My Buffyholism is Showing never disappoints. She always has a new poll to tempt me away from my reviewage and fanfictioning. This one, she promises, will be both long AND awesome - now I ask you, How does one refuse that?
Answer - One doesn't, of course! Geez. Haven't you been reading my previous poll answers?
And one more thing - the poll includes the top three and bottom three, but I'm going to separate them into different posts because my top three answers will provide some discussion to. The bottom three will probably end up just being listed. Oh, one more thing - I should have ordered them by favorites, but I didn't - OOPS - Instead they are ordered by Season, so just consider them that way and not as the first one listed is the fave, 'k?
On to the cut, friends, but first you should really go take the poll yourself!
All of the episodes Joss wrote are listed below. Check your Top 3. Only choose THREE! I'm watching you!
Three?! Three. Are you kidding me? Well, fine! *grumble grumble, can't choose nearly all of them - what kind of poll is this, grumble grumble*
AHHHH, this was really hard *grumble grumble* but: Becoming Part II - "Oh no, I did not just see that? Buffy actually sent Angel to Hell?!"
I think this was the best season finale for the sheer shock value and the way the jaw dropped - of course, there have been many such moments, but I literally could not believe that they ended the season with Buffy 'killing' Angel... wow.
Restless: I usually don't go in for weird because it's often either being used specifically to be WTF-ery and ergo means nothing or it's being pretentiously vague and arty so that it looks like someone is being deep and philosophical. But, there are times when it just works. This just works. Not only by showing us in dreamy images where the characters are and what their fears are, but for the wonderful foreshadowing you'll only discover when you rewatch the episode after seeing the next two seasons... that is ballsy. And I for one am so grateful for it. Plus, the crane shot of Buffy in the desert looking for her friends before meeting Tara is absolutely beautiful - I want it as a giant poster.
The Body: How many episodes can you replay a scene in your mind - and cry? This one has three! Buffy's yelling at Giles that they aren't supposed to move the body - and then that awful look on her face. Willow's sad, but darkly funny scene where she yells that she can't show up at the morgue "and be all royal!" Mostly because it's Aly, and if she's crying we're crying - but her almost desperate plea that "Buffy needs me to be supportive" never fails to get to me ... it is right now! And lastly, of course, is Anya's asking gruesomely inappropriate questions, as she is wont to do, only for us to realize it's because she's feeling so damned lost and confused about what it all means - Anya was such a comedy relief character that when she suddenly pulls out her "But, I don't understand!" speech - how could we be anything but shocked, and then grieving along with her? This is easily the most emotionally wrenching, but so difficult to watch, brilliant episode of both BTVS & AtS and the actors nailed everything they needed to. It isn't easy to rewatch - but you don't really need to because it will stick with you long after you've finished.
Marti Noxon's turn. Again, Top 3. Three! Only choose three!
Surprise: The episode is constructed so well, with a feeling like fate is working toward keeping Angel and Buffy together - even though he tries to leave to keep a destructive demon from being assembled. And when Buffy and Angel sleep together, it feels natural and like a logical culmination of their tiptoeing around the subject all season. But just after the Bangel shippers are rejoicing that they finally did it, the bottom drops out. Angel dashes out on a sleeping Buffy, falls to his knees in the rain (but first he put on his pants....) and yells out her name in obvious pain -- oh, oh --
The Wish: Sure, it's one of those "What If...?" gimmicky episodes. So what? It's really good at painting a world in which Buffy Summers didn't come to Sunnydale and wasn't Watched by Giles - and guess what? It's a dark turn of events. I don't know who Buffy's Watcher would have been, but he has crushed the Buffy we know and given us someone cold, soldierly, and ruthless in her focus. The episode gives us Willow and Xander as vampires under the Master and ends our peek into that universe as everyone dies - and best of all? Cordelia Chase, who the episode has focused on is unceremoniously killed half way through! Or, perhaps best is Willow the Vampire (but I think I'd save that 'best of' for Dopplegangland).
New Moon Rising: The episode is pretty simple - Oz comes back, Willow's not as happy as she should be, Oz leaves. But it packs so much into the episode including both Oz and Willow's pain that they just can't go back to being together. And, of course, the subtext of the Willow/Tara relationship is made text when Will comes out to Buffy ... who doesn't handle it with grace over it, but being a true friend, recovers nicely and does what any friend should do - accept and be happy for a friend who has found someone to care for....
And another round for Jane Espenson, fan favorite. Top 3, folks!
Ah, Jane - bringing the funny: Band Candy - How can you not love an episode where the teens of Sunnydale get a good look at a warped reflection of themselves in the adults and don't like what they see? This one has so many elements that are just too much fun- The Mayor, Mr. Trick, Snyder, Ethan Rayne, Ripper Giles! How in the world did they find anything for anyone else to do? But, they did. The dialog is terrific and despite the babies being sacrificed plan, it's all handled with a "this is just for fun, relax" tone that let's just just enjoy the laughter. And 'natch, it's the episode in which Giles and Joyce make out -- and fuels speculation on what they were up to when the camera wasn't on them. As we know, that get's answered in Earshot - THANK YOU, JOSS and JANE!
A New Man: Oh, noes, Giles has been changed into a demon - and Buffy is out to kill him?! Then, why am I laughing? Because it's all a plot by Ethan and he and Giles are so funny together. Giles as Fyarl is also a hoot and a half and when you throw a snarktastic Spike in there - well it's all a good time. Highlight: Watching Giles scare the crap out of Maggie Walsh for her earlier rude 'observations' about Buffy.
Checkpoint: I love this episode for it's, again, hilarious scenes of the gang being forced to answer questions from the Council in order to help Buffy secure their help in researching Glory. Two of the funnies that stick out: Anya's utterly ridiculous and over the top fake personal history and Willow and Tara trying to be brave about their lesbianism when questioned about their relationship, only to be told that the Watcher-investigator was talking about their relationship with Buffy. But the highlight for me is always Buffy putting it to Quentin Travers and forcing him to back down by sharing a few truths... and the Scoobies joining me in cheering her on. Of course, the fact that she cuts off another arrogant Watcher by throwing a sword in his direction isn't a half-bad moment, either :-)
David Fury! He got the mustard out. Pick only three! Don't make me spank you!
Okay, first I have to say that if anyone picks 'Go Fish', I may be forced to slap some sense into you - for your own good.
Primeval: I know that Season 4 had problems, especially in the Adam storyline as everyone behind the camera tried to make the transition from "high school is Hell" to "everything changes when we graduate", but this ending for the penultimate episode was a strong close for that arc. With the gang drifting apart over the course of the season, it is such a right ending for them to not only come together figuratively, but literally, to defeat Adam. The central tenet of Buffy as Slayer (She survives as long as she does because she has friends who love and support her and isn't fighting alone) is underlined as the Scooby Gang combines their spirits to do what none of them could alone - rip Adam's uranium powerpack out of his chest... yes! And, Riley is given some very good 'commando' moments when he gets to heroically remove his own control chip and fight a demon-Frankenstein's-Monsterized Forrest.
Real Me: It's a wonderful way to allow us into a brand new character's headspace immediately - and the fact that everyone is acting like she's been there over the last four seasons is mind-bending. But through it all, we get hints to just hold our horses from screaming out "Continuity - where is the continuity?! ARRRGGGGHH!" At least for those who shut their mouths and actually watch the episode long enough as Dawn is told specifically that she "doesn't belong here" - exactly what we were thinking! And, of course, you can't go wrong if you write Harmony as the attempted 'arch nemesis' for Buffy! The 'epic battle' between her and Xander that amounts to a girly slap fight is hilarious... and pay attention to that slow-mo and music... epic battle, indeed!
Lies My Parents Told Me has to be nearly a unanimous choice. Not only do we again peak in on Spike's pre-vampire life and the time immediately after his turning, but we also get Wood and Giles teaming up to get rid of the vampire behind Buffy's back. The themes here are serious - about how mother's shape their sons, about loss and about Buffy grown up enough to be secure in her decisions and to make it clear to Giles that she doesn't need him to be her Watcher, anymore. It's time for him to treat her as the adult she's become - but more - as the Slayer-in-Charge that she's earned through heartache and struggle and life and death and re-life. I know that seeing Buffy close her door in Giles' face is hard, but I think that moment was needed for Giles to understand that he wasn't dealing with "the kids" anymore. They'd come too far to be treated like that, still. I find it to be a powerful moment in what I consider and generally lackluster season.
Douglas Petrie: Wore the same shirt as Riley once. Three's the magic number. Have at it!
Bad Girls: I really like this episode because it really puts paid once and for all that Buffy's way is the better, safer way. Faith makes a horrible mistake, but it is a mistake in just a moment of reacting before seeing what's before her and things can never be the same. There a some amusing scenes with Giles being the suddenly cool Watcher next to Wes' geek-fest, but what I love about this episode is Eliza. Even when she's telling Buffy she doesn't care that she accidentally killed Allan, there is something in her eyes and of course, her scrubbing at her shirt like she was Lady Macbeth, that puts the lie to her words and gives us cause to both worry and to think that she'll turn around with some time. She does - but it'll take a lot more time after a lot more darkness than we expected. Faith is the darker side of the Slayer given form, and Eliza Dushku is amazing.
Enemies: Another one that I love for Eliza and Sarah's playing off of one another. The Scooby Gang finally figure out, through a ruse concocted by Angel and Buffy, that Faith isn't on their side anymore. But what really makes this episode is the dark rage that Faith has inside her that we didn't see until now. Sure, we knew she was jealous and insecure with Buffy being THE Slayer, while she was the also ran - but the scene where Faith has Buffy "chained up" and tells her to think about things while "your boyfriend is cutting into you" is chilling. And the short fight near the end, with scalpels at one another's throats is just a preview of their fight to come. I also like how Faith tells Buffy she isn't ready to kill her yet - but at the same time, after she knocks Buffy's arm away, she doesn't stab her either - instead she kisses her roughly on the forehead and runs. I see this as Faith not being completely gone either - not completely - but she sure tries to make it over that cliff.
Bring on the Night: I love this one because it actually makes the First Evil into something that could bring about the end of the world with its army - not of Bringers - who were never impressive. But the first Terok Han beating Buffy like a ragdoll and leaving her bloody, wounded, and not at all sure she can survive the coming conflict - this one is dark and foreboding and makes it clear that a bit of magic isn't going to save the day this time, when Willow is briefly possessed by the First Evil. And I love that when everyone else isn't sure they can win either, she is able to admit that she's scared - but she's also determined to fight and to make the evil threatening to swallow them all choke on her.
Now time for David Greenwalt! 1, 2, 3, GO!
Okay, I have to admit my third choice on this one had some really thin pickings to choose from. First though is Angel - which has to be a 'best of David Greenwalt' choice because of all of the dense details that will inform everything about Angel throughout not only BTVS but through his own show as well. Literally every motivation and scene regarding Angel's history is first laid out here (well, okay, except for the Shanshu - but that really ties into Angel's search for redemption, which is alluded to here).
Nightmares has some weaknesses in production, being a Season 1 episode - but I love the glimpse we get into Buffy and Giles in this episode. Her fear of being at fault for her parent's split (which will be directly reflected later in Becoming) and his love and fear for her and her 'job'. SMG really nails her scene with her nightmare-vision father and I love Giles admitting that Buffy dying wasn't her fear - but his. I also like how the fears expressed in this episode are called back to later - Buffy losing contact with Hank has already started and will be exacerbated by her distance in 'When She Was Bad' and her fear of being buried alive will be forced on her by the gang in Bargaining. Giles' fear of Buffy dying in the line of duty happens in 'Prophecy Girl', though he doesn't directly experience it, since by the time he finds out she's alive again - but he does experience it for real in 'The Gift' and it leaves him directionless and feeling useless.
That third choice? I finally went with Faith, Hope and Trick because I think it's the strongest of the ones left, even though it doesn't actually stand out to me as an episode. Sure we get the introduction of Faith and Mr. Trick, and both are great (Scott is dull), but the episode is just sort of... there....
Rebecca Rand Kirshner! She looks like Cassie from Help! Top 3!
Tough Love: I didn't much buy into the sudden argument between Willow and Tara, but - Willow vs. Glory: I am there. That was awesome, and yet, Will would be so much shish kabob if Buffy hadn't been given a clue about her intentions. And though I loathed the Spuffy - thing - I loved the scene with Buffy, Dawn and Spike and his admitting to her in a roundabout way how much he cared for her.
Tabula Rasa: It went a little far in lampooning the series (Buffy telling Spike his tale of being a vampire with a soul was lame, that loan shark demon who was... a shark....), but it was a funny, entertaining take on the silliness inherent in the Buffyverse. Giles and Spike thinking their father/son and Anya is Giles' new fiance is hilarious as is "Joan". But we don't get to forget that the reason the gang lose their memories is very serious - Tara says 'enough' to Willow's use of magic against her, and she finally grows as a character of her own.
Help: This episode is really made for me by the end. Cassie's sudden and out of nowhere death, after Buffy saves her, is sad and really underlines to Buffy what her limits are when it comes to saving everyone.
Moving on to Drew Z. Greenberg. Pick three.
Entropy: This episode has the right mix of funny (Anya's trying to trick everyone into wishing some vengeance on Xander) and the serious (Anya's reason for returning to vengeance, Xander's rage at Spike and Anya for their dalliance only to find out about Spike and Buffy). The gang has never appeared to be so close to breaking and Buffy's struggles with just being back alive at all after she was "done, finished" with a Scooby Gang just trying to pretend they've all moved on over it is bleak, but not maudlin.
I reluctantly go with 'Him'. There are some really uncomfortable consequences underlying RJ's jacket that would make it really hard to laugh about, if this weren't all fiction. But, I find Anya, Buffy and Willow's argument over who loves RJ more to be hilarious and poor, awkward Dawn is just so tragically funny (in a painful way) in Buffy's old cheerwear (and I just love that we get that shout back to S1), that I tend to just try to put Buffy straddling high school student RJ out of my mind. I also like the near bonding that Spike and Xander approach. I wish they'd get along better, because honestly, these two could have a fun like/hate relationship (as they showed in S5) if they just had a bit less hate.
I guess I have to go back to Smashed since I hate the other choices with a passion. And, even though I loathe the violent, twisted Spuffy -thing-, I have to admit that watching them tear that abandoned house down was pretty flippin' hot.
Dean Batali & Rob Des Hotel seem to come as a pair? They share credits for the exact same episodes, so we'll count them together. Top 3!
The Puppet Show: This one was a reluctant one, but it's not as boring as Owen's Owenosity and I don't see how Killed by Death could be listed on any favoriteds, except if the category was "Most Likely Inspired by Freddy Krueger". I do like the talent(less) show stuff and Snyder. And I always laugh at Giles driving Cordy away by staring at her hair, but the best part of the episode isn't actually in the episode proper - you know what I mean - that is some funny shit.
The Dark Age: Giles' past comes back to bite him and we find out that he wasn't always so tweed-y and he sure wasn't telling the truth in The Witch about it being his first spell casting. I really liked Buffy having to deal with the thought that Giles is just a person, too, and has made his own share of mistakes. And I thought the way they got Eyghon out of Jenny was clever.
Phases: Willow and Oz - cuteness galore. Angelus' presence wasn't entirely needed, but it did give us a hint that things were going to become a lot darker with Teresa's death by Angelus.
Steven S. DeKnight now!
Spiral: I like the assault on the camper and at the gas station. I loved Giles telling a teary Buffy that he's so proud of what she's become and, as a Spander-fan, I love Xander taking the lighter from Spike's hands and lighting his cigarette for him. The Knights were always a semi-lame idea, but Glory was awesome in this one.
Dead Things: I like this one because it really brought into focus what the Trio had up 'til now only been playacting at. Jon and Andrew finally understand just where Warren is leading them, and although I'm sorry Andy was so quick to embrace it, at least Jonathon finally got a clue. I also love how Buffy's essential character is returned to her when she's ready to accept her punishment for accidentally "killing" Katrina - no denying responsibility like Faith - she had already seen where that could lead her. I also like that it's Spike who goes out of his way to 'save' Buffy from the law - showing his lack of a moral compass that comes with being a vampire. And of course the two central scenes to the whole episode - Buffy throwing all of her pain and frustration and confusion and depression onto Spike in that vicious beating and her break down in Tara's begging her not to be forgiven....
The Highs and Lows of Seeing Red: What is there to say about this one? It's obvious why its so wonderful in the beginning and just awful in the last scene. My only quibble is with Amber being added to the credits for this episode - I know Joss had wanted to do this since the very first episode - but we've known Tara in ways we never got to know Jesse. This felt like a really mean-spirited jab at the audience after an entire season of jabbing nastily at the characters and it was just one step too far for me. I understand and support why Tara had to die to push Willow where she needed to go - I think the only other cast member they could have done that to for the same result would have been Xander (and then Oz could have saved her!), but Xan is a regular. So I get it and I even support it - but putting her in the opening credits just to sink the dagger in that much further was just... nasty... to do to us.
Whew! That was a long one, eh? And we still have to revisit everything from the other side! I'm not even sure I'll actually have enough time this morning to do it. In fact, I know I don't - but I'll have something to do tonight or Saturday/Sunday from home (depending on if I choose to do the second half of the poll or work on the FRAY review, instead).