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The Most Important Episodes Of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'

List RulesVote up the episodes that mattered the most to the series overall.

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.

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  • 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.

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  • After Buffy and Angel sleep together, Angel's soul is ripped from his body via gypsy curse, and he reverts to Angelus. This brutal, angry vampire is one of the most heinous villains Buffy ever faced, especially because he knows exactly how to hurt her. 

    When Buffy realizes she's not only been ditched by the guy she loves after losing her virginity, but that she has to process those emotions while slaying him, the episode shifts into an entirely new mode.

    The monster-of-the-week style episodes were still there, but with this storyline an emotional undercurrent ran beneath every moment of the show. On top of all that, Buffy blows up the Judge with an anti-tank missile, which is just really cool. 

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  • Joss Whedon loves to raise the stakes by slaying an important member of his cast, and even though the plot mechanics are clearly on display in "Seeing Red," it doesn't make the passing of Tara any easier. 

    Tara's slaying at the hands of Warren is still hotly debated among fans of the show, and as jarring as this slaying is, it set the stage for the Earth-shattering anger of Dark Willow. Not only did this episode make important points about power and anger, but it showed the lengths that Willow would go to avenge her girlfriend. 

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