When Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the WB 20 years ago, no one could have anticipated that it would go on to become one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed series in television history. Thanks to Joss Whedon’s vision, an incredible team of writers, and an outstanding ensemble cast led by Sarah Michelle Gellar, the horror-comedy hybrid surpassed all expectations, spawned a successful spin-off, and lasted seven amazing seasons. In that time, BtVS offered up some of the best episodes of TV ever, and countless scenes that made us laugh, terrified us beyond belief, and broke our hearts.
Like any TV show, though, Buffy also its share of less-than-stellar moments. From monster-of-the-week stories that were instantly forgettable to some narrative missteps that left us all wondering if the series had gone off course, there were a handful of episodes that just plain sucked. Here are the 15 Worst-Ever Episodes Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
15. I Robot, You Jane (Season 1, Episode 8)
When Buffy first hit our TV screens in 1997, the world wide web still hadn’t reached its zenith in our everyday culture. These days, the idea of meeting a stranger online or through social media seems like no biggie, but back then, many of us were taught to believe that the only potential outcome for crossing the digital divide was death or dismemberment.
“I Robot, You Jane” definitely helped solidify fans’ lingering feelings that the internet basically only existed so that creepy dudes could find numerous ways to kill you. It’s the first Willow-centric episode, so it has that going for it – but unfortunately, that’s about all it has as far as redeeming qualities are concerned. Otherwise, it basically serves as a time capsule for all
Otherwise, it basically serves as a time capsule for all late-20th-century stereotypes about digital communication. Chat rooms full of nerdy bad guys? Check. Heavy-handed metaphor about not really knowing who you’re communicating with on the other side? Check. By the time Willow and the Scoobies come face-to-face with Moloch, it’s not only not scary, but it feels like a bad after school special. Maybe the horny horned demon would have better luck finding someone to set him free on Tinder?
14. Inca Mummy Girl (Season 2, Episode 4)
While the “Xander sucks at love” subplot brought about plenty of laughs and some decent character development on Buffy, that wasn’t the case with “Inca Mummy Girl.” This early Season 2 episode featured the Xand man falling head over heels for the beautiful exchange student living at Buffy’s house. Unfortunately, she was actually an ancient mummy who spent her extracurricular time sucking out Sunnydale residents’ souls to keep herself looking young and beautiful.
The basic premise of the episode – Xander unknowingly falling for someone who was going to try to kill him and his friends – had already been covered once with the Season 1 episode “Teacher’s Pet.” This time around, it featured less hot teachers and more really boring dialogue. The best part of “Inca Mummy Girl” was seeing Willow in an Eskimo costume, but we would gladly trade that adorable mental image in exchange for a better Xander-centric episode.
13. Bad Egg (Season 2, Episode 12)
Throughout Buffy’s first three seasons, the series spent a lot of time exploring common high school experiences through a supernatural lens. So it was only going to be a matter of time before we were treated to a sex ed-gone-wrong situation at Sunnydale High. Unfortunately, “Bad Eggs” didn’t do the best job of blending the perils of public school education and monster metaphor.
The episode focused on a bubbly, Jabba the Hut-esque demon living underneath the school and its weird insect-like offspring turning SHS students into mind-controlled minions. The episode ended with Buffy battling two cowboy vampires and emerging from a pit covered in the remains of the monster-of-the-week. There didn’t seem to be much of a purpose for this episode, aside from setting up the “sex has consequences” metaphor that paid off in the following much-more-stellar episodes, “Surprise” and “Innocence.” Since that two-parter did such a good job in driving that point home, though, we’re hard-pressed to figure out what, exactly, the point of “Bad Eggs” actually was.
12. Go Fish (Season 2, Episode 20)
“Go Fish” is the type of Buffy episode that probably worked better on paper than it did in reality. Sure, it has its moments: some light-hearted comedy with the Scoobies interrogating suspects, a glimpse at Jonathan in all his awkward glory, and cute guys (including Legend of Tomorrow’s Wentworth Miller) in Speedos. When Season 2 was all said and done, though, this swim team-themed episode was 90 percent filler and only 10 percent fun.
Buffy had already faced a decent number of creepy monsters throughout the course of the season. Other than the not-very-plausible threat that Xander might be turned into a water monster after he went undercover, there wasn’t really a reason to care about any of the characters that were in danger. The resolution, in which Gage and his newly-reptilian teammates flopped off into the sunset, was, laughably weird. All in all, “Go Fish” felt like a 43-minute long detour on the way to the spectacular season finale that aired the next week.
11. Beer Bad (Season 4, Episode 5)
In most cases, Buffy did a great job of connecting real-world issues to horror. As the series transitioned from its “High school is hell” motif, though, it struggled to find meaningful ways to tie in reality and fantasy. This was never more obvious than with “Beer Bad,” an episode in which Buffy drinks too much with some dorky d-bags and they all start to turn into cavemen. Part of the problem with this Season 4 entry was that the metaphor was painfully obvious, but it wasn’t the first or last time BtVS went down that path.
Really, what made “Beer Bad” so insufferable was its ability to completely suck the fun out of even the most ridiculous monster-of-the-week endeavor. It was hard to watch Buffy mope more over Parker than she ever did over, say, Angel, because doing so meant we had to pretend to forget everything we knew about her resilience. Seeing the slayer almost get bested by some Cro-Magnon bro dudes only added insult to injury.
10. The I in Team (Season 4, Episode 13)
Let’s just get this out of the way: the Initiative storyline sucked. It was commendable for Buffy to expand its horizons a bit and tackle an X-Files-esque government conspiracy plot. However, the Chosen One’s foray into military monster hunting was pretty much the most insufferably dull story the series ever pursued.
Her time as a government operative hit peak boring with “The I in Team.” It’s an episode that more or less focused on the startling revelation that the Slayer doesn’t really do the whole “follow the leader” thing. That, of course, led to friction between her and the Initiative leader, Professor Walsh, who decides the best way to deal with Buffy’s insubordination was to kill her. Totally reasonable, right? In every moment – from the not-quite-as-sexy-as-they-probably-hoped-it-would-be love scene between Buffy and Riley to the not-quite-as-shocking-as-they-probably-hoped-it-would-be death scene for Professor Walsh – “The I in Team” was an episode that marked, more than any other perhaps, a time period in which Buffy felt nothing like Buffy at all.
9. Where The Wild Things Are (Season 4, Episode 18)
By the time Season 4 was reaching its end, Buffy was still having trouble finding its mojo in a post-Sunnydale High landscape. Fans weren’t taking to Riley the way they’d fallen for Angel, which made the season’s heavy focus on his burgeoning relationship with the slayer feel more like drudgery than romance. Then, we got “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was more or less devoted to watching the two go at it like rabbits. For, like, the entire episode. The fact that the reason for their non-stop boinking was that their house was haunted by abused children made it extra gross, because such a serious subject matter was basically relegated to a subplot. The only redeeming moment in the entire episode was the brief glimpse we got of Giles singing The Who, but even that couldn’t save an absolutely abominable episode.
“Where the Wild Things Are” may have been created to poke fun at the series’ penchant for throwing Buffy and Riley into bed together a lot — or it may have just been a sign that the BtVS writers were really running out of ideas and thought Marc Blucas looked good without his shirt on.
8. Into the Woods (Season 5, Episode 10)
One consistent theme emerged once Riley was introduced on Buffy: the episodes centered on him were pretty lackluster. That’s more to do with the series never quite figuring out what to do with his character than it is with Marc Blucas’ sometimes painfully earnest portrayal. Alas, by the time we reached the almost halfway mark in Season 5, it was clear that Riley just wasn’t working out.
Hence, “Into the Woods,” an episode that saw Buffy’s boyfriend blaming her for his decision to seek out a vampire blood brothel. Riley’s claim that he was just looking for attention because the slayer didn’t really love him was flimsy and immature. His “love me or I’m outta here” ultimatum was uncalled for, and seemed to go against everything we knew about him as the patient and even-keeled boyfriend he’d been for more than a year. Still, perhaps the least plausible part of “Into the Woods” was that Buffy had a revelation that she was in love with Riley, because, come on, we all know she never was.
7. The Weight of the World (Season 5, Episode 21)
The Season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best episodes in the series’ history – and for the most part, the episodes leading into it were equally strong. They offered major revelations, raised the stakes for Buffy, Dawn, Willow, and Tara perhaps higher than they’d ever been, and created some thrilling momentum as we watched with bated breath to learn their fates.
That’s why “The Weight of the World” was so frustrating. The episode found Buffy stuck inside her own head, traumatized by the fact that Dawn had been captured and the Scooby Gang seemed to be losing the battle against Glory. Willow used magic to try and get through to the slayer, and realizes she’s working through her grief by reliving the same moments – both real and imagined – over and over again.
It wasn’t the first or last time the series tried to tackle the cerebral; “The Body” did a great job of blending action and introspection, and Season 6’s “Normal Again” offered us a glimpse into Buffy’s fragile mental state, too. Unfortunately, “The Weight of the World” came at exactly the wrong moment in the series, because it effectively put a lot of the momentum that had been building toward the finale on hold. In the end, we didn’t learn much from our trip inside Buffy’s brain, other than that she needed a hot minute before she was ready to put up a fight.
6. Bargaining Part 1 (Season 6, Episode 1)
The central question for Buffy fans as we headed into Season 6 was simple: how are they going to bring the slayer back from the dead? They wasted no time in answering that question, but unfortunately, they also did so in what was easily the weakest season premiere in the series’ history.
The main focus of “Bargaining Part 1” was on Willow’s attempt to resurrect her BFF with magic, but in the midst of this momentous event, a demon biker gang showed up and tried to take over Sunnydale. The result was an exceedingly uneven episode. Much of the important action – like Willow going against all wisdom and reason and embarking on a dangerous endeavor and, you know, Buffy actually coming back to life — felt diluted thanks to the weird and chaotic subplot. Sure, the Buffybot was sort-of fun for a couple of minutes, but we were all craving the real thing, and this episode really made us wait for it.
5. Flooded (Season 6, Episode 4)
Throughout Buffy’s seven seasons, our heroine faced a lot of complicated problems. She battled evildoers, fought through depression and grief, and always managed to keep going. That was part of what made Season 6 difficult for many fans to sit through. Buffy, struggling with the fact that she’d been pulled out of heaven and was being forced to live back on the Hellmouth again, went through a serious (and understandable) funk. In episodes like “Flooded,” though, it felt like we, too, were suffering through her misery.
Buffy had to figure out how to pay her bills and handle more serious issues like extensive household repairs. Creating an episode around the general theme that “life sucks” would have worked a lot better, maybe, if the whole series wasn’t more or less based around that concept. The difference between an episode like “Flooded” and the rest of Buffy’s episodes, though, was that instead of tackling the problem at hand with her trademark wit and inner strength, in many ways, the slayer just seemed so defeated. While that may have seemed realistic, it didn’t really compel us to keep watching.
4. Doublemeat Palace (Season 6, Episode 12)
Continuing the “everything is awful” theme of Season 6, “Doublemeat Palace” found Buffy taking on a job that was arguably more difficult than being the slayer: working in the service industry. Sure, the idea of seeing Ms. Summers in a dorky uniform was entertaining on principle, but on a whole, the episode never quite found the fun. Buffy still hated her life, only now she was sleeping with Spike to distract herself from her unhappiness – and we bore witness to them getting it on in an alley during one of her breaks (seriously, the smell of grease and doublemeat wasn’t a turn-off?). The fact that she uncovered her boss’s nefarious dealings involving people in a meat grinder just added an extra layer of “ew” to an already squicky episode.
While the corporate training videos and eccentric characters in “Doublemeat Palace” may have felt humorously familiar to anyone who’s taken on a job in fast food, there wasn’t enough to laugh about in what was obviously supposed to be a lighter episode.
3. As You Were (Season 6, Episode 15)
As we neared the end of Season 6, everything just felt off. Buffy was in an unhealthy relationship with Spike, Willow was struggling to keep her magic addiction in check, the Trio was obnoxious and gross, and fans were craving some semblance of what the show used to feel like. You know what we weren’t in the mood for, though? More Riley.
Yet there he was in “As You Were,” diving back into Buffy’s life and making her feel even more confused and guilty than she already did. The fact that he brought his severe and largely unlikeable wife with him only made his sudden reappearance all the more intolerable. The whole episode felt about as comfortable as it does to sit through a reunion with family you never particularly liked. Characters like Xander and Dawn acted like they’d hardly even noticed Riley was missing. Having him reintegrated back into the Scooby Gang, however briefly, only reiterated the fact that he’d never really fit in at all.
Yes, the short-lived reunion served as a reminder to Buffy that her life needed something besides vampire sex and misery. The fact that they needed to bring back one of the blandest characters in series history to try to knock the season back on track, though, says a lot about how much wasn’t working.
2. The Killer in Me (Season 7, Episode 13)
Willow had a lot to work through after she went to the dark side at the end of Season 6. Luckily, she made a lot of progress in Season 7, and even seemed ready to jump back on the dating bandwagon in “The Killer in Me.” Unfortunately, her long, slow march toward normalcy was seriously derailed. After kissing potential slayer Kennedy, she started to take on the persona of Warren Mears – a.k.a. the guy that killed Tara, and that she subsequently flayed alive in retribution. Throughout the episode, Willow and Warren’s personas battled for dominance, and we eventually learned that the whole issue came about because of a hex Amy placed on her former friend.
The episode felt like an exercise in unnecessary torture, both for Willow and for us fans that would have been perfectly happy never to see Warren’s obnoxious face again. All we really learned from “The Killer in Me” was that Willow still had her issues to work through, and that Amy was secretly an even bigger jerk than we already thought.
1. First Date (Season 7, Episode 14)
For some reason, TV shows love to cast celebrities in random roles. These stunt casting moves rarely work on a narrative level, and it definitely didn’t work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “First Date” featured pop star Ashanti as Lissa, a young woman that Xander takes a liking to and who, of course, ends up being a demon who wants to use him to further the First’s evil agenda.
In so many ways, the episode felt redundant and unoriginal. Xander’s love life isn’t going well and he’s accidentally dating a demon? You don’t say! The First will stop at nothing to bring about hell on Earth? Shocking! Ashanti wasn’t terrible in her role, limited though it was, but she didn’t exactly bring anything revolutionary or memorable to her performance, either. The fact that the whole series was winding down made “First Date” feel like extra filler, time wasted that was made all the more frustrating by the fact that there were precious few episodes left.
What was your least favorite episode of Buffy? Let us know in the comments!