Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the finest supernatural dramas to have ever aired. The series – which also had some comedic elements and was aimed mainly at teenagers and young adults – still has a huge following to this day.
Airing from 1997 until 2003 across 144 episodes, it saw Buffy Summers becoming the titular vampire slayer – bestowed with the strength to defeat the forces of evil. It followed the efforts of both her and her friends to fight vampiric forces, and boasted seven brilliant seasons. This piece will rank them all.
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7. Season Six
There were no poor seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but one has to be considered the “worst” – and that’s season six.
Following Buffy’s death at the end of season five, season six starts with her friends using a robot replica of her to make evil beings believe that their hometown of Sunnydale is still protected by the slayer. However, when the “Buffybot” is destroyed, they opt to use magic to bring the real Buffy back to life.
This season deals with an abundance of complex issues, such as money, betrayal, bereavement and addiction – and it’s the latter two that trigger the season’s big story. When Buffy’s friend Willow Rosenberg (pictured) becomes addicted to dark magic, the loss of her partner Tara Maclay results in her attempting to destroy the world in her grief, prompting Buffy and her friends to combat her.
With a gloomier tone than the other seasons and some extremely jarring twists, this season didn’t hit the mark as much as the others. But the musical episode “Once More, with Feeling” is an absolute treat.
6. Season Four
Season four saw Buffy and her friends taking a big step into adulthood, as the slayer and Willow enrolled at UC Sunnydale and Xander Harris entered the world of employment.
But the main story of the season involved the emergence of a top-secret military installation based beneath the university. Led by Maggie Walsh – and having the likes of Buffy’s love interest Riley Finn in their ranks – the Initiative was a U.S. Government agency tasked with the capture and research of demons. Their Frankenstein’s monster-like creation, Adam (pictured) – a mish-mash of human, demon and robotic parts – provided the major physical opposition for Buffy.
After a shaky start, this season ended particularly well, with an epic final battle against Adam and a superb dream-like (and very unexpected) season finale. The episode “Hush” – in which the population of Sunnydale lose their voices courtesy of the eerie demons known as “the Gentlemen” – is one of the most creative in the entire show.
5. Season Seven
The final season of Buffy was certainly the grandest in term of scale, and introduced the concept of ‘potential slayers’ – girls all around the world who might be next in line to be called as the slayer in the event of Buffy’s death.
The big bad was the First Evil (pictured) – a being manifested from all the evil in existence. It is non-corporeal, but can assume the appearance of any deceased individual. Buffy’s unnatural resurrection caused a ripple in reality that allows it to begin tipping the balance between good and evil. Willow ultimately turns all of the potentials into fully-fledged slayers to defeat its army of Turok-Han – an ancient and powerful sub-species of vampire.
This season is actually really good – it’s just that four were even better. It’s as funny and subversive as the show ever was- and packs an immensely emotional punch in the finale, as the Scoobies suffer losses, but Buffy realizes she has her whole life ahead of her. The episode “Conversations with Dead People” is a standout.
4. Season Five
Season five sees the mysterious introduction of Buffy’s sister Dawn, who it turns out is a ‘Key’, capable of granting the demon Glorificus access back to the hell realm where she can regain her full power. Dawn was implanted into the Summers family, as if she had always been there – courtesy of memory-altering magic – by the Key’s protectors, as they believed Buffy could keep her safe.
Buffy manages to stop, but at the sacrifice of her own life, giving the season some heavy feels.
This is an incredibly emotional season, acted with great maturity by its predominantly young cast. Glory is one of the best and most powerful villains in the show’s history, but it’s the loss of Buffy’s mother that hit hardest – and the episode “The Body” is utterly brilliant and incredibly hard-hitting. It’s up there with the finest in television history.
3. Season Two
The second season of Buffy saw an increase in the emotional stakes, as Buffy’s love interest – the ensouled vampire Angel – loses his soul, turns evil and attempts to destroy the world. We also meet another slayer for the first time – Kendra, who was called up as a slayer when Buffy briefly died in season one.
But the main villains are Spike and Drusilla (pictured) – two vicious vampires from Angel’s past who arrive in Sunnydale specifically to kill the slayer. Spike would, of course, go on to be a major character in the series as a whole.
This was the season in which Buffy really found its feet in terms of where it wanted to be, expertly balancing the supernatural element of the show with the typical high-school experience. The two-part season finale – “Becoming (Parts 1 & 2)” – was the season highlight, with Buffy forced to kill Angel to save the world, resulting in her leaving town out of grief.
2. Season One
The first season of Buffy definitely remains one of the best. It sees the titular slayer arriving in Sunnydale with her mother, having been kicked out of her previous school in Los Angeles for the destruction she caused while secretly slaying.
In Sunnydale, she meets her Watcher Rupert Giles, as well as friends Willow and Xander – all of whom go on to fight by her side throughout the series. The big bad vamp here is the Master (pictured) – an ancient vampire who plans to kill the slayer and reopen the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.
This season expertly laid the groundwork for everything that came after it, really giving viewers a feel for the show’s vibe and the main characters’ roles. Buffy’s juggling of her slaying with her normal life was a brilliant metaphor for the complexities of being a teenager. The first episode – “Welcome to the Hellmouth” – remains the show’s most iconic.
1. Season Three
Season three of Buffy is undoubtedly the best one. It sees the slayer returning to Sunnydale after attempting to start a new life in Los Angeles following the death of Angel in season two. She reunites with her mother and friends and recommences her slaying duties.
The season’s big bad is the otherwise affable Richard Wilkins – the Mayor of Sunnydale. Having already become immortal due to a deal with some demons, Wilkins has a plan to “ascend” to become a giant snake-like demon. Things are made more complicated for Buffy and her pals when another slayer – the rogue Faith (also pictured) – joins forces with the Mayor, viewing him as the father she never had.
This season is a string of great episodes, as the show perfected its formula at the third attempt. Wilkins and Faith were a perfect villainous duo, every cast member is on top form and Buffy becomes a lot more independent. Particular highlights include “Helpless” – an episode in which Buffy is forced to fight a vampire without her powers on her 18th birthday – and the two-part finale “Graduation Day Parts 1 & 2”.