Over its seven-season run, Buffy the Vampire Slayer pulled off some astonishing feats – particularly when you consider that when it premiered on March 10th, 1997, it would be years before the current “golden age of television” would be in full swing. It was impressive enough that Joss Whedon’s creation for the WB network managed to be anything other than a schlocky joke (given its title), or a campy genre piece (given its Girl v. Endless Parade of Hellspawn premise). Instead, it exceeded expectations and then some, bringing wrenching pathos, meditations on life and death, examinations of power and responsibility, formal innovations like a musical episode and a nearly silent episode, and kick-ass action seamlessly combined with biting humor to the small screen. A binge-watching classic, long before anyone thought to coin the term, was born.
And Sarah Michelle Gellar proved the perfect muse for Whedon, a delicately pretty girl with staredown of steel and solid acting chops that matured further over the show’s 145 episodes. Along with her group of slayer-helping friends, including future stars such as How I Met Your Mother‘s Alyson Hannigan and Robot Chicken‘s Seth Green among others, Buffy and the Scooby Gang would win over an intense fanbase, respect from critics and academics, and a place on just about every TV-canon round-up written in the listicle age.
Picking only 10 great episodes of the series is harder than stopping a season-finale apocalypse, but here’s a stab at recognizing some of Buffy’s best. [Spoilers obviously ahead.] Happy 20th anniversary, kid. You saved the world. A lot.