End of Slays: Our Favorite Episodes

As Buffy comes to an end, we take a moment to recall some of the Slayer’s finest hours.

By EG Staff
May 16, 2003

As the final hour of Buffy approaches, we at Entertainment Geekly would like to take a few moments to remember our all-time favorite episodes. Thanks for all the memories, Buff! (We totally could have made a “Fangs for all the memories” joke here. We’re just saying.)

“Becoming,” Season 2
8:23. I think that’s about when I started tearing up during this episode. Watch it with me again today, and I still bawl like a tiny baby (or maybe Andrew after hearing an incorrect Star Trek reference) all the way through. This ep somehow channels everything I love about Buffy and ties it together in a glorious, gut-wrenching package. You’ve got The Funny (Spike chatting with Joyce Summers), The Romantic (Oz and Willow), The Kick-Ass (B and A’s big sword fight) and of course, The Big Moment (Buffy sends a re-souled Angel to hell). That moment, I think, has Buffy truly accepting her role as the Slayer in a way that she was never dreamed she would have to. And there’s so much fascinating stuff crammed in around the edges, fully demonstrating how deep and multi-layered and epic this series had become (Xander’s “Kick his ass!” is still a thought-provoking gray area for the character). There are flashbacks (check our Buffy’s puffy jacket!) and magic and even a return (of sorts) for the much-missed Jenny Calendar. In the end, everything from season 2 comes together and pays off in a big, huge, earth-shattering way. All this and Max Perlich. What more could you want? Special runner-up consideration goes to another gem from season 2, the wonderfully comedic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” Xander and Cordelia (still one of my all-time favorite Scooby pairings) have never been better, and their prickly chemistry guides this hour to poignant, deeply funny results. — Sarah Kuhn

“Halloween,” Season 2 and “Hush,” Season 4
“Halloween” is one of those genre-bending episodes that shows off Joss’ skills at characterization. When everybody turns into their costumes, we get to see roles skewed and reversed without changing the fundamental nature of the individuals involved. Buffy’s the helpless damsel while Xander’s the commando — in their heart of hearts, Buffy’s always wanted to let her guard down, and Xander’s been incredibly brave in the face of supernatural horror (hey, he didn’t get an eye plucked out this season because he’s a chicken). Willow’s shy surface matches the ghost, but man, is she hot underneath! In a sexy, intellectual manner, of course. All that’s fine and good, but the thing that’ll stick with me long after Buffy‘s over is Giles kicking the shit out of cursed costumer Ethan. Nobody expected that to lie underneath that prissy British exterior. I’m also partial to season 4’s “Hush,” which contains some of my all-time favorite revelations. Once everybody in Sunnydale loses their voice and the musical soundtrack takes over, it’s like watching opera, Joss Whedon style. The Gentleman are my absolute favorite bad guys &151; especially with their weird, floaty movements and straitjacketed sidekicks. Polite, yet eerie and evil. I like that in a villain. Memorable moments include learning that Giles can’t draw and Buffy’s staking gesture being taken for stroking something else long and hard. — Jeff Chen

“The Zeppo,” Season 3
Ah, Xander. In spite of your constant hilarity, your sharp observations, your keen awareness of human relationships (who told Buffy to get over herself and get after Riley? You did, my man), you’re still seen as little more than just the regular Joe, the Snapper Carr of the Buffyverse. But how normal can a man be if he loses his virginity to Eliza Dushku? Not that normal, says I, and that’s why I love “The Zeppo.” It shows that the regular guy (the stone-cold NERD) is much more special than you could ever have imagined, and it does it with heart and humor to spare. When it comes to sheer cleverness, I don’t know if there’s an episode that tops “The Zeppo.” In the background, we see the Slayer and the Scoobs battling against another invasion from the Hellmouth. In the foreground, Xander cruises with zombies and saves his friends. The flip-flop of focus is a sublime device that doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. And it’s damned funny. Witness the aforementioned deflowering of Mr. Harris, as well as the hilarious glimpses of the background apocalypse. You become so invested in Xander’s adventures that the sight of someone soaring through a window in the background is more of a sight gag than a sign of danger. But most of all, I love “The Zeppo” for its ultimate message: Xander’s not a normal guy who’s pretty great, but someone who isn’t “normal” at all. He’s got an inner strength that will be standing long beyond the latest apocalypse. When he stares down the bomb-wielding dead guy and manages to save Sunnydale High, it’s not a celebration of the regular Joe. It’s confirmation that Xander is the most super hero of all. — Matt Springer

I too thrilled, I too wept, I too cheered, and I too ogled Alyson Hannigan in black leather, etc. etc. In all the big event episodes, I was there with you…but none of these are my favorite episode. If a gun were held to my head and I was forced to pick my absolute favorite episode, I’d pick “The Zeppo.” I’ve always liked rooting for the underdog and there are none more underdog than Xander. Everyone else had something cool they could do — Xander, on the other hand, seemed to get hit on the head a lot. How perfect, then, to have hints of yet another impending apocalypse, which we never get to see because we’re following the one person apparently too useless to participate. Xander, who’s not as useless as he thought, gets to fight zombies. Zombies! I dig zombies. If Sex in the City had zombies, I’d watch it. It felt good to Xander hold his own against the undead, save the school from destruction (not that it mattered — by the end of the season, it was gone anyhow), and figure out that he had nothing to prove to Cordelia. Oh, and he got to sleep with Faith — thumbs up there, bro. In one short episode where the other characters grow not at all (and in fact, the episode makes fun of the slight ruts they’ve all gotten into), Xander goes from a Zeppo to a Groucho. A Harpo, at the very least. — Chris Stewart

“Graduation Day,” Season 3
I have a confession to make. I’m a Buffy season 3 convert. Sure, I’d heard about Buffy and the big season 2 confrontation with Angel, but I thought it sounded like the stupidest show ever conceived. After all, I’d seen the movie it was “based” off of — how good could it be? Luckily, I’ve never been more wrong. Season 3 hooked me in and played with my emotions like a vamp with a virgin. Between Angel’s return, Willow’s doppelganger, and Cordy’s crush on Wes, I didn’t know which way was up! It’s because of this that “Graduation Day” will always be the pinnacle of Buffy in my mind. Not only do we get the ascension of the Mayor (possibly the best Big Bad ever), but there’s also Faith and Buffy’s big showdown, Willow and Oz’s first (ahem) coupling, the first hints of Anya and Xander’s relationship, Harmony’s turning, Angel’s big exodus…and so much more! Buffy is at her snarky best (“Fire bad. Tree pretty.”) and the rest of the Scoobies work in such harmony that there’s no need to call attention to the fact that they even are the Scoobies. It’s Buffy and the gang at the top of their game, before the uncertainties of the “real world” would start to tear at them. It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer the way that it should be — brimming with confidence, wit, humor and emotion. And that’s the way that I’ll always remember it. And we’re taking a moment…and we’re done. — Anthony Karcz

“Once More, With Feeling,” Season 6
I’d always been an interested Buffy watcher, if not an out-and-out fan. I kept a cursory eye on the developing plot line, checking out the primetime episodes but not worrying much if I missed some. I enjoyed the various reruns at different hours of the weekend and went to a friend’s house to see the season 5 finale with a lot of devoted viewers. I loved that finale. It was a perfect ending, although I also looked forward to seeing how the hell UPN would be able to pick up those pieces and bring Buffy back to life. But when the new season came, I just couldn’t get around to watching it. And then I started to see previews of a musical episode. “How lame,” I thought. “They really must be struggling to keep this damn show going, I’ve never heard of anything so stupid.” I refused to watch it when it aired, but my friend Sandra, a die-hard fan who’d seen every ep since the premiere, practically forced the tape into my hands. I grudgingly put it in…and within five minutes, was completely hooked in a way I’d never been in the past five seasons. It was clever, hilarious, poignant and completely in character. They’d not only pulled it off, but raised the bar on the series. So there you have it. My favorite Buffy episode, the one that sent my adrenaline pumping every week for every episode of season 6, is “Once More, With Feeling.” — Rachel De Nys