Disclaimer: A lot of research went into this post i.e. I had to watch all the episodes featured below just to be sure they’re as awesome as I state. Which they obviously were. In fact, there isn’t a dud one in the whole series.
One of my favourite episodes ever, this is when I think we first see Xander and Willow come to Buffy’s aid as true friends in an attempt to save her life. This episode demonstrates Buffy’s vulnerability, as well as the power of magic – something viewers will recognise later when Willow starts to dabble.
It’s of course also a really funny episode, with Buffy acting out of sorts and trying out for the cheerleading squad much to Gile’s disgust.
Plot: Buffy decides to try out for the cheerleading squad, to try and feel better after her move to Sunnydale as she longs for LA, but there is someone else who wants a place more than her.
We discover that Amy is under immense pressure from her mother to obtain a place on the squad, of course in true Buffy the Vampire Slayer fashion Amy’s Mum turns out to be a witch and is cursing Amy’s competition before finally swapping bodies with her to obtain a place on the team. In the end the spell is reversed, Buffy is saved and Amy’s Mum ends up trapped in her cheerleading statue from her glory days.
I think this episode taps into everything I love: Buffy, Halloween, Giles kicking ass. It’s also the first episode where we see Willow dominate things and lead the gang in a time of crisis. She sheds her quiet, anxious self when she removes the ghost costume as a cute metaphor for her coming out of her shell.
It’s also the episode where Xander suddenly becomes a walking, talking military tactician and can confidently wield a M16. Of course, this helps nicely in the future and allows him to be more of a help than he might have been before (his military know how allows the gang to get their hands on a rocket launcher which kills the judge, after Angel reverts to Angelus later).
Plot: The gang have been tasked with taking the local kids out for Halloween Trick or Treating and dress up for the occasion but what they don’t know is that the store where their costumes are from is being run by Ethan Rayne, an old adversary of Giles, who has cursed the costumes to turn the wearer into what they are dressed as.
Buffy dresses as a noble woman, in an attempt to impress Angel after seeing him with Drusilla, Willow is a ghost (with a sexy costume underneath) and Xander a soldier.
Once they are turned Buffy has no recollection that she is the Slayer but is frightened of her surroundings, Willow loses her corporeal form and Xander also forgets who he is but marches around fighting back the monsters that start to attack them.
Spike tries to take advantage of the situation but ultimately it’s Willow and Giles who save the day, as they put a stop to Ethan’s antics and return everyone back to normal.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
This one is in here for its comedic effect, Xander being hounded by all the women in Sunnydale is great fun to watch and even though Buffy is turned into a rat pretty early on in the episode it’s still a good one. Jenny Carpenter’s reaction to Xander is one of my favourite things about the episode.
Plot: After Cordelia dumps Xander on Valentine’s Day he turns to Amy (who is now a secretly practicing witch) and asks her to put a love spell on Cordelia. However, a love spells intent has to be pure to work and it backfires, causing all the girls in Sunnydale to fall in love with Xander and go a bit crazy with it.
They attack Cordelia, come onto Xander pretty strong and in the end he has a crazy mob of infatuated women coming after him. After destroying Cordelia’s necklace the spell is reversed and awkwardness ensues between everyone in the gang.
This episode is one that makes you think about the show and question it. There are always fan theories about shows that go into detail about the main character being in a coma or a mental hospital and none of what is happening is real (the Walking Dead, for example, still has this theory surrounding it).
Joss Whedon probably heard this speculation going around back when he was creating the show and thought it would be funny to confuse people by showing us what might be.
Plot: This episode sees Buffy get injected with a venom that makes her hallucinate, causing her to believe that she is in a mental hospital and that nothing about her life in Sunnydale is real but has been created to deal with her issues.
In the end, she nearly kills the gang trying to overcome her battle with two alternative lives and we also learn that she was once taken to an institution, when she first saw a vampire and spoke out about it. It’s interesting that this is never acknowledged earlier in the show. I thought Joyce would say ‘You were right’ or ‘We should have believed you’ when she found out about the slaying but perhaps the mental hospital comment was written in but not really thought about in terms of earlier episodes.
Joss Whedon loves to display the frailty of his characters and in this episode we saw just how scared and lost the potential Slayers were. With Andrew interviewing them, it felt like some strange role reversal – for the record I was never comfortable with him sorting of becoming a member of the Scoobie Gang because he put Buffy through so much when he was with Warren and Jonathan.
Plot: As the big fight draws near Andrew decides that the gang should record their stories for the world just in case something happens. It’s an emotional episode, with some funny elements at times as we hear people’s stories and thoughts on the situation.
Hearing about what these girls did before they were thrown into the world of the First and vampires was a great way of getting to know them better, because a lot of them I had strong feelings of hatred for (apart from Felicia Day’s character even though she put on a terrible British accent). Well done Whedon.
Finally, bonus favourite episode, because it’s absolutely terrifying…
And here’s Buffy miming using a stake:
What are your favourite episodes of Buffy?