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The Most Pause-Worthy Moments In Buffy The Vampire Slayer

When "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" hit the airwaves in 1997, it irreparably changed the supernatural genre. It laid the foundation for fantastical adventure series with a lighthearted tone, ensuring its status as a pop culture progenitor for decades to come. Almost every "Buffy" episode also featured some sort of epic moment — a cool villain take-down, a gut-wrenching emotional scene or groundbreaking special effects — giving it a far more cinematic mentality than TV typically delivered at the time.

While "Buffy" never came up short on jaw-dropping moments, in retrospect some scenes in the series stick out more than others. Whether watching old DVDs or streaming the series, fans just can't help taking a second to pause and rewind such moments — along with one other thing "Buffy" did better and more frequently than most shows at the time: Easter eggs. 

With all this in mind, here are the moments most often paused in "Buffy" re-watches. So, cue up the episodes below and get yourself a good look.

The self-fulfilling prophecy girl

"Buffy" set the tone for multiple death story arcs, now prevalent on the small screen. The slayer came into the picture long before killing off main characters and bringing them repeatedly became a staple of the supernatural TV genre. 

Of course, Buffy's first death comes on the heels of another touchstone of the genre: the self-fulfilling prophecy. In "Prophecy Girl," Buffy marches right into the Master's creepy cave to stop him from rising, despite a prediction that foretold her death. The only kicker? The ages-old vamp in dire need of a facial can't rise without her. So if she had only avoided going down into Mr. Doom and Gloom's cavernous digs, she would have survived the night — and the prophecy wouldn't happen.

But where's the fun in that? The writers needed to keep the stakes high for a reason. So, instead of stopping the Master from rising, he drinks her slayer blood, dumping her body in some rank sewer water. Luckily, Xander comes along (which is the first and last time anyone will ever say that) and resuscitates her. 

Before he saves the day, however, fans had no clue what was going on. Were ratings bad? Was the show getting canceled? Was this Buffy's swan song? The Season 1 finale was pre-social media, remember — and most people didn't have access to computers at all. It wouldn't be the last time writers killed off the slayer, but it was undoubtedly the most shocking, given how new the series was. 

Angel becomes a real creep

Ah, yes. The ages-old tale of your 269-year-old boyfriend losing his soul after getting your freak on for the first time. Just another day in the life of the slayer. Who needs teen pregnancy or jerks who don't call back when doing the deed will literally turn your boo into a monster? 

When the Kalderash tribe cursed Angel with a hundred-plus years prior, it was an act of revenge. As a result, they baked in a fail-safe for the curse: One moment of pure happiness rips Angel's soul right back out of him. When it comes to curses, this one is a bit counterintuitive. If Angel has one moment of pure happiness with his soul, he's only not suffering for a minute. When he's back as Angelus? He'll never suffer again. So ... how is that better? It seems like a bit of a design flaw to recreate the monster who killed your tribe's most beloved daughter, but whatever floats your boat.

Either way, Angel goes from a doting (albeit angsty) boyfriend in the sheets to a bloodsucking soulless demon in the streets. He yells out for Buffy, and fans have no clue what the hell is going on. That confusion mildly clears up when he drains a passerby dry. The scene is as confusing as it is epic, but it took fans a minute to catch up with what just happened.

Buffy rains down judgement on the Judge

Buffy isn't your great-grandmother's slayer. While crossbows were once considered a slayer's best friend, as the 21st century approached a new arsenal of weapons were required for the Scooby Gang. All of her watcher training led up to this moment. That's right, Buffy Summers has a rocket launcher, and she's not afraid to use it.

Looking down the barrel of yet another apocalypse and on the heels of her boyfriend becoming a stalker sociopath, our slayer isn't playing around anymore. The Judge, the oversized Smurf hell-bent on taking over the world, has got to go. And the tagline that "no weapon forged by man" can kill him just isn't going to cut it. It's pretty impressive that a group of monks managed to take him down and scatter his severed limbs back in the day, but it's a whole lot easier with modern tech. This is really the first and last time Buffy takes down a beastie with high-tech weaponry, but it's one of the most epic scenes in the entire franchise — and you'll want to watch it at least six times during any rewatch.

Buffy kills Angel

When it comes to our friendly neighborhood slayer, with great power comes great sacrifice. No one could have predicted that Buffy and Angel's seven minutes in heaven would lead to the loss of his soul, but just when the Judge seemed like the Scooby Gang's biggest threat, Angelus decides to be more chaotic. Even Spike wants his former bestie to chill the hell out. What would a vampire do without the Earth existing, anyway? It's safe to say there aren't all-you-can-eat vampire buffets in hell, and Spike doesn't want the party to stop. Angelus, however, feels emasculated by his soulful counterpart kicking it with the slayer, and clearly, Angel and Angelus are equal amounts dramatic. His solution to his problems are to burn the whole world down, after all. 

To stop Angelus from resurrecting the uber-shady demon Acathala from his creepy statuesque existence, Buffy is forced to stab her first, and arguably greatest, love to prevent the apocalypse. The kicker? The Scooby Gang succeeds in bringing Angel's soul back right after the resurrection begins. The scene would be much less impactful were she killing Angelus, but Buffy gets her love back just long enough to kill him, while he doesn't really know what's going on in the moment. Ouch, this death is brutal.

Giles' great betrayal

Throughout the years of Giles training Buffy as her Watcher, he became a father figure to the slayer. Her biological father was too busy bailing on her birthday plans and skimping on visitations to show up, and Giles took up the mantle. Sure, he gets her into more trouble and life or death situations than any parental figure should, but that comes with the territory. 

For all of Giles' faults, he manages to keep Buffy alive to see her 18th birthday. That's a pretty long life expectancy for a slayer. Yet, the one thing he has never done before is intentionally manufacturing danger while stripping Buffy of her slayer abilities — until, that is, the Season 3 episode "Helpless."

Here, we learn that Giles injected Buffy with a power-diluting serum that renders her even more helpless than your average human. Of course, doing so gutted him, and he eventually comes clean to Buffy in one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the series. Upon he first watch, you might need to pause the show and rewind to see if that really just happened. Not only does Giles dilute her gifts, but he sets her up to take on a deranged vampire as a mostly helpless human.

Hey, Watchers, it seems kind of counterintuitive to try killing your surviving slayers when the villains fail to get the job done. And on her birthday, no less. The betrayal is nearly impossible to get past, but it does leave us with a great moment between Cordelia and Buffy, who stops bearing her popular girl fangs to concernedly drive Buffy home after the incident.

The most badass graduation of 1999

Most high schools throw their hats up in the air upon graduation, but Sunnydale isn't exactly what anyone would call normal. It feels only natural, then, that a town residing on a Hellmouth would attract more than its fair share of shady villains — and it's no surprise that the darkness would seep into its political leaders. However, what the locals thought was the latest mayor in the town's long line of Wilkins successors is actually the same guy. As it turns out, Richard Wilkins III was also Richard Wilkins the first and second. Naturally, his greatest dream is to become a massive demon snake, because that's a reasonable goal in this town.

Maybe he's been hanging out on the Hellmouth more than a few decades too long, but he's determined to use the Class of 1999's graduation to ascend into demon form. After three years of letting Buffy fight their battles for them (and kind of being jerks about it), the senior class takes up arms in one of the most badass scenes in TV history. 

It's a good thing graduation gowns are roomy, because the seniors hide more than a few weapons in them during the ceremony. Who needs beach balls when you can smuggle a crossbow into graduation? Though the senior class is significantly smaller by the time they take out good ol' Wilky, it's an epic conclusion to the high school saga.

Buffy finds Joyce's body

Sure, Buffy may exist in a supernatural world, but sometimes, a girl just needs her mom. In the episode "The Body," Buffy discovers her mom's body, and it's one of the most gripping scenes in the entire show. The slayer doesn't spring into action or hunt anyone down — she calls out to her mom multiple times before, uttering a hauntingly soft "Mommy?" when she knows there's nothing she can do.

Even worse? It seems like the Powers That Be planned this for over a year. During the episode "The Freshmen," Buffy quips about the price of her college books, saying, "I can't wait till mom gets the bill for these books. I hope it's a funny aneurysm." So, why is that significant? Oh, it just so happens to be Joyce's cause of death. 

This is savage, even by the standards of the "Buffy" writers' room — which is saying a lot. The moment also provides some other gut-punch scenes when Buffy reveals their mom's fate at school, and the youngest Summers has a breakdown outside of her art classroom. Anya also has a meltdown when she doesn't know how to process her human emotions. Hell, even a soulless Spike comes to bring Joyce flowers. It says a lot when a demon mourns you.

Dark Willow is born

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has no shortage of deaths in the series, but some hit harder than others. Both the characters in the show and the audience go through a lot of turmoil when Glory uses her mind whammy powers on Tara, putting her in a nearly comatose state where she can't think or function on her own. 

Suffice it to say that Willow and Tara have already gone through quite a bit as two of TV's greatest LGBTQ+ characters — especially when you tack on their struggles with Willow's penchant for dark magic. Yet when Warren fires a shot into Buffy, the bullet goes right through the house and directly into Tara's chest, almost immediately killing the witch.

With a blood-soaked shirt, Willow's eyes dramatically turn red and Dark Willow is born. If Tara's death wasn't shocking enough for fans, her vengeful girlfriend hunts down Warren, opting to filet his skin like a barbecue roast. As far as revenge stints go, it's pretty incredible — until Willow has to deal with her human emotions and detox from magic. The series may have set the wheels in motion for Willow's darker tendencies long before, but something about our sweet, awkward Willow turning into a cold-blooded killer is a hard pill to swallow.

Helfrek may have a dark secret

Anya may know a lot of people (demons) in high (low, crispy) places, but her friend Halfrek just might be more than she appears. Kali Rocha first comes onto the scene in the Season 5 episode "Fool For Love," when we get a glimpse at Spike's human past. Before he took on the Spike persona, he was a poet of all things — which makes sense as the show's only vampires to offer glimpses of true humanity while soulless. However, Rocha's character Cecily Adams is the catalyst for Spike's downfall, as she's in possession of his heart. Instead of letting William down easy, she savagely (and publicly) rejects him, leading to his vampiric future.

Two seasons later, Rocha appears again, only as Anya's demon friend Halfrek. Her demon face may hide it well, so fans may need to pause the scene to see if they're the same, but the likeness is there. So, is her reappearance just another Hollywood coincidence of a single guest star taking on two different roles, or is there more to Halfrek than meets the eye? Perhaps Cecily saw the potential of William's greatness as a fanged fiend back in the 1800s and took on a human disguise to nudge him into demondom. Given that Spike is Drusilla's passion project, she might have called in some assistance; it wouldn't be the first time Dru tangoed with a demon.

The existential crisis no one needed

There's nothing quite like a little existential crisis to set the Tuesday mood. In Season 6, Buffy once again finds herself at the mercy of the villainous clique of nerds from her high school: Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew. Yet, while the trio is known for causing general mayhem, they go way too far in the episode "Normal Again." With Warren leading the charge, the nerds think it's a swell idea to force Buffy into a hallucination where she's in a psych ward with delusions of being a slayer. 

While Warren and his gang are tormenting and gaslighting Buffy with these particularly cruel visions, the audience is right there with her. This episode offers some of the best psychologically-stunning moments in the series — right up there with the almost completely silent episode, "Hush." At any moment, the writers can pull the rug out from under the feet of fans (and Buffy herself) with the fact that maybe it was all in her head after all. Of course, it's not, and the trio gets made, but it's a hard vision to shake. In the back of fans' minds, every episode after this moment leaves fans with a nagging question: Is Buffy still locked up in that psych ward? Is this reality? Or did Season 6 offer the only true glimpse of reality in the whole show?

Little sis is coming

Dawn's Season 5 premiere arrival may have come as a shock to fans, but the writers teased her appearance long before Buffy's little sister came onto the scene. These subtle references to both Dawn's arrival and the death of Buffy are pretty difficult to notice during a first viewing, but they are there if you pause long enough to find them. 

Faith's lines like "Look at you, all dressed up in big sister's clothes," and "little sis is coming" hint at Dawn's arrival way earlier than she actually appears. Then, Faith's line, "Little Miss Muffet counting down from 7-3-0" is a "Buffy" reference that many fans theorize was a reference to Buffy dying two years after she utters it (which you'll notice, is the number of days in 730). 

The number repeatedly shows up, including an instance when Buffy is dreaming, and Tara tells her to "be back by dawn." Tara also tells Buffy it is the wrong time in this moment, hinting that Dawn shouldn't be there and Buffy's death will be premature due to her arrival altering the timeline. To top things off, the credit card Faith uses when she's in Buffy's body bears the expiration date 5/01. And why does that matter? It's the date of Buffy's death.

"I think I was in heaven"

It's just another Tuesday when Buffy bites the dust once more (with feeling) to save her sister in Season 5. Her death itself is a cinematic wonder as she plunges into a supernatural abyss and the nothingness of the afterlife. And this time? It looks like it just might be permanent. Yet the Scooby Gang isn't willing to let sleeping slayers lie, opting to bring her back from the dead in the Season 6 opener.

From the minute Buffy opens her eyes and digs herself out of her grave, she spirals down a rabbit hole of depression, PTSD, and feeling like she's lost her place in the world. Between sleeping with Spike and intentionally putting herself in harm's way that she can barely fight out of, the eldest Summers sibling is clearly not okay. Of course, everything comes to a head in the iconic musical episode, "Once More With Feeling," where Buffy sings, "I think I was in Heaven." She blames her friends for ripping her out of a peaceful paradise, and even with the episode's generally epic nature, the revelation is a Big Deal. Hey, rewind button, once more with feeling, please?

The epic finale

No episode of "Buffy the Vampire" boasts as many shocking, epic, and tragic moments as the series finale, "Chosen." Few scenes can top Willow's spell to activate the slayers — all while giving fans a glimpse at what's really been lurking under the Hellmouth this entire time. The purity and heartfelt nature of Willow's spell directly contrasts the drama at play down in the Hellmouth. The dual moment offers fans a chaotic cocktail of emotions between the irreverent feeling of every slayer meeting their potential mixed with the existential dread that comes from knowing that not everyone will make it out of this fight alive. 

Later in the episode, Spike gets the redemption he's always deserved, sacrificing himself in a blinding light as beautiful as his hard-earned soul. During his selfless gesture, Buffy tells him what he's always wanted to hear throughout their fraught relationship: "I love you." Yet instead of a romantic kiss or slinging the words back, Spike replies, "No, you don't. But thanks for saying it." Ouch.

Making matters even more emotionally confusing, the destruction of the Hellmouth also leads to the obliteration of Sunnydale — the home fans just spent so many of their Tuesday nights tuning into. The slayer's home is gone, adding a level of finality to the series. Wait, did that really just happen? Dawn's "What do we do now?" line couldn't be more accurate. What do we do now? Oh, right. Rewatch the series a dozen times and pause the show every five minutes to uncover the series' most elusive Easter eggs. Sound like a plan?