Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Rankings

“Seize the moment, ‘cause tomorrow you might be dead.”

– Buffy

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is arguably one of the best shows ever made. That’s a pretty hefty claim, I know, but I sincerely believe it. Joss Whedon really made magic when he created this series and I know, without a doubt, that it will always hold an immensely special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of many others.

That said, there are definitely moments that are better than others…as much as I hate to admit it, there are actually some pretty weak segments – at least when considered in relation to the rest of the series. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I’ve always remained critical of it as well. In fact, my brother and I have spent many an hour discussing the show’s highs and lows. While I’m no expert, I have taken our discussions, feedback from other fans, and my own mullings-over and designated a ranking for each of the sevens seasons.

Please be advised that THERE ARE SPOILERS included in this article. If you haven’t watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, please proceed at your own risk.

7. Season Six

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Six
Photo Source: Huffington Post

This was difficult. I toiled over the number seven ranking quite a bit and it was a very, very close call. In the end, season six won the spot. That isn’t to say that season six isn’t great! There are absolutely amazing moments. “Once More, With Feeling,” the musical episode, was likely one of the best episodes of the series. Dragon Con still shows this on the big screen every other year as a tribute and the room is always packed. Episode eight, “Tabula Rasa,” which aired directly after “Once More, With Feeling” was also exceptional.

These highs, however, don’t make up for the lows. In fact, I’d argue that “Once More, With Feeling” may actually be to blame for them. It was a very expensive episode to make and, as a result, Joss had to get creative with the rest of the season – which was unfortunate because they weren’t even a full third of the way through before the episode aired. “Once More, With Feeling” was the emotional and financial equivalent of a season finale…but then the show went on and on and on afterward…

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • Emotional sad-storm – This is like the epic struggle season. Everyone is suffering. Buffy got snatched out of Heaven, Willow is addicted to magic, Xander leaves Anya at the alter, Giles is so worried about Buffy he moves overseas, Spike is falling in love (which is kind of rough without a soul), Anya is heartbroken and vengeful and, to top it all off, Tara is killed by Warren, of all people! Season six is a hard time for everyone involved…and, as a result, it’s hard to watch. It’s good television, but I get enough of the “real world” on a daily basis. I watch fantasy and science fiction shows to escape.
  • The big-bads are a little lame – The Trio, while occasionally funny, aren’t my favorite. In fact, the only reason this group of nerds makes it to “villain” status is because the Scooby Gang is too busy messing up their own lives. The old Buffy would have squashed their antics over a single episode in season one.
  • While touching, Xander’s heroics don’t quite hit the mark – After Buffy and Giles both fail to defeat Dark Willow, Xander sweeps in to save the day with…love? Okay, it’s definitely touching and sweet and adorable, but it still leaves me feeling a little “eh” at the end. This may be, in part, due to the fact that this is the only finale during which Buffy isn’t the one to save the day, yet another testament to just how tragically F’d this season was.

6. Season Seven

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Seven
Photo Source: Geek and Sundry

First, let’s look at a few good things about season seven before I dive into the negatives which earned it the number six ranking. This is probably one of my favorite series finales, but it’s because Joss does a good job helping the fans reminiscence. The scene Buffy, Giles, Willow, and Xander before the final battle is a direct homage to the way the first episode in season one ended. That symmetry, along with all of the other touching moments, was nice to watch. The episode was also action-packed and did a good job tying up loose ends.

BUT…

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • One-note – Unlike season six with its extreme highs and epic lows, season seven was very one-note. It had few levels and, while they all fell in at “pretty good,” there aren’t any “OMG I LOVE THAT EPISODE” moments. I look back at the season and struggle to pinpoint episodes that were really good and memorable…except for the finale itself.
  • The “Slayerettes” –  On the other hand, here’s an “OMG I HATE THIS” element. The concept of the Potentials is really cool – all the young girls suddenly empowered to kick bad-guy ass? Awesome. Except for one thing: teenagers aren’t actually that fun. No offense to all the teens out there; I wasn’t any fun as a teenage girl either! We’re bratty, selfish, and just don’t know enough about the world yet (but think we know everything!). The Potentials were a huge part of season seven, and I disliked nearly every scene they were in.
  • Willow’s love interest – While all of the Potentials are annoying, Kennedy takes the cake. I dislike her immensely and, unfortunately, because of her relationship with Willow, she’s the one on screen most. As someone who grew to love Tara so much, Kennedy’s presence grated on me the entire time. It wasn’t that Joss was replacing her – I’m happy Willow found someone – I just wish the character hadn’t been so hateful, judgmental, bossy, and full of herself.

5. Season Five

Buffy the Vampire Season Five
Photo Source: Scifi Fantasy Network

I had the hardest time designating rankings for season five, six, and seven. It was a close call, for sure. Ultimately, season five won the better placement because I felt it was important to remember it’s part of the original series. Joss intended season five to be the end. Fox insisted on bringing the show back, but Joss never planned to. I’m also a big fan of Spike in this season, as it becomes quite obvious that he’s falling in love with Buffy. His growth and development over time is one of my favorite elements of the show and this season is chuck-full of it.

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • Dawn – I won’t lie, the biggest reason season five doesn’t rank higher is Dawn. While I applaud Joss for his genius in rewriting the lives of everyone to include her, I think the character is awful…and she’s supposed to be! Dawn is the epitome of a bratty teenage girl and, quite frankly, does anyone want to watch a 22-episode long temper-tantrum? I know I’m not alone in this; not a single person I’ve ever spoken to about the show has actually liked Dawn.
  • Glory isn’t great either – I go back and forth about Glory as a major villain; at the end of the day, I’m pretty ambivalent towards her character. Sometimes her crazy is really enjoyable, and other times she’s just a little too wacky. Glory definitely lands on the more comical side of things, which I think cheapens Buffy’s ultimate sacrifice in the end.

4. Season Four

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Four
Photo Source: PMC Deadline

Interestingly enough, I’d always believed season four was the worst one in the show. As I started assigning ranks, however, I realized that assessment wasn’t fair. There’s a lot this season has to offer, including some absolutely incredible episodes. To name just a few, there’s “Beer Bad,” “Pangs,” “Something Blue,” and “Who Are You?” There’s also the return of Angel, Faith, and Spike at various times throughout the season. Not to mention, “Hush” is arguably one of the best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes ever made. The high moments in this season are bountiful and the lowest ones aren’t actually that low. Additionally, Riley is adorable. Replacing Angel as a romantic interest seemed like a nearly impossible task, but Riley filled those shoes exceptionally well.

And, so, with all this good, why didn’t it didn’t rank higher?

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • It came after season three – Truthfully, season four was doomed from the start because season three was so amazing. Its biggest problem is that it isn’t season three. Sad, but true. The build-up and finale in the previous season was just so great that it completely overshadowed the following episodes.
  • Adam lacks luster –  It also completely overshadowed the following big-bad. Adam, a re-imagining of Frankenstein, has everything a geeky fan should like…and yet, there’s just something missing. What exactly, I’ve never been able to identify. For me, I think it really does come down to the fact that Adam simply can’t stand next to the Mayor without looking like a fool.

3. Season One

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season One
Photo Source: Tuning into Scifi TV

Oh, season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, how I love you! As the birth of an absolutely amazing series, the first season absolutely deserves a spot in the top three. It may not show the series at its best, but the nostalgia alone warrants a decently high ranking. Additionally, while all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is quotable, season one is home to some of the most memorable statements. A few of my favorites include:

  1. “Well…when I’m with a boy I like, it’s hard for me to say anything cool, or, or witty. Or at all. I-I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away.” – Willow
  2. “Gee, can you vague that up for me?” – Buffy
  3. “Well, I gotta look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school.” – Buffy
  4. “Morbid much?” – Cordelia
  5. “Every school has ’em. See, you start a new school, you get your desks, some blackboards and some mean kids.” – Xander
  6. “Don’t you have an elsewhere to be?” – Cordelia
  7. “If the apocalypse comes, beep me.” – Buffy

 

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • It’s dated – The biggest problem season one faces is that it doesn’t exactly date well. Some elements, sure, but styles have certainly changed since this season was aired. While amazing, I always worry that new fans will be off-put by the wardrobes and older references.
  • The Master – I’m also not a huge fan of the Master. I understand why he is the way he is and I get why Joss made him the first big-bad, but he lacks the edge so many of the other villains have. For me, he simply isn’t as scary as he’s made out to be.

2. Season Two

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Two
Photo via hypebae.com

Season two and three are both great, so it really comes down to which is better. There’s a lot this season has to offer, including the introduction of Oz, who becomes a serious fan favorite. His unique mix of sarcasm and sincerity make for a delightful TV-watching experience. The reason season three wins out, however, has more to do with how memorable the episodes actually are. Apart from a few key ones, like “Halloween,”Innocence,” and “I Only Have Eyes for You,” the individual episodes can’t compete with those from season three. While the overall story is amazing, the lack of stand-out episodes causes it to just fall short of excellent.

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • Spike and Drusilla play so well together – That said, it’s important to note that Spike makes an absolutely stellar villain. Add into the mix how well he and Drusilla play off of one another and it’s impossible not to enjoy this season.
  • Angelus is fantastic – I love Angel, but I love Angelus. He’s a truly terrible creature, pure and simple. Even at Spike’s worst, he doesn’t come close to the evil inside of Angelus (which is, in part, why I like Spike more). The tragedy he causes – like the death of Jenny – is intense and he does it all with a smile. As a big-bad, he’s quite phenomenal.
  • Xander is a tool – Okay, so this is a personal peeve. In the season finale, Xander knows that Willow is trying to return Angel’s soul…and he says nothing! Instead, he lets jealousy get the better of him and ultimately causes Buffy immense pain. His decision is selfish and it’s never addressed appropriately.

1. Season Three

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Three
Photo Source: Nerdist

At the end of the day, season three has everything. All the major characters fans love, all the witty dialogue, all the teenage love angst, and really bad-ass villain to top it off. Seriously, when it comes to good television, it’s hard to beat the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some of the highlights include “Band Candy,” “Lover’s Walk,” “The Wish,” and “Gingerbread.” Additionally, we see The First for the first (har-har) time in “Amends,” which shows how well Joss does at tying story elements together. Frankly, when looking at the episode list, there isn’t a single one that isn’t enjoyable and memorable. That’s quite a feat and is a large part of why season three deserve the top ranking.

Additional Reasons for the Ranking:

  • Angel is back – Who wasn’t happy to see Angel back in season three? He was such an important part of the series and his return, especially after such a heartbreaking death in season two, really tugs at the heartstrings. His presence allows for great growth and development in Buffy, which is simultaneously real and captivating.
  • Faith’s struggle is real – Faith is an amazing character. She’s also troubled and incredibly dynamic. You never quite know what she’s going to do, and that makes for a great character. It’s also something so many young women can relate to. Eliza Dushku actually spoke about how the role helped her find herself during a convention panel once, and it’s the same for many fans.
  • The Mayor – If I had to sum up why season three is the best in two words, those words would be “The Mayor.” When all is said and done, The Mayor is, hands down, the best villain in the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. He’s dynamic, sincere, funny, compassionate, and even loving…oh, and also evil…but it isn’t a hateful evil! He deserves credit for that!

Author: Amanda Bowyer

I am an author living in Myrtle Beach with my husband, Ryan, and three dogs. I have a passion for sci-fi, fantasy, and all things geek/nerd. Check out my publications at www.AmandaBowyer.com - it's where weird becomes awesome! You can also hit me up on Twitter @alvosloh

2 thoughts

  1. You like Buffy way too much for your negatives to sound very negative. LOL Personally, I never saw what people had against Kennedy. She made perfectly good sense to me, raised as she was to believe she would be the one and that someday she would be the slayer and then she is face to face with the Slayer. No wonder she has a chip on her shoulder, the same way Kendra did.

  2. Having said that, season three is my favorite, too, for much the same reasons, plus Vampire Willow! The odd thing is, I didn’t see it anywhere near when I was supposed to. The would be g/f who got me watching Buffy started me on S4 because S5 was her favorite but I had to see S4 first to make sense of S5, but then we stopped dating before even finishing S4, yet I kept on watching 4, then 5, then 1, 2, and 3, and then 6 and 7.

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