Happy birthday, Buffy Summers! Okay, the character’s birth date has been widely contested by us nutballs who care, but January 20, 1981 is generally regarded as the safest bet. We fans know that the Slayer’s birthday isn’t really cause for celebration—Buffy tends to have exceptionally bad luck each time it rolls around. But hey, she’s turning 30, and that’s just not something we can ignore.
Hence, here's my ranking of the five Buffy birthday-centric episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
5. “A New Man” (Season 4)
Apparently Buffy isn’t the only person who suffers the curse of her birthday. In Season 4, Ethan Rayne transformed Giles into a Fyarl demon, forcing him to go head-to-head with his Slayer. Of course, Buffy recognized her Watcher’s caring eyes and stopped herself before delivering a killing blow. “A New Man” is a fairly entertaining episode, but these birthday installments work best when Buffy’s the victim.
4. “Blood Ties” (Season 5)
A pivotal episode of the series, “Blood Ties” marked the moment in which Dawn discovered her true identity as the Key. And then, of course, she had to go and make Buffy’s birthday all about her. There are some stirring moments—Dawn entering the party with blood dripping from her arms, the Summers sisters reinforcing their blood bond—but Dawn’s incessant whining makes this episode a tough one to re-watch.
3. “Older and Far Away” (Season 6)
Some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best episodes are the comedic ones. While “Older and Far Away” also has its share of bratty Dawn, it’s consistently entertaining and—in my mind—one of Season 6’s most underrated hours. Buffy and her party guests become trapped in the Summers home after Dawn makes an accidental wish to Halfrek. Bonus points for the abundance of Clem, the cutest cat-eating demon that ever was.
2. “Helpless” (Season 3)
Ah, that wonderful transition to adulthood. Unfortunately for Buffy, her 18th birthday forced Giles to put her through a cruel Watchers’ Council-imposed test. She was drugged to the point of helplessness (see episode title), then pitted against psychotic vampire Zachary Kralik. In the end, Buffy used her wit to defeat him, and the entire ordeal brought her and Giles closer together. Happy ending, I guess?
1. “Surprise”/“Innocence” (Season 2)
For many Buffy fans, myself included, this Season 2 two-parter is when the series made the transition from good to great. In “Surprise,” Buffy celebrated her birthday by losing her virginity to much older vampire boyfriend Angel. In “Innocence,” she dealt with the consequences. See, by giving Angel a moment of perfect happiness (you figure it out), Buffy inadvertently released Angelus, his soulless alter-ego. Worst. Birthday. Ever.
Which birthday-centric Buffy episode is your favorite?