Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned the stereotypes of the horror genre on their heads. Before she was “chosen” to be a slayer, Buffy Summers was a typical teenage girl with average ambitions. She seemed like the ditzy blonde that is usually murdered alone in the alleyway. And to top it all off, her name was the most harmless name that anyone could really think of.

Joss Whedon’s Buffy is one of the most powerful female characters ever developed. She was asked to save the world in every episode. She lost her mother, her life (a few times), and those nearest to her. She was almost always selfless, and always fast with a quip. She was always the person to root for.

Here’s a list of our favorite episodes from the show’s seven-season run. If you’ve never watched Buffy, these are a good starting point. If you’re already a fan, what do you need us for? Except as an excuse to look at some pictures from some of the best BtVS eps ever.

Spoilers like crazy throughout.

Season 1, episode 7: “Angel”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer compares high school life to various horror tropes. Here Angel, the first guy that Buffy truly likes, turns out to be a vampire.

Season 1, episode 12: “Prophecy Girl”
When guest editing a recent issue of A Magazine, we were allowed to visit the Buffy costume archives with Katie Lucas (who interviewed Joss Whedon for the issue), and we were amazed to find Buffy’s blood-stained white gown alongside Angel’s leather jacket.

Season 2, episodes 13 and 14: “Surprise/Innocence”
“Surprise” has one of our favorite lines by Willow—“It’s Happy Birthday Buffy!”—and is the best analysis of high school first loves. Joss Whedon created the vampire/human love story, and its shocking turn, with Angel becoming a mother’s worst nightmare and a 16-year-old’s evil boyfriend, is honest and intelligent.

Season 2, episode 17: “Passion”
This episode is perfectly written and captures horror in a very humanistic manner. The story is told through Angel’s narration; so while you are seeing the terror he is inflicting, it’s often from his point of view. He wants to torture Buffy. He stalks her. Harasses her. And his obsession leads to the murder of Jenny Calendar, which shatters her new boyfriend (and Buffy’s mentor), Giles, and has repercussions throughout this season and the next one.

Season 2, episode 22: “Becoming (Part 2)”
This is one of the hardest episodes for us to watch. It is heartbreaking. Buffy’s world is destroyed in season two, and while we hate to ruin it (stop reading if you don’t want us to ruin it), the climax, where Buffy finally has to kill Angel, coincides inconveniently with his sudden cure. He is no longer the evil character that had tortured Buffy and her friends. He’s Buffy’s ex-boyfriend, her first love, again. She stabs him and sends him to a literal hell and she still has to go on living without telling anyone that she killed the man that she once loved. It is pretty complicated.

Season 3, episode 15: “Consequences”
Buffy deals with what it means to live such a violent life.

Season 3, episode 20: “The Prom”
We were all excited to see Buffy awarded a token of her class’s appreciation of her commitment to saving their lives.

Season 4, episode 10: “Hush”
This is a masterpiece of television. It is a story told in silence. The episode’s bad guys, the Gentlemen, are the scariest villains ever on the show.

Season 5, episode 16: “The Body”
Buffy’s mother passes away, and this episode tells the story of her death in a second-by-second narrative. Haunting.

Season 5, episode 22: “The Gift”
“She saved the world. A lot.”

Season 6, episode 7: “Once More, With Feeling”
Another genius idea by Joss Whedon. He wanted to explore the most terrifying emotions related to Buffy’s death in season five through song…and dance.

Season 7, episode 7: “Conversations With Dead People”
An abstract ghost story involving the best characters. Perfectly written, again.

Season 7, episode 22: “Chosen”
The Sunnydale sign at the end is such a hard image to get past. The sign, which reads “Welcome to Sunnydale. Enjoy Your Stay!” is a constant reminder of where this story is taking place: a sunny California city that was built on top of a portal called the Hellmouth. It’s where Buffy and her friends live, and also a place where evil likes to lurk. The last-ever shot of this sign, next to the collapsed Hellmouth, was the perfect way to remind fans, and to celebrate, what the show accomplished in its seven seasons. ♦

Kate and Laura Mulleavy started the label Rodarte in 2005. They live in Pasadena, California.