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February 20, 2003
by Daniel Erenberg
Best of The Best
I'll say it right here for the first time in my tenure as writer for Slayage. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is my favorite show on television. Ever. This might not come as a shocker because I do speak very passionately about the show in my articles. And I am passionate.
I have some sort of odd relationship with the though that makes me completely lose myself in its majesty when it's on, and even at times when it isn't. I love the show more than most things.
That said, I'll tell you something else sort of odd that I love: lists.
I don't know what it is, but I love to read lists of any kind. It doesn't matter what's on it. Some of my favorites are David Letterman's Top Ten List, Peter Traver's List of the Best Movies of the Year, and TV Guide's List of the Top 50 Reasons To Watch Television (Spike made that list this year). So I've decided to write a list of my own. It had to happen sooner or later and here it is.
Like most, I love getting mail, especially e-mail because it's tidy and easy to open. I get my fair share just from writing this column. The fanboys e-mail me about my errors (I'm sorry. Yes, that's a cello in Angel's theme song, not a violin. Gosh). The die-hards e-mail me with their own opinions on the things I write about.
With this article, I'm looking to hit the e-mail mother load. I want the fans of the show (and the column, if any fans do exist) to post their own lists in the new comments section below. I want you to yell at me about omissions. I want you to scream at me for not including one of your favorites. I want you to share your opinions. I'll respond as much as I can.
So, without further ado, here is my list.
The Top Ten Single Episodes Of All Time
10. Earshot, written by Jane Espenson
This masterful episode shows just what Jane Espenson is capable of doing. We all know how funny she could be. She's written some of the most hilarious episodes in Buffy history, including 'Band Candy', 'Superstar', and the most recent, 'First Date'.
But 'Earshot' was something different. I include it on my list because I feel as though it contains one of the greatest single scenes in Buffy history. Jane Espenson loves to use Danny Strong. I don't know. Perhaps they're friends or something. Danny Strong plays the much-loved Jonathan Levinson on the show. In 'Earshot's' most beautiful scene, our Vampire Slayer, Buffy, talks Jonathan out of committing suicide. I think this scene earns the episode a spot on this list alone, but Espenson blends her incredible brand of humor with a darker subtext to make this episode a classic.
Buffy reading her friend's thoughts: Oz is clearly an existentialist, Cordelia is not very tactful, Willow struggling between right and wrong, and Xander's constant need for sex. This is one of many scenes that give 'Earshot' a place on my top ten.
9. The Wish, written by Marti Noxon
This is on the list because Marti Noxon deserves a shiny silver medal. Naturally, most of the episodes on this list are going to be Joss Whedon-penned. However, Marti Noxon has risen above and written some genius episodes, including 'Surprise', 'Wild At Heart', and, yes, 'The Wish'.
'The Wish' introduced the parallel universe that would return in Joss Whedon's 'Dopplegangland' and, remarkably, I think Noxon's episode worked better than Whedon's. All of her characterizations hit exactly the right mark, whether it is the Vamp Willow and Xander, Larry, Oz, and Giles as White Hats, or the desperate Angel waiting for years for Buffy to finally come to town.
This episode is also brilliant for introducing the wonderful character of Anya who would become a complex, intricately written character in later years. Emma Caulfield played her here with such a laid back perfection that we would come to know better later on. 'The Wish' was truly great.
8. 'Surprise'/'Innocence', written by Marti Noxon/Joss Whedon
The first great Buffy two-parter. What's My Line didn't quite pull it off. 'Surprise'/'Innocence' was shown on two consecutive nights, holding the collective attentions of Buffy fans across the world. This perfectly constructed epic introduced the still-interesting character of Angelus, the Mr. Hyde to Angel's Dr. Jeckyl.
Some of the greatest moments in Buffy's history occurred in these episodes: the morning-after cruelty of Angelus, the rocket launcher, Giles telling Buffy how much he respects her, Oz saying the word 'arm', Angel getting kicked in the nuts. The moments in these episodes are legion.
7. 'Graduation Day Parts One and Two', written by Joss Whedon
Another brilliant Joss Whedon two-parter. This one launched Faith into her coma, turned the Mayor into a ten story snake-demon, killed Larry, turned Harmony into a vampire, sent Angel to spin-off glory, blew up Sunnydale High, foreshadowed Buffy's death in season five, took Willow's (and, perhaps, Oz's) virginity, and changed the show forever.
Think about it. These episodes did everything, leading Buffy into a new era of college and Initiatives and Giles as bachelor and did it brilliantly. I love these episodes with all of my heart, even more so after buying the season three DVD.
6. 'Once More With Feeling', written by Joss Whedon
I think we're starting to see a theme here. The majority of my favorite episodes are those penned by Joss Whedon, the creator.
Look at the track listing of the CD to see a listing of some of my favorite songs. Not only that, but 'Once More With Feeling' was the episode that completely set up season six. It gave the characters some feeling and made us identify with them even more than we had. Buffy singing about how she was in Heaven in 'Something To Talk About' and Giles and Tara duetting in the reprise of their songs are two of the best moments.
However, the moment that made me cry was when the chorus pops up in the background of 'Under Your Spell' and I think that's a testament to Joss Whedon's songwriting.
But I'll answer the eternal question here. My favorite song from the entire episode was 'Where Do We Go From Here'.
5. 'The Gift', written by Joss Whedon
'The Gift' was the turning point of the show. 'The Gift' was when a great show became an epic one. There isn't much I can say about it. Every tiny thing that occurred in the fifth season was brought back for this episode. Giles suffocating Ben was brilliant, as was Buffy's sacrifice, Spike's speech to Buffy about how she treats him like a man, Xander's proposal to Anya, Chris Beck's score, and the opening fight with the vampire that never heard of Buffy. I never thought someone could write television this well.
Bonus points for the sound effect of Olaf's hammer hitting Glory.
4. 'Becoming Parts One and Two', written by Joss Whedon
I don't think there is one fan out there that wouldn't put this two-parter on their list. Everything about it is pure, unutterable genius. Joss Whedon closed still his best season with a bang, sending one of his lead characters to Hell. 'Close Your Eyes', Chris Beck's Emmy-winning score set the stage for a most epic airing of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Finally, a list of the best moments: Willow saying Oz waking up in her hospitable bed, ALL of the flashbacks to Angel's past, Whistler's philosophical wonderments, Giles being tortured mercilessly by Drusilla, Spike's short conversation with Joyce, and the final scene of Buffy leaving accompanied by the very fitting 'Full Of Grace' by Sarah McLachlan.
3. 'Hush', written by Joss Whedon
It's on the list for two reasons. The first is that it's really the only Buffy episode that's ever scared me to the point that I was peeking through my fingers. The second is the perfect point that the episode made. The episode was about how people talk and talk without really communicating at all, so Joss Whedon made everybody shut up and came up with endless ways of making them interesting without having them speak. 'Hush' also contains perhaps the funniest scene in the history of Buffy: Giles explaining the threat of the Gentlemen through his wonderfully juvenile drawings. 'Hush' also holds the honor of having been nominated for a Best Writing Emmy. Unfortunately, it didn't win.
2. 'Restless', written by Joss Whedon
'Restless' changed Buffy The Vampire forever and ever. It was an episode composed entirely of dream sequences, chock-full of foreshadowing.
'Be back before Dawn', Tara said, with the first mention of Buffy's kid sister. We get a glimpse of Spike wearing tweed, something that was later revisited in season six with 'Tabula Rasa'.
I don't know what it is about 'Restless' that fascinates me so. There aren't any of those verge-of-tears moments as in the other episodes on the list. It's just that 'Restless' lends itself to infinite interpretations. No one watches it the same way. That's the mark of a true masterpiece.
1. 'The Body', written by Joss Whedon
'The Body' is on here because it's brilliant. I shouldn't analyze it here. There can be no list of great moments because every moment of the episode is just that. Great.
Adding to the intensity was the absence of incidental music, one of the best decisions Joss Whedon has ever made. From Buffy's distress over finding her mother to Dawn's shift from obsessing over trivial events to finally finding out about Joyce ('negative space') to Xander putting his hand through a wall to Willow not knowing what to wear to Dawn touching Joyce's face as the episode comes to close.
'It's not her. She's gone', Buffy tells her. 'Where'd she go?' is Dawn's reply.
Finally, the best moment in Buffy history occurs in this episode: Emma Caulfield's beautiful monologue about how little she understands about death. Her voice cracking out as she cries out the word 'why' is just a pure moment.
'The Body' is the best episode of the best show on television.
So... that's my list. Once again, e-mail me with your thoughts and stay tuned. Next week, you could read my list of the WORST episodes of the best show.
|Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on firstname.lastname@example.org.