20 Years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Slay girl slay.

In 1992, Joss Whedon wrote and released Buffy the Vampire Slayer, what he saw as a horror movie about an empowered woman. To his dismay, it was widely viewed as a broad comedy.  5 years later, he had the opportunity to develop the movie into a TV show, with the theme “high school as a horror movie.”  Sarah Michelle Gellar was cast as Buffy for the show, and a generation was defined with 7 seasons of horror, romance, comedy, drama, and of course, slay-age.

While I could go on and on about how much Buffy meant to me growing up, how stoked I was when FX started to play reruns of early seasons on Saturday mornings so I could fill in the blanks (after all, I was only 6 when the show premiered and didn’t start watching it until the 6th season when I was 12),  what I would really like to do to commemorate 20 years of Buffy is break down the top 10 moments of the show.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Complete Series

SPOILER ALERT.  If you haven’t watched this show yet, GET ON IT.

Number 10: Willow and Tara break up (Michelle Branch shows up)

michelle branch

One of the many cool and ridiculous things about this show was when actual real life artists showed up to perform at The Bronze, a nightclub that Buffy and her friends frequented.  In this case, Michelle Branch performs one of her many early 2000’s bangers “Goodbye to You”, to give yet another level to the emotional turmoil of season 6 episode 8.  In this episode, Willow, Buffy’s best friend who has been slowly becoming a full blown Wiccan, has become addicted to magic.  This culminates with Willow accidentally casting a spell on the whole Scooby gang, causing them to lose their memories.  Her girlfriend, Tara, simply cannot take it any more.  She leaves Willow, bringing their tumultuous relationship to a (temporary) end.  The end of this episode shows Tara packing her things and leaving, while Michelle blows the roof off of the Bronze with her voice.

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Number 9: Buffy and Angel kiss for the first time, and we learn Angel’s true identity. (spoiler alert, he’s a vampire. WHAAAAATTT??!!)

buffy and angel

In season 1, episode 7, we meet Angel, the dark, brooding, mysterious beginning to David Boreanaz’s career and the full series arc of Buffy’s on again/off again relationship with him.  He and Buffy have an immediate attraction, and he does his best to keep his identity from her.  That is, until they kiss for the first time, and his emotions give way and he pulls away from her, revealing his vampire face.  So now the vampire slayer is in love with a vampire. WE HAVE CONFLICT PEOPLE, CONFLICT.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Adult Coloring Book by Joss Whedon

Number 8:  Joyce dates a robot John Ritter


Season 2 is widely regarded as the best season of the series, for many reasons.  This episode is one of my favorites of the whole series, and so it gets its own spot as a full episode in my top 10 moments.

Joyce (Buffy’s mother) begins dating this total creep named Ted (played by John Ritter, RIP).  He’s really old fashioned, oddly robotic, and Buffy immediately suspects something.  One night when she comes back from slaying, Buffy discovers that Ted has read her diary and discovered that she is a slayer.  He threatens to tell her mother unless she toes the line and allows him to keep dating her mother.  Through some sleuthing of he own, Buffy discovers he is already planning on proposing to her mother.  When she confronts Ted, he hits her, and the fight escalates into Buffy accidentally killing him after he falls down the stairs.  However, the Scooby gang discovers that Ted is actually a robot, created by a depressed scientist in the 1950’s who decided to create a robot version of himself and then kidnapped his estranged wife and held her hostage until her death. He then continued to kidnap women who resembled his wife, until he eventually found Joyce.  When Buffy discovers him resurrected in her room, they fight again, and Ted’s face is cut revealing his robotic interior. He knocks Buffy out, but begins to malfunction, resulting in Joyce discovering what he is.  She distracts him so Buffy can kill him (again).  This episode was an incredible look into how deeply Buffy cares for her mother, ending with a super bad ass mother daughter tag team moment at the end.

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Number 7: Origins of Buffy

buffy becoming part 1

Continuing with Season 2 being on another level, in episode 21 we see a variety of flashbacks.  The best one in my opinion shows Buffy at her old high school before she knew she was The Slayer.  We see that she was extremely popular and kind of an airhead, but, overall, a normal high school student.  It’s a short moment, but tugs at the heart strings, because we all know the hell she is about to endure for essentially the next 7 years of her life.

Number 6: Angel experiences true, full happiness and pays dearly for it.


Season 2 (again) episode 13 reveals Angel’s curse.  If he experiences true happiness, his alter ego, Angelus, (the vicious vampire he was hundreds of years ago) will return and take him over, endangering essentially the entire world.  When he and Buffy finally consummate their relationship, Angel achieves true happiness.  But he was never meant to be happy. He is meant to walk the earth as an immortal but never truly fulfilled being. Bleeding into the next episode, we see the abrupt transformation from Angel to Angelus. Its sweet in a way, because we now know that Buffy brings Angel true happiness.  However, Angel simply can not be with Buffy in that way, and since he defied the pillars of his curse, he is now a soulless demon hell bent on bringing about the apocalypse.  As a result, Buffy is forced to destroy him and send him to hell, but at the last moment his soul is restored, resulting in one of the most heart wrenching moments of the whole series when Buffy realizes  she has just killed her one true love.  Shattered, she leaves Sunnydale and runs away to Los Angeles.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Board Game

Number 5: Dawn being a thing


The phenomenon of Dawn Summers was such a trip, I still can’t fully wrap my head around it.  Essentially, in the beginning of season 5, Buffy suddenly has a younger sister.  All the characters are behaving as if she has been there all along, but the audience is very aware that that is not the case.  Eventually, we (and the characters) find out that Dawn was once not a human, sentient being.  She was a key to open other dimensions.  She was transformed into a human and made into Buffy’s younger sister so the slayer could protect her.  Dawn is completely rattled by this, as she has full memories of a childhood in the Summers family that never happened.  The other characters also remember her always existing even though she really didn’t exist as a human until that season 5.  This whole storyline took the show to the next level and made it into something far more complicated and layered than it had ever been before.

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Number 4: Tara’s death and Willow’s descent into darkness


Season 6, episode 19 is one of the saddest episodes of the whole show. Tara and Willow have finally reconciled their relationship. Meanwhile, the group is finding out about Buffy’s weird relationship with Spike, and Buffy is still struggling to come to terms with it. Also in the meantime, the Trio (a group of former Sunnydale nerds who have grown into evil geniuses) are in the midst of one of their greatest schemes, that is until Buffy defeats them. Enraged, Warren, the ring leader of the group, shows up and shoots Buffy in the yard of her home, and then fires a shot randomly over his shoulder. Buffy collapses, still alive but badly wounded and tended to by Xander. However, the other bullet soared through the upstairs window of the room Willow and Tara are standing in. The bullet hits Tara in the back, spattering Willow with blood. Tara dies and collapses into Willows arms. In the midst of her anguish, Willows eyes go dark, and we witness her final descent into darkness. She then begins a journey that culminates in her almost destroying the world, only to be saved by Xander. She goes into exile in Europe to study with a coven of good witches, until such time she feels safe to return to Sunnydale without running the risk of losing control again.

Funko POP Buffy

Number 3:  Musical Episode-Buffy’s confession

buffy musical

Sarah Michelle Gellar did NOT want to do a musical episode.  Mainly because she hates singing.  However, it was happening whether she liked it or not, and because of the incredibly important character development moment that happens in this episode, she also hated the idea of someone else’s singing voice being dubbed in for hers.

A demon called Sweet is the reason for all of Sunnydale constantly breaking out in song in this season 6, episode 7. It is used as a device to show characters revealing inner truths about their relationships with each other, setting the stage for how the story continues from here.  However, the true purpose of it was for an epic final moment towards the end.  To give context, at the end of season 5, Buffy sacrifices herself in place of her sister to save the world, and dies.  And the beginning of season 6, Willow believes that Buffy is in hell and manages to resurrect her.  Once risen, Buffy is different, depressed, and not herself at all.  At the end of the musical episode, we find out why:  she was never in hell, she was in heaven, and finally at peace.  Her friends had ripped her out of heaven and sent her back to Earth, leaving her a shell of who she once was.  She is eventually convinced by Spike, her on again/off again lover, to keep living her mortal life.

Soundtrack to Season 6, Episode 7 “Once More With Feeling”

Number 2:  Buffy confronts her demons (literally and figuratively) and moves forward


At the end of season 1, we see Buffy defeat her biggest nemesis so far (The Master).  However, that even and everything leading up to it has left her completely consumed by fear.  She is an irritable and honestly cruel version of herself at this point and she can’t seem to move forward.  Eventually, she finds the skeleton of The Master and destroys it, completely breaking down emotionally, but at the same time being set free from her fear.  Of course, she has no idea the hell she still must endure in the future, but for the moment, she feels free.  She emerges stronger and more determined than ever.

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Number 1:  Death of Buffy’s mother


In season 5, episode 16, we are dealt one of the most real and emotionally charged episodes of the whole series. Buffy finds her mother suddenly dead of an aneurysm. The whole episode has zero score, not even in the opening credits or the one fight scene at the end. The opening 3 minutes is done in one shot with no cuts as Buffy tries to revive her mother and calls the police. I remember watching this episode for the first time and I don’t think I moved once, and only blinked when I absolutely had to. We also see a particularly raw moment with Anya (the demon/sometimes human love interest of Xander) when she rails against the stupidity of morality and how she does not understand human death or why Joyce can’t just pick a new body to reside in. The episode is chock full of small details that have higher significance but the true tragedy of this episode was Buffy not being able to save her mother. She is the slayer, and literally destroys demons on the regular, but she can not save her mother from a natural death. Its sudden, isolating, and truly horrible and painful to watch, but you can not look away.

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Obviously, there are many many more incredible moments in this show, some empowering, some heartbreaking, some hilarious.  This is just a handful of moments that I personally connected to the most. Few TV heroines have ever been or ever will be like Buffy – smart, brave, strong, and selfless, yet also completely human, insecure at times, longing for a normal life and happiness.

What are your favorite Buffy moments? Leave a comment below. We’ll talk.

Maggie Wirth is one of The Geekiverse’s new rising stars. You can catch her daily on Twitter and hosting various shows and podcasts on our Youtube and iTunes Channels.

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