In 1997 a quirky show premiered on the WB called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the time it was just a series based on a horror comedy from 1992 that hardly anyone watched in the theater; however, it quickly turned into a program that changed the way viewers and critics thought about teen shows and television in general. The series had a unique amount of episodes that broke the format of traditional television storytelling, long before other primetime shows were willing to do something different or high-concept.
With nearly 200 episodes under its belt, everyone has their favorites of this Joss Whedon must-see, but what are the most important episodes of Buffy? Which episodes take the series about the apex final girl and turn things on their head? If you’ve never watched the show, these are the episodes of Buffy you cannot miss. They defined the series and changed genre storytelling forever.
As far as brutal episodes of television go, "The Body" may be the most gut-wrenching hour of television in the 2000s. The biggest and most obvious sea change that comes with this episode is the death of Joyce from a brain aneurysm, something that's hinted at earlier in the season but that's easy enough to ignore.
Not only did "The Body" remind the audience that the Summers family was living in the real world, but it added a whole new set of stakes to the series. With Joyce gone, Buffy is now the head of the household, something for which she's woefully unprepared.
On top of all that, the episode eschews the normal sound cues in favor of a more realistic approach. It's not the first format breaking episode of the series, but it's definitely the most brave.
It's fitting the 100th episode of Buffy was also its Season 5 finale and the final episode of the show on the WB. "The Gift" bookended the first five seasons with Buffy once again becoming "prophecy girl" and giving her life to save the world.
In a season that was fraught with emotional turmoil (and bangers, so many bangers), the finale gave an exquisite send off to Buffy. Not only does she defeat a dang god, but her finale line, "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it," serves as a thesis statement for the entire series.
How do you tell your closest friends that something's wrong with you without freaking them out? That's the underlyng theme to "Once More With Feeling," an episode that transforms Buffy's mile-a-minute dialogue into song and dance routines featuring completely original musical numbers.
Throughout each musical number, the gang reveals something about themselves: Xander has cold feet about his upcoming nuptuals, Spike loves Buffy (duh), and Buffy tells everyone that she was Heaven after saving the world from Glory.
An episode about everyone in Sunnyday losing their voice could be just another monster of the week thing that Buffy and the gang solve with ease, but not only is every scene next-level bonkers, it's also a narrative turning point in the season.
When The Gentlemen - a group of well dressed skeletal creatures - descend on Sunnydale to collect seven human hearts, the Scoobies have to change how they communicate and how they fight. This leads to scenes both hilarious and terrifying.
However the most game-changing thing about this episode is that Buffy finally reveals that she's the slayer to Riley, exposing herself and the Scoobies to The Initiative.