OK, I'll try to limit my posts about Buffy for the next few days, but I had to get this one out of the way. With "The Chosen Collection" on the way, I figured it's the right time to post my Top 10 Buffy Episodes of All Time.
First off, let me say that two "Angel" episodes -- "You're Welcome" and "Not Fade Away" -- would crack my Top 10 if we were talking about the entire Buffy/Angel run, but I'm limiting this to Buffy. When an Angel complete collection comes out I'll cover that as well.
10. Tabula Rasa (Season 6, Episode 8)
To quote TWOP, this is either the funniest sad episode or the saddest funny episode of Buffy ever. The comedy that makes up the bulk of the episode (thanks to a memory loss spell cast by Willow) is book-ended by a sad breakup at the beginning and the 2nd saddest musical ending of an episode in the series' 7-year run. Special kudos to Amber Benson, for really embracing Tara's pain at the beginning and end of the episode.
Favorite Quote: "I just feel weird feeling bad that my friend's not dead." - Xander
9. Hush (Season 4, Episode 10)
A lot of people call this their favorite episode ever, and it was nominated for an Emmy, but it really is a gimmick episode, just done superbly. I wasn't even going to put it on my Top 10 list, but I re-watched it awhile ago, and the end is just remarkable, with Riley and Buffy just sitting there, finally able to speak but unable to talk.
Favorite Quote: Olivia: All the time you used to talk to me about witchcraft and darkness and the like, I just thought you were being pretentious. Giles: Oh, I was. I was also right.
8. Prophecy Girl (Season 1, Episode 12)
I bought the 12" Prophecy Girl Buffy figure from Sideshow specifically because of this episode. When Buffy yells at Giles and Angel after they discuss the prophecy telling of her death at the hands of The Master. Plus, we get the awesomeness of seeing Buffy brought back to life, then her, Xander and Angel marching to the library while the theme song plays sends chills down my spine every time. Plus, the episode establishes the pattern of Buffy vs. The Big Bad for season finales (save for Seasons 4 and 6, every season ends with Buffy beating the bad guy, which is cool).
Favorite Quote: "I may be dead, but I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you." - Buffy
7. The Body (Season 5, Episode 16)
You have to see this episode to understand how powerful it is. If you've ever lost someone, you can relate. With no incidental music, and really no demon fighting, this is an episode that shows off the writing talent of the Buffy staff and the acting talent of everyone in the cast.
Favorite Quote: "We're not supposed to move the body!" - Buffy
6. Innocence (Season 2, Episode 14)
I just re-watched this episode the other day (I'm in the progress of re-watching the entire series) and it amazes me every time. The cruelty of Angelus when he sees Buffy at his apartment is so in contrast to the love Angel had for Buffy. And Buffy's coldness toward him at the end of the episode, combined with her inability to kill him, is just so emotional, without hitting the viewer over the head with morality. Oh, and Angelus (Angel's soulless evil side) is easily the coolest villain ever on Buffy.
Favorite Quote: "What's that do?" - The Judge, upon seeing the rocket launcher Buffy is aiming at him.
5. Becoming (Season 2, Episodes 21-22)
This is a two-part episode, but I couldn't split it apart in the list, because it's really just one amazing episode. Acathla the demon is dug up by Angelus, who intends to unleash hell upon Earth. Meanwhile, Buffy and Willow find Ms. Calendar's spell to re-ensoul Angelus, turning him back into Angel. Plus, we get more of the Buffy/Angel backstory, and an incredibly sad ending (so sad, in fact, that the Mutant Enemy logo ditches "Grr... Argh..." for "Oooh, I need a hug." When Buffy tells Angel "Close your eyes" then runs him through with his sword, sending him to hell and saving the Earth at the same time, well, let's just say it gets a little dusty in the room.
Favorite Quote: "Close your eyes." - Buffy, to Angel, just before killing him.
4. Once More, With Feeling (Season 6, Episode 7)
OK, I'll admit, when I first saw this episode, I wasn't a huge fan. Then I found myself singing lyrics from it. Now I can recite/sing the entire thing. I'm a huge fan of this episode, much more than the previous gimmick episode, "Hush." Everyone does an admirable job singing and dancing (except Alyson Hannigan, who apparently wussed out of singing because she didn't like her voice). I'm particularly impressed again with Amber Benson, who does such a good job with "Under Your Spell" that I think I want it played at my wedding.
Favorite Quote: "You'll get along. The pain that you feel, you only can heal by living." - Spike
3. Chosen (Season 7, Episode 22)
The series finale sums up everything that Buffy is about. Good triumphs over evil, but there is a cost. Anya's death is tragic (but not played up nearly enough at the end, when everyone seems a little too happy) but necessary in the final battle, when Buffy defeats The First, destroys Sunnydale and gives up her destiny as the one and only Slayer (of course, that happened in Season 2, but we're not nitpicking here). Plus, when Buffy gets up from the ground and directly challenges The First ("I want you... to get out of my face.") is awesome.
Favorite Quote: "I want to see how it ends." - Spike
2. The Wish (Season 3, Episode 9)
For the longest time, this was my favorite episode. I love alternate universe explorations, and this one was amazing. Buffy as a grizzled, friendless Slayer based in Cleveland. Giles trying to hold down the fort in a vampire-run Sunnydale. Xander and Willow as vampires and lovers, all caused by a clueless self-centered Cordelia and a wish-granting Anyanka (who knew then she'd become a regular and one of the most popular characters on the show). The end, with Cordelia saying all kinds of crazy wishes, and Anya unable to grant them, is hilarious. And this episode gave us Vamp Willow, who reappeared in "Doppelgangland," one of the funniest episodes of the series.
Favorite Quote: "No, no, no way! I wish us into Bizarro Land and you two are still together." - Cordelia
1. The Gift (Season 5, Episode 22)
This is easily my favorite episode. All the other ones on this list are great. This one is legendary. Joss Whedon himself has said this is how the series should have ended, and I completely agree. Sure, the end of "Chosen" was cool, but Buffy sacrificing herself for Dawn and the world is exactly what the show, and Season 5 in particular, was about. The opening scene ends with the random kid saying "But you're just a girl" and Buffy saying "That's what I keep saying" which actually is the message of the series. Buffy was a girl first, the slayer second. She was unique among the slayers because she had a (somewhat) normal life, and Dawn, though not really her sister, was a big part of that life, a big enough part that Buffy was willing to sacrifice herself. And honestly, when you get a line from an episode tattooed on your arm, it probably means its your favorite episode. Also, I'm not gonna lie, I've cried at the end. The reactions of the entire cast upon seeing Buffy's corpse lying there is just too much. It's a little cliché, but if you can only see one Buffy episode, see this one.
Favorite Quote: "Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will always love you. This is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles I... Tell Giles I figured it out. And I'm okay. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now -- you have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me." - Buffy Summers