Ranking Every Episode Of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"

Seven seasons, 144 episodes, so many feelings. This is one attempt at ranking every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from worst to best.

135. “Beer Bad” (Season 4, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writer: Tracey Forbes
Director: David Solomon
In a true series low, Buffy gets drunk on magic beer that turns her into a Neanderthal. And to a Neanderthal, yes, it might be entertaining to watch Buffy and her fratty drinking buddies talk like cavemen and break things, but to more evolved individuals, it’s just awful.

134. “Bad Eggs” (Season 2, Episode 12)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Greenwalt
The only thing worse than vampire cowboys Lyle and Tector Gorch is the actual plot, which revolves around a prehistoric parasite latching onto Sunnydale High students by way of eggs they’ve been assigned to take care of for health class. Bad eggs. Very, very bad.

133. “I, Robot… You, Jane” (Season 1, Episode 8)

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Writers: Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden
Director: Stephen Posey
Willow falls in love with her online boyfriend, who turns out to be an ancient demon named Moloch downloaded into the internet. The episode is hilariously dated, but that’s about all it has going for it. Beware the dangers of the internet! But mostly, beware really bad episodes of television.

132. “Some Assembly Required” (Season 2, Episode 2)

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Writer: Ty King
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Buffy takes on Frankenstein, and the results aren’t pretty. The basic concept — a high school kid building the perfect girlfriend for his dead brother — is creepy enough. The execution, on the other hand, is scary in the bad way. One bright spot: Angel is jealous of Xander, and it’s absurd.

131. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date” (Season 1, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writers: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Director: David Semel
Sensible advice, utterly forgettable installment of the series. Is there any episode of Season 1 that left less of an impression? Buffy goes on a date with Owen, a character who is never mentioned again, while trying to stop the Anointed One from rising. In the end, the Anointed One is revealed as — the worst child actor ever.

130. “Killed by Death” (Season 2, Episode 18)

20th Television

Writers: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Director: Deran Sarafian
At this point in the season, Angelus is on the loose, and the last thing we need is an episode in which Buffy gets the flu. OK, it’s more complicated than that, as she’s terrorized by a demon called Der Kindestod. But gross as he is, he’s just not interesting, and do we really care that Buffy is afraid of hospitals?

129. “First Date” (Season 7, Episode 14)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: David Grossman
Look, it’s not Ashanti’s fault. But yes, in Buffy’s final season, “Special Guest Star Ashanti” was not a great sign. More to the point, this is a tonally bizarre episode about the Scoobies trying to date while the world collapses around them. It’s the biggest miss in a season filled with misses.

128. “Inca Mummy Girl” (Season 2, Episode 4)

20th Television

Writers: Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer
Director: Ellen S. Pressman
It’s basically “Teacher’s Pet” without the excuse of being an early Season 1 episode. Xander falls for yet another monster — in this case, the titular mummy. And while it’s always entertaining to see Xander be unlucky in love, Ampata’s got nothing on that giant praying mantis.

127. “Reptile Boy” (Season 2, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: David Greenwalt
Season 2 ends so strong and starts so weak. It’s amazing how much badness was crammed into those early episodes. Here, Buffy and Cordelia sneak off to a frat party where the brothers worship a snake demon named Machida. Because penis. Cool metaphor, lame everything else.

126. “Where the Wild Things Are” (Season 4, Episode 18)

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Writer: Tracey Forbes
Director: David Solomon
Also known as the episode where Buffy and Riley can’t stop having sex. It’s relentless and steamy and, frankly, unbearable. The episode earns some points for Giles’ gorgeous rendition of “Behind Blue Eyes,” but that’s not enough to scrub the mystical sexing from our brains.

125. “End of Days” (Season 7, Episode 21)

20th Television

Writers: Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson
Director: Marita Grabiak
A secret female order of Guardians that have watched the Watchers since the beginning? Cool! Way to bring that up in the penultimate episode of the series. Angel’s (again) unnecessary return and Spike’s sudden jealousy did not bode well for the finale, but luckily, the next episode marked a major improvement.

124. “Forever” (Season 5, Episode 17)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: Marti Noxon
“The Body” was the perfect way to cope with Joyce’s death. And while the characters certainly wouldn’t get over it in an episode, “Forever” still feels cheap. Angel’s return is superfluous, and Dawn trying to bring her mother back to life just doesn’t pack the same punch after the far superior episode before it.

123. “Teacher’s Pet” (Season 1, Episode 4)

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Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: Bruth Seth Green
Make no mistake: “Teacher’s Pet” is bad. But it’s still kind of charming to watch Xander fall for his seductive praying mantis teacher, despite the squick factor (she’s his teacher and also a praying mantis). Oh, and remember all those eggs at the end of the episode? Neither did any of the Buffy writers!

122. “Shadow” (Season 5, Episode 8)

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Writer: David Fury
Director: Dan Attias
The reveal of Joyce’s brain tumor sets up the bleakest Season 5 arc, but it wasn’t bad for the show. The real problem with “Shadow” is Glory’s plan to locate the Key, which involves sending a giant snake demon after it. The CGI snake is bad, but Buffy pummeling the snake dummy is somehow even worse.

121. “Flooded” (Season 6, Episode 4)

20th Television

Writers: Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie
Director: Douglas Petrie
While Buffy’s financial woes may be a realistic aspect of her character, it’s just depressing for viewers. When watching a show about a vampire slayer, there’s very little interest in seeing her fill out a loan application. And yet, that’s what happens in “Flooded,” one of Season 6’s many depressing offerings.

120. “The Pack” (Season 1, Episode 6)

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Writers: Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Ah, yes, the one where a bunch of high school students get possessed by hyenas and Xander comes very close to sexually assaulting Buffy. The only reason this Season 1 dud isn’t lower on the list is that it showcased Xander’s dark side, however uncomfortable the results were.

119. “Wrecked” (Season 6, Episode 10)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
“Magic as drugs” was one of the worst metaphors Buffy ever tried to shoehorn in, as evidenced in “Wrecked.” It’s all just so silly — from Willow’s warlock dealer Rack to the way she trips out on the ceiling while a tiny Amy dances beneath her. What were the writers smoking? (Magic, presumably.)

118. “Empty Places” (Season 7, Episode 19)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: James A. Contner
Faith takes the Potentials clubbing, and when Buffy is reasonably pissed, they decide they no longer trust her leadership and kick her out of her own home. What?! Listen, it’s cool that Nerf Herder — the band responsible for the Buffy theme song — make a cameo appearance, but that doesn’t make up for that ending.

117. “Go Fish” (Season 2, Episode 20)

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Writers: David Fury and Elin Hampton
Director: David Semel
Xander in a Speedo. That is the only takeaway from this episode, which features before-they-were-famous guest stars Shane West and Wentworth Miller as members of the Sunnydale High swim team who turn into humanoid sea monsters. Nothing to see here. Except Xander in a Speedo.

116. “Into the Woods” (Season 5, Episode 10)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: Marti Noxon
As insulting as much of the Buffy/Riley relationship was — and really, it was all pretty insulting — nothing beats the conclusion, in which Buffy chases after a helicopter to prove that she really loves Riley. This is after she finds out he’s been paying vampire hookers to suck his blood. But no, it’s totally her fault for not being a good girlfriend.

115. “Beauty and the Beasts” (Season 3, Episode 4)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Buffy tackles domestic abuse, which could have been pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the episode is rather heavy-handed — one of the weaker high school metaphor entries — and it’s muddled with Angel’s sudden return from Hell as a confused, animalistic mess.

114. “Out of My Mind” (Season 5, Episode 4)

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Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Grossman
Surprise, surprise: It’s another Riley episode. There are a couple great moments — the first flickers of Joyce’s brain tumor and Spike’s feelings for Buffy — but it’s mostly a lot about how Riley is a mess from everything the Initiative did to him. And we kind of covered that in Season 4. Next.

113. “As You Were” (Season 6, Episode 15)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Douglas Petrie
Riley’s back! And if that weren’t bad enough, he’s brought along his annoyingly perfect wife Sam. It’s unclear why Buffy’s most boring ex had to show up again, but the episode itself is a dull affair. The last scene, however, in which Buffy tells Spike she’s been using him, is actually pretty great.

112. “Listening to Fear” (Season 5, Episode 9)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Solomon
You know what Buffy never needed? Aliens. And OK, the alien here is really a Queller demon, summoned by Ben to get rid of crazy people, but it’s ridiculous regardless. Joyce’s post-surgery ramblings are somewhat effective, particularly her ability to see Dawn as what she really is. Still not nice to call her a “thing.”

111. “Showtime” (Season 7, Episode 11)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: Michael Grossman
Like so many Season 7 episodes, “Showtime” is easy to forget. They all kind of blur together, with a few standout moments scattered throughout. Here, the final fight between Buffy and the Turok-Han is cool, as is her rescue of Spike. But Giles and Anya in search of Beljoxa’s Eye? Yawn.

110. “The Weight of the World” (Season 5, Episode 21)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: David Solomon
Did the writers forget that they had an extra episode to do before the Season 5 finale? “The Weight of the World” is a pretty serious drag, as Willow enters Buffy’s psyche to pull her out of her catatonia. And sure, it works in the end, but the revelation that Buffy once considered giving up isn’t all that shocking.

109. “When She Was Bad” (Season 2, Episode 1)

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Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Buffy works through her issues after dying in “Prophecy Girl” by being — as Xander puts it — a “bitca.” It’s nice that the show took time to actually deal with the repercussions of the previous season’s finale, but the execution is all off. Her visions of the Master, though, are actually quite frightening.

108. “Goodbye Iowa” (Season 4, Episode 14)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
Yes, it’s another Riley-centric one, but at least here he has a reason to be freaking out. After finding his mother figure Maggie Walsh dead — and realizing that she tried to kill his girlfriend — Riley loses it. Oh, and he’s going through serious withdrawal. It’s not terribly interesting, but it’s one of the less offensive Riley episodes.

107. “The I in Team” (Season 4, Episode 13)

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Writer: David Fury
Director: James A. Contner
It’s tough to rank the Initiative episodes, because they’re mostly a lot of the same. “The I in Team” does at least introduce a very cool villain in the form of Maggie Walsh, who conspires to get Buffy killed. Except at the end of the episode, she’s killed by Adam, one of the worst villains the show ever gave us. Sigh.

106. “Hell’s Bells” (Season 6, Episode 16)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Solomon
A wedding episode where one character is left at the altar by another? You don’t say. Aside from exploring well-worn territory, “Hell’s Bells” is cruel to its characters, sending Xander down a path of self-loathing from which he barely recovers. To be fair, there are some funny moments, as the demons and humans try to mingle.

105. “Never Leave Me” (Season 7, Episode 9)

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Writer: Drew Goddard
Director: David Solomon
Again, Season 7 is a blur. This episode is mostly notable for unmasking the robed figures as harbingers, agents of the First Evil. Also, Spike gets bled onto a seal in the Sunnydale High basement, releasing the first Turok-Han. While it moves the plot along, it’s otherwise unremarkable.

104. “Bargaining” (Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2)

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Writers: Marti Noxon (Part 1) and David Fury (Part 2)
Director: David Grossman
The good news is, Willow brings Buffy back to life. The bad news is, there are demon bikers. There’s a lot that works — Buffy’s confusion over her new state and the Buffybot’s attempts at humor — but there’s really a lot that doesn’t. Seriously, those demon bikers. Why?

103. “Potential” (Season 7, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: James A. Contner
Dawn whines a lot over the course of her three seasons, but it actually works in “Potential,” where she’s falsely identified as a potential slayer and then learns she’s actually just a useless former Key. While it’s not a great hour, Xander’s final speech to Dawn is sweet, and Amanda is definitely the best Potential.

102. “Him” (Season 7, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: Michael Gershman
Some of Season 7’s funniest moments are in this episode: Spike tackling Buffy with a rocket launcher is actually perfect. But the rest of it is very “been there, done that” — and done better in “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” But seriously, that bit with the rocket launcher. So good.

101. “Living Conditions” (Season 4, Episode 2)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Grossman
Buffy thinks her roommate Kathy is an evil demon, and surprise, she totally is! It’s a clever idea with an amusing pay-off, but it’s not that fun to watch everyone think Buffy is nuts. She’s clearly having a hard time adjusting to college, as we learned in “The Freshman.” Maybe cut her some slack?

100. “Dead Man’s Party” (Season 3, Episode 2)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Buffy returns to Sunnydale, and everyone treats her like crap. Sure, she left without saying goodbye, but she had her reasons! Honestly, everyone’s a little unpleasant in this episode. The zombies, however, are fun, as is Giles’ amazing line, “‘Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!’ Americans!”

99. “Get It Done” (Season 7, Episode 15)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Douglas Petrie
In “Get It Done,” the First Slayer returns to drop a bunch of knowledge on Buffy, revealing how the first Slayer was made. And it’s horrifying — this girl was held against her will and forced to take in the essence of a demon. It’s a powerful moment that has more resonance than much of Season 7.

98. “After Life” (Season 6, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: David Solomon
Oops. When Willow brought back Buffy from the dead, she brought a demon along with her. The story is standard fare. What’s more interesting is Buffy’s inability to adjust back to being alive, particularly with her revelation at the end of the episode that she had been in Heaven, not in Hell as Willow insisted.

97. “Same Time, Same Place” (Season 7, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
The writers were faced with a tricky task when it came to dealing with Willow after Dark Willow. Here, Willow finds herself literally invisible to her friends as she deals with her guilt. It’s somewhat effective, although Dawn’s wacky paralysis is the real highlight of the episode.

96. “Smashed” (Season 6, Episode 9)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: Turi Meyer
Spike learns that the chip in his head won’t stop him from inflicting pain on Buffy, so let the S&M hijinks begin! And yes, at the end of the episode, Buffy and Spike literally fuck a house down. It’s kind of incredible — not only because it feels cable explicit on a network series, but also because, well, it was a long time coming.

95. “Bring on the Night” (Season 7, Episode 10)

20th Television

Writers: Marti Noxon and Douglas Petrie
Director: David Grossman
As another middle-grade Season 7 episode, “Bring on the Night” stands out for two reasons: first, because the First torments Spike in the form of Drusilla, and second, because Buffy gets the crap beat out of her. It’s awful to see, but it was an important moment in raising the stakes. And her speech at the end is rather inspiring.

94. “Sleeper” (Season 7, Episode 8)

20th Television

Writers: David Fury and Jane Espenson
Director: Alan J. Levi
Can we just be shallow for a minute? Two Spikes are better than one. That’s largely what sets “Sleeper” apart. Also, Aimee Mann performs two songs, and while it feels a little forced, they’re really good songs. Is “Sleeper” better than most of Season 7? Maybe not. But Aimee Mann!

93. “Life Serial” (Season 6, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writers: David Fury and Jane Espenson
Director: Nick Marck
Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan use their respective skills to screw with Buffy. At times, it’s very funny — but it’s also kind of depressing. As in “Flooded,” it’s just a bummer to see Buffy struggling with making ends meet. And watching her get drunk and sloppy isn’t all that entertaining either.

92. “The Replacement” (Season 5, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
Sorry, Xander, two Xanders just aren’t as exciting as two Spikes. But “The Replacement” is still a reasonably fun exploration of Xander’s two sides, quite literally. It’s nice to see a more mature, confident Xander, even if he does eventually succumb to goofy Xander’s bad influence. Also: Snoopy dance.

91. “Anne” (Season 3, Episode 1)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
“Anne” gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a decent episode. After killing Angel and leaving Sunnydale, Buffy is working as a waitress in L.A. and using her middle name, Anne. It’s jarring to see Buffy removed from her usual surroundings, but what’s more interesting is watching her get pulled back into the life she tried to leave behind.

90. “Real Me” (Season 5, Episode 2)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: David Grossman
Buffy has a sister? After Dawn’s surprise appearance in the Season 5 premiere, the writers had to give fans something to work with. “Real Me” is Dawn’s introduction, and it has its moments, particularly Dawn’s crush on Xander and everything Harmony does. But Dawn is a little sister. She’s annoying. It is what it is.

89. “Touched” (Season 7, Episode 20)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Solomon
Anya and Xander have ex sex. Faith and Robin Wood enjoy a one-night stand. Willow and Kennedy get down in the first lesbian sex scene on network TV. And Buffy and Spike cuddle. “Touched” is all over the place, but it has some memorable scenes: Spike’s speech to Buffy and the return of Mayor Wilkins (albeit as the First).

88. “Gone” (Season 6, Episode 11)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: David Fury
Buffy and Spike’s relationship was many things, but it was rarely funny. “Gone” gave us Spike fucking invisible Buffy under the guise of “push-ups,” which is maybe the most hilarious moment the two ever shared. Otherwise, it’s an average Season 6 episode. Oh, and Buffy gets a cute haircut.

87. “The Initiative” (Season 4, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: James A. Contner
There are two major problems with Season 4: the Initiative and Riley. But when the Initiative was first introduced, it showed some promise. Some. The best moments in the episode occur after Spike has escaped from the Initiative and learns that he can no longer bite people. The impotence metaphor is apt and very funny.

86. “I Was Made to Love You” (Season 5, Episode 15)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
“I Was Made to Love You” feels standalone but actually sets up a lot: Warren, Warren’s misogyny, the Buffybot. Maybe that’s why it feels more interesting than it really is — or it could be the knowledge that the role of April was offered to Britney Spears. Either way, the final scene of Buffy discovering Joyce dead is a gut punch.

85. “Spiral” (Season 5, Episode 20)

20th Television

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: James A. Contner
Here’s what works about “Spiral”: the dramatic RV escape, Buffy swinging that badass sword. Here’s what doesn’t work: the goddamn Knights of Byzantium. Yes, Glory is a god, but the Knights of Byzantium always felt like transplants from another series. They’re also human, which makes Buffy killing them a little troubling.

84. “Doublemeat Palace” (Season 6, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Nick Marck
In another depressing Season 6 development, Buffy is forced to take a job at a fast food chain. She starts to smell like meat. She has sleazy alley sex with Spike on her break. Luckily, the Monster of the Week is enough to temporarily distract from the misery. And yes, it does look like a penis.

83. “Ted” (Season 2, Episode 11)

20th Television

Writers: David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon
Director: Bruce Seth Green
There are fascinating questions raised in “Ted,” namely what happens if Buffy — with her Slayer strength — accidentally kills someone. The episode as a whole doesn’t quite live up to that moral dilemma, but John Ritter is predictably great as the evil robot who romances Joyce.

82. “Beneath You” (Season 7, Episode 2)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Nick Marck
Let’s be clear: “Beneath You” is all about the final scene, in which Spike reveals that he has his soul back and falls on the giant cross. It’s a stunning moment, and it makes up for the fact that the rest of the episode is a forgettable story about Anya turning a woman’s ex-boyfriend into a Sluggoth monster.

81. “The Killer in Me” (Season 7, Episode 13)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: David Solomon
Willow kisses Kennedy and turns into Warren. It’s a little bizarre, but it makes sense once you realize it has a lot to do with Amy’s reappearance — and Willow’s guilt. The subplot in which Buffy and Spike return to the Initiative to remove Spike’s chip is less effective, because it involves the Initiative.

80. “All the Way” (Season 6, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: David Solomon
Dawn has her first kiss! Yes, it’s with a vampire, but he’s a cute vampire. While “All the Way” isn’t as strong as past Halloween episodes, it does at least address Dawn growing up in an interesting way. What is she supposed to do with her life now that she’s no longer a Key?

79. “The Puppet Show” (Season 1, Episode 9)

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Writers: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Director: Ellen S. Pressman
Kudos to Buffy for finding something new to do with the evil dummy trope. Sid is an actual character, not just a horror movie trope. This episode set the stage for the series’ subversion of the genre. Also, Cordelia butchers “The Greatest Love of All,” and it’s glorious.

78. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (Season 1, Episode 11)

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Writers: Joss Whedon (story), Ashley Gable (teleplay), and Thomas A. Swyden (teleplay)
Director: Reza Badiyi
Maybe it’s because she was played by Clea DuVall, but Marcie Ross always felt like the kind of morally ambiguous adversary who deserved more than one episode. Her single appearance, however, is at least a good one, as she uses her invisibility to terrorize the popular kids at school. But that open ending — where did she end up?

77. “The Yoko Factor”/”Primeval” (Season 4, Episodes 20 and 21)

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Writers: Douglas Petrie (“The Yoko Factor”) and David Fury (“Primeval”)
Directors: David Grossman (“The Yoko Factor”) and James A. Contner (“Primeval”)
There’s something so empowering about watching Buffy, Willow, and Xander join forces to defeat the season’s Big Bad. Unfortunately, the season’s Big Bad is Adam, who just isn’t all that interesting. Their climactic showdown feels perfunctory, but the in-fighting and later bonding among the Scoobies is great.

76. “Faith, Hope & Trick” (Season 3, Episode 3)

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Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: James A. Contner
Enter Faith. The bad girl Slayer is one of the greatest characters the Buffyverse ever gave us, and that’s apparent from very early on. But the other titular characters in “Faith, Hope & Trick” — Scott Hope and Mr. Trick — fall on the opposite side of the spectrum. As such, they drag the episode down a bit.

75. “Choices” (Season 3, Episode 19)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: James A. Contner
Where do we go from here? That’s a question Buffy will come back to in Season 6, but this is the end of high school, and there are a lot of — wait for it — choices to be made. The Scoobies’ anxiety over the future pairs well with the Mayor and Faith working toward his Ascension.

74. “Lies My Parents Told Me” (Season 7, Episode 17)

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Writers: David Fury and Drew Goddard
Director: David Fury
We finally get another flashback to William the Bloody (Awful Poet), this time as a vampire with serious mommy issues. The scenes with William and his mother are good, albeit creepy. The scenes with Principal Wood and Spike, less so — it just feels a little too late for his vendetta.

73. “Revelations” (Season 3, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: James A. Contner
Faith gets a new Watcher, who turns out to be evil. Which is, you know, great for Faith’s trust issues. “Revelations” continues to isolate the new Slayer from the rest of the group, leading to her ultimate betrayal. And evil or not, Gwendolyn Post is pretty damn cool.

72. “Dirty Girls” (Season 7, Episode 18)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Goddard
Director: Michael Gershman
As great as Nathan Fillion is, the necessity of Caleb in Season 7 is questionable. But he does make an excellent first impression. “Dirty Girls” is notable for Faith’s return to Buffy, but the moment everyone remembers is Caleb taking out one of Xander’s eyes. It’s truly horrifying and raises the stakes for the final episodes.

71. “Enemies” (Season 3, Episode 17)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: David Grossman
Angel reverts back to Angelus and hooks up with Faith. Well, not really — but he pretends to, and honestly, it’s kind of hot. This is the episode in which Buffy learns that Faith is working with Mayor Wilkins by way of a particularly awesome plan. The Slayers holding knives to each other’s throats is iconic.

70. “Normal Again” (Season 6, Episode 17)

20th Television

Writer: Diego Gutierrez
Director: Rick Rosenthal
“Normal Again” isn’t as fun as other alternate reality episodes of Buffy, because, well, this is Season 6, and “fun” isn’t really on the agenda. Instead, Buffy imagines that her life as a Slayer is a delusion, and that she’s actually a patient at a mental institution. Fun or not, it’s mostly quite effective.

69. “The Freshman” (Season 4, Episode 1)

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Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
As viewers struggled to adjust to the new setting of the University of California Sunnydale, Buffy strained to get used to college. It’s not always pleasant to watch, but what saves “The Freshman” is a truly great villain, Sunday the vampire. She’s just so fun, which is essential in an episode that’s otherwise kind of a bummer.

68. “Blood Ties” (Season 5, Episode 13)

20th Television

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: Michael Gershman
Dawn finally learns that she is the Key — and she does not take it well. This is a heavy episode, with Dawn cutting herself to determine who or what she really is. But it’s also the most sympathetic Dawn had been thus far, and Buffy proves herself to be an admirable older sister.

67. “Doomed” (Season 4, Episode 11)

20th Television

Writers: Marti Noxon, David Fury, and Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
Another apocalypse? And in the middle of the season, no less. The Buffy/Riley stuff is about as engaging as you’d expect, but Spike learns he can fight demons. And he does so wearing a hideous Hawaiian shirt. It’s an important turning point for his character. The shirt is just icing on the cake.

66. “Dead Things” (Season 6, Episode 13)

20th Television

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: James A. Contner
And sometimes Season 6’s darkness worked to its advantage. “Dead Things” is a tough hour: The nerd trio goes off the deep end when they try to turn Katrina into a sex slave and murder her in the process. And Buffy must again deal with killing a human — she didn’t, really — while navigating a truly fucked-up relationship. Heavy.

65. “Buffy vs. Dracula” (Season 5, Episode 1)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
OK, yes, it’s ridiculous, and it messes with the vampire rules we’ve been taught. But Rudolf Martin is so good as Dracula, and that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Plus, Xander goes all Renfield, going so far as to eat bugs in the service of his dark master. There’s a lot to like here.

64. “Lessons” (Season 7, Episode 1)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: David Solomon
“Lessons” relies heavily on its final scene: The First — we don’t know it’s the First yet — torments Spike in the forms of Warren, Glory, Adam, Mayor Wilkins, Drusilla, the Master, and finally Buffy. For fans of the series, it’s a stunning callback to past Big Bads. The rest of the episode, about Dawn’s new life at Sunnydale High, is whatever.

63. “Triangle” (Season 5, Episode 11)

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Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Christopher Hibler
What better way for Willow and Anya to work out their issues than by joining forces against Anya’s ex, a troll named Olaf? Past that, “Triangle” breaks up the tension of a season building to a big finish. Even when he’s breaking Xander’s wrist, Olaf is delightful, as most trolls are.

62. “The Harsh Light of Day” (Season 4, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: James A. Contner
Spike returns to Sunnydale! And he’s shacking up with vampire Harmony! Aside from the life these undead characters bring to the season, we also get to see Buffy acting her own age. That means sleeping with certified asshole Parker, which is hard to watch, but feels very appropriate.

61. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (Season 2, Episode 16)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James A. Contner
After Cordelia breaks up with Xander, he gets Amy to do a love spell to win her back. But because magic is tricky, Xander ends up attracting every female in Sunnydale but Cordelia. Xander’s escape from a horde of horny of suitors is both hilarious and scary — they want to tear him apart!

60. “Entropy” (Season 6, Episode 18)

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Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: James A. Contner
“Things fall apart,” Tara says at the end of “Entropy.” This is an episode where every character seems to reach his or her rock bottom — Anya sleeps with Spike, Xander drinks his pain away, and Spike reveals his past with Buffy. It’s hard but necessary, and it ends with hope, as Willow and Tara get back together. (That won’t last.)

59. “No Place Like Home” (Season 5, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: David Solomon
Ah, so that’s where Dawn came from. The explanation of her mysterious origins was wisely kept for a few episodes to build suspense. And the reveal is done so well, with Buffy performing a spell that reveals Dawn isn’t real: As she looks at a family photo, Dawn flickers in and out of the picture.

58. “Consequences” (Season 3, Episode 15)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: Michael Gershman
Faith deals with the aftermath of accidentally murdering a human and turns to the dark side in the process. It’s tragic to watch her try to do the right thing — something we see again when she reappears on Angel — but faced with the meddling of Wesley and the Watchers’ Council, her fate is sealed.

57. “A New Man” (Season 4, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Michael Gershman
Ethan Rayne is adept at disrupting the status quo. In “A New Man,” he turns Giles into a demon, a metaphor for how isolated Giles feels from the Scooby Gang. Like all Ethan Rayne episodes, it’s sharp and witty, but it also highlights an important Season 4 theme, Giles’ increasingly trivial role.

56. “Phases” (Season 2, Episode 15)

20th Television

Writers: Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Yes, the werewolf effects are terrible. But Willow and Oz are so cute! After watching her pine after Xander for far too long, it’s refreshing to see her finally meet the right guy. And so what if he turns into a wolf three nights out of the month? Seriously. They’re adorable.

55. “Crush” (Season 5, Episode 14)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: Dan Attias
Poor Spike. He tries so hard to prove himself to Buffy. Doesn’t she realize that threatening to kill Drusilla for her is the ultimate romantic act? “Crush” is a little bit funny and a little bit sad, as Buffy lets down Spike hard, telling him to stay away from her family and barring him access to her home.

54. “Amends” (Season 3, Episode 10)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
If you believe in the magic of Christmas, you love “Amends.” If you don’t, it’s a bit of a harder sell. But the episode is actually a great introduction to the First Evil, who appears as Jenny Calendar (among others) to drive Angel to suicide. And though the well-timed snow at the end is hokey, it kind of works.

53. “Checkpoint” (Season 5, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writers: Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson
Director: Nick Marck
Who knew a Watchers’ Council episode could be this amusing? While the tests they administer to Buffy aren’t exactly a laugh riot, the interviews they conduct with Buffy’s friends are the real highlight. And of course, the episode ends with a big reveal, as Quentin identifies Glory as a god.

52. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”/”The Harvest” (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2)

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Writer: Joss Whedon
Directors: Charles Martin Smith (“Welcome to the Hellmouth”) and John T. Kretchmer (“The Harvest”)
The two-part Buffy premiere does so much right: Darla’s turn from damsel in distress to vampire, the snappy dialogue, the surprisingly well-handled exposition, and Jesse’s tragic (but short) arc. At the same time, it’s really just a taste of what’s to come rather than a full picture of how great the show could be.

51. “Tough Love” (Season 5, Episode 19)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Grossman
In many ways, “Tough Love” is just pushing the plot forward, but the second half of the episode elevates it: First, Willow rushes to reach Tara before Glory can feed on her mind, but doesn’t make it in time. Then, she uses dark magic for revenge against the god. It’s the first time we see Willow’s eyes go black — but not the last.

50. “Angel” (Season 1, Episode 7)

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Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: Scott Brazil
Hard to believe there was a time when we didn’t know Angel was a vampire, but hey, we all had to learn some time. Buffy learned in “Angel,” an episode that really upped the ante on Season 1. It also showcases Darla’s playful badness, something that is fully explored when she gets resurrected on Angel.

49. “Villains” (Season 6, Episode 20)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
Willow’s grief over Tara’s sudden death takes a quick turn toward villainy in an episode appropriately titled “Villains.” It’s both incredibly sad and unsettling to see Willow in such a dark place. The final scene in which she flays Warren is brutal, and her “Bored Now” is a nice nod to Vampire Willow’s catch phrase of choice.

48. “Pangs” (Season 4, Episode 8)

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Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Michael Lange
Angel returns (unbeknownst to Buffy), Spike gets riddled with arrows, and Xander comes down with a mystical case of syphilis. “Pangs” is a very funny episode that handles some heavy themes — namely whether it’s appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving when so many American Indian lives were lost. Also, there’s a bear.

47. “New Moon Rising” (Season 4, Episode 19)

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Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James A. Contner
Oz comes back for Willow, only to discover that she’s moved on with Tara. He does not handle it well. But “New Moon Rising” is a more fitting goodbye to Oz, a beloved character who deserved better than getting caught cheating with another werewolf. And the ending with Willow, Tara, and the candle is sweet.

46. “Storyteller” (Season 7, Episode 16)

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Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Marita Grabiak
Andrew delivers his take on Season 7’s proceedings, and it’s a lot more entertaining — and cinematic — than what we’ve seen. At times, “Storyteller” feels a little too silly, especially so late in the game, but Andrew’s ultimate revelation of his guilt keeps the episode grounded.

45. “Older and Far Away” (Season 6, Episode 14)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: Michael Gershman
How about a little levity in Season 6? When Dawn accidentally makes a wish to a vengeance demon, she gets Buffy’s birthday party trapped inside her house. There are so many great moments, from Tara’s sly hints to Spike that she knows about him and Buffy to everything good-natured demon Clem says.

44. “I Only Have Eyes for You” (Season 2, Episode 19)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
The ghosts of a student and teacher who died in a murder-suicide begin possessing people at Sunnydale High. It’s a rather darker take on the student-teacher relationship than “Teacher’s Pet.” But what makes the episode is the climax, in which Buffy and Angelus play out the parts — with Angelus as the woman.

43. “Help” (Season 7, Episode 4)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Buffy’s obviously not qualified to be a school counselor, but hey, at least it’s not a menial job. The series reminds us again and again that you can’t save everyone — just look at that death toll. And yet, “Help” is especially melancholy, with Buffy struggling to save Cassie and realizing that some people are simply doomed.

42. “Bad Girls” (Season 3, Episode 14)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Michael Lange
“Want. Take. Have.” Faith’s life motto gets her into trouble in “Bad Girls,” the episode that really sends her over the edge. While on a hunt with Buffy, Faith accidentally stakes Allan Finch, the (human) deputy mayor. After an episode of petty theft and dirty dancing, the murder comes as a shock and changes Faith forever.

41. “Nightmares” (Season 1, Episode 10)

20th Television

Writers: Joss Whedon (story) and David Greenwalt (teleplay)
Director: Bruce Seth Green
“Nightmares” is one of the strongest episode of Buffy’s first season. It involves the characters confronting their darkest fears, and the results are funny (Willow’s stage fright) and devastating (Giles’ nightmare of Buffy’s death). Still finding itself, the show demonstrated its ability to delve into the human psyche.

40. “Wild at Heart” (Season 4, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Grossman
Oz finds himself drawn to Veruca, a female werewolf. Willow sees where this is going. The audience does, too. And yet, the break-up is rough: Remember how cute Willow and Oz were? Watching them crumble as they realize they can’t make it work is heartbreaking.

39. “Lovers Walk” (Season 3, Episode 8)

20th Television

Writer: Dan Vebber
Director: David Semel
Spike returns to Sunnydale after getting dumped by Drusilla. This is one of the first episodes to really humanize him — sure, he’s still evil, but look how sad he is! He also gets all the best lines, which is kind of the way it goes from here on out. Too bad he’s gone again till Season 4.

38. “Seeing Red” (Season 6, Episode 19)

20th Television

Writer: Steven S. DeKnight
Director: Michael Gershman
Spike tries to rape Buffy, Buffy gets shot, and Tara is caught in the crossfire. “Seeing Red” is the darkest Buffy ever got. It’s also a strange, somewhat disjointed episode, but as painful as it is to endure, it builds to a breathtaking conclusion. The final shot of Willow cradling Tara’s corpse will go down in TV history.

37. “Helpless” (Season 3, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: James A. Contner
Buffy finds her powers weakened, because unbeknownst to her, Giles has been drugging her as part of a cruel Watchers’ Council test of the Slayer’s abilities. “Helpless” cements Giles’ role as Buffy’s father figure. It also gives us Zachary Kralik, a twisted vampire who left a lasting impression.

36. “The Dark Age” (Season 2, Episode 8)

20th Television

Writers: Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel
Director: Bruce Seth Green
Who knew Giles had a dark past? The reveal that he was once a punk kid nicknamed “Ripper” added another dimension to his character. The episode as a whole is strong, though not as lighthearted as most Ethan Rayne episodes. Sadly, the rift created between Giles and Jenny keeps them apart until it’s too late.

35. “Intervention” (Season 5, Episode 18)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Michael Gershman
Yes, it’s completely fucked-up that Spike has a sex robot modeled after Buffy. But the Buffybot is so delightful, you almost forget how gross it is. See also: the Scoobies’ intervention when they think the real Buffy is banging Spike. (Not yet!) Here’s another hilarious episode with a poignant final scene.

34. “Two to Go”/”Grave” (Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22)

20th Television

Writers: Douglas Petrie (“Two to Go”) and David Fury (“Grave”)
Directors: Bill L. Norton (“Two to Go”) and James A. Contner (“Grave”)
And the real Big Bad of Season 6 turns out to be… Willow. Well, Evil Willow. Darth Rosenberg. Whatever you want to call her. It’s thrilling to see her with so much power, and awful to see her so out of control. There are several great moments in the finale, though Giles’ triumphant return is the clear winner.

33. “Earshot” (Season 3, Episode 18)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Regis Kimble
Buffy temporarily gains mind-reading abilities and learns that someone at Sunnydale High is planning a massacre. The episode was delayed in the wake of Columbine, which is fair. But the bullied teen Buffy expects to go on a shooting spree ends up only wanting to take his own life. Jonathan’s admission is powerful stuff.

32. “Gingerbread” (Season 3, Episode 11)

20th Television

Writers: Thania St. John (story) and Jane Espenson (story and teleplay)
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
A demon masquerading as Hansel and Gretel leads the town of Sunnydale on an actual witch hunt, culminating in Buffy, Willow, and Amy nearly getting burned at the stake. It’s always fun to see fairy tale conventions turned on their heads. And despite the near deaths at the end, there’s a lot of humor here.

31. “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Carl Ellsworth
Director: Bruce Seth Green
In Ethan Rayne’s first appearance, he sells Sunnydale kids costumes that turn into whatever they’re supposed to be on Halloween. Buffy is an 18th century noble woman, Xander gets military training, and Willow is a sexy ghost. It’s a clever take on a concept that’s been done before.

30. “Homecoming” (Season 3, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: David Greenwalt
Buffy and Cordelia vie for homecoming queen, but they end up getting distracted Mr. Trick’s SlayerFest ‘98, a contest designed to get the Slayer killed. There’s a nice end of action and comedy — classic Buffy — and Cordelia gets to do more than just be sassy. While still remaining sassy, of course.

29. “Family” (Season 5, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Tara’s awful family arrives to take her back home, answering a question that plagued viewers since Season 4 — what is Tara? Turns out she’s a normal human and not a demon, as her family would have her believe. Penned by Joss Whedon, this is a smart exploration of how men try to keep female power in check.

28. “Fear, Itself” (Season 4, Episode 4)

20th Television

Writer: David Fury
Director: Tucker Gates
Another Halloween episode! And another chance for the Scooby Gang to explore their fears. But “Fear, Itself” takes that concept and pushes it further with an engaging and genuinely scary plot that has Willow losing control of her magic (foreshadowing!) and Xander turning invisible. We also learn Anya fears bunnies.

27. “Superstar” (Season 4, Episode 17)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: David Grossman
Without any explanation, Jonathan is suddenly the coolest and more important person in the universe. What’s wrong with this picture? Turns out Jonathan did a spell to change reality — with hilarious consequences! Seriously, this is one of the funniest episodes of Buffy. The revised opening titles alone are priceless.

26. “Band Candy” (Season 3, Episode 6)

20th Television

Writer: Jane Espenson
Director: Michael Lange
In another delightful subversion of the norm, Ethan Rayne’s latest spell turns the adults of Sunnydale into teenagers. Giles is at his “Ripper” best, seducing a bubblegum-popping Joyce. Snyder, it turns out, is still a sniveling little weasel. While there are actual consequences, it’s really just a lot of fun.

25. “Witch” (Season 1, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writer: Dana Reston
Director: Stephen Cragg
Amazingly enough, it only took Buffy till its third episode — second, if you count the two-part premiere as one — to really nail it. “Witch” is so good, from the ghastly curses plaguing the cheerleading team to the twist that Amy is actually her mother. Let’s just be grateful Buffy’s cheerleading didn’t last.

24. “Selfless” (Season 7, Episode 5)

20th Television

Writer: Drew Goddard
Director: David Solomon
Now that Anya is doing serious damage as a vengeance demon, Buffy has no choice but to take her out. Meanwhile, we flash back to Anya’s life before Sunnydale and what led her to this point. It’s a gorgeous exploration of the character, and the final scene is heartbreaking. Anya is left human — and alone.

23. “The Prom” (Season 3, Episode 20)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Solomon
Play the cover of “Wild Horses” by The Sundays. See how fast you can get a Buffy fan to cry. This is such an emotional episode, with Angel breaking up with Buffy and then returning for one final dance. Buffy earning the Class Protector Award is one moment of sweetness amidst all the pain. So much pain.

22. “What’s My Line” (Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10)

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Writers: Howard Gordon (Part 1) and Marti Noxon (Parts 1 and 2)
Directors: David Solomon (Part 1) and David Semel (Part 2)
Meet Kendra the Vampire Slayer. Ignore her horribly fake Jamaican accent. That abomination aside, “What’s My Line” is an excellent two-parter, introducing us to the first new Slayer and showing how different Buffy’s life could have been. Oh, and Xander and Cordelia finally hook up, if you’re into that sort of thing.

21. “The Zeppo” (Season 3, Episode 13)

20th Television

Writer: Dan Vebber
Director: James Whitmore, Jr.
Feeling left out by the rest of the group, Xander has an adventure of his own: He befriends an insane fellow student, helps raise the dead, almost blows up the school, and has sex with Faith. Meanwhile, Buffy and others battle some major evil, but who cares? It’s Xander’s turn to shine, and he does it so, so well.

20. “Conversations With Dead People” (Season 7, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writers: Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard
Director: Nick Marck
Season 7 proved itself capable of greatness with “Conversations With Dead People,” an episode in which Buffy got therapy from a vampire named Holden, Dawn tried to make contact with her dead mother, and Cassie appeared to Willow with a message from Tara. It’s a thoughtful, poetic episode bookended by the haunting song “Blue.”

19. “Lie to Me” (Season 2, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Buffy’s childhood friend Ford transfers to Sunnydale High — but he has an agenda. Turns out Ford wants to be a vampire. His reasons, however, turn out to be more complicated than Buffy realizes. The end is particularly sad, as Buffy stakes Ford and asks Giles to lie. “No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.”

18. “School Hard” (Season 2, Episode 3)

20th Television

Writers: Joss Whedon (story) and David Greenwalt (story and teleplay)
Director: John T. Kretchmer
In “School Hard,” two vampires named Spike and Drusilla make their way to Sunnydale, and the show is never the same. The episode is great by itself, with vampires descending on the high school’s Parent-Teacher Night. But it’s really all about cheeky Spike and nutty Dru. Oh, and the Anointed One is finally staked.

17. “This Year’s Girl”/”Who Are You” (Season 4, Episodes 15 and 16)

20th Television

Writers: Douglas Petrie (“This Year’s Girl”) and Joss Whedon (“Who Are You”)
Directors: Michael Gershman (“This Year’s Girl”) and Joss Whedon (“Who Are You”)
Faith wakes up from her coma and pretty instantly wreaks havoc on Buffy’s life, using a device left by Mayor Wilkins to switch bodies with the other Slayer. Sarah Michelle Gellar is perfect as Faith, and Eliza Dushku is equally adept at playing Buffy. It’s a total mindfuck, with serious consequences for the characters.

16. “Something Blue” (Season 4, Episode 9)

20th Television

Writer: Tracey Forbes
Director: Nick Marck
Buffy and Spike are getting hitched! If you guessed there was a spell involved, you’d be right. “Something Blue” is just fun. In addition to Buffy and Spike being grossly in love with each other, Xander becomes a literal demon magnet and Giles goes blind. OK, that last one’s not so hilarious. But the episode really is.

15. “Passion” (Season 2, Episode 17)

20th Television

Writer: Ty King
Director: Michael Gershman
Oh, this one hurt. Jenny works on a spell to restore Angel’s soul, but Angelus gets to her first, snapping her neck in the high school hallway. It’s the first character death that really hit hard. Of course, it doesn’t help that Angelus arranges a sick tableau for Giles to come home to, with a trail of rose petals leading to Jenny’s corpse.

14. “Doppelgangland” (Season 3, Episode 16)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Vampire Willow finds her way into our dimension, leading to a face-to-face confrontation with her squeaky clean human counterpart. The interplay between the two is brilliant and provides some clues about how Willow will end up: a lot darker and, yes, kinda gay.

13. “Prophecy Girl” (Season 1, Episode 12)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
“Giles, I’m 16 years old. I don’t wanna die.” The first season finale of Buffy was a necessary reminder that in addition to being the Slayer, Buffy is also a teenage girl. She wants to dance, not to face the Master and lose. Yes, she’s brought back to life — with serious repercussions — but the gravity of her fate was never clearer.

12. “Fool for Love” (Season 5, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Nick Marck
After a close encounter with a vampire, Buffy asks Spike to explain how he killed two past Slayers. We learn that before he was a fearsome vampire, Spike was just William, a lovesick and terrible poet pining after a woman named Cecily. Yes, he’s a badass taking out Nikki on the subway, but he’s also — well, you read the title.

11. “Tabula Rasa” (Season 6, Episode 8)

20th Television

Writer: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Director: David Grossman
Willow tries to erase Tara’s memory, and ends up erasing everyone’s — including her own. The ensuing farce is the funniest Buffy has ever been. Buffy believes her name is Joan, Spike think he’s Giles’ son Randy, and no one has any idea that vampires are real. Anya and Giles also make out. It’s fantastic.

10. “Graduation Day” (Season 3, Episodes 21 and 22)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
There is so much packed into the two-part Season 3 finale, it’s impossible to list all the great moments. To highlight a few: Buffy’s showdown with Faith, Angel drinking from Buffy, and all of Sunnydale High taking up arms against Mayor Wilkins. It’s a thrilling cap to Buffy’s high school era.

9. “Surprise”/”Innocence” (Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14)

20th Television

Writers: Marti Noxon (“Surprise”) and Joss Whedon (“Innocence”)
Directors: Michael Lange (“Surprise”) and Joss Whedon (“Innocence”)
Buffy was rarely subtle with its metaphors, but that didn’t diminish the horror of Buffy losing her virginity to her boyfriend and then finding out he wasn’t the person she thought he was. By experiencing a moment of pure happiness, Angel reverts back to his soulless self, the vampire Angelus. And Buffy’s heart is broken.

8. “Chosen” (Season 7, Episode 22)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
For all its faults, Season 7 ended things right. “Chosen” is an amazing season finale. Spike’s final sacrifice — slightly ruined by the knowledge that he was going to reappear on Angel — is the the perfect culmination of his arc. And Buffy wins, sharing her power with every other Potential on Earth. Go ahead. Cry.

7. “Hush” (Season 4, Episode 10)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
The Gentlemen arrive in Sunnydale, stealing everyone’s voices so they can cut out the hearts of their victims without interference. What results is a nearly silent episode, with music and significant glances in place of words. It’s frightening, funny, and an impressive achievement. All that plus the scariest demons imaginable.

6. “Restless” (Season 4, Episode 22)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
No dream episode has ever been better than ” Restless.” It’s filled with dream logic, nonsense, foreshadowing, and real danger in the form of the First Slayer. As funny as it is — “The Exposition Song” kills — it’s also overwhelmingly gorgeous. Those shots of Buffy walking with Tara in the sand are unreal.

5. “The Gift” (Season 5, Episode 22)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Commence bawling. Buffy’s death, long foreshadowed, is still almost unbearable. That she dies saving the world — and saving Dawn — is a small consolation. But that final scene is devastating, particularly the look on Willow’s face and Spike, racked with sobs.

4. “The Wish” (Season 3, Episode 9)

20th Television

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: David Greenwalt
Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, and she ends up in an alternate reality where the Master and his vampires have largely overtaken the town. “The Wish” is a wonderful exploration of “what if,” and it packs a surprisingly emotional punch. No matter what reality, it’s tough to watch these characters die.

3. “The Body” (Season 5, Episode 16)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
No music and very few cuts make for an incredible hour of television as Buffy and her friends deal with the death of Buffy’s mother. It’s one of the most effective and distressing explorations of mortality on any show, an episode that’s very much worth watching but nearly impossible to watch again.

2. “Once More, With Feeling” (Season 6, Episode 7)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
Lots of shows have done musical episodes. None of them have done musical episodes as well as Buffy did. Sorry, but it’s flawless: amazing songs, believable set-up (work with me here), and some deeply impactful moments. Where do we go from here? There’s only one better episode of Buffy

1. “Becoming” (Season 2, Episodes 21 and 22)

20th Television

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon
There were many great episodes after Buffy’s second season finale, but none broke our hearts like “Becoming” did. Angelus is finally re-ensouled, but just as he reunites with Buffy — she’s forced to put a sword through him. While the entire episode is brilliant, it’s that final scene that leaves you broken. This is Buffy at its very best.

Disagree with these rankings? Let us know what you’d change in the comments.

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