Maybe you are one of the thousands of people across the globe whose mind has recently been blown by the awesomeness of The Avengers. Maybe to keep the awesomeness alive in your head, you’re going through a little period of Must-Surround-Self-With-Joss-Awesomeness-All-The-Time. Maybe you read the note he wrote to fans, and it made you want to wrap him in your arms and keep him forever even more!
Well, never fear. Logo (our parent company) is here for you. AfterEllen.com is here for you.
On May 19th, Logo will air a Buffy-athon of Joss Whedon’s personal top 10 favorite episodes. These include “Innocence,” “Once More With Feeling,” “Hush,” “The Body,” “Doppelgangland,” “The Wish,” “Becoming Part II,” “Restless,” “Conversations with Dead People,” and “Prophecy Girl.”
To get ourselves prepared for this TV Day of Awesomeness, we thought it’d be a good idea to list some of our own favorites. I stepped up to the task—and then immediately realized how nearly impossible it is to choose “some favorites” from 144 episodes of seven epic seasons of drama, hilarity, and so much gayness.
I decided to pick five that aren’t on Joss’ list, to get us in the Sunnydale mood without spoiling anything from those 10 episodes too much. There’s a certain joy about re-watching something you used to love and remembering all the great moments you somehow forgot.
And anyway, what more can I say about “Once More With Feeling,” or “Hush,” that hasn’t been said? What new could I contribute about “Becoming Part II,” which includes not only the most heartbreaking Sarah McLachlan song usage in history but what I believe is still the most empowering dialogue to ever grace the screen. Let me paint the scene in case you’ve forgotten:
Evil Angel, hovering over Buffy as she’s pinned on the ground with a knife to her chest, antagonizes her: No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what’s left? Buffy, blade of the knife between her palms, replies: Me.
And BAM, she shoves that knife BACK IN HIS FACE! BAM! This is what my written synopsis of this episode would be: “WHAT’S LEFT? ME! BAM! WHAT’S LEFT? ME, BITCH! ME! ME! BAM! BAM! ME!” interrupted occasionally by breaks to sob and make myself large bowls of ice cream (while sobbing).
Want me to write about “The Body”? Cool. Make that ten bowls of ice cream.
Okay, so there is in fact a lot I could say about all of these episodes.
But here are the other five (or, er, six, or okay, seven) episodes I decided on, not necessarily because they are the Ultimate Best Ones, but because if my fiancée paces around the house with our episode guide from The Chosen Collection in hand yelling out, “No, THIS ONE! Oh God, you have to do THIS ONE! NO, NO, THIS ONE!!” for much longer, she may work herself into even more of a frenzy and pass out. So, here we go.
1) When She Was Bad (Season 2, Episode 1; Aired 9/15/97)
“When She Was Bad” may have less action, less drama, less suspense than other episodes. But Joss can do subtlety as well as he can do ass-kicking. While this episode actuality helps wrap up Season 1, it quietly yet perfectly re-introduces viewers to the nuanced layers of Buffy Summers for Season 2—independent but dependant, strong but vulnerable, slayer but human.
Most of the episode centers around Buffy being a bitch, but not even a crazy, overt bitch — a quietly cruel bitch, which is always worse. One by one she hurts the feelings of everyone she cares about while she herself is so mentally far away, so obviously hollow and lost. Weirdly, it’s like she’s being affected by that whole, you know, momentarily dying thing that occurred at the end of the first season.
Combined with, or perhaps as an effect of, her posttraumatic stress, she decides to carry the burden of her responsibility too heavily, just as Harry Potter does in Book Five (okay, and a lot of the other books, too). Oh, we’re the Slayer/The Boy Who Lived! THIS IS OUR BATTLE! May we push away everyone who loves us most because that is what we must do even though EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS IT’S DUMB!
While Buffy’s busy being dumb, there’s also a creepy little kid and a gross monster dude working to resurrect The Master, the first season’s Big Bad and the cause of all of Buffy’s depression. God, I hate when creepy little kids resurrect people.
There are also so many great side-character moments in this episode—so many hilarious Cordelia lines; the zenith of Willow’s adorableness when she spells out in a whisper, “Why else would she be acting like such a B-I-T-C-H?” along with Xander’s endearingness when he replies, “A bitca?”; so many jean overalls worn by Willow; so many amazing back-and-forths between Giles and Principal Snyder:
Snyder: I mean, it’s incredible. One day the campus is completely bare. Empty. The next, there are children everywhere. Like locusts. Crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating. Destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist.
Giles: I do enjoy these pep talks.
Snyder: There are some things I can just smell. It’s like a sixth sense.
Giles: No, actually, that would be one of the five.
Snyder: You really have faith in these kids, don’t you?
Giles: Yes, I do.
I love Principal Snyder so much. He’s the perfect representation of adults — and sadly, often, educators — thinking the worst of youth. Even with the triumphant rise of the teen character on TV today, there has never been another writer who bravely stood up for young people the way Joss Whedon did. And I mean, who doesn’t love a good comparison of children to locusts? A good locust comparison is always a winner.
Anyway. What this all builds up to, of course, is that second-to-last scene, when Buffy and company discover the resurrection-of-The-Master plan, and the very idea of the Master coming back, still haunting her, finally causes Buffy to break. When all the vampires have been killed and the plot dissolved, Willow sighs and says, “It’s over.” And when Xander looks at Buffy and says, “No, it’s not,” it’s one of those magical TV moments where you unconsciously hold your breath, tensing your stomach, until Buffy picks up the sledgehammer. You only start to let out the breath you didn’t know you were holding, slowly, with the first crash of the hammer against the bones of the Master’s skeleton. With each crank of her arm and each brittle bone broken, Buffy’s chest heaves and all the anger, all the pain, finally, finally seeps out of her, in a sad, violent, human expression of grief.
When she’s exhausted herself and all of the emotion has drained her of her strength, she collapses into Angel, and you think, in the most delicate, yet excited way — she’s back.