Artificial Continuum

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Here we go. Our weekly countdown of all things awesome. This week...we have a count down of the top ten best episodes of the classic television series. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Why you may ask? Well...the truth is...Buffy is cool and SDCC is stealing all of the cool stuff this week so there is nothing really relevant to talk about. However, one can never have too much Buffy.

What makes Buff the Vampire Slayer worthy of such a countdown is simply how brilliant the show is. Although it started as a simple monster of the week show with quirky dialogue and a female protagonist, Joss Whedon's pet project slowly evolved into a poignant and thought provoking show. Well written and often hilarious, the best episodes of Buffy are those that break the form. This was a show that inspired a legion of fans and changed the face of television for years to come.

10. Normal Again

Normal Again presents a haunting "What if" plot that in many ways could have served as a deeply disturbing series finale. The central idea focuses around the concept that the entirety of the previous 5 seasons of the series occurred within Buffy's brain while she is in a coma. While the events really did take place, Buffy does struggle with her hold on reality. The episode also presents one of the most haunting endings of the entire series.

9. Chosen

It may seem strange to see a series finale listed so low on a list of top ten episodes, but this does not change the fact that "Chosen" is a truly gripping hour of television.

With heart breaking character deaths and a powerful, satisfying conclusion to seven years worth of television and character building, "Chosen" stands as one of the most memorable episodes of the series.

8. The Zeppo

I love episodes of Buffy that subvert the idea of the show to focus on something atypical. This is what the Zeppo does to brilliant degree.

What makes "The Zeppo" such an ingenious episode of the series is how it takes what could have been one of the most intense and gripping episode on its head, and instead pushes the A plot into the background. Xander's quest for acceptance becomes the main focus of the episode forcing the very real and very dangerous danger to become comical in its lack of focus.

Also, Xander played by Nicholas Brendon undergoes a brilliant character arc through the course of a single episode.

7. Becoming

I have often found that the second season of Buffy contained the most involving overarching plot. Even though it already shined through its introduction of such classic characters as Spike and Drusilla, the really drama came in the form of the evolving relationship between Angel and Buffy. When the two come to blows in this brilliant season capper, the tension is powerful and gripping. It all ends with a tragic twist that in many ways is one of the most defining moments in the Buffy canon.

6. Conversations with Dead People

"Conversations with Dead People" again subverts the Buffy formula to provide an episode that is presented as several short stories that represent separate aspects of the show. Buffy's encounter with a vamped up former class mate represents the shows humor. Dawn's encounter with the First Evil accents the horror. Willow's discussion's with an avatar of her dead lover, Tara, shows the series' clever dialogue. And Andrew and Jonathan's quest demonstrates the suspense.

This clever approach to the story creates a unique episode, but it is elevated to greatness by just how seamlessly they all mesh. Each is equally involving in its own way, but transitions happen regularly and without incident.

5. Once More with Feeling

Here we go, the musical episode takes spot number five. Undoubtedly one of the most popular episodes of the entire series,"Once More with Feeling" is a truly memorable hour of television.

The town of Sunnydale erupts into song and dance following a curse enacted by a stylish demon.

"Once More with Feeling" is just alot of well crafted fun. The songs are clever and catchy. There are laughs to be had throughout. In short, its one of the best examples of wit and creativity in the series.

4. Restless

One thing I disliked about Christopher Nolan's Inception was that despite the euphoria of the script, Nolan failed to truly capture the feeling of dreaming. This is what Whedon does in "Restless" to outstanding effect.

Funny, creepy, and endlessly clever, "Restless" follows the dreams of the Scooby gang while they are stalked by the spirit of the original slayer.

Presented as several different short stories like the season seven episode "Conversations with Dead People" "Restless" follows each specific character as they confront fears and changes in their lives. However, each sequence is conducted with beautifully accurate dream logic.

3. "The Gift"

This season five finale in many ways is as climactic and tension filled as any of the previous season cappers. However, what sets "The Gift" apart from other finales is the truly dramatic and tragic ending.

In order to save her new found sister's life and prevent an oncoming apocalypse, Buffy plunges to her death in a swirling cloud of mystical energy.

Although Buffy's death is hardly permanent, "The Gift" treats this development in the series as more than a ratings gimmick. The event is given proper dramatic weight and the reaction of Buffy's friends, Spike in particular, is suitably heartbreaking.

2. "Hush"

"Hush", the only episode of the series to nab an Emmy win for writing, is an achievement on all fronts. Although it in many ways plays out like a standard monster of the week episode, this season four installment, written and directed by series creator Joss Whedon, stands out for its novel premise and genuinely creepy villains.

A group of fairy tale beasts known as the Gentlemen arrive in town, and using a magical device render it mute. Forced to communicate through signs and writing, Buffy and her friends are forced to fight the horrifying group of villains and return speech to the town of Sunnydale.

The Gentlemen stand as the single most disturbing and best executed villains on the series' run. The twisted mime like creatures, float delicately through the air making simple smooth hand gestures.

However, "Hush" succeeds in its long dialogue free period. Comical, artful, and horrifying, Joss Whedon carries this episodes silent period to true writing genius in turn making it the second best episode of the series.

1. "The Body"

Following the death of someone close to her, Buffy finds herself facing issues of mortality in loss in this spectacular hour of television. "The Body" is one of those shows that will never leave you once it has been viewed.

Buffy has often been lauded as a series that skillfully uses its fantastical backdrop to handle real life issues. However, "The Body" subverts that entire mindset by making the focus of the issue a mundane but tragic issue.

The artistic lack of music and dream like sequences accent the character's feelings of grief to a point of untouched upon realism in almost any form of media. Joss Whedon's writing and directing also create wonderfully long shots and sequences that never once detract from the gravity of the situation presented.

As for acting? Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emma Caulfield steal the show. Gellar's portrayal of an emotionally numb Buffy is gripping and powerful. Caulfield's is more of a surprise as Anya's lack of experience with reality leads to heartbreaking emotional collapse.

"The Body" is not only the best episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but many (myself included) consider it to be one of the best hours of television ever made.