The Best Joss Whedon Written Episodes of "Buffy"

As most good "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans know, there were 144 episodes of the show (145 if you count the unaired pilot, which you shouldn't).

But can you guess how many of those episodes Joss himself wrote?

Before looking it up, I would have assumed he was personally responsible for at least a third of them, but as it turns out, the number is just 24. So out of the 144 episodes of "Buffy", 120 of them did NOT come directly from Joss Whedon's pen.

However, they did all come from his mind, in some way, since he was involved with the episodes he didn't write, and was credited (as executive producer and creator) on every episode, which is a large part of the reason many (most? all?) fans expect the non-Joss-helmed Buffy reboot to fail.

But rather than focus on the negative today -- since I already did that yesterday, extensively -- let's focus on the positive and take a look at the 24 episodes of Buffy that Joss wrote, ranking them from No. 24 to No. 1 (note: there are three two-parters, and it didn't feel right to separate them in the rankings). And since my ranking may not, and probably will not, match up with yours, feel free to rank them yourself in the comments.

24. Lessons (Season 7, Episode 1)
Hey, something had to be last, right? This season premiere is very Dawn-heavy, which I know most "Buffy" fans dislike. The end scene with all the Big Bads is very cool, but otherwise the episode spends a lot of time setting up a story (with Dawn and her classmates) that goes nowhere.

23. The Freshman (Season 4, Episode 1)
Another season premiere, which isn't surprising since Joss wrote most of them (5 of the 7). I still wish they hadn't killed Sunday (the vampire leader) after just one episode.

22. Family (Season 5, Episode 6)
This Tara-centric episode is better thematically than it is in execution, but it's still in the top half of all "Buffy" episodes (in fact, I'd say all of the Joss episodes are).

21. Lie to Me (Season 2, Episode 7)
This episode has one of the better endings of the entire series, but on the whole, it's merely an above-average entry.

20. When She Was Bad (Season 2, Episode 1)
Here's where it starts to get really hard to rank the Joss episodes. They're all so damn good, and I'd probably say that his top 20 are all in the top 1/3 overall. Separating them really becomes a matter of personal preference, which is why this episode -- where Buffy acts like a total "bitca" -- falls here.

19. Anne (Season 3, Episode 1)
I just adore the moment when Buffy says, "I'm Buffy, the vampire slayer. And you are?" And Buffy's reunion with Joyce at the end is so sweet... well, bittersweet when you think about their future.

18. Ted (Season 2, Episode 11)
This episode has really grown on me throughout the years. I wrote about it back when I was doing Project 310, but Buffy's reaction when she thought she'd killed Ted laid the groundwork for the core difference between she and Faith.

17. Restless (Season 4, Episode 22)
The first of six Joss-penned season finales on this list, Restless has the distinction of being the only season finale where the Big Bad isn't defeated (Adam got his ass whooped in the previous episode). It's a quirky episode that's much deeper than it seems at first glance, which is kind of a metaphor for the entire series.

16. Amends (Season 3, Episode 10)
I get the feeling that I like this episode less than the general Buffy fan base, but the inconsitencies with the way The First is portrayed here, then again in Season 7, really bother me. Also, I just couldn't buy Robia LaMorte as evil. She's too sweet.

15 & 14. Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest (Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2)
Despite the two different names, this is a true two-parter, with the second episode picking up right where the first one left off. They even aired back-to-back in 1997. There are definitely some rough edges you can pick up upon when you re-watch these, but for the most part, our re-introduction to Buffy holds up 13 years later.

13. Doppelgangland (Season 3, Episode 16)
Only a mind as twisted as Joss's could have come up with the interactions between Willow and Vampire Willow.

12. Prophecy Girl (Season 1, Episode 12)
Buffy's prom dress is still my favorite outfit of hers during the entire run of the series.

11. Chosen (Season 7, Episode 22)
There's something about the last scene, with the entire gang overlooking the Sunnydale crater, that just works perfectly in it's non-neat ending. The final line of the series, spoken by Dawn, could really represent what the "Buffy" fan base is thinking at this moment.

10. Who Are You? (Season 4, Episode 16)
This episode, with Buffy-as-Faith and Faith-as-Buffy, was a fun way for Joss to subvert two of his own best characters, and the actors really bought into it. Plus, it paved the way for two of my favorite "Angel" episodes of all-time.

Now we're getting down to the point where I really feel you could put any of these next nine in any order and I probably wouldn't have too much of an argument.

9 & 8. Graduation Day, Pt. 1 and 2 (Season 3, Episodes 21 & 22)
The big Buffy vs. Faith showdown. Angel's departure. Anya's return. The explosion of Sunnydale High, and the mayor with it. There is nothing not to like about this dynamic ending to Season 3.

7. Hush (Season 4, Episode 10)
I know that throughout my Buffy fandom, this is the one episode that I've generally ranked lower than most Buffy fans. That's not to say I don't like it (obviously by placing it this high even on this list, I do), but I just think the next few episodes I'm going to discuss are better.

6. The Body (Season 5, Episode 16)
I think this, more than any other episode in the entire run of the series, shows Joss's strength as a writer. Because of the subject matter, the episode itself is hard to watch, but the reactions of everyone involved show just how well Joss was able to tap into his characters.

5. Innocence (Season 2, Episode 14)
For some reason, I used to be under the impression that Joss had written both ends of this two-parter, but Marti Noxon wrote "Surprise". Innocence -- the episode in which everyone has to deal with the aftermath of Angel losing his soul -- is definitely the better half.

4. Once More, With Feeling (Season 6, Episode 7)
This was the only episode in Season 6 that Joss wrote, but it was so good that I'm willing to excuse his absence from the rest of the season.

3 & 2. Becoming, Pt. 1 and 2 (Season 2, Episodes 21 & 22)
If you watch these two episodes again, it's amazing to see just how much was packed into what amounts to 90 minutes of television. Things are happening so fast that there's enough development to fill a three-hour movie, but everything happens at a breakneck pace, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Then the powerful ending is like a knockout punch of emotion. In a way, the episode takes what Buffy is going through and puts it on the viewer, which is the hallmark of great writing.

1. The Gift (Season 5, Episode 22)
This episode is going to be at the top of pretty much every Buffy related list I do from here to eternity. It's my favorite single episode of any television show all-time. And it works so well that at the end when they kill off the main character, you're not even mad about it. In fact, let's watch that ending again:

Comments

  1. A little late, but this would be my list:

    1 Once More, With Feeling
    2 The Body
    3 Innocence
    4 The Gift
    5/6 Becoming Parts 1 & 2
    7/8 Graduation Day Parts 1 & 2
    9 Who Are You?
    10 Amends
    11 Lie to Me
    12 Hush
    13 Prophecy Girl
    14 Chosen
    15 Ted
    16 The Freshman
    17 Family
    18 When She Was Bad
    19 Anne
    20 Restless
    21 Doppelgangland
    22/23 Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest
    24 Lessons

    The last is the only one I consider a genuinely poor episode.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Restless should be posted further up on the list..its definitely in the top 3 episodes of the buffyverse

    ReplyDelete

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