When Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves back in 1997, it was a gamechanger. After growing tired of seeing so many cute blonde girls fall prey to monsters in horror movies, Joss Whedon made a show about an ass-kicking teenage girl and her group of friends who took the fight to the creatures and came out on top. The show is still inspiring genre television to this day, and while there have been several like-minded works that have admirably tried to fill the void left behind by Buffy, none have come close to capturing its magic.
But what makes Buffy such a binge-worthy show? At seven seasons, Whedon’s supernatural saga is far too long to complete in a single sitting. That said, it’s a show that remains excellent throughout its entire run, taking viewers on a journey that’s constantly compelling and never exhausting. Whedon and his team created a show that features some scary and heady content at times, yet it’s easy to digest and highly addictive.
Buffy perfectly executes the winning formula of standalone monster-of-the-week episodes with serialized storytelling. That’s exciting, as there are big missions that the gang must work toward completing while simultaneously being forced to take some detours along the way. Individual episodes can be enjoyed as their own entities, but watching the show as a whole and seeing how everything connects to an overarching story with various subplots and facets is the best way to watch Buffy.
Of course, the show is also full of surprises and monstrous treats. Given that Sunnydale is built on a gateway to the abyss known as The Hellmouth, the town is a hotbed of supernatural activity. The array of monsters that emerge from the shadows to cause chaos for humanity makes for a diverse range of ghouls and spooks to overcome, ensuring that the show never becomes repetitive and stale. The world-building is as good as it gets, and it’s a universe that most viewers will never want to leave once they’re exposed to its imagination.
Whedon and co. also had some fun with the freedom that the show’s mythology afforded them. For example, “Hush” plays around with some ideas lifted from Grimm fairytales and silent films, while “Once More With Feeling” is more or less like a Broadway musical. But no matter how weird and experimental Buffy gets at times, it still makes sense within the context of its universe. Furthermore, the show expertly applies different moods and tones throughout, so there is a healthy balance of scary and serious episodes with more fun ones.
At its core, though, Buffy is a show about the adolescent experience. The various threats that the gang comes up against are manifestations of the pains and anxieties associated with growing up, and giving a monstrous form to these emotions and experiences makes for some smart, entertaining, and relatable television. Do you think your parents are overbearing? Imagine if one of them was a witch. Do you keep dating assholes? Bloodsucking fiends are the ultimate assholes.
As is the case with growing up, however, people change. Sometimes for the better, other times for the worse. Perhaps even a combination of both. Throughout Buffy’s seven seasons, there is consistent character development and growth. However, while many of the character arcs in Buffy are empowering, they sometimes go to some dark and negative places as well, like when Willow develops an addiction to magic and starts acting wicked and selfishly. She recovers, but she’s never quite the same person afterward. Still, the storyline is a prime example of how the characters all evolved through time, and that’s what makes their individual and collective journeys so fascinating.
Every single season of the show has a distinct personality which complements the experiences faced by the characters at the time, while also expanding the supernatural mythology even further along the way. The early seasons are rooted in high school woes, with storylines that focus on trying to fit in, young love, and graduation. The main villains in these seasons are still memorable, but they’re lowly compared to the ones faced by the gang when they move closer to adulthood in the later seasons. When this happens, the show explores more celestial and ambitious supernatural foes as a result.
Buffy is a show about growth. Whether that’s watching the characters come of age or the supernatural elements becoming wider in scope as the seasons progress, the momentum never stops. And after you’ve watched the show through in its entirety, you’ll probably want to start the journey all over again. These characters will become your friends, and you’ll want to spend time with them every once in a while.