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Happy Birthday, Buffy Summers!

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As regular followers of my blog and Facebook have learned over the years, I’m a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I can’t truthfully say it’s my favorite television show of all time, but it’s quite high up on the list. Despite Buffy’s creator, The-Ginger-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, doing his absolute best to destroy the mythos I and millions have come to love by making all sorts of wacky decisions for his own amusement (including delivering Buffy her very worst birthday ever with the issue of the comic that hit stands today), but when one overlooks the totally bizarre second life the series has in print (seriously, could have lived without Buffy/Angel sex that destroys mountains and winds up in space), it’s still the same, lovable old Buffy.

Oh dear, I didn’t mean old. I know how it felt to turn thirty, myself, and since today is Buffy’s big 3-0, I thought a list of my top five Buffy must see episodes is the perfect gift.

  1. “The Zeppo” Season 3
    This episode is the top of the list because it’s so damned weird. A huge plot is going on involving the end of the world and the opening of the Hellmouth, but instead of focusing on impending apocolypse, the viewer instead followes Xander Harris on a hellish journey of self-discovery that begins with a donut run and ends with zombies, a bomb threat at the school, and a werewolf attack. Oh, and somewhere along the way, he loses his virginity.
  2. “Hush” Season 4
    No list of favorite Buffy episodes would be complete without “Hush.” A group of shit-your-pants-scary baddies known as The Gentlemen roll into town in search of seven hearts to fulfill their nightmarish quota. After stealing all the voices in Sunnydale (the human voice is the only thing that can defeat them), they go on a rampage, surgically excising the hearts from silently screaming Sunnydale residents. The sharp acting in this one is what makes it so enjoyable to watch, as the characters have literally no voices for most of the episode.
  3. “Fool For Love” Season 5
    The plot of this episode is simple: Buffy gets hurt on the job and, suddenly faced with her own mortality, goes to Spike to learn about the two slayers he killed. On the surface, the story is about Buffy desperately trying to glean any information about her predecessors and the mistakes they made that wound up getting them killed, but on a deeper level, it’s all Spike’s story. As the reasons behind his wannabe hard-ass attitude are revealed through flashbacks, he becomes a fully developed character for the first time, a desperately lonely man who has never fit in with anyone.
  4. “Innocence” Season 2You know how for some people, their first time is amazing, and some people’s first time is completely lame? Buffy loses her virginity and her boyfriend in the same night, when Angel loses his soul in a “moment of happiness”. Over the course of the series, this somehow got reinterpreted as “had an orgasm.” You say “soul-deep happiness,” Joss says “orgasm.” Whatever. After Buffy wakes up alone and spends the better part of a day tracking Angel down, he cruelly berates her for her inexperience and makes it clear that the night before meant nothing to him. Of course, Buffy doesn’t realize yet that Angel is now evil, and she spends the rest of the episode coming to terms with the fact that the man she loved is now her enemy. This episode was so important to a certain highschool girl dealing with her first broken heart, she couldn’t leave it off the list.
  5. “The Body Season 5During season 5, while Buffy deals with Glory, a foe more powerful than any she’s ever faced, her mother undergoes treatment for a brain tumor. Joyce is out of the woods and making a full recovery when Buffy, returning home from the previous episode’s plot, finds her mother dead in the living room. It’s a brutal hour of watching Buffy and the Scoobies come to terms with the fact that, for all Buffy’s strength, there are forces beyond her control, and the evil of the supernatural world takes a backseat to the horror of everyday life. The episode’s title is taken from the callous words of the 911 dispatcher, who tells Buffy not to move “the body”. This is a theme throughout the episode, as Buffy shocks herself by referring to her mother as “the body” and Anya goes on a heart-wrenching tirade about death and what happens to “the body”.

So, those are my five must-sees from the series. I love all the episodes, except for the one where Xander joins the swim team, but these are the standouts for storytelling and general awesomeness.

Happy birthday, Buffy! Who knew a slayer would exceed their expiration date.

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