Buffy the Vampire Slayer captured the attention of viewers everywhere from its very first episode, exhibiting just the right combination of comedy, drama and heart. Its spin-off show, Angel, followed a similar formula, while also adding its own special bit of darkness and introspection. Together, the two shows defined a generation of television, setting up the standard that other shows would have to try to live up to for years to come.
Ranking the twelve total seasons of Buffy and Angel is no easy task, with each season offering great stand-alone episodes, important character development and a scary Big Bad. However, there are things that set specific seasons apart. Here is a full ranking of all twelve seasons of Buffy and Angel, from worst to best.
12 Angel Season 4
Angel’s fourth season was a mess. The destruction of Cordelia through her relationship with Connor (she literally changed his diapers, then he’s getting her pregnant?) and her general creepiness was a huge disservice to a character who viewers had gotten the chance to watch grow over her many seasons on both Buffy and Angel. The entire character of Connor was ill-conceived and horribly portrayed by a sullen and annoying Vincent Kartheiser. The only redeeming qualities of the season were Faith’s character arc and Gina Torres’ Jasmine, a villain who, although marred by difficult-to-grasp motives, was brilliantly played by the Firefly actress.
11 Buffy Season 4
Although Buffy’s fourth season made admirable steps towards moving the show away from the trappings of high school and into the adult world, it had too many stumbles to rank very high in the show’s impressive canon. Among Buffy’s love interests throughout the series, Riley clearly wins the award for most boring, despite his Initiative ties. Meanwhile, Adam as a villain was confusing and way less scary than a Frankenstein-esque monster pieced together from various body parts should be. The season did bring us great stand-alone episodes like “Hush,” “Restless” and “Fear, Itself,” though, so it can’t be discredited completely.
10 Buffy Season 1
Buffy’s first season was better than most. The characters were very quickly defined in the pilot, with great development for all of them throughout the season. The Master, while juvenile compared to Buffy’s later Big Bads, was scary enough, and his plan to take over Sunnydale and make it a haven for vampires was fitting for the series’ initial prerogative. However, when held up against what Buffy eventually became, the first season pales in comparison. The cases of the week were fairly stereotypical, and the low budget meant that the effects looked laughable, especially today. The first season was an admirable first effort, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what Joss Whedon showed he could do when out in full force.
9 Buffy Season 6
Buffy’s sixth season meandered a lot before getting to the point, spending most of the season focused on the antics of the Trio before revealing that the actual Big Bad of the season was supposed to be dark Willow. Although Willow’s villainous arc, following the death of her girlfriend, Tara, was interesting to see, it was traumatic to see one of our favorite characters make such a violent switch. That, coupled with Buffy’s depression and the destruction of Xander and Anya’s relationship, made the season much darker than Buffy needed to be. Never forget the brilliance that is “Once More, With Feeling” though.
8 Angel Season 3
The slow introduction of Fred as an official member of the gang in Angel’s third season solidified her as one of the best characters Whedon has ever produced, and Amy Acker’s performance throughout was one of the best parts of what was otherwise a pretty meh set of episodes. Although Darla’s pregnancy provided some interesting insight into her and Angel’s past as well as the lore of vampires in this world (and gave us a few adorable moments of Angel being a dad), it didn’t manifest well, with the production of Connor and his kidnapping by Holtz never living up to its full potential. Still, Wesley turning on the gang led to the fan-favorite becoming a much deeper and more fully fleshed out character and gave the series plenty of emotional drama to play with for seasons to come.
7 Buffy Season 7
Like all of Buffy’s later seasons, season seven suffered from its grown up-ness. The show fared best when it mixed humor and darkness, showing the lighter side of Buffy and her friends while also highlighting the emotional toll that the world ending issues that they have to deal with on a day to day basis had on them. However, season seven took this farther than it had to, losing the series’ signature comedy and making it feel more like a chore to watch week to week than anything else. Still, with a beautiful finale and some great character beats, season seven served as a fitting end for the series.
6 Buffy Season 5
Season five brought out the big mythology that Buffy had been building towards throughout its run, and, in most ways, it didn’t disappoint. Glory was one of the series’ most fun villains, while still being completely terrifying, as her desire to find the Key was probably only outweighed by her desire to find new awesome shoes to wear. Great episodes like “The Body” and the further development of side characters like Anya also added to the greatness of season five. The one big detriment was the introduction of Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, who managed to quickly become one of the most infuriating characters on television, with her annoying and unnecessary teenage drama distracting from what viewers really cared about.
5 Angel Season 2
Angel’s second season brought some great moments, including the returns of Darla and Drusilla, the full introduction of Gunn to the team, the Pylea arc and more. The season also featured some great stand-alone episodes, including “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been,” easily one of the series’ creepiest episodes, the flashback-filled “Darla,” which fleshed out Buffy’s first villain, and “The Trial,” in which Angel goes to bat to save his sick sire. Topping it all off with a trip to another dimension and the introduction of Fred was just the icing on the cake for a very solid season of Angel.
4 Angel Season 5
Angel’s fifth season was vastly different from the rest of the show, showing the gang taking over the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart to fight against it from the inside. Although seeing Angel work at a desk felt a bit weird at first, it ended up being the reinvigoration that the show needed after a lagging fourth season. Changing the setting and the premise of Angel was a daring move, but it allowed the old show to learn some new tricks and kept it form getting stale. Additionally, Spike’s integration into the team led to some great moments between him and long-time rival Angel, and, even though I will never forgive Joss Whedon for killing Fred, Illyria provided some interesting points for the show and gave Amy Acker a chance to play with some fun, different acting choices. The finale, while controversial, gave just the amount of open ended-ness needed to keep Angel alive in our hearts forever.
3 Angel Season 1
Angel was a show that knew what it wanted to be from day one, and it did a great job of getting there. Unlike Buffy, which struggled a bit in its first season with establishing character and balancing cases of the week with the season’s Big Bad, Angel was able to quickly set up its new Los Angeles location and demonstrate the goals and abilities of the Angel Investigations team. Great episodes like "City Of," "I Will Remember You," "Hero," and the one-two punch of Faith’s arc in “Five By Five” and “Sanctuary” help to set up Angel’s first season as the best in the show’s run.
2 Buffy Season 2
Season two gave us the introduction of one of the Buffyverse’s best characters in Spike, who, through his relationship with Drusilla, was quickly established as both a scary and relatable villain. The season also introduced us to the evil side of Angel, a character which David Boreanaz clearly relished playing, to great comedic effect. Plus, the introduction of a second slayer in Kendra gave a start for one of the series’ most important mythological beats, paving the way for the introduction of Faith and her conflicts with Buffy later on. In addition, season two managed to build on and continue all the character development from season one, more fully fleshing out characters like Xander, Willow and Giles while still keeping the focus squarely on Buffy and her personal journey.
1 Buffy Season 3
Buffy’s third season was the show at its finest. Set in Buffy and the gang’s senior year of high school, the show capitalized on the nostalgic feels we all have around graduation time and used them to highlight the evil machinations of one of the series’ best villains, the Mayor. His relationship with Faith, in addition to his goal of taking over Sunnydale entirely, provided the perfect backdrop for Buffy to unite her whole class together in fighting against the forces of darkness, leading to one of the best TV season finales of all time. The one-two punch of “Graduation Day (Part 1)” and “(Part 2)” tugged at our heartstrings, made us laugh and finally gave characters like Xander and Cordelia the shining, heroic moments they deserved. The season, which also boasted episodes like “The Prom,” “The Zeppo” and “The Wish,” brought the introduction of great characters like Anya, gave a fitting farewell to Cordelia and epitomized Buffy’s signature combination of comedy and drama. High school angst at its finest.