The Wheel and Axle

Buffy Week, Day 2: Also, There’s A Really Big Snake.

by on Mar.26, 2017, under Film & TV, Geeky, Queer

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Season 2 Credits

Continued From:

Buffy Week, Day 1: Monsters Had Nightmares About Her

I’ve long avoided creating my “favorite Buffy episodes” list. Through the years, fellow Buffy enthusiasts have always asked me what my Top 5 or 10 eps are, and while I had an inkling of which ones definitely make the cut, it was difficult really setting these in stone because there are just so many that I love – whether due to personal tastes (i.e. guilty pleasures) or simply because the episode was a masterpiece, or both.

However, in honor of Buffy‘s 20th anniversary earlier this month, I decided to go for it as I celebrate my own Buffy Week! Yes, that’s how much of a fan I am. I will declare my own week-long celebration regardless of who joins or not.

Needless to say, trimming down my list to the Top Ten is a difficult task, so I’ve decided to prologue that with the twenty others that didn’t make it. This means I’ll be listing my Top 30 faves, with the lower 20 not in any order of “favoritism” but rather in chronological manner.

But before that: Honorable Mention goes to Go Fish (Season 2, Episode 20). No, it’s nowhere near my Top 30, and it may even be one of the worst episodes of the entire series, but I have a guilty fondness for it simply because it featured then-unknowns Shane West and Wentworth Miller.

30. Witch. Season 1, Episode 3.

Xander: For I am Xander, King of Cretins. May all lesser cretins bow before me.

This was the first episode of Buffy right after the 2-part series premiere. Whereas the series premiere – although good – tended to be clunky in places as it set up the Buffyverse, here we settle into the show. Not only is it the first time it becomes clear that vampires will not be the only antagonists in the series, it’s really the first time we realize just how much the conflicts of the show are meant to be metaphors for high school struggles. Cheerleading can be a pain in the ass, and controlling mothers more so.

Witch may not be perfect, but it’s when we first truly got a taste of what Buffy is all about.

29. School Hard. Season 2, Episode 3.

Spike: A slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn’t in the brochure.

This episode introduces us to the Sid and Nancy of the Hellmouth: Spike and Drusilla. They would move on to be two of the most popular recurring villains of the series, and Spike even becomes one of the leading men towards the end. This episode also shows what a badass Joyce Summers is, and it features that most dreaded of school events: PTA Night! Over-all, School Hard is one of the most memorable episodes of the show across fandom, with a very suspenseful school hostage situation and a very replayably hilarious Willow/Cordelia prayer scene. We also get to see the Annoying, I mean, Annointed One get unceremoniously offed. With Snyder’s cover-up behavior at the end, it also marks the beginning of the realization for the audience that there’s a conspiracy within Sunnydale.

28. Inca Mummy Girl. Season 2, Episode 4.

Xander: So, Ampata. You’re a girl.

Ampata: Yes, for many years now.

Although this was a standard “villain of the week” episode featuring a twist on the classic mummy, what I liked about this episode is how it moves forwards a few relationships (or lack thereof). We see a girl who finally does like Xander, though of course that whole sucking the life out of people was a bummer. We also get our first glimpse of Oz, thereby paving the way for Willow’s love life. Perhaps more importantly, we see a sympathetic villain whose non-life is a reflection of Buffy’s own calling.

27. Reptile Boy. Season 2, Episode 5.

Willow: Some guy’s attacking Buffy with a sword! Also, there’s a really big snake.

This episode would still be pretty relevant today as it was back then. It’s a cautionary tale about sleazy frat boys taking advantage of girls. Although we get a literal snake-man in the end (phallic much?), the dangers of date rape are quite evident in this episode, and in a world full of victim-blaming women who experience assault, this is a refreshing story of empowerment which we all can still learn from. Also: Greg Vaughan = love.

26. Halloween. Season 2, Episode 6.

Giles: So everybody became whatever they were masquerading as. 

Willow: Right. Xander was a soldier, and Buffy was an eighteenth-century girl. 

Giles: [staring at her rocker babe outfit] And-and your-your costume? 

Willow Rosenberg: I’m a ghost. 

Giles: Yes. Um, a-a – the ghost of what, exactly?

This is a true classic episode, and if I were to rank it after the Top 10th, it would place somewhere between 11-15. We see a good old-fashioned tale of the heroine completely, literally powerless, and we see hilarious hijinks as mayhem ensues. Unwittingly transformed by magical costumes, a helpless, 18th century-esque Buffy is joined by a tough, soldier-esque Xander and an incorporeal Willow as they face chaos during Halloween. Spike and his gang take advantage of the situation, ready to kill the amnesiac slayer, and we finally start to see that Giles has a dark and secret past. We also see more of Oz noticing Willow from afar. A lot of this episode is self-contained, and yet it moves the characters forward in a strong way.

25. Surprise / Innocence. Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14.

Cordelia: Does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?

Xander: I’m 17. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.

Okay, these may be two episodes, but it’s really a two-parter (you’ll see a lot of this later on this), and the arc if really best understood as one continuous story. This is really Top 10 territory, and the only reason I couldn’t include it on my personal Top 10 is how difficult it always is for me to watch it – and I mean that in a good way – and how I do like a few others more. This is probably my Top 11 (or Gingerbread).

Surprise and Innocence are game-changers in the world of Buffy. This is where we see Angel turn to the evil Angelus, and Buffy as a person changes forever. In fact, perhaps no one among the gang goes unchanged by the events of this story; the consequences are far-reaching, not just within the season but beyond – including the spin-off television series Angel.

More importantly, the story is just well-written and utterly heart-breaking. The metaphor for the boy who changes after he finally gets to bed the girl was just too on-point. Buffy was never really the same after this.

24. Phases. Season 2, Episode 15.

Cordelia: Sorry,  we haven’t all perfected that phony “girl next door” bit.

Willow: You could be the girl next door, too. If Xander lived next to a brothel! 

Seriously, Willow has the best lovers (not counting Season 7’s Kennedy). Between Tara and Oz, she sure was lucky in love. Well, except for the former’s untimely death and the latter’s unfortunate werewolf situation.

That being said, this Willow/Oz-centric episode – combined with the Hellmouth’s take on a classic monster – is just so incredibly sweet, funny, and heartwarming.

Continued In:

Buffy Week, Day 3: Five By Five

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