It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 10 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first premiered on television. At first I just didn’t buy that a show set at a high school about a vampire slayer named Buffy could possibly be any good, but once I started watching the show (thank God I did!), I totally ate my words. Buffy, in my opinion, is close to perfect.
Not only did creator Joss Whedon and his talented writing team put together an emotionally complex, sometimes laugh-out-loud series, they also delivered network television’s best (as far as I’m concerned) portrayal of a lesbian character, Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan).
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, here are 10 of my favorite episodes from the series. These are just listed chronologically in order of air date — I don’t know if I could bring myself to rank them in any kind of order. Without further ado:
1. “Halloween” (2.06): In this Season 2 classic, Buffy and the gang are magically transformed into their Halloween costumes. Buffy becomes a helpless noblewoman, Xander becomes a soldier (whose skills continue to serve him throughout the series), and Willow dresses up as, well, a hot girl. Given Willow’s innate modesty, however, she covers her costume with a sheet. When the spell is cast, Willow becomes the ghost of a hot girl.
2. “The Wish” (3.09): After Cordelia discovers that Xander has been unfaithful to her with Willow, she inadvertently summons a vengeance demon, Anyanka (who later becomes the inimitable Anya), and wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Anya grants Cordelia’s wish, resulting in an alternate universe version of Sunnydale in which Xander and Willow have become deliciously evil vampires; Angel has become a slave to the Master, who was never defeated; and Giles works with Oz and Larry (who came out in Season 1) to fight evil. The best part? The introduction of Vamp Willow.
3. “Bad Girls” (3.14): Buffy develops a friendship with Faith (the hot Eliza Dushku) which involves kicking ass, breaking-and-entering, and dancing together suggestively at the Bronze. Oh yeah, and at the end of the episode Faith accidentally kills a human, thus beginning her descent into Tortured Sexy Badness.
4. “Doppelgängland” (3.16): Anya asks fledgling witch Willow to help her with a spell, but the spell, of course, goes awry, and Willow’s vampire alter ego from “The Wish” is called into Sunnydale. After the real Willow meets Vamp Willow, she observes: “That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil. And skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay!”
5. “Hush” (4.10): This Emmy Award-winning episode was shot almost entirely in silence, and tells the story of a group of fairy-tale villains who come to Sunnydale to steal hearts (the actual organs). In the process, these “Gentlemen” steal the voices of their potential victims so that they can’t scream for help. But being speechless only makes Willow’s growing attraction to Tara, a fellow witch, more obvious.
6. “New Moon Rising” (4.19): Willows ex-boyfriend Oz returns to town after having learned how to control some of his werewolf tendencies, only to discover that Willow has another person in her life — Tara. Willow ultimately decides that despite her affection for Oz, she is in love with Tara.
7. “The Body” (5.16): In a show that is all about death, this episode, in which Buffy’s mother unexpectedly dies, brought home the reality of mortality with riveting performances from all of the cast.
8. “Once More With Feeling” (6.07): The unforgettable musical episode.
9. “Tabula Rasa” (6.08): Willow casts a spell meant to cause Tara to forget her feelings of anger about Willow’s increasing use of magic, but the spell, of course, goes awry. All of the Scooby gang winds up with amnesia, which leads to a hilarious episode in which they all try to figure out who they are. When the spell is broken, Tara realizes that she can no longer be with Willow, who lied to her, but before all of that sadness, there were several laugh-out-loud moments.
10. “The Killer in Me” (7.13): Kennedy (Iyari Limon), a potential slayer, takes Willow out to the Bronze on what turns out to be a date. Their developing attraction is sweet and sexy, but when they kiss, Willow suddenly turns into Warren, the man she killed at the end of Season 6. Talk about dyke drama!
This list doesn’t even include a number of my other favorite episodes, including “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (1.11), in which Clea DuVall plays an invisible high school student; “Phases” (2.15), in which Oz discovers he’s a werewolf and former bully Larry reveals that he’s gay; the Evil Willow episodes from the end of Season 6; “Smashed” followed by “Wrecked” in which Buffy hooks up with Spike; the very scary “Conversations With Dead People” in Season 7 with the ghost of Joyce wreaking havoc on the Summers house; or the bittersweet season finale. What were your favorite episodes?