Michelle’s Top 5 Shows: #2 – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Buffy The Vampire Slayer
While picking my third through fifth favorite shows was much harder than I expected, the only tough part about the top two was choosing their order, a problem easily solved by flipping a coin. Heads means that my number two favorite show of all time is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

What it’s about

“In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone must stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” For our generation, that chosen one was Buffy, the reluctantly kick-ass teenager True Blood fans want to stay far, far away from Bill and Eric. She, as her tombstone said, “saved the world a lot” and still managed to find time for all the school, family, and relationship drama any teenage girl could dream of, all while living on top of a hellmouth.

Why I love it

Buffy is one of the greatest characters ever written. She is flawed and occasionally frustrating, but she’s also strong, smart, warm, and devoted to family, friends, and defeating evil in all its forms. With her watcher, Giles; friends Willow the (eventual) witch and Xander the Zeppo; Angel her vampire soul mate, Cordelia her frenemy; her mom, and all the others who came and went, Buffy fought, played, learned, and grew up. Alliances shifted and relationships evolved. There is romance, tragedy, triumph, heartbreak, and bone-deep grief. There are also bonds that go deeper than the depths of hell Buffy sent Angel to, and the spectacular cast led by Sarah Michelle Gellar sell every bit of it.

I love that I never knew where Buffy would take me. Angel going bad? Spike going good? A sister out of nowhere? Joss Whedon and company had no problem taking risks, and the payoffs were usually huge. When Kendra the Vampire Slayer appeared on the scene, called because Buffy had briefly died at the end of season one, it seemed an odd move, but it eventually led to Faith, another deliciously complicated character.

Buffy could always balance the light and the dark. Quirky humor is injected into the most serious of storylines and dark undertones still slither even in the lightest of moments. The danger is never over or under-sold. It’s a part of life in Sunnydale, just like exams and The Bronze. I love the hope in the midst of despair and the emotional payoffs, and darn it, I love the feminism.

Why you should watch

Buffy is one of the most layered shows ever to air. It isn’t just a vampire show or a high school drama; it’s a character drama that’s also a thrilling ride with high stakes (sorry–I had to), heart, wit, and satire. The smart writing and incredible acting combine to make this fantastical series one of the most real to grace television. Villains are as complicated and interesting as our heroine and her crew, the allegories still resonate, and as much as I laugh during each episode, there are also installments that still break my heart.

The unique look, feel, and sound of Buffy set it apart from other shows. Its energy can’t be matched, it never takes itself too seriously, and Joss Whedon was never afraid to experiment, so while almost every episode is excellent in its own right, we also have groundbreaking standouts like “Once More with Feeling,” the unparalleled musical episode and “Hush,” where much of the episode is silent.

In the end, once you get past the rich mythology, fun camp, adventure, and witty banter, you have the characters. The Scooby gang matured as the show did; their problems paralleled the evil around them and they struggled with it all together. Somehow it all feels right and real. Willow’s discovery that she was gay, even-or maybe especially-after her wonderful romance with Oz, made perfect sense and fit the both the character and where we were in the show. These are all characters you can relate to, root for, and fall in love with.

Top five episodes (this was insanely hard):

5. “Once More With Feeling” (Season 6) — The musical episode where Willow learns she didn’t save Buffy from hell, she ripped her from heaven.
4. “Hush” (Season 4) — An homage to silent horror films; Sunnydale is silenced by the creeptastic “Gentlemen.”
3. “The Body” (Season 5) — An all too real depiction of grief when Buffy’s mother dies.
2. The Gift (Season 5) — Death is Buffy’s gift.
1. “Beginning Parts 1 & 2” (Season 2) — Buffy loses/gives up/sends to hell everything but herself.

Any other Buffy fans? What were your favorite episodes? Or if you think Angel is the better show, make your case in the comments.

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