TVAndMovies

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.

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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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

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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)

20th Television

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)

20th Television

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)

Writer: Marti NoxonDirector: David SolomonWillow'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.