Between 18 November 2012 and 18 April 2013, I rewatched Buffy at the pace of roughly one episode per day and tweeted quick reviews…
Episode 101: Welcome to the Hellmouth. A glorious start: smart, sassy, funny, effortlessly introduces seven regular characters
102 The Harvest: What a classy cast. Only Boreanaz doesn’t convince: Angel’s too ‘light’ & ill-defined. All others excellent.
103 The Witch: The first episode I ever saw, and still one of my favourites. A smart plot, with nice character development.
104 Teacher’s Pet: A humdrum monster-of-the-week plot, but done with a light touch, full of cute detail and plenty of sass.
105 Never Kill a Boy on a First Date: How quickly things date! The show’s in 4:3 and on 16mm, and Buffy mentions her ‘beeper’.
106 The Pack: So unsettling to see unrest: Xander being mean to Willow packs a punch because the characters are so well drawn.
107 Angel: FUCK ME, THE MYSTERY KNOW-IT-ALL WE’VE ONLY EVER SEEN AT NIGHT IS A VAMPIRE! (Great game-changing episode.)
108 I, Robot… You, Jane: Linear and too silly. Quaint to see email dramatised as in Jumpin’ Jack Flash (vocalised text, etc).
109 The Puppet Show: Funniest episode so far, which is no mean feat with this show. Creepy too, with a *killer* plot reversal.
110 Nightmare: People’s nightmares become real. Not exactly the most inventive or complex episode of Buffy. Predictable fluff.
111 Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Ironically, in an episode about what a bitch she is, Cordelia becomes a fully formed character.
112 Prophecy Girl: Great balance of characters, everyone getting their journey or telling moments. Wonderful finale to season.
201 When She Was Bad: New season, new money. They’ve clearly got a bigger budget: the school interiors are much bigger now.
202 Some Assembly Required: Two notables: movie writer Michael Bacall in small job; Charisma Carpenter in cheerleader outfit.
203 School Hard: First-season villain The Master: okay. Second-season villain Spike: awesome. The show steps up a gear.
204 Inca Mummy Girl: By no means a classic, yet better than I’d remembered. Simple plot, but witty and clever character stuff.
205 Reptile Boy: Lacklustre and obvious by Buffy standards. And Cordy’s back to being a one-dimensional idiot, sadly.
206 Halloween: Brilliantly controlled mixture of plot and character, drama and humour. The best episode so far, I’d say.
207 Lie To Me: As always, lots of good ideas here – a complex discussion on the nature of truth – but a bit slow at times.
208 The Dark Age: Ooh, Giles has a mysterious past. His “English” friend can’t pronounce the word Deirdre, though.
209 What’s My Line Part 1: Great fun with a *knockout* cliffhanger. And, ooh, the first use of the term Scooby Gang.
210 What’s My Line Part 2: Pairing off Xander with Cordy and Willow with Oz are great moves: it shakes up the group dynamics.
211 Ted: A fabulously fruity, creepy performance from John Ritter and some smart, hinting-at-the-twist dialogue. Good fun.
212 Bad Eggs: ‘Rotten’ would be far too obvious an adjective to use. But not an incorrect one. Worst episode so far.
213 Surprise: Rich, sensual, complex stuff. And Spike says ‘wanker’. What more could you want?
214 Innocence: Joss Whedon (a movie writer) knows the beauty of plot and character *being the same thing*. Superb. Definitive.
215 Phases: Werewolves in films and TV shows never look *any* good, do they? Nice to have an Oz-centric episode, though.
216 Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: Phenomenally entertaining. Smart, character-driven comedy, carried off with panache.
217 Passion: Manages to be both shocking and harrowingly inevitable. Truly incredible; Buffy at its best.
218 Killed By Death: Commits two cardinal sins: being dull and being contrived. Poor.
219 I Only Have Eyes For You: Good, well-structured story, with a fun, portentous mention of next year’s big bad, the Mayor.
220 Go Fish: Like a sub-par season-one episode that’s late to the party. Not without merit, but seems quite basic now.
221 Becoming Part 1: Bloody nora, I’d forgotten Boreanez’s awful Irish accent! Otherwise great ep and the start of flashbacks.
222 Becoming Pt 2: Fantastic season finale and a game-changer, not least as it’s the first time Spike colludes with the gang.
301 Anne: Solid, not spectacular; more concerned with character than plot; stars You Know, Him From That Thing as the villain.
302 Dead Man’s Party: Much better. Kristine Sutherland is totally superb as Buffy’s mum; a natural, unshowy performance.
303 Faith, Hope & Trick: Hmm, not sure about this new slayer, Faith. She’s too hot, sassy and overtly sexual for my liking.
304 Beauty & the Beasts: Perhaps because I know he’s getting spun-off soon but it’s oddly hard to care about Angel this year.
305 Homecoming: ‘Welcome to Slayerfest 98!’ Classic Buffy: unlikely to win a poll, but full of invention and skilled shading.
306 Band Candy: Seemingly effortless. The first of many gems from the great @JaneEspenson. The show is just *singing* now.
307 Revelations: For a show that’s often breezy and comedic, when the characters argue with each other it packs a real punch.
308 Lovers Walk: Spike’s back! He’s still full of swagger, but the repositioning from Big Bad to Scooby Gang member continues.
309 The Wish: I can’t think of an alternate reality/It’s a Wonderful Life-style episode I’ve enjoyed more. Great fun.
310 Amends: Interesting stuff but takes too long to reach a point. Possibly the weakest ‘Written and directed by Joss Whedon’.
311 Gingerbread: A witch-hunt that involves confiscating people’s books? Too heavy-handed to be effective, but some good gags.
312 Helpless: Buffy losing her superpowers is a neat idea but the twist comes far too early. Am in a mid-season slump sadly.
313 The Zeppo: Delightful. Smart self-parody, the line “I’m gonna check out Willy’s”, and a Supergrass song on the soundtrack.
314 Bad Girls: Wesley’s first ep. Fun fact: Alexis Denisof played a very different character, also called Wesley, in Angel.
315 Consequences: Seems strange that it’s two-thirds into the season before Buffy and co discover the Mayor is evil.
316 Doppelgangland: A contrived way to bring back Vamp Willow, but very entertaining. A direct sequel to The Wish; a triumph.
317 Enemies: Packs an emotional punch, but is full of plot holes and lame justifications. Did Russell T Davies write this one?
318 Earshot: Strange story. Largely, and successfully, comical – even if shootings at schools aren’t exactly ripe for humour.
319 Choices: Good character stuff just about rescues a flimsy, uninvolving plot. A bit of a water-treading episode.
320 The Prom: The ground’s being prepared for next season: Angel says he’s leaving; Anya’s being positioned to replace Cordy.
321 Graduation Day Part 1: Despite not being Spike, the Mayor is a sensational villain. A charismatic turn from Harry Groener.
322 Graduation Day Part 2: Fantastic, fitting finale to the high-school era. I’ll miss it. Where do we go from here?
401 The Freshman: No school. University. No Angel. No Cordy. Riley. Widescreen. Phina Oruche. Blimey, it’s all change.
402 Living Conditions: She’s had a career, but why has Sarah M. Gellar never been a *superstar*? She really is always superb.
403 The Harsh Light of Day: Lovely. Three thematically resonant plots, woven together with wit, skill and confidence.
Angel 103: The story continues as Spike and Oz both turn up in a fun episode of the spin-off.
404 Fear Itself: Joining a cast this good must be tough, but Marc Blucas just can’t keep up. Great episode otherwise.
405 Beer Bad: Christ on a bike, did they let the work experience lad write this one? Lame, shallow nonsense. Worst in ages.
406 Wild at Heart: a) Bye bye, Oz. We’ll miss you. b) The hints there’s a secret army on campus are getting quite tedious now.
407 The Initiative: Much to enjoy – Spike’s failed attack on Willow, Xander fighting Harmony – and even the Initiative is fun.
408 Pangs: Freewheelingly confident and very, very funny – a running gag about Buffy cooking dinner is especially successful.
Angel 108: Pissed off that Angel guested in her show without saying hello, Buffy visits LA for a lame spin-off ep.
409 Something Blue: Balls to Angel. Riley? Forget it. This show’s best pairing, whether as foes or friends, is Buffy & Spike.
410 Hush: A monumental work of art. One of the towering achievements of popular culture. *Perfect*.
411 Doomed: Inevitably a let-down after Hush. There’s a big empty space where the oomph should be.
412 A New Man: The Giles-feels-out-of-the-loop plot bubbles to the surface in entertaining fashion.
413 The I in Team: It’s not that the Initiative is a bad idea. It’s just a wrong one. Too comic-booky. No Buffyishness.
414 Goodbye Iowa: Breaking into a secret base, Buffy uses a disguise that includes glasses. That’s all I have to say.
415 This Year’s Girl: Some eggy plotting thankfully leads to a great cliffhanger. And Eliza Dushku: what a force of nature.
416 Who Are You?: Sarah just edges out Eliza in playing the other’s role. A hoary old cliche, pulled off with verve and style.
417 Superstar: The bloke who ran off with Tanya Pooley in Coronation Street shows up in this fun concept episode.
418 Where The Wild Things Are: Largely forgettable, though Mrs Landingham makes an appearance and Giles sings a song.
Angel 118: Faith arrives in LA, wanting to kill Angel, and does a lot of taunting and some sexy dancing.
419 New Moon Rising: Oz is back, but with the Initiative at its most boring it’s a struggle to care.
Angel 119: Buffy guests in the spin-off again. And it’s just as dreary as the first time.
420 The Yoko Factor: Spike drip-feeds poison into the regulars’ ears. I doubt I’m meant to be on his side. Best ep in a while.
421 Primeval: It’s been a slog at times, but the Initiative arc crescendos effectively enough. The regulars *shine*, however.
422 Restless: Truly surreal (thematic logic rather than just weird shit) and jawdroppingly impressive. Funny as hell too.
501 Buffy vs Dracula: A silly concept, sure, but done with joy and commitment. The best season opener since year one.
502 Real Me: Dawn’s storyline is expertly introduced. A summer’s breeze blows away memories of the po-faced Initiative.
503 The Replacement: Clever editing and Nick Brendan’s twin brother really do make you think there are two Xanders.
504 Out of My Mind: Ostensibly about Riley, the ‘B plots’ – Dawn, Harmony, Spike, Joyce – are much, much more interesting.
505 No Place Like Home: Buffy: “What are you doing here? Five words or less.” Spike: “Out. For. A. Walk… Bitch.”
506 Family: The new Lois Lane, Amy Adams, crops up in this terrific Tara-centric episode.
507 Fool For Love: Just superb. Flashbacks, crossovers and character development all handled masterfully. Very entertaining.
Angel 207: The flashbacks continue in the spin-off. Doesn’t Angel, just like Buffy, have a cracking theme tune?
508 Shadow: Babylon 5 actor William Forward guests in an episode called Shadow. This excites the geek part of my brain muchly.
509 Listening to Fear: How great is Michelle Trachtenberg? And Kristine Sutherland?! Superb performances from the Summerses.
510 Into the Woods: The sunny tone of earlier in the season has now given way to sturdy and grim. Still good quality, though.
511 Triangle: @JaneEspenson brings the funny. This season, while as classy and entertaining as usual, needed it.
512 Checkpoint: Who doesn’t love a montage of nervous characters being interrogated, complete with plinky-plonky comedy music?
513 Blood Ties: In conception, execution and especially performance, the character of Dawn has been an unmitigated triumph.
514 Crush: Oh, don’t credit a ‘surprise’ guest star 16 minutes before their ‘shock’ reappearance! (Fine episode otherwise.)
515 I Was Made to Love You: Enjoyable throwback (it feels like a school-era episode) but a final scene that breaks your heart.
516 The Body: A harrowing yet cathartic masterpiece. The finest dramatisation of grief imaginable.
517 Forever: Whilst fun and narratively productive, does the Glory/Ben connection make *any* sense?
518 Intervention: Plot, subplot, character, drama, comedy, action, slapstick, emotion. Excellent on every level.
519 Tough Love: She’s not Spike or the Mayor, but I’m really enjoying Glory. Great cliffhanger to this episode too.
520 Spiral: Buffy as a Terminator 2-style chase movie, the ante constantly being raised. Great stuff.
521 The Weight of the World: No show uses dream sequences as well as Buffy. And this episode’s is a real doozy.
522 The Gift: From a cute ‘Previously…’ – 99 episodes summed up in 37 seconds – to a powerhouse ending, this is superb stuff.
Angel 222: Dipping in and out of this is proving bizarre. This week: a fairy-tale panto, then Willow shows up with bad news.
601/602 Bargaining: A double-length premiere. All a bit functional but there’s sweetness too: Spike’s avuncular love for Dawn.
603 After Life: The conventions of American TV, eh? Everyone has perfect hair, even after climbing out of a filled-in grave.
604 Flooded: Responsibilities, money worries and a deliberately childish Big Bad: our new theme is ‘growing up’, it seems.
605 Life Serial: So overtly comedic at times you half expect canned laughter. The Groundhog Day stuff is a hoot.
606 All The Way: Seriously, could they not find teenagers to play teenagers? Dawn’s mates are about twice her age.
607 Once More, With Feeling: The welfare state. A man on the moon. The Allies’ victory. Just listing things *more* impressive.
608 Tabula Rasa: It’s a shame it’s all so contrived, as the cast are clearly having a ball playing amnesiac scaredy-cats.
609 Smashed: Andrew tells a contemptuous Spike that he’s seen every episode of Doctor Who (but not yet Red Dwarf).
610 Wrecked: Doing too much magic is like being a drug addict? The subtext is not so sub this year.
611 Gone: The characters are right: Buffy’s new haircut *is* adorable. When you can see it, that is.
612 Doublemeat Palace: This is my fave TV show. That doesn’t mean I have to like its patronising view of the working class.
613 Dead Things: There’s a writing maxim that you should never use coincidences to get characters *out* of trouble. Hmm.
614 Older and Far Away: Hate to say it, but – musical aside – season six is, by this show’s standards, rather pedestrian.
615 As You Were: Who’da thought the return of Riley Finn would give this season the kick up the arse it needed?!
616 Hell’s Bells: That delicate balance between plausibility and reality? Woefully misjudged here. Not a good one.
617 Normal Again: Inventive, creepy, postmodern and playfully ambiguous: the best episode in *ages*.
618 Entropy: For the first time since year one, the season’s Big Bad has no emotional connection to the regulars. It shows.
619 Seeing Red: Next time I go to a bar to be miserable and get drunk, I hope Nichole Hiltz tries to chat me up too.
620 Villains: Lots of good, if sometimes on-the-nose, stuff. And a witty reference to one of my favourite films, WarGames.
621 Two To Go: What’s the record length of a ‘Previously on…’ in a TV show? This episode’s is 116 seconds.
622 Grave: Not a lot happens for long stretches. It’s grim. The plotting’s perfunctory. How very season six.
701 Lessons: The first title card is a doozy: many fun cameos from old seasons.
702 Beneath You: These cold-open scenes of nameless girls being killed in foreign cities that look like LA have an Alias vibe.
703 Same Time, Same Place: In a cute, fun episode, Dawn potentially being paralysed for life is played for laughs.
704 Help: So, Buffy becomes a school counsellor with no qualifications, training or background checks? Riiiiight.
705 Selfless: Bold, funny, surprisingly complex and ever so off-kilter. Just like its lead character, Anya, in fact.
706 Him: So derivative we even get a flashback to the season-two episode it’s ripping off. Cracking fun, though.
707 Conversations With Dead People: The only Xander-free episode, while Anya’s also absent and Spike has no dialogue.
708 Sleeper: The season kicks into a higher gear with a fascinating Spike-centric episode.
709 Never Leave Me: Brilliantly, the previous episode’s killer cliffhanger is all but ignored, eking out the tension.
710 Bring on the Night: Drusilla crops up and potentials Annabelle and Molly are introduced. Awful English accent overload!
711 Showtime: I’ve tried not to be shallow during this process… but potential slayer Kennedy is quite hot, isn’t she?
712 Potential: Worth watching just for Xander’s touching pep talk at the end. It’s not only Dawn who’s crying.
713 The Killer in Me: Elizabeth Anne Allen’s done well. A guest spot in season one and still cropping up 132 episodes later.
714 First Date: Monster-of-the-week stories are a thing of the past. It’s just a serial now.
715 Get It Done: Sharply written and directed by the reliable Doug Petrie. Very enjoyable stuff.
716 Storyteller: Fun, self-referential and extremely silly. Just like its lead character, Andrew, in fact.
Angel 413: Faith reappears in a grim, portentous spin-off two-parter.
Angel 414: From the casts of Buffy and Angel, I’ve met the actresses who play Tara, Darla, Anya, Harmony and Lilah.
717 Lies My Parents Told Me: Great stuff. And the second episode running to poke fun at Buffy’s earnest motivational speeches.
Angel 415: Willow visits LA, doesn’t spot how obviously pregnant Cordy is, and thinks Fred’s coming on to her.
718 Dirty Girls: Fresh from the criminally axed Firefly, @NathanFillion joins the cast; is predictably, electrifyingly superb.
719 Empty Places: Sarah Michelle Gellar has an audible cold, which is slightly awkward as this season she’s playing two roles.
720 Touched: Basically a series of people-talking-about-their-feelings scenes. The highlight, as often, is Buffy and Spike.
Angel 422: In the final Angel shown while Buffy was on air, a suspiciously handy MacGuffin comes into the lead’s possession.
721 End of Days: The unadulterated *joy* on Giles’s face as he eats a Jaffa Cake!
720 Chosen: Neither a whimper nor a bang, but a lovely summary of what made Buffy the best: drama, comedy, feminism and Joss.
The standout episodes were predictably Hush, The Body and Once More, With Feeling. Best seasons were two, three and five.