episode. Buffy lost her boyfriend, Riley, back to the military, and her mom to a natural death. Buffy came to learn that “Death is your gift,” and she realizes that to beat Glory, she needs to sacrifice herself. I won’t lie, as I watched the season 5 finale, I teared up a bit.
The next season, Buffy moved to UPN. But if the show had ended with the fifth season finale, “The Gift,” it would have been a fitting end to Buffy and her story.
“Buffy vs. Dracula” – The show’s biggest season kicked off with the biggest villain a vampire slayer could possibly face: Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula. The world famous Count came to Sunnydale and made Xander his bitch and tried to put the Slayer under his thrall. Drac’s machinations revealed some kinks in Buffy’s relationship with Riley. It was a great way to start the season.
“I Was Made to Love You” / “Intervention”– These episodes introduced Warren, a technical genius, who created a girlfriend robot to keep him from getting lonely. The plan in the first episode backfires when Warren gets his own girlfriend and the robot gets jealous, and Buffy needs to stop her. Then, when Spike gets wind of Warren’s skills and has the kid make him a Buffy-bot, hilarity ensues in “Intervention” when the gang sees Buffy – who was supposed to be on a retreat with Giles – having sex with Spike in a cemetery.
“The Body” – I try to stay away from the bigger episodes in these, but I can’t ignore one of the most heart-wrenching episodes of the series, as Buffy faces an opponent she can’t beat: human mortality. Buffy finds Joyce dead on the couch, after suffering some medical issues earlier in the season, and has to deal with the after-effects. With this one episode, Buffy’s world changed more than the mystical monks could ever have done.