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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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November 25 2009

20 classic tv shows: the season we pick as each show's peak. chooses season 2 for Buffy.

It depends on my mood whether Season 2 or Season 6 is my favorite. I think there are some good arguments to be made that Season 2 is the best in terms of plot construction, but for sheer emotional turmoil for the whole gang, Season 6 has to be the best.
Season 2 got me addicted to Buffy but I think season 3 was the show's peak closely followed by 2 and 5.
I think I would pick S3 for Buffy. My other favourites are S4 & 6, both are also are full of brilliance, but they have some flaws that are difficult to overlook like Riley and the bad parts of the Inniative arc for S4 and the magic = drug adiction Willow arc in S6.
it was all good.
Personally, I think season 2 is still too early to call it the peak. I can see arguments for season 3, but my vote is without a doubt season 5.
I would probably go for season 3 too, although S2 would be a close second.
3,2,5,6,4,7,1. Today that is (and only on average - every single season had some stand-out individual episodes).

(I agree with the blurb itself - which says Buffy "came into its own" in S2 - but not with the title which says "Peak")
Well, this week, my favorite is season 4--for my annual viewing of Pangs on turkey day. But, generally, I'd pick s5 as the best, with s3 next, although I tend to watch s6 more often than either. s2 is in the middle for me, with s1 being my least favorite and rarely watched.
Perhaps series 2 is where the show hit its stride and series 3 is where it reached its peak (albeit with many good moments still to come).

As well as the ususal great characters and episodes there was a detailed exploration of what it means to be a slayer. Not only is Buffy contrasted with Faith but we see the different approaches of the watchers (and the ordeal that Buffy has to undergo for reaching 18 starts to investigate concerns as to the origin and control of the slayer that are still being addressed by the time of Get It Done in the final series). We even get to see what life would have been like without Buffy in Sunnydale (and how different Buffy might have been) in The Wish.
S5 > S2 > S6 > S3 > S4 > S7 > S1 for me.
I agree that season 2 is where Buffy hit its stride. The first season I find charming now, but disliked at the time; even a lot of season 2 I don't like, but there are some great, powerful episodes. I would say that season 5 was a dramatic peak, though season 6 is far and away my favorite.

I know a lot of people liked the high school setting of the early seasons (though I confess that was a barrier for me getting into the show), but even still I would say 3 was MUCH stronger than 2 in almost every way (though the S2 finale makes me cry each and every time).
Ah, we're doing this again. Always amusing :).

For me: 2,3,5,1,6,7,4.

Four was definitely my least favorite. It was a season of inappropriate character comedy and slapstick (suddenly we were laughing at characters instead of with them), with the unbalanced Riley/Initiative/Adam major arc and the introduction of chipped!Spike, which I never completely got and annoyed me to no end - especially in S4. Redeeming quality: it did give us Hush and a few genuinely funny episodes.

Season seven was messy in execution, but did have a lot to love. It was perhaps, arguably, weaker than season four, but I did prefer it despite its faults, for the bleak, defeated atmosphere. However: the arc was handled messily, big dramatic points were reduced to pretty much unimportant by later episodes, etcetera. It could've been a classic season with a bit more work - in the end, it felt underdeveloped.

Season six was very good as a bleak character expose and as a reflection on growing up. It was weaker in its lack of direction for most season (however well that did happen to work with the 'lost' and 'drifting' scoobies) and it featured that terrible 'addiction made too literal' Willow magic arc, shattering the usual Buffy policy to use magical/fantastical metaphor. The final episodes were a roller coaster ride, though and partially redeem this.

Season one is, I think, underrated. Yes: there were some creaky episodes and looking purely at quality and end-result, it's arguably the least effective season overall. However: Buffy did start very strong, having a clear and effective mission statement, a very enjoyable pilot and a few good-to-great episodes in 'Angel', 'Nightmares' and 'Prophecy Girl'. I fell in love with the show in this season, it leads seamlessly into season two and I prefer the creaky show in those days to the glossier-if-bleaker later years.

Season five, then, featured one of the best story-arcs of the show, building it at a very natural pace and having the time to feature good stand-alones. Coming of the disappointment that was season four, the show refocused on the mystical instead of the technological (which, let's face it, didn't work), featured one of the best 'Big Bad's of the show's run in Glory, had the gutsy introduction of Dawn as little sis and an excellent combination of bleak drama and supernatural elements. It was a season of a show at the peak of its confidence, doing all the things that made it great and enjoyable in the first place.

Season three was probably the show's high point. However much I loved the show in its later seasons and without denying the power of the theme of growing up and coming into one's own, the show never had a better working metaphor than 'Highschool is hell'. It was the mission statement that made the show tick and it was executed to perfection here. They literally survived High School - and not without a fight. This season sums up the essence of the show to me. Unmissable television.

Which brings us to season two. Despite the fact that I've placed it on top, three probably is more consistent and better overall. However, it's season two that moved - and moves - me the most. The Angel/Angelus arc was the one that was played most closely to Buffy's heart in the entire show. The threat this season was very, very personal and therefore I, as a viewer, cared more about the story arc than ever before. Also: the step up in quality was huge, with the show coming into its own and genuinely surprising me quite a few times. It features 'Surprise/Innocence', 'Passion' and 'Becoming 1&2'. It's certainly the season I've rewatched the most. Heck, I even love the weaker episodes (Bag Eggs and Go Fish, I'm looking at you). There's no doubt about it: this is my favorite season of Buffy and the one which transformed me from a dedicated viewer enjoying the show, to someone who would post on a place such as this, with Buffy becoming my first serious fandom. Love.
Season 2 was great. Season Five though I would say was better. Maybe. Love them both.
Also loved season Four for the comedy. Which I read above turned someone else away. And I loved the Primevel ending. Different strokes for sure.
I re-watch Season 6 the most often, but I stop before As You Were so it can't get an overall season win from me.

Most of the episodes of Season three I haven't re-watched in years. There are some wonderful individual episodes in Season three, but I didn't like Faith, and I was incredibly bored with the B/A angst. Just so over it by that point. Still, episodes like Doppelgangland, The Wish, The Zeppo, Prom, Lover's Walk, had some wonderful wonderful stuff.
Great episodes in all the seasons of course. For that matter great moments in the least of episodes.
Every time I watch the series I come away with a different season favorite. For a long time is was season 2, mainly I think because of Angelus and Spike showing up. Then I loved 4 because of the humor, but 6 really hits me hard. Who has not had an affair like the Spuffy one, great sex, but it is so bad for you. Season 7 is great because that is where you see love growing between Buffy and Spike..I know about half of you will say no way, but I saw it and Joss put that one very short scene of Buffy coming into the basement so viewers could make up their own mind. I see a night of sweet love In this season Spike becomes the true champion because he fought for his soul, unlike Angel who fought to keep from getting his back. I think Buffy was the best series ever on TV, it had every human emotion and I have watched it over and over and every time I see something new. TV at its best.
Ah, we're doing this again.
Really? We've done this before? :)

I can never pick a season. All so different--so much to love in each one. Probably 3 if it's one of those going-to-a-desert-island-where-you-can-only-have-one-DVD-set situations, although many of my favorite arcs (as well as episodes, of course) are in other seasons--the Buffy/Angel story in 2, the Willow/Oz/Tara story, the Buffy/Spike story in 7...And even though Season 1 is my least favorite overall, it always makes me happy to watch the first episode and the last.
5 > 3 > 2 > 6 > 7 > 1 > 4
i love them all!

But i think it was that by season 2, you were either a Buffy fan or not. Season 3, it hit it's peak. And that season 5 was the best. Imo.
Interesting that absolutely no-one has even mentioned season 8.
For me (admittedly a life-long comic fan) it rates higher than seasons 6, 7 and 1.

3 was a machine! They were firing on all pistons.

I wonder if anyone's ever found a perfect match for their season ranking.
I think I agree with Night On My Side that Season 2 is when Buffy hit it's stride, but season 3 is most certainly its peak for me. The whole season is fantastic, and I loved all the guest characters (especially Faith). The Mayor is likely my favorite villain, and this is the last season with the whole gang plus Wesley. Many of my favorite episodes are from this season.

Edited to add my rankings as of now to try to find a match :P

3 (by far, for previously stated reasons but mostly for Faith!)
5 (I adore Glory and Clare Kramer)
2 (a very solid season, plenty of bad Spike)
1 (such a classic! the hair, the outfits, the make up... just fantastic)
and then
6, 4, 7

[ edited by Smooshed Face Lion on 2009-11-26 06:28 ]
My feelings are quite similar to those expressed by GVH above; however, I would probably switch the order a bit to:

2, 5, 3, 6, 7, 1, 4

I watched all the eps out of order, so I suppose it was season 6 that made me a fan, but season 2 made me a die-hard fan.
For me, S5 is the show's peak with S2 a close second, pretty much for all the reasons already laid out. I'd put S1 last, if only because the show was still finding its footing and, at a half season, didn't have the time to develop a more fully fleshed-out and nuanced arc (I still think it's a very fun season, though, and it's always tickled me that Walter "A Fifth of Beethoven" Murphy scored it - plus: Neidermeyer!).

As for the other four, I couldn't rank them if only because they're such different beasts. I'm glad to see a bit of love for S4; I can understand why people (including Joss, I gather) aren't too enchanted with it, but I've always loved its particular flavor of unevenness and even ridiculousness and its unorthodox structure (starts by moving the "high school is hell" metaphor to college, morphs into a show about the military, then morphs again into a Frankenstein tale). While S2 and S3 showed me how much the show was capable of, this was actually the season that made me a believer. Which probably makes me someone you wouldn't want to be alone with for an extended period.
Season 2 was epic, but season 3 was more consistent. I wouldn't want to say peak either though, because some of the best episodes were yet to come.
I find I can't watch the show except in order and all the way through, so much do I love it, and so to an extent this question resembles asking "which chapter of your favorite book is the best?"

So I follow what I call the suspension bridge model: I see two huge peaks in S2 and S6, with the other seasons rising and falling between them with low points at both ends (1 and 7) and the middle (4) -- but "low" is relative when the bridge itself is so generally high, and the whole thing carries the story forward.
According to me...

3. The most graceful complete season arc. Faith, perhaps second only to Spike, is the series' most fascinating supplementary character both in and of herself and with respect to her effect on the core group.

5. The most effective marriage of epic story and storytelling.

2. By the midpoint, becoming (Thank you...) quintessential in its vampiriness if not fully mature.

4. Hysterical and I think a necessary and underappreciated break from the ominousosity...ness. Also foamy.

7. 'cause of the ending.

1. 'cause of the beginning.

6. 'cause though there's always something genius to be found, here those bits were fewer and farther between, and they were interspersed among some very lazy, clunky, and often extremely disappointing lines, scenes, episodes, and arcs.

As for season 8, though it's like comparing apples and other kinds of apples, and though I'm mostly thoroughly enjoying it despite a few huge plot point misgivings, I'd place it somewhere in the bottom four.

Addendum: Is it too late to switch 1 and 6? Seriously? Oh man...

The thing is, I never rewatch season 1 eps, so it should really go in the bottom slot. It's just that season 6 was, for me, so disappointing compared to what I felt it should have been/achieved, that it stands out in my mind. But, removing this factor, season 6 should be bumped up a notch, particularly in light of OMWF.

[ edited by Brett on 2009-11-25 19:27 ]
Season 2 was definitely a strong point and won me over to the show. To be precise, it was the death of Jenny Calendar, rather than Angel's transformation. That just left me completely blown away by the shock of a show killing of a fairly major character and doing it so callously. From that point on you know that anything could happen. In contrast, Angel losing his soul may have come as a surprise, but it also left room for a reset button. When Jenny died I knew there was no such button on this show.

But it is season 6 that was truly brilliant in my eyes. I'm so glad to see many people here liking it too, as it is usually the black sheep of the family. Probably one of the darkest seasons of television I had ever seen. For a show that was often considered to be a teen show by those not in the know, it is an exceptionally daring piece of work and it become a great journey into a dark place. Characters took very different turns, but it never seemed out of place. The Spuffy relationship was nasty on many levels and really gave new depth to their characters, but both became pretty tragic. Xander's family life, which had always previously been a bit of a running joke, was really confronted, as well as the profound affects on him. Many hate the Willow arc, but I wouldn't say it was out of character for her. The use of magic to make everything alright didn't seem out of place and it came from a place of caring for others.

If I had to rank the seasons, I would probably go with:

6, 3, 2, 4, 7, 5, 1

I think I really need to re-watch season 5. The love it is getting on here is something I haven't really shared. It had many high points (The Gift, The Body, Fool for Love) but as a whole I never was that fussed. Glory never interested me, Dawn was a bit too whiny (not that I share the common hate for her, I liked her in the next two seasons, particularly 7), and I never liked the Riley/Buffy relationship. The major arcs of the season, excluding Buffy's mum, never really gelled with me as much as the other seasons.

Season 7 may have had problems, most notably Xander absence, but I was always intrigued by the overall plot, even when it took missteps. I remember watching the season back on DVD for the first time and being surprised at just how much I was enjoying it, where I had previously considered it as possibly the weakest. I also rank 4 slightly high than I probably should, just because there are so many individual episodes that I really love. I expect people would probably be surprised by some of those episodes (Living Conditions, Pangs, Where the Wild Things Are) but they are episodes that always make me laugh (I would also say Where the Wild Things Are is one of the scariest episodes of the whole series, just behind the obvious ones.)

Can't really comment on season 8, as I've only read the first 4 collections (up to issue 20?). Enjoying it so far, but certainly doesn't compare to the TV series.
"I wonder if anyone's ever found a perfect match for their season ranking." - batmarlowe

There are 5040 possible rankings (neglecting ties), and I'm pretty sure more Whedon fans out, presumably!

Current ranking: 6, 5, 3, 4, 2, 7, 1.

(I waffle on whether putting 6 first really makes sense, because I don't like the Willow midseason addiction arc, but her end-of-season rampage resonates a lot with me. And the rest of it is fantastic.)

Don't know about 8 yet. I do like it.
being surprised at just how much I was enjoying it

I have to say that I often have this experience with BTVS. I put in an episode thinking "Meh, do I really want to watch this?" because I think of it as a not-so-great one, and I end up surprised by how much I enjoy it.
Okay, just because everyone else is:

2 > 3 > 5 > 4 > 6 > 7 > 1

The middle part of season 2, especially when Angel turns bad, is just so strong. It was the first time I really felt sympathy for Buffy and what she has to go through as a person, not just a slayer.

As an aside, I'm surprised they included Mad Men on their list already. The series is far from over, and one can argue that it's only looking to get better considering how last season ended. Great series. I just wouldn't call it a classic yet.

3 > 2 = 5 > 4 > 1 = 7 = 8 = 6.
After much deliberation, I think I have to say:

3, 2, 5, 6, 4, 1, 7, with 3 and 2 switching places depending on my mood.

If I give reasons, this post will probably end up the length of your average encyclopedia. So I will stop here.
2 got me hooked, and that's when I officially started watching. I remember balling my eyes out at the end of Becoming Part 2. But depending on the day, I go back and forth on which one is my favorite. 2, 3 and 5 all take the top spot most often. I know 7 isn't a popular choice, but I always love it because of how it ends--and The First is one of my favorite Big Bads. But then there's The Mayor, and Glory, and Angelus and--oh, it's impossible to pick. 4, 6, and 1 never end up on top for me (though I love them all, they just don't stand out as much in my mind). And, though I love Season 8, I still can't lump it in with the rest of the series. It feels very separate to me. Good, but separate.
Season 2 has to be my favourite. I was a latecomer to the series and was borrowing the boxsets off a friend. After watching s2, I went out and bought the entire series. It was just incredibly moving and so well written/acted. The later episodes with Buffy and Angel(us) make me cry every single time. I've watched this season through so many times. And the episode Passion, wow.
I do love season 6 though, just because it's so real and easy to relate to, we all go through periods where we feel disconnected and it would be so easy to just give up. It just captured the whole "life sucks but we deal". Plus, the Buffy and Spike scenes were hot. And OMWF is amazing.

2>6>3>5>4>7>1 for now.
3 > 2 > 5 > 1 > 4 > 7 > 6

S2 is great, but still has a few "Bad Eggs." S3 is the Platonic ideal of a BtVS season.

Season 5 just gets me every time. Season 6 is what could have been the best season, but I believe that is the one with great ideas but (for Buffy's standards) poor execution.

That being said, they are all excellent seasons with their individual ups and downs.
So little season seven love.

For me, that's when story really took over. In earlier seasons, story sometimes took a back seat to character. That's probably why I'm an Angel fan more than a Buffy fan.


Oh, how f***ing predictable that they'd choose the first (and least interesting) season of Lost.
2 and 3 got me addicted to it, but Tara/Willow in season 4 made me completely view the series in a new light, plus, it was hilarious. Buffy had the humour going and Angel had the darkness. It also had "Restless". That being said, I've come to the conclusion that season 5 is my favourite season. With 6 ever so close behind. 7 did hit things very well for me and felt like a close for the series and I can't ask for much more than that from a final season. It was epic most of the time, depressing (which I love) and brought back the "high school is hell" metaphor for a swan song, which was nice.

So... Yep. For some of that juicy epic feeling of S7, humour of S4, character stuff of S3 (et al) and its new level of sadness especially introduced for S5 - S5 is my fav. Only "The Gift" and "Chosen" make me breathless for the entire 40 minutes.
How about everyones ranking of the Angel seasons?

Personally, I find them much easier to rank than Buffy's. Perhaps because I've only watched them properly more recently, or because the range in quality is more apparent, but for whatever reason I can more clearly choose my favourites. The order would be:

3, 2, 5, 1, 4

Both 3 and 2 have fantastic arcs, which really contain some Whedon's best character work, particularly with Wesley. Would rank 3 just ahead of 2 due to many of the standalone episodes not being up to much, bar some fantastic early ones. It also felt a little light on a really direction for the season, which ended in a rather disconnected finale. 3 seemed much more focused throughout.

I really, really liked the start of season 5, but found my interest dissipating towards the end. Again, I felt like it was a focus problem. The final episodes were clearly rushed to finish the series, with the big bads appearing suddenly and with little build up. Having said this, I have actually only watched it once, a few months ago. This also meant I knew the big moments. I knew the whole Fred story before going in, so the impact was lost slightly. Still, a great season though.

1 was mediocre, for the most part. There was some really fantastic episodes, such as the two-part Faith episode, Prodigal, etc, but the whole was lacking (seemingly a running theme with Angel.) There was definite potential and it had the tone down much better than the first season of Buffy, but it really lacked strong purpose, which I felt emerged fantastically in season 2.

I rank 4 so lowly, mainly because of the Cordelia storyline. Really bad and horrible use of a character that had been developed so wonderfully for most of the series. In reality, the downward slope for her begun with the Angel romance (she isn't even blonde!), but this is where it really plunged to new depths. Still some great moments in the season; unlike some, I like Angelus and the return of Faith was great.

Anyone else?
My Angel ranking would be
I can't really remember much of 2 to be honest, and although 4 had such a great arc with Angel turning back into Angelus and Faiths return etc, I absolutely hated the Jasmine storyline and how badly Cordelias character was used.
3 also had a great arc and I loved Darlas storyline as well as Wesley turning bad.
I wish I could put 1 higher because IWRY always makes me cry, and the Faith two-parter was really good.
5 ranks highest because it has, imo, the best episodes of the season: A Hole in the World, Not Fade Away, You're Welcome, etc. And Amy Ackers acting in this season was phenomenal with Freds death and change to Illyria. I sometimes forgot they were played by the same person.
Angel is far more difficult to rank by season, as its structure was different from Buffy's. Though I loved Wes's character arc in the later seasons, I really did not like the whole Connor thing. I hated how they handled Cordelia. Hated Darla's return, which seemed absolutely pointless. There are many late episodes I like, even though I didn't quite like the overall arc of the season. So, so difficult.

As for the dislike for Buffy's Season 7, I thought it was quite good, for the most part. The show suffered for not having Giles around as much. Season seven didn't offer the kind of new challenges and venues the characters needed. Most of their development was finished in season six, and season seven was simply too small for them (I felt). But I enjoyed the story more than several other seasons (mostly the disconnected and confused season four).

[ edited by ern on 2009-11-25 21:26 ]
Angel is an incredibly weird show because I find myself hating the Cordy and even more than that, the Jasmine arc so much more than anything else ever on TV. I literally couldn't stop cringing when watching that. I try to forget about it. I also sometimes disliked Connor. I loved the build-up to that storyline, but I definitely didn't really take to the end of it (and again, Cordy was weird). However, its offered me some spectacular viewing. I enjoyed Groo and the introduction of Fred (whom I was waiting for for pretty much an entire two seasons - latecomer). I loved the Buffy-central Angel episodes in S1 and 5 was such a strong season in my opinion. Whether that's because its less arc-y, because I seemingly disliked the arc-y developments on Angel or because it was nice to see them having fun after so long. Buffy knew how to keep its characters semi-happy and positive, especially with characters like Anya. Angel failed to work on the comedy and I found myself becoming quite mopey, like the characters in 3 and 4.
2,3, 5, 6, 1, 7

2, 3, 1 = 5, 4
I think I have favorite episodes and favorite villains rather than favorite seasons. And season two has Angelus and Spike and Drusilla. But season three has Faith, and she was the most interesting villain because she kept on shimmering between good and bad. Season five had Glory, who consistently cracked me up. Rank, I cannot.
Season 2 was a great season, as a matter of fact, Passion was my favorite episode, but l love all the seasons of Buffy esp season 6 and l respect EW's choice.
I've never been able to choose between seasons 2 & 3. I just rewatched season 3 a day or two ago and at this exact second, due to how recently I watched it, season 3 just edges past 2. The introduction of the Mayor, Faith, & Wesley, the Scoobies graduating, even silliness like "Homecoming"...a superb season of television all around. As for seasonal rankings:


Angel: 3,5,2,4,1.

With both Buffy and Angel, it's very hard, for me, to rank the seasons in an absolute "objective" manner. Suffice it to say, I'd say that for Buffy, 2-6 are "the best," with 7 and 1 very good but considerably weaker; similarly for Angel 2, 3, and 5.

S1: The weakest year for the show, due to a strong lack of focus and several weak one-offs. Angel's character doesn't really come into focus until the Faith episodes, Doyle's death and Wesley's introduction were clearly unplanned and somewhat awkwardly inserted into the show. Quite a few good episodes, but very few great ones until the end of the season, where, besides the hackneyed Gunn introduction episode (which still has some strong elements), the show gains some sort of focus, mostly from Faith. For me personally I think it's the weakest year of M.E.--which isn't to say I don't like it, but it takes time pulling itself together.

S2: The Darla episodes, especially up to "Reunion," are some of the series' strongest, and the darkness in the Angel arc is a thing of beauty, culminating in the series' definitive existential statement. But the episodes between "Redefinition" and "Reprise," though there are only three of them, don't really pay off the darkness of Angel the way they maybe could, and while the supporting cast's struggles are amusing they don't amount to as much as they should--Wesley's gun wound notwithstanding. Particular problem area is Gunn, whose decision to stick with Angel et al. doesn't feel organic--unless, of course, one takes his decision as actively running away from his responsibilities, one step to taking an easier road that will lead him down to season five. Maybe. Not sure. The Pylea arc has some good moments but is still weirdly anticlimactic.

And...well, I'm out of energy. I have lots to say about the other seasons as well. Suffice it to say that no seasons are perfect, but damned if they aren't pretty amazing.
I'm almost through yet another complete Buffy re-watch right now, and would say...


... which is pretty much the same as it's always been for me. I think season 3 and 5 are a step ahead of the rest. No other season can match their consistency - I don't think there's a truly bad episode in either season (perhaps Dead Man's Party, but that aside...). Every other season has low moments - the half dozen dodgy stand-alones of season 2, the relatively weak main arc of season 4, etc etc. It all gets pretty close between those five season for ordering though. I love them all.

Angel is easier. Season 5 is just about the best season of television I've ever seen. Season 3 and 2 aren't too far behind. Season 4 was going great guns until the whole Cordelia pregnancy thing messed things up somewhat, which was a shame, but those first 8-10 episodes are pretty mind-blowing.. and put it above season 1, which is a bit all over the place, but has a great Pilot and is strong in it's final third.

So 5>3>2>4>1, then.

Can't wait to re-watch Angel again.
Season 2 certainly had it's high points - Passion, Becoming, (especially pt2)- but I always prefer the relative maturity of the post-high school seasons.

As a late comer to the show, I watched in re-runs on TNT and FX, but in sequence. Then bought the set and started from the beginning, blessedly commercial free.

My favorites line-up has never really changed; 6,4,5,7,2,3 and 1.

I understand why season6 is either love it or hate it, but I've never understood the lack of season4 love.
Not only does it have at least three of the pretty much universally top rated eps of the series (Hush, Restless and Pangs) but it has IMO the most coherent, artfully crafted story arc of all the seasons.

From the handling of Buffy's adjustment to college life - a perfect continuation of the painfully ironic theme of "Buffy handles being the slayer better than she handles real life", to the incredible change-up season finale (defeating the Big Bad as the next-to-last ep and the brilliant, foreshadowing-rich Restless as the final ep), this season was pretty much perfection.

Spike is my favorite character in the show, but I had no problem with him playing comic relief in S4. Spike's story, beginning with the chip, was all about transition and becoming ;), and people tend to forget that his season4 arc saw him alternating between comically befuddled, angry and confused, and struggling against his loss of identity in a number of ways, not all comic.

The much maligned Buffy/Riley arc was essential to the development of Buffy's character - the final nail in the coffin of the idea that Buffy could ever be really content with what she claimed to want most - a "normal" guy. Another smooth continuation of the "Buffy is better at the slayer life than at normal life" theme. And Mark Blucas did such a great job as Riley. There isn't a more poignant moment in the season that his revelation to Xander of his deep love for Buffy, followed by, "and she doesn't love me".
Not to mention what that exchange meant to Xander, about his love for Anya.

If they did a "most underrated season of your favorite shows, S4 would be at the top of my list.
Excellent points about season 4 there, Shey. And I agree with most of them, although I do think the season 4 arc is a little weak in comparison to the other seasons. I love Riley too (although I have to confess I hated him first time around), but the whole Initiative thing still feels creaky to me. All the college stuff is great though, starting right with the first episode - The Freshman is pitch perfect, and very underrated.

Not a big Primeval fan though. Having the traditional-finale-esque episode be the penultimate chapter was a good idea (and Restless is, of course, incredible) but Primeval didn't really bring it home for me. The whole 'coming together as one' spell was thematically cool but a bit hokey once up on screen, and the Matrix-lite battle with Adam was slightly embarassing if you ask me.

S2&3 > S1 > S5 > S4

S1: To my great surprise I immediately fell in love with show (Angel wasn't exactly my favourite character before) because of the great group dynamic and the strenght of the writing. I love the pilot and the last few episodes and there also are some incredible one-offs throughout the season like: "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Parting Gifts". On the other hand, contrary to the next 2 seasons some of the arc stuff didn't work too well for me especially the way Kate's arc (didn't) develop and Faith's over dramatic out of character visit to LA (though I love her working for W&H, it's just her breakdown that didn't work for me.)

S2/S3: Brilliant arc developments (Dark Angel (but not Angelus), Darla, Connor, Holtz, etc.) A lot of great additions to the cast (Lorne, Gunn, Fred), great minor characters (the Wolfram and Hart ones for example) and strong development of the shows mythology. And I've got a strange love for the Pylea arc. (Hey, I am the Groosalugg, right?) Two of my favourite Whedony seasons.

S4: A bore. It sounds quite good on paper (Faith/Angelus) but somehow it lacks that special Whedon touch. Wesley's arc remains great though (it might be even stronger than in S3) and I quite liked the Jasmine-storyline.

S5: Not as much of a favourite to me as it is to some, but definitely a great recovery from the previous season. Not all the stand-alones were too strong, but it went out in a great way.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-11-26 00:38 ]
Season Two is my favourite season and the best as far as I'm concerned.
Someone up-thread brought up an interesting question, has anyone ever found someone who's favorite season order is a perfect match with their own.
My answer for Buffy is no, but I found a really close one for my Angel line-up ....

3, 2, 5, 1, 4.
Vandelay | November 25, 20:26 CET

Only difference is that I'd switch S2 and S3, for the Darla arc in S2.

I deeply disliked the Cordy/Connor/Jasmine arc of Angel S4, although I love two of the actors (Vincent K. and Gina Torres). And the stand-alones almost redeemed it. Anything focusing on Fred or the Wesley/Lilah affair, was great stuff.

Also - strong season opener and final two eps.
But nothing can completely redeem the retch factor of the Cordy/Connor pairing, or Charisma Carpenters really bad acting, as Cordy turned evil, or the basically boring Jasmine arc.

There had to have been a better way to get us to the excellent "Angel & Co. walk willingly into the belly of the beast" season 5 premise.


[ edited by Shey on 2009-11-26 00:46 ]
My favorite is 2, but I would say the best (its peak) is 3.
Might as well, I guess.

For me: 5 > 6 = 3 > 2 > 4 = 1 > 7

I didn't like the return to highschool in season 7. I understood the full circle image the writers were going for, and really enjoy a lot of what 7 had and offered, but for me Buffy was at its strongest when it left the highschool setting and metaphor and went on to deal with the world as a whole.
Buffy - okay, can't pick. But three is my least favourite - not enough Spike, too much Faith.

Angel - anything but four, for the usual reasons.

Good to see someone sharing some of my views on Angel. Prior to a very recent re-watch of season 2 (finished it yesterday) I would have agreed that 2 was my favourite, but I had forgotten just how little of an actual arc there was. The Darla and "dark" Angel story are dealt with a little too quickly, leaving a finale that doesn't fit quite as well as it could. I like the Pylea story, but it comes out of nowhere and could have been placed at the other end of the season without any damage. Darla's inclusion in the season is absolutely brilliant though.

I'll probably go straight onto watching season 3, so I'll see if I still place it as my favourite.

Agree with most of your comments about season 4. I didn't mind it quite so much when Jasmine arrived, but it was still mediocre.

I also agree with your comment about Riley during his talk to Xander. I may have disliked the character and the relationship with Buffy, but that moment always gets me. The moment she comes back in right afterwards and gives him a kiss ranks up there with some of the saddest moments of the show.
At the moment, I'll go with season 5 as the strongest Buffy season overall, but that back half of season 2 starting with surprise/innocence and passion, I only have eyes for you, & becoming pt. 1 & 2... it's hard to argue against that as being the height of the series. Season 3 is also consistently excellent.

[ edited by Manic D on 2009-11-26 04:46 ]
3,2,5 - then a bit of a drop-off
1,7,6 - then another drop-off
Season 3 is my favorite of Buffy, though 2 is close.

But at least there's a solid argument there. I mean, they picked Season 3 of Deadwood. Really, EW? Really?
I fell in love hard with s1 and remember reading the review in SFX which was an A- (back when they used letters) with the reason for the minus being that it wasn't as good as s2. I remember thinking that would be unlikely but as it turned out they were telling the truth and so Buffy became my all time favourite show (I think with What's My Line)

Order is tough but lets go with 2,3,5,6,4,1,7 (tho if you ask me next week that may well change. 2,3 and 5 always fill the top 3 slots but order is changable. Thankfully my girlfriend had never seen Buffy or Angel so I'm currently half way through seasons 5/2 for the umpteenth time :)

It always amuses me the vast differences in opinion between all the hardcore fans. For instance s4 of Angel is my favourite and imho the only time when they were both on the air that Angel was better than Buffy.
Not only does it have at least three of the pretty much universally top rated eps of the series (Hush, Restless and Pangs)

Pangs, Shey :)? That's actually the first time I've heard that episode been refered to as one of the 'universally top rated eps'. I actually felt that it was quite weak, to be honest, although that is, of course, a matter of taste. I'd say my third favorite episode that season is 'Wild at Heart'.

Also: as someone who dislikes S4 I have to disagree with the rest of your post as well ;).

it has IMO the most coherent, artfully crafted story arc of all the seasons.

Well, they did a good job with the character arcs, alienating the characters and stretching the bonds a bit, but the overall story was a mess. First they built up Maggie Walsh and the Initiative and transformed it into a story about Adam (still the most campy Buffy villain ever, as far as I'm concerned ;)). So no, certainly not 'coherent' and I'd disagree with 'artfully crafted' as well :).

As for my Angel ranking, I'd have to go with:

(Seeing as S1 of Angel and S4 of Buffy were my least favorites of either show, that was not a good whedonverse year for me ;))

For instance s4 of Angel is my favourite and imho the only time when they were both on the air that Angel was better than Buffy.

Ah, that's also an interesting question. I'd say Buffy S4/Angel S1 is a tie, Angel S2/Buffy S5 goes to Buffy by a tiny margin (S2 really was quite good), Angel S3/Buffy S6 goes to Angel and I'd say Angel S4/Buffy S7 is again a tie for me. So I would say that the only time that Angel topped Buffy would be in its third season, but the only time Buffy topped Angel would be in its fifth season. Funnily enough, my favorite seasons of either show didn't run when the other was airing.

[ edited by GVH on 2009-11-26 13:06 ]
safetycanary, we're Angel ranking twins.

For Buffy, I like 5, 3, 7, 4, 2, 1, 6 but 2 and 4 tend to switch depending on all sorts of weird factors, and 6 and 1 do that too (I like aspects of each of those seasons, but its not enough to rank them higher) I think season 5 have the fewest "dud" episodes, and a compelling storyline, though when I first watched it I didn't like it anywhere near as much as 3. 7 is flawed, but my love of the last several episodes plus conversations with dead people and faith overwhelms my feelings for the lesser aspects. I like 4: Riley, comedy, Buffy and I started college at the same time so I felt extra kinshippy when she was all fish out of watery.
Pangs, Shey :)? That's actually the first time I've heard that episode been refered to as one of the 'universally top rated eps'.

I did my annual rewatch of it yesterday. It may not be one of the greatest, but it's very good and I'm fond of it. It's like a ritual...with pie.
For me, I think it goes 2,5,3,4,1,7. I love all the seasons so it's hard to choose. S7 is last for me because I never really bought into the Potentials storyline and I didn't really care about them much at all. It's SO hard to decide between 2,3,5.

I think season 4 was is the funniest on balance.
Fair enough, hacksaway. I can see how it'd be enjoyable as a Holiday episode (in fact: another topic today seems to suggest just that ;)). Of course, we don't actually do the whole Thanksgiving thing over here, so it never spoke to me on that level :)
Buffy: 5>6>2>4>1>7>3
Five and six where Buffy deals with somewhat more adult problems always resonated with me more than the high-school years (though I do love those seasons too). Five for me is TV perfection with the Slayer origins arc, the strong focus on family, the doomed crush and the tragedy of Joyce's death and Buffy's reactions to it, and the wonderfully ambiguous sacrifice/suicide of The Gift. Also this is probably my favourite season for the Buffy/Dawn relationship - as someone with an annoying younger sister myself their S5 relationship was so realistic I felt like my life was being shown on TV, something I never felt with their relationship in later seasons. This is also probably my favourite season for Spike, although he becomes even more complex later the events at the end of S6 have always confused my love for the character, in S5 he's the (creepy, stalking) guy who is in love with the girl who doesn't care about him.

As for the other seasons, 6 pushes 5 hard as the continued darkness really pushes my buttons, on certain days Death Things is my favourite episode ever and I love about 2/3 of the season, but there are also some poor episodes (OAFA) and apart from the last few seconds I really dislike 'Grave'.

2 breaks my heart wonderfully, I don't think it's possible for me to watch Buffy trying not to lose it in Becoming without crying and the latter 1/3 of the season is a blast but the run-up drags a bit and contains some poor episodes (I understand why, they don't have the confidence of later seasons and there is some good build up there but is still mars the season for me).

4 is hilarious in parts and has a killer opening and ending but also has some weak episodes, cheesey moments aside 1 works surprisingly well for me and manages to encapsulate the message well (if there hadn't been a 2nd season it still works), 7 has the scope but the plotting towards the end and some of the choices (kicking Buffy out) really stank - as someone mentioned upthread it felt like the season needed to be longer to achieve what they wanted, it feels a bit harsh putting 7 almost last but there are no bad seasons of Buffy. 3 is my least favourite, it wasn't always that way but many rewatches of the series usually leave me looking forward to/rushing through this season the most, the Buffy/Angel romance goes past its sell-by date and a lot of the funnier episodes don't stand up as well as the funny episodes of S4 (not of course Dopplegangland and Earshot). I love the opener, Faith's arc, and Graduation Day but they can't save it for me.

Angel: 2>4>3>1>5
Two has always and will always be my favourite season, it's the season I really started liking Angel as a character and the whole soul thing really started to make sense to me (the whole good/evil thing is discussed in detail before Angel S2 but two is when it became deliciously murky). I also love the Hyperion, Angel Investigations without Angel, the return of Darla and the fantastically evil Wolfram and Hart. Some incredibly fun individual episodes too ('Guise will be Guise' I'm looking at you). I don't hate the Pylea arc but it does bring the season down slightly from perfect, but it's still my favourite. Angel's epiphany touched me in a very real way. And it has my two favourite Angel episodes AYNOHYEB and Darla.

As for the other seasons, I was torn over 3 and 4... 4 has than wonderful arcyness, Angelus, Faith, dark Wes, Jasmine (I like her!) and I adore Deep Down and Home but it also has the assassination of my favourite Angel character (third favourite in the entire Whedonverse) and a few of the individual episodes were week (as with every Angel season). 3 has the fantastic Wes betrayal arc, the introduction of Connor (who I also like) and some good individual episodes but on occasions it feels sluggish and I'm not a particular fan of 'Tomorrow'. 1 clunks a bit along the way but The Prodigal and the final five episodes are brilliant and really showed what the series could be. Possibly controversially 5 is my least favourite season of Angel with the 5 episodes after Conviction giving me almost physical pain at their badness, it got a bit better after that but still the more episodic-style wasn't really for me and while I like Not Fade Away the good parts are lessened for me by the fact that I still have going around in my head 'circle of the black thorn what?!'
Pangs, Shey :)? That's actually the first time I've heard that episode been refered to as one of the 'universally top rated eps'.

Maybe I should have qualified that with "in the U.S.", where it obviously resonates in a way that it might not, anywhere else. And yes, I'm feeling vindicated by the links to "best Thanksgiving eps" showing up today. ;)

As for my overall assessment "[season4] has IMO the most coherent, artfully crafted story arc of all the seasons", I'll definitely stand by that. For all the reasons in my original post plus a lot more that I wont bore everyone with, since everyone here has an obsessive familiarity with all things Buffy and either you see it that way or you don't - and I'm aware that I'm in a minority with my deep season4 love.
Which is OK with me, I'm very comfortable and familiar with that position. :)

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