I wasn’t going to do this list because I would like to believe Buffy the Vampire Slayer was always perfect but even I can acknowledge the occasional faults of my favorite show. Let’s be clear though, a bad episode of Buffy is still better than most shows on TV. That being said, here are the episodes that don’t quite make the cut.
10. Beer Bad (Season 4, Episode 5, Original Airdate: November 2, 1999) – Many fans have called this the worst episode of the series and while I’m not as harsh, I can see why it’s not viewed not too kindly by critics and fans alike. The episode, written by Tracey Forbes, follows Xander as he gains a job as a bartender at the college pub where Buffy and some upperclassmen transform into cavemen (quite literally) the more they drink. There are some funny moments that make me not want to include it here but this is one of the weaker episodes because the alcohol is bad message is a bit heavy handed, which is a surprise for a show that usually is much more subtle with its metaphors. The episode was Emmy nominated for Outstanding Hairstyling in a Series so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
9. I, Robot…You, Jane (Season 1, Episode 8, Original Airdate: April 28, 1997) – Season one had some strong monster of the week episodes but this one misses the mark more now because it’s one of the few episodes that feels extremely dated. In the episode, written by Ashley Gable and Thomas A. Swyden, Willow accidentally releases the demon Moloch the Corrupter onto the internet where he wrecks havoc and builds a cult following. The references to emails as ‘e-letters’ and the interaction of Giles and Ms. Calendar regarding books and modern technology add to the outdated silliness of the episode but I suppose in 1997 this felt a bit more fresh. It’s not terrible but it’s not the show at its best but I do like the closing joke about how bad the love lives are of the three leads (Buffy, Willow and Xander).
8. Teacher’s Pet (Season 1, Episode 4, Original Airdate: March 24, 1997) – Another season one episode makes the list and despite some solid comedic moments from Xander the episode suffers from being a bit too silly. In the episode, written by David Greenwalt, Xander is seduced by Miss French, Sunnydale High’s new biology teacher who coincidentally just so happens to be a praying mantis. I felt silly writing that and it’s just as silly to watch. I do like most episodes that center on Xander because he represents the geek in all of us but this is one monster of the week episode that is a bit too outrageous to warrant a recommendation.
7. As You Were (Season 6, Episode 15, Original Airdate: February 26, 2002) – Season 6 of Buffy is as dark as it gets. It’s a polarizing season for most fans and even Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t fond of the dark places the show went in year 6 but, despite not having any season 6 episodes on my best of list, it’s a very strong season and a direction the show needed to go at that point of its run. That being said, this particular episode is hard to watch because we have the return of Buffy’s ex Riley from season 4 and part of season 5 and he comes with a new wife in tow. Buffy is at the lowest of the low and has been having a very dysfunctional affair with Spike (James Marsters) who was very much still bad but in the beginning stages of becoming the quasi-good guy he would eventually become. Riley learns of the affair which leads to more Buffy berating and fans are annoyed because Riley never quite fit in during his time on the show and to have him come back to mostly lecture Buffy just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure there are some Riley fans out there and he did have some decent moments in season 4 but ultimately he didn’t impact the arc enough to warrant a return.
6. Inca Mummy Girl (Season 2, Episode 4, Original Airdate: October 6, 1997) – This episode is essentially the same as Teacher’s Pet and the only reason it’s higher on this list is because I feel like they should’ve known better to go down this route again after that episode didn’t quite work. In the episode, written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer, a foreign exchange student staying with Buffy turns out to be a mummy who has to drain the life force from her victims in order to maintain her beauty. Of course, Xander falls for her because I guess a mummy is a slight step up from a praying mantis. There are some funny moments in the episode but it has a been there done that vibe and it ends up ultimately being a bit forgettable. The show was beginning to transition out of the monster of the week storytelling that dominated season 1 and this episode feels a bit leftover from that era but the season gets damn good after this point so I can forgive this misstep.
5. Doublemeat Palace (Season 6, Episode 12, Original Airdate: January 29, 2002) – One aspect of this episode that works is Buffy struggling to maintain her duties as Slayer while also trying to make money to take care of herself and her sister (their mom died in the previous season in an episode called “The Body”). I totally bought into this being a plot point worth telling but the rest of the episode is a bit of a silly mess. In the episode, written by Jane Espenson, Buffy begins to question what the real secret ingredient they use in their burgers at the Doublemeat Palace when she suspects more is going on there than meets the. The episode is mostly just weird and I’ve never really warmed up to most of it. The villain, in particular, is pretty laughable but at least dealing with the real world issue of making enough money to simply get by is handled well.
4. Him (Season 7, Episode 6, Original Airdate: November 5, 2002) – Despite being one of the lighter episodes from the seventh and final season of the show, “Him” is mostly guilty of being pointless and the very definition of filler. In the episode, written by Drew Z. Greenberg, Dawn, Anya, Buffy, and Willow mysteriously fall for a Sunnydale High quarterback, leaving Spike and Xander to work together to stop them from doing any harm. There are some really funny gags and situations here which include the hilarious moment in which Spike jumps on a love-struck Buffy who is aiming a rocket launcher at an unsuspecting Principal Wood, and Anya and Willow arguing over the physical attributes of R.J the quarterback but I feel like since this was the final season and we really needed to move the main narrative forward, having a filler episode like this just messed with the momentum. So as an episode on its own, it’s not all that bad, but where it stands in season 7 it’s ultimately not worth the time.
3. Buffy vs. Dracula (Season 5, Episode 1, Original Airdate: September 26, 2000) – I remember the trailers for this episode which served as the season opener for the fifth season and it was toted as a big event. Buffy would face off with the iconic Dracula and it would be pretty epic. This episode never really appears on the bad list for most fans but other than the reveal of Buffy’s never before seen sister Dawn (that arc actually pays off nicely the rest of the season) there is nothing that stands out about the episode. I get what they were trying to do but a stronger actor playing Dracula would’ve certainly helped its deeper intentions rather than just coming off as cheesy. In the episode, written by Marti Noxon, Buffy faces the infamous Count Dracula, who has come to Sunnydale to make her one of his concubines. In the process, he turns Xander into a Renfield of sorts, and Giles becomes enthralled with the three sisters, much like Jonathan Harker in the novel. However, after a brief spell during which Buffy is mesmerized by the Count, she regains her usual composure and defeats him. It’s honestly one of two not so great episodes in season five so that means there are 20 good to great episodes in a season that can stand with season 2 and 3 as one of the best so it’s not a huge issue. That fact that this was a season opener back then had me a bit concerned but those concerns were quickly put at ease.
2. I Was Made to Love You (Season 5, Episode 15, Original Airdate: February 20, 2001) – Speaking of that other not so good season 5 episode…here it is! The problems with this episode are that it’s mostly just weird and feels like a bit of filler even though there are characters and situations that will become important later. In the episode, written by Jane Espenson, Buffy must prevent the city’s destruction at the hands of a heartbroken woman who was created to be the perfect girlfriend. The episode serves the purpose of being relatively light before the final moment of Buffy finding her mom dead on the couch. Her mom’s illness had been hinted at all season so the ending is a bit of a jolt and the following episode is a solid depiction of how we all handle grief differently. With how strong season 5 is, this episode just sticks out as being particularly weak.
1.Where the Wild Things Are (Season 4, Episode 18, Original Airdate: April 25, 2000) – I mentioned earlier that the Riley and Buffy romance was hit or miss so an episode where they have sex pretty much the whole time isn’t going to resonate with me too much. In the episode, written by Tracey Forbes, Buffy and Riley are compelled to have sex because of a mystical influence. The fraternity party is held in a house which was formerly a home for wayward children, that is haunted by the angry ghosts of children who were physically and emotionally abused by the Christian fundamentalist who managed the home. This is one of those filler episodes where not much happens and it all feels a bit pointless. Season 4 had a few of these episodes but there were other aspects of them that made the episodes stand out which is something this one lacks.