This article is imported from Den of Geek UK.
Have you always wanted to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but know that you could never make the time for all 144 episodes? Have you seen all the episodes, but just want to rewatch the arc of a particular character? We’ve got the perfect guide for you right here that we dug back from the abyss that is our archive, put together way back in 2004 by one of our lovely contributors, Juliette. This episode roadmap is everything you’ll need for an abridged marathon of Joss Whedon’s (as far as this particular editor’s concerned anyway) magnum opus.
Since part of the aim of these articles is to encourage new viewers, spoilers will be kept to a minimum. However, due to the nature of the piece, certain elements of world-building, bad guy-revelation, late character arrivals, etc. will be spoiled, and looking at the details of one suggested “route” may spoil another.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Route 1: The Slayer’s Journey
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the show that put Joss Whedon on the map, is about a petite blonde former cheerleader who kicks all sorts of vampire ass.At the heart of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is Buffy Summers herself, who gets put through the wringer over seven years on the show. But ultimately, her coming-of-age story is one of optimism as well as, on occasion, utter and total despair. Here are the episodes to watch to get a sense of Buffy’s story.
We promised we’d keep Season One to a minimum, but “Prophecy Girl” is essential viewing for those following Buffy’s struggles with her dual identity as high school student and Slayer. As the season one finale, it may seem a strange episode to open with, but the plot is fairly self-explanatory and this is where we really see both Buffy as a character and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the part come into their own. Add initial two-parter Welcome To The Hellmouth/The Harvest as an optional extra, if you have time.
“When She Was Bad”
“What’s My Line” Parts 1 & 2
“Becoming” Parts 1 & 2
Season Two’s opening episode “When She Was Bad” is not an all-time classic, but it is a good indication of where Buffy is following events at the climax of season one. “What’s My Line” introduces a second Slayer in Kendra (the eternally youthful Bianca Lawson) while “Surprise/Innocence” not only kicks off the arc plot that will culminate in season finale “Becoming,” but also covers some major coming-of-age ground. Finally, we end with season two’s spectacular finale and Buffy at her lowest, but also her strongest.
“Graduation Day” Parts 1 & 2
Like “When She Was Bad,” “Anne” is not one of the show’s finest offerings, but it’s important for developing Buffy’s character in the wake of the Season Two finale. “Homecoming” is a light, fun episode, but it also explores some of the oft-neglected aspects of Buffy’s character, while the much darker “Helpless” continues her journey into adulthood. The back half of Season Three is pretty arc-heavy (so is the season as a whole, actually) so highlighting only one or two episodes will inevitably require some fairly careful attention to be paid to the “Previously Ons,” but “Bad Girls/Consequences” and “Graduation Day” are the most important for Buffy’s personal development. Add in “Choices” and “The Prom” if you have time.
“The Harsh Light of Day”
“The I In Team”
“The Yoko Factor/Primeval”
It’s not that Season Four doesn’t explore Buffy’s character, but with so much going on, she doesn’t get as much of a chance to shine (Gellar is fantastic in “Who Are You?” – but she’s playing a different character). The main downside to watching only four episodes is, of course, that the arc plot will have to be gleaned chiefly from Previously Ons.
“Fool For Love”
“The Weight of the World”
Whedon had planned for a long time to do 100 episodes and then conclude Buffy’s story. Although the series was renewed for a sixth season, he left his conclusion to the fifth unchanged and dealt with the repercussions in Season Six, so this is one possible ending to Buffy’s journey. This selection of episodes should also cover the main beats of Season Five’s overall arc, though obviously a certain amount of filling in the gaps will be required.
“Once More With Feeling”
Other characters are often the focal points of Season Six (Willow, Xander, Spike) but Buffy’s struggle to come to terms with what happened to her, as well as the challenges facing her in looking after her sister Dawn, ensure that she remains front and center. And of course, in the show’s fantastic musical episode, “Once More With Feeling,” everyone gets a chance to sing their hearts out and reveal their deepest emotions. Add “Bargaining” Parts 1 & 2 and “Older And Far Away” if you have time.
“Conversations With Dead People”
“End Of Days”
“Lessons” is another Buffy-centric season opener, while “Conversations With Dead People” offers her a rare opportunity to be psychoanalyzed by a vampire. It’s no surprise that the final four episodes of the show are important ones for Buffy, and “Chosen” provides another satisfying conclusion to her story. There’s a big gap between “Conversations With Dead People” and “Empty Places”, so a certain amount of catching up on the plot may be required—partially fill it with “Bring On The Night” and “Showtime.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Route 2: High School
In its inception, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a show about high school, in which the horrors of the teen years took on metaphorical, monstrous forms. Like many high school-set shows, the characters eventually grew up and the series followed them to college—and also like many others, a decent proportion of the fanbase are convinced it was never the same after that. These episodes will give you a flavor of Buffy as a high school show, and cover the best of the high school years.
“Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight”
These two episodes, besides being two of the better episodes from season one, are the two that most clearly follow that initial set-up, in which elements of high school life—pushy parents, feeling invisible—take on monstrous and frequently rather literal form. Add “The Pack” if you have time—it’s not terribly good, but it is another solid metaphorical teen story.
“What’s My Line?” Parts 1 & 2
“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”
Parents’ evenings, drinking with college boys (and the perils thereof—you never know when they may try to sacrifice you to their giant snake), job fairs, and high school romance… It’s all here. The “Surprise/Innocence” two-parter is in many ways the heart of the whole show, taking a horrible experience for a teenager (a lover whose behavior changes after you sleep with them), expanding it with a fantastical metaphor and making it the core of the overall arc plot for season two, as well as an incident that drives these characters and their reactions to the world around them for much of the rest of the series. Add “Ted” (new step-parents) and “Go Fish” (over-enthusiastic sports coach) if you have time, but they’re not such great episodes.
“Graduation Day” Parts 1 & 2
“Homecoming” and “Band Candy” are light entries inspired by school events, while “Bad Girls” and “Consequences” are arc-heavy episodes exploring some major character developments, but also relating to the ongoing teen metaphors the show was built on. “Earshot” is probably the best high-school-as-hell metaphor the series ever did, building on a story about how utterly miserable everyone is to a powerful climax in a bell tower. Finally, “Choices,” “The Prom,” and “Graduation Day” follow our heroes as they leave school and try to work out what they should do with their lives, now that they have some choice and control over them for the first time.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer left high school behind when Buffy and her friends graduated at the end of the season three, and although Buffy’s younger sister Dawn was introduced in Season Five, her life at school was rarely touched on. In Season Seven, however, the focus of the show shifted once again to explore Sunnydale High School and Dawn and her friends a little more—before the arc plot took over and it all went to hell in a handbasket.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Route 3: Buffy/Angel
Have you ever seen a poster or promotional image for Buffy The Vampire Slayer? You know that guy standing behind her and brooding aggressively at the camera? That’s Angel. Please remember, when watching Buffy and Angel, that teen girl/broody vampire romances were far less of a thing back in 1997. And he never sparkles.
Buffy meets Angel in the pilot, but unsurprisingly it’s in “Angel” that their story really begins. Thankfully, the Buffy/Angel/Xander love triangle threatened by “Prophecy Girl,” though brought up once or twice in Season Two, never really grows beyond this episode.
“Lie To Me”
“What’s My Line?” Parts 1 & 2