By Darrell Shayler & CJ Boat
Licensed comics have come a long way in recent years, and a lot of that can be attributed to the efforts of Dark Horse comics.Check out our review of Serenity: Leaves on the wind for a little more insight into this, but it basically comes down to, “get the show’s talent on board, don’t settle for bare minimum.” In fact the high standard has meant that the comic books aren’t just an excuse to make a little extra income from fans, but have cemented themselves as a valid medium for continuing cancelled television shows, something Joss Whedon has embraced to breath new life into his shows.
Whedon’s no stranger to comics, after all, with stand-out original works such as future-vampire slayer events with Fray, and an excellent run of Astonishing X-Men, so it should come as no surprise that his shows made the transition into print incredibly well. Which is why we’re now looking forward to season ten of a show that finished on television after only seven. So with Buffy The Vampire Slayer about to go into double digits, what better time to have a recap?
All seven seasons of the television series are available on Netflix and the two seasons of comic books are available in collected versions both digitally and in print. What follows is a recap of the series to date along with a little insight into which episodes are required watching because they stand out as an excellent example of what this fan favourite has to offer.
Yes the film exists, yes you’re welcome to go watch it out of some grim sense of morbid curiosity, and no, we don’t generally talk about it.
Buffy’s the new girl at school. She’s beautiful, athletic and has head cheerleader written all over here. She also happens to fight the undead on a nightly basis. Season one was made cheaply as a mid season filler (which is why it only runs 12 episodes) and every dollar not spent is painfully evident on screen. Visually it doesn’t hold up well, the acting is a little ammature hour and it just doesn’t get the polish the writing deserves. Fortunately the writing is great and while the basic role-reversals (petite beautiful blondes kick ass as both good guys and bad) aren’t as fresh as they were back then it still stands as a great introduction to the show’s concepts and cast.
Stand out moments.
Welcome to the Hell Mouth/The Harvest. This is where is all begins. The players are introduced, the Big Bad is presented to begin a season arc (a concept not started in buffy, but definitely this show is the reason it caught on in a world of stand-alone shows) and friends are lost. The best place to start… better than the film.
The Pack. Xander is one of a group of students are possessed by demonic Hyena spirits in what really should be a silly episode but is absolutely saved thanks to a willingness to mix comedy with some incredibly dark twists. Not the usual teen drama.
The Puppet Show. This divides fans more than most episodes but it includes a possessed ventriloquist puppet that may or may not be a killer. Yes it’s ridiculous, but it defies expectations and deconstructs horror movie tropes enough that it’s worth taking a look. Plus possessed ventriloquist puppet.
Prophecy Girl. The first season finale and buffy has to die. It’s not even close to being the best Buffy season ending, but it’s required viewing if you want to see where this show is heading.
Buffy has been affected by the events of the previous season and comes back with some attitude issues. Fortunately they don’t last long as catharsis is quickly found by grinding her foe’s bones to bake her bread. Fortunately we do get a full season here and a noticeable bump in production values. Season opener aside the cast are also demonstrably more comfortable in their roles now. This season also pulls a great bait-and-switch with the Big Bad; after introducing Drusilla and Spike as the ones to watch out for, we find out that someone closer to home has a dark side too. A life lesson for any girl thinking about sleeping with their seemingly perfect boyfriend has got to be found here.
Stand Out Moments.
School Hard: Worth watching if only for the introduction of Drusilla and Spike; you’re going to be seeing a lot of this pair.
Halloween: This not only starts the tradition of some fun Halloween episodes, but also gives Xander a little knowledge that’s going to come back later on. It’s also a great example of the way this show uses comedy to break up the more serious themes running through a season.
Surprise/Innocence: This two parter not only reveals the true big bad for the season, but also Sets up a lot of Angel’s backstory.
Phases: Oz cements himself as a fan favourite in his episode. The werewolves possibly got a special effects person fired.
Passion: In a season so full of comedy (intentional or otherwise) the dark moments stand out in stark contrast. In any other show where a main character goes evil there’s a line drawn where their actions would become irredeemable. This episode draws that line and then dances over with evil glee.
Killed by death: Buffy does horror and does it well.
Becomming: Season Finales are probably going to feature in this list a lot. We see Angel’s history (complete with a completely authentic accent…), secrets are kept, sacrifices are made and things in Sunnydale aren’t going to be the same again..
There’s a good argument to be made for this being Buffy’s finest season. The budget finally did the writing justice, the cast hit their stride and the bad girl, Faith, is introduced. What more could you ask for, a giant CGI monster?
Stand out Moments
Consequences: Dealing with the aftermath of Faith’s actions Buffy turns to her friends, and in a shining moment of trope reversal our faith in these characters is validated.
Dopplegangland: Evil mirror universes have never been done so well… mostly because Spock with a goatee is nothing compared to vampire Willow.
Enemies: Faith isn’t as good as she thinks, and Angel returns to form. Another fine twist at the end.
The Prom: Oh the feels. A wonderfully heartwarming, and a little heartbreaking episode.
Graduation Day: The, Ahem, Stakes are high and the gang is facing the end… of high school. Also the world is about to be taken over by a giant worm… it’s possible the Mayor didn’t really think through his end game there. Oh, and Angel has his own TV show to leave for.
After what could be seen as the best season, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s downhill from here on. There’s a good argument for that too. The gang go to university and Buffy finds herself a little out of her league for a little too long. Then there’s the secret supernatural military organisation that just so happens to recruit students for soldiers because… plot. If that’s the case, then, it just goes to show that even weak buffy seasons can have some of the series’ greatest epidoedes.
Stand out moments
The Harsh Light of Day: The return of Spike, the introduction of Harmony as a vampire and a plot so big it needs to cross over into Angel.
Fear, Itself: Another Halloween and some people are messing with supernatural forces. Noteworthy if only for bunny phobias and “shown actual size.”
The Initiative: Sometimes a moment is worth sitting through forty-five minutes, in this case that would be Spike’s performance issues with Willow.
Hush: The bad guys are brilliantly creepy and a show that’s built a reputation on it’s smart, witty dialogue goes silent for most of the run time. Also it was a stabby action.
This Year’s Girl/ Who Are You?: The return of Faith, and she comes back armed with a little mayoral gift.
Superstar: Buffy veers into What If? territory. An enjoyable episode that, thankfully, doesn’t have anything to do with the main season arc. Ultimately silly but fun.
Restless: The final showdown with Adam had one standout moment of special effect badassery but it wasn’t enough for it to make the list. This last one, though, is an exercise in weirdness as we step into the gang’s mysterious and slightly twisted dreams. Cheese?
Buffy vs. God, well a God, with a deliciously bad fallen God who has fantastic taste in shoes. This season also retcons in Buffy’s sister, Dawn. She divided fans instantly, those who hated her were obviously wrong… well they were proven wrong… eventually.
Stand out moments
Buffy vs Dracula: It’s buffy… vs Dracula. After seasons playing with vampire mythology and throwing out a lot of the old rulebooks Dracula moves into town and brings with him all the old powers. It should have been an incongruous mess, what it is, however, is a glorious love poem to classic vampire movies.
The Replacement: After taking a hit from a demon Xander awakens to find someone else living his life. And they’re doing a much better job of it than he is. A fantastic Xander episode that truly lets him shine.
Family: Tara becomes an official Scooby in a touching moment that makes this episode stand out. Family really is everything, but it doesn’t always have to be the one you’re born into.
Fool For Love: Spike may be verging on comic relief character, but he’s still killed more than one Slayer. Buffy’s concerns about her own mortality, and the short life expectancy of your average slayer, leads us to some fantastic flashbacks to slayers over the years.
The body: Hot on the heels of love bots, buffy strikes a devastating blow. Heartbreaking.
The Gift. The impact of this episode would have been felt harder if this had been the series end and not just the season. Even so it stands as a fantastic episode with laughter and tears for all.
It started with a pun from Joss Whedon. Buffy will return but they’ll have to Urn it. This season started of dark and, unfortunately, didn’t quite know what to do when it got there. Sex and drugs, metaphorical or otherwise, are handled clumsily and if it weren’t for a few episodes it would be tempting to think Buffy should have ended with the last season. It does have those good episodes though; the nerds of doom are great, dark Willow is superb and then there was the musical.
Stand out moments:
Life Serial: Buffy’s confusion at being tested by geeks who have read too much Superman threatens to overwhelm the episode, but fortunately there’s enough fun to be had with the nerds to make this one worth watching.
Once More, With Feeling: It’s a Buffy Musical. The songs are catchy (for the most part) and even now the musical episode has become a standard genre event. If only Angel’s Smile Time had the same cultural influence.
Tabula Rasa: A spell goes wrong and the gang loses their memories. Hilarity ensues.
Doublemeat Palace: The secret ingredient may or may not be people.
Hell’s Bells. Another Xander and Anya episode and another forty-five minutes of bitter sweet heartache.
Normal Again. Buffy finds herself in two realities and which one is real? It’s clever, chaotic and at times the viewer is as disoriented as the lead, but it stands out as a perfect example of Buffy-as-intelligent-drama.
Seeing Red/Villains/Two toGo/Grave: The last four episodes begin with mystical balls and take the viewer on a rollercoaster of comedy, grief and revenge. There really is no separating these episodes out, watch them all and realise that season six wasn’t so bad after all.
The final television series, but of course not the final season. Buffy must protect the potential slayers from an on-again-off-again evil Spike and Caleb. Buffy and the Scooby Gang have to take out an evil from Buffy’s past, as well as what will happen when it all falls apart. The season gives a final send-off for those who did not want to read comics, but gave a great jumping-off point for those wanting to delve deeper into the Buffyverse.
Stand out moments:
If saying the entire season is out, then let’s take a few episodes and focus on them.
Lessons: THe premiere sets up the entire season, introduces the Protentials, the Bringers, and what will be known as one of the most wild rides in Television.
Sleeper: When the threat comes from within, what can the Scoobies do to confront this?
Never Leave Me: If you enjoyed the previous episode, this concludes that arc.
Lies My Parents Told Me: Some issues that have been nagging at fans since the beginning are finally resolved.
Dirty Girls: Introduces a very important villain, and sets up the show for the finale.
Empty Places: Continuation of the final arc.
End of Days: Pretty much self-explanatory title, and also the penultimate episode.
Chose: Series finale, simply amazing.
This is where the Dark Horse comic takes over the continuity. The Hellmouth is closed, The Scoobies are scattered, and a veritable army of the paranormal are at Buffy and Xander’s disposal. Buffy and the Scoobies are labelled terrorists, and have to deal with the fallout of having a worldwide evil that stretches much deeper than what was ever dealt with in the show. A close to home evil, some leave, some come home, and someone important to the gang doesn’t come out of this event with their life.
Another Dark Horse canonical comic, taking place immediately after the Seed of Wonder destruction and dealing with the fallout of Twilight. Zompires are running rampant, with magic being on the out, Buffy is without some of her greatest allies, and seemingly powerless. Buffy needs to restore magic, restore some semblance of normalcy, and follow any path they can to face the reactions to their own actions. This season does cross over quite a bit with Angel & Faith ongoing comic, also from Dark Horse comics.
This was the Buffy Challenge, taken on by both CJ Boat and Darrell Shayler, we tackled the entire Buffyverse in less than two weeks. It was a fantastic run, and with the season 10 comic out now, only more magic can come out of this, and it’s already a wild ride.