Buffy The Vampire Slayer Retro Review

Retro Review – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

"You know me, not much with the damseling."

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A lot has been written about the iconic little-show-that-could, because let’s face it: Buffy is a genuinely groundbreaking piece of television. It took a cheesy premise (and title), and flipped it over its head into a dynamic, complex masterpiece. It’s a show that deserves to be explored in-depth, and while I’d love to do a proper rewatch at some point in the future (and tackle every episode in detail), here are my overall thoughts on each of the show’s seven seasons.

Season 1
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Season one is widely recognized as a tremendously weak debut season. While many shows in recent years burst out of the gate with maximum impact (Alias, Lost, Desperate Housewives) Buffy took a season and a half to become something special. Many of the year’s episodes are horrible, with cheap monsters-of-the-week and atrocious effects. In addition, the season’s Big Bad, The Master, is abysmal – particularly when compared to the multidimensional baddies that would follow in later seasons. However, Buffy’s Scooby Gang is intricately brought to life, with each member of our core cast brimming with nuance and a range of dimensions. And in the end, the characters grab a hold of you and ensure your investment no matter how corny their adventures get. Plus this season introduced the world to the gorgeous (and immensely talented) Charisma Carpenter, so how bad could it truly be?
Favorite Episode: Prophecy Girl
A first-class finale and a great bookend to the year. Buffy’s first “death” was an enormous shock, and I loved her climactic disposal of The Master. Prophecy Girl also includes a series highlight, Buffy’s “I don’t wanna die” speech which showcases a spine-chilling performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar. Very impressive.
Honorable Mentions: Angel and Never Kill A Boy On The First Date.
Nad Rating
 C

Season 2
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Season two is the year Buffy evolved into fantastic television. The first few episodes of the year are admittedly standalone-ish, but then something astounding happens; the show blossoms into an epic production within the span of a couple of episodes. Kendra comes on to the scene in What’s My Line (an exceptional 2-parter), our deliciously evil Big Bads – Spike & Drusilla – up their game, and Buffy loses her virginity in one of the show’s most memorable moments. The stakes become personal and the characters beautifully defined. Furthermore, Angel’s ensuing evil streak is a turning point for the series, transforming Buffy into a tragic and brutal opera of death and destruction. This was the season Buffy the character (and the show) grew up, and I loved every minute of it.
Favorite Episode: Becoming (Parts 1 & 2)
The season two finale is downright epic television in every sense of the word. It’s one of those rare, incredible finales that brings everything together in splendid fashion. It’s a superb blend of action, suspense, and romance. The episode’s final moments with Buffy sending Angel to Hell are particularly haunting and heartbreaking – and undoubtedly engrained in every fan’s memory. Has Buffy ever been a more badass heroine?
Honorable Mentions:  Surprise, Innocence, Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered, and Passion.
Nad Rating 
A

Season 3
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Glorious. Even better than season two, if that was possible. While both seasons had top-notch story arcs, season three wins out on a technicality: it simply has fewer forgettable standalone episodes when compared to the ones that plagued the beginning of season two. Practically every episode this season is sprinkled with amazing moments that bleed into one another, making the year elaborately plotted and layered with magnificent performances. Eliza Dushku is phenomenal as rogue slayer Faith, and The Mayor is an utterly terrific Big Bad. The show is simply more confident this year, and the characters’ journeys are a joy to behold. I must admit the reason I’m also so fond of this season is the fact that it was the first season I ever watched; I vividly remember waiting week-in-week-out just to see how the Buffy-Faith dynamic would evolve before it culminated in the most epic girl-fight of all time. For a second consecutive year, Buffy proved how well it could build up a long-term story arc and its characters over the course of a season. All in all, a truly stunning season of television.
Favorite Episode: Earshot
While the two-part finale is marvelously constructed, Earshot is my personal favorite hour of the year. It perfectly encompasses of the spirit of the show and it’s infinitely rewatchable. The poignant premise, Gellar’s performance, the rat poison – WOW!
Honorable Mentions:  Homecoming, Band Candy, Bad Girls, Doppelgangland, Enemies, and Graduation Day Part 1 & 2.
Nad Rating
 A+

Season 4
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Ugh. The one season that bores me to tears. Yes, it’s still Buffy so it has lots of great individual moments, lines, and scenes, but all in all: I don’t have fond memories of season four. The Initiative, Adam, Riley, Tara – too much boring in one season. After two exemplary seasons, this year is a letdown, and it’s the one season I least look forward to rewatching.
Favorite Episode: Hush
Of course the show’s weakest season had to give us one of Buffy‘s best episodes EVER. There’s not much I can say about Hush that hasn’t already been written about by practically everyone on Earth. It’s an hour that’s largely dialogue-free, yet still manages to be gripping, scary and remarkably entertaining. It deserves all the praise it’s gotten over the last few years because it’s a bonafide television achievement.
Honorable Mentions:  Living Conditions, The Harsh Light of Day, the wonderful Faith 2-parter (This Year’s Girl / Who Am I), and the eerily brilliant Restless.
Nad Rating 
C-

Season 5
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Season five is a personal favorite of mine. I think your enjoyment of the season is directly correlated to how much you enjoy Glory as a Big Bad. I found Clare Kramer to be outstanding in the role, as Glory’s God-nature made her an unpredictable force to be reckoned with. As a viewer, you would actually fear for Buffy whenever the two faced off, and that definitely elevated the stakes. The Key arc which introduces Dawn into the Buffyverse is carefully laid out, and everything comes to a thrilling climax in the finale. Furthermore, the Magic Box is an excellent new home for our Scoobies; producing a wonderfully cozy feeling and opening up a whole new world of stories. And who can forget The Body? It’s a transcendent hour of television, and one that tackles the concept of death in an unprecedented, thought-provoking manner.
Favorite Episode: The Gift
My single favorite Buffy episode of all time; it feels perfect to me. So many tidbits from the season collide in unrivaled fashion leading into the monumental final moments that always bring tears to my eyes. Of the many standout scenes in this finale; the Buffy Bot twist, Willow restoring Tara’s memory, the Buffy-Glory fight, and of course the ultimate sacrifice. Truly an hour unlike any other.
Honorable Mentions: Buffy vs Dracula, No Place Like Home, The Body, Tough Love, and Spiral.
Nad Rating
 A+

Season 6
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Yup, the depressing year. While Season six isn’t the most fun to watch, I definitely think it’s a necessary year that effectively captures the confusion that young adults have to contend with (which is basically my life at the moment). However, I loath The Trio as the season’s Big Bads; they’re boring and terribly unexciting. Dark Willow is infinitely more appealing as a villain, and I do wish she were a season-long foil for our Buffy. And yes, I can surely see why SMG did NOT enjoy this season. She had a lot of questionable scenes, with the infamous balcony sequence immediately springing to mind. Still, I appreciate that the show took a risk and produced something bold and unorthodox. I certainly don’t think season six is the misfire many would have you believe, because at least it isn’t boring (I’m looking at you, year four).
Favorite Episode: Normal Again
Truly one of my favorite episodes; I simply love the premise of this hour; could the entire show be in Buffy’s mind? It’s a fascinating prospect, and Gellar delivers a mindblowing performance. Many shows attempt to do episodes such as this one but very few succeed. Buffy went above and beyond.
Honorable Mentions:  Once More With Feeling, Seeing Red, Two To Go, and Grave.
Nad Rating
 B

Season 7
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I consider Buffy’s final season to be a very fitting end to the show. I enjoyed the First Evil as the show’s ultimate Big Bad, as well as the introduction of Bringers, Potentials, and of course the return of Faith (among many others). I know lots of fans like to harp on this season but I think it’s expertly plotted and filled with a ton of great storytelling. Yes Buffy became a bit less likeable this year (particularly the manner in which she dealt with a reformed Faith) but she also delivered some awesome speeches that capably conveyed the consequences of her massive journey. Joss did us proud with the show’s final year.
Favorite Episode: Chosen
I can’t get over how much I think the series finale should have been two hours; they crammed too much into 40 minutes. Nevertheless, it had some sensational moments and a truly flawless final scene. The notion of so many slayers being unlocked and Buffy finally not being alone anymore is the most perfect resolution from a storytelling perspective. In addition, it contains one of my favorite TV moments of all time: Buffy rising up against The First (who has taken her appearance) and winning the final battle. It’s undeniably epic and it gives me goosebumps every single time. My one beef? Spike taking precedence over Angel as Buffy’s one true love (I think). Nevertheless, this was a near perfect series finale.
Honorable Mentions:  Lessons, Conversations With Dead People, Showtime, and Dirty Girls.
Nad Rating
 A-

Conclusion
There’s a reason why Buffy is still widely debated to this day and that’s a testament to the high-quality storytelling the show consistently churned out. In the end, Buffy The Vampire Slayer introduced us to a spectacular heroine, and one hell of a captivating world. It’s a landmark television accomplishment, and a show that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Overall Nad Rating
 A

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