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March 01, 2003
OPINION
Misfires
by Daniel Erenberg

This is my first negative article.

In my extremely humble opinion, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is the best show ever to be aired on television. But, like every show, Buffy has had its share of misfires. They're few. They're far between. But they do exist.

I love these misfires more than the best episodes of most television shows. They are great to me simply because they are Buffy.

There is at least one moment in each of these that redeems them in my eyes. However, of the hundred-thirty-something episodes of Buffy, these are my least favorite.

THE TOP 10 WORST EPISODES OF BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

10. "The Puppet Show", written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali

Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali worked as staff writers on the first two seasons of Buffy. They consistently churned out uneven episodes. The one that I liked was "Phases", but that was largely due to Seth Green's fantastic performance. Their first season offering, "The Puppet Show", redeemed slightly by the end credit scene and the debut of Principal Snyder, was simply sloppy.

In the end, the villain turned out to be the magic guy who we'd met once before in a silly, stupid gag. They wrote an episode about a living dummy that makes jokes about wood and tried to make his death an emotional experience.

Currently, Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali write uneven episodes of That 70's Show, including the hundredth episode musical, which was far worse than "Once More, With Feeling".

9. "Gingerbread", written by Jane Espenson

I have a very "love it or hate it" relationship with Jane Espenson's episodes. Thankfully, it's mostly been "love it" ("Earshot" even making my best-of list last week), but when Espenson isn't on the top of her game, it's not a good thing.

"Gingerbread" was a decent idea made utterly boring. It's almost odd. Whenever I go back and watch it, I feel my eyelids droop.

Amy is completely wasted despite being extremely integral to the outcome of the story, the ending is the polar opposite of poignant, and The Mayor here (for the first and only time) seems trite and uninteresting.

You'll find a lot of Jane Espenson on this list for some reason. It surprised even me when I went back to look at the list. I tend to really love her episodes. Her early season six offerings were fantastic, she wrote some really good stuff in season five, she's at the top of her game in the current season seven (I'm looking forward to her episode this week that will have aired by the time this is read, "Storyteller"), and she wrote the supremely brilliant "Earshot". However, for some reason, there are FOUR of her episodes on this list. Don't know why. But, let it be known, despite these four episodes, I love Jane Espenson to the utmost degree.

8. "Fear, Itself", written by David Fury

I'm normally a colossal fan of David Fury's offerings, both on Buffy and Angel. However, this one I'm not too fond of.

A huge number of fans loved the big twist ending of "Fear, Itself". Yes, the big threatening demon turned out to be teensy weensy. Wonderful. But what we got out of this episode was nothing.

The only thing I really liked in the entire episode was Oz's Halloween costume, a costume I adopted on Halloween a few short months ago.

Another reason I didn't like it is that I'd already seen season one's "Nightmares" and this was a blatant rehash of it.

Buffy has been very creative with its Halloween specials. "Halloween" is still by far the best and I'd have to say that I consider "Fear, Itself" to be the worst.

7. "Reptile Boy", written by David Greenwalt

This is another case of Good Writer/Bad Episode syndrome. There are things I liked a great deal about this one: Willow's outburst at Giles and Angel, the "When I kiss you, I want to die" scene, and the overall characterization of the regulars.

But, this episode contained one of the worst monster subplots in the history of the show. Machida and his shoddy design were so unthreatening it was ridiculous. Also, this episode gave us one of those terrible "Our tied up hero finds a loose nail to free herself" scenes. That's just sloppy.

This is just so mediocre that it's bad.

6. "DoubleMeat Palace", written by Jane Espenson

A sub-par Espenson show.

The ultimate pointer to the lack of thought put into this episode comes in the big closing fight scene. When the demon is revealed, Buffy, in surprise, says, "Wig Lady?" However, the character was never before referred to as Wig Lady previously in the episode.

You could almost see what they were trying to go for with this one. The question of "What if Buffy had a job" that fans had been pondering since the start of the series was finally answered. And the answer was: If Buffy had a job, it would make for a dull story arc.

A wasted opportunity.

This episode also loses points for unimaginatively introducing the horribly annoying character of Halfrek, the vengeance demon.

She showed more promise in later episodes but was killed, leaving us only with the information we gained from this outing.

5. "I Robot, You Jane", written by Ashley Gable and Tom Swyden

Dreadful.

It's notable because it gave us some real insight into the character of Willow, a heretofore-stereotypical character. Joss Whedon nailed her in "Welcome To The Hellmouth/The Harvest" and she was good in "The Pack", but she really began to take shape here.

That said, besides Willow's character advancement, the episode was pretty terrible. Our threat this week was Moloch, a gigantic robot-demon that lived in the computer system.

Not only that, but Moloch (The Corruptor) was hitting on Willow on the Internet. This, like every episode of Smallville, was a stupid case of connecting a regular with an arbitrary character that only works as a single-week plot device. Also, the director or the post-production team or somebody was not paying attention. This episode contains the most obvious blunder in Buffy's history. Buffy's profile is shown on the computer and, in the next shot, her birth date is completely different. This was even worse than the infamous Timeline mistake of "Innocence".

But, to be fair, a big hurrah for the first appearance of Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar.

4. "Pangs", written by Jane Espenson

I'm going to get crucified for including this episode, aren't I?

This was including on a great many people's Top Ten Best lists last week so that means a great many people are going to be pissed off at me this week.

My central problem with this one is Angel. While I love the character, he left Sunnydale at the end of season three with some pretty extenuating circumstances. To return so early, something huge would have to be going down. However, what that huge thing turned out to be was some sort of weird spectral shaman who was, perhaps, less a threat than the aforementioned Reptile Boy.
On top of this, we have Willow's funny but ultimately uninteresting uber-politically correct diatribes about Thanksgiving.

Aside from the ingenious ending, this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

3. "Killed By Death", written by Rob Des Hotel and Dean Batali

Okay, "Killed By Death" contains one of my favorite scenes in the history of Buffy. Xander confronting Angel in the hospital was just excellent.

However, let's look beyond that to another list, The Three Things I Despise About "Killed By Death".

The first thing is the opening scene. The episode starts with Buffy fighting Angelus. We have no idea how the fight came about or why Angelus would be attacking Buffy so soon before his plans could take shape (he showed remarkable skill in holding back on her in "Passion"). It is of my opinion that they wouldn't be fighting this early.

The second thing I hate about the episode is the new information we learn about Buffy. I mentioned it before with "I Robot, You Jane", that it isn't a smart idea to connect a regular with a one-shot character. That's done here with Buffy and Der Kindestod (more on him later). We find out that this demon killed Buffy's beloved cousin Celia when they were both young. Not only does this not fit in the slightest with the Buffy that we'd gotten to know for two years, but also it's just plain stupid.

And, finally, the third thing I hate about the episode is Der Kindestod himself. He's a Freddy Krueger rip-off and nothing more. Thank God he's dead. Never come back. Please.

2. "Triangle", written by Jane Espenson

This one gave us some insight into the past of Anyanka. However, the facts introduced in this episode, didn't seem viable into two seasons later when Drew (best new Buffy writer since Noxon) Goddard wrote "Selfless".

The main fact that's introduced in the episode is that Anya, in her past, dated a massive troll named Olaf. She plays it purely for comedy, something she's usually insanely good at, but something didn't seem right here and this episode has become my least favorite episode of the ultra-well-rounded season five.

Also, for the first and last times, Willow's lesbianism wasn't handled very sensitively. There were jokes at the character trait's expense and this isn't something that is usually characteristic of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

1. "Beer Bad", written by Tracey Forbes

As Comic Book Guy would say, "Worst episode ever".

I would tend to agree with that statement if it were about this episode. I expected something much more from first-time writer of the show. Usually, writer's first offerings have been intelligent and interesting. This was true of the first episodes of Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, David Fury, Jane Espenson, Drew Goddard, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, David Greenwalt, Dan Vebber, Carl Ellsworth, and quite a few others that I'm leaving out because I can't think of them.

Tracey Forbes came up with "Beer Bad" which turns Buffy into Cave-Slayer, also known as a one-dimensional character. A show that has such an abundant feminist subtext should come up with a better message than "If a guy wrongs you, smack him on the head with a large stick".

Tracey Forbes wrote two more pretty average episodes in season four and I haven't heard from him/her (?) since.

That'd be that. I'm laying off lists for a while in favor of my usual essays. So keep reading, keep writing, and post your comments in the box directly below. You know the drill.





Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on daniel@slayage.com.

Latest Comments

I just but my first season box of season 1 and I here a lot of bad things about it, why?
and also why are the season box's so god damn expensive!!!????

(I don't get a lot of pocketmoney so I geuss you guys see my point

Posted by: robert jan on March 31, 2004 01:57 PM

First off, I disagree with almost all of your worst episode list. While alot of them weren't the greatest episodes in the world, none of the ones you listed really stood out to me as horribly bad. I do agree, however, that Beer Bad and The Puppet Show both sucked. But Fear, Itself? That was the episode that hooked me on the show in the first place and its still one of my favorites. Anya in the bunny suit, Xander taunting the "actual size" demon. Truly hilarious. Here is a list of my worst episodes:

1.) Buffy vs. Dracula: I HATED this episode with a fiery passion. It was just so stupid. The script was lame and extremely sub-par for BtVS, the guy playing Drac was awful and cheesy, and don't even get me started on the clothes (Pink pleather pants, Buffy? Umm...no, not even on someone as skinny as you). Then at the end of this incredibly annoying episode, we get slapped in the face by an unexplained extra family member. Ugh! This episode really got my hopes down for season 5, at first. I was very suprised when the rest of the season turned out to be one of the best.

2.) The Killer in Me: I know alot of people like this one but I thought it was just lame. I couldn't care less about the Willow/Kennedy relationship. I did like the fact that they tried to do a memorial ep for Tara but I just didn't like this episode AT ALL.

3.) Bad Eggs: This one was pretty bad as well. It was just kinda boring and doesn't really stand out as special.

4.) The Puppet Show: I agree, this ep is just bad. The whole horny puppet thing was just so corny. But yeah the credits make the ep worth watching.

5.) Where the Wild Things Are: I hate this episode. Riley is still the worst character, pretty much tied with Kennedy. Even when Buffy and Riley were possessed to have constant sex there was still very little fire between them. They just never clicked for me. The only parts of this ep that I liked were Spike's speech to the Scoobies and the scene in the Bronze between Spike and Anya.

6.) As You Were: Agh, the inevitable but much dreaded return of Riley with his equally annoying wife. The only good part was the scene where Riley finds Buffy in bed with Spike and Spike gleefully restates his speech from s5 about Buffy needing "monster in her man." Absolutely priceless.

7.) Two To Go: I was so excited about Evil Willow after Villains but Two to Go just did not deliver. Evil Willow was such a great concept that was completely mishandled. Instead of the scary, magic and vegeance fueled Terminator we saw in Villians, we're given a mocking, cheesy dialogue filled, stereotypical supervillain. Very disappointing.

That's all I can think of right now. You know you watch a good show when you can't even think of ten bad episodes out of over 100.

Posted by: Lia on March 26, 2004 01:24 PM

My ten worst eps, and ten fave

Worst-

Season 1- Propercy and Angel, couldn't even sit through these eps.

Season 2- Reptile boy, bad eggs and go fish - Pointless episodes!

Season three- Bad girls (boring)

Season four - although my fave season there were some stinkers, e.g. Beer bad and the one where everyone had lots of sex.

Season five- hated most of this season. as still bitter over seth leaving and Amber arriving grrrr! just though the show hit a down point here.

Season six - It definatly picked up again, and yey for dead tara!!!! only annoying thing was the fact seth didn't come back, and what was doublemeant palace about!!!!

Basically all of season 7, except selfless, the killer in me, and Storyteller.

Posted by: sarah on January 3, 2004 09:09 AM

This isn't the definitive list but here are our 10 out of ten episodes.

If you don't think these are excellent, you are challenged in some way.

we are the authority.

These episodes got 10 out of 10 from Latchem and Geisler, a rare event, mind you.

Becoming, Part II
Innocence
Lovers Walk
The Wish
The Zeppo
Hush
The Gift
Once More with Feeling
Older Again (aka the suquel to Far Beyond the Stars)
Storyteller

Posted by: Geisler and Latchem on September 3, 2003 12:05 AM

What are you people talking about?
first off anyone who listed that following episodes should reconsider watching them again.

Where the Wild Things Are -a brilliant portrayal of the sexual angst experianced by so many college students growing up.

Killed By Death- How do you not love the Freddy- like monster?! =)

Fear Itself - Anya in the bunny suit? Priceless....

Fool For Love - Lets not EVEN go there!!!!

Beneath You - What is wrong with you people??

Gingerbread - Um... ever heard of the Salem Witch trials? and evil parents...FUN!!

Living Conditions - it's just so funny

Afterlife - Depressing but realistic to some. and that ending speech was brilliant.

You all need to either watch these episodes again or stop watching altogether- you're probably not intelligent enough for this show.

**IT'S ABOUT POWER**

Posted by: Nat & KennY on June 6, 2003 06:11 PM
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