Selected from Cult Times Special #18

What is it about Buffy The Vampire Slayer that makes it so captivating? And what possible criteria could we have to select its defining moments?
• Feature by John Binns

The Buffy 100

One of the reasons Buffy The Vampire Slayer has made it to 100 episodes is its ability to create magic ‘moments’ – stand-out scenes and happenings that stick in the memories of anyone who sees them, whether casual viewer or die-hard fan. Some of them are significant for the effect they have on the characters; others are spectacular or shocking in themselves; still more are just plain funny. In the spirit of Channel Four and Graham Norton, then, we thought we’d celebrate 100 episodes of Buffy with a run-down of the top 100 moments.

Here's a small cross-section of the themes and characters involved... For the full 100 moments, covering 35 sumptuously illustrated pages plus a fold-out poster, see the issue.

2 Top Comedy Moments
A Top Buffy / Angel Moment

A Top Willow / Oz / Tara Moment
A Top Xander / Anya Moment

• We haven’t, let’s be quick to point out, slavishly selected one moment for each episode: the idea is to highlight the best bits from the series’ five-year history. Nor are we going to the lengths of ranking these moments from 100 to 1. Many of them are comedy moments, many dramatic or tear-jerking, and many are out to shock; trying to compare them with each other would be a bit of a chalk-and-cheese exercise.

• The format that we’ve chosen to adopt instead lumps moments together according to either the general feel of the scene – comedy moments, shocking moments, dramatic moments, and so on – or the characters they involve. Obviously there’s some overlap between the concepts, and several entries could have been included in more than one section, but hopefully you’ll agree that it all makes some kind of sense.

See also: Part 2 here – Five more moments...


A New Start
• A Top Comedy Moment from Welcome to the Hellmouth


Buffy’s first meeting with Principal Flutie, which begins with him symbolically ripping up the damning report from her previous school, promising a new start. On learning some of the details of her previous behaviour though, specifically the fact that she burned down the school’s gym, he reaches for the tape and starts piecing the report back together before her horrified eyes…

18 more Comedy Moments in this issue

Cult Times Special #18


Willow vs Spike
• A Top Comedy Moment from The Initiative

Spike and Willow


Spike, having escaped from the Initiative’s clutches, seeks out Willow in her room and goes to bite her – only to discover that he’s now incapable of doing it. Despite the still-dangerous vibes Spike gives off and the fact that it’s Willow being threatened (which is always scarier), this is one of those scenes where the comedy just takes over. The double entendres about Spike’s embarrassing inability to perform may be obvious, but in context they work just beautifully.


Letting Go
• A Top Buffy / Angel Moment from Becoming, Part 2


The choice of accompanying music can sometimes be the factor that turns a good scene into a great one, and the final sequence of the second season is a memorable example. Sarah McLachlan’s Full of Grace is a terrifically haunting and evocative song about despair and lost love, and it’s simply ideal for the heart-breaking aftermath of Buffy sending her lover to Hell.

Ending a season like this was a terribly brave decision, really, having apparently killed off one of the most important characters, and with the title character in such an emotionally devastated state that she’s ready to give up on everything about her life she’s previously held dear. In context, McLachlan’s cathartic lyrics – ‘Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go’ – are painfully apt. An absolutely awesome sequence, which even led the Mutant Enemy logo to forego his usual ‘Grrr, argh’ for the more plaintive ‘I need a hug’. Too right.

Angel, becoming darker

More Buffy / Angel / Riley moments in The Buffy 100!

Cult Times
Special #18


Whatever Makes You Happy
• A Top Willow / Oz / Tara Moment from New Moon Rising


This episode is probably Alyson Hannigan’s finest hour as Willow, as she’s forced to make a decision between her budding relationship with Tara and the returning prodigal Oz, whose wolfish tendencies seem (initially, at least) to have abated. Possibly mindful of conservative viewers and advertisers, the series pretty much brushes over the issue of Willow’s sexuality before and after this pivotal episode, but New Moon Rising has no choice but to face it head-on.

The scene that best conveys the confusion Willow feels at that point is the one where she talks to Tara about it, admitting that she and Oz have a lot to talk about, but adding that she’s changed since he left, and that Tara’s pretty important to her now. She feels like her head’s about to explode. Tara, of course, gives her the only advice she can, which is that she should do what makes her happy.

Willow and Tara

More Willow / Oz / Tara moments in
The Buffy 100!

Cult Times
Special #18


Anya Grieves
• A Top Xander / Anya Moment from The Body


Prior to The Body, it’s probably fair to say that Anya’s role was pretty much confined to the delivery of comedy lines, and the occasional bit of ex-demon exposition. The easy thing to do with her in such a heavy and emotive episode as this would be to keep her in the background or find some way to absent her from proceedings completely. Instead Joss Whedon gave her one of the best sequences of the episode, cleverly using her newly-human status to give voice to the basic feelings which the rest of the characters wouldn’t think of expressing.

The scene also gives Emma Caulfield a chance to show some versatility, as Anya gives vent to her anger and confusion that such a senseless, unfair thing could happen to someone like Joyce.

Anya and Xander

More Xander / Anya / Cordelia moments in
The Buffy 100!

  See also: Part 2 here – 5 more moments...

All photos © The WB network / 20th Century Fox TV. Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be seen in the UK on BBC2 (visit the BBC Cult site!) and Sky One

Selected from Cult Times Special #18