There are some shows that manage to speak to generation after generation. They leave an impression on fans, who still share their love of these TV shows. These rare television programs also have very few to no bad seasons. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in my opinion, is one of these TV shows. It’s easily one of the greatest TV shows of all-time. Some of the best seasons excite the mind and capture the heart. The worst seasons may disappoint us but they don’t take away from the brilliance that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
For this list ranking the worst seasons to the best seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I based my ranking on individual episodes, season long-arcs, and each season’s impact on the legacy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s begin the ranking.
Warning: Spoilers ahead about the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Proceed with caution.
7. Season 7
Season 7 was the final one of the TV series. It put Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the Scooby Gang against a nearly undefeatable foe. It brought potential slayers to the forefront, while the Scoobies tried to pick up the shattered pieces from the damage left in Season 6.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7 didn’t live up to its potential. There were so many strong storylines introduced in the final season, Spike (James Marsters) having a soul, the potential slayers, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) dealing with the guilt of her actions in Season 6, and so much more. The First Evil had been a haunting figure for many seasons of Buffy, so it was a really scary Big Bad. The season had so much working in its favor, but the season never quite felt like a fitting end to the show. “Chosen” as a series finale was a great episode, but Season 7 as a whole just didn’t deliver a strong final punch.
6. Season 1
Buffy arrives in Sunnydale and she quickly learns that her vampire fighting days are far from over. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 introduced us to many of the characters that we would grow to love.
Many TV shows have terrible first seasons. They don’t really find their groove until Season 2, and sometimes even later than that, but I don’t feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of those shows. It has a great first season. However, Buffy the Vampire Slayer just (for the most part) became a better TV show with each new season. The only major flaw with Season 1 is that it has the misfortune of being the first one and the show learns and grows so much more after it.
5. Season 4
The Scooby Gang starts college and faces many new changes, such as working, college roommates from hell, and embracing sexuality. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4 has so much to admire. Both Buffy and Willow exploring sex and love was revolutionary, especially for a show that was just a high school show a season ago. The show allowing Buffy to really enjoy sex was a big step. Currently, TV shows have so many great LGBTQ+ characters, but in the late-'90s/early 2000s, it was a big deal for Willow to come out. She became a major leap forward in the representation of LGBTQ+ characters on network TV.
Additionally, Season 4 had some of the show's most iconic episodes, no one would argue against “Hush” being one of the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, Adam (George Hertzberg) and The Initiative was just one of the show’s weakest season long arcs. It was also a season with a lot of experimental episodes and some of those really didn’t work (see: “Beer Bad.”).
4. Season 6
Buffy dies and her friends bring her back from what they believe to be a hell dimension, only it wasn’t. Now Buffy must readjust back to life in the Hellmouth. Season 6 is the most divisive season of Buffy among fans, which is understandable. It’s a lot darker than many of the previous seasons, and it tackles subject matters like depression, addiction, sexual abuse, and so many dark topics. However, the season going that dark is one of the reasons that many fans like it. In many ways, it sometimes feels like the season most explicitly showing the terrible things that humans can do to one another.
Season 6 makes the bold decision to have three geeks be the main villains. It’s played for laughs at first until viewers and Buffy see how dangerous, damaging, and toxic they can become. Season 6 also has some of the show’s most well-known and earth-shattering-arcs, like Spike and Buffy’s complicated sexual relationship and Dark Willow.
3. Season 5
Buffy learns that her sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), is the key to destroying the world. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 has one of the show’s best season long arcs and definitely one of it’s best villains. It also has some of the show’s best episodes.
“The Body” is one of the best things the show ever did. It is an emotional episode that feels raw, real, and viewers grieve right along with Buffy and her friends. Season 5 nicely balances really dark episodes with some fun ones, like “ Buffy vs. Dracula.” The season was the TV show’s last one on The WB, so it acted as a final season in case it didn’t get picked up by another network, and if Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended with Season 5, it would have been a fitting ending to the TV show.
2. Season 3
Buffy and the gang are dealing with the last year of high school while also facing one of their biggest foes: The Mayor (Harry Groener). The third season of Buffy had some of the show’s best episodes, one of the strongest season-long arcs, and introduced some characters that became a major part of the Buffy universe.
It wrapped up the characters and Buffy the Vampire cast’s time in high school by giving everyone a perfect end to that chapter of the show. Season 2 and Season 3 almost feel like extended versions of the chapter. They both deal with Buffy’s first experiences of being forced into adulthood and the sacrifices that come with it. Additionally, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 may have the show’s strongest catalog of episodes.
1. Season 2
Buffy and her friends have just gotten into the groove of fighting monsters and going to high school only for a new Big Bad to emerge, but this time with the face of an angel. I would argue that Buffy the Vampire Slayer wouldn’t have the legacy that it has if it wasn’t for Season 2. The season really allowed the show to find its place in the TV world. It really highlighted some of the show’s major themes and lessons that would reappear throughout the show.
Angel (David Boreanaz) turning evil is one of the first TV moments that shocked me and many other viewers. It showed us to never get comfortable in the Hellmouth because heartbreak could happen at any moment, and we continuously forgot this rule and got our hearts broken time and time again. Season 2 introduced us to Spike, Oz (Seth Green), Drusilla (Juliet Landau), the dark past of Giles (Anthony Head), and so many characters and things. It was also a season full of actors who we forgot appeared on it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 was a very strong season of television, and it helped Buffy find its style, tone, and voice.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer may now have a complicated legacy due to allegations made against Joss Whedon in the years since, but the TV series has a special place in the hearts of fans and the actors, even 25 years later. Even the weaker seasons of Buffy have something to admire and appreciate about them. Watch your favorite seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer streaming on Hulu.
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Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.