Anyone who knows me, or has read my many articles on the subject, knows that I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. And I guess that is not going away. Buffy Summers occupies a large part of my nerdy mental space, and having just watched the whole series from start to finish recently, I can’t help but feel compelled to write about her some more. So here is a ranking of the seven seasons of Buffy , ranked from “worst” to best.
7. Season One- The first season of Buffy is the worst, like a potential slayer. It’s slightly annoying, but mostly it just hasn’t realized its full potential yet. The first season is campy, and fun, but some people do tell Buffy newbies to skip it altogether. And while I can understand the reasoning behind that (it really just doesn’t hold up to what follows), the first season does set up some important stuff. Also, Prophecy Girl is a pretty damn good episode.
6. Season Seven- Chosen is one of my favorite all time episodes of the show. When Buffy slow motion stands up and says to the First, “I want you…to get out of my face!” I get chills. The final episode honors so much of what happened, so much of what fans loved, and gave us an ending that was heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. Buffy, standing on the precipice of the destroyed crater of Sunnydale is finally free, and it brings me to tears every time. Unfortunately, the season building up to that, while decent, isn’t the show’s best work. There’s just something…off about it. But Conversations with Dead People is another great episode.
5. Season Six- I love what the sixth season is trying to do more than I love the actual season. I know a lot of fans who really don’t like it, but I think that even though it’s the most dark, it might also be the most ambitious. Realistically, those characters were about to be up on some dark times, much like people are in their early twenties, and the show really tried to hammer that point home. And it hit the nail on the head a few times, but it missed just as much. Add to that the rambling, bumbling and annoying “Trio” of nerds and you have some frustrating stuff. Could Buffy really not defeat them quickly after dealing with a god? On multiple viewings, I end up wishing that they had spent more time building up Dark Willow.
4. Season Four- This season is pretty hated by a lot of people, due in no small part to how lame a villain Adam is. But I don’t think it gets enough credit. The show was finding its footing, and its voice, outside of being a high school show, and there were some stumbling blocks along the way. But this season also features some of the show’s best episodes in Hush, Pangs, Something Blue and Restless.
3. Season Three- When I first watched this season, I was mostly going “Where is Spike?” I knew that he came back from later seasons, and I felt his absence on the show keenly. As I grew up a little bit and started to appreciate some of the other characters more (and appreciate how much of a creeper Spike really is), I started to see the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the masterpiece it is. The arc of Faith is important because it shows the viewer that Buffy isn’t just any old slayer, she is the slayer because she makes the tough choices that Faith isn’t prepared to. Those tough choices are why she is important to fans. Also, the Mayor is awesome.
2. Season Two- The show’s metaphorical nature of the monsters standing in for the troubles of a teenager don’t get any better than they do in season two, with Angelus. Angel without a soul becomes the perfect metaphor for sleeping with a guy, and finding out he is a big old creep. Unfortunately, Angelus is a homicidal creep. But the point of the season is one of the best points of the show thus far–love is grand, but relying on yourself is the better option. During the final fight, Buffy stops a sword just short of her face. Angel says, “What do you have left?” and she says, “Me.” And that is the whole point of the season, and in some ways the whole point of the show. This season was the first time things got truly heartbreaking and dark, and it would have the number one spot were it not for…
1. Season Five- Some fans might consider this a controversial choice, but for me, season five is the pinnacle of Buffy. The show handles so much in this season, and so deftly. We have the introduction of Dawn, we have Buffy finding out Dawn isn’t really her sister, we have Dawn finding this out. There’s Riley feeling insecure because of Dracula, and then Riley cheating on Buffy and Riley leaving. There is Joyce’s sickness, and then subsequent death. There is the Buffy-Bot and Spike’s crush on Buffy. There is the Magic Box, there is Anya and Willow fighting and eventually getting along. We have Tara’s insanity, and Willow going very dark because of it. All of that is strung through with Glory, a god. That’s right, in the same year Buffy got dumped, adopted a sister, lost her mother, dropped out of school (forgot to mention that), and fought a god. That’s a lot to juggle, and yet season five does it in a way that feels smooth. The Body is perhaps the best Buffy episode, and it could only exist in the even-handed achievement that is season five.