It’s been exactly 10 years since “Chosen,” the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first aired on UPN. I started watching Buffy in its third season, after my sister convinced me to watch some of the season two episodes she had on tape over the summer. It became my favourite show, which it remains to this day. Although Buffy definitely has its flaws (most of them in season seven), I still haven’t found a show that can top it in its best moments. I love the show’s combination of serious drama and silly comedy, its large family of complex characters, many of whom have very interesting story arcs, and of course that excellent Joss Whedon dialogue.
To celebrate the anniversary of the end of Buffy, I’ve put together a quick list of five of my favourite Buffy moments. This is a bit of a random list: I wanted to stay away from the obvious, so I’ve tried avoid all the major events from season finales and that kind of thing. One of the great things about Buffy, after all, is that it did little moments just as well as it did big ones. The whole “high school is hell” premise of the show is based on the idea that the ordinary things in life can have massive significance. Although some of my choices come from important episodes or are big events in the context of the show, they all stand out to me for packing a big punch on a relatively smaller scale.
“It hurts.” “The Body” is an episode that’s explicitly built on small moments, and this is a very small scene I find particularly striking. After Xander pulls his hand out of the wall he’s punched, Tara looks at him and simply says, “It hurts.” Just stating the obvious. But coming from Tara, perhaps the most open and kind soul on the show, it means a lot more. The way Xander looks at her after she says it, it’s like he’s seeing her for the first time. Xander and Tara’s relationship is not one the show spends much time exploring; by comparison, Willow and Anya’s somewhat rocky relationship is far more developed. In this moment, though, we know he gets her.
Buffy Gets One Perfect High School Moment. Buffy is both an ordinary teenaged girl and a heroine with a grand destiny; generally, much to her dismay, the heroine part gets in the way of the other stuff. By the time graduation rolls around, Buffy has pretty much given up on ever fitting in at Sunnydale High or making her mark on the school in traditional ways like being Homecoming Queen or even having her picture in the yearbook. In “The Prom,” she must save the prom from a demon attack — once again giving up her own shot at an ordinary high school experience in order to preserve it for everyone else. (“No! You guys are going to have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. I’m going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.”) Much to her surprise, though, it turns out Buffy’s classmates have in fact noticed her: after a spontaneous write-in campaign, the class of 99 presents her with the Class Protector Award in recognition of her heroism. It’s a lovely gesture by the students and it makes me cry every time I watch the episode.
“Welcome home, Buffy.” When Buffy returns to Sunnydale in “Dead Man’s Party” after her lost summer, everyone is really, really mean to her over the fact that she disappeared for months and didn’t tell them where she went. Everyone, that is, except Giles, who is just very relieved and happy to have her back safely. In public, he’s calm and unemotional. In private, he takes a moment to let himself smile. I love how much Giles cares for Buffy — he is the only person who both fully understands her and loves her unconditionally — and this is a very sweet demonstration of it.
“Is there something I can do?” In the end I suppose Spike comes close to matching Giles’ love for Buffy (although in a very different way). This scene from the end of “Fool for Love,” in which Spike sits quietly with Buffy while she allows herself a private moment of weakness over her mother’s illness, speaks volumes about their relationship. For one thing, they’ve spent the whole episode fighting and he stopped by with the intention of killing her. This is also a preview of season six, where Spike becomes Buffy’s go-to non-person for escape from a harsh reality. Spike’s desire to be worthy in Buffy’s eyes ultimately leads to a very grand gesture, but it all starts with a bit of silent, friendly comfort.
Buffy Takes The Initiative. This one isn’t as emotional as all my other picks. In this scene from “The I in Team,” Buffy attends a briefing at the headquarters of The Initiative. I’ve always found this scene hilarious just because of the image of Buffy in her orange halter top standing with all those commando guys. Aside from being funny, though, it also provides a nice visual summary of the entire conflict of season four, with Buffy’s feminine, mystical, “unpredictable” energy noticeably disrupting the male, technological, structured Initiative way of doing things. Buffy’s insistence on asking questions gets laughs from the soldiers at this point, but it’s her undoing with Professor Walsh later in this very episode. Season four is Buffy‘s most underrated year, in my opinion: The Initiative storyline, which is extremely well-developed over the season, explores some very interesting issues and this is a key scene from a key episode.
What are your favourite smaller Buffy moments?