“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”/”Angel”: The Unified Skip It/Watch It Guide
This was originally published in the 2013 ebook “Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides”, but it’s been a few years and people are still out there watching “Buffy” and “Angel” on Hulu with no idea how to do so properly, so what the hell. It’s almost Christmas. A perfect time to check in with these two iconic series.
It still astounds me that there are people in the world who haven’t watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I mean, what were you doing in the late 90s and early 00s? Not watching one of television’s great complex achievements? For shame.
It is less shocking when I find out that people haven’t seen Angel. “Vampire private detective” might sound like an easy pitch, but the show was always a weird nut, and never got the recognition Buffy did, despite hitting some magnificent highs over the course of its five season run.
While the two shows eventually took on separate paths — even eventually airing on separate networks — Buffy and Angel, much like their titular heroes, remain forever connected.
This guide attempts to capture not only which episodes are best avoided when watching both series, but how the two shows interacted during their initial airing — the one thing binge-viewing can’t quite capture without a little guidance.
BUFFY SEASON ONE
The first season of Buffy is a season spent figuring out tone and plot and character; there are a few great episodes, but nowhere near the number that would follow in subsequent years. So, if you’re new to the show that made Joss Whedon a nerd god and wanna get to the good stuff faster, here you go!
1. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”: Watch it. It’s the pilot, and it’s definitely got some gawky awkwardness to it, but you can’t skip the first chapter of a book.
2. “The Harvest”: Watch it. Technically, this is a two-part series premiere; this wraps up all of the set-up.
3. “The Witch”: Watch it. Most of Buffy‘s first season is made up of stand-alone episodes like this, exploring normal high school stuff through a supernatural lens. Many of these episodes aren’t great and I’ll be encouraging you to avoid them. But this one is actually pretty solid, and sets up a secondary character who will become a surprisingly important part of the seven-year narrative.
4. “Teacher’s Pet”: Skip it. This is the first episode to focus on Xander, and Xander is great, but this episode is not.
5. “Never Kill A Boy on the First Date”: Skip it. Not great. There is a small bit of plot development with regards to the Master and his Evil Plans, but it’s not worth watching the whole episode for (and if you’re watching on Netflix or DVD, the Previously On will catch you up on that plot bit right quick).
6. “The Pack”: Watch it. This is a Xander episode worth your time, and it’s great stuff, mostly because it goes ever so slightly darker than you’d expect.
7. “Angel”: Watch it. Essential stuff, and possibly my favorite episode of the season. Things heat up with Buffy’s mysterious stalker duder, back story is revealed and an Epic Love is born.
8. “I, Robot… You, Jane”: Skip it. It does introduce another teacher at Sunnydale High, one who becomes a big part of the story down the line. But it’s pretty terrible. Buffy‘s understanding of how computers work is not exactly advanced. Or accurate.
9. “The Puppet Show”: Skip it. This is the first appearance of Armin Shimmerman, who’s a delight all through Buffy’s high school years, but again, not great.
10. “Nightmares”: Skip it. Don’t know what it is about this episode, but I don’t even think I’ve gotten all the way through it before.
11. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”: Watch it. I mean, technically you could skip this — another stand-alone, and a relatively silly one — but I’m oddly fond of it. Clea DuVall guest-stars (sorta) and the ending is great.
12. “Prophecy Girl”: Watch it. The whole season leads to this episode, and it’s pretty bad-ass. My friend Nicky, when she showed it to me, put it like this: “It’s everything Joss Whedon wanted the movie to be.”
BUFFY SEASON TWO
Things take a turn for the more-better here!
1. “When She Was Bad”: Watch it. Does a nice job of dealing with the events of the first season finale, with lots of closure on all counts.
2. “Some Assembly Required”: Skip it. It’s not the worst episode, but pretty disposable.
3. “School Hard”: Watch it. I don’t know if it’s a perfect episode, but it introduces Spike and Drusilla, and that makes it perfect to me.
4. “Inca Mummy Girl”: Skip it. It’s another “Xander’s penis gets him into trouble” episode, and maybe the least essential of the bunch.
5. “Reptile Boy”: Maybe skip it. A stand alone, but there’s a lot of fun stuff, including some development in the relationship between Buffy and Angel.
6. “Halloween”: Watch it. A) It’s a really fun episode. B) It is surprisingly important to the main narrative. C) Really, really fun episode.
7. “Lie to Me”: Watch it. A stand alone, but a heartbreaker, and does have some minor tie-in to future episodes.
8. “The Dark Age”: Maybe skip it. There’s some big Giles character development, but maybe not the best of episodes. If you like yourself some Giles, definitely check it out.
9-10. “What’s My Line? Parts I and II”: Watch it. New characters! Interesting plot choices! Make-outs! More Spike and Drusilla! This two-parter is a key lynchpin for the season.
11. “Ted”: Maybe watch it. This episode is another stand-alone, and it is pretty silly, but it also features John Ritter in a pretty hilarious performance, so I leave the decision in your hands.
12. “Bad Eggs”: Skip it. I cannot recall this episode having any redeeming value aside from Buffy and Angel making out, and there’s no shortage of that elsewhere in this season, so there you go.
13-14. “Surprise”/”Innocence”: Watch it. Dudes, for fuck’s sake, I’m telling you nothing, except that you need this two-parter in your mind grapes ASAP.
15. “Phases”: Watch it. Sets up something important regarding a key character, and it’s also a slightly lighter adventure, which you will need after watching “Innocence,” believe you me.
16. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”: Watch it. Another “Xander’s penis gets him into trouble” episode, but an oddly charming one.
17. “Passion”: Watch it. Big mythology episode, lots of important plot developments and super-sadness.
18. “Killed by Death”: Skip it. Meh. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
19. “I Only Have Eyes For You”: Watch it. One of the better-written stand-alones from this season, and if you get gooey over Buffy and Angel, there’s some good stuff here.
20. “Go Fish”: Maybe skip it. So it’s another stand-alone, but it’s a fun stand-alone, and Xander wears a speedo. Oh, and special guest star Wentworth “Prison Break” Miller!
21-22. “Becoming, Parts I and II”: Watch it. Holy shit watch it. things all come to a head. A sad, sad, sad head. One of the great season finales of the decade.
BUFFY SEASON THREE
Oh, wow, I didn’t remember how great this season was until I realized how few episodes are worth skipping. Damn, it’s a good season of television.
1. “Anne”: Watch it. Much like the Season 2 premiere, “Anne” is an essential follow-up to the events of the last season finale. And it’s got some dark, melancholy twists to it.
2. “Dead Man’s Party”: Watch it. Kind of necessary to watch this one, because of the emotional follow-up it offers to past events. But it’s a bit silly.
3. “Faith, Hope & Trick”: Watch it. Oooh, lots of fun new elements introduced here. Good ol’ Faith. Always a pleasure to have her around.
4. “Beauty and the Beasts”: Skip it. It’s just, y’know, meh.
5. “Homecoming”: Watch it. There’s some funny stuff, plus major drama — AKA a perfect encapsulation of what makes Buffy great fun to watch.
6. “Band Candy”: Watch it. Oh sweet Jesus, this episode might not be important plot-wise but it is maybe my favorite episode of all time. Just amazing acting from the show’s adult cast. Tasty as candy.
7. “Revelations”: Skip it. Not one of the season’s best, and relatively unimportant.
8. “Lovers Walk”: Watch it. At this stage in the series, the appearance of Spike is enough to recommend an episode, but there are also some big twists that come with this episode, and also it’s pretty good.
9. “The Wish”: Watch it. This is the thing I love about Buffy — “The Wish” is a great episode, but one that might seem relatively unconnected to the rest of the show at first glance. However, its impact on the series, looking back, is pretty impressive. At the very least, it introduces Anya. Good ol’ Anya.
10. “Amends”: Watch it. A Very Buffy Christmas Special! Needless to say, there are huge amounts of angst, ass-kicking and plot-foreshadowing involved.
11. “Gingerbread”: Maybe skip it. I’m not in love with this episode, despite the fact that it does things like introduce Willow’s mom and set up a thing with the minor character of Amy. If you can live without getting some jokes about Amy later on, then pass.
12. “Helpless”: Watch it. Oh, this episode is great, especially if you love the interplay between Buffy and Giles. Lots of good stuff.
13. “The Zeppo”: Watch it. A stand-alone, but maybe a perfect episode of television, and one of Xander’s finest hours.
14. “Bad Girls”: Watch it. And now it’s time for us to pay some attention to Faith. Things get intense going forward.
15. “Consequences”: Watch it. A follow-up to “Bad Girls,” and a key one.
16. “Doppelgängland”: Watch it. A (wonderful!) sequel to “The Wish.” Simply wonderful.
17. “Enemies”: Watch it. Not so wonderful — one of the season’s drier installments — but sets up some key plotting.
18. “Earshot”: Watch it. Fun fact — this episode’s airing was delayed in 1999 because of the Columbine shootings; given that fact, it is much funnier than you’d expect. It also serves as a beautifully written coda for the show’s high school years.
19. “Choices”: Watch it. Wow, the back season here sure is watchable. Another key episode of the season as we move towards the BIG FINISH.
20. “The Prom”: Watch it. Hey, it’s prom, whatcha gonna do? Also, yet more Buffy and Angel drama.
21-22. “Graduation Day, Parts I and II”: Watch it. Are you fucking kidding me? Watch the finale. For fuck’s sake, people. Was there even a question?
BUFFY SEASON FOUR/ANGEL SEASON ONE
And now, here’s where things get complicated. See, at this stage in the show’s life, Buffy was airing on The WB at 8 PM on Tuesdays, followed by Angel at 9 PM. And Whedon and his team used this scheduling scheme to create some interesting back-and-forth between the two series.
This means that characters occasionally show up on Buffy, then drop by Angel in the next hour — there’s a lot of crossover fun.
You COULD watch the seasons individually, but where’s the fun in that!? So here is my best effort to create a unified experience, similar to what you might have experienced in those heady days of 1999.
Buffy 4×01. “The Freshman”: Watch it. Not the greatest season premiere ever, but sets up Buffy: College Student and the new world that entails.
Angel 1×01. “City Of.”: Watch it. Say it with me — you gotta watch the pilot — plus it establishes how Angel is aiming for a more mature spin on its subject matter.
Buffy 4×02. “Living Conditions”: Skip it. All that comes of this episode is Willow becomes Buffy’s roommate at the end. It’s not a terrible episode, but completely non-essential.
Angel 1×02. “Lonely Hearts”: Watch it. First taste of what an Angel stand-alone looks like, and not a bad one at that — also introduces Kate, a key character for the first two seasons.
Buffy 4×03. “The Harsh Light of Day”: Watch it. Hey, Spike’s back! Yay for Spike! And Buffy’s personal life takes an interesting turn.
Angel 1×03. “In the Dark”: Watch it. Following on from “The Harsh Light of Day,” it’s Spike again! First good example of the two shows crossing over.
Buffy 4×04. “Fear, Itself”: Skip it. You’re better off. The only thing you’ll be missing is Anya in a bunny suit — seriously, you’ll be fine.
Angel 1×04. “I Fall to Pieces”: Skip it. This episode is about a demon who can separate into pieces. Rule of thumb — the punnier the title, the more likely it is a skip.
Buffy 4×05. “Beer Bad”: Skip it. You’re better off. Trust me.
Angel 1×05. “Rm w/a Vu”: Watch it. Cordy goes apartment hunting. It goes about as well as you’d think.
Buffy 4×06. “Wild At Heart”: Watch it. I don’t love it, but it’s an important Oz and Willow episode, and you’ve already skipped two Buffy episodes — you’re due for another.
Angel 1×06. “Sense & Sensitivity”: Skip it. Just because I said you should know who Kate is doesn’t mean you should watch an entire episode devoted to her. Trust me on this.
Buffy 4×07. “The Initiative”: Watch it. Hey, Spike’s back! And we really dig into the season’s major mystery.
Angel 1×07. “Bachelor Party”: Watch it. I’m a silly little girl for this episode. It’s pretty cute, and includes a lot of fun stuff for Doyle.
Buffy 4×08. “Pangs”: Watch it. If only for the novelty of Buffy doing a Thanksgiving episode — also, leads directly into…
Angel 1×08. “I Will Remember You”: Watch it. Hey, did you think you were over being tortured by Buffy and Angel’s doomed love? AHAHAHAHAH you thought wrong. It’s a good episode, though, seriously.
Buffy 4×09. “Something Blue”: Watch it. I would not say that this is a GREAT episode. But it sure does make me laugh.
Angel 1×09. “Hero”: Watch it. Meanwhile, this episode makes me cry. A key installment of the first season.
Buffy 4×10. “Hush”: Watch it. Known as one of the great episodes of the series, it holds up pretty well as one of Buffy‘s most stylistically interesting entries.
Angel 1×10. “Parting Gifts”: Watch it. Deals with fallout from “Hero,” and (re)introduces a new player.
Buffy 4×11. “Doomed”: Maybe skip it. Deals with the fallout from “Hush,” and there’s a lot of good Spike stuff, but otherwise kind of blah.
Angel 1×11. “Somnambulist”: Skip it. Unless you’re a really really big Jeremy Renner fan and want to see Jeremy Renner play a vampire.
Buffy 4×12. “A New Man”: Maybe skip it. A big Giles episode, with a lot of interesting beats, but relatively stand-alone and non-essential.
Angel 1×12. “Expecting”: Skip it. In proud Xander Harris tradition, Cordy’s lady-parts get her in trouble. You can skip no problem.
Buffy 4×13. “The I In Team”: Watch it. Pretty key to the series arc — moves the football forward in a number of ways.
Angel 1×13. “She”: Skip it. WHO LIKES A FEMALE CIRCUMCISION METAPHOR!? Um. Not me. And not you either, trust me.
Buffy 4×14. “Goodbye Iowa”: Watch it. More important plot stuff, and our gal Willow’s going through some changes. Best watch it.
Angel 1×14. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”: Skip it. Pure, unadulturated meh.
Angel 1×15. “The Prodigal”: Watch it. There’s some important plot stuff involving Kate, and also a key moment of Angel’s back story is depicted. Why am I putting this here, you might ask? Well, I don’t want to separate…
Buffy 4×15-16. “This Year’s Girl”/”Who Are You?”: Watch it. Oh shit son, you’re in for a treat. “This Year’s Girl” is a bit more set-up-y than I’d normally like, but then “Who Are You?” is just balls-to-the-wall great television.
Angel 1×16. “The Ring”: Skip it. Eyes on the prize, friends. The prize being some much better episodes down the line.
Buffy 4×17. “Superstar”: Watch it. JONATHAN! So deliciously layered with in-jokes and fun. And proves to be pretty key to subsequent episodes, actually.
Angel 1×17. “Eternity”: Maybe skip it. An interesting episode, one that really plays with Angel‘s Hollywood backdrop, but I wouldn’t call it essential.
Buffy 4×18. “Where the Wild Things Are”: Skip it. The sex house episode. You’re better off not knowing any more.
Buffy 4×19. “New Moon Rising”: Watch it. Some things end, some things begin. The last big character beats before the final run of episodes.
Angel 1×18-19. “Five by Five”/”Sanctuary”: Watch it. Oh, boy. Picks up where “Who Are You?” left off. Mucho intense stuff happens.
Buffy 4×20. “The Yoko Factor”: Watch it. “Yoko Factor” follows up from “Sanctuary,” then things move into quasi-finale mode.
Angel 1×20. “War Zone”: Watch it. Introduces a key new character, and also an entire other side to Los Angeles. Angel‘s attempts to acknowledge the diversity of this city will be… Um… Look, it tries, okay? And here’s the beginning of that.
Buffy 4×21. “Primeval”: Watch it. This is basically the Season 4 finale, and it’s a bit silly, but has major repercussions in just a mo’.
Angel 1×21. “Blind Date”: Watch it. A bit stand-alone-ish, but does set up key things for…
Angel 1×22. “To Shanshu in L.A.”: Watch it. It’s a decent finale that wraps up a lot of themes and ends on a solid cliffhanger — but I’m suggesting you watch the Angel finale before the Buffy finale because–
Buffy 4×22. “Restless”: Watch it. “Restless” is another one of those iconic Buffy installments; it’s a great note to end the dual season on.
BUFFY SEASON FIVE/ANGEL SEASON TWO
Things are a little less interconnected here, but we’ll still keep up the format from before…
Buffy 5×01. “Buffy vs. Dracula”: Maybe skip it. It’s a pretty silly episode, as the title might suggest, and isn’t hugely significant to the plot. Really, aside from Xander going full Renfield, it’s only the last few moments that truly matter — and even then, they don’t really come into play until the next episode.
Angel 2×01. “Judgment”: Watch it. Thematically and plot-wise, sets up a bunch of stuff for the season.
Buffy 5×02. “Real Me”: Watch it. No, you haven’t missed anything, there’s a new character on the show and her presence will soon be explained.
Angel 2×02. “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been”: Watch it. One of the greats of the series.
Buffy 5×03. “The Replacement”: Watch it. There is a really killer Star Trek joke in this episode, and overall it’s a good character study for Xander.
Angel 2×03. “First Impressions”: Skip it. Non-essential, is the best way I can put it.
Buffy 5×04. “Out of My Mind”: Skip it. Unless, like, you care a lot about Riley. Like, a LOT. There’s a revelation that happens in this episode that you’ll miss, but don’t worry, subsequent episodes will catch you up.
Angel 2×04. “Untouched”: Watch it. It’s always interesting when Angel digs into Wolfram and Hart’s operations, and there are some big reveals here.
Buffy 5×05. “No Place Like Home”: Watch it. You have questions. Monks have answers.
Angel 2×05. “Dear Boy”: Watch it. Some important plotting and flashbacks here.
Buffy 5×06. “Family”: Watch it. A big Tara episode, and an incredibly sweet one.
Angel 2×06. “Guise Will Be Guise”: Maybe skip it. It’s a funny episode, and it’s great to see Wesley gets some action. But aside from a relatively minor character introduction, it’s non-essential.
Buffy 5×07. “Fool for Love”: Watch it. Really big episode on a character and relationships level, less so in regards to plot. But Buffy‘s characters and relationships are often just as important as the plot.
Angel 2×07. “Darla”: Watch it. A quasi-crossover with “Fool for Love” — the two are certainly interconnected — and an important episode full of backstory.
Buffy 5×08. “Shadow”: Skip it. Nothing of import really happens, aside from Riley doing stupid Riley things, and so all you need to know is that Riley is doing stupid Riley things.
Angel 2×08. “The Shroud of Rahmon”: Skip it. A heist episode told in flashback, but the flashback format is the most interesting part of it.
Buffy 5×09. “Listening to Fear”: Maybe skip it. The one with the alien. Let’s not discuss it. There’s some other stuff that happens, though, that might matter? It’s a tough one. Maybe just go straight to…
Buffy 5×10. “Into the Woods”: Watch it. Well, we have to deal with Riley at some point. So here’s the episode where we deal with Riley.
Angel 2×09. “The Trial”: Watch it. I moved these around because dudes, shit goes down in this episode, and leads directly into…
Angel 2×10. “Reunion”: Watch it. The shit, it continues to go down.
Buffy 5×11. “Triangle”: Watch it. Pretty much a stand-alone, but there’s some funny troll stuff I remember enjoying quite a bit.
Angel 2×11. “Redefinition”: Watch it. This episode is bummer central, but a necessary part of the arc.
Buffy 5×12. “Checkpoint”: Watch it. An interesting episode that also contains one of the great Buffy speeches of the series.
Angel 2×12. “Blood Money”: Maybe skip it. Not really essential, but not badly written, and does bring back an interesting minor character.
Buffy 5×13. “Blood Ties”: Watch it. Not an amazing episode, but key to the season arc.
Angel 2×13. “Happy Anniversary”: Watch it This is technically a stand-alone, but it’s got some good stuff to it.
Buffy 5×14. “Crush”: Watch it. A Drusilla appearance alone is always worth it, and there’s some important relationship-buidling stuff.
Angel 2×14. “The Thin Dead Line”: Skip it. I mean, something relatively important happens, but you’ll catch up later, and more importantly you’ll be spared a whole lot of silly zombie cop action.
Buffy 5×15. “I Was Made to Love You”: Watch it. Not only is it a really good episode, but it sets up a ton of important stuff, not the least of which is its cliffhanger ending that leads into…
Buffy 5×16. “The Body”: Watch it. Once again, Joss Whedon saunters in and writes/directs the crap out of an hour of television. Keep some tissues handy.
Buffy 5×17. “Forever”: Watch it. I’m grouping these three episodes together because they’re very much of a piece, and also, thanks to a cameo appearance here, it makes sense to watch “Forever” before…
Angel 2×15. “Reprise”: Watch it. Things for Angel have been building to this point all season long, and it’s an intense climax. (So to speak.)
Angel 2×16. “Epiphany”: Watch it. Follows up directly on “Reprise,” and the show goes to a new place.
Angel 2×17. “Disharmony”: Watch it. Things have gotten pretty heavy lately, but Harmony will put a smile on your face.
Buffy 5×18. “Intervention”: Watch it. This is about the point in the season, during a recent rewatch, when I found myself actually really liking Spike. Like, a lot. And this is a big episode for his character.
Angel 2×18. “Dead End”: Watch it. Love me an evil hand episode. And Lindsey sings!
Buffy 5×19-22. “Tough Love”/”Spiral”/”The Weight of the World”/”The Gift”: Watch it. Basically, these four episodes are all part of one large arc, and they take you for a heartbreaking ride. Watch them together. You won’t want to split them up.
Angel 2×19-22. “Belonging”/”Over the Rainbow”/”Through the Looking Glass”/”There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”: Watch it. Another multi-episode arc that should be watched in sequence, albeit a much lighter one — until the final moments of “Plrtz Glrb” bring it all full circle.
BUFFY SEASON SIX/ANGEL SEASON THREE
This brings us to a new era of the Whedonverse, where Buffy moved from the WB to UPN and the two shows were split up even more dramatically before. Gone are the sneaky little crossovers! Now the crossovers will be even more sneaky and little! As a result, we’re going to ignore airdate order and cluster by plot arcs. That’ll be a little simpler, at least.
A note: We’re heading into dark territory here, for both shows — and very serialized as well. The majority of these episodes are designated as watch it because they’re part of a larger narrative, and it’s not really possible TO skip them and have a relatively comprehensive understanding. I did my best to dodge the really dodgy stuff, but some stuff, there’s no escaping.
Buffy 6×01-02. “Bargaining”: Watch it. Well, Season 6 is quite a… ride. And this two-parter really guns the engine.
Buffy 6×03. “After Life”: Watch it. Oh, man, the ending on this one’ll break your heart.
Buffy 6×04. “Flooded”: Watch it. And then this one… There’s some good stuff in this one, and some stuff gets set up… I promise there are episodes you can skip eventually, promise!
Let’s take a little break here to check in with our friends in Los Angeles…
Angel 3×01. “Heartthrob”: Watch it. Well, this episode isn’t great, but it introduces one key player for the season, and then the last five minutes are total “holy shit!” territory. If you’re feeling cramped for time, just use the fast-forward button until a familiar blonde shows up. (Not the one you’re thinking.)
Angel 3×02. “That Vision Thing”: Watch it. Oooh, big things happen here. You won’t regret it.
Angel 3×03. “That Old Gang of Mine”: Skip it. There’s one line in this episode I really like, but otherwise it’s nonessential.
Angel 3×04. “Carpe Noctem”: Skip it. Non-essential to the arc, ultimately.
Back to Sunnydale now…
Buffy 6×05. “Life Serial”: Watch it. This might be my favorite episode of the season, if I’m to be honest. And NO, not JUST because of some truly stellar nerd jokes. But there are some truly stellar nerd jokes.
Angel 3×05. “Fredless”: Watch it. What the hell, let’s check in here. Why not. And this is a great Fred episode — one of the first and few.
But then — okay, we’ve got a big chunk of Buffy to deal with now…
Buffy 6×06. “All The Way”: Watch it. Announcements! Revelations! Secrets!
Buffy 6×07. “Once More, With Feeling”: Watch it. One of those universally acclaimed Joss Whedon experiments with form and function. And 10 years later, the songs are still pretty damn catchy.
Buffy 6×08. “Tabula Rasa”: Watch it. Builds on the reveals of the previous episode, and contains some really great gags and moments. Probably one of the top 10 saddest endings in Buffy history, too.
You’re probably pretty bummed out right now. Let’s see if Los Angeles is any sunnier!
Angel 3×06. “Billy”: Watch it. Nope! Not sunnier! This episode is creepy but good, though.
Angel 3×07. “Offspring”: Watch it. In which we all learn some important lessons about safe sex.
Angel 3×08. “Quickening”: Watch it. Of all the episodes of this arc, this is one you could maybe skip — it’s largely set up for the next episode. But we’re into pretty serialized territory here.
Angel 3×09. “Lullaby”: Watch it. You can probably guess what happens in this episode, if you’ve been watching so far. You probably can’t guess how it happens, though.
This feels like a good time to check in on Sunnydale. Oh, Sunnydale.
Buffy 6×09-10. “Smashed”/”Wrecked”: Watch it. I’m grouping these two episodes together, because there is some painful, painful stuff that occurs. (To quote an earlier, much better episode of the show: “Your subtext is rapidly becoming text.”) It’s arguably about as bad as Buffy ever gets, but there’s some significant character development, not to mention incredibly naughty sex. Proceed with caution.
Buffy 6×11. “Gone”: Maybe watch it. I really enjoy watching this episode, but it’s one of the season’s more stand-alone.
Buffy 6×12. “Doublemeat Palace”: Maybe skip it. Buffy gets a job working in fast food. There’s a very unfortunately-shaped demon. I kind of enjoy some of the fast food jokes, but you might want to move on with your life.
Especially because we should go check in with Angel…
Angel 3×10. “Dad”: Watch it. I’m not a huge fan of Holtz as a villain. I am, however, a huge fan of David Boreanez’s acting over the next few episodes. And also plot blah blah.
Angel 3×11. “Birthday”: Watch it. Major episode for Cordelia that somehow manages to fit in Gladiator jokes as well as a brief appearance by the old Dharma and Greg soundstage. I’m a big fan of this one.
Angel 3×12. “Provider”: Skip it. Conceptually interesting, but doesn’t have any major repercussions for the rest of the season. Not the worst hour of television you’ll ever sit through, though.
Angel 3×13. “Waiting in the Wings”: Watch it. Joss Whedon stops by to write and direct an episode, and you know that’s always an interesting time. Plus, things get SEXY!
Now, let’s see how crappy things in Sunnydale have gotten…
Buffy 6×13. “Dead Things”: Skip it. This episode does kind of tee off later stuff in the season, but it is mean to its characters and super-super-dark. If that sounds like your jam, give it a look. But it’s one you don’t HAVE to watch.
Buffy 6×14. “Older and Far Away”: Watch it. Everyone’s pretty miserable, but that’s to be expected on Buffy’s birthday. More of a character than a plot episode, but not unworthy.
Buffy 6×15. “As You Were”: Skip it. Unless you are that rare and magical unicorn of a creature: Someone who really gets a kick out of Riley.
Buffy 6×16. “Hell’s Bells”: Watch it. Oh nooooooooo god Season 6 is such a sadness party. But this one’s essential.
Back to Angel now! What could possibly go wrong!
Angel 3×14. “Couplet”: Watch it. It’s not the best of episodes — demon sex bordello, anyone? — but the ending contains some big twists and character moments.
Angel 3×15. “Loyalty”: Maybe skip it. More stalling than actual plot movement. You’ll find everything you need to really know in…
Angel 3×16. “Sleep Tight”: Watch it. Oh bother. Nothing really good happens in this episode. But it’s all essential.
Angel 3×17. “Forgiving”: Watch it. Annnnnnnd things continue to suck in a necessary plot way.
It’s probably best we head back over to…
Buffy 6×17. “Normal Again”: Maybe watch it. I mean, this episode is WEIRD. Weird and meta and interesting — another one that falls into the stand-alone category, but in a good way.
Buffy 6×18. “Entropy”: Watch it. I mean, heartbreak hotel right here, for sure…
You know what? Let’s leave Buffy for the moment, because things in Los Angeles are about to get crazy…
Angel 3×18. “Double or Nothing”: Skip it. There’s some cute character stuff here for Fred and Gunn, but this is a clear stand-alone.
Angel 3×19. “The Price”: Watch it. The bulk of this episode is non-essential — you could probably skip to the last five minutes or so and be fine. But those last five minutes… Oh my.
Angel 3×20-22. “A New World”/”Benediction”/”Tomorrow”: Watch it. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mad Men‘s Pete Campbell to the cast. Things get twisted, with a bang-up cliffhanger.
And now, we’ll wrap things up with Buffy…
Buffy 6×19-22: “Seeing Red”/”Villains”/”Two to Go”/”Grave”: Watch it. There’s no room for skipping around here. Shit gets real, once again, and heartbreak’s awaitin’.
BUFFY SEASON SEVEN/ANGEL SEASON FOUR
Here’s another one we’ll once again split up by arcs…
Buffy 7×01. “Lessons”: Watch it. Oh, it’s mostly set-up, but it’s important set-up. And the last monologue is terrific.
Buffy 7×02. “Beneath You”: Watch it. More follow-up from last time.
Buffy 7×03. “Same Time, Same Place”: Skip it. Here’s what happens in this episode: Willow comes home. Tah-dah! You’ve watched the episode now. Congrats.
Seems like a good time for a trip to Los Angeles…
Angel 4×01. “Deep Down”: Watch it. Um, yeah, it’s time to find out what everyone did on their summer vacations.
Angel 4×02. “Ground State”: Skip it. A character is introduced who’ll make a few future appearances, but it’s an uncompelling adventure and a giant rehash of X-Men tropes.
Angel 4×03. “The House Always Wins”: Watch it. The gang goes to Vegas! This one’s fun. That’ll be a rare rare thing this season, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Time to go to Sunnydale!
Buffy 7×04. “Help”: Watch it. Characters are introduced, prophecies mentioned, and Buffy’s new job becomes more important.
Buffy 7×05. “Selfless”: Watch it. I LOVE this episode. Some great comedy moments for Emma Caulfield, while also taking characters to new and dark places.
Buffy 7×06. “Him”: Maybe skip it. There are some funny moments, including a great final button, but pure stand-alone.
Buffy 7×07. “Conversations with Dead People”: Watch it. This episode is exactly what it says on the tin: A bunch of conversations with dead people. But it’s one of the season’s most essential.
Time now for some Angel, I think…
Angel 4×04. “Slouching Toward Bethlehem”: Watch it. Oh, hello plot. Welcome back to Angel. You haven’t exactly been missed, but it’s nice to see you again.
Angel 4×05. “Supersymmetry”: Maybe skip it. A major character rift occurs as the result of this episode, but on an seismic-to-the-season scale it doesn’t crack a 4.0.
Angel 4×06. “Spin the Bottle”: Watch it. Joss Whedon makes one of his semi-regular writing/directing appearances, and it’s once again wonderful.
We now return to the epic Buffy drama in progress…
Buffy 7×08. “Sleeper”: Watch it. Oh, and not just because Aimee Mann shows up. Follows up on the ending of “Conversations With Dead People,” and while the cliffhanger won’t be resolved right away, that doesn’t mean you should skip…
Buffy 7×09. “Never Leave Me”: Watch it. Things escalate. Things are not what they seem. Plus, Important Watcher’s Council news!
Buffy 7×10. “Bring On The Night”: Watch it. The Potentials arc continues on. Oh, and some big reveals.
Buffy 7×11. “Showtime”: Watch it. And we kind of reach a climax for the season — not the last climax, but a big one.
Let’s take this as an opportunity to check in with Los Angeles…
Angel 4×07. “Apocalypse, Nowish”: Watch it. Oh, nothing good happened today. Especially the ending. Oh, the ending is unfortunate indeed.
Angel 4×08. “Habeas Corpses”: Watch it. And the repercussions, they get all repercussion-y. Plus we say goodbye to at least one vaguely enjoyed character.
Angel 4×09. “Long Day’s Journey”: Watch it. Plot-wise, continues from “Habeas Corpses,” and also leads very much into…
Angel 4×10. “Awakening”: Watch it. Solid, and a real rug-puller to boot.
Okay, where did we leave Buffy?
Buffy 7×12. “Potential”: Maybe skip it. Nothing of huge significance happens, aside from the reveal of a new potential slayer.
Buffy 7×13. “The Killer In Me”: Maybe skip it. It really depends on how you’re feeling about the relatively new character of Kennedy, I think. Basically, this episode offers some final moments of closure on events from the end of Season 6, and there’s some very good acting, but it’s pretty stand-alone and also a bummer.
Buffy 7×14. “First Date”: Watch it. We’ve been waiting to find out what’s up with the sexy new principal — here’s our big chance.
Buffy 7×15. “Get It Done”: Watch it. Not a light hour of television, but adds a lot to the Slayer mythos.
And then let’s get back to Angel…
Angel 4×11-15. “Soulless”/”Calvary”/”Salvage”/”Release”/”Orpheus”: Watch it. No real way to skip any of these. Man, things get weird this season. But it’s an amazing roller coaster.
Buffy 7×16-18. “Storyteller”/”Lies My Parents Told Me”/”Dirty Girls”: Watch it. These aren’t interconnected, but I’m very tired right now, and they’re all indispensible in their own ways.
Okay, so now Angel‘s gearing up for the end of its season…
Angel 4×16. “Players”: Skip it. A nice little interlude/stand-alone for Gunn, but wow, this season never really figured out what to do with the character of Gwen. Everyone does a lot of research. Maybe just skip to the last five minutes, which are a cliffhanger leading into…
Angel 4×17-21. “Inside Out”/”Shiny Happy People”/”The Magic Bullet”/”Sacrifice”/”Peace Out”: Watch it. Oh, you lucky people, who get to marathon these episodes. Such a weird story arc, but a fascinating one.
And it’s time to go back to Sunnydale for…
Buffy 7×19-20. “Touched”/”Empty Places”: Watch it. There’s more infighting, drama and and hooking up than you’d expect the show to indulge in during its final hours, but go with it.
Angel 4×22. “Home”: Watch it. The finale, dudes! You’re going to watch it. Don’t be silly. And for reasons that’ll become clear by the end, you HAVE to watch it before…
Buffy 7×21-22. “End of Days”/”Chosen”: Watch it. Farewell, Vampire Slayer. You saved the world. A lot. These final episodes aren’t perfect, but “Chosen” still makes me cry.
ANGEL SEASON FIVE
As you might have noticed during “Home,” Angel went through a major reboot at the end of Season 4, and Season 5 was a fresh approach that includes some great episodes, some not-so-great episodes, one major tragedy, and ultimately a pretty exciting finale. And the Buffy crossovers aren’t officially over by a long shot. It is enjoyable!
1. “Conviction”: Watch it. Meet the new Wolfram & Hart! You in theory know what this means — later, you’ll find out you don’t.
2. “Just Rewards”: Watch it. In which we get a new special guest, and talk about him a whole bunch.
3. “Unleashed”: Maybe skip it. It does introduce a semi-regular character who’ll show up occasionally throughout the season, but it’s pretty stand-alone and every time this semi-regular character appears they’ll re-explain who she is, so really, you’re fine.
4. “Hell Bound”: Skip it. This episode bored me when I recently rewatched it. Spike’s around. Nothing really changes for him. Move on.
5. “Life of the Party”: Watch it. Some hilarious comedic beats liven up this stand-alone. It’s solid.
6. “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco”: Watch it. I was a bit disappointed by this one, actually — the pacing isn’t as good as I’d remembered — but some moments of pure joy do ensue.
7. “Lineage”: Maybe skip it. Base your decision entirely on how much you like Wesley. You can skip this episode if you don’t like Wesley. You MUST watch it if you do.
8. “Destiny”: Watch it. Angel and Spike have been engaged in some sort of weird bitchy foreplay so far this season, and this basically serves as a climax to that. Am I being figurative or literal? Watch this episode and decide for yourself!
9. “Harm’s Way”: Maybe skip it. This is a stand-alone, but I’m very very fond of it. Really funny focus on a day in the life of a Wolfram and Hart employee.
10. “Soul Purpose”: Watch it. Some interesting visual stuff from first-time director David Boreanez, and also sets up the context of a character’s big return.
11. “Damage”: Watch it. Ooooh, a connective thread to Buffy! The first half is a little slow, but there’s some great stuff here, including a very welcome return of a character!
12. “You’re Welcome”: Watch it. The hundredth episode! Big plot things happen! And another very welcome return of a character! (Sorta.)
13. “Why We Fight”: Maybe skip it. It’s a stand-alone. A lot of it takes place on a submarine. But it’s also a pretty cool period piece in places, so it’s up to you.
14. “Smile Time”: WATCH IT. Perhaps my favorite Angel episode of all time. Genuinely adored by all! There are puppets and songs and joy.
And now, a caveat: Do you want this show to have a happy ending? HERE IS WHERE YOU STOP WATCHING. There are many good episodes that follow “Smile Time.” Excellent episodes, even! But the season is about to take a very dramatic turn, and it’s all downhill from here. If you want to pretend that everything ends with happiness and light, then say your farewells to “Angel” right now and go make a sandwich. If not…
15. “A Hole in the World”: Watch it. You want some great dialogue? You got it. You want some amazing acting by Amy Acker? You got it. You want some ultimate tragedy? You got it. Remember: You were warned.
16. “Shells”: Watch it. A direct continuation of developments from “Hole in the World,” and as dark as you might expect.
17. “Underneath”: Watch it. Hey, kids, it’s Adam Baldwin! Also, things are getting pretty sequential these days.
18. “Origin”: Watch it. Perhaps not the most welcome return of characters, but wraps up some stuff from last season and is also a solid episode.
19. “Time Bomb”: Watch it. More of a third down of an episode than a first down, but it does move the football forward. (Put it another, less-football-y way: Things be sequential, yo.)
20. “The Girl in Question”: Watch it. It’s the last stand-alone of the season, but it is also a DELIGHT. So if you’re short on time, maybe skip it? But otherwise check it out.
21. “Power Play”: Watch it. Because we’re getting ready for…
22. “Not Fade Away”: Watch it. Farewell, Angel. Not only is this a near-perfect ending for the series, but you were fun while you lasted, and you didn’t outlast your welcome. It’s not every show that can say that.