Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Foot: The Top 19 Buffy Episodes

There are many iconic scenes in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. The opening scene of the series is iconic, when the pretty blond girl turns around and reveals she is a vampire to her date. In that scene Joss broke genre conventions. There is the image of Buffy, in her prom dress, ready to save the world. Very iconic. As for The Foot, one scene has always stood out. The scene is not included amongst the various iconic moments but the scene says so much about the heart of Buffy. The scene occurs during season two's "Lie To Me," a Joss Whedon episode. Buffy's old friend visits her; however, he's dying and wants eternal life. He makes a deal with Spike and Dru to turn him if he brings along some more people for the duo to feed on. Spike and Dru aren't the big bad in this episode. The big bad is Buffy's old friend and the experience blindsides her. She waits with Giles in the cemetary and they share this discussion


Well, does it ever get easy?

Ford BURSTS from the grave, a snarling VAMPIRE, and lunges at Buffy -- who plants a stake firmly in his chest. She doesn't even look as he explodes into dust.


You mean life?


Yeah. Does it get easy?


What do you want me to say.

She thinks about it a moment.


Lie to me.


Yes. It's terribly simple.

As they start out of the graveyard:


The good-guys are stalwart and true.

The bad-guys are easily distinguished

by their pointy horns or black hats and

we always defeat them and save the day.

Nobody ever dies…and everybody lives

happily ever after.



(with weary affection)



The dialogue says so much about the series and what she'll experience as she grows older; and the scene says so much about life, about growing up, the uncertainty, the fears. Buffy was about much more than just vampires. It ranks number three on my favorite tv shows of all-time. These nineteen episodes should give readers an idea of what made Buffy great.

*Favorite episodes might change over time


19. Fear, Itself (Written By David Fury; Directed By Tucker Gates)

Fear, Itself is season four's Halloween episode. Buffy's sad and fears being alone because of a boy, Xander fears being left out because he's not in college, Oz fears he can't control his lycanthrophy, and Willow fears she can't control her magic. All of these fears manifest during a frat house's Halloween party where a fear demon preys on people's fear. So, Xander becomes invisible. Oz can't control his lycanthropy, Willow can't control her magic, and Buffy's alone. Meanwhile, Anya (in her bunny costume) and Giles team up to save the frat and the group from whatever's happening inside. They do save the day and the fear demon, who seems so large, is actually revealed to be very small. The symbolism isn't subtle but it works. "Fear, Itself" does what Buffy does so well: take real life problems and illuminate them through the supernatural. This is Buffy's best Halloween episode.

18. Angel (Written By David Greenwalt; Directed By Scott Brazil)

For six episodes, Angel has been the mysterious guy who helps Buffy out or warns her that trouble lurks. Buffy grows more and more attracted to him as time goes by. She's interested him, and he's interested in her, but when they almost kiss, he vamps. Buffy freaks and doesn't know what to do. Should she kill him? She is the Slayer. Buffy doesn't know about the curse or his soul, though. This episode gives us Angel's backstory for the first time and reveals, among other things, his connection with Darla, and her, Darla's, motivations for wanting Buffy dead. She's jealous. An epic, soapy romance between a slayer and vampire begins in this one. The image of her cross burning his chest when they kiss for the first time is mirrored seven years later in "Beneath You".

17. Innocence (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

One of the most popular episodes of the entire series. I might be committing a crime by ranking it as low as seventeen but, hey, "Innocence" is included in the Best of Buffy. Whedon said this episode accomplished everything he wanted the show to be. He wanted to tell stories that were personal and larger-than-life. When parents tell their teenage children that sex changes everything, it really does in Sunnydale. Angel becomes Angelus after experiencing true happiness with Buffy. Angelus is as cruel as a young girl's worst nightmare is after sex, using Buffy's innocence to humiliate her. Buffy needs to work out her intense and complicated personal issues while knowing that she needs to kill Angelus. If you watch "Innocence" for the first time and don't like it, you likely won't like the rest of the series.

16. Once More, With Feeling (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I wrote about this already on Monday. Joss didn't just make the musical for the sake of making a musical. The episode is a game-changer for the season. Buffy and Spike kiss. Xander and Anya aren't as ready as they seem for marriage. Tara learns Willow altered her memory. There's many fun songs as well. And it's a musical.

15. No Place Like Home (Written By Douglas Petrie; Directed By David Solomon)

This season five episode introduced the season's big bad and the thing that she's looking for that would destroy the world, and it explains where Dawn came from, but it doesn't explain why Joyce is sick, which is the one thing Buffy wanted to find out and destroy by the end of the episode. The end of this episode always moves me, especially the scene between Buffy and the monk. Sarah Michelle Gellar was amazing.

14. The Zeppo (Written By Dan Vebber; Directed By James Whitmore Jr.)

I didn't write about Dan Vebber in yesterday's post because he wrote only two episodes; however, both of his episodes are among these nineteen episodes. "The Zeppo" is the first and shows us things from Xander Harris' perspective. It's a big one for Xander. He saves the world and loses his virginity, but no one will ever know. This episode is among the funniest in the series. The title comes from Zeppo Marx, the most forgotten member of the Marx Brothers.

13. Lie To Me (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

Joss has said that "Innocence" made him realize what he could storywise in Buffy, but "Lie To Me" is an essential early episode that departed from the kinds of episodes the writers broke in season one and early season two. It's almost a prelude to "Innocence". Someone from Buffy's past visits her, but he changed, and Buffy never expected it, as I summarized above. "Lie To Me" departs from the binary good/evil dichotomy and anticipates a more ambivalent story.

12. The Wish (Written By Marti Noxon; Directed By David Greenwalt)

Everyone loves "The Wish" because it shows us the very opposite of the series we love. A bitter Cordy accidentally tells a vengeance demon that she wished Buffy never came to Sunnydale. Anya, the vengeance demon, grants her wish. And a Sunnydale-less Buffy and a friend-less Buffy is not good for anyone.

11. Lover's Walk (Written By Dan Vebber; Directed By David Semel)

"Lover's Walk" is hilarious and I laugh every time I watch it. Dru broke up with Spike, so Spike's a mess, but because he's Spike, he bounces back pretty quick; however, he leaves everyone else's love lives worse. The old rumor is that Joss did page one rewrites for both of Vebber's episodes. That seems right.

10. Passion (Written By Ty King; Directed By Michael E. Gershman)

"Passion" is the closest the show has come to a forty-four minute slasher movie. Angelis is at his most poetic evil in the episode, stalking and tormenting Buffy, killing Giles' sweetheart, and telling Joyce about Buffy sleeping with him. A brilliant, game-changing, series-changing episode.

9. The Body (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

Joss wanted to capture the reality of losing a loved one. He succeeded. It is sad, existential, depressing, but excellently written, directed, and act. Sarah deserved an Emmy. You may never watch it again after the first time.

8. Graduation Day Pts 1&2 (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

The Scoobies say goodbye to high school with an epic fight against a giant snake. There are flaming arrows! What doesn't happen in this episode? I wrote more about the episode here.

7. Selfless (Written By Drew Goddard; Directed By David Solomon)

Who is Anya? She's not a vengeance demon and she's not Xander's wife. Where does she belong? "Selfless" gives us Anya's glorious origin story, plus one song, as she tries to figure out her place in the world. Plus, five seasons later, the infamous "kick his ass" returns as a (minor) plot point.

6. Prophecy Girl (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I think this episode is the first one that actualizes the potential of the series. Buffy's incredibly heroic in this one, faces death and dies at age 16 before Xander saves her life. There are other moments of bravery too. Xander's brave when he tells Buffy how he feels about her, but she doesn't feel the same way, for example. She defeats The Master. I adore

5. Becoming Pts. 1&2 (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

"Becoming" is action-packed, full of emotion, heart, torture, suspense, life-or-death stakes, discoveries, payoffs, and character choices that ripples into later seasons. Joss Whedon at his best.

4. Hush (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

"Hush" reminds one how much people may still communicate without words. As Joss said, people start communicating when they stop talking. "Hush" gives us iconic villains, operatic drama, comedy, and true episodic triumph.

3. Conversations With Dead People (Written By Drew Goddard Goddard & Jane Espensen; Directed By Nick Marck)

Different characters talk to different dead people. I think "Conversations With Dead People" is the last truly great Buffy episode. Some season seven episodes post-"Conversations..." are good, but none reach, not even the series finale, what this episode reaches. "Hush" highlights how people begin communicating when they stop talking. "Conversations With Dead People" shows something different: it's this idea that people, especially Buffy, can only open up to those they don't know and those who don't know you. This episode also introduces Buffy's final Big Bad. Joss wrote the Buffy act.

2. Restless (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

I called this episode an English major's dream in the past. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles fall asleep after their big battle against The Initiative. They all dream. The narrative turns inward. It foreshadows Buffy's death, Dawn's arrival, and the importance of the First Slayer. The episode is silly, surreal, artistic, deep, dramatic, personal, philosophical, and unlike many other episodes of television.

1. The Gift (Written and Directed By Joss Whedon)

The series' 100th episode and the last episode of TheWB era. Whedon said he wrote "The Gift" as a series finale and, later, he admitted that he thinks of it as the perfect ending to the character and the character. I agree. "The Gift" is perfect. This is Buffy at its best, and Joss at his best. The closest he comes to matching the quality of "The Gift" isn't until "A Hole in the World". If you've never seen the show before, I wouldn't dare spoil this special, special episode.

TOMORROW: Seven Business Days of Whedon concludes.

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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.