Lorraine: We figured we’d give this its own post, mostly so you all could also rank with us in the comments.
I feel like I’m going to put this order up, wake up tomorrow and feel differently. Seasons are made up of so many moving parts, that ranking this way is difficult. I think I’m stalling now. OKAY. OKAY. Here we go:
- Season 5 – When season 5 took first place in my eyes, it surprised me. I was convinced an early season would top this list, but the themes of life, death, love, loss and family in this season were often beautifully handled (with only one exception I can think of) and it resonated with me. I have a feeling a younger version of me might’ve appreciated 3 or 2 more, but walking away from this on first watch, Season 5 stands out the most. It was consistently good, beautifully developed the characters and had a payoff bigger than any other season. It gave us The Body and Forever. It gave us Fool for Love and The Gift. It gave us Dawn and The Magic Box. For all that, it gets my number one spot.
- Season 3 – Seasons 3 and 2 could almost be flip flopped on this list, but in the end, season 3 takes the top spot. The Mayor was hands down the best Big Bad of the seven seasons and just truly fun to watch. This season was a little bit more consistent from episode to episode and gave us Faith, vamp!Willow in both Dopplegangland and The Wish, probably one of the most memorable moments of the entire series in The Prom, plus of course graduation from Sunnydale High. Its down side mostly came in the drawn out end of Angel and Buffy, but it’s a small complaint in the face of a quality season.
- Season 2 – Season 2 struggles a little bit more with the filler episodes. It was as if, the first half of this season especially still had touches of the bad things S1 did. (I’m looking at you, Inca Mummy Girl, Reptile Boy, Bad Eggs and a few more.) Still, when it got it right, it was emotionally gripping in a way season 3 wasn’t. Surprise, Innocence, and Passion brought out the Team Feels flags, and was all capped off with Becoming Parts 1 and 2. Plus, it has to be mentioned that Oz was a surprise in this season. I didn’t expect to love him the way I did.
- Season 7 – When I think of season 7, I kind of feel sad for what it could’ve been. There were so many good set-ups here, from the First to the Potentials, that were ultimately hampered by weird pacing and plot problems. Even so, with six season under their belts, the worst episodes of this season weren’t the worst of the series, and the same with the best. In the end, the writers gave us enough character moments and lines of continuity that it felt like they were tipping their hats to the fans, especially in the top season episodes, Storyteller and Selfless.
- Season 1 – This is a hard rank. The first season was just not great quality, especially when it came to the mythology, but also in production values. And yet it has the campy air of a cult classic. It’s the foundation for this thing we love, so it gains nostalgia points that keep it from ranking at the bottom.
- Season 4 – It’s such a shame this season’s arc failed in so many ways. The Initiative on paper seems like a perfectly fine concept, but in practice… woof. That plus the loss of Sunnydale High, the Wiggins Library, the Summers home and lots of those friendship and character moments that sold the show when the plot fell short made this a tough season to get through. The funny part is that it has so many fantastic single episodes, including some top series episodes like Hush, Who Are You, Restless, Fear Itself and Superstar. It also gave us Where the Wild Things Are, though, so.
- Season 6 – I wasn’t sure whether to rank this last because it’s certainly a different bad than season 4. Or maybe I should just go ahead and say, “this is the season I liked the least.” Leaving any sort of measurable quality issues aside, I just enjoyed this season the least. And for that simple, simple reason, it’s at the bottom of my list.
Sweeney: I’ve gone back and forth on parts of this a lot. I love 5, 3, and 2 all so very much. I tried my hardest to rank these in a way that treated each season as its own entity. What I mean by that is that I ultimately settled any disputes – close rankings – by how the full picture looked. I’ll get into what I mean by that within the rankings, but that’s my general explanation.
This ranking was a tricky thing to do. More than anything, it’s a nice way to revisit all seven seasons. That was my biggest take away from this exercise.
- Season 5 – What a beautiful season. Glory wasn’t a perfect Big Bad, but she sure was fun. This season also has some brilliant, brilliant episodes. The Body? The Gift? I CAN’T. Even the moments where this season faltered weren’t missteps grave enough that they earn any real consideration for my Worst Of list. I’m usually inclined to say that high-school-as-hell-mouth is the concept I think this show tackled the best, but everything they did here was so artfully handled. I loved the weird introduction of Dawn, grappling with Joyce’s death and adulthood. And then there’s that final speech in The Gift. I choke up when that gifset crosses my dash on Tumblr because fuck that’s beautiful. It’s also a pretty close approximation of Buffy’s character thesis – perpetually aware that the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. And usually choosing to do so anyway. Except when it comes time to make the hard choices.
- Season 3 – This was a close contender. The Mayor is definitely the best Big Bad of all. This season also gave us Faith who had a pretty incredible arc across the two shows in fairly few appearances, all tallied. I +1 Lor’s sentiment that the Angel/Buffy stuff was weirdly paced. (Definitely a case of the show’s behind-the-wheels reality showing, because ACTOR CONTRACTS, GUYS! At some point the writers were all, “I don’t know how many more Angel-on-a-beach scenes we can write.”) This season was also just plain fun. I don’t have any major reservations about re-watching any of this. Even The Zeppo. I WOULD EVEN RE-WATCH THE ZEPPO. (But, like, with a lot of alcohol.)
- Season 2 – Angelus was also a pretty fantastic Big Bad. My second favorite, I’d say. The tragic magic vagina device is issue-packed, but it was also really awesome to watch Buffy grow up through that. We got to see Buffy really struggle with the emotional weight of her calling and its impact on not only her own life but the lives of everyone she’s tied up with. It addressed the inherent complications of being a Slayer with so many close friends. (Which was itself a nice way to set up for Faith’s arrival the following season – this is what that reality looks like when you take away a support system like Kendra’s.) Again, I’d even re-watch the filler episodes, but there are more of them here than in S3.
- Season 1 – Nostalgia, man. There’s a lot of ridiculous stuff going on in this season. Heavy with the set up and with stuff that would be later contradicted. But this is where it all began and I love this season for that alone. I also adore Prophecy Girl. I was also more won over by the camp. Of course, I didn’t blog much of this season, so maybe that helps it for me.
- Season 7 – This is a solidly middle-of-the-road season. It was neither remarkably good nor remarkably bad. I loved the concept they were going for with the season. It started out strong. It just struggled to live up to that. I’m doing this ranking before finalizing my series ranking, but it’s a safe bet that nothing in this season will make my Best Of post. (Both S4 and S6 have more viable contenders, but we’ll get to that.) I guess I just wanted/expected more. That said, they did an OK job of tying things up, filled with nice callbacks. The First nicely encapsulates my problem, actually – a great concept, good way to bring back a lot of familiar faces, ultimately built on a shaky foundation and badly constructed. I do like that if they had to end the show twice, they let her have a happy final, final ending. The Gift >>>> Chosen, and I think The Gift works as an ending if the show ended at 5 seasons, but something about dragging Buffy and her fans through the mud for two more seasons called for this ending.
- Season 4 – I came THISCLOSE to ranking this season above S7. I know, that’s surprising, because “UGH S4!” I hate The Initiative. I hated the separation of the Scoobies, because it just didn’t make for good or interesting TV. But here’s the thing: S4 has some standout episodes. I still liked Spike! Hush, This Year’s Girl/Who Are You, Restless, and Fear Itself are better episodes than any in S4. S4 and S7 suffer from a similar problem of concept v. execution. At the end of the day, they both bombed the latter but I respected the S7 concept a lot more than the S4 concept. While I wanted to recognize this for having some episodes I’d place higher than S7 episodes, I’d probably rather watch anything in S7 than The Freshman, Beer Bad, or Where The Wild Things Are. This season had high highs and low lows. Ultimately, I made this decision based on the over all statement/purpose/whathaveyou of the season.
- Season 6 – Oof. As Lor put it, this is a very different bad than S4. I don’t have a whole lot more to say than what she said either. It was the hardest season to blog and watch and while some of that was on purpose – darkseasonisdark – I think a lot of that was faulty execution. There are a lot of dark things in the season that weren’t entirely self-aware dark, which is to say that I think some problematic issues were raised properly but a lot of others weren’t because the writers didn’t seem entirely aware of what they were writing. I didn’t enjoy this season. Normal Again is probably the only episode I like enough that I could watch it tomorrow (interestingly, it was only my #2 in the season rankings; I’d bump it up now) though I think I’ll get there eventually – once the scars have healed and all – with OMWF and Tabula Rasa. That’s probably it, though. Twice through and never again for the rest of it.
Kirsti: So. Much as was the case with the rankings for season 1, Past!Kirsti (I still hate that bitch) would have ranked the seasons COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY (6, 3, 7, 1, 2, 5, 4 if you were curious). But I’m not
Josie Grossie (name that movie) Past!Kirsti any more, so let’s do this thing for real.
- Season 3 – Sweet baby Jesus, I love season 3. There were some rough moments (*cough* Dead Man’s Party *cough*), just like in any season. But for me? It’s the perfect mixture of feels and funny, ridiculous and realistic. Oz and Cordy and Angel are still around. It gave us Faith, Wesley and Anya. And it gave us the Mayor, who is quite possibly the most perfect villain in the whole of the Buffyverse, simply because he’s the most human. Stand out episodes: Doppelgangland, The Wish, and Band Candy.
- Season 5 – One that snuck up on me this time around. Past!Kirsti got stuck on the “Ugh, Riley and Dawn, snore” factor. But this is SUCH A STRONG SEASON. It got off to a rocky start with Buffy vs Dracula, and it had some ridiculous cheesy moments. But this was the season where Buffy grew up. She learnt to put family first, to deal with Real World Shit, to accept the reality of being the Slayer. Dawn and I had a rocky start, simply because she was written STUPIDLY YOUNG a lot of the time. But by the end of the season, I was firmly on Team Feels where Dawnie was concerned. Stand out episodes: The Gift, The Body, and Fool For Love.
- Season 2 – A lot of filler episodes in the first half of the season, followed by some drawn out “Angelus is waiting to make his move” stuff in the second half of the season. The middle and the end, however, were excellent. The season that gave us Oz and Drusilla and Spike wasn’t always one that I loved, but was definitely a game changer. Stand out episodes: Becoming Part 2, I Only Have Eyes for You, and Phases.
- Season 1 – Frequently cheesy, season 1 took a long time to settle into itself. But once it did, we got some pretty fabulous acting, even if the episodes were often totally camp. Stand out episodes: Prophecy Girl and Angel.
- Season 7 – I was firmly on the struggle bus for most of season 7, and in a lot of ways, it’s easier to think of it as Season 6, Part 2 than it is to think of it as a stand-alone entity. The Potentials were an interesting concept that was often poorly executed, and there were a lot of ideas that were thrown into the mix far too late in the game. Still, we got an ending and a Slayer origin story, so…there’s that. Stand out episodes: Storyteller, Chosen and Potential.
- Season 4 – This is an odd season to rank, because the overall arc was AWFUL. The Initiative was kind of a logical place to take the show, but the whole “We’re going to secretly build nuclear powered super-soldiers by welding demon parts onto human bodies” thing was indescribably ridiculous. So the main villain and the overall arc? TERRIBLE. Plus, there were truly godawful episodes like Beer Bad and Where the Wild Things Are. But there were SO MANY truly phenomenal episodes in the mix that I have a hard time believing they came from the same season. Stand out episodes: Hush, Restless, and Who Are You?.
- Season 6 – Oof. I admire what they were trying to do – life as the Big Bad. But they went too far down the rabbit hole to the point where the entire thing just became difficult to watch. Between Buffy’s depression, the attempted rape, Tara’s death, Willow’s addiction, Dawn’s kleptomania and the ramifications of Xander leaving Anya at the altar, it left the audience reeling. Still, at least there was that whole musical episode to perk us up again. Stand out episodes: Once More With Feeling, and Normal Again.