“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.” –And slay, she did. For seven years we watched Buffy and The Scoobies fight evil. We watched our favorite characters grow from a couple of outcast high-schoolers fighting some of Sunnydale’s most horrifying “Big-Bads”, into adults, dealing with real life problems, and juggling relationships, jobs, addictions, and you know…a little thing called saving the world. We experienced some of the best and most heartfelt moments in TV history, and while there are more great moments than I can even begin to count, somehow I have managed to narrow the list down. Here are some of the most shocking, heart-ripping, gut-wrenching, gasp-worthy moments.
*Spoiler alert. Don’t read if you haven’t finished the series, huge spoilers in detail.*
20.) Oz is a werewolf
(Season 2, Episode 15, “Phases”)
A sexually frustrated Willow just can’t understand why her boyfriend Oz doesn’t want to get closer to her intimately, meanwhile Xander and Cordelia are attacked by a werewolf during their unsuccessful make-out session in Sunnydale’s Lover Lane, under a beautiful full moon. Later after finding out that there have been a number of attacks we are led to believe that macho jock Larry is most likely the werewolf in question. Until, shocker–the camera pans to a werewolf laying in the woods, and we watch completely horrified and bewildered as it transforms into a naked Oz. Later, a confused Oz, recalling that he was recently bitten by his cousin, calls his aunt, who confirms that cousin Jordy is indeed a werewolf, meaning he too, is all wolfy. Willow shows up at his house just before he is about to “wolf-out” and he scares the be-Jesus out of her, and us as he transforms and tries to attack her. The attack ends when Oz is later shot by a tranquilizer gun. At school the next morning the two share a moment, with Willow claiming that she too, is no fun to be around three days out of the month, and the couple share their first kiss. Leaving Oz, a werewolf in love. Aww!
19.) Xander loses an eye
(Season 7, Episode 18, “Dirty Girls”)
When the evil preacher Caleb gauges Xander’s eye out with nothing but his fingers, it is another stroke of pure genius for several different reasons. The first being that it was totally unexpected. Another reason? It serves as a reminder that the show’s main characters are never safe, and despite what we like to think, are also not untouchable. While the show’s creators have never shied away from killing off main, beloved characters, as fans we still never expected anything to happen to Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles. Though Xander isn’t killed, losing an eye still shows us that no one is safe.
18.) Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn
(Season 5, Episode 22, “The Gift”)
In an effort to save the world yet again, and stop the evil Hell-God Glory from using Dawn (The Key) to unleash Hell on earth, Buffy sacrifices herself. This sob-inducing episode was great from beginning to end. Everything from the speech she gives Dawn before running to her heroic death, down to Giles quietly and matter-of-factly killing Ben like it ain’t no thang. Genius!
17.) Buffy claws her way out of the grave
(Season 6, Episode 2, “Bargaining, Part 2”)
Months after Buffy’s death and Giles’ return to England, Willow whose powers have been progressing steadily talks the Scoobies into resurrecting the Slayer, convincing them all that Buffy is most likely trapped in some sort of awful Hell Dimension. When The Scoobies are interrupted mid-spell by a group of bikers wreaking havoc on the town, they are outnumbered and assume that the spell didn’t work, deciding to get the Hell out of dodge. What they don’t know is that the spell actually worked, leaving Buffy trapped in her coffin, alive. Waking in a panic, and buried alive, she desperately fights to claw her way out of the grave and roams Sunnydale in a confused and dirty state until discovered by her friends, who are just happy to have her back.
16.) Buffy and Faith switch bodies
(Season 4, Episode 16, “Who Are You, Part 2”)
Faith awakens from her coma to find that she has a recorded message from the deceased Mayor, who has left her one last gift, a Draconian Katra device, which makes the slayers switch bodies with one another. What starts out as being a means of escape, and a huge joke for Faith (during her time in Buffy’s body she attempts to hurt those closest to Buffy and even has sex with Riley), soon turns into a sincere desire to be a hero, and ends with Faith trying to kill her original body in self-hatred. Talk about intense!
15.) The Scoobies find out Buffy was in Heaven
(Season 6, Episode 7, “Once More, With Feeling”)
When a dancing demon is summoned to town, everybody starts singing and dancing in this episode, which Joss Whedon has cleverly turned into a musical. The light-hearted plot takes a dark turn however when during a show stopping number, Buffy admits that The Scoobies tore her from Heaven, not a Hell Dimension. The look on Willow’s face is priceless.
14.) Goodbye to you
(Season 6, Episode 8, “Tabula Rasa”)
True to Joss Whedon’s style, he really shakes things up with this episode. What started off as a humorous episode where everyone forgets who they are due to a magic spell gone awry by Willow, ends with a slap across the face (literally). A truly pissed off Tara packs her bags and leaves Willow, after discovering that once again the witch has been casting memory spells on her. Giles leaves for England, things get intense between Buffy and Spike, and all of this happening while Michelle Branch sings “Goodbye to You” at the bronze. Oh the feels.
13.) The introduction of Dawn
(Season 5, Episode 1, “Buffy Vs. Dracula”)
After years of foreshadowing that most of us fans probably didn’t even catch onto the first time, Dawn Summers made her first appearance in the end of the 5th season premiere. The episode ends with Buffy in her room and Joyce calling up to her from downstairs “Buffy, if you’re going out why don’t you take your sister?” Come again? Up until then, the Slayer had been established as an only child. Talk about a teaser! Initially the mystery of Dawn’s sudden existence is not acknowledged by the series, with all of our favorite characters accepting her as part of the status quo. Four episodes later we discover that Dawn is actually a mystical object known as “The Key”. A group of monks transformed The Key into human form and sent it to Buffy for protection from the villainous Hell-God Glorificus. The memories of Buffy and her associates were altered, along with relative records, so as to make everyone believe that Dawn had always existed as Buffy’s sister. Still not quite sure how Mr. Whedon even thought of this one, or if any of it even really makes total sense at the end of the day, but I’ll buy anything the man sells, so kudos Mr. Whedon. Way to blow our minds!
12.) Oz returns
(Season 4, Episode 19, “New Moon Rising”)
We are totally shocked as your everyday Scoobie meeting suddenly turns into Oz returning from his Tibetan retreat. As if that didn’t make Willow confused enough, now that she and Tara are together, Oz shows the witch that he has managed to control his wolfy transformation. As Willow takes some time to figure things out, Oz suddenly becomes highly motivated in returning to school and runs into Tara, who is wearing Willow’s sweater. The two exchange words before he realizes that they are involved, and turns into a werewolf then and there. After a whole lot of action, and a whole lot of tears, Willow says farewell to Oz and returns to Tara’s dorm room, making her final choice. This episode is great because it features Willow coming out to Buffy, and is also heartbreaking as many of us fans loved the Oz and Willow storyline, but also loved Willow and Tara equally.
11.) Xander leaves Anya at the altar
“Season 6, Episode 16, “Hell’s Bells”)
As Xander and Anya plan to say “I do”, while at the same time trying to keep the peace between Xander’s family members and Anya’s demon friends, a man whom Anya transformed into a demon years ago uses magic to make himself resemble a human. Pretending to be Xander Harris from the future, the old man shows Xander his worst fears of what he and Anya’s future could be, scaring him away and causing him to leave Anya at the altar. He returns just in the nick of time as the demon lashes out and strikes Anya and a fight ensues. He saves the day, but admits to Anya that he is still not ready to get married, leaving the ex-vengeance demon a sobbing heartbroken mess, and resulting in her return to the vengeance fold.
10.) Spike and Anya have sex
(Season 6, Episode 18, “Entropy”)
When the Trio place hidden cameras in The Magic Box and Xander discovers one of them, Willow uses her computer to try and trace the camera’s signals. Meanwhile a pissed off Anya who has recently got her vengeance back on but forgets that she can’t use her powers to make a wish for herself, has all but given up after trying to get The Scoobies to wish bad things upon Xander for leaving her at the altar. When Spike arrives at The Magic Box the two share a bottle of Whiskey and complain to each other about their perspective relationship problems. When Spike reiterates that he despises Xander, but Anya can’t get him to make a wish, things start to heat up between them and they have sex on a table at The Magic Box. Meanwhile Buffy and Xander walk in just as Willow traces the camera, just in time to catch the whole marvelous show. Things escalate quickly as Xander steals an ax and heads to The Magic Box to kill Spike, but is stopped by Buffy at the last minute. Xander expresses his disgust for what Anya has done, and Spike spills the beans about he and Buffy’s sexual relationship. Xander storms off. Things take a lighter turn when Tara shows up in Willow’s bedroom to make up with her, and the two rekindle their relationship. The episode ends with them kissing passionately. WOW! Can you say “action packed” ?
9.) Glory feeds on Tara’s mind
(Season 5, Episode 19, “Tough Love”)
This is where we first got a glimpse of Dark Willow. In many ways, this was sort of the beginning for her. When an angry Glory runs into a lone and upset Tara and discovers that she isn’t The Key, things get interesting. When Tara refuses to tell Glory who the Key is, the Hell-God feeds on Tara’s mind, making her insane, and motivating Dark Willow to make her first (more subtle) appearance, as she goes after Glory with a bag of knives and magic to seek revenge. Luckily, Buffy manages to get there in time before Glory has a chance to beat Willow to a pulp.
8.) Spike searing on the cross
(Season 7, Episode 2, “Beneath You”)
During a bout of half demented babbling and guilt, Spike confesses to Buffy that he has his soul back. It takes the Slayer a few seconds to catch on and understand what he is even talking about. The tormented vampire then promises to service Buffy again to please her and drapes himself in submission around a cross, skin searing, as he pleads “Can we rest now, Buffy?”
7.) Angelus kills Jenny Calendar and leaves her body for Giles to find
(Season 2, Episode 17 “Passion”)
Angelus murders Jenny and leaves her body as the centerpiece of a “romantic” setting for Giles. Giles gets in touch with his “Ripper” side and goes after Angel, but Buffy manages to save him before Angelus can kill the watcher. One could even argue that this was the first death in Joss Whedon’s long career of killing off characters we love. Like many fans, I didn’t like Jenny’s character at first, and then just as I started to like her, and was happy for Giles, Whedon did what he does best! He ripped it all away in a shocking and horrifyingly painful way. Well played, Joss, well played.
6.) Joyce dies
(Season 5, Episode 16, “The Body”)
Buffy returns home to find her mother, Joyce, dead on the couch. Everything after is a whirlwind of heartbreaking and gut-wrenching emotion. Joss Whedon did a wonderful job conveying each character’s way of dealing with grief. Even more magical, is how he managed to make time seem to stand still, as it would in real life when this type of situation occurs. The fact that he didn’t use any music in the episode was a well thought out stroke of genius and only adds to the rawness and grief of the episode. We see each character react, dealing with the grief of tragically and unexpectedly losing Joyce in their own way. Xander who punches a hole in the wall, Anya who has only been human a short time, not understanding why or how to cope with the feeling of death and royally and unintentionally pissing everyone off, Willow freaking out over what clothes to wear, etc. Another great thing about this episode is that after Willow’s wardrobe malfunction freak-out, Tara and her share their first onscreen kiss. A sweet and heartwarming moment, and a first in LGBT TV history, that is so human and perfect. The writers could have made the kiss totally sexual or some sort of romantic gesture, but instead they chose to incorporate it here, making LGBT fans rejoice, as it conveyed and confirmed for so many, that same sex couples are no different than heterosexual couples, and everything isn’t all about sex. Perfect! Joss, I could kiss you on your balding head!
5.) Tara’s death
(Season 6, Episode 19, “Seeing Red”)
Fans rejoiced as Willow and Tara snuggled in bed together after their reconciliation. Too bad, the honeymoon didn’t last long. In true Whedon style, the writers threw us all for a loop when Warren shows up as Buffy and Xander make up outside after the fight they had about Spike, pointing a gun at the Slayer and attempting to kill her. He shoots the gun a few times, and as he turns to run away, continues to let the bullets fly. A stray bullet flies up through Willow’s bedroom window, shooting Tara straight through the chest, killing her instantly. Her last words as her blood splatters onto Willow? “Your shirt.” O. M. G. What the Hell just happened? This episode still gives me the biggest adrenaline rush, and leaves me cradling myself in tears. We watch as Joss geniusly kills off another beloved character and shocks the hell out of us at the same time. Amber Benson’s name also appears in the credits for the first time as a show regular, as a final farewell to Tara Maclay’s character.
4.) The yellow crayon speech (Xander saves the world)
(Season 6, Episode 22, “Grave, Part 2”)
Oh man, if there were ever a moment in Buffy history where I cried like a little baby uncontrollably, this would be it. The pain, the horror, the heartbreak… Did I mention the pain? After Dark Willow goes on a violent rampage and attacks or kills anyone who gets in her way, the dark witch decides to destroy the world. It seems that nothing can stop her. That is, until Xander shows up with unconditional love and a touching story about kindergarten, a yellow crayon, and lots of hugs, tapping into what little humanity the dark witch had left, and ultimately saving the world, leaving Willow and us to crumble into a weak, sobbing mess.
3.) Anya dies
(Season 7, Episode 22, “Chosen”)
As The Scoobies take on the first, Anya and Andrew fight off uber vamps and bringers in the the halls of the highschool. In order to find her mojo to fight, Anya uses her fear of bunnies to find strength. Picturing her enemies as “flippity, floppity, bunnies” she kicks some major ass, that is until a bringer comes along and stabs her. Another beloved character dies, and we weep, and then we weep again as Xander frantically searches for her in the halls later, before Sunnydale is basically swallowed up whole. Once the gang make it to safety, Andrew confirms that Anya bravely died saving his life, and Xander makes us cry some more with his dialogue, as he responds “That’s my girl, always doing the stupid thing.” Will the tears ever end?
2.) Buffy tells Spike she loves him
(Season 7, Episode 22, “Chosen”)
Fulfilling Cassie’s prophecy from “Help”, Buffy tells Spike she loves him in the series finale as he is about to die saving the world. True to his nature, he replies “No you don’t, but thanks for saying it.” But us fans, know that she really meant it. Way to tear at our heartstrings Mr. Whedon! This episode made me a total blubbering mess, and I’m not the only one.
1.) Willow flays Warren alive in the woods
(Season Six, Episode 20, “Villains”)
I don’t know about you, but for me, this was The moment of all Buffy moments. In fact, this episode was the first Buffy episode I ever saw, and I was hooked from then on. As sad as it was when Tara died, it brings on, in my opinion, the best moment in Buffy history–when Willow totally flips and goes all veiny and uber-witch on us. Dark Willow is by far, scarier than any Big Bad I think we’ve seen in seven seasons, besides maybe, The First Evil. This episode has so much action, so much going on, what with Spike in Africa trying to get his soul back, The Scoobies finding out about Tara’s death, and having to deal with the grief all while trying to protect the Trio from Willow’s dark powers and wrath. Willow really blows us away when she catches up with Warren, who was running away in the woods. She ties him to a tree and tortures him, first by slowly and magically inflicting the pain of Tara’s death by forcing a bullet through his chest. While Buffy and her companions approach, Warren begs for mercy. Willow shows us what a total badass she has become, with a simple “bored now” and flays him alive, incinerating him, before her friend’s eyes. Next, proclaiming her intent to kill Warren’s jailed partners. I think Xander had it right when he pukes. I wanted to puke too, but I wanted to puke with glee! This moment is so awesome, so graphic, so dark! I think the thing that makes it the best is looking back at Willow’s character in the series’ earlier seasons and seeing how meek and nerdy she was. To go from that, to this? Totally out of character for her, and awesome at the same time! By far, my favorite moment in Buffy history.