1. “Prophecy Girl,” Season 1 finale
One of the most heart-wrenching moments in the whole episode is when Buffy loses it, saying she wants to quit slaying and stating she’s too young to die. This is of course true, but also doesn’t help in the long run, because she does in fact die. However, not for long, and the episode ends in an upbeat way.
2. “Surprise,” Season 2, Episode 13
If you’ve watched Buffy at all, odds are you’re as in love with Angel as Buffy is (well, maybe not as much — but close enough). That being said, this episode literally rips the heart out of anyone rooting for the couple, much like their happy ending was ripped from them. While a little cliché, Buffy and Angel make love for the first time on her birthday, but then Angel loses his soul (because consummating the relationship with his true love made him just a little too happy for the Gypsies who cursed him). This causes him to turn into the demon most vampires are. He breaks Buffy’s heart over and over again, due to the fact that he makes fun of her love for him (or for Angel) and physically hurts her as well in their duels.
3. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” Season 2, Episode 19
While Angel is out being the most evil vampire he can be (because he no longer has a soul), a heartbroken Buffy is still trying to deal with life, which includes paranormal activity as well as vampires. The ghosts of dead lovers take over Buffy’s and Angel’s bodies, making them play out their failed love, only to change the ending to a happy one, so that they can move on to the afterlife.
4. “Becoming Pt. 2,” Season 2, Episode 22
At the conclusion of this failed love arc that Angel and Buffy have going on, there seems to possibly be a light at the end of their tunnel. Willow, a witch, believes she can get Angel’s soul back, ridding them of the monster that is Angelus. However, he already opened a portal to another dimension that would destroy this one, so naturally Buffy has to kill him to stop that from happening. Oh, but of course, not before she sees Angel, the love of her life, is back. Just stab me instead, why don’t you?
5. “Helpless,” Season 3, Episode 12
This episode shows Buffy in a very vulnerable position physically, which is something we hardly ever see on the show. On her 18th birthday, Buffy realizes she starts losing her slayer strength and coordination. She questions her calling as the slayer, panicking about becoming a new, helpless Buffy, a sitting duck for all things Hellmouth-y.
6. “Wild at Heart,” Season 4, Episode 6
Willow dates a werewolf by the name of Oz, someone we’re introduced to in the first season. However much in love they were (which was a lot) doesn’t really matter after this episode. He meets a fellow werewolf, Veruca, and they sleep together twice with Willow catching them the second time. Of course, Oz isn’t too much to blame, what with his not being able to control his wolf instincts. However, he broke Willow’s heart, and in response, leaves town. Tissues, please!
7. “The Body,” Season 5, Episode 16
This is where Joyce (Buffy and Dawn’s mom) is found dead by none other than Buffy herself. Those almost-soundless minutes after discovering her body are some of the most heart wrenching in all of TV history (and you can quote me on that). I really can’t watch this episode without getting teary-eyed myself. Especially when she has to tell Dawn. Wow.
8. “The Gift,” Season 5, Episode 22
As if one major death in a season isn’t enough, Joss had to go and add the death of all deaths; Buffy herself. While she had died in the first season, only to come back to life, it was shocking to see her hit the floor and not come back. We see her sacrifice herself, give Dawn the gift of her own life, and then hear one of the most iconic speeches in the whole series: “The hardest thing in this world — is to live in it. Be brave. Live…for me.” JUST KILL ME OFF TOO, WHY DON’T YOU, JOSS.
9. “Bargaining Pts. 1 and 2,” Season 6 Episode 1 and 2
Fresh off of Buffy’s death, Season 6 not only shows you how everyone is coming to terms with what happened, 147 days (or so) after, but doesn’t really give you time to heal because *boom* Willow has a plan to bring her back. These two episodes bring about such a whirlwind of emotion, from loss and sadness to joy (from the Scoobies). But seeing how distraught and wounded Buffy is brought about so many questions: where was she? Was she in a hell dimension like Willow said? Is she catching onto Spike’s new, caring (kind of) nature? Did another slayer rise up while she was down for the count?? The answers are what hurt the most, honestly. I need a drink after a viewing of this one.
10. “After Life,” Season 6, Episode 3
This one is mainly on here because this is another rare time where Vulnerable Buffy is front and center. Also the fact that she still looks so out of place and uncomfortable is just unnerving. Oh, and we find out that she was actually in heaven and is now living in her own personal hell because Willow & Co. ripped her out of there. Oy vey!
11. “Once More With Feeling,” Season 6, Episode 7
This episode fills you up with so many feel-good songs and dancing that it has to be on this list. Joss Whedon really outdid himself with these original songs and lyrics, even getting (most) of the cast to sing! These songs are classics and deserve to be shouted at the top of your lungs! Tara and Willow are the absolute most ship-worthy couple in this musical episode and I just love Anya’s songs (she’s almost more hilarious in lyrical form). Oh, and Buffy and Spike kiss at the end, so there’s that. *swoon*
12. “Normal Again,” Season 6, Episode 17
This episode is on this list, not because it induces “feels” that make you want to cry from pain or joy. No, this is on the list because it makes me feel like I want to lock myself in a room and think about if we’re in a Matrix-type simulation or if this is real life. No joke, this episode messed me up and I had to sit on it for a week or so before continuing on with finishing the season. Basically, Buffy gets stung by a demon and the poison makes her have visions of being in an insane asylum due to the fact that she has delusions of being a vampire slayer. This is obviously in direct contradiction to everything the show is based on, so it can’t be the true reality, right? Well, who knows, I guess…
13. “Seeing Red,” Season 6, Episode 19
We’ve discussed multiple character deaths so far. But this one might be the most devastating. Buffy was a hard one to go through, and so was Joyce. However, Tara’s death is the most gruesome and tragic, and Willow’s reaction is literally the stuff nightmares are made of.
14. “Empty Places,” Season 7, Episode 19
Season 7 was probably the darkest, with the bleakest moments in the whole series. Tensions are high, potential slayers are everywhere, and there are multiple times where the audience feels just as hopeless as those on screen. Sunnydale is in a dire state of emergency, with The First and Caleb seemingly unbeatable, and everyone is on edge. However, the worst part of this episode is when the girls, along with the Scooby Gang, vote Buffy out of the house like she’s on some cable reality show. How dare they, after all that she’s done for them?!?!
15. “Chosen,” Season 7, Episode 22
I could go on and on about how this show is a revolutionary piece of work and should be celebrated for all eternity, and that’s why the absolute last episode is on this list, yadda yadda. This episode really has it all and sets the scene for a great finale. It has the epic battle scene between slayers and uber-vampires, the tying up of (most) loose ends and the destruction of the Hellmouth. While the ending is bittersweet, especially with the brief death of Spike, it shows Buffy’s strength and makes the show go out with a bang.