Let’s Talk About 1999, The Year ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Was At Its Absolute Peak
Graduation Day? Bad Girls? Hush??? 1999 had it all.
If Buffy Summers were to look back on her life, she might consider 1999 one of her better years.
“Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so: sit still and be quiet” – Principal Snyder, ‘Graduation Day Part 2’.
In 1999 no family members died, no close friends were murdered, she graduated high school, she didn’t have to kill her boyfriend or herself to save the world — all in all a good year for the Slayer.
1999 was also one of the best years the show would ever have.
Season 3 was hands down the best season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the second half being the strongest part of an already stellar season. We got mortal Anya, Faith joining the Mayor’s fight to destroy Sunnydale, Buffy getting her Class Protector award at prom, and just a whole lot of classic Buffy.
1999 was also the year Buffy entered college in season 4. Early season 4 was some of the best of the season, before we started drowning in The Initiative and Adam storylines. Even the highly crapped on Beer Bad isn’t nearly as bad as you remember.
In season 3 of Buffy there is an episode where Buffy loses her powers, is forced into a trap set by a vicious vampire who is also a serial killer, defeats him by making him drink holy water which in turn makes him explode and saves her mum in the process. This show is rad.
— Hynd (@MikeHynd) February 4, 2019
Sarah Michelle Gellar completely commits to the absurdity that Buffy drank beer that turned her into a caveperson. And that’s why the show works, the cast always commits.
I’m a little biased, of course, as season 3 was the first season I started watching.
I made fun of my mom for watching a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but then caught her crying watching Buffy run her sword through Angel in the season 2 finale and thought, “Maybe I should check this show out.”
As a young closeted teen, I told everyone I watched the show because I had a crush on Faith and wanted to be Oz. But the opposite was true, and I still have a crush on Oz and still want to be Faith.
My favourite episode ranking can change depending on which way the wind’s blowing. I host a podcast all about Buffy (Slayerfest 98, which you can check out here), where I’m often found discussing what scene made me cry or how much I love “my babies”– because this over 20 year old show still feels relevant.
Feeling very Season 3 Episode 1 Buffy tonight. pic.twitter.com/Q2G36egz5Y
— ☠️💣 (@SlayThyDemons) February 5, 2019
So, here are the most iconic episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from 1999, the most iconic year, ranked:
11: ‘Gingerbread’ (Season 3, ep 11)
A very weird first episode of the year for the show. It begins with Joyce trying to take a more active role in her daughter’s slaying which immediately blows up in her face when they both stumble upon dead children.
The dead kids, of course, end up being a demon in disguise who, again of course, mind controls all the parents of Sunnydale. It all culminates in Buffy, Willow, and Amy (hey remember her) being almost burned at the stake by their parents.
This is the one and only time we meet Willow’s mom, who hilariously calls Buffy “Bunny.”
It’s iconic for a few reasons but mostly for the end — Amy turning herself into a rat (the form she’ll keep for 3 seasons), Cordelia with the firehose, Buffy accidentally killing the demon with the stake she’s tied to, and Xander and Oz falling through the ceiling after all the action is finished.
Best Outfit: Cordelia’s grey number with the light grey faux fur collar and pink shirt underneath.
Best Moment: Giles being woken up by Cordelia who says to him, “How many times have you been knocked out, anyway? I swear, one of these times, you’re gonna wake up in a coma,” and Giles replying, “Wake up in a – oh nevermind.”
10: ‘Pangs’ (Season 4, ep 8)
This episode is the only Buffy Thanksgiving episode and it is a lot of fun.
Angel comes to Sunnydale but doesn’t want Buffy to know — Buffy puts together a Scooby Thanksgiving — Spike is kicked out by Harmony. Willow was before her time in hating Thanksgiving and Xander gets the funny syphilis.
It’s a pure delight seeing all the characters come together for the holiday and the ending, where Xander slips up and mentions Angel being in town is absolutely perfect.
Best Outfit: Buffy’s cute flowy, off-the-shoulder top paired with black pants and a red necklace.
Best Moment: Anya telling Willow and Buffy that Thanksgiving is “…a ritual sacrifice, with pie.”
9: ‘Helpless’ (Season 3, ep 12)
Season 2 started the tradition of Buffy’s birthdays being absolute hell and season 3 really kept it going.
Buffy turns 18 and is let down by both her fathers– her biological father Hank and her kinda-sorta-adoptive dad Giles. Hank Summers cancels birthday plans with Buffy last minute, while Giles is secretly injecting her with a serum to depower her.
We quickly learn the de-powering is part of a Watchers Council test called Cruciamentum, where the Slayer is to face an evil vamp named Kralik while powerless. The patriarchy, ya know?
Giles eventually informs Buffy what’s going on, but it’s too late, and Joyce has been kidnapped by Kralik.
The episode is heartbreaking and you genuinely fear for Buffy’s life during this episode. Buffy also performs one of her coolest kills — she tricks Kralik into drinking holy water. Buffy passes the test but Giles is then fired from the Council for treating Buffy like a daughter.
It’s the most heartwarming of firings.
Best Outfit: Buffy in those killer overalls.
Best Moment: The big argument Giles and Buffy have in the library being interrupted by Cordelia.
8: ‘Bad Girls’ (Season 3, ep 14)
This episode sets everything in motion for the end of the season — we meet Buffy’s new Watcher Wesley, and Faith accidentally kills the Deputy Mayor, which leads to the Mayor hiring her.
Wesley, not unlike Cordelia and Faith, goes on to have one of the best arcs in the Buffyverse that spans two separate shows. The Wesley we meet here is annoying and anxious and the Wesley we end Angel with is nearly an entirely different, way more beloved character.
But what this episode really does is up the Sapphic nature of Buffy and Faith’s relationship. They party together, they slay together, they steal together, they outrun the cops together — you know, your typical queer stuff. And by the end of the episode, they basically breakup.
Best Outfit: Faith in her white long sleeve top with the black vest and black leather pants is absolutely iconic.
Best Moment: The end, when Faith tells Buffy, in reference to her killing the Deputy Mayor, “No, you don’t get it. I don’t care.”
7: ‘Earshot’ (Season 3, ep 18)
Buffy gets infected with an “aspect of the demon” that grants her telepathy, after a mind reading demon bleeds on her.
The episode is one of the most fun episodes in a season full of fun episodes. Buffy learns that vampires are immune to telepathy, that Xander is constantly thinking about sex, and that her mother had sex with Giles.
Buffy also mistakenly thinks Jonathan is trying to kill his classmates, when he’s actually just going to kill himself — and she stops him by giving a really impassioned, still relevant speech. This silly episode ends with Buffy calling out Giles for having sex with her mom and Giles walking into a tree *chef’s kiss*.
Best Outfit: Buffy in her grey cardigan and grey skirt with her hair up.
Best Moment: When Buffy is in the library and can read all the Scoobies thought, Cordelia is saying everything she’s thinking.
6: ‘Fear, Itself’ (Season 4, ep 4)
Buffy didn’t have nearly enough Halloween episodes but this one more than makes up for it.
This episode leans more into horror tropes than most Buffy episodes — it’s a haunted frat house where you worst fears come true. Buffy is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, one of the fratboys is turned into a zombie, and it’s all being orchestrated by a demon who looks straight out of Hellraiser.
The episode plays on all the fears of the Scoobies, some of which even come true later (Oz leaving Willow, Willow’s powers going out of control, etc) but in the end the episode leaves us on such a perfect Buffy note, with her crushing Gachnar beneath her foot.
Best Outfit: Anya in her bunny costume, hands down. Also, Giles with a chainsaw!
Best Moment: In the end, When Gachnar finally rises and he’s the size of a Barbie.
5: ‘Dopplegangland’ (Season 3, ep 16)
It’s like the writers wanted to bless the viewers with a sequel to ‘The Wish’ that was superior in every way, and to also gift viewers with Emma Caulfield’s comedic timing.
Vamp Willow may not be as charming as Buffybot, but it’s still really delightful watching Alyson Hannigan have so much fun playing both roles. Every character shines in this episode –it’s a Buffy classic. Also, Willow gets to beat up the hot jock/bully Percy.
Best Outfit: The puffy pink sweater and the Queen of the Damned leather look are Willow’s two most iconic outfits.
Best Moment: Willow looking at her unconscious vampire-self and saying, “I’m so evil and skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay.”
4: ‘The Prom’ (Season 3, ep 20)
The most anti-climactic breakup Buffy has, and it’s with her beloved Angel.
They break up while patrolling in a sewer, and Buffy is devastated. But she’s determined to give her friends a nice normal time even if there are hellhounds ready to attack anyone in formal wear (which comes off less bananas than it sounds).
Xander makes amends with Cordelia by buying her prom dress, while also starting his relationship with Anya. Jonathan, whom Buffy had previously talked out of suicide, presents Buffy with the Class Protector Award and, in case you weren’t crying yet, Angel shows up to dance one final dance with Buffy because he knows how important it is to her.
Best Outfit: Everything everyone wears at prom! They all look so good in their formal wear!
Best Moment: ‘Wild Horses’ playing as Buffy and Angel dance their final dance tied with Buffy getting her award — both bring the tears.
3: ‘Graduation Day Part 1’ (Season 3, ep 21)
All the pieces are moving for this episode.
Anya informs the Scoobies what The Mayor’s Ascension really entails, Willow loses her virginity to Oz, Angel gets poisoned — there’s so much going on and it all works.
Buffy finds out the cure for Angel’s poisoning is a Slayer’s blood. So, naturally Buffy and Faith fight about it. It’s their most passionate, intense fight that Buffy only kinda win, as Faith jumps into the back of a truck from the rooftop after she’s been stabbed. This leaves Buffy with only one plan of action left to save Angel…
Best Outfit: Buffy’s red leather pants and black top is the Buffy look.
Best Moment: Buffy and Faith’s entire fight.
2: ‘Graduation Day Part 2’ (Season 3, ep 22)
The Scoobies graduate!
But The Mayor’s Ascension is happening that same night. In one of the most epic battles of the show, all the students unite to fight The Mayor and his vamp minions. Harmony Kendall gets bit, poor Larry is killed, Cordelia slays her first vamp, and they blow up Sunnydale High!
This episode inspired approximately 100 YA novels. A true, earned ending to the Buffy high school years.
Best Outfit: Buffy in all black with her dark red leather coat.
Best Moment: Buffy yelling, “Now,” as all the kids throw off their graduation gowns to reveal just how ready to fight they are.
1: ‘Hush’ (Season 4, ep 10)
Not only the best episode of Buffy, but one of the best episodes of television.
The Gentlemen are the scariest Buffy villains, with their weird big grins and floaty-ness. The scene where one of them glides by the window Olivia looking out is maybe the scariest moment of the show.
This episode could stand on its own as a movie or book about a town with a lot of secrets. Even the Initiative kind of works in this episode. And, most importantly, this is the first episode where we meet Tara Maclay, Willow’s partner.
Give this episode a retroactive Emmy, you cowards.
Best Outfit: Buffy’s blue top, beige skirt, and chunky bracelet she wears in the beginning.
Best Moment: Giles giving the Scoobies a presentation on The Gentlemen in an auditorium, using an overhead projector.
Ian Carlos Crawford is a freelance writer and podcast host who has too many feelings. Follow him on Twitter at @ianxcarlos.
All this week, Junkee is heading back in time to relive the greatest moments in pop culture from 1999. For more 1999 content, head here.