Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Worst Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes

The Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes

The Rest of the Buffy Episodes

Notes on Methodology: I have only watched the vast majority of these episodes once, over the past two years. This means two things: my memory of the later episodes is much stronger, and if or when I go back and rewatch the series, the list could change dramatically.

The Bottom 15

144) #211 "Ted" – Is it really the worst Buffy episode of all time? It's more competently produced than most of the first season, yes. The guest star is certainly capable. But the tonal shifts, from annoyed Buffy to murderous Buffy and back again are whiplash-inducing. The central metaphor, with something horrific threatening Buffy's life with her mom, is especially frustrating since it handles something real so ham-handedly. It's the most frustrating episode I can think of in the entire series, and that's enough to put it at the bottom of the list.

143) #108 "I, Robot... You, Jane" – We'll start with the good stuff: Miss Calendar is introduced. That's it! It's rare for the show to feel dated, but its use of computers in early episodes certainly puts it in a time and place. About the only other close-to-nice thing I can say is that it's a little friendlier to online relationships than The X-Files' “2shy.”

142) #711 "Showtime" – To this episode's credit, it manages to do the nearly impossible and have characters who are even more annoying than Dawn: the whining gaggle of Potential Slayers, panicking about the Turok-Han. In addition to annoying, it's also dour and humorless. Not even Andrew can make it entertaining.

141) #610 "Wrecked" – The nadir of the infamous addiction storyline. Amy the witch is a good character, who is totally wasted by the most excruciatingly forced (and extended) metaphor of magic-as-heroin.

140) #719 "Empty Places" – An otherwise perfectly competent stakes-raising episode leading up to the series finale, “Empty Places” totally falls apart in its final scene, when everyone turns on Buffy. Arguing with her leadership, sure, but kicking her out is mind-bogglingly stupid and out of character for all involved. Anya's speech is particularly annoying, making no sense and ignoring the entire history of the show – quite the opposite of her famous monologue in “The Body.”

139) #304 "Beauty and the Beasts" – There's a theme here with these worst-ever episodes. The central metaphor is taken too far, to the point where it's obvious and not interesting. Such is the case with this episode, which is basically an hour-long public service announcement that abusive relationships are bad.

138) #706 "Him" - “Him” seems like an old idea from Season Two that never got implemented, and the return to high school of the seventh season gave the show the opportunity to do it. It has two major problems though. First, it's Dawn-centered. Second, it's too late. It really does feel like a second-season episode, ignoring the character growth from the previous five years. It's too bad, really, as there's some funny stuff, especially once Anya and Willow get involved. But still much more frustrating than not.

137) #402 "Living Conditions" – Buffy goes to college. College is weird for her. Something bad is happening that she attributes to the supernatural. Her friends try to convince her that's it's normal adjustment, but hey! Buffy's actually right and it is supernatural! This would have been a completely serviceable storyline...had the exact same thing not been done the previous week with “The Freshman.” There are a couple good ideas here, but they're almost totally wasted.

136) #612 "Doublemeat Palace" - Tries to be a comedy about the drudgery of work, which isn't a bad idea. Unfortunately, it fails. There's some humor here, but you have a little bit too hard to get to it.

135) #104 "Teacher's Pet"
134) #105 "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date"
133) #109 "The Puppet Show" – The first season of Buffy just isn't very good. These episodes aren't bad, they just all follow the central “High School as horror” metaphor too closely to be considered as effective as those which come later in the series, when it's more comfortable with its world and its characters.

132) #204 "Inca Mummy Girl" – An episode so generic you can pretty much figure out the storyline from the title.

131) #609 "Smashed" - The Great Addiction Debacle begins here. It's bad, but boy does it ever get worse.

130) #418 "Where the Wild Things Are" – No, really, thinking about Buffy and Riley having constant wild monkey love orgasms isn't really that appealing, thanks. I do understand that the show needed to demonstrate a little more sex positivity after some previous storylines, but this is just a bad premise. There's some funny stuff in it, but not enough to salvage it all.


GavinR said...

"Where The Wild Things Are" has nothing to recommend save for a few Anya moments. Worst episode ever.

JGabriel said...

I have a list with a similiar theme that might be useful: The Most Unnecessary Episodes of Buffy.

Say you're introducing the show to a friend, and you want to know which episodes can be safely skipped -- the ones that don't contribute to any story arc, don't foreshadow anything, and are never, or barely, referenced again. There are surprisingly few it turns out, only eight.

They're not all bad episodes, just unnecessary.

This is a list of those episodes, in non-judgmental chronological order:

8) 1.10 Puppet Show -- I actually like this episode. It's silly and very entertaining, but it never gets referenced again. It's a total standalone in every respect.

7) 1.11 Nightmares -- Everything this episode does, is done better in Restless. Later in the series, it's only referred to once - in a joke that's just surreal enough to work without any knowledge of this episode anyway.

6) 2.05 Reptile Boy -- So bad, I don't have anything to say about it. Completely unnecessary, not one story arc or plot element is advanced.

5) 2.12 Bad Eggs -- A few entertaining moments (Xander boiling his egg), but strictly optional.

4) 2.18 Killed By Death -- Should have been called "Kills the Momentum". Because that's what it does, completely interrupting the Evil Angel storyline, stuck between the incomparably better "Passion" and "I Only Have Eyes For You". There's one later reference to Willow's frog fear, but that's not enough to make this required viewing.

3) 2.20 Go Fish -- Has its moments, but it's another momentum killer, adding nothing to the overall arc while pointlessly plopping itself between "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Becoming".

2) 4.05 Beer Bad -- A lot of good comic moments here, but if you miss it, you'll never miss it. There's one jokey reference to Cavewoman Buffy in a later episode, but that's it.

1) 4.18 Where The Wild Things Are -- The Riley & Buffy Sex Episode. The only redeeming features are Giles playing guitar in the cafe, Anya showing concern when Xander gets hurt, and Spike's nonchalance. Contributes nothing to any of the overall arcs and is safely skippable.

A couple of these episodes are fun. This isn't a "Worst" list. And there are episodes just as bad as the worst on this list, like "Inca Mummy Girl" and "Gingerbread", but both of those eps foreshadow future developments in ways that none of these do. These are just the most skippable episodes, if you're watching Buffy for the overall arc.


Rowan said...

Not a bad idea, especially for helping people get going through the rough 1st and 2nd season. Although "Beer Bad" does bring the Parker storyline to a close, so I'm not sure it's totally inessential.

JGabriel said...

I haven't watched in a while, but if memory serves correctly, Parker's storyline was adequately resolved in Fear Itself, when Buffy crushed the little fear demon with her foot.

I know I groaned and thought, "Not again, this story is already finished," when Parker shows up in Buffy's daydreams at the beginning of "Beer Bad".

So, even though it has some good moments, like Willow calling Parker on his shtick, the seasonal arc flows better without it. Especially since skipping it means you go directly from Oz's werewolf fears in Fear Itself directly to the fruition of those fears in Wild At Heart.


JGabriel said...

Rowan "Not a bad idea, especially for helping people get going through the rough 1st and 2nd season."

That's exactly why I put it together. I was showing BtVS to a friend who I knew wouldn't buy the concept until she saw the great stuff, and wanted to get there as quickly as possible without shortchanging any of the storylines.