Where Can You Watch ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer?’
Best vampire show of all time, hands down.
No one can deny the cultural impact of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An unlikely success story, based on a movie that was meant to be a horror-lite romp through the most vapid parts of Southern California, Buffy ended up enrapturing a whole generation of teenage witches, goths, vampire lovers, and geeks. Was it the memorable characters? The incredibly successful spin-off detective thriller, Angel? Buffy’s influence on all the supernatural-themed shows that followed it? Maybe it’s all of the above. But whether you watched the show back in the 90s as a wee bairn, or have just heard all the buzz and want to check it out, you might be feeling the urge to get your Buffy on. So where can you catch it streaming?
First, a quick recap of what the show’s all about. Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells the story of Buffy Summers, a teenage girl who’s the latest in a long line of vampire slayers. Only one girl at a time can be the slayer, so when the previous slayer is killed, and Buffy is called up for duty, she has to learn to master her newfound superpowers and control the vampire and demon population spawning around the Hellmouth in her small town of Sunnydale, California.
Guided by her watcher, Giles, a kindly librarian, Buffy gradually amasses a scooby gang of plucky teenage friends to help her. There’s Willow, the shy genius who learns magic and becomes a powerful witch, and Xander, her lovably goofy (and sometimes problematic) friend. Some members of the gang come by more circuitous redemption arcs, like Cordelia, the mean girl turned ally, or Angel, Buffy’s cursed vampire lover. With top-notch writing and an unforgettable cast, Buffy is widely regarded as one of the best speculative TV series of all time, and with good reason.
Joss Whedon’s Legacy of Abuse
Of course, you can’t really talk about Buffy now without talking about Joss Whedon, since the show began as his brainchild. In recent years, many allegations of abuse and misconduct have come to light, and sadly, Whedon’s behavior has cast a shadow over many of the films and movies that he helped create.
One of the very upsetting incidents was Whedon’s treatment of Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy and Angel. Carpenter released a statement in 2021 detailing her pregnancy in 2003, while a member of the Angel cast, saying she suffered verbal abuse from Whedon, dangerous work conditions, and then, Whedon killed off her character, despite Carpenter’s request to stay on the show. Carpenter reportedly found out she’d been fired from the press, and her character was turned into a villain in her final episodes—before finally dying offscreen. There was also an incident when James Marsters—who played the vampire Spike—said Whedon verbally accosted him against a wall, allegedly, because Whedon was angry at how popular Spike had become with fans.
Then there are the sexist tropes that Whedon became known for after they showed up again and again in his work. Many of Whedon’s projects contain at least one female character who has tremendous power, yet can’t take care of herself and ends up being infantilized by the other characters. In Buffy, that trope came out through the vampire Drusilla, and also, Willow’s girlfriend, Tara, who spends a good chunk of one season under a spell that distorts her mind. In Firefly, River Tam plays that role, and in Dollhouse, it’s played by Echo and the other dolls.
What Makes Buffy So Great?
Despite Whedon’s sexism and abuse, the rest of the cast and crew poured their hearts into Buffy, making it into a beloved ensemble story that still holds up today. Buffy’s character shines, of course, brought to life by Sarah Michelle Gellar. At the beginning of the series, Buffy is a smart but naive teenager, still learning about her powers as she navigates high school. After she gets a few seasons under her belt, though, Buffy grows into a mature and battle-weary slayer—without losing her warmth and wit, of course.
Buffy’s best friend Willow goes through a similar growth process, learning about the existence of magic in the beginning and then gradually mastering it so that she can hold her own right alongside Buffy. The romances in Buffy are, for the most part, engrossing. Buffy falling in love with the vampire Angel, who regained his soul but is cursed to lose it again if he ever experiences happiness—like, for instance, getting involved in a relationship with a girl he loves. Later, Willow comes out as queer when she realizes she loves her friend Tara.
The best thing about Buffy isn’t the vampire fights, the stunts, or the zillion types of demons that the Scooby gang lookup in the school library. It’s watching Buffy and her friends grow and evolve through the years, getting stronger and closer as they bond over the constant weirdness of living on top of a Hellmouth. The chemistry between Gellar and her costars makes you feel like you’re part of the gang.
Which Seasons Should You Watch?
As you can probably guess from the sexist tropes mentioned above, Buffy is a bit uneven, so if you’re going to take the plunge, don’t feel like you need to watch every season.
Season 1 introduces most of the main characters, so you’ll want to watch it in order to understand who everyone is, but be aware that the series takes a few episodes to find its footing. Maybe watch the first couple of episodes while you’re washing dishes or something.
Seasons 2 and 3 are where Buffy really shines. These are the seasons in which we meet Spike and Drusilla, and they contain the bulk of the Buffy/Angel romance plotline, and Willow’s gradual transformation into a witch. In Seasons 4 and 5, Buffy goes to college, and while the quality does start to waver, there are some highlights. Season 5 introduces Buffy’s sister Dawn and the goddess Glory, who pushes Buffy to her very limits.
Seasons 6 and 7 are where the show really starts to go off the rails, with plot points edging more into torture porn territory than actual storytelling. Characters start to make choices that don’t make any sense, and beloved heroes turn into villains for no good reason. You can skip these seasons.
Where is Buffy Streaming?
Back in my day, we had to buy DVD box sets if we wanted to binge Buffy, but you’re in luck—you can get it on multiple streaming platforms! If you subscribe to Hulu or Apple TV, you can get it right now as part of your subscription. Alternatively, you can rent it for cheap on Amazon, Google Play, or Vudu.
Do you have any favorite Buffy episodes that you’re itching to watch? What’s your favorite Buffy moment? Let us know in the comments!
(image: Warner Brothers)
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