How Many Favorite Buffy Episodes Do You Have in Common with Joss Whedon?
Logo is airing Joss Whedon’s handpicked favorite Buffy episodes this weekend and as an experiment I decided to see where Joss and I meet in terms of favorite/best episodes. Before glancing over his picks, I gave a cursory glance over a Wikipedia episode listing. Obviously, some episodes spring to mind without question and because of that, Joss and I overlap 50%. I am not going to rag on Joss for choosing eight episodes that he either wrote or directed or both especially since it stands to reason those best represented what he wanted his show to portray. Any individual fan’s list is going to be populated with odd favorites or moments that personally resonated. I looked for those while also trying to pay service to each season. I approached it with the same mindset I would use if planning my own one-day only engagement of the Best of Buffy. But let us be real for a moment: the only way you are truly going to get the best is by watching all 144.
In the past Joss has also ranked these episodes (1 = Innocence, 10 = Prophecy Girl), but with two competing lists, season by season sounded like the best way to compare:
Season 1 – I like the beginning; Joss prefers the end.
My pick =Welcome to the Hellmouth (1×01): As a first episode, it expertly introduces you to Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang, the Slayer mythology, and the colorful vocabulary of the players. Joss fact!: he wanted Eric Balfour’s name in the title credits so viewers would be shocked when he died.
Joss = Prophecy Girl (1×12): As a season finale it demonstrated how high the stakes on the show could become and how heartbreaking: witness Angel being unable to perform CPR on Buffy because he has no breath and Xander stepping in to save the day only hours after getting rejected by Buffy. Pretty cool in a depressing sort of way. Joss fact!: He intentionally saved the Buffy and Master’s meeting for this episode to avoid a pattern of Buffy repeatedly beating him in every episode.
Season 2 – Once again I prefer the happier beginning (Surprise) to the gritty aftermath (Innocence). Although after thinking about it, I would prefer to compromise and say that together it is just one really awesome story. Joss and I agree that Becoming Part II is badass.
Surprise (2×13): It is Buffy’s birthday and the Scoobies aim to make it special. Spike and Dru return to raise the stakes while Jenny reveals some hidden motivations. Angel gives Buffy a claddagh ring; Buffy gives Angel happiness which…
Innocence (2×14): …ends with him reverting to Angelus. Now Buffy has to deal with the Judge, Spike, Drusilla and her soulless boyfriend. Ugh, I think I am being convinced by Joss’ choices over mine. According to Wikipedia, this is also the highest rated episode ever and the one that Joss usually lists as his number one favorite episode. Glad people tuned in to one of the best. Joss fact!: I like the line from Joss in the commentary about fans wanting Buffy and Angel to be together: “What people want is not what they need.” Oh Joss, never change.
Becoming Part II (2×22): The season two finale is definitely the show firing on all cylinders. Seemingly impossible odds, strong character moments, and the ultimate sacrifice, all on display. And Sarah Maclachlan could still be used in the closing scene, without irony.
Season 3 – Joss likes Vamp Willow and I like the final moments at Sunnydale High.
The Wish (3×09): Cordelia wishes that Buffy never moved to Sunnydale and we get to see what that world would actually look like: it is no cakewalk. It is an interesting exploration into all the good that Buffy does in such a short period of residency.
Doppelgangland (3×16): Vamp Willow comes to torment our story’s timeline as the result of Anya’s failed attempt to get her powers back. And Joss does an excellent job of using all of what we have come to learn about our characters over three seasons.
Graduation Day Part II (3×22): The whole graduating class coming together, prepared to fight off the Mayor’s plan? That was beautifully executed. As were goodbyes to familiar characters like Cordelia and Angel. Joss Fact!: The WB delayed the airing of this due to Columbine, but it was not delayed in Canada, prompting Joss to say “bootleg the puppy.” Brilliant.
Season 4 – We are in total agreement here; two very interesting experiments:
Hush (4×10): The only episode to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing, Joss decided to tackle critics that believed dialogue drove Buffy’s success. Joss fact!: The concept for the monsters (the Gentlemen) originated from a childhood nightmare. Holy hell Joss, that is freaky.
Restless (4×22): Like Hush, the fourth season finale is a very experimental episode. I think it captures dreams in a very realistic way (and far less disturbing than The Cell). I realize that not every week can explore sweeping epic themes but when Joss goes for innovative concepts, he hits them out of the park. Joss facts!: This is a coda to season four because Joss wanted to create a character-focused episode that concentrated on what had just happened and what might be in store for the future. The Cheese Man has no meaning.
Season 5 – Joss places more emphasis on Season 3 (or Vamp Willow) whereas extended an extra season episode to Season 5.
The Body (5×16): This is just a great episode. Upsetting, thought-provoking, so much realism it hurts. It is painful to even discuss the various aspects that make it so great. Really a triumph in television. Joss fact: His mother also died of a cerebral aneurysm.
The Gift (5×22): I don’t know how fans would have coped with this being the actual finale, but it definitely has the feel. The apocalypse is nigh, everyone bands together in an epic final push to save Dawn and the world. Buffy dies. But if the show ended here, we wouldn’t have Once More with Feeling so, thanks UPN!
Season 6 – When I think of this season, Once More, with Feeling is the primary episode that comes to mind. Since this is the only episode written and directed by Joss this season, I guess he feels the same.
Once More, with Feeling (6×07): Multiple Joss facts…: After a Shakespeare reading at his house turned into an impromptu singalong, Joss realized that many cast members would be game for a musical episode. He finally found time in the sixth season, learning how to play guitar in the process of creating the score. Adam Shankman choreographed. Us fans got what is probably the most effective use of a television musical episode ever. Another groundbreaking episode.
Season 7 – Joss goes for the isolated character/death exploration and I go for the funny.
Conversations with Dead People (7×07): The result of different writers working on different characters, this episode isolates the storylines while continuing to move the plot. Buffy, Spike, Dawn and the remaining members of the Troika (Jonathan and Andrew) are each presented separately but united around a common theme: you guessed it, dead people. Secretly, a pretty ambitious episode with a lot to say.
Storyteller (7×16): When I originally watched season seven, I was stuck in a depression over the series ending. When I rewatched it a few years later, I was struck at how disturbing and unnerving this season turned out to be. While Storyteller ends on a negative note, the majority of the episode is hilarious. Andrew utilizes his unique humor and observation skills to tell his version of what is going on at 1630 Revello Drive.
Special mentions: Fool for Love and Tabula Rasa